Hemenway Gymnasium Renovation Harvard University

Cambridge, MA
Construction Cost: $8 million
Area / Square Feet: 28,000
Occupancy Date: September 2005

Deemed a “first-class renovation” by one panelist, Hemenway Gymnasium’s transformation from an underutilized squash facility into a state-of-the-art fitness center offers a fine demonstration of architectural restraint.

Located on the Harvard Law School Yard, the gym has historic landmark status, which mandated presentations to and approval by the Cambridge Historical Commission for any exterior modifications. The exterior received extensive attention to its red slate roof and its double-hung, wooden windows, all of which were retrofitted with double-glazed, low-E glass units. Apart from this, only three new windows were added to the east facade. The real change took place inside the gymnasium.

Previously loathed for its labyrinthine floor plan featuring 12 tightly packed American squash courts, Hemenway was gutted to provide much-needed fitness facilities. The building’s first four levels, windowless for much of their existence, are now light-filled spaces visually and physically connected by mezzanine balconies and a new open stair featuring maple from two demolished squash courts. This not only greatly improves circulation, it also encourages views into and out of the facility.

Judge's Comments

The introduction of the vertical circulation void, combined with the new windows, provide the fitness areas with natural light on multiple levels.
— Darryl Condon

This project accomplished an unbelievable feat of integrating state-of-the-art facilities within this historic structure. Bright, modern and colorful interiors nicely contrast the traditional exterior.
— Chris Kastelic

The renovation is a study in designing a building vertically. Through stacking the weight and fitness spaces, the architect showed tremendous discipline and restraint.
— Anita Moran