September 06, 2016

Harvard University River Houses Receive Accessibility Award

McKinlock Hall is one of many Harvard University River Houses to undergo extensive restoration and renovation to improve accessibility, circulation, and sustainability. 
©Michael Moran/OTTO

The Boston Society of Architects recently honored Harvard University River Houses Stone Hall, McKinlock Hall, and Dunster House with the William D. Smith Memorial Award. These residence halls, the first three of Harvard's House Renewal program, were recognized for their successful integration of accessibility and historical preservation.

Built in the 1920s and ‘30s and totaling almost 1.5 million square feet, the iconic neo-Georgian River Houses are living and learning communities that each contain student rooms, a dining hall, a library, study and meeting spaces, and art, music, and recreational facilities. However, while a few spaces have been retrofitted with ramps for visitors, the Houses are largely inaccessible for those requiring mobility assistance. The goal for the first three Houses of the River House Renewal Project was to not only provide complete accessibility to all of the program areas, but also to refurbish the Houses' historically significant interiors and update building systems in order to achieve LEED certification. 
The projects have garnered praise for their successful preservation of the historic buildings and landscapes, with Stone Hall and Dunster House both earning recognition by the Cambridge Historic Commission. Additionally, 100% of all common areas and 688 beds are now fully accessible, and accessible bathrooms and toilets are available on all floors for residents and visitors. This improved accessibility fosters a deeper connection between students as they are drawn together in well-preserved, historically rich communal spaces.  
To read more about the award, or for a full list of award recipients, click here