Going to Greece

July 1, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Washington, D.C., office of DMJM Design, a nationally recognized architecture and engineering firm, has transformed a key facility at Harvard University's Center for Hellenic Studies, founded in 1961 as an educational center to promote the study of Hellenic civilization. The firm's redesign of what was formerly a residential structure at the Hellenic Center in Washington, D.C., included architectural planning, architectural design, and structural, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical engineering. The transformed building, through form and functionality, creates the classroom of the 21st century and a communication research space.

DMJM Design lead designer Werner Mueller, AIA, project manager Edward Weaver, AIA, LEED AP, and designer Ed Murphy collaborated with Harvard professors and Convergeo partners Jeffrey Huang and Muriel Waldvogel to create this convergence of physical and virtual space. The central space is a highly flexible, fabric-wrapped environment allowing various modes of local and distance communication paradigms. DMJM reconfigured the facility by removing the second floor, renovating the adjacent space for an informal library/breakout space, adding accessible bathrooms and a new glass entry lobby. 

The main space is approximately 24 feet wide, 35 feet long, and 22 feet high, and the translucent fabric glows and emits light to fill the room from all directions. Ideally, Homeric scholars from around the world will have the ability to gather from their home offices to confer together in this room. Remote participants will have a screen set up where their chairs would be if they were in the room, and they will interact with the other scholars as freely as two people sitting across a table.  A professor can teach a class at the Hellenic Center campus while classrooms in Greece and China appear on the surrounding fabric walls, as if all three classes are in the room together, while concurrently displaying images of the objects being studied. 

In addition to allowing for remote dissertation, the Harvard Hellenic Center hopes to use new technology to create the most opportune scholarly ambiance. The overall atmosphere of the seminar room can be fine-tuned for different events by changing the intensity values and nuances produced by the planned LED lights hidden and dispersed behind the textile membrane. Each small fixture will be programmed to be red, green, or blue or a subtle mixture of all the colors. Louvers can be lowered on the windows to block all daylight in the room. Conversations will be recorded as a sound file, and using the built-in voice-to-text software, the sound file will be automatically translated into a text file and stored on a server. By incorporating principles of convergent architecture, the center will extend the reach of its resources and research by uniting physical and virtual communication technologies.

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