As Dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Design from 1953-1969, Josep Lluis Sert was instrumental in bringing modern architecture to Boston.
Born and trained in Catalonia, Spain, Sert gained early experience serving as an intern in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1929. After a productive early career in Barcelona, Sert fled Franco’s rise and went into exile in New York City in 1939. Following a decade of practice in New York and a visiting professorship at Yale, Sert became Dean of the Harvard GSD in 1953. There, he initiated the world's first degree program in urban design, integrated the programs of architecture, planning, landscape and urban design, and brought art into the Harvard curriculum. It is said that Sert had been a candidate for the Deanship at MIT two years prior - both campuses would likely be quite different had that transpired!
At their Cambridge studio at Architect’s Corner, Sert, Jackson and Associates designed buildings in Cambridge, Boston and beyond that infused the concrete style of the day with colorful fins and human-scale details that gave them a more casual, Mediterranean feeling. Sert's three large Harvard projects, Peabody Terrace, the Holyoke Center, and the Science Center, transformed the predominantly Georgian and Victorian campus with their scale and visibility. All of these, as well as Sert's Cambridge home, were awarded the Harleston Parker medal by the BSA.
In 1961, Sert brought Le Corbusier to the United States to design the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, the only Corbusier building in the U.S., and another Parker medal winner.
Sert, Jackson received the AIA Firm Award in 1977, and Sert received the AIA Gold Medal in 1981.
Ted Widmer, historian and alumnus of the Peabody Terrace Kindergarten, published a excellent retrospective on Sert: https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2016/01/17/how-mediterranean-humanist-lost-his-way-boston-skyline/t4G5vs945BEqQ1p45wgLlL/story.html. Also see Alexandra Lange's perspective on her alma mater, Sert's MLK School in Cambridgeport: https://www.archdaily.com/639911/josep-lluis-sert-s-martin-luther-king-jr-school-a-never-loved-building-that-never-stood-a-chance