Sixty Oxford Street is the first building in Harvard University’s new North Yard Lab Campus—virtually the last buildable site on the Cambridge campus. The facility is a technological, high-security building and houses offices and computer labs for University Information Systems and the Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The site is at the northernmost FEATURED IN2007 Architectural PortfolioSUB CATEGORYSpecialized of Harvard’s Cambridge campus, where the institutional fabric abuts the late-19th-century homes of the Agassiz neighborhood. Neither the community nor the university wanted an abrupt meeting of the two vastly different urban conditions. The design agenda was to transition from one context to another while maintaining Harvard’s boundary and identity.
The 94,000-square-foot project produced a footprint of more than 100 feet by 150 feet, challenging the basic contextual agenda. (By contrast, a typical house in the neighborhood has a footprint of less than one-sixth of the building’s floor area.) The design organizes a series of building masses ranging in scale from a single story to four stories. These are composed to produce a series of landscape spaces around the building. The landscape and building combine to provide continuity between the university and the neighborhood. Although the composition emphasizes a small scale, the aggregation allows for the 10,000-square-foot, uninterrupted floor plate required by the University Information Systems program.
The project also embraces a green building strategy. The deep footprint incorporates a central light well and large perimeter windows with light shelves to deliver light deep into the interior. An external scrim on the west elevation and a deep brise-soliel on the east elevation help control solar gain and glare. The building is LEED-certified.