Science Center, Harvard University

Science Center

Sert, Jackson and Associates, 1970–1973

Harlston Parker Medal, 1976

The largest building on the Harvard campus is best experienced from the sunny glass-roofed arcade that runs through the building like an interior street. Its exposed structure and trays for running and replacing wiring is a lesson in how science is done, paralleled by artwork by some of Sert’s famous artist friends.

The complex’s exterior forms express the five components of the Center: the long laboratory bar paralleling the arcade, the terraced classroom wing for the mathematics department, the low science library and administrative wings, and a cluster of four demonstration theaters whose roofs are hung from a spider-like I-beam structure. (Edwin Land, the founder of instant-camera pioneer Polaroid, is said to have made a major gift in support of the project, and some have observed that the building bears some resemblance to a Polaroid camera - see image below.) The use of precast “kit of parts” concrete components allowed rapid construction to meet Harvard’s growing commitment to science.

With this project joining his Holyoke Center, Peabody Terrace, and the Carpenter Center, Sert completes a modernist framing of old Harvard. Exiting the Yard though the old gates, it's clear this isn't your (great-(great-(great) grandfather's Harvard anymore.