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Dumbarton Oaks Opens New Fellowship House

Earlier this month, Dumbarton Oaks, a Harvard-owned satellite library and research institution located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., celebrated the opening of its new fellows’ housing building, which will serve as the home of more than 20 junior and senior fellows and their families.

The opening of the fellowship house comes after 18 months of construction and more than three years of planning.

Previously, fellows were housed about a half-mile away from the main research center of Dumbarton Oaks, which attracts scholars from across the globe through fellowship programs on Pre-Columbian arts, Byzantine studies, and garden and landscape architecture. Known for its expansive gardens and also as the proverbial birthplace of the United Nations, Dumbarton Oaks was bequeathed to the trustees of Harvard by the Bliss couple in 1940.

Oaks

Dumbarton Oaks Director Jan M. Ziolkowski said that the previous housing was not only far from the central campus but also substandard, earning a far lower score on building assessments than any of the other buildings on campus.

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“Our Achilles heel was the fellows’ housing,” Ziolkowski said.

The new fellowship house features gardens of its own as well as a music practice room, a basement lounge, a presentation space, and a gym. The building will also qualify for gold certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, due in part to the use of geothermal heating and recycled and environmentally friendly building materials.

Many of the center’s campus buildings, including its museums and libraries, were upgraded in 2008. When an apartment building went up for sale in 2011 half a block from the institution’s main campus, the administration saw an opportunity to address shortcomings in fellows’ housing, Ziolkowski said. The building was purchased, stripped down, redesigned, and completely remodelled.

“Here we had the chance to take a building, to go into it, to tear it to pieces, and to rebuild it to be housing that will last for decades if not centuries, that will serve our programmatic needs,” Ziolkowski said.

Ziolkowski said that he hopes that the proximity of the fellowship house to the rest of the campus will foster “fortuitous encounters” between fellows, senior fellows, short-term scholars, and other visitors.

The future of the old fellows’ building is uncertain. Fellows will not officially move into the new fellowship house for two weeks, and their former residence will “most likely” host visiting classes, interns, and graduate fellows, Ziolkowski said.

The old residence may also be used to house students who enroll in the Wintersession course about art, philanthropy, and diplomacy offered by Dumbarton Oaks, added Yota Batsaki, executive director at Dumbarton Oaks.

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