Campus & Community

Hidden Spaces: The Sunken Garden in Radcliffe Yard

2 min read

Serenity reigns at Radcliffe

Across from busy Cambridge Common and a short walk from Harvard Square is a step-down space with a bubbling fountain, and a mossy, secluded upper level. Hidden behind a four-foot-tall stone wall, this tranquil place is a lunchtime retreat for some and a place to read for others. In late May it is the setting for the Children’s Theatre performance at Harvard’s Arts’ First celebration.

Abutting Radcliffe Yard and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the garden was built over a number of years by the grounds’ staff following no single recorded plan. It underwent a major renovation in 2008 by Landscape Artists Stephen Stimson Associates. According to Stimson’s site, “The expanded garden plantings now extend the blooming seasons from early spring until late October and incorporate a large area of native shade loving perennials and ground covers.”

Young and old travel from near and far to the Radcliffe sunken garden to sit and enjoy this splendid oasis in the city.

A four-foot brick wall encircles the Sunken Garden in Radcliffe Yard.
Interior benches and trees surround a swath of grass.
Caitlin Abber, reading for class, is a first-year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
This quiet refuge is across Garden Street from the Cambridge Common and abuts the Graduate School of Education on Appian Way and Radcliffe Yard at Radcliffe Institute.
Early in the morning, a pedestrian heads past the garden toward Harvard Square.
Laura Amrein, assistant director for admissions at Harvard Graduate School of Education and proctor for Hollis Hall, read much of Sonia Sotomayor’s “My Beloved World” in the Sunken Garden.
A gargoyle decorates the base of a bench.
Secluded spots abound.
James Graham ’17 (right) takes a break from class to converse with friends Matthew Bennett (left) and Alex and Marcus Rhodes at the Sunken Garden.
On the south side is a horseshoe-shaped bench
Larsen Hall provides an overview.
Benches on shady edges are popular meeting spots.
Edwin Taveri (left) and Rafael Bello repair cracked bricks.
Bill Wendel ’77 had just attended a conference on homelessness.
A canopy of trees offers shade to garden-goers.