Lowell House Renewal to Last Two Years

Lowell residents will live in swing housing from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2019. 

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

When it reopens in 2019, a renovated Lowell House will feature an updated dance studio, a student lounge, and more student common spaces. Until then, the Lowell community will live in swing housing for two years—twice as long as construction on other Houses has taken—House master Diana Eck and co-master Dorothy Austin announced last week. 

“It was a bit of a shock,” Eck admitted, when she learned the renewal would take twice as long as anticipated. Lowell’s structure, with two enclosed courtyards and many level changes, make it the “largest and most complex renewal project thus far,” she wrote in an e-mail to House members. Lowell will be the fifth House to be renovated, after Quincy, Leverett, Dunster, and Winthrop (where work is set to begin this fall).  

Lowell residents will live in the former Inn at Harvard and apartments in Harvard Square from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2019, making it especially challenging to create a sense of House community. But Eck is optimistic: she and Austin will continue all of Lowell’s traditions, including teas at the master’s temporary residence at 8 Prescott Street and House talent shows. The experience of living in swing housing, she said, would spur “a spiritual renewal of the zeitgeist of the House,” forcing its members to work harder to maintain the House’s character.

In addition to modernizing common spaces and amenities, Lowell will be made fully accessible, as Massachusetts law requires, changing the organization of the House from vertical entryways to horizontal hallways. As in other Houses, hallway bathrooms will replace in-suite bathrooms to create space for more common rooms, though many students oppose this change. Eck has said that she will invite feedback from students about renewal plans this semester.

Just as important as the House’s planned new spaces, Eck explained, are those that will remain the same. Lowell’s distinctive dining room, junior common room, and library will be preserved to maintain the House’s historic architecture. The result, she said, will be a House that remains close to old traditions—but one “fit for twenty-first-century living.” 

Read more articles by Marina N. Bolotnikova

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