The 1960-1965 Holyoke Center at Harvard has undergone a transformation of its entire lower two floors and highest level to become the new Smith Campus Center. The 10-story building occupies a full city block with four active street frontages in the heart of Harvard Square. A much-needed modernization and radical reorganization of uses brought new spaces into the public sphere with multi-story linkages throughout the site. It is part of Harvard’s ongoing ‘Common Spaces’ initiatives, intended to ensure that its physical spaces foster intellectual, cultural, and social experiences on campus.
Bruner/Cott worked as Executive Architect with Harvard’s client team and with Hopkins Architects, the project’s Design Architect on extensive planning and programming for this once-controversial campus icon. The now-historic architecture of Josep Lluis Sert has been carefully reinterpreted with increased transparency across the first and second floors and improved connectivity between the original arcade and two busy side streets. A series of additions and removals at the exposed concrete walls and piers in the arcade introduce light into the heart of the building, while remaining respectful to the logic of Sert’s original design.
Newly accessible landscaped plazas at the north and south ends of the site, a dramatic roof garden, and an interior birch grove reinforce the building’s openness to Harvard Square and mediate between the Arcade and the new ‘Harvard Commons’ space – the multi-level central room of the Campus Center. Flexible interior spaces for performances and other events attract and mix the university’s varied constituencies– faculty, undergraduates, staff, graduate students, and visitors from the public-at-large.
The building’s tenth floor is converted to a suite of engaging formal and informal meeting spaces, as well as a café. The lower floors have six new food venues within, as well as a new restaurant facing a major side street. Building envelope work included full concrete restoration and introduction of safety and solar improvements to the building’s fenestration.
Photography by Janie Airey and Nic Lehoux.