Town Hall Meeting Updates Community on NW Plans


A model of the planned Northwest Corner site show the arches that evoke Austin Hall, lglass that resembles Langdell Library, and geometry that references Pound Hall.

On Wednesday, September 26th, the law school administration hosted a town hall meeting to discuss progress and future plans for the construction of the Northwest Corner building. Mark Johnson, Harvard’s Director of Major Capital Projects and Physical Planning, began his presentation by explaining good-naturedly, “I’m the scapegoat…everything that you see is my fault in one way or another.”

Johnson showed diagrams, artist’s depictions, and photographs to explain what the future building would look like. The building, which will stand on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Everett St, will be five stories tall and be divided into three wings: an academic center, a student center, and a clinical center. The building will house new suites for the registrar, clinical and faculty offices, classrooms, and student organization space. It will also include a new Coop bookstore and school lounge and pub.

Funding for the building is largely coming from Harvard Law’s current “Setting the Standard” capital campaign, which is expected to exceed its lofty $400 million goal when it concludes in June 2008.

The family of alumnus Bruce Wasserstein ’71, already the founder of the public interest advising Wasserstein Fellows program and the Wasserstein Chair in Public Interest Law held by Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, made a $25 million donation to the law school to support the project. According to Dean Elena Kagan, one of the three halls of the Northwest Corner building will be named Wasserstein Hall.

In 2007, the first year of the construction project, Wyeth Hall has already been demolished, and the Everett Street Garage is near demolished. In later years, the part of Pound Hall closest to Harkness Commons will be demolished to create a larger courtyard between Pound, the Hark, and the new building. This will mean the disappearance of the current Ropes-Gray and John Chipman Gray rooms. However, Pound’s truncation is dependent on project funding and is not scheduled to take place until 2012, after new multi-purpose rooms have already been built in the Northwest Corner building.

The construction is expected to take so many years largely because the new building will sit on top of 4 stories of parking. This requires construction crews to dig down and build the parking levels before being able to erect the steel frame of the building, which is planned for 2009-10. Exterior closure and completion of the building will happen in 2011-12.

Johnson also explained Harvard’s attempts to make the new building environmentally sustainable, which include using high performance glazing, efficient heat recovery, and CO2 monitoring. In response to a student question, Johnson said that a particular “green” roof design involving a soil bed was considered last year, but rejected due to costs and repair difficulties, but there is another design still being discussed. Harvard will be applying for Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

In reference to a student’s question about architectural design, Johnson said that the style of the building, which was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, was intended to pull together other divergent styles on campus. “Dean Kagan said she did not want a 12th building in a 12th style,” explained Johnson, and so the new building will have features like arches that reference Austin Hall, limestone exterior and glass that references Langdell Library, and geometry that references Pound Hall.

Three historic houses on the HLS campus, Carriage House, Baker House, and Ukrainian House, were lifted off their foundations and rolled up Massachusetts Avenue on June 23rd, resting close to North Hall. All three buildings will be renovated and converted from office space to Harvard-affiliated housing. The Ukranian House’s new foundation has already been poured and the building is being relocated to its new home this week.

The next phase of the construction project will be the building of a slurry wall around the construction site next to Pound. The build, which is projected to last from November to April, involves digging a deep trench around the whole site and filling it with slurry, a reinforcing material, to create a wall so that the surrounding buildings do not begin to collapse into the large hole. Ed LaFlore, Mitigation Manager on the project, said there would still be occasional vibrations outside the site as the excavation hits boulders or glacier till. These vibrations would only last a few seconds and be felt within 150-300 feet of the site.

To reduce the impact on the law school, Pound Hall has special glass installed to reduce noise. However, LeFlore explained, there will continue to be many people on the construction site, dust in the air, and trucks coming in and out on a regular basis.

The construction has had an effect wider than the law school campus itself. Cory Baird, 1L, who lives across Massachusetts Avenue from the Three Aces restaurant, shared his frustration that he has lost power in his apartment three times and only been warned once. Twice, the food in his refrigerator went bad. LeFlore assured him that they would warn residents about power outages in the future, and Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove offered to reimburse Baird for the cost of the lost food.

Ming Zhu, 2L, expressed concerns about the many no-parking signs on Everett, and aksed whether the new parking under the Northwest Corner building would be open to students. LeFlore explained that the first problem was temporary because of work on utility poles, and more street parking would be available soon. As to the second question, Johnson explained that some of the parking would become part of the Harvard University pool, and some would sit empty as a reserve for when there is construction elsewhere on campus.

The Coop bookstore in Harkness Commons will remain open throughout the 2007-08 school year, in a reversal of the decision to close it because of construction that was reported by the Record last April. However, the present Coop will close after 2008 graduation until a new space is opened in the new building.

The presenters invited students to visit for updates and to contact the Mitigation Hotline at 617-496-0857 with concerns.

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