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Le Corbusier's Cambridge Creation Hits Half-Century Mark

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Le Corbusier, the Swiss-French architect who so loved the world he gave it boxy urban design, drafted one building in all of North America.

Le Corbusier sketched the tentative design for Harvard's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in crayon in his Parisian studio in the spring of 1960. Why crayon? The colors! Per the Harvard Gazette:

He colored the intersecting ovals of the main structure in red, the sinuous center ramp in mauve, and the pathways of nearby Sever Quadrangle in yellow, a shade he always used to denote areas for "circulation." The 1960 sketch, wrote one scholar, showed that "from the beginning Le Corbusier violently asserts the independence of his building from its grid of surrounding streets and architecture." For instance, the Carpenter Center was set at an angle on Quincy Street, defiantly askance from its neighbors. In the same sketch Le Corbusier also used color to editorialize, to set his building apart from what was around it. He blocked out the neo-Georgian Harvard buildings around the site, then shaded them in dark brown. Le Corbusier was a painter, and that brown was not part of his visual toolbox. He favored bright, arresting colors.

By 1963, the Carpenter Center was open off Prescott Street. Two years later, Le Corbusier was dead, meaning the center was not only his only North American design to get built (a tad ironic it happened in the Hub of all places) but the last major project of his storied career.
· Light, Bright and Modern [Gazette]
· Big Boston Development Caves to Concerns Over Height [Curbed Boston]

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