Harvard University plans to move a “substantial majority” of its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from its main campus in Cambridge to its expanding campus in Allston, university President Drew G. Faust announced.
The school would relocate to the planned science center complex, which is expected to be completed by 2017, university officials said. Work on the massive building was put on hold about three years ago, but the university plans to resume construction there next year.
The school’s relocation represents a shift in the types of programming the science center will house.
The university’s plan for the center, which had already been significantly altered once from the original concept that was approved in 2007, “evolved” again over the past few months and now calls for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to become “an anchoring presence” of the complex, Faust told faculty of the school Tuesday night.
Prior versions of the plan, the most recent of which was outlined by Harvard this past summer, called for stem-cell research to be an “anchor component” of the complex alongside programs in engineering and the physical, biological, and life sciences.
University officials said life sciences, which includes stem-cell sciences, will remain an integral part of the complex, but to a lesser extent than previously planned.
This week’s announcement was the first time the university said publicly that a portion of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences would move there. Faust said that the complex would also house “a significant area of flexible lab space dedicated to cross faculty collaborations and experiments.”
The building is still planned to be between 500,000 and 600,000 square feet housing a state-of-the-art health and life sciences laboratory, research, classrooms, and areas to foster collaborative innovation. Stefan Behnisch will resume his role as project architect.
“We regard this as an extraordinary opportunity for SEAS,” she said Tuesday, according to a copy of her remarks provided by the university. “The school must grow—more faculty, more space, more resources. The Allston plan is meant to make that possible. And it is meant to establish SEAS—perhaps the most collaborative of any Harvard school—as a hub in a wheel of connectivity that is meant to define and shape the new Allston adventure.”
The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences includes about 575 undergraduate and 375 graduate students, 400 researchers, 125 staff and 70 full-time faculty who study, teach and work across about 400,000 square feet of building space on the university’s main campus in Harvard Square, the school’s website says.
In 2007, it officially became its own school. Before that it was a division of the university, but its roots at Harvard trace back to 1847, when the Lawrence Scientific School was founded.
University officials said Wednesday they have not yet determined what will take over the space in Cambridge currently used by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Some faculty expressed a mix of surprise and concern Tuesday night about the planned move, according to Harvard Magazine and the Harvard Crimson. Allston residents had similar reactions in messages on a neighborhood e-mail list.
Some worried that the university was not acting transparently enough or seeking enough outside input to make the decision.
But, Harvard spokeswoman Christine Heenan said Wednesday that “the planning is just commencing.”
She said both faculty and residential input will be important moving forward.
A meeting between the community, the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Harvard officials is scheduled for Wednesday night.
The city redevelopment authority approved the building’s original design in 2007 after a two-and-a-half year public review process.
“If there are changes to Harvard’s approved science complex that could trigger a new community process and require new BRA approval,” Melina Schuler, a spokeswoman for the city agency, said Wednesday in an e-mail.
“Harvard’s announcement is a positive step towards resuming construction at the stalled Allston science complex, which is important to Mayor Menino and the neighborhood,” she added.
Faust acknowledged that moving the school would involve some “challenges.”
“SEAS must sustain its identity with the college and with undergraduates,” she said. “Important collaborations with other faculty in Cambridge must be enabled and supported. A great deal of thought and ingenuity must be devoted to issues of transportation, connectivity, scheduling. That is central to the work that lies ahead, work that I’m sure the problem-solving engineers of SEAS can do much to advance.”Continued...