THE RADCLIFFE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY
The Radcliffe Institute's Knafel Center, originally known as the Hemenway Gymnasium, is a late 19th century McKim Mead & White building in Radcliffe Yard, housing a ceremonial lecture hall on its second floor (the original gymnasium space) and academic and support spaces on the first floor. AW's design for this adaptive re-use project accommodates the Center’s developing classroom and administrative needs, and provides more effective environmental controls and sound dampening measures for the upper level gathering space.
Project discovery involved matching the Institute’s current and expected functions against its spatial needs, analyzing building systems, and conducting sound impact studies. This work informed a series of design alternatives that provide a baseline for new, flexible classrooms and administrative offices on the building’s entry level, while presenting a series of add alternates that allowed the Institute to balance its desire for innovative design with its financial priorities.
Investigation of the Center’s existing structural order exposed programmatic opportunities for the project, capitalizing on the location of an existing bearing wall to define a sequence of large seminar rooms and smaller support spaces without introducing additional structure. This maximizes a feeling of openness and provides flexible spaces that efficiently support each other. The design focuses on a few aesthetic cues — sensitivity to scale and detail, use of daylight, finish materials — to clarify wayfinding and provide visual continuity throughout the building. Without resorting to mimicry of the structure’s historic details, the project’s tactile qualities and visual impact forge a strong architectural connection that knits together the Knafel Center’s many functions and establishes a cohesive identity.
Robert Silman Associates
Engineered Solutions, Inc.
HLB Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Kevin S. Hastings, P.E., LEED AP
Lee Kennedy Co., Inc.