Developer Ron Druker has been the driving force behind a long line of commercial and residential buildings in the region.
But his latest construction project is not one he will build himself. Instead, the real estate developer is giving $15 million to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design to expand its primary building, 45-year-old Gund Hall, and kickstart a new fund-raising campaign for the school.
In recognition, the school will name the first-floor gallery in Gund Hall after Druker.
The school has a global reputation and has been responsible for educating many of the world’s most prominent architects and planners over the years. It’s time, Druker said, that it have more modern facilities.
“It’s always been a place where I was happy to donate my time,” Druker said. “I’m just as happy to be in a position where I’m lucky enough to make a gift of this size. My hope is that it will be a catalyst to encourage others to give.”
The gift represents a culmination of Druker’s decades-long involvement with the GSD, as it’s known. Druker first attended as a fellow for a year in the mid-1970s, and he taught urban design there until 1983. He later established the Druker Traveling Fellowship in 1986, a program that gives an annual stipend to a student of architecture and design. He has also been a key player in the school’s facility planning efforts.
Those efforts led to the decision to add more than 50,000 square feet to Gund Hall, currently about 160,000 square feet in size. The exact concept is still taking shape.
On Quincy Street across from Sanders Theatre, Gund Hall is a singular building on the Harvard campus. Finished in 1972, during an era when concrete reigned supreme, Gund Hall is characterized by its soaring pillars out front, each floor staggered over the next in a staircase effect, and a glass-wrapped, sharply angular top sloping backward.
Dean Mohsen Mostafavi said Druker’s $15 million donation will make it possible to hire an architectural firm next year, with planning and permitting taking 12 to 18 months. Construction could last another two years. He said it’s possible the expansion could be done in two phases.
Mostafavi would like to raise as much as $120 million, for upgrades within the existing Gund Hall complex and for the expansion. The fields of architecture and design are changing rapidly, Mostafavi said, with a bigger emphasis on collaboration and more use of robotics and 3-D printing.
“The space that we have is what I would call a traditional studio format,” Mostafavi said.
“We need space that will [enable] our faculty and students and future researchers to work together in collaboration, spaces that look very different from the studio space, which is just a place where people are drawing and designing.”
Alex Krieger, a principal at the architectural firm NBBJ and a design school faculty member, said an expansion is long overdue, if just to accommodate the growing crowd of students. Built for 450, it now has 900 students, he said.
“We are extremely overcrowded,” Krieger said.
Krieger hopes Druker’s donation will draw other benefactors from development and investment circles. “Architects don’t necessarily make millions of dollars during their careers,” he said. “Our opportunities to raise substantial funds depend on our clients.”