Y2Y Harvard Square

Studio G Architects– March, 2016

Y2Y Harvard Square

Cambridge, MA

Y2Y Harvard Square is a gathering place that provides community, shelter, meals, health care and services 24 hours a day to young adults who are homeless and in need of supportive services.  Run by Y2Y, a program of Harvard University’s Phillips Brooks House Association, the shelter will include daytime services from Youth on Fire, a program of AIDS Action/Fenway Community Health.

Studio G engaged homeless youth in the design process, to ensure that we designed a space that feels safe and meets the diverse needs of the young adults who have experienced trauma, recognizing that this vulnerable population requires specially tailored services and unique spaces.  The project required a gut renovation of the basement of First Parish Cambridge.

The intent was to create a space that felt like a modern hostel or college dorm, rather than a shelter.  Youth are welcomed into a lounge near the kitchen which stays active all night for those who can’t sleep.  A variety of sitting areas in the central space offer the opportunity to socialize, gather for peer group meetings, and have meals in small groups.  Ceiling-hung ‘clouds’ at varying heights provide light and help define the sitting areas.  Flexible furnishings which vary from tables and chairs to casual lounge furniture can be easily moved for larger group gatherings. A health outpost and offices are arrayed along the edges, providing easy access and privacy to secure support and health services.

Many youth are LGBTQ and raised concerns about gender-identified spaces.  As a result of their input, neither sleeping spaces nor bathrooms were grouped by gender.  Central to the design, are custom-built bunks with plexiglas shutters that offer individual privacy.  Each has a lockable storage unit, bed lamp and power station to recharge phones and other electronic devices.