Happy Cafe: the future of the Harvard Square Kiosk

Harvard Square has witnessed the departure of many businesses. One example is the closure of Black Ink, a stationery store, which announced that it would close because increases in rent have been unsustainable. As students, we feel that Harvard Square is no longer for students and small local business owners. This needs to change. At the heart of Harvard Square lies the Harvard Square Kiosk surrounded by a plaza. While the iconic Out of Town News has occupied the space from 1984 – 2019, the City of Cambridge’s goal is to convert it to a public space. However, previous attempts of fully utilizing the kiosk have been unsuccessful.

The overall goal of our project is to provide a space for the community, especially Harvard students, to come and enjoy the Harvard Square experience. We hope that our design can contribute to the customers’ happiness and long-term well-being. In order to increase people’s happiness, we need to understand it first. How do we define happiness? According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a positive psychology researcher, happiness is “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” In her book, “The How to be Happy,” she breaks down the sources of a person’s happiness into genetic tendencies, circumstance, and intentional activities. What our space can do is to change the circumstance and provide opportunities for the people to engage in intentional activities.

Happiness includes five parts: positive emotions, engagement, relationship, meaning, and achievement. Our design focuses on making people feel good and encourage them to make authentic connections with people in the community.

Our cafe aims to provide food and decorations that bring momentary joy and encourage people to do activities that are meaningful and increase well-being. We are not pressing people to be happy and putting on the extra pressure on them. Instead, we just want to provide a safe place for people to relax and pay more attention to their well-being.

Our solution is a positive cafe experience at a reasonable price made for Harvard but accessible by all. One of the problems with the current cafe scene for Harvard College students specifically is that the only cafes where we can spend out BoardPlus dollars ($65 dollars a semester that gets forfeited at the end of the school year) are depressing. Lamont Cafe, Northwest Labs, even the Barker Center that has some sunlight but doesn’t seem to really spark joy. So many students end up going to Tatte which is vastly overpriced. Instead, we will partner with HSA so students can work there as well as use their BoardPlus. We also want to partner with Friends Like You, an art group that shares the exact same message that we do–making people smile!

A Friends with You Installation

We plan to achieve short term happiness in three ways. First, eating well makes you feel better, that’s why we believe it is imperative to offer nourishing food options and having items that are vegan and gluten-free. Second, we believe that happiness can be brought about by mindfulness–by putting your phone away for at least a few minutes while you have your drink and talk to your friends, or even picking up one of our complimentary adult coloring books. These books are commonly used to help with problems like anxiety and stress. Last, we want our patrons to feel harmony with nature and feel peace in our cafe. This is achieved by the cute decor, the yellow happy mugs, the colorful cloud wallpaper, and an abundance of plants. 

Food, Mindfulness, and Decor

We propose developing a cafe, “the happy cafe,” at Kiosk. Through our design elements, we will signal that Harvard Square is not just for tourists, but for its own community including students. We will maintain a commitment to sustainability through our design choices, and we will leverage the space to create awareness about local art and the importance of mental health. The importance of just taking a second to unplug your phones, look around, and smile.

As we were designing the cafe, we wanted our idea of happiness to encompass not just our present selves, but also our future selves as well as future generations. That is why focusing on community and sustainability seemed crucial. We wanted the cafe to have local ties in its supply chain, celebrate local arts by displaying local art,  and signal our prioritization of mindfulness through a box where people can put their phones alone. In thinking about the well-being of future generations, we decided to focus on sustainability. As such, to the extent possible, packaging and cups will be eco friendly.

The theory that we drew on was Elevation and Awe. The Awe aspect comes from the design aesthetic, but we primarily focused on Elevation. We hope to engage with the student and the greater Cambridge community by displaying their art. Behavioral choices like phone trays on each table foster a mindful environment, whereas the sustainable, free trade ingredients lead to healthier treats and a promising future for generations to come. 


Link to Zoom presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QmuCGlBxyc&feature=youtu.be
Link to Google Slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1fuuN9VtPp5H-3kLa6x-PNxzId6fU1KiDAroWDOFb-Rc/edit?usp=sharing

Friends with You website: https://friendswithyou.com/