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Harvard Graduate Center

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Harvard Graduate Center, also known as "the Gropius Complex" (including Harkness Commons), was commissioned of The Architects Collaborative by Harvard University in 1948. The first modern building on the campus, it was also one of the first endorsements of the modern style by a major university and was seen in the national and architectural presses as a turning point in the acceptance of the aesthetic in the United States.

The Architects Collaborative (TAC), a modernist firm headed by Walter Gropius and seven younger architects, was a bold choice for the typically traditional university. Though it cannot be said that Gropius was the sole designer, those that held strongly to his ideals collaboratively designed Harkness Commons.

Coming from the Bauhaus, Gropius had been a pioneering innovator of educational architecture and many of his hallmarks can be seen years later in Harkness Commons. The physical Gropius hallmarks – large windows, flowing rooms, floating facades on raised pilotis – are all present here.

In justifying the placement of these innovations at Harvard, Gropius reveals his passion, and activism, for the acceptance of modernism on college campuses. Gropius makes clear statements for specific innovations, “…Our contemporary architectural conception of an intensified outdoor-indoor relationship through wide window openings and large undivided window panes has ousted the small, cage-like, “Georgian” window.” But he is also more far reaching and makes what is now a commonplace case for architectural diversity and investment in current styles: “If the college is to be the cultural breeding ground for the coming generation, its attitude should be creative, not imitative”

Gropius advocated pushing architecture forward as the society needs it. He concluded by saying that “There is no finality in architecture – only continuous change.”

The building was completed in 1950, and was one of the first major projects in the Architects Collaborative office. The building is also graced with the works of avant-garde, Surrealist or Bauhaus artists Joan Miró, Josef Albers, Jean Arp and Herbert Bayer, and also has a sculpture by Richard Lippold in the courtyard near it.[1]

The buildings are now primarily used as a student center and as a dormitory complex for Harvard Law School.

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  • ✪ The Sciences at the Graduate Center
  • ✪ They're Going to Harvard!
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The sciences at the Graduate Center are a wide range of subjects, going from the health sciences, audiology, nursing, and public health, to the basic sciences, physics, biochemistry, chemistry, and biology. And we also include mathematics, computer science, Earth and environmental science, and some aspects of psychology. So we really run the whole gamut, and it’s very exciting for a student, because they have the ability to take courses in all these different disciplines, no matter which program they might originate in. The sciences have undergone a real transformation here at the Graduate Center. There’s a renewed emphasis on providing support for the sciences in all the different disciplines. We’ve begun to hire some central line faculty. We’re sitting right now in Professor Tony Ro’s lab, who studies neural activity in the brain as a function of visual stimuli, or auditory stimuli, and this is something that the Graduate Center might not have invested in three or four years ago, and we’re now hiring several new faculty in the sciences. So I think it’s an exciting time to be here, because the programming is expanding and we’re making investment in intellectual capital by hiring new professors in the sciences. I think one of the great things about the Graduate Center is you get to study science in a world-class place, with world-class faculty, and you have the added benefit, you get to live in New York City. And so, the ability to study science in the city, I think, is very exciting, I think the ability to easily cross disciplinary boundaries is becoming more important, and that’s also exciting for new students. And finally, I think the Graduate Center is making incredible investments in professional development opportunities, so not only are we thinking of you as a student, but what you’re going to do as your next step once you finally graduate from the Graduate Center.


  1. ^ Article on Harkness Graduate Center Archived 2014-11-16 at the Wayback Machine on the Harvard Law School website. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  • “Graduate Center: Harvard University, Massachusetts,” Architects' Year Book (1953, vol. 5) London: P. Elek, 146.
  • Nancy MacLennan, “Harvard Decides to ‘Build Modern’,” New York Times , 25 October 1948, 25.
  • Walter Gropius, "Not Gothic But Modern For Our Colleges", New York Times, 23 October 1949.
  • The Architects Collaborative,; ed. Walter Gropius (and others). (Teufen, AR, Niggli, 1966). 63
This page was last edited on 10 February 2019, at 07:50
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