Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Gutman Library

Benjamin Thompson and Associates, 1972

Landscape: Carol R. Johnson and Associates, Inc.

Harleston Parker Medal, 1973

Although Thompson's buildings were not as formally inventive as those of some of his contemporaries, they engage their context, and history, in thoughtful and often deferential ways, as can be seen here.

To preserve the openness of Brattle and the side streets, the building’s first floor mass is set back from the corners, creating small landscaped areas sheltered by overhanging upper floors. The library inside connects to the streetscape outside through a corner entry, given emphasis by the diagonal symmetry of the adjacent facades. The disciplined structure of sandblasted concrete exposes its lively interior colors and activities to the street.

By pushing one floor below grade with recessed landscaped areas to bring in light and views, the architects reduced the building’s apparent height and mass to fit it into its intimately scaled neighborhood. Two historic buildings on the site, the Read house (1772) and the Nichols house (1827), were preserved by moving them to nearby Farwell Place.