Professors Hear Allston Plans

Citing a lack of opportunity for direct communication with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) about plans to expand the campus into Allston, University President Drew G. Faust presented an update on the project at yesterday’s meeting of the full Faculty.

Faust’s presentation, which prefaced a slideshow by Christopher M. Gordon, chief operating officer of the Allston Development Group, came only months before the University’s planned date for producing a revised Institutional Master Plan (IMP), detailing what Faust called the “bone structure” of how the campus growth will occur.

Although input from the full Faculty on the Allston project has been limited so far, Gordon pledged yesterday that the new IMP would be subjected to an “open consultation period” with the Faculty in the fall before being filed with city officials.

Armed with slides that included several aerial photos of the Allston area, Gordon reviewed the highlights of the University’s current vision for the expansion, emphasizing the sustainability of the project and some of the “unique refinements” that will characterize the Allston campus.

While none of the material was particularly new, the Faculty appeared to enjoy several elements of Gordon’s speech.    

“The biggest sewer line in Boston runs under Allston, it’s 100 million gallons on a busy day,” Gordon said, drawing laughter from the professors as he detailed one of the project’s environmentally-friendly schemes.

“Very serious,” he continued. “We’re looking at wrapping that part with heat extraction lines, pulling the heat out of the sewer. For every 600 feet of sewer line, I can heat a 100,000 square foot building forever.”

More laughter came later in the speech when the Faculty found out that some of their colleagues in the sciences had lobbied for social space in the new Allston science building, which began construction in November.

“The scientists were quite adamant about wanting to have a rooftop bar,” Gordon said, speaking above the merriment. “So in all of our environmental plans, you’ll see a ‘function room,’ but if you know the code that’s actually a bar.”

Following the presentation, professors’ questions tended to fall into line with their areas of expertise.

Anthropology professor J. Lorand Matory ’82 expressed concern that the campus’ current layout was “antagonistic” to his vocational desire to sit outside and watch people, and asked whether the new Allston site might have more spaces for outdoor seating.

“The goal is to have significant places where people want to be, both inside and outdoors,” Gordon said, before addressing a question from religion professor Diana L. Eck, who asked about possibly setting aside space for an Islamic prayer center.

Despite the personal flavor of professors’ concerns, Gordon tried to emphasize the project’s larger impact.

“There’s some planning books out,” he said, “that say the way Harvard does Allston could set the tone for the next century of academic planning.”

—Staff writer Maxwell L. Child can be reached at mchild@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at cflow@fas.harvard.edu.