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Knafel Center

Knafel Center

The Radcliffe Gymnasium was designed in 1898 by McKim Mead & White as a gym for students at Radcliffe College. The reinterpreted gymnasium is now a lecture and event salon for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Radcliffe Yard.

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Cambridge, MA
Completed: 2006 19,400 sf
Photography by © Richard Mandelkorn Photography

The Gymnasium’s versatile, multi-use spaces are popular with the entire Harvard community. The large second-floor lecture space — used every day for informal gatherings and study — can be easily converted into a formal setting for social events, with full provisions for catering. The upper-level former running track is now a “walking and talking” track for discussions and informal viewing of presentations and lectures.

The new design respects the fabric of the historic building, while making energy efficiency a priority. Two 1,500-ft geothermal wells support the heating and cooling systems, and energy recovery units reclaim heat from exhaust air in cold months. Energy-efficient lighting and windows are used throughout. The basement area, formerly a swimming pool, was converted into a climate-controlled archive storage facility for 8,400 linear feet of the institution’s historic documents. Elegant marble, salvaged from the swimming pool, has been reused as terrazzo flooring, signage, and exterior paving.


  • 2007 Cambridge Historical Commission Preservation Award