Building Boom

A quick update on construction projects around campus.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has a number of construction projects currently underway, some of which are in very beginning stages, others of which are nearing completion.

Life Science building

Excavation work has begun on a new $35 million Life Science building which will connect the Sherman-Fairchild building to the Naito chemistry building.

Located on Divinity Avenue, the Life Science building (not to be confused with the Science Center) will house permanently the Center for Genomic Research and consolidate a mass spectrometer operation for advanced research in the basement.

The Center for Genomic Research is temporarily located in the Biological Laboratories, also on Divinity Avenue.

Creation of the center was a part of a major $200 million science initiative launched by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles' in 1999.

"[This building is] a priority within the intellectual community at Harvard," says David Zewinski, Associate Dean for Physical Resources and Planning at FAS.

Work on the site began during the summer, and Zewinski estimates the project will be completed in March 2002.

Physical Science Building

Need even more laboratory space?

Planning is underway for a Physical Science Building, to be located in the McKay-Cruft area, on Oxford Street to the north of the Science Center.

Slated to cover 85,000 square ft, the Physical Science Building will cost between $42 and $45 million.

This building, designed by architect Rafael Moneo, will house the Center for Imaging Mesoscale Structures, one of Knowles' other science initiatives.

The building will be a site for cutting edge physical science research. It will feature a clean room for nanofabrication, low vibration space for imaging equipment and a material synthesis facility.

"[It's] just an idea; it is not even on paper yet," says Zewinski.

Zewinski expects the Physical Sciences building to be completed by the end of calendar year 2004.

But Harvard still needs to present its plans to the city of Cambridge's Board of Zoning and Appeals and the city's Planning Board. If area residents raise objections to the plan, the building could be delayed.

The Knafel Center for Government and International Studies

FAS' most highly publicized recent construction project is the Knafel Center for Government and International Studies.

Mired for three years in community meetings and protest, the Cambridge Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission (MCNCDC) at last gave the building the green light to proceed in September.

Several other city planning boards and the Cambridge City Council must still review and approve the plans.

Only a drastic redesign of the building's original plans by architect Harry N. Cobb resulted in a building that community members felt would not disrupt the neighborhood.

"We spent an exhausting 35 hours before [the MCNCDC]. The architect completely redesigned the project midway. So far, the community's involvement has yielded a better project, much more distinguishing from the former design," Zewinsky says.

If approved and constructed, the building will alleviate crowding in the Economics and Government departments, which are currently crammed into the Littauer building.

Cobb's plan connects Coolidge Hall and the University Information Systems building on Cambridge Street via an underground tunnel.

The new Knafel Center for Government and International Studies will feature offices with windows and bookshelves, small seminar rooms, large classrooms, a conference center, a cafe, a library and a Harvard-MIT Data Center that will provide social science data to Harvard and MIT affiliates.

Mary H. Power, senior director of community relations calls the present plan "respectful" of the community's needs.

"We look at it as a win-win situation. It's been a character study in community participation," says Travis A. McCready, director of community relations.

Zewinski says the project has not progressed through Cambridge's complicated regulatory maze since the MCNCDC granted its approval. "[The Knafel Center] is by far the most complicated regulatory project I've dealt with," he says.

Harvard must obtain approval from the Cambridge Planning Board, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the City Council, but not necessarily in that order.

Zewinski says he expects the city to move on the plan in December or January.

Widener Library

The Widener crane is coming down over Thanksgiving break, but FAS construction on the massive library is just beginning.

Humidity and temperature changes have been damaging to library materials stored in the 85-year-old structure. Renovations aim to upgrade the electrical, fire protection and security systems to preserve Widener's collections.

Zewinski says Phase I of the project--renovation of the library stacks--is currently underway.

Phase I is set to cost $55 million, which has been fully funded by donations.

"We have begun in earnest the stack renovation," says Zewinksi.

Most of the recent mechanical work has taken place on the D-level of Widener. Library staff removed seldomly-used volumes based on frequency of use and sent them to a depository, transferring the remaining volumes to Pusey Library.

The D-level volumes are now ready to be returned slowly.

The rest of the stack renovation will require constant shelving and reshelving on all 10 levels of the Widener stacks.

"Logistically, it is a very complicated project," Zewinksi says.

When stack renovation is complete, the project can turn to Phase II--renovating the North Bar, the side of Widener that faces Tercentenary Theater. This portion of the project is estimated to cost $20 million.

The North Bar work will relocate the Periodical Reading Room to the first floor from the Loker Reading Room and make available two extra reading rooms.

Zewinski projectsthat the entire Widener renovation project will be completed in the next two years.

University Hall

Renovation work on University Hall continues, as first year students awoken by morning construction well know.

The renovation will completely overhaul the interior of the building, installing heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, new electricals, and a new elevator.

The Faculty Room will be spruced up, as will office space, basement area and the exterior of the building.

The project will cost $10 million, says Zewinski.

The renovation of University Hall began before Commencement in June 2000.

"You can expect to see the Dean and the troups move back into the building on Jan. 16," Zewinsky says.

The Jordans of Pforzheimer House

Knowles once called the Jordans, located on the corner of Walker and Shepard streets near the Radcliffe Quad, the "least attractive" of all Harvard undergraduate housing.

The Jordans were formerly co-operative homes for Radcliffe, but in 1985, the College began using the Jordans as overflow housing for the Quad Houses.

Before Harvard merged with Radcliffe College, Radcliffe owned the buildings. Harvard could only embark on renovation projects there with Radcliffe's approval.

Since the October 1999 merger, however, administrators have spoken longingly of projects to make the Jordans a more exciting housing option for students..

At the moment, there is no project per se, according to Zewinski. Instead, a feasibility study, which is expected to be completed in a few weeks, will determine whether space is being used effectively.

When the study is complete, it will be easier to determine where renovation of the Jordans fits in the overall picture of FAS projects.

"We have to prioritize...It's not on the top of the priority list," Zewinsky says.

Residents of the Jordans seem relatively happy with their accommodations.

"I definitely like living in Jordan. The outside of the building, I admit, is not attractive, but this does not bother me since I rarely have to look at it," writes Benjamin L. Tollefsen '01 in an e-mail message.