Closing a Gate, Creating a Space

May 05, 2017

Nestled between Lamont Library and Massachusetts Avenue is a small garden that memorializes Thomas Dudley, a founder of both Harvard and the city of Cambridge. Open only between April and October, the garden is a serene space, filled with flowers and ivy. Lamont, on one side of the garden, is emblematic of the stress and hurry of life within Harvard—of last-minute psets, paper deadlines, and all-nighters. On the other side is Massachusetts Avenue, full of the hustle and bustle of life outside Harvard. But neither the stress of the Harvard world nor the turbulence of the world beyond leaks into this garden. Instead, it remains completely separate from the worlds that border it and serves as a refuge from both.

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A View from the Window

April 16, 2017

It’s easy to look for beauty inside a museum, but sometimes difficult to find it outside. It is easy to miss beauty as you pass it on the street on your way to class on a foggy Monday morning, or bury your face in a textbook in the library the night before a big midterm. Sketching helps me find that sort of easy-to-miss beauty. It forces me to notice things, to appreciate them aesthetically rather than just practically, and then to stop and stare, and to study them more closely. It helps me, in other words, to look at places, people, and things in a manner similar to the way I look at art. But this comparison only goes so far.

This is a sketch of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts from the window of the Harvard Art Museums. The Carpenter Center, Le Corbusier’s only North American building, is home to the art studios at the college. The architecture of the Carpenter Center itself holds artistic value. Moreover, the view of the Carpenter Center through the window has much in common with a painting hanging in a museum. The window frame parallels the picture frame, capturing an image within. The window, like a painting, is a rectangle of light, shape, and color that interrupts the dark wall of the museum. And, with the busy area at the bottom and open space where the sky fills the frame to the top, the view from the window could easily have been a conscious composition. The Carpenter Center, or at least this view of it, hangs on display at the museum like a picture or painting.

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A View from the Window

April 11, 2017

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The Qube

March 28, 2017

The interior and exterior of the Qube, Quincy House’s library, are in some ways strikingly different. The inside is colorful, homey, delicate, and decorative. Couches and armchairs are scattered across the space. The floor is covered with ornate rugs and a glass case displays intricate architectural models. A geometric chandelier hangs above and a spiral staircase ascends from the ground floor to the balcony level.

The exterior, on the other hand, is relatively plain and aesthetically simple. Aside from the columns that elevate it from the ground, the only shapes in the facades are rectangles, from the form of the building to the windows to the bricks themselves. Unlike the multi-colored interior, the facade is primarily red and white. The facade’s austere simplicity contrasts with the interior’s playfulness.

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Unfinished: Winthrop Under Construction

March 07, 2017

As I walk through art museums, I often notice half-colored canvases and partial figure drawings, placed prominently in frames beside drawings and paintings that are more obviously complete. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted an exhibition called “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.” The exhibition explored the question of why we label some artwork unfinished, categorizing artwork as either pieces whose process was halted by some sort of accident or pieces that are purposely constructed with an incomplete aesthetic — in other words, finished in an unfinished way.

The second category finds close parallels in architecture. An “unfinished” aesthetic is not uncommon in modern and contemporary buildings. Even on Harvard’s campus, for example, Mather House trumpets rather than conceals its construction, its unfinished look characteristic of Brutalist architectural style.

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