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The campus of Harvard Kennedy School is situated on the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge, MA, just steps away from Harvard Yard. The roots of the Kennedy School reach back to 1936, when the Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA) was created. But the school’s current campus and buildings on the banks of the Charles River date to the 1970’s.
The architectural vision behind the campus is described in the 25th Anniversary edition of the Kennedy School Bulletin (Autumn, 2003): “To plan the building itself, [then Dean Graham] Allison walked around Harvard Yard with the architects, looking for distinctive features common to Harvard buildings constructed over three centuries. Such elements included red brick, chimneys, slate roofs, and gabled ends of buildings.
To make a strong statement of Harvard identity, the design incorporated modern versions of these elements. Another feature looked much further back into history. In late-night conversations, Allison and Associate Dean Ira Jackson MPA 1976, who managed the construction project, mulled over ancient architecture. Jackson admired the Roman forum, and Allison spoke of the Greek agora, an open marketplace alive with both commerce and politics. They visited New England town meeting halls for more inspiration. The upshot was the new building’s most distinctive feature [the Forum].”