1979-1985, Concrete Fin Replacement1980-1981, Curtain Wall Improvement1983, 6th and 8th Floor Renovation1984-1985, 3rd and 5th Floor Renovation1994-1996, UHS Renovation1999-2000, Arcade Improvements
Holyoke Center is the main administration building of Harvard University. It includes underground parking, the arcade, shops, and a bank at street level, university offices above, and a fully equipped infirmary, and University Health Services.
Holyoke Center, occupies a full city block in the heart of Harvard Square, is a ten-story, 360,000 square foot facility originally designed by José Luis Sert in 1960. The main plan of the concrete structure is H-shaped, with the north wing along Massachusetts Avenue and south wing along Mt. Auburn Street. The central connecting portion sets back from both Dunster Street and Holyoke Street, is approximately the same width as the two wings. The structural height is 133 feet, and the total height is 167 feet. Holyoke Center is the main administration building of Harvard University. At street level, a pedestrian arcade, occupying two stories in height, runs through the block. Originally, the arcade was no more than a link connecting the Harvard Yard and the river houses and the main entrance to the offices. Then in 1993, as part of “The Shops by Harvard Yard” project, ten kiosks along the arcade were opened after renovation. In 1999, two glass gates on each side were installed to block out the wind and for security reasons. Now it is an active area because it is the main entrance to the offices and to several shops and restaurants as well. On the north of the site there is a branch bank, while in the south, the heath center reception and a library. The above floors of the building were occupied by university administration offices, University Health Services including a fully-equipped infirmary. And there is a parking garage underground. The facades show the architect’s ideas of modernism. The patterns of the windows and sandwich panels are “random”, which present the variations inside. The glass of the windows is held by metal frames. Across each window, on three sides (except north side where the window bars are brick red) of the building, there are red, orange, and yellow bars. Large sheets of windows are designed to “frame the view”. All the windows cannot open.
The construction of Holyoke Center had four phases. Phase 1 completed in 1961. The south half of the H-shaped building was built, and University’s Health Services moved into the completed wing. The building was expanded on the east side at street level in the Phase 2 in 1963. In 1966, the north wing was built in Phase 3. The majority of the construction completed. In the same year, in Phase 4 a bank was built on the north of the site, until then, the whole construction was finished.
Original Physical Context
Holyoke Center was designed by José Luis Sert in 1950’s, as an administration building of Harvard University. Mr. Sert was a world class architect, and also a former dean of Graduate School of Design in Harvard University. It was the first high rise building in Harvard University. The design gave rise to much controversy. The building was thought to be too high, too large, and showed no respect to the historic area it located. The site was surrounded by historic brick buildings no more than two stories. And most of those buildings had Georgian roofs. The building was called “grey elephant” due to its Brutalism reinforced concrete facades.
Holyoke Center was the only high rise cast-in-place concrete building in Harvard University at that time. The innovation with a new type of surface was an architectural experiment. But the concrete started to crumble 15 years after its completion. The configurations of the facades were also advanced for its time. Alternated with clear glasses, the translucent sandwich panels allow much sunshine getting into the interior spaces. However, both the windows that opened were not, and the “three-pipe” system contributed to the serious energy costs issue.
\"Holyoke stands as a prototype of process more than of form.” Holyoke Center was built in its time.
Cultural & Aesthetic
It was the first high rise building in that area. It was the beginning of modern architecture activity of Harvard University. After its construction, Harvard Science Center and Peabody Terrace were built as a consequence.
The value of this building is considered as a symbol of modern architecture activity in Harvard University in 1960’s. Its innovation of new materials and new structure were very advanced for its time. Although the restorations and improvements never stop, it is thought to be a successful architectural experiment.
Knight, R. F. (1966). The Holyoke Center: a few comments. Connection. 4-9.Holyoke Center at Harvard University. (1962). Architectural Record. 132-137.Holyoke Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1965. architects: Sert, Jackson & Associates. (1982). Process: Architecture. (34), 108.Josep M. Rovira, Sert half a century of architecture: 1928-1979, complete work, [Barcelona] : Fundacio? Joan Miro?, c2005, pp247-255.Sofia Cheviakoff, Alberto Duarte, Josep Llui?s Sert / [editor Sofia Cheviakoff], Gloucester, Mass, [Great Britain]: Rockport, 2003, pp8.Anrea O. Dean, Evaluation: 'Gray elephant' in Harvard Square: Holyoke Center, most successful of the university's first-generation highrises, AIA Journal 1979 Jan., v.68, n.1, p.48-51.http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=218223, CHRISTOPHER J. GEORGES, Holyoke Center Crumbles, The Harvard Crimson Online Edition, November 2, 1983.