Buildings and the people who walk to and past them

A subject that had little discussion at Harvard Task Force meetings is how the Science Complex buildings will interact with the public. Harvard has started to show us more images of the entire building viewed from across Western Ave from a block or two away. These views are important and we should look at these in more depth.

But how might it feel to walk past the buildings? What will you see when you look at them from up close? Are there businesses or other public uses that attract people and welcome us in or do the building encourage us to keep walking past them?

Looking at existing buildings in the area, there seem to be three different ways buildings can interact with people on the sidewalk:

1) Cold Shoulder - These buildings come right up to the edge of the sidewalk and offer no opportunity for the passer-by to enter. In many cases the look is industrial or spartan and it is always very private. "This building is not for you", they say.

2) Quiet Green - Just as private as the "cold shoulder" buildings, these buildings are set back from the sidewalk. Trees, grass, and other plants grow between the building and the pedestrian's sidewalk. In general these remind me of a quiet suburban office park.

3) Welcome In! - Here are buildings that put public uses on the ground floor, usually with large windows looking into the activity. Many restaurants in this category have outdoor seating areas. Signs and window displays attract people and announce the public access to the building.

An advantage of the Science Complex's 4 building design is that it increases the perimeter of the buildings at ground level. This creates more places to create public spaces and interaction than if there was one single larger building. But there have been few details from Harvard about taking advantage of these opportunities, which from the community's viewpoint, could make these buildings great.

Cold Shoulder
Quiet Green
Welcome In!

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