Dining Halls


The creation of a space may begin with its physical features, but it does not end there. The architectural aspects of a space, its use and purpose, the people who pass through every day and the things that they do there all combine to define a space. Often, a space is designed for a particular usage, and its physical aspects therefore complement its purpose. Other times, it evolves to fit a purpose over time. Whatever the case, this human aspect of definition allows spaces to drastically change, even while their architecture remains exactly the same.

As the Harvard University Dining Service workers strike, many of the dining halls have stopped serving food. As a result, the spaces that are the House dining halls have fundamentally changed. While no food is served in the halls, these spaces remain open, and students have continued to use them. Based on my limited observation as I sat and sketched, it seems that Adams dining hall has become primarily a place of study. Without the draw of meals, it is now emptier and quieter, creating an atmosphere similar to that of a library. Yet chatter still fills the space, as some of the informality of a dining hall is retained. Almost overnight, without any alteration to the physical features or architecture, the house dining halls have been transformed into spaces that are entirely new.

Adams Dining Hall Skylight
Skylight, Adams Dining Hall. Though this skylight is has not changed since the strike began, its elegant calm seems to fit nicely with the dining hall’s new, quieter atmosphere.

HUDS Strikers
Scenes from the HUDS strike.The contrast between the constantly moving people and the comparatively stable and stagnant architecture is reflected in the differences between the qualities of line, shape and shade in the two sketches.

Portrait of Joseph
Portrait of Joseph, one of the HUDS workers on strike who came up to me as I sketched to ask what I was doing and told me a little about his experiences.


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