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Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Harvard University
24 Quincy Street
(at Prescott Street)
Massachusetts 02138

Le Corbusier 1963

The Carpenter Center is Le Corbusier's only building in North America, and one of the last to be completed during his lifetime. Its wonderful collection of concrete forms bring together many of the design principles and devices from Le Corbusier's earlier works: the ondulatoires (windows above left) from La Tourette; the brise soleils (below) originally from the Marseille unité d'habitation but angled later in Chandigarh (but here with glass for the Massachusetts climate); and the original Five Points from the 1920s 'accentuated in a new way: as if the Villa Savoye had been exploded inside out, with ramp and curved partitions extending into the environment.' The ramp and architectural promenade is particularly strong at the Carpenter Center.

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'At the heart is a cubic volume from which curved studios pull away from one another on the diagonal. The whole is cut through by an S-shaped ramp which rises from one street and descends towards the other... The layers and levels swing out and back from the grid of concrete pilotis within, making the most of cantilevering to create interpenetrations of exterior and interior, as well as a sequence of spatial events linked by the promenade architecturale of the ramp.'

William J.R. Curtis in Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms

Simon Glynn 1999 and 2001 (updated 2005)


How to visit

The Carpenter Center is on the edge of Harvard Yard, and is open seven days a week from early till late, except for Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. The open structure of the building, with a curved ramp passing through the building from one side to the other with glass walls on either side, means that in practice you can see much of the building even outside these times.

For visitor information please visit or call +1 617 495 3251.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from


0486250237_m.gif (4648 bytes) Towards a new architecture
Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier's original architectural 'manifesto', describing what he sought to achieve, as it first appeared in English in 1931. Accessible (if an unconventional style for today) and stimulating.

Le Corbusier: Ideas and forms
William J.R. Curtis

Readable (quite detailed) account of Le Corbusier's work, well illustrated and well structured.

Le Corbusier and the continuing revolution in architecture
Charles Jencks

A hefty but accessible analysis of Le Corbusier's life and work, drawing on his writing and painting as well as building design.


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