Architectural Atrocities New and Old
The following comment on Harvard architecture--in particular on the proposed design for a new chapel--is an excerpt from an article entitled "Old Harvard Dresses For the Future" by H. I. Brock in the New York Times Magazine of June 20.
However, it is the southeast side of the New Yard that harbors the chief of fenders. Robinson and Emerson, belonging to the begianing of the present century, and Sever, an atrocity of the early 80's are matched in inconsistency by Boylston Hall, which goes back to 1857 and sports fancy round windows and a very bad French mansard. Enormous, out of all proportion to everything else, the mass of, the Widener Memorial Library thrusts itself into this space. Belonging to what may be called the modern "librarian" brand or stack house type of neo-classical architecture, this big structure presents a serious problem to the harmonizers.
The combination of good Georgian which, after all is a classical derivative with good classical stuff is a very usual one in American architecture of the early part of the nineteenth century. Pleasing results were often achieved notably in the country houses in Virginia to which Mr. Jefferson added porticos. The trouble here is one of scale as well as of style. However, so far, there is nothing royalty goal at to end of the Yard except the new President's house, built by Mr. Lowell. This house is well matched in its manner with the oldest buildings and yet has plenty of charm and a character of its own.
Opposite the Widener Library it is now proposed to build a new chapel as a memorial to Harvard's dead in the great way. Plans for this chapel, not definite plans it seems, have been published. These show a curious arrangement. A Gorgian type of main body is used that is an oblong with round-topped windows on each side, and as both ends, under the gable of the root, a recessed effect with columns on either side of the recess. With this is combined a round Lower, supported upon a pavilion of columns and set in the middle of one of the sides of the oblong rather like the stack of a power plant.
The main body of the tower which rests like a tank on the pavilion, is surmounted a steeple inspired by that of the Park Street Church in Boston. The Park Street steeple has been much and justly admired: but it is difficult to see why it should stand on this tower or why the tower should be so extraordinarily mounted and placed with regard to the body of the church. As already suggested, the plan is probably only tentative. If it isn't it ought to be, in the interest of Harvard's esthetic future.