Administration Shows Off Plans for Northwest Yard Project


The view from in front of Harkness Commons.
The view looking North on Massachusetts Avenue.

On September 26th, HLS administration unveiled the proposed design of the new multi-purpose building commonly referred to as the Northwest Yard Project. Representing the administration were Professor Daniel Meltzer, Story Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Physical Planning, and Mark Johnson, Director of Major Capital Projects and Physical Planning.

Meltzer introduced Graham Wyatt of Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), the New York firm overseeing the project, who gave the actual presentation. In addition to their current work at HLS, RAMSA has also done projects at the Harvard Business School (the Spangler Campus Center), Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Columbia. Mr. Wyatt stated that RAMSA had been working with HLS for over two years to design a building that took into account the current needs and future direction of the law school.

As many HLS students and faculty already know, the planned building site is currently occupied by Wyeth Hall, the Everett Street Parking Garage, and two adjacent historic buildings. To accommodate the new construction, Wyeth and the parking garage will be torn down, while the two historic buildings will be relocated to the vicinity of Massachusetts Avenue and Mellen St. Part of North Hall will be remodeled to accommodate the two buildings.

The new building is to house several different categories of spaces in its five above ground stories. It will include “student life” spaces such as student lounges and space for journals and student organizations. It will have academic spaces such as break-out and study rooms in addition to seven 85-person classrooms correlated with the 1L curriculum. The building will also house student services including OPIA, the Dean of Students Office, and the Pro Bono offices. Atop the five stories will be a rooftop terrace.

The new building will consist of three wings: a south wing housing student services; a north-south academic wing along Massachusetts Avenue for the classrooms, and a northern wing housing a large multi-purpose room and the clinical offices. The Coop will also be relocated there. The eastern wing of Pound Hall containing the Ropes-Gray room will be torn down, in essence creating a new quadrangle.

According to Mr. Wyatt, the new building is also reminiscent of an iceberg in that it will have several floors below ground, including a basement, which will house “invisible” equipment and service areas and will also have useable space. There will also be several levels of underground parking to accommodate space lost by the demolition of the Everett Street Garage.

Work on the project is still in the design-planning stage, but preparatory work could have begun as early as this past Wednesday and will begin in earnest from February next year. Any construction, however, is likely at least a year away. The projected duration of the project would be 2.5 years, making it unlikely that any current students would still be enrolled at its completion.

Students raised several questions after Mr. Wyatt’s presentation, ranging from issues of eco-friendly design, to aesthetics, to issues of lost beds from the demolition of Wyeth. Mr. Wyatt, in response to questions of sustainability and low-energy usage, mentioned, for instance, that the new building would be equipped with “green roofs” and lights that would adjust depending on levels of ambient light. As far as aesthetics and concerns that the building might be too “modern” and out of place, Mr. Wyatt stated that congruity with the current and future law school campus was a consideration. He described the building as being all stone with a warm color closer to that of Austin. Lost beds would be replaced by increased Harvard Real Estate allocations for the law school. Another major concern was over noise from construction. Wyatt responded that they are currently exploring ways to increase the acoustic isolation of Pound Hall and to minimize parking disruptions and disruptions in general.

As students went to the front of Langdell South and viewed the 3-D model building, reactions seemed generally favorable. Carlos Larkin, a 1L, thought the building was “a great idea” and would fulfill a number of campus needs though he regretted that it would not be completed prior to his graduating.

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