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Harvard Graduate Housing
Cambridge, Mass.
Jonathan Levi Architects with Bergmeyer Associates

Jonathan Levi Architects creates affordable university housing that encourages a sense of community among graduate students

© Peter Vanderwarker

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By Nancy Levinson

Undergraduate life at Harvard has long revolved around the network of houses the university built in the 1930s—imposing neo-Georgian residences that accommodate communal dining and common rooms as well as living quarters. Graduate student life, however, has enjoyed no comparable amenity. For years, the majority of graduate and professional students who arrived in Cambridge had little choice but to hunt for a good deal on a rental—a nerve-racking pursuit in a market where limited supply and inflated prices meant that most settled for crowded housing in dumpy neighborhoods far from campus.

With the reopening of 29 Garden Street, designed by Jonathan Levi Architects, with associate architect Bergmeyer Associates, the choices have been happily enhanced. A thorough renovation of an undistinguished hotel from the 1920s, 29 Garden features well-appointed student apartments. It also includes a variety of shared spaces intended to encourage a sense of community, a first for the university’s graduate apartment-house system.

Jonathan Levi Architects responded to the university’s requirements with two kinds of double studios. In the smaller, students share a kitchen and bath; in the larger, each has a private bath. Three other residence types—one-person studios and two- and three-bedroom apartments—complete the mix. And for each type, the architect has designed stylishly contemporary living quarters. Built-in shelves, tables, and desks “ease the move-in transition for new students,” in Levi’s words, and the birch-veneer cabinetry visually warms the rooms. Kitchens feature translucent-front cabinets (manufactured by Ikea, but with custom-designed hardware) and undercounter refrigerators that allow for maximum counter space. Ceiling-mounted convection heating/cooling valances are sleek, quiet, unobtrusive, and energy efficient, and allow residents to control their thermal environment.

But Levi did more than satisfy the basic program; ultimately, he convinced the university to expand its understanding of 29 Garden’s programmatic and urban potential.

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Formal name of Project:
Harvard Graduate Housing

Cambridge, Mass.

Gross square footage:
114,000 sq. ft.

The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Client Executive:
Susan Keller

Owner's Representitive:
George Oommen

Lead architects:
Jonathan Levi Architects
266 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02116
tel 617-437-9458
fax 617-437-1965

Associate Architects:
Bergmeyer Associates, Inc
Boston, MA


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