Even though the Allston School of Engineering and Applied Sciences campus will not open until the fall of 2020, Dean of SEAS Francis J. Doyle III said he is already excited about “the new future of Harvard.”
In a March interview, Doyle discussed construction on the school's new facilities, challenges associated with transitioning SEAS faculty across the river, and University relations with Allston residents.
Doyle said the flagship Science and Engineering Complex held its “topping off” ceremony in November 2017, marking the completion of the 500,000 square foot building’s superstructure and a transition to interior construction.
“The final steel beam is in place, so the superstructure is constructed,” he said. “If you drive by it now, you'll see it's kind of shrouded because we're doing the interior construction.”
Doyle said environmental concerns were a priority in the building’s construction, which prompted the decision to use “winglets” on the exterior that deflect sunlight in the summer and refract it inside for heating in the winter.
“The idea is to be as environmentally friendly as we can, to do things with the building design that’s smart, that makes it energy efficient, but that's also going to give it a very different look than a traditional Harvard red brick gothic building,” he said.
Doyle also said the SEAS faculty, roughly two-thirds of which will be relocating to the new campus, has already begun preparing for the move.
“Rolling out a new class schedule, thinking about the new timing, that's one way the faculty are mentally wrapping their arms around this,” Doyle said.
Doyle also said he has started “lunchtime conversations” with SEAS faculty to discuss the collaborative possibilities the Allston campus will offer. For the first time, faculty from most of the SEAS disciplines—including bioengineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering—will be housed in the same building.
“We've never had that here,” Doyle said. “We're literally an archipelago today. There for the first time, slightly more than half my faculty will have a common roof, a common break space, food space, library, labs. Just the combinations, the serendipitous collisions that are going to happen intellectually as well as socially are going to be really exciting.”
Doyle also said he detected “enthusiasm” from Allston residents, whose sometimes strained relations with the University have drawn intense scrutiny in recent years as Harvard expands into the neighborhood.
“Our project had been stalled for a while, after the economic downturn, and now that things are picking back up again, I think there's excitement that we really are going to deliver Harvard on the kind of presence that we want to bring to Allston with very careful consideration for the wishes of the community,” he said.
Plans for the SEAS campus were repeatedly delayed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Doyle said he hopes the Allston campus will become a “destination that people are excited to be going to.”
“In little ways we're beginning to see that that's beginning to happen,” he said. “There are these other installations that aren't academic in nature that help create that sense of there's a community, there's something happening there, that people aren't just going to hike across the bridge, take a class, and hike back to the Yard, but in fact there'll really be a reason to stick around and hang out.”
—Staff writer Luke W. Xu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.