Campus & Community

Early outlines for Smith Center

3 min read

Focus groups, survey results suggest creating welcoming, stress-free spaces for gatherings, events, services

Extensive outreach within the Harvard community — which included more than 25 focus groups and survey responses from 6,000 in the University community — is beginning to shape the development of the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center as a cornerstone addition to President Drew Faust’s Common Spaces initiative.

Feedback from consultation with undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and staff signaled a desire for a stress-free, comfortable, and casual hangout space that is inclusive of all of Harvard. The Harvard community feedback also suggests that people would like to see a one-stop shop for centralized University services, events space, flexible meeting and collaboration areas, recreation opportunities, and wellness spaces.

The campus center should also “feel like Harvard,” one survey respondent said, and provide an experience not available elsewhere on campus, complementing and not detracting from existing venues such as undergraduate Houses and professional Schools.

“The Smith Campus Center should be the beacon for ‘One Harvard’… dedicated to ALL Harvard students,” said a survey taker. It should be “a robust public square that attracts a diverse, multigenerational population from differing walks of life, cultures, and backgrounds.”

The center should “embody what Harvard is known for — intellect, innovation, and inspiration,” urged a student. It should have “a sense of intellectual excitement and diversity. The location … of the building makes it ideal to function as a gateway to Harvard, where the external and internal communities can meet, exchange ideas and cultures, which … is exactly what Harvard is all about.”

The campus center promises to expand Faust’s Commons Spaces vision that has transformed many University locations into informal gathering venues, strengthening a sense of community and encouraging spontaneous interactions among students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community and visitors.

The plaza between the Science Center and Harvard Yard was renovated last year, making it safer for pedestrians and bikers, and providing seating and a flexible open area. Food trucks were brought in during the warmer months, and outdoor ice skating is offered during the winter.

Casual and flexible seating was added in the Yard. New tables, chairs, and shade structures with food and performances were added outside Dudley House. Benches, tables, and chairs were added on the porch outside Memorial Church.

The campus center will transform 1350 Massachusetts Ave. (formerly the Holyoke Center) and is expected to open in 2018, with construction to begin in 2016. It is named for its major donors, Richard A. and Susan F. Smith, and is designed by London-based Hopkins Architects, with Cambridge-based Bruner/Cott as executive architect.