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Harvard University - Northwest Science Building, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Friday 27 Feb 2009

The science of learning

copyright: SOM, images: Timothy Hursley 
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SOM designs new building for Ivy League University 

Harvard University had one plot of under-utilised land remaining on its historic campus. One of the University’s goals was to maximize utilisation of the site, which weaves between six existing buildings and faces a historic neighbourhood of residences. The Northwest Science Building brings together experts from diverse fields, including neurosciences, bio-engineering, systems biology, and computational biology.

The design team’s challenge was to lead the way for high performance design at Harvard by creating a flexible building appropriate in scale to its neighbours and sympathetic to the organisational structure and architectural language of the campus. The team recommended that a substantial portion of the building—more than half of the square footage—sit below-grade. This innovative solution led to a building that accommodates 530,000 gsf, incorporates three functioning green roofs, and harmonises with its residential and human-scale surroundings.

The building, with its network of passages and multi-height gathering spaces, fosters a strongly connected community, engendering a freer exchange of ideas across the various sciences. Due to the design’s flexibility, Harvard can easily reassign spaces to facilitate evolving scientific research.

The Northwest Science Building not only emphasises collaborative learning and cross-disciplinary research, it also provides a new model for educational facilities that sensitively addresses environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Key Facts

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

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