Harvard’s campus reflects three centuries of architectural history
By Colleen Walsh, Harvard Staff Writer
Photo details by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
H arvard is muted red bricks and mortar. That’s its public image. But look around, and you’ll quickly see many campus buildings made of wood, granite, marble, concrete, steel, and glass.
While the brick buildings of the Yard and the Neo-Georgian river Houses depict the expected image of ivy classicism, the University actually has a sweeping range of building styles that, taken together, amount to an informal history of American architecture. A walker can sample almost 300 years of innovative designs in an easy stroll.
Harvard’s eclectic architectural mix helps to explain its values, its academic priorities, its responses to new teaching methods, its desire for stronger collaboration, its embrace of the urban environment, and its ongoing flexibility. Starting in 1636, Harvard officials decided structure by structure what to construct. But somewhere along the way, the built
environment began to have a reverse effect, influencing how faculty, students, and staff behaved and interacted in daily life. The resulting campus developed what could be called “the Harvard look.”
Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Completed in 1880, Sever Hall is the product of the noted architect and Harvard alumnus Henry Hobson Richardson. Using his bold, Romanesque style, Richardson crafted Sever of red brick, but also incorporated lush ornamentation into his design.
In 1963, Le Corbusier, another famed architect, added the shock of the modern to Quincy Street, where his Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts opened in counterpoint to the grand, brick Fogg Museum next door.
Inside and outside Sert's Holyoke Center, shops and restaurants contribute to a lively streetscape.
Among Harvard’s roughly 660 buildings, Massachusetts Hall is the oldest. Early Georgian in style, its simple construction, symmetry, and modest accents — like its belt course, a row of raised bricks that run along the fa