Sep '06 - Dec '09
Harvard, the behemoth with many heads, is moving to Allston, that much seems to be clear. As to how and when it does it, who moves there, what type of community it creates, and its relationship to its neighbors, no one seems to be quite sure. Will Harvard be a literal ivory tower separated from its surroundings, or will they follow a more friendly and open approach? Will the question be dodged by just moving the river, as a GSD professor proposed?
It is that last part, the relationship to its neighbors, that a group of very active Allston residents are trying to influence. They are helping Harvard keep in mind that their actions have real and sometimes unexpected consequences on a community. Harvard owns large plots of land, if it is not careful the community around can die. One can only understand if the local community is a bit wary, as Harvard's first steps have not been very successful. The Business school is a virtual minimum security prison, I am not even sure how one goes about getting in there.
Recently, Izabela and I joined a group of (mostly design) students from the GSD and MIT that are trying to help those residents. I think we are still really thinking about what our specific role should be (mediators, advocates?), but it is clear that the local student bodies should be more involved as the University moves to Allston. During our first meeting a local resident said that he is excited to have us be part of the process because they probably emphasize in school the impact of a building design on an entire local community as part of the design process, I truly wish that I didn't have had to correct him...
Right now the entire process is focusing on the first Harvard building that is going up, a Benisch designed "green" science building. It looks and sounds like it will be a great building but the struggle is for the type of community it will make. Will it be a typical off putting office building, or will it embrace and engage the local community? Is such an embrace part of sustainability? It seems to me that this question is one that is at the heart of today's urban movements: how to make a community. From new-urbanism-only-in-looks developments, to office park suburbanism, architects and planners seem to mostly be punting on that question.
More to come...
Allston Community Blog
Harvard Allston Initiative
Benisch Proposal (PDF)
Harvard Crimson: Taking Over the Neighborhood, Then and Now
Harvard Crimson: The Allston Vision
Harvard Plans in Allston
Plan of Science Building
Benisch Renderings of Science Building: