The New Knight Center at Walter Lippmann House

By Giles, Bob | Nieman Reports, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

The New Knight Center at Walter Lippmann House


Giles, Bob, Nieman Reports


John Kenneth Galbraith, the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus at Harvard University and a friend to generations of Nieman Fellows, once observed that "There is nothing about this program that can he considered finished. Nothing that can he considered normal. To the Niemans, there is no stationary state." Galbraith brings a long perspective to this matter. He was a young economics instructor when the program began in 1938 and, through the years, has had more discussions with Nieman classes than anyone at the university.

This spirit of "no stationary state" is reflected in the recent addition to Walter Lippmann House, which was completed this fall and has quickly become the center of activities for the current class of Nieman Fellows.

The idea for expansion grew from the reality that Lippmann House simply didn't have enough room to accommodate a growing staff and the expanding activities of the Nieman program. As our thinking evolved, Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, cautioned, "Don't attempt to replicate an 1836 house." The architects listened and proposed a garden room design, which has emerged as a graceful complement to the original Greek Revival building that became the home of the Nieman Foundation in 1978.

The new wing has created an improved learning environment for the Nieman Fellows. The seminar room, with high ceilings, wood paneling, comfortable seating and a multifunctional audio-visual center, is already demonstrating its versatility as a place for seminars, dinners, film and video showings, small conferences, and social gatherings. On the lower level, the Bill Kovach Library is now a quiet place for reading and talking that brings together in one place the books that have been scattered on shelves throughout Lippmann House. It also provides a place to display special collections, such as bound volumes of the newspaper PM and books that came as gifts from Nieman Fallows. Next to the library is the computer learning center, where fellows can check e-mail, work on the Internet, and participate in training programs such as the computer-assisted reporting class that is offered every January.

A new structure of this kind has to he paid for, of course, and the foundation has made a strong start toward this goal. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami provided the lead gift for the Lippmann House project. To honor this generous gift, as well as recognize the Knight Foundation's long support of both the Nieman Foundation and Harvard University, the wing will be known as the Knight Center. …

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