Monday, August 4, 2014

An Art Day in Cambridge, MA: Modernist Architecture at Harvard and MIT

I’m back, y’all. It’s been 3 months, and I’ve found my groove to balance blogging and being a mommy. Oh and I start back at work today, too.

This month’s ArtSmart (I hope you followed the other participants while I was on hiatus) is about an art day in a location of our choosing. Since I’ve been in a travel break, and a lot of people focus on Boston proper when they visit the city, I decided to highlight a concentration of Modernist architecture basically at my door. Harvard and MIT had $$$$ to pay top architects as they expanded their campuses in the middle of the 20th century. In Cambridge, you’ll find Le Courbusier, Walter Gropius, and Eero Saarinen among others.

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard

24 Quincy St.

The Carpenter Center is the only Le Corbusier building in North America. It’s easy to spot surrounded by more traditional buildings. This 1963 building was built to house the visual arts department and to provide a flexible space for studios. It also has 2 galleries open to the public.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Harkness Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Harkness Commons and Harvard Law School Dorms

Jarvis St. and Massachusetts Ave.

Walter Gropius was in charge of The Architects Collaborative in the late 1940s, and the Harvard Graduate Center was one of the first Modernist commissions by a leading university. Gropius had been hired by Harvard to teach at the Graduate School of Design in the 1930s, and his TAC was like a second Bauhaus for him. Each project was a collaboration among the group of architects. This is my second favorite building in Cambridge after Gehry’s Stata Center at MIT. I love that you can really see Gropius’s style in this complex. You can see his home in Lincoln, MA as well.

Kresge Auditorium via Wikimedia Commons

Kresge Auditorium via Wikimedia Commons

MIT Chapel via Wikimedia Commons

MIT Chapel via Wikimedia Commons

Kresge Auditorium and MIT Chapel

48 Massachussetts Ave.

Over at MIT, you can find two buildings by Eero Saarinen. They are so fantastically Mid-Century Modern. The auditorium looks like the roof is floating on glass, but it really is supported at just 3 points where the concrete reaches the ground. The MIT Chapel has a metal screen inside designed by Harry Bertoia.

So if it’s a beautiful day on your next trip to Boston, head over to Cambridge and scope out some Modernist gems. It’s a welcome break from all the colonial style buildings you see in the area, and it’s a little offbeat instead of drinking at the pubs in Good Will Hunting and The Social Network.


What is ArtSmart?  A couple fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling.  At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers.  Interested in joining the Roundtable?  Check out our Facebook page or email me.

This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:

Alexandra of Arttrav: An art day in Maremma at Daniel Spoerri’s garden

Pal and Lydian of ArtWeekenders: An Art Day at the Kroller-Muller Museum

Christina of Daydream Tourist: Masterpieces for Free: An Art Day in Washington DC

Ashley of No Onions Extra Pickles: An Art Day in Doha, Qatar

Jenna of This Is My Happiness: An Art Day in Napa Valley

Murissa of Wanderfull Traveler: An Art Day in Paris: My Own Accidental Walking Tour


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9 Responses to “An Art Day in Cambridge, MA: Modernist Architecture at Harvard and MIT”

  1. 1

    An art day in Maremma at Daniel Spoerri's garden | ArtTravArtTrav — August 4, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

    […] – An Art Day in Cambridge, MA: Modernist Architecture at Harvard and […]

  2. 2

    Jenna — August 5, 2014 @ 1:20 am

    You know I love modern architecture, so I’m happy to know about these architects’ work in Boston. When I ever get there again, I’ll add them to my list. Glad to have you back blogging again too. 🙂
    Jenna recently posted..An Art Day in Napa ValleyMy Profile

    • ehalvey replied: — August 7th, 2014 @ 11:33 am

      There’s also 3 or so I.M. Pei buildings at MIT. Plus the Gehry and a new Renzo Piano museum at Harvard. I really enjoy seeing the variety of buildings rather than trying to keep everything colonial to “match” the older parts of the area.

  3. 3

    Murissa — August 5, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

    MIT chapel?! Something I didn’t expect to see but gorgeous- Church and Education are very separated here in Western Canada. Most professors make it quite clear that they do not believe in religion. But then again I was in the creative department.

    Congrats on the baby by the way and making it back to the blogosphere!
    Murissa recently posted..ArtSmart: An Art Day in Paris – My Accidental Walking TourMy Profile

    • ehalvey replied: — August 7th, 2014 @ 11:31 am

      A lot of universities and colleges have non-denominational chapels that can be used by various religious groups on campus. I liked how at Emory, I could attend a variety of services to learn more about other religions.

      The Bertoia screen is just so MCM gorgeous!

  4. 4

    Lydian — August 6, 2014 @ 5:46 am

    Interesting to see these examples of modernist buildings by various famous architects back in Cambridge, a place where I wouldn’t expect to see them, but the $$$ available here explains a lot. Love to see these buildings with my own eyes one day!
    Btw good to see you back blogging again and congrats with your little one!
    Lydian recently posted..Tom Otterness’ Fairytales at Sea Along Scheveningen BeachMy Profile

    • ehalvey replied: — August 7th, 2014 @ 11:29 am

      Cambridge has such great architecture! There will be a new Renzo Piano building at Harvard this fall, too!


  5. 5

    Lesley Peterson — August 12, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

    Gropius, Saarinen, and the only North American building by Le Corbusier. Cambridge sounds worth a road/side trip!
    Lesley Peterson recently posted..MexFest Toronto, August 7-17, 2014My Profile

  6. 6

    Christina — August 17, 2014 @ 11:50 pm

    Thanks for highlighting such an interesting group of campus architecture! I think modern architecture works really well with MIT’s academic focus and reputation. Harvard should be all Neo-Classical in my humble opinion but I appreciate that they went for the good stuff at least. 😉 Totally agree on the Gehry – it is gorgeous! I also love the Jaume Plensa sculpture at MIT.

    Welcome back and all the best to you and Baby Art Nerd! 🙂
    Christina recently posted..Impressions of TaipeiMy Profile

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