Crossing The River
Third in a Four-Part Series
Part one: Bringing Art To Allston
Part two: A Community Endeavor
Part three: Defining 'Allstoned'
If Allston is to become integrated with the rest of the campus, it needs some draw to lure River House residents over the bridge. The student center would play that role. It should be located immediately over the bridge (see map below) where it could close as possible to the existing River Houses and adjacent to the new Allston ones. Provided that the new center is modern, operational, and sufficiently spacious—which it should be, given the amount of money Harvard is poised to spend in Allston—it will become a hub of student activity.
There has been discussion of moving the historic Dillon Field House, currently occupied by Harvard Athletics, to the desired corner and converting it into a student center. This is a tantalizing idea—integrating an iconic and historic building with modern facilities, as Princeton’s Frist Campus Center does exceptionally well, would give students an ideally useful and attractive gathering place.
Tunneling Soldiers Field Road, which runs along the River, is crucial if the Allston Houses are to become more than satellites. The plan as it stands now proposes to “sink” a portion of the road (dashed on the map) and create an aesthetically pleasing park-like public space sloping from campus buildings down to the riverbank. This would make living in Allston more aesthetically pleasant—having a highway out one’s window is rarely appealing—but more importantly it would make the Allston Houses feel physically closer to Cambridge for pedestrians. As anyone who has made a late night trek to or from the Quad in the dead of winter knows, even the slightest bit of additional convenience can go a long way.
The most crucial element in uniting the River Houses and the new Houses, however, will be a top-notch shuttle system. Quadlings feel detached from Harvard Square and the River Houses because student shuttles do not run consistently from convenient stops and often cannot match student demand both at peak times and in the middle of the night.
The current proposal is to have one shuttle make a long loop through Allston and Cambridge and dedicate another undergraduate shuttle to follow a shorter and more direct route from the Allston Houses to Harvard Square during peak morning hours. While this is a good start, it is not enough in itself. In order for the campuses to feel connected, students will need shuttles making frequent, convenient stops all day long. Because the Larz-Andersen Bridge is vehicle accessible and the Weeks Footbridge is not, such a shuttle system will be more feasible if the new Houses are located where the athletic facilities are currently located as opposed to the alternate site. The importance of shuttles to the Allston campus is the most compelling reason for preferring the athletic facilities site.
Before seeing the newest iteration of Harvard’s plans, we argued that the new undergraduate Houses should be located over the Weeks Footbridge next to the Business School because it is physically closer to the existing Houses. The combination of a student center, a pedestrian park stretching to the river, and an efficient shuttle system on the site currently occupied by the athletic fields, however, will do more to unite the Allston Houses than mere physical proximity. Harvard should implement all three proposals and locate the Houses in the athletic facilities area.