Building of the Month (May)

Another building interpretation by our artist in residence Bill Hunt.  This time he presents the Carpenter Center for The Visual Arts.

Location: Harvard University, Massachusetts

Architect: Le Corbusier

Completed: 1963

Size: 4,000m2

Listing: US National Register of Historic Places

The Carpenter Center is unique in that it is the only building in the United States designed primarily by Le Corbusier.

Harvard initially considered the building should be designed by a leading ‘American architect’; however, the project committee was chaired by Josep Lluis Sert, Dean of the Harvard School of Design, who had previously worked in Corbusier’s atelier.  Le Corbusier was appointed.

The proposed site for the building was quite small and Le Corbusier designed a building that was compact with a roughly cylindrical mass bisected by an S-shaped ramp at the third floor.  Le Corbusier proposed to draw pedestrians from all parts of the campus to pass through the building to see the on-going artistic activities.

The elevational treatment has echoes of his Mill Owners Association in Ahmedabad (1954) such as the angled brise-soleil and the internal spatial design reflects elements of his many earlier seminal works.

The original building housed studios for various art courses – drawing, painting sculpture etc, departmental offices and exhibition and gallery spaces.  The building now houses the Center for Visual Arts which includes studios for drawing/painting/mixed media and sculpture along with the Harvard Film Archive, the Sert Gallery and bookshop.


  • Le Corbusier did visit the proposed site twice, but he never saw the completed building in the flesh. He was invited to the opening ceremony but could not attend due his failing health.
  • After his first site visit Le Corbusier commented “…such a small commission from such a large country…”
  • Chilean architect Guillermo Jullian de la Fuentes worked on the design and Josep Lluis Sert was the project architect who delivered the scheme.