Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

  • Caption
    View of Exterior
    8/15/2006 (creation)
Related people
Le Corbusier (was created by)
Josep Lluis Sert (was created by)
1959-1962 (creation)
North and Central America->United States->Massachusetts->Cambridge->Harvard University
The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (1959-1962), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, was Le Corbusier's only North American commission. One of his erstwhile assistants in the Rue de Svres studio, Josep Llus Sert, the new Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture at Harvard, called him in when a benefactor, St Vrain Carpenter, offered to fund a centre for the visual arts dedicated to learning by doing, in contrast (but adjacent) to the highly traditional Fogg Museum and Fine Arts Department. Le Corbusier declared as one of his reasons for accepting the commission that he wished to put on show in the USA the repertory of his 'inventions'. In fact, the building can be read as an inventory of his mature vocabulary: the brise-soleil, the ondulatoires, the arateurs, as well as the older features such as the exposed piloti, the roof garden and the pedestrian ramp. An astonishing aspect, however, is that the building retains a freshness and dynamism that, on a confined site and in the presence of dignified red-brick campus classicism, takes the breath away. This was a case in which Le Corbusier's original sketch of 1 April 1960 survived all pragmatic alterations during the design and construction processes.
The building is finished with exposed concrete. An S-shaped ramp forms the central axis of the building bisecting the structure and connecting with the main stair and an exhibition space.
"The five levels of the building function as open and flexible working spaces for painting, drawing, and sculpture, and the ramp through the heart of the building encourages public circulation and provides views into the studios, making the creative process visible through the building design. The Sert Gallery, at the top of the ramp, features the work of contemporary artists, and the main gallery at street level hosts a variety of exhibitions supporting the curriculum of the Department." --
Modernist (AAT)
glass block
Brooks, H. A. (1984) Carpenter Center, Unite d'Habitation, Firminy, and Other Buildings and Projects, 1961-1963. New York: Garland. KSA Le Corbusier Archive (Vol. 31), p.65