How Harvard’s New $750M Campus Will Drive Carbon Neutrality

Harvard University's Enterprise Research Campus is one of the world's most ambitious urban renewal projects ever undertaken.

Tue 07 Nov 23


Ground has broken on the first stage of Harvard University’s Enterprise Research Campus (ERC) – which the university claims will help drive its push to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The US $750 million is a joint initiative of New York real estate developer Tishman Speyer and Havard University and will see the complete transformation of a 15-hectare (36-acre) industrial area in Allison, Boston.

It is one of the most ambitious North American urban renewal projects undertaken. It will feature numerous timber superstructures and more than 800 new plants, “meaning nearly a third of the land will be covered by tree canopy.”

First presented as a concept in 2005, filed in 2017 and approved in 2022, it is expected to be delivered in 2026.

Plans include a range of research-oriented companies, social ventures, businesses, and startups, along with a mix of additional uses such as housing, hotel, and retail space that will contribute to an already active neighbourhood.

Construction has broken ground on the first phase of a new research campus in Boston with components designed by Studio Gang, Henning Larsen, MVRDV, SCAPE, Utile, and Marlon Blackwell Architects. (Photo Credit: Tishman Speyer)

“Our vision for an Enterprise Research Campus emerged from deep engagement with the Allston community, the city of Boston, and many more stakeholders over many years, and our work together will be stronger for it,” said former Harvard President Larry Bacow in 2022.

“The ERC will be for everyone. It will expand research and teaching opportunities and drive innovation focused on areas of inquiry that touch all of our lives — climate, equity, and health, chief among them,” he said.

“It will introduce new and expanded work, including various jobs and opportunities and invigorate the area with affordable housing options, green and open space, connectivity and transportation, and places to learn and play.”

The first phase features an 8-story mid-rise tower and a 17-story high-rise, both designed by MVRDV. (Image Credit: MVRDV)

Appointing Tishman Speyer as the developer in 2019, Havard also engaged Studio Gang and Henning Larsen to develop a Master Plan for the first phase of the project, with work on the second phase to begin immediately after the first.

According to Rob Speyer, CEO of Tishman Speyer, “the Enterprise Research Campus embraces the Allston and Brighton neighbourhoods by delivering quality affordable housing, creating shared outdoor gathering spaces, and including locally owned retail and public art.”

Responsible for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, Tishman Speyer is known for its innovative approaches to architecture, place-making, sustainability, and healthy live-work environments.

The first phase, which commenced last week, consists of two life science buildings totalling 135,000 square metres, a 343-unit apartment complex and a hotel.

Up to 25% of apartments allocated for phase 1 of the project have been reserved for affordable housing, with Havard committing US $25 million “to ensure 20% of all apartments in the precinct remain accessible for affordable and social housing.”

The Enterprise Research Campus will deliver a mixed-use development with a residential office and labs, a hotel, and a conference centre, as well as public green space. (Image Credit: Tishman Speyer)
Introducing the David Rubenstein Treehouse

It will also feature “the David Rubenstein Treehouse,” designed by Studio Gang and Havard’s first conference centre in the new development.

Wood Central understands the conference facility, one of two buildings designed by Studio Gang in the first phase, will be constructed from cross-laminated timber panels and glue-laminated timber beams.

Named in recognition of philanthropist David Rubenstein, “it will be a venue for sharing and learning across disciplines and collaborating with government, industry, and world leaders,” according to Havard.

The David Rubenstein Treehouse will be located on the University’s Enterprise Research Campus in Allston. (Artist renderings courtesy of Studio Gang)

As its name suggests, the building’s design was informed by the branching structure of a tree and the experience of climbing up into and inhabiting a treehouse. 

“The building’s visible mass timber columns and beams emphasize the branching structure — you can see the V-shaped columns extending out and the diagonals of the cross-bracing reach to the roof, becoming finer the higher they rise,” according to Jeanne Gang, a past graduate of Havard.

The resulting spaces on the upper levels “feel almost suspended within the surrounding tree canopy, like being in a treehouse — an exceptional destination.” 

Wood will be a core component of the building’s design aesthetic and sustainability approach. (Artist renderings courtesy of Studio Gang)

Ms Gang describes them as enhanced “with natural daylight, great views, and a balcony where you can step outside and look out over the landscape and the campus.” The building will also be integrated into the ERC’s Greenway plan.

Wood is a core component of the building’s aesthetic and sustainability approach, with wooden columns and beams as part of an open interior showcasing the building’s sustainable design, Ms Gang explained. “Visitors will be able to see and feel it — and know they are in a timber building.”

The push to use mass timber is part of an overall commitment by Havard to “eliminate or reduce reliance on fossil-fuel energy systems, as part of its long-term aim to become fossil-fuel free by 2050.”

The visible mass timber columns and beams in the building’s design emphasize the branching structure of a tree. (Artist renderings courtesy of Studio Gang)
The ground-break that is 17 years in the making

On November 1st, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, current Harvard President Claudine Gay, leaders from the Harvard Allston Task Force, the city of Boston, and developer Tishman Speyer attended a shovel ceremony.

Lifting the ceremonial shovel of dirt were Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Harvard President Claudine Gay, leaders from the Harvard Allston Task Force, the city of Boston, and developer Tishman Speyer.

“It is thrilling to be able to be at one more moment of history between the city of Boston and Harvard in a journey and a relationship that stretches back hundreds of years,” Mayor Wu told the crowd of 200 community members.

“As this innovation corridor continues to emerge, we are fueled by shared principles — harnessing creativity and invention for the world’s benefit, ensuring that opportunity is widespread, and, importantly, celebrating Allston as a place for all,” said current Havard President Claudine Gay.

“The open spaces, the affordable housing, the workforce opportunities that will go on to define this community will lay the foundation for a thriving future,” said President Claudine Gay. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

“Each element of the ERC results from deep engagement with the city of Boston and this neighbourhood. The open spaces, the affordable housing, the workforce opportunities that will go on to define this community will lay the foundation for a thriving future.”

“This is one of the few transactions of this size and scale that’s happening anywhere in the country, and that’s not just due to the power and strength of Tishman and Harvard and the other institutions; it’s also because all of us and all of you came together to make this happen and that’s one of the reasons the financing is here to make this work,” said Arthur Jemison, Chief of Planning and Director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

“The consensus makes decisions happen and makes developments like this happen. As long as we keep creating it together, I have the highest hopes for what we can achieve.”


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