Mud, Shovels and Holes Mark Start of Boylston Courtyard

Backhouse and construction workers with showels started improving the landscape around Boylston Hall yesterday by creating three large, muddy holes in front of the building.

Plans for chancing the area in front of Boylston have been in the making for over a year now, and the transformation should be complete by December 1, George Oommen, special assistant to the Vice President for Administration, said yesterday.

This congested part of the Yard is difficult to keep up and poorly designed, said Oommen, adding that he met with president Bok in March to plan improvement of the area's appearances as well.

Harvard contracted the McDowell Company, a landscape construction business, to build a courtyard in front of Boylston, following a "cobblestone sunburst" design by architects William Presley and Associates.

This will create a circular area 37 feet in diameter, said Roy S. McDowell, which will become "a central multidirectional walkway."

The electrical ducts and wiring underground made any kind of reconstruction difficult to plan, Oommen said. "It's basically a concrete city underneath that part of the Yard," he explained, adding that this caused problems with grounds upkeep.

Students trampling through the little patches of grass and a complicated artificial irrigation system added to the problem, he said. "We needed a viable plan to solve all of these problems," he added.

Thirty-two bicycle racks and new trees and shrubbery will accompany the new area, McDowell said. Half of the bike racks will be on the west side of Widener Library and the remaining 16 will be on the east wall of Grays Hall.

Oommen said students had been locking their bicycles to the calls for handicapped students. "This is certainly unfair for the people in wheelchairs who need to use the rails," he said.

The construction needed approval from the Cambridge Historical Commission, as does any project in Harvard Yard, said the commission's Assistant Director paul T. Bockelman.

Because the plan had no opposition, it passed with relatively little trouble. "They are just relandscaping some stuff," Bockelman said, adding that he saw no problem with the project.

"It's a historic district, so they don't want to allow any changes which are incongruous with the historic character of the Yard," Bockelman remarked.

Oommon said he would like to improve the spot even more, if possible. He said, "Our hope is that at a later time we will be able to persuade the-Fogg Art Museum to donate a sculpture."