Even Their Trash is Beautiful

An ordinary chain link fence just won’t do at the Graduate School of Design (GSD). So when Harvard broke ground this summer on an expansion of Gund Hall, the GSD erected a barrier more befitting a modern art museum than a construction site. The treated plywood fence undulates in and out towards passersby on the corner of Quincy and Kirkland Streets. Orange support posts both add color and denote caution. Gaps in the fence give the passing pedestrian multiple views of the puddles of water and mountains of gravel inside.

The fence is the winner of a cash-prize competition last spring. Ten teams composed of GSD students and alumni submitted designs meant to ensure the safety of workers and the public, provide a sound barrier from construction for residents and students and exploit the vast artistic potential of a construction fence. A jury composed of GSD faculty members, construction representatives and a neighborhood representative chose Susie Sanchez, Kiernan Mathews, Michael Goorevich, G. Russell Fason and Jason Casero’s fence proposal. Designed in one week and built over the summer, the fence manipulates light and color to give a “sense of time and sculptural depth” and make strolling by the construction site a “scenic experience,” according to the team’s entry.

The contest was the brainchild of Toshiko Mori, the first female chair of the GSD architecture department. “Toshiko is a true believer in promoting projects for students, getting our hands into architecture and involving us in the campus,” says Elizabeth Ghiseline, student coordinator of the competition. Though some GSD students feel the final product looks “unfinished,” Kevin Cahlin, facilities manager of Gund Hall, reports that it has “grown on me more and more—the fence is definitely creative, good use of color.” Ghiseline concurs, praising the project as a “good investigation of reinterpreting the construction fence.”