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SEAS Refines Plans for Move to Allston

Constuction halted on Harvard's Allston Science Comlex in December 2009. The vast construction site (above) is hidden from traffic, pedestrians, businesses, and resindets by a wall surrounding its entire perimeter.
Constuction halted on Harvard's Allston Science Comlex in December 2009. The vast construction site (above) is hidden from traffic, pedestrians, businesses, and resindets by a wall surrounding its entire perimeter.
By Michael V. Rothberg and Zara Zhang, Crimson Staff Writers

Administrators and planning committees at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are continuing to outline broad goals for the eventual relocation of their school to Allston, determined to make a campus that attracts students from across the University, according to interim SEAS Dean Harry R. Lewis ’68.

The SEAS Teaching and Community Space Task Force detailed their visions for the campus in a white paper last year, writing that they are “determined that Allston will not be seen as an engineering ghetto or overflow space.” Two-thirds of the SEAS faculty is slated to move to Allston in 2019.

“The goal is that undergraduates would rather hang out, meet up, study, and do group projects at Allston than on the other side of the river,” Lewis said.

In addition to migrating many of SEAS’s educational and administrative spaces to Allston, facilities for other disciplines might appear as well. According to English Department Chair W. James Simpson, new performing arts spaces could be included in the Allston move.

“The emphasis would be on art-making and art performance, art exhibition, rather than in the first instance on teaching,” he said.

There are currently no finalized plans for the construction of such spaces, though members of the Visual and Environmental Studies department and the American Repertory Theater have expressed interest, according to Simpson.

“We are hoping other concentrations outside SEAS will also relocate around the same time that we do, so that there will be a community over there that’s more than just engineers and computer scientists,” said Robert D. Howe, chair of the task force on SEAS student life and area dean for biomedical engineering.

While the design of an attractive space for students has been central to campus planning, initial reactions to the project from some faculty members were critical.

Since then, however, more have come to appreciate the potential benefits of the move, Lewis said.

He said that since the Medical School analogously moved to Longwood in 1905, the area has been transformed from a “swamp” into a bustling center for medicine.

“I think [the] same will happen in Allston: the engineering campus will create a whole industrial zone around it, just like Kendall Square and MIT,” he said.

In addition, the move will provide needed space to accommodate the school’s growing enrollment and activity, according to Howe.

He said that as faculty members are trying to create more hands-on and project-based courses, the school is experiencing large growth in its enrollment, resulting in a shortage of teaching spaces.

Students have also contributed to developing a vision for the Allston campus. Last fall, 15 students in Engineering Sciences 96: “Engineering Problem Solving and Design Project” spent the semester addressing issues related to the relocation of SEAS to Allston. The group wrote a 256-page report detailing their recommendations for the Allston: a relaxation room, a project exhibition space, an improved shuttle system, a first-year engineering program, and a café-pub, among others.

Caroline M. Perry, a spokesperson for SEAS, was present at the interview with Lewis.

—Staff writer Michael V. Rothberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mvrothberg.

—Staff writer Zara Zhang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @zarazhangrui.

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