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Architecture Confuses Alumni

By Thomas J. Winslow

If you plan on stopping in for a five cent beer at your favorite watering hole in Cambridge during your reunion visit, forget it.

Not, even immortality in the silver screen. "Love Story" could save the famous. Cronin's bar-where generations of Harvard undergraduates consumed lobster and steak dinners for under $2-from demolition in 1960. Cronin's and a 19th century dormitory building eventually made way for Harvard Square's most dominant edifice, the less appealing Holyoke Center.

"I half expect some Montezuma to sacrifice a throbbing heart off the top of that building," returning alumnus Ward Smith '60 commented about the imposing. Aztec looking structure.

Although Holyoke Center was completed in 1967, its introduction into the local skyline sparked the most extensive University building spree--in terms of square footage and cost--in Harvard's three centuries.

President Nathan M. Pusey '28 (1953-1971) aggressively embarked on a problem building program, completing 28 building projects in his 18-years tenure.

Pushing campus borders well beyond the gates of Harvard Yard, Pusey and his Architects Collaborative abandoned the traditional Georgian Revival style--so closely associated with red-brick Harvard--and opted for more modern. Internationally flavored architecture Harvard also began to commission nationally, acclaimed architects to design the University's very first skyscrapers.

Fertile Crescent

In the cast 25 years, a crescent of new academic structures has sprung up between the Freshman Union and Littauer Center north and cast of the Yard Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the sole building designed by Le Corbusier in the U.S. nudged its way in between the Fogg Museum and the Faculty Club in 1961. A little further down Quincy St. the imposing, minimalist George Gund Hall became home for the Graduate School of Design in 1969.

World-renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki used his designs for William James Hail, built in 1963, as a testing ground for his World Trade Towers in New York City. Although the 15-story edifice has been praised for its slender beauty, a 1973 survey of Cambridge architecture called it a sore thumb in its current location.

With Holyoke and Carpenter Centers already under its belt the architectural firm of Sert Jackson. A Goutler drew up plans for Harvard's Science Center in 1972. Nearby, a man made overpass stretches over Kirkland St., connecting the Yard with the northern campus via a glass plaza and new rock garden.

Aside from interior renovations to the Yard's old dormitories, the only significant addition came in 1973 when Canaday replaced the mausoleum-like Hunt Hall.

Riverwide Expansion

Some of the most controversial assemblages of Harvard property took place in last 25 years on the banks Charles River. Spurred on by greater enrollments and new federal search money. University expense led, from 1958 to 1968, to the addition of a series of concrete and-glass undergraduate dorms like New Quincy, Leverett Towers, and Mather House.

As these were built at the same time as with three 21-story buildings for married and graduate students--known as Peabody Terrace--Harvard became perceived as a threat to wood-framed dwellings of the riverside neighborhood.

At the 1970 Commencement, a group of neighborhood activists led by now-City councilor Saundra M. Graham marched on the Tercentenary Theater, protesting what they and as Harvard's disregard for the fabric of residential Cambridge.

Today, Harvard is planning to built 50 units of affiliate housing and ground level retail space at the corner of Mt. Auburn and Banks Streets. A noticable departure from Pusey-era architecture, tentative plans for the proposed structure at 8:10 Mt. Mt. Auburn St. call for a return to the traditional Georgian Revival style. That is, if the community allows Harvard proceed.

Reunion Verdict

Many members of the Harvard Class of '60 came back to Cambridge for the first time in 25 years yesterday and were amazed with the transformation of the University and the surrounding area. For the most part, however, most of the Eisenhower-era graduates were placed with the changes they saw.

"The uniform architecture at most major universities is boring," said Samuel A. Halaby '60 of Rochester, N.Y. "Without getting philosophical, the diversity of this architecture reflects the diversity of [Harvard's] student body."

Commenting on how he thanks Harvard Square itself has become a major metropolitan area since he was at the College, former Elsot House resident Ralph D. Goldenberg '60 remembers when Mass. Ave, was a two-way street. "But it's still," he says.

But several alumni were less than satisfied with buildings added to the core campus in the past several decades, calling them everything from "surrealistic" to "less romantic."

"If Lowell House became the norm for those buildings to be judged, then all the rest can crumble and fall apart," said Thomas M. Brown who compared the interior of Crimson Hall--where he is staying--to Walpole prison.

New York residents Ward Smiths '60, whose son will be a sophomore next fall, seemed to put it all in perceptive. "Just because it was right a quarter of a century ago doesn't mean it should be that way in perpetuity. If Harvard was like it was in 1636 we'd be having lunch in a cowfield and going to a privy.

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