A sea of daffodils created a sunny wave of yellow just outside the Harvard Science Center on the newly completed plaza.
The flowers decorated framed “remembrance boards” that were erected so members of the community could share their thoughts on the Boston Marathon tragedy. The same daffodils heralded the opening of another new common space called the Porch, formerly known as the steps of the Memorial Church.
At the dedication of the area, which drew students, staff, and affiliates to Tercentenary Theatre, President Drew Faust reaffirmed the importance of creating spaces in which interactions can take place.
“This week, more than ever, we have recognized the force, strength, and necessity of community,” she said. “When I think about how this space has been used, I think about coming here on 9/11. We all flocked to the Yard that afternoon, and were here together. We were here last week for the vigil after the bombings. We have celebrated here each spring at Commencement, and we stand here to greet the newest members of our community every year at convocation.
“It has been a place where we have come together to say who we are and what we believe in. And now it will be that in a more informal way: a place apart, a place of interaction, and a place where we can understand and celebrate who we are, and express our care for one another.”
“This space belongs to you, whether you’re at the Business School or the Divinity School, whether you’re from Longwood, Cambridge, or Allston,” he said, addressing the crowd. “We have a saying here: Everyone at Harvard may not belong to the Memorial Church, but Memorial Church belongs to everyone at Harvard. With the dedication of this space today, we are celebrating one community, ‘One Harvard,’ and this space of grace.”
The Common Spaces initiative began in the summer of 2009 to create more locations for informal and open interaction on campus, and to strengthen a sense of community. One seasonal reminder of that is the arrival of the colorful chairs at the heart of Harvard Yard, which have become synonymous with the end of winter. Students, staff, and neighbors quickly take to the chairs each spring, reading, chatting, or just soaking up the sun.
Steps away from the Porch’s dedication, hundreds of University affiliates were engaging with one another at the plaza near the Science Center. Some wrote their thoughts and prayers on the remembrance boards, while others walked and rode bikes along the floral sweep. Others leaned back on the new chairs and benches.
The plaza, which was designed to be an open, flexible space, will host more programming in the future. Later this week, it will become a stage for dancers and musicians with the Arts First festival, which features more than 200 public events at 12 venues across campus. It will also be an outdoor movie venue, where films involving 2013 Harvard Arts medalist Matt Damon — such as “Good Will Hunting” and “The Bourne Identity” — will be shown. In May, the Plaza will host eighth-grade students from across Cambridge for a science and engineering showcase, as well as the returning Harvard farmers’ market and food trucks.
Lisa Hogarty, vice president for campus services, said that the development of these new common spaces would not only bring the University community together, but make it stronger.
“President Faust and the steering committee on common spaces had a vision for spaces on campus that could broaden and deepen our sense of community,” she said. “The Porch’s location in the middle of the Yard, combined with the plaza serving as a bridge between Harvard and the city of Cambridge, knits together our community. It really does provide opportunity, and space, for grace.”