Campus & Community

‘Extraordinary strides’ made in Allston planning

4 min read

The University made extraordinary strides this year in planning for physical and academic growth in Allston. In addition to filing an Allston Institutional Master Plan with the city of Boston, outlining its 50-year vision for Harvard in Allston, the University also made significant advancements in the design and public approval processes for the first buildings planned for Allston, a world-class science complex as well as an art center that would feature public galleries and serve as a permanent additional location for the Harvard University Art Museums (HUAM).

The master plan is informed by nearly a decade of consultation with various University constituencies and the Allston community. Intended to give the city of Boston and the community a sense of the kind of growth Harvard envisions over the next five decades, it includes potential locations for new spaces for science, professional Schools, arts and culture, and housing, as well as new open spaces and amenities for the Allston neighborhood.

The Allston Science Complex is a four-building quadrangle designed for interdisciplinary and collaborative research today and well into the future. It will house laboratories, shared core facilities, administrative offices, and dedicated seminar and teaching space, all carefully planned, reviewed, and vetted with scientists and staff  — many of whom will ultimately work in the building. It will be located on Western Avenue, across from the Harvard Business School on the former site of WGBH.

“The planning and design process for the Allston Science Complex come at a critical time for Harvard science, as we work to build new interdisciplinary, inter-School scientific ventures that complement our world-leading discipline-based departments,” said Harvard University Provost Steven E. Hyman. “The Allston Science Complex and the Allston campus will help present and future generations of Harvard students and faculty cross traditional boundaries, and collaborate in ways we can now only begin to imagine.”

Over the course of the past academic year, development of initial design concepts continued on the second major Allston addition, a proposed HUAM Allston art center designed by architect Kevin Daly. In February, Harvard agreed to sequence its initial projects —beginning with the current consideration of the science complex, with community discussion regarding the art center expected to resume shortly. Harvard also began its dialogue with neighborhood leaders about a unique and comprehensive approach to expanding the commitment of University resources to the North Allston neighborhood, with a particular focus on education.

“Harvard’s master plan offers the Harvard community and our Allston neighbors an extraordinary opportunity to be part of lasting change that has far-reaching benefits for all, from the scientific discoveries of faculty and public education programs in art to new green space and environmental sustainability,” said Chris Gordon, chief operating officer of Harvard’s Allston Development Group. “In planning Harvard’s physical and academic growth in Allston we are striving to design facilities, and plan programs, that will benefit both the Harvard and Allston communities,” said Gordon.

Science complex first on the horizon

Architect Stefan Behnisch has designed a complex around a center yard to be filled with green space and trees. The four buildings will be connected by bridges intersecting with “winter gardens” — indoor spaces that contribute to the complex’s overall environmental sustainability profile and reduction in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. It also will feature spaces for conversation and collaboration, something faculty representing different disciplines said would be very important.

“It is rare to be given the opportunity to think through a laboratory building from the ground up,” said David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and co-chairman of Harvard’s new inter-School Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology.  “Because faculty members have been involved in this planning process from the beginning, we will end up with a world-class facility that’s designed to meet Harvard’s evolving needs in science, rather than a building that has to be retrofitted as needs change over time,” said Scadden, the Gerald and Darlene Jordan Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

While the list of faculty and laboratories that will move into the complex is not finalized, approximately half of the complex will be occupied by the Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

Sustainability commitment

Under the proposed institutional master plan, Harvard has made a commitment to environmental sustainability and to building a “green” campus. The University will:

  • take measures to reduce campus energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and storm water runoff;
  • create more than 30 acres of new open space on land currently covered by asphalt;
  • aspire to LEED Gold Certification for all future academic buildings in Allston. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a recognized industry standard for sustainable design; and
  • improve city streets, with new pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes, and plantings.