BY HUGO TORRES
“Of all the buildings on our campus, the Hark is most urgently in need of renovation,” says Dean Elena Kagan. “It depresses me to walk through it, as I’m sure it depresses many others. We need to do all we can to convert it into a facility that students will use and enjoy for a wide variety of social and educational experiences.” True to her words, Dean Kagan is setting out to do just that.
In an e-mail sent out the Harvard Law School community, Kagan explains that the Physical Planning Committee is in the process of soliciting and reviewing possible changes to the Hark that can be completed by the end of the coming summer. “The goal of the study will be to learn, by early January, what a possible renovation plan might look like, whether it could be accomplished in summer 2004, and what its cost will be,” said Kagan in the e-mail. Assuming things go well and a feasible plan of action is drawn up, the following summer will see a rush of activity to implement the desired changes in time for the start of the 2004-2005 academic year.
Student input is critical to the success of the project. Ron Varnum, 2L, who sits on the committee in charge of the renovations, urges students to offer their opinions. “We welcome comments of any type. We’re looking for student contributions of what they want in the Hark, what the space should be used for, what kind of furniture….” Though Varnum notes that the committee is accepting any and all suggestions, he adds that there are certain limitations in place that prohibit some ideas from being feasible. Among those limitations is time. “We want to do something well as soon as possible so our students can better utilize the space.” Time is a key issue, to ensure that the Hark receives quick attention. “I’m not so worried about the short time frame. This is seen as a short term solution,” says Ron, noting that such a time frame also means “there’s not going to be anything major in terms of transforming the exterior of the building.”
Kagan also notes that certain limitations will crop up that are unavoidable. “The Hark was designed by a famous architect, and the Cambridge board charged with protecting historical buildings has a deep interest in it. We need approval from that board for this project, as well as for other important projects we hope to undertake in the future,” says Kagan. Nonetheless, Kagan remains certain that the Hark will be an improved structure by next year. “We are very hopeful that we can work with the board in a constructive way to make the changes that are needed.”
Students on campus certainly seem to have ideas on what can be done. Paul Serritella, a 2L, has very specific thoughts on the subject. “From a functional point of view, they should revamp the South Room in that its function as a meeting and study room is undercut by its non-optimal use of space,” says Serritella. Furthermore, Serritella believes fixing the look of the Hark can mark the start of architectural design improvements to the campus as a whole. “From an aesthetic point of view, the Hark renovation should be the first step in a counterattack to the architectural onslaught visited onto the school in the past decades.”
Lori Halstead, 2L, has a more modest idea of what she hopes to see change. “Something that changes the dim, under-lit atmosphere of the first floor would be nice,” says Halstead.
The goal, in the end, is “a student union that is better suited to the large size of our student body,” says Varnum.
Despite the difficulties that lie ahead, Kagan is optimistic that positive changes will be in place by next year. “We hope to do as much as we can within the confines of a single summer to make the Hark a very different place – to make it a place that students will really want to spend time in.”