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Freshman Social Space To Debut in Fall

Meeting with architects opens up options for social space in Yard basements

Students and College administrators met with architects last Friday afternoon to discuss the future aesthetics and development of the soon-to-be vacated spaces in the basements of Canaday, Holworthy, and Thayer Halls.

Over 3,000 square feet of space in the three freshmen dormitories will undergo renovations this summer, after most student groups relocate their offices from the Yard basements to the revamped Hilles building.

Among the 30 groups who currently hold basement space, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, the First-Year Outdoor Program, several peer counseling groups, and the Harvard Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) will keep their current basement offices, according to Frano Violich, an architect from the firm that will conduct the renovations of both the Yard basements and the Hilles building.

The Harvard Islamic Society, which currently has a prayer room located in Canaday basement, is also likely to retain its space, and the new women’s center will establish its headquarters in one of the basement offices as well, Resident Dean of Freshmen Leslie N. Barth said.

During the meeting, three representatives from Kennedy and Violich Architecture, Ltd. presented before and after schematics of the Yard basement space and solicited suggestions from students about what the space should include.

Ricky B. Shah ’09 said that the aesthetics of the new social space are crucial to “establishing identity” and should contribute to a feeling of “homey-ness.”

“First impressions are really key here,” Violich said. “We need to design something that’s lasting and well-used.”

Zachary A. Y. Pollinger ’09, a representative from the First Year Social Committee, said that the spaces should be specialized, suggesting options like a designated party area, a small movie theatre, and a game room.

Shah alluded to the possibility of constructing a bar, which was immediately denied by Barth.

All students in attendance agreed that cable-equipped plasma screen televisions would make the new social spaces very popular as well as very expensive.

Barth raised concerns that costly equipment might get damaged if placed in public spaces. However, Shah replied that spending more money on better equipment gives students more motivation to be respectful of the space.

Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 said that without enough incentive, freshmen will not be likely to leave their dorms to go to social spaces in other Yard basements.

Sundquist said that it is important that the renovated rooms should be able to serve as many freshmen at once as possible.

In addition, students discussed the possibility of performance and practice areas for bands, fully-stocked kitchens, and vending machines in the new spaces.

Violich said that he wants the renovations to be a “slam dunk success” and plans to develop a schematic plan based on the input gathered to be resubmitted to students and administrators in a few weeks.

The budget for the basement renovations are currently being developed, said Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd. Kidd added that the Freshman Deans Office would have liked to take a more comprehensive look at renovating all the Yard basements, but the construction at Hilles opened up a “window of opportunity” for changes to begin.

This past fall, University President Lawrence H. Summers allocated $6.5 million for student-focused space, including renovating Yard basements, revamping the Hilles building, constructing a café in Lamont, and establishing a pub in Loker Commons.

—Staff writer Ying Wang can be reached at yingwang@fas.harvard.edu