Akron Street Graduate Student Housing, Harvard University

Kyu Sung Woo Architects, 2008

Harleston Parker Medal, 2011

LEED Gold Registered

This beautifully scaled student housing complex is the result of a tumultuous relationship between Harvard and the surrounding community that doomed an art museum intended for the site, and drove off the original architects given the commission. Its strong architectural expression mediates between the scale of Peabody Terrace on one side (also a Harleston Parker medalist) and a neighborhood of one, two and three family houses all around it.

Kyu Sung Woo began with architectural archetypes rooted in the region - bars of housing around an open courtyard similar to nearby Harvard houses, red brick walls, and projecting glass bays. But each element is pushed way beyond the limits of tradition. Brick is panelized to turn it into a lightly stretched skin, corner windows begin to dissolve the volumes, broad expanses of glass lighten them up further, and a daring cantilever suggests the dynamic character of Memorial Drive right in front. The warm wood walls and soffit offer a welcoming contrast to the cool metal panels and window frames. Smaller scaled townhouses facing the adjacent neighborhood, a lovely landscaped garden and a pathway that passes under and through the building all help to connect the development to its context.

Common spaces within the buildings help connect students to each other, and their expression livens up the public fa├žades. Both interiors and exteriors are carefully detailed to balance the abstract modernist articulation with references to timeless residential architectural elements.

Image: Kyu Sung Woo Architects