Harvard GSD Dean talks about Allston, the future, and being radical

Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Design, mentions Allston in an interview with Abitare magazine.

The development of Harvard campus in Allston is an incredible opportunity because it raises the question “What is the university of the future?” How is the formation of this new place also part of rethinking the concept of the university because we are not simply adding space, we are also using that to rethink how we relate to each other institutionally. That is a very interesting phenomenon.
This is an interesting question, and I'm not sure I ever heard it asked or answered by the Harvard planners and architects during all the meetings about the Science Complex.

We could also rethink how the institution relates to its neighbors, but the we heard more during those meetings about re-creating the Harvard Yard and the tradition of institutional buildings surrounding an institutional courtyard, than any new or interesting.

The whole scenario is very exciting. All of the things that you have said would not have been on the agenda only two or three years ago for the known reasons. Have you been involved in the Allston expansion as an advisor?

I am involved as a dean, with the other deans, but we ourselves have also been involved quite directly at a number of levels with the designers, giving them feedback about their design. One of the interesting possibilities for Allston is whether there could not be some things that are long-term master planning issues and some things that are shorter-term interventions, that are part of a more temporary, more experimental approach. Sometimes with those temporary things, you can afford to do more radical interventions.
Experimental? Radical? I wonder what he has in mind.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:08 AM

    Hmmm...the last Dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Design that talked about radically changing university campuses was Jose Luis Sert, who designed:

    The Holyoke Center
    Peabody Terrace
    BU's School of Law tower
    BU's Student Union and Mugar Library
    Harvard's Science Center

    If that's the kind of radical design he has in mind, I'd prefer Harvard Yard.

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  2. wellbasically11:07 AM

    There are a couple promising passages and some cautionary ones.

    He recognizes that the students are not as interested in signature-type architecture careers. In the signature system, the architect's responsibility is to build one "world class" building, like the Sydney Opera House or something, and forget the other stuff. He also sees the shortcomings of the institutionalized avant-gardism at schools of design.

    As far as expanding the dialogue he is still turned inward, so it is expanding the dialogue into other departments at Harvard, one elite talking to another elite, or expanding the collaboration to elite designers in Europe Asia and Latin America.

    As a practical matter my fear is that the radical ideas and new collaboration he's proposing for Allston will be environmental. In practice this has turned out to be building really huge if more efficient HVAC on top of the tall buildings and then coming up with a design philosophy to talk it into palatability.

    The general danger is that the 20th century liberal pitfall of top-down dictation which brought us one modernist piece of crap after another will be kept alive by adopting the moralistic dictation in certain kinds of environmentalism.

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  3. wellbasically11:13 AM

    I did want to question Harry's comment about Harvard Yard, because there is something that Harvard does right for its customers, and that is create a place for decorum in behavior, I can see how they need to keep that.

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