Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, ca. 1963
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, during construction, 1961–62
Visualization of Concepts: The Work of Will Burton, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Dec 1, 1971–Jan 17, 1972
Len Gittleman, installation view of Lunar Transformations, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, April 10–May 15, 1972
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Level 1, looking into Lecture Hall. Courtesy of Dan Lopez
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Level 3, currently painting classrooms. Courtesy of Dan Lopez
Heart for Harvard, work by students in VES 153 taught by Willem Sandberg, Harvard Yard, Jan 17–Jan 28, 1970
Graphic Design: works by students of the Kunstgewerbeschule, Basel, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Apr 13–Jun 15, 1967
Student exhibition, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, ca. 1971
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, bird's-eye view, photo Aerial Photography of New England
The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, completed in 1963, is the only building on the North American continent designed by the famous Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier. Despite the controversy over the wisdom of placing a building of such modern design in a traditional location, Le Corbusier felt that a building devoted to the visual arts must be an experience of freedom and unbound creativity. A traditional building for the visual arts would have been a contradiction. The Carpenter Center represents Corbusier’s attempt to create a “synthesis of the arts,” the union of architecture with painting, sculpture, through his innovative design. The building was completed in 1963, made possible by a gift from Alfred St. Vrain Carpenter, and the intent to house the artistic entities of Harvard College under one roof came to fruition in 1968 as the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, renamed in 2019 as the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies.
The five levels of the building function as open and flexible working spaces for painting, photography, drawing, mixed media and sculpture, and the ramp through the heart of the building encourages public circulation and provides views into the studios, making the creative process visible through the building design. The Level 3, Sert Gallery, at the top of the ramp and Level 1 gallery, features the work of contemporary artists and exhibitions. The Carpenter Center is also home to the Harvard Film Archive, which brings to the public a unique program of classic, rare and experimental films.
Visitors are welcome to explore the building, however, studio spaces on Level B–5 are not publicly accessible and are for students enrolled in Harvard Art, Film, and Visual Studies courses. Public spaces included Level 1, Level 3 Bookshop and Sert Gallery, and noted publicly accessible building exterior spaces. Class Tours of the building can be requested using this form, please keep in mind that there is very limited availability for building tours - we are working to expand these offerings soon.