Lesley University Sherrill Hall

Cambridge, MA


Lesley University


Phase I interior renovation of 4-story 1960s building including relocation of library uses (reading, stacks and student lounge/ quiet study spaces) to lower level and renovation of first floor with a new cafe and student lounge spaces to enliven the Brattle campus.


With a tight budget and timeline, the challenge was to make the most impact possible in the first phase while considering how design will be carried through to Levels 2 and 3 in Phase II.


This 4-story, 1960s Brutalist building was part of the Episcopal Divinity School campus until Lesley purchased it in 2018. The exterior could not be touched, in keeping with the City of Cambridge’s Harvard Square Historic District guidelines.

The goal was to reorganize the allocation of uses in the building to consolidate the library function of the building on the lower level while providing more student lounge and student services on the upper levels.

PCA met with Lesley staff and administration to devise a masterplan for both phases of construction. The first phase, encompassing 25,000 SF of space on two floors, moves library functions, including reading areas, stacks and quiet study spaces, to the lower level. The beautiful high-ceilinged volume of the ground floor is re-imagined as more of a student center with cafe, lounge space and student services to come in the second phase.

Sequencing suggested that classrooms should also be renovated in this first phase, adding scope and complication to the super fast-track schedule. One month of design and documentation led to one month of construction to renovate 2nd and 3rd floor classrooms for 80-100 students, including an expressive art therapy classroom and the 3rd floor tiered lecture hall.

The PCA team, working closely with the contractor, found ways to maximize Lesley’s investment both in terms of impact on student experience and construction schedule and budget, while overcoming the challenges inherent in older buildings.