Harvard University’s newest residential building at 10 Akron St. in Cambridge has won the Harleston Parker Medal for 2011 as “the single most beautiful building or other structure” recently built in metropolitan Boston.
The annual honor, bestowed on notable buildings built in the past decade, is co-sponsored by the Boston Society of Architects and the city of Boston. The Harvard building was selected from nearly 100 projects and cited by jurors for its contextual, compelling design, its unexpected public spaces, and its strong sense of balance. According to the jurors, “The building continues to surprise and delight even after repeated viewing.”
“We partnered with architect Kyu Sung Woo to create a simple but elegant building suited to its prominent location along the Charles River,” said Lisa Hogarty, vice president of Harvard Campus Services. “Contemporary and highly sustainable, this building also respects the architectural traditions of Harvard and the neighborhood surrounding it. We are honored by this award and delighted to count 10 Akron St. among the most beautiful buildings in Boston.”
This is the 14th time that a Harvard building has been awarded the medal.
Situated along the Charles River at the corner of Memorial Drive, 10 Akron is a LEED Gold-certified property that contains 151 apartments for Harvard graduate students, faculty, and staff, along with common areas to support the Graduate Commons Program, which fosters intellectual collaboration and social interaction among students from various academic disciplines.
From the riverside, the six-story brick block building with glassy bay windows is scaled to Memorial Drive and the waterfront. Along Banks Street, the siding on the low-rise, wood-clad building refers to adjacent three-story, wood-frame houses and complements nearby Peabody Terrace, which was designed by Josep Lluís Sert. The composition of 10 Akron’s two-building elements forms a courtyard that opens toward a new three-quarter-acre public space along the river. The city of Cambridge built the public open space on land that Harvard granted to the city through an easement. Together, the courtyard gesture and the public space establish a contemporary and welcoming gateway. The housing and open space configuration was the result of a comprehensive public process that included many Cambridge officials and neighbors.
The Harvard project was designed by Kyu Sung Woo Architects, built by BOND, and project-managed by Jones Lang LaSalle. The project also included the construction of 39 affordable housing units (33 for home ownership and six for rental) for Cambridge residents, as well as underground parking. The project completed a multiyear effort by the University to provide housing for half of its graduate student population and had the ancillary benefit of reducing pressure on the local housing market.
Radcliffe’s Alice Longfellow Hall was the first Harvard building to receive the Harleston Parker Medal, in 1934. Other recipients include the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, the Cambridge Public Library, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, and the John Hancock Tower.