BY KELLY BROWN
The long-awaited renovation of Hemenway Gymnasium has almost been completed, and the gym opened to Harvard Law students and the rest of the Harvard community on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The new facility has received rave reviews thus far.
“When I took a tour of campus last April, the one place the guide refused to take us was Hemenway Gym,” said 1L Gus Nguyen. “He was like, ‘Don’t look now, but I promise you’ll have an amazing place to work out in the fall.’ He was right. [Hemenway] is state-of-the-art.”
Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and HLS collaborated to rehabilitate the 28,000-square-foot recreational fitness facility, pouring more than $10 million into the project. Sasaki Associates, Inc., which has undertaken the renovation of fitness facilities at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, served as the architect for Hemenway’s makeover.
The Hemenway overhaul is the latest in a line of construction projects that HLS Dean Elena Kagan has undertaken to improve the physical façade of the HLS campus, and the most major since a head-to-toe makeover of Harkness Commons in the summer of 2004.
“One of my highest priorities is improving the quality of student life at the Law School,” said Dean Kagan. “Fixing up the gym is the next big step in this process.”
Completed in 1938, the original Hemenway Gymnasium replaced an older facility of the same name that had occupied the same plot on the law school campus since 1876. Initially housing squash courts, a basketball court, and a badminton court, Hemenway’s uses have grown over time to accommodate a need for all types of fitness facilities, including cardiovascular and weight equipment. The building was last significantly modified in the 1960s, when a squash viewing area was added and some building systems were upgraded.
“The new Hemenway will be a terrific contribution to the health and recreation of our students, faculty, and staff,” said FAS Dean William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History. “Our physical well-being, academic success, and emotional health are all intertwined; I am delighted to support this big improvement to our athletic facilities.”
Hemenway’s three-story interior has been largely reconfigured, although the renovation included no structural changes. Three new international-size squash courts have replaced the seven American-size courts, with other space previously dedicated to squash courts converted to house cardiovascular and weight equipment.
Locker rooms have been consolidated on two levels. The building’s top floor continues to consist of a gymnasium, although it now includes a multipurpose room fashioned from a former badminton court.Twice the amount of cardiovascular and weight equipment as was previously housed by Hemenway now fills its rooms. Much of it is new, and most of it includes the latest technology.
“I’m concerned that law students will have to compete with the undergrads for treadmills, because the machines in the [Malkin Athletic Center] certainly don’t have television monitors,” said 2L Sarah Bolling. “I’d make the trip from Eliot House [to Hemenway] for that.”
The installation of air-conditioning will doubtlessly please many gym-goers who have in the past had only ancient fans and open windows to cool them during workouts. The heating and ventilation systems, dating from 1938, have also been replaced. In addition, Hemenway is now handicapped-accessible.
The gymnasium’s cupola-topped brick exterior, which is part of the Cambridge Common Historic District and protected by both Cambridge and Massachusetts historic commissions, received only a minor makeover. Three new windows have been added to the building’s eastern façade at entry level, and the building’s new main door contains extensive glass paneling.
“We law students are now officially spoiled,” Bolling said.