Law School Set for Facelift

Law School renovations will add to its ‘eclectic mix of architecture’

At long last, Harvard Law School has found the Northwest Passage.

The uninviting garage that greets visitors to the northwest corner of campus will be replaced with a more picturesque academic complex—if newly-released plans come to fruition.

The new building will serve as a gateway from Everett Street and Mass. Ave. to the heart of the campus, according to one of the complex’s designers, Melissa DelVecchio of Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

The Everett Street Garage won’t be the only building bulldozed in the project. The Wyeth Hall dorm will be demolished to make room for the new kid on the Mass Ave. block.

The blueprint, unveiled last night at a Pound Hall information session, includes large windows and open spaces—meant to bring light in from outside, DelVecchio said.

The Law School campus already boasts several architectural landmarks. H. H. Richardson, a leader of the Romanesque Revival movement, designed Austin Hall in the early 1880s. And Harkness Commons, which opened in 1950, is a creation of Walter Gropius, a pioneer of the Bauhaus School of design,

“The Law School has such an eclectic mix of architecture on it,” DelVecchio said. “It’s hard to add a new building to the mix.”

The academic wing of the new building will contain six classrooms with a 90-person capacity, and a seventh classroom with a capacity of 110. The new building will also provide spaces for student groups that are currently scattered across the Law School campus.

Just two years after the Harkness Commons student center got a $12 million facelift, that building will be modernized again in the current project. The Law School branch of the Coop bookstore, now in Harkness, will be relocated to the planned complex, and a new food services facility will take its place. Harkness’s existing food services space will be renovated as well.

A portion of Pound Hall will be demolished to make room for a new Law School Yard in between Pound, Harkness, and the new building site.

The plan involves uprooting and relocating two wood-frame buildings that are currently next to Wyeth Hall. Local residents had been worried about the buildings’ preservation.

The Law School’s vice dean for physical planning, Daniel Meltzer, said, “I think we have superb architects who have designed a wonderful building for the Law School, particularly for improving the student experience, and for the greater Cambridge community.”

Harvard will seek construction permits from the City of Cambridge in late fall and early winter, according to the University’s director of community relations, Thomas J. Lucey. Construction will likely begin after Commencement, he said.

The proposed design will go before the Cambridge Historical Commission on Nov. 2, according to Harvard’s senior director of community relations, Mary H. Power.

—Staff writer Mathieu D.S. Bouchard can be reached at mdsbouch@fas.harvard