Mandel Academic Quadrangle, Brandeis University

Mandel Academic Quadrangle, Brandeis University

The Architects Collaborative, 1961

Harleston Parker Medal, 1961

Founded soon after the end of WWII, Brandeis was intended to be the “Jewish Harvard”, renewing both Judaism and higher education on a hillside site 10 miles from Boston. Eero Saarinen, who by the late 1940s was well known for his designs for the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the GM Technical Center as well as a line of furniture for Knoll, prepared a master plan that updated the traditional academic village with International Style design. Several Saarinen-designed flat-roofed buildings with abstract but classical compositions defined quadrangles, with more sculptural structures becoming focal elements for the campus.

As fundraising lagged Saarinen was replaced by Max Abramovitz, who had a personal connection with the Brandeis president, and a greater willingness to make expedient compromises. (Modified versions of what Saarinen proposed can be seen at the MIT chapel and auditorium.)

Ben Thompson, then at The Architects Collaborative, did much of the actual design to build out the campus, although the Brandeis buildings don’t have the well-developed expression of materials and structure seen in his academic work at Phillips Academy, Amherst and Harvard. Compromised first by the limited budget, and then by subsequent renovations, the Academic Quadrangle only hints at the strength of the original vision.

Source: “Not Quincy Market, Not D/R,” Elizabeth S. Padjen FAIA, Architecture Boston, February 2011.