Students are not always known for their green-mindedness. Facing habitual late nights and juggling multiple deadlines, it can be hard balance an eco lifestyle with a studious one. Fortunately, Harvard is joining the ranks of colleges that are trying to incorporate green design right into the campus. The famed Ivy League university commissioned Kyu Sung Woo Architects to design a new graduate student residence that aims to achieve a high level of LEED Certification. The 115,000-square-foot project is aimed to provide housing for 50 percent of the school’s graduate, professional, and doctoral students.
With a red brick exterior reminiscent of the surrounding area, the building is meant to create a seamless visual connection to the campus. The project is planned to accommodate 215 students and will include typical collegiate amenities such as a faculty director’s suite, fitness room, study lounge, multi-purpose room, and garage beneath the building. The structure’s green finishes include regionally-sourced siding with recycled content, bamboo flooring and wall paneling, and low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints.
Inside and out, the design aims to bring the buildings’ residents closer to each other and to the surrounding environment. Between the buildings, an inner courtyard provides a flexible open space for the Harvard students as well as passers-by. The courtyard and surrounding landscape was completed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and uses serrated and diagonally-laid paving and planting beds containing species native to the Northeastern region. Just beyond the courtyard, the building is cantilevered to maintain the line of sight to the river. Indoors, public spaces are dotted through the project and wide stairwells enable students to linger. Additionally, the study lounge uses double height curtain wall windows while private rooms have large bay windows to provide ample views to the outdoors.
Altogether, Harvard seems to be making a well-intentioned effort to build a positive and sustainable living environment for its students, but this writer wonders how this new project measures up to the critical sensibilities of the school’s famed GSD students.