In the 1920s, Harvard College created a unique system of residential education for undergraduates centered on 12 Houses, home today to 98 percent of the College’s student population. Each House is presided over by a Harvard faculty member and by a staff of scholars and graduate students, all of whom live and work alongside the undergraduates.
The House system is designed to represent the larger University in a more manageable, personal size, where College services are readily accessible to students. It also creates smaller, inclusive communities where peers of different backgrounds can interact and where informal interaction among undergraduates, faculty, and other scholars is encouraged. The system provides an enriching residential community.
House affiliation is an important part of student (and alumni) identity, and Houses continue to be at the center of the student experience, where many forge lasting friendships with peers, faculty, and graduate students. While the programming within the Houses has evolved and continues to evolve with the needs and interests of undergraduates, the physical Houses have not. Most of the Houses in the River District were built between 80 and 100 years ago.
During 2015-2016, Harvard University undertook an assessment of the house renewal project to date. The overview findings can be found here.
House Renewal aims not only to improve conditions through renovation, but also to change how the physical spaces function to meet programmatic and other goals intrinsic to the residential experience at Harvard. House Renewal supports the mission of Harvard College to provide a student experience that is intellectually, personally and socially transformative for today’s students by reaching to the future with a new vision for a 21st century House experience.