Harvard University, Science and Engineering Complex

Allston, MA

To invent a lab for the 21st century, Harvard University turned to Behnisch Architekten to meet the demands of their new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). 

The Science and Engineering Complex in Allston is a major addition to the university and community, providing state of the art laboratory and teaching spaces across a seven-story building. The building demonstrates advanced techniques in environmental design and energy performance and is paving the way for a new generation of buildings on the Allston campus.


The complex is to be constructed on top of existing foundations and basement levels from a previous project that was suspended in 2008. As part of the team that designed the original structure, we were re-commissioned to carry out structural design and geotechnical engineering for the newly designed campus building. This presented a unique set of complexities for Buro Happold and the rest of the design team, as we needed to carefully consider the reuse of the current structure while delivering a modern, vibrant space fitting both the client and architect’s aspirations.

The new Science and Engineering Complex will be a major addition to the University and community, housing some of Harvard’s most popular courses. Image: Benhnish Architekten


Our team carried out extensive analyses to assess how best to incorporate the new building over the existing substructure, seeking to minimize both structural interventions and strengthening requirements while maximizing reuse of the existing construction. The resulting design features an open atrium, linking the new and existing buildings. The upper levels will be linked by cantilevering walkways, bridges and interconnecting staircases to create openness between learning spaces. We incorporated flexibility into the structural design to future-proof the spaces and allow for changes to the University program.

Accessible open spaces will feature throughout the complex, including a courtyard and various terraces. Image: Benhnish Architekten


The work on this project demonstrates how we are able to successfully coordinate between our national and international offices, with design taking place across our New York, Boston and London teams to ensure the best skills are utilized. With construction now underway, Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex is set to provide world class, cutting edge facilities for thousands of students and researchers.

A vast atrium will extend the full height of the building and include two levels below ground. Image: Benhnish Architekten

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