Architectural Gems, Technological Thorns

Gold wallpaper and terra cotta moldings in Adams House have forced some creative thinking on the part of those responsible for the roll-out of wireless ethernet.

While manpower and wiring problems have caused the primary delays to the process, aesthetic considerations have stretched staffers’ ingenuity in several houses.

The challenge of unobstrusively placing the eight-by-ten inch gray boxes against elaborate and often historical House interiors has meant opening up a full bag of tricks, Coordinator of Residential Computing Kevin S. Davis ’98 says.

“The main factor in the procedures is figuring out how to put things up and not destroy the aesthetics of the house,” Davis says.

Transmitters will be placed in doorways, closets and adjoining rooms or behind furniture to avoid distracting from the Houses’ architectural and decorative features, Davis says.


Quincy House Master Robert P. Kirshner ’70 says appearance was among his top worries about the project.

“I was concerned about making sure the installations weren’t excessively ugly,” Kirschner says. “Alas, they don’t have a walnut veneer model.”

“The goal is to provide service in common areas while staying a good citizen in the House,” Davis says. “We have to be quite creative to camouflage them, and find discreet locations.”

The construction materials of many of the Houses—brick and terra-cotta in the older ones and reinforced steel and concrete in newer ones—hinder the transmission of signals, further complicating the installation process.

And then finally there are the Cambridge Historical Commission’s regulations. These rules have effectively taken wireless in the Yard off the table for now, Director of Harvard Arts and Sciences Computer Services Frank M. Steen says, and put a constraint on the renovations that can be made to the Houses.