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Harvard Graduate Center
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Architect Walter Gropius
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Location Cambridge, Massachusetts   map
Date 1950   timeline
Building Type academic center
 Construction System concrete with brick exterior
Climate temperate
Context urban campus
Style Modern
Notes The Architects' Collaborative. Block-mass buildings connected by flat-roof canopies.
Images

 


Exterior photo

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Drawings

 


Drawing

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Site Plan Drawing

Discussion Harvard Graduate Center Commentary

"Not one of Gropius's best buildings by any means, the Harvard Graduate Center was the product of the early years of the team organization TAC. However, the group of eight buildings arranged round small and large courtyards on the Oxbridge pattern has a good community feel about it and is humanly scaled. The various buildings house dormitories, common-rooms, refectory and a lounge convertible into a meeting hall for 250 people. The dormitory blocks are constructed in reinforced concrete and the community buildings in steelwork. The planning of the dormitories is of the conventional central-corridor type with single and double rooms off either side."

— Dennis Sharp. A Visual History of Twentieth-Century Architecture. p183.

"Harvard's new Graduate Center has eight buildings arranged to enclose a series of large and small quadrangles. No building is more than four stories high; construction is of concrete with exterior walls of buff-colored brick or limestone. The members of The Architects Collaborative are Jean Bodman-Fletcher, Norman C. Fletcher, John C. Harkness, Sarah Harkness, Robert S. McMillan, Louis A. McMillen, and Benjamin Thompson."

— from Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Arthur Drexler, ed. Built in the USA: Post-war Architecture. p62.

The Creator's Words

"Art, in fact, is not a branch of science which can be learned step by step, from a book. Innate artistic ability can [not be taught but] only intensified by influencing the whole being...the ability to draw is all too frequently confused with the ability to produce creative design. Like dexterity in handicrafts, it is, however, no more than a skill...virtuosity...is not art."

— James Marston Fitch. Walter Gropius. p11.

"Gropius was the first man who interpreted the industrial revolution to us in terms of architecture, in terms of design, in terms of community planning. He constantly investigated the great potentialities of industrial society and showed us how to assimilate them to our ever-changing needs...looking back over the last twelve years, we, who have been Gropius' students, can say gratefully that he has shown us a place in society; that he has taught us that mechanization and individual freedom are not incompatible; that he has explained to us the possibilities and values of communal action and...I shall always doubt that a lesser human being could have given us that new faith in our world."

— S. Giedion. Walter Gropius: Work and Teamwork. p11.

"I have found throughtout my life that words and, particularly, theories not tested by experience, can be much more harmful than deeds. When I came to the U.S.A. in 1937 I enjoyed the tendency among Americans to go straight to the practical test of every newborn idea, instead of snipping off every new shoot by excessive and premature debate over its possible value, a bad habit that frustrates so many efforts in Europe. This great quality should not get lost in favor of biased theorizing and fruitless, garrulous controversy at a moment when we need to muster all our strength and originality in trying to keep creative impulses active and effective against the deadening effect of mechanization and overorganization that is threatening our society."

"The final solution to the problem must, therefore, be based on finding a balance between the relatively rigid requirements of economy and construction, and the less definable psychological requirements which, when met, provide a stimulating environment for education."

"We are able today to feed the creative instinct of a designer with richer knowledge of visual facts, such as the phenomena of optical illusion, of the relation of solids and voids in space; objective facts instead of arbitrary, subjective interpretation or formulas long since stale."

— Walter Gropius. from Klaus Herdeg. The Decorated Diagram: Harvard Architecture and the Failure of the Bauhaus Legacy. p83, 84, 93.

Resources
Sources on Harvard Graduate Center

Donald Corner and Jenny Young, University of Oregon. Slide from photographers' collection. PCD.2350.1012.1143.30, exterior photo. PCD.2350.1012.1143.29.

Sigfried Giedion. Walter Gropius: Work and Teamwork. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1954. NA1088.G85G52. site plan, p142. plan of single rooms(top) and double room (bottom), p145.

Walter Gropius, ed. The Architects Collaborative 1945-1965. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co., 1966. NA737.A7G7. LC 65-29185. entrance hall of library, p62. typical classroom building, p62.

Klaus Herdeg. The Decorated Diagram: Harvard Architecture and the Failure of the Bauhaus Legacy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1983. ISBN 0-262-08127-X. LC 82-24983. NA712.H47 1983. discussion p83, 84, 93.

Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Arthur Drexler, ed. Built in the USA: Post-war Architecture. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1945. LC 68-57299. NA712.N45 1968. discussion p62.

Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2438-3. NA680.S517. exterior photos, p182. —

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.—

 


 

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