David Rubenstein Treehouse

Boston, MA

Under Construction

Harvard Real Estate

Tishman Speyer

Educational, Conference Center

55,000 sf

Targeting Living Building Challenge: Core Green Building Certification and Materials Petal


Conference facilities are often insular, energy-intensive buildings that are closed off from their surroundings. The Treehouse conference center aims to establish a very different kind of hub for convening at Harvard University: a low-carbon destination that energizes conversation, collaboration, and the wider neighborhood through embracing its community and outdoor environment. With an expressive mass timber structure, the first on Harvard’s campus, the Treehouse also visibly models a greener way of building for Boston and institutions worldwide.

Naturally lit by windows that open onto the surrounding landscape, the Lobby is an inviting, porous space that allows for multiple uses, from casual dining to additional convening when a conference is in session.

Part of the first phase of the Enterprise Research Campus, the Treehouse provides dedicated event space for the entire University along with new neighborhood amenities for meeting and dining. The building has entry points on all sides and a transparent, public ground floor that welcomes a dynamic mix of Harvard community members from all schools and disciplines, visiting leaders and experts from around the globe, and the general public. The largest space at this level is a double-height lobby that spills outward onto two covered porches (loggia) that can be used throughout the year.

An early sketch by Jeanne Gang explores how the experience of ascending to the building’s upper levels can be similar to climbing up into the treetops.

The building’s two upper floors support meetings and events. Evoking the wonder and excitement of climbing up into a treehouse, a central stair—lit by skylights from above—immerses guests in the natural warmth of the building’s mass timber structure. Branching outward like a tree to support the main conference space, the Canopy Hall, the building’s columns and cross-bracing frame great views of the surrounding treetops and the campus and city beyond. The low-embodied carbon and sustainably-harvested wood structure is also boldly expressed on the façade, reinforcing the Treehouse’s identity as a hub for innovation and creativity. Informal spaces that encourage convening and interaction are designed throughout the building, from the open atrium landings, central stair, and unique elevators to the expansive porch on the uppermost level—an open-air perch that gives guests the feeling of being “up in the canopy.”

Running the entire length of the south façade, a generous top-level porch provides a protected perch to enjoy views of the surrounding landscape and neighborhood.

The building’s self-shading façade helps reduce overall energy demand while bringing natural light deep into the interior. Rooftop PV panels provide an on-site clean power source for the Treehouse’s all-electric systems. Creating a vibrant and engaging environment year-round, the biodiverse landscape also offers attractive habitat for wildlife, and its bioswales work in combination with a rooftop system to retain and reuse rainwater for irrigation. In the project’s efforts to combat carbon pollution and make the best use of earth’s resources—including sharing the joyful feeling of inhabiting the treetops—the Treehouse convenes a future that reaches well beyond its site.

Canopy Hall’s coffered ceiling exposes its mass timber structure and the impressive spans required for a modern conference space. Highly visible from the street, the Hall functions as a beacon in its own right, drawing interest from those below.

Project Team

SCAPE, Landscape Architect

Nitsch, Civil Engineering

Haley & Aldrich, Geotechnical Engineer

Arup, Structural Engineering, Sustainability, MEP, Fire Protection, Acoustics, Audio Visual, Information & Communications Technology

Perkins + Will, Sustainability Consultant

Code Red Consultants, Accessibility/Code Consultant

Front, Envelope Consultant

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Waterproofing Consultant

Tillotson Design Associates, Lighting Consultant

Once Future Office, Signage & Wayfinding Consultant

Edgett Williams Consulting Group, Vertical Transportation Consultant

Ricca Design Studios, Food Service Consultant

Kleinfelder, Logistics & Waste Management Consultant

Lerch Bates, Façade Access Consultant

Vermeulens, Cost Estimator

Consigli and Smoot Construction, Contractor



Harvard News — "Tishman Speyer to develop first phase of Enterprise Research Campus in Allston"

“Capturing the spirit of innovation of the Enterprise Research Campus, our design will transform a former industrial site into a fertile new ground for the exchange of ideas and creative expression.” — Jeanne Gang