JRA Visits the Harvard Art Museums

Last week we took a field trip to the Harvard Art Museums, and later had dinner on the roof deck of a nearby restaurant. We had a great time and the weather was perfect (which has been a rarity lately). Other museum visitors must have easily identified us as a group of architects and designers by all the photographing, pointing at, and discussing details of the building design — such as the distinctive fire extinguisher cabinets and baseboard-less walls* — more than the artwork.

Bobby, Stew and Michael in front of Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts — the only building designed primarily by Le Corbusier in the United States.

*In lieu of a baseboard, the gallery wall appears to float above the floor, with the use of a reglet, which is painted black. There is a similar detail where the ceilings meet the walls, and the reglet in that case is at the edge of the ceiling so the wall appears to go by the ceiling, and the ceiling floats off the wall without seeming to engage. These two details, both painted black, in contrast with the simple white planes of the ceilings and wall surfaces, create a feeling of lightness in the enclosure of the space.

This is combined with a 1.4-inch flat plate steel door jamb extension which ends flush with the wall surface, but again the wall surface is held back so a slot runs around the three sides of the opening, allowing the plate steel door frame to stand alone. It’s a very subtle portal feeling.

The fire extinguisher cabinets appear to be custom designed, in white to match the walls, with a gold, silk screened outline of a fire extinguisher.