MVVA collaborated in a large-scale planning project for Harvard University with Mack Scoggin Merrill Elam Architects. The Common Spaces project sought to identify and develop a series of campus gathering places, both within buildings and within the landscape, that would increase the opportunities for informal interaction for the entire campus community.
One of the defining attributes of Harvard’s Cambridge campus is the way that it has grown organically over time without a strong unified vision. The campus today presents a mosaic of complex and somewhat varied conditions, and MVVA’s approach to creating common spaces built upon the strength of that variety. Although the pieces of the campus mosaic all work together, each has unique characteristics not necessarily repeatable or dependent on the composition of the whole. Understanding and curating this mosaic, including its unexpected adjacencies and patterns of use, was essential to developing common spaces that were appropriately located, designed, and programmed.
The sites identified to be developed further as common spaces comprise a family of very different places, each of which has the potential to cultivate a part of a wide spectrum of social needs on campus. This decentralized, diverse, yet integrated approach to creating common spaces was not only a realistic way to encourage social growth, but it was also one tailored to Harvard’s decentralized organization. The process began in the summer of 2009 with the installation of seasonal chairs in and around Harvard Yard to encourage new uses.
Harvard Common Spaces