Smith Campus Center at Harvard University
Eight massive tapestries of foliage, each nearly 20 feet high, frame Harvard University’s Smith Campus Center, suffusing the interior space with the bright, warm colors of living plants. Sustained by rainwater collected on the building’s roof, the vertical gardens reinvent the school’s iconic ivy-covered walls to bring new life to an aging building and expand the network of campus social spaces. The Smith Campus Center houses Harvard’s information desk, making the new space one of the first stops for many visitors. Steps away from Harvard Yard, the Center brings key landscape elements inside to establish a memorable and inviting common space for students, visitors, and the community.
MVVA was part of the design team that developed the 2008 Harvard Common Spaces plan, which identified opportunities to create new social places on the historic campus. A decade later, MVVA collaborated with Hopkins Architects on a key initiative of this plan: transforming the former Holyoke Center into a welcoming new hub of student life that would be a destination for the Cambridge community.
The Smith Campus Center’s new green walls bring the landscape inside and complement a new viewing courtyard and skylights. What was once a dark, over-scaled space to pass through is now an inviting place to gather.
The Smith Center’s living walls employ sustainable technologies to achieve landscape vitality and environmental comfort: absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, improving air quality, harvesting rainwater, and reducing energy demands.