SEAS Appoints Cambridge Building Consolidation Plans Committee | New

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has appointed a task force to reconsider plans it announced in June to move out of historic Pierce Hall and solidify its footprint in Cambridge, with some professors pushing back the proposed move.

Despite the opening of the new billion dollar SEAS complex in Allston, SEAS still maintains a presence on the north shore of the Charles River, currently in both the Maxwell Dworkin and Pierce Hall lab. However, he plans to reduce his presence in Cambridge.

Totaling nearly 99,000 square feet, Pierce Hall was built in 1901 and has housed the SEAS administration since its inception.

The Maxwell Dworkin Lab – a 97,500 square foot building off Oxford Street – was built in 1999 as a result of a $ 25 million donation to Harvard’s Computer Science and Electrical Engineering programs from of two Microsoft executives, President Bill Gates and President Steven A. Ballmer ’77, of which $ 20 million was used to build Maxwell Dworkin in 1999.

As the SEAS complex neared opening, the school initially informed faculty that it planned to stay at Pierce and fire Maxwell Dworkin at Harvard headquarters, according to environmental engineering professor Daniel J Jacob, who currently occupies an office on the first floor of Pierce Hall. .

“But it turns out that reconfiguring the space would be very expensive because Pierce is so far from the current code,” he said.

Following a cost-benefit analysis commissioned by SEAS, the school determined that Maxwell Dworkin’s redevelopment would be a “much cheaper option” than “undertaking a major renovation” at Pierce, wrote the Dean of SEAS Francis J. “Frank” Doyle III in a June 15 Email to SEAS faculty and staff.

“Since the most important pieces of the Cambridge campus plan can be achieved using Maxwell Dworkin, with much less renewal spending in infrastructure and code upgrades, we decided to go in that direction, ”Doyle wrote.

Doyle acknowledged that the new plan was a “significant change from our previously communicated plans,” but maintained that Maxwell Dworkin would be the optimal choice.

“[Maxwell Dworkin] has more classroom and seminar space, better meeting spaces for the community and large groups, and better ventilation, ”Doyle wrote. “Because it requires less work and is largely empty, it can be renewed faster.”

In the email, he acknowledged the “downsides” of the change: Maxwell Dworkin has less square footage than Pierce, and SEAS will lose Pierce 301, a large, flat classroom.

Doyle also noted that it was not clear what Pierce Hall would be reused for when not in use by SEAS.

Electrical engineering professor Marko Loncar said Doyle’s update “surprised a lot of professors by surprise.”

“Others also expressed their disagreement with the way this decision was made essentially without the professors being consulted,” he said.

SEAS spokesman Paul Karoff declined to comment on teachers’ criticism of the school’s plans.

With some professors questioning the June proposal, SEAS formed an internal task force at the end of the summer to review all current plans and revisit the study calculating the costs of renovating Pierce Hall, according to Jacob and the professor. of physics David A. Weitz.

Jacob, who is on the committee, said the group was tasked with making a new recommendation towards the end of October, noting that “we don’t know we’re moving forward” and that “things are still in the air. “

“Taking into account the cost alone, it looks like Maxwell Dworkin might be cheaper, although the cost of moving to Maxwell Dworkin was not very well understood, at least not at the same level of detail as the renovation of Pierce, ”Loncar added.

Physics professor David A. Weitz sits in his office in Pierce Hall, a historic building that has housed several offices affiliated with Harvard Nobel Prize winners, such as Nicolaas Bloembergen. By Natalie L. Kahn

Weitz, who worked at Pierce while receiving his doctorate. and has his office there for over 20 years, said it was the refusal of faculty members that forced SEAS to form the new committee. Weitz said he thought the consolidation of Maxwell Dworkin would “piss off a lot of people.”

Weitz took issue with the idea that Pierce needs to be completely renovated, arguing that it only needs to be “operational, functional”.

“They gave us a song and a dance about how it’s costing too much to fix this place, but it’s to renovate this place into a new building,” Weitz said. “Do we have to do this?” No.”

Loncar and Weitz, who also sit on the committee, pointed to Pierce Hall’s historic importance as an argument for its continuation.

“A lot of great things have been done in this building, so a lot of the teachers prefer to stay in Pierce,” Lončar said.

Weitz added that Pierce Hall is where SEAS has its roots as a school.

“If you think the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is important to Harvard, that’s where it was born, that’s where it lived,” Weitz said.

– Editor Natalie L. Kahn can be contacted at natalie.kahn@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @natalielkahn.

– Editor Simon J. Levien can be contacted at simon.levien@thecrimson.com. Follow him on twitter @simonjlevien.



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