As we move quickly toward the completion of the Swartz Hall renewal, our new spaces are starting to take their final shape. It’s exciting to see these areas, which started from a vision of inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability, come to fruition. A particular area I want to highlight for everyone is the new multifaith space.
This space, one of the crown jewels of the project, is located in the old stack wing of Swartz Hall, on the second floor of the building. It reflects one of the primary goals of the renewal project—to create a building that serves all members of the HDS community. With members of our student body representing approximately 30 different faith traditions (as well as none), the design of the multifaith space aligns with the School’s mission to not only educate leaders who come from all religious and spiritual traditions, but ensure they have the spaces to pray, reflect, and engage.
As you can see in the pictures below, the multifaith space is expansive, occupying two floors, with high-ceilings that allow natural light to flow in. The unique installed lighting, carpet, and custom-crafted wooden wall panels allow the space to feel intimate as well. The movable seating, prayer rugs, and meditation cushions allow for those using the space for any practice to feel welcome. There is also a new, adjacent ablution room (HDS’s second) for Muslims to use before daily prayers.
Kerry Maloney, HDS’s Chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life, says Divinity Hall Chapel has been in high demand for ritual gatherings of many kinds, and that the new multifaith space will support the growth of more ritual gatherings and encourage new ones.
“As a School that is as dedicated to the practice of religious traditions as to their interrogation, this bodes well for the flourishing of deep, textured, and varied spiritual life in our midst,” says Maloney.
To be honest, creating this special space for our community was not easy. The old stack wing previously housed the collections from Andover-Harvard Theological Library. A new, compact shelving system for the library and reorganization of underutilized collections to off-site storage, allowed the stack wing to be used for other purposes. But readying the space for the new multifaith space, modernized classrooms, and offices, meant complicated structural work.
Columns that spanned the five floors of the wing had to be relocated. Beams had to be reinforced. This all required careful engineering and construction. We knew the pathway to making this possible was going to be difficult, but the School, as well as our partners at Shawmut Design and Construction and Ann Beha Architects, were committed to creating these new spaces for the HDS community. I’m very grateful for all their work and assistance getting us there, especially now as we can see the fruit of the labor.
I want the last few words in this update to be from Kerry Maloney, who so eloquently spoke of the ways in which the multifaith space will not only help the School further its mission, but also enhance the lives of those who are a part of the HDS community.
“Of course, we hope that this new space will also provide yet another haven at HDS for any individual person seeking solitude, prayer, meditation, or rest. Harvard, like the rest of modern society, is a remarkably (and, sometimes, perniciously) busy place, full of commitments, responsibilities, and deadlines. It can be easy to forget in the crush of each day’s duties that we are here precisely to resist that crush, to engage in practices that recollect us to our true (or in some traditions, no) selves. At HDS, we aim to inhabit the intersection between the intellectual and spiritual life critically, robustly, and fruitfully, and our new multifaith space promises to help us do just that now and in the years to come,” says Maloney.
Site work. As I mentioned above, we are getting very close to completion of the renewal project. The pictures below show the near completion of the wood refinishing and floor stain in Andover Chapel, the counter installation at the coffee bar in the Commons area, and the wall panel and door installation in the multipurpose room. Site fencing is being removed. Irrigation work on the west lawn continues, including installing new plantings. Interior finishes, rough carpentry, and masonry continue in the stack wing along with finishing work that includes carpet installation. Furniture installation has started in some areas.