Essential Architecture- New England

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts


Le Corbusier


Harvard U., Cambridge, MA


1960-63 (W: 1961-64)






  a: general view, photo 1981, M. Brack.
  c: flank with bow, photo 1981, M. Brack.
  d: west front, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
  e: detail of west front, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
  f: passage, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
  g: east front, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
  h: east ramp and stair tower, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
  i: view from northeast, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
  j: view from southeast, photo 1981, R. Longstreth.
The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts is the only building actually built by Le Corbusier in the United States, and one of only two in the Americas (the other is the Curutchet House in La Plata, Argentina.) Le Corbusier designed it with the collaboration of Chilean architect Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente at his 35 rue de Sévres studio; the on-site preparation of the construction plans was handled by the office of José Luis Sert, then dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He had formerly worked in Le Corbusier's atelier and had been instrumental in winning him the commission. The building was completed in 1962.

The building was made possible by a $1,500,000 donation by the Carpenters, who never met the architect; in the end they had to increase their donation to meet increased building costs.

The Carpenter Center at nightIt houses the department of Visual and Environmental Studies of the University, as well as the Harvard Film Archive, the largest collection of 35mm films in New England. It screens a large quantity of independent, international and silent films.

Le Corbusier never actually saw the building. He was invited to the opening ceremony, but he declined the invitation on account of his poor health.

Some have humorously described the building's appearance as that of two pianos mating.

Society of Architectural Historians

Special thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians
for some of the images on this page (copyright SAH).