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Artistic Guide to Harvard: The Science Center

Ask someone to picture Harvard University and most responses will include red bricks, bell towers, and perhaps even a mention of colonial-style architecture from the more technical respondents. A number of Harvard buildings do conform to this style, from Lowell House with its bell tower to the beautiful red bricks all over Harvard Yard. There is, however, a notable exception. The Science Center, with its imposing gray facade and multiple tiers, may be Harvard’s eyesore, but it is also a highly frequented location. With the amount of people who are forced to visit it on a daily basis, it would be helpful to search for the most aesthetically pleasing places in the Science Center.

There’s little hope of finding anything aesthetically pleasing outside. In fact, there is likely no good angle at which to catch the Science Center. Built during a modernist architectural movement in the 1970s, it is no surprise the Science Center looks the way it does. However, that is of no consequence, as it is what’s on the inside that counts.

Perhaps the first site of interest is Cabot Science Library. Not the inside of the library of course (although it will be renovated this summer, so there is hope), as it looks like any other library, but the second floor of Cabot—specifically the large window that looks out onto the Science Center Plaza. A quiet study spot, Cabot’s second floor provides the perfect location to look up from hours of studying to see other people busily running from one place to another. The trees framing the scene, as well as the sight of Memorial Hall on the side, are picturesque. Of course, it is true that this location is technically not looking at any part of the Science Center at all, but it is within the building, so it should count.

Likewise, the Science Center offers another pleasing site at the Math Department lounge. With a view of the entire Yard, this terrace serves a dual purpose as a meeting place and as a great location for a nice photo. It happens to be quite popular with students, but that should not detract from its appeal as it has a view like no other. Going up there around sunset could even serve as a cheap date idea! Admittedly, this site is still not looking at any part of the Science Center, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it’s a nice location, right?

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Finally, there is the wonderful astronomical observatory. It isn’t much of a study space if one isn’t an astrophysics concentrator, but it is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Science Center. With its massive telescopes, it gives the opportunity to look out at the stars for a night. It really can’t get better than looking at the space beyond our tiny planet from the comfort of the Science Center. Again, its beauty is derived from the fact that one is looking out at the galaxy beyond the building he or she is standing in, but perhaps that is the only appeal of the Science Center.

If there’s any broad conclusion to be made about the Science Center, it is that it is most appealing when one is looking at anything besides it. With its beautiful surroundings, it’s best to take the opportunity to look at the campus around you and forget the gray, brutalist building actually encompassing one. It may just be the only way to enjoy Harvard’s eyesore.


—Staff writer Marianne T. Aguilar can be reached at marianne.aguilar@thecrimson.com.

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