Known for its walkthrough suites and accommodations widely regarded as lackluster, Dunster House had been an undergraduate favorite for ridicule. But with the construction trucks gone from Cowperthwaite Street, the College’s first fully renovated House opened its doors to students last weekend.
Among changes made during the nearly 15-month long construction process were the addition of a wheelchair accessible main entrance with twin pillars, a new roof, new chimneys, and an emergency generator. Additionally, all parts of the House can now be accessed without ever leaving the building.
What used to be a first floor student suite looking out onto Dunster’s yard is now a common space that can be used for studying and faculty dinners. Other meeting rooms, with large monitors and sliding whiteboards, are located on the first floor, which also hosts several archival black and white photographs of the House, as well as recycled wood paneling.
Dunster is third in the line of College House renovations—a more than $1 billion project, largely funded by Harvard’s ongoing $6.5 billion capital campaign—following the renewal of Quincy House’s Stone Hall in 2013 and Leverett House’s McKinlock Hall in 2014.
Last year, when the College released renovation plans, administrators estimated that the renovations would increase House space for events by 33 percent. During construction, Dunster residents lived in swing housing in and around Harvard Square, including the former Inn at Harvard.
Suites in Dunster now closely resemble their counterparts in renovated Quincy and Leverett, with housing options including hallway singles and six-person suites, all new furniture, hall bathrooms, floor common rooms, and hall printers. The shift to floor common rooms—as opposed to more private common space, a choice some students have criticized—mirrors efforts to add more common spaces on Harvard’s campus, especially with the large scale renovation of the Smith Campus Center that will begin if Harvard receives approval from a local zoning board.
All suites contain windows, ceiling fans, and the infrastructure for air conditioning. Whereas entryways before were organized vertically with tutors often living on different floors than some of their students, entryway residents and their tutors now share the same floor.
The dining hall, a favorite before the renovations, has refinished wood and more electric outlets under each table, a built in sound system, a retractable projector screen, and additional outdoor and indoor seating.
Of the several squash courts that once dominated Dunster’s basement, only one remains. The rest of the basement is now occupied by several new exercise areas, music rooms, an art room, a renovated kitchen, and grille. A new basement “smart” classroom with monitors and glass walls that can effectively serve as whiteboards.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.