SEAS Affiliates Discuss Allston Campus Plans

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences affiliates shared their views on the design of SEAS’ new Allston campus with architectural consultants at an open house event Monday afternoon in the Maxwell Dworkin lobby.

Representatives from the firms Shepley Bulfinch and Jacobs Consultancy gathered feedback on SEAS’ teaching, research, and space needs, which will be integrated into a campus plan.

The majority of SEAS is slated to moved to Harvard’s Allston campus in as few as five years. Construction in Allston is slated to begin in 2014.

“What we are trying to do is get input on the psychology of the space,” said Fawwaz Habbal, SEAS executive dean for education and research. “Creativity…requires the right environment.”

Weeks after many SEAS professors responded negatively to the University’s February 5 announcement of the move, affiliates continued to express concerns about the relocation.

Many attendees expressed their criticism through Post-It note responses to the question “What is your vision for SEAS’ future?” The notes were displayed on a wall.

“Interdisciplinary work is our purpose. Moving will kill this,” one note read.

“As staff I feel poorly represented in this process,” read another.

Computer science professor Stuart M. Shieber ’81 said he felt the open house provided an effective forum to express concerns about the design process. He added that administrators should continue to hold meetings for members to give feedback.

“I wouldn’t be under any illusions that one meeting is going to answer all the tremendous, difficult issues that have to get resolved,” Shieber said . “To my mind, the big issue in designing the new development in Allston...is how to build a sense of true community among all the people who will be located there.”

Max Wang ’13, a computer science concentrator, said that the distance to the Allston campus might inhibit many students from taking courses.

“If SEAS can’t make it very compelling for people to make the trek across the river, people aren’t going to show up to class,” Wang said.

Executive Dean for Administration G. Timothy Bowman said that, while details about the utilization of the Allston campus had not yet been decided, his “guess” was that SEAS classes would eventually be held on both sides of the river.

“I could see, for example, more of the design lab and engineering lab coursework will be done in Allston, and maybe some classroom teaching as well, but there will still continue to be some classroom teaching that’s done in Cambridge,” he said.

Bowman also said that he hoped the SEAS Allston campus would develop into a “college student hub” for students coming from the iLab and Harvard’s athletic facilities.

“We want it to be a destination that students, faculty, and the University community want to go to, even if they don’t have a class,” Bowman said.

—Staff writer Brian C. Zhang can be reached at brianzhang@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @brianczhang.

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