Tozzer Anthropology Building, Harvard University

Kennedy & Violich Architecture, 2014

BSA Honor Award for Design Excellence, 2015LEED Gold Certified

KVA’s design for Harvard University’s Tozzer Anthropology Building transforms the public presence and programs of the 1971 Tozzer Library (see below). The design challenge was to expand a 21st-century Anthropology curriculum while re-using the existing 1971 building footprint, campus infrastructure connections, and steel and concrete structural system. The massing strategy adds two new stories under a large copper roof volume, which rotates to capture daylight for a large internal light well around which the internal programs revolve. The copper roof form and its subtle rotation strengthen a more independent reading of the Tozzer Anthropology building as a pavilion in the Peabody Courtyard. The new design provides a public entry on Divinity Avenue, access from the new lobby to the Peabody Courtyard and a direct link to the Peabody Museum Collections and Department of Archeology.

The 1971 three-story brick envelope could not be re-used due to mold and vapor barrier problems in the original construction. The design invents a digitally corbelled brick detail at the new entry that is directly linked with the overall geometry of the building massing, with each brick course shifted from the course below in parallel with the building structure. Using a standard contemporary brick veneer construction, the new design expresses a contemporary brick materiality that resonates with the 19th-century brick details of the Peabody campus context.

Working with University and Anthropology Faculty, Staff and Librarians, the KVA design team developed smart classrooms, collegial spaces, faculty offices and a renewed Anthropology Library to house the Tozzer anthropology collections. The new program is organized around a central light well clad in birch wood. Offices, classrooms and informal gathering places ring this “living space”, which brings daylight into the building, creates visual relationships between floor levels, and provides acoustic treatment. The light well circulates tempered air as part of an innovative energy-saving ventilation system.

From the BSA jury comments:

"Very sophisticated in its exploration of material, this building transforms an existing library into a multi-use building which houses faculty and graduate student offices, a library, classroom and seminar spaces, and provides accessibility to an adjacent museum complex. The level of complexity and use of masonry is impressive and its relationship to its more traditional neighbors shows a great sense of balance even though it is extremely modern and forward thinking. The color palette is soft and effortless. Especially admirable is the way that light sculpts the interior and plays on the exterior skin. Attention to craft and detail is exceptional and surprising. This is the work of an architect who understands the contextual role of a building and knows how to carry on an historical architectural fabric without mimicry. The interior light is gorgeous and the fully realized roof feels like a fifth elevation. All is lovely, simple, elegant."

Source: Kennedy & Violich ArchitectureImages: John Horner; KVA