The campus of Harvard Kennedy School is situated on the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just steps away from Harvard Yard. The roots of Harvard Kennedy School reach back to 1936, when the Graduate School of Public Administration was created. The school’s current campus and buildings date to the 1970’s.
The architectural vision behind the campus is described in the 25th Anniversary edition of the Kennedy School Bulletin (Autumn, 2003):
“To plan the building itself, [then Dean Graham] Allison walked around Harvard Yard with the architects, looking for distinctive features common to Harvard buildings constructed over three centuries. Such elements included red brick, chimneys, slate roofs and gabled ends of buildings. "
To make a strong statement of Harvard identity, the design incorporated modern versions of these elements. Another feature looked much further back into history. In late-night conversations, Allison and Associate Dean Ira Jackson MPA 1976, who managed the construction project, mulled over ancient architecture. Jackson admired the Roman forum, and Allison spoke of the Greek agora, an open marketplace alive with both commerce and politics. They visited New England town meeting halls for more inspiration. The upshot was the new buildings' most distinctive feature – the Forum.
The campus consists of four buildings which house all of the school's programs and, through a multilevel forum space, give the school a unique town-meeting environment for a wide range of public policy debates, lectures, and conferences, featuring a constant flow of world-renowned figures each year. The school also houses numerous research centers and programs - for science and international affairs business and government; social policy; state and local government; housing studies; science and technology; criminal justice policy and management; emerging democracies abroad; and the press, politics, and public policy. The innovative Institute of Politics serves as a bridge between the school and the world of elective politics by bringing to campus leading political figures from the U.S. and abroad. The additional resources of Harvard University, with 10 professional schools, numerous research centers, the largest university library system in the world and a full-time faculty of several thousand, are located within walking distance of Harvard Kennedy School.