H.H. Richardson at Harvard

Harvard University in "our fair city" of Cambridge is blessed with much interesting architecture. Here I focus on the three buildings of H.H. Richardson: Sever Hall in brick, Austin Hall in stone, and the Stoughton House in wood (shingle). Richardson has quite distinctive styles in each of these three major materials, true to their nature, and these buildings illustrate that wonderfully.

Click on the small pictures to see larger ones.

Sever Hall

Sever Hall was designed and built 1878-1880, and is used for undergraduate classes. It's red brick construction and decoration is meant to echo the older red-brick buildings of Harvard Yard. The plan is Richardson's usual almost-symmetric. The flat expanses of brick wall are broken up at various scales, from very subtle bowing-out of the walls, to the varied fenestration, to wonderful carved-brick detailing.

The east facade, made to look even longer and lower with horizontal bands of windows. (The top band with leaded panes look almost Wright-ian!)
The west facade, with Ware and Van Brunt's Memorial Hall to the left, which had just been completed when Sever Hall was started. (I've just learned that Sever Hall's entrance arch forms a "whispering gallery": whisper into one side, and it will be heard on the other!)
A couple of views of the west facade towers, giving a closer look at the carved-brick decoration and the bronze gutter-work.

Austin Hall

Austin Hall was designed and built 1881-1884, and served as the sole Harvard Law School building until 1907. It has delightfully rich decoration and construction in polychrome stone and wonderful carvings. It's really quite symmetric in plan and elevation, but an off-center tower adds charm and interest. Richardson's usual Romanesque arches are here slightly flattened in the porch arcade.

The facade: center, right, and left.

The exterior is worth examining closely for the amazing wealth of detail, Medieval in tradition. It's quite possible Richardson was inspired by Ruskin, and thus could be viewed as an Arts and Crafts pioneer in the US. Looking forward, he was perhaps an inspiration to Louis Sullivan, also famous for his natural-form-inspired decoration.

Stoughton House

The Stoughton House (1882-3) is a private home, not part of the Harvard campus, though it is right next door. It has been much modified, though sympathetically, and the overall "look" is still as intended. It's quite difficult to photograph from the outside, since the main facade faces north, surrounded by a high wall. It was conceived, and perceived, as a neo-colonial design, with massive chimneys and a shingled exterior.

The east side facade, much of which represents an 1899 addition by Richardson's successor firm, Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge. The northeast corner.
From the northwest. The garage is new, but the door arch detail reflects that of the original porch, visible to the left. The garden gate and wall are new, in an Arts-and-Crafts-inspired style.

These pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 10D digital SLR. Images were cropped, balanced, etc. with Adobe Photoshop Elements.

schooler@alum.mit.edu