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Harkness Commons: The Living Legacy of Walter Gropius

May 24, 2023

Harkness Commons: The Living Legacy of Walter Gropius

Walter Gropius was the founding director of the Bauhaus art school, which became one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century. His innovative approach to design and architecture had a profound impact on the world of modernism and set the stage for the development of new thought and techniques that continue to shape the design world today. One of Gropius’ most significant contributions to modernist architecture is the Harkness Commons, a dynamic student center located at Harvard University.

The Creation of Harkness Commons

In the late 1940s, Harvard University was in dire need of a new student center. They turned to Gropius to design the building, knowing that his expertise in modernist design would be perfect for creating a functional yet aesthetically pleasing space for students to gather. Construction began in 1949 and was completed in 1951, with the building formally opening its doors to students in 1952.

Features of Harkness Commons

At the heart of Harkness Commons is a large courtyard that serves as a hub for student activity. The building is designed to maximize natural light and features walls of glass that bring the outside in. The open design encourages social interaction and provides students with ample space to study, relax, and socialize. The building also houses dining facilities, a theater, and other amenities that make it a popular gathering spot for students and faculty alike.

Harkness Commons Today

Nearly 70 years after its initial construction, Harkness Commons remains a vital part of the Harvard community. While the building has seen some modifications over the years, its spirit and design remain true to Gropius’ original vision. The building’s modernist design continues to inspire students and visitors alike, and its legacy as an important example of modernist architecture cannot be overstated.

In conclusion, Harkness Commons stands as a testament to Walter Gropius’ forward-thinking design philosophy and his commitment to creating functional yet beautiful spaces. Its continued importance and relevance to the Harvard community prove that great design truly does stand the test of time.


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