Harvard University, Barker Center for the Humanities

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard University’s Barker Center for the Humanities is comprised of 11 academic departments in a group of renovated historic buildings adjacent to Harvard Yard. The programmatic and design goals were: to bring together related departments and academic programs, currently overcrowded and scattered in multiple buildings across the campus, creating a place where students ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCOST PER SQ FT$193.70CITATIONGold CitationFEATURED IN1998 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYCommon Areas faculty have opportunities for chance encounters, promoting a sense of intellectual community: to preserve the historic character and texture of the existing building in which the new center is housed: to maximize the utilization of space, including four basements and attics.

The resulting design concept creates a multilevel cluster of common spaces surrounding a skylit "great stair hall" at the heart of the original building. The generating metaphor for the design was that of a galaxy of departments pulled toward a central core of shared spaces.

The center of the principal building was occupied by a grand, dark hall with rich details. A dramatic reconfiguration of this space and vertically adjoined spaces resulted in the creation of a strong new vertical axis that brought formerly underused areas "into orbit," enlivened by daylight.

Photographer: ©Steve Rosenthal

"Rich mixture of materials with pleasing and soothing colors; nice mix of `old` and modern light fixtures; effective use of natural light."—1998 jury