# History

The Harvard University Science Center  was built in 1972 and opened in 1973 after a design by Josep Lluís Sert (then dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design).

Administrators and educators at Harvard had been interested in building an undergraduate science center since before World War II.

Opponents of the plan feared that insufficient monies would be found to complete the project, and that the building's maintenance costs would be unreasonably high. The Biology Department also protested the move of its undergraduate-instruction facilities far from the department's main quarters. Professor George Wald argued that this would degrade the quality of instruction. There was also dissatisfaction with cancellation of plans at that time for a new biochemistry building.

The plan called for demolition of Lawrence Hall, a laboratory and a living space built in 1848. By the time of the scheduled demolition, a commune of students and "street people" calling themselves the "Free University" took residence in the unused building. The controversy was rendered moot when fire gutted the building a month later in May 1970.

As part of the project, in 1966–68 the portion of Cambridge Street running along the north edge of Harvard Yard was depressed into a 4-lane motor vehicle underpass, thus allowing unhindered pedestrian movement between the Yard and Harvard facilities to the north, including the new Science Center. Architectural historian Bainbridge Bunting wrote that this was the "most important improvement in Cambridge since the construction of [what would later be called] Memorial Drive in the 1890s".[1]

### Construction

Harvard commissioned architects Sert, Jackson and Associates to design and build the facility.

"Construction techniques of the Harvard Science Center were planned for rapid erection. All columns, beams, exterior walls and floor slabs were factory-cast and assembled on the site [See construction images in slideshow above and video at the end of this webpage]. A system of double columns and double-perforated beams at the laboratories permits free circulation of mechanical services and allows easy rearrangement of these services in the future. At the auditoriums,, the roof is suspended from an exposed space frame of weathering-steel and marine cabel. Despite the repetition required to achieve an economical structural system, the buildings form is carefully adapted to its site, stepping down towards the south to meet and match the scale of the older buildings in Harvard Yard."  -Sert, Jackson and Associates, Architects and Planners (circa 1970)

Sert, who had become Dean of the Harvard School of Design in 1953, had designed a number of other Harvard buildings, including Peabody Terrace, Holyoke Center (now the Smith Campus Center), and the Harvard Divinity School's Center for the Study of World Religions. These buildings were part of a modernist movement that sought to break away from the Georgian and related styles used at Harvard for hundreds of years. Thus, the Science Center is largely steel and concrete, with plentiful fenestration admitting natural light. Construction lasted from 1970 to 1972 at the cost of $17 million, plus$6 million for the chilled water plant.

From 2001 to 2004 a \$22 million, 32,000-square-foot (3,000 m2) renovation created space for the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and expanded other facilities.