Cambridge, Massachusetts (2005)

Client: Harvard Planning + Allston Initiative, Harvard University


The North Campus of Harvard University lacks the cohesiveness and sense of place associated with Harvard Yard — it lacks identity and is not known as a memorable or distinct Harvard place. Although large numbers of students, faculty, and staff pass through the area daily, between the Law School, Divinity School, Science Center, and Peabody Museums, there are few activities to bring people together, especially outdoors where they would attract people and give the area a friendlier ambience. In many cases, the character of University buildings has been defined more by their academic function than by how they appear or are experienced from the outside.

Harvard Planning + Allston Initiative (HP + AI) hired Project for Public Spaces in April 2005 to conduct a study of urban design options for creating successful public spaces in the North Campus. Working closely with Harvard, PPS’ task was to apply its Placemaking methodology by engaging a group of Harvard stakeholders in the evaluation and visioning process for this key campus opportunity.

PPS conducted a workshop with about 20 faculty and staff and 20 students to gain the user’s perspective and identify issues and opportunities. Participants agreed that the North Campus lacks the amenities, activities, identity and character to make it a successful public space. Based on the workshop findings, PPS developed a series of programmatic and physical planning recommendations for the campus that would enhance existing destinations and improve the overall image. In addition to long term proposals, PPS identified several short term experiments that could allow the University to test ideas, make immediate improvements, and learn more about how Placemaking could be incorporated into future planning efforts.

PPS also worked with Harvard during the Winter of 2006 on the Allston Campus.