Table of Contents
Previous Article
Next Article

Celebrating Sert

Harvard welcomed Josep Lluís Sert—architect, urban planner, and educator—as dean of the Graduate School of Design fifty years ago. To observe this anniversary and to underscore Sert's impact on the School and on urban design in general, the Frances Loeb Library has organized two exhibitions that are on view this fall:

  • "Josep Lluís Sert: The Architect of Urban Design, 1953-1969," which focuses on Sert's role as a planner in Latin America and subsequently as an architect and urban designer in the United States—through November 19 at the Harvard Design School's Gund Hall Gallery, 48 Quincy Street; and
  • "Josep Lluís Sert: Architect to the Arts," which brings together archival materials related to Sert's arts-related architectural designs and artwork from Sert's personal collection for the first time—through December 14 at the Harvard University Art Museums, Carpenter Center, Sert Gallery, 24 Quincy Street.

Organized by the Frances Loeb Library's Special Collections Librarian Mary Daniels and Project Archivist Inés Zalduendo, the exhibitions were developed in consultation with two Design School faculty members: Jorge Silvetti, Nelson Robinson, Jr., Professor of Architecture, and A. Hashim Sarkis, Aga Khan Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism in Muslim Studies, who serves additionally as director of the master's and doctoral programs in design. Daniels and Zalduendo also collaborated closely with Harry Cooper, curator of modern art in the Harvard University Art Museums (HUAM) for the Carpenter Center exhibition.

Items for the exhibitions came from the Design School's collections, as well as from Boston University (where Sert projects included the Mugar Library and the George Sherman Student Union), Harvard Planning and Real Estate, and the Harvard University Archives. Zalduendo, a Harvard-trained architect (MArchII '95) as well as an archivist, noted, "My training and experience as an architect was very beneficial in choosing the materials and in the actual design of the exhibitions layout."

Many of the more than 250 drawings, sketches, correspondences, photographs, and pieces of artwork utilized for the two exhibitions were in disrepair due to age, international travel, and extensive use. Irina Gorstein, conservator for the Frances Loeb Library, was instrumental in assessing, cleaning, and—in some cases—repairing the materials prior to these exhibitions. The Gund Hall Gallery's exhibit—mounted using a layout consisting of a continuous plexiglass band that leaves items floating behind it, along the walls—displays plans and photographs of Harvard's architecturally significant buildings, such as Holyoke Center, Peabody Terrace, and the Science Center. Master plans for Boston's South Station and for downtown Worcester—two unrealized projects—are also on view, as well as the projects for Boston University and Roosevelt Island.

The Sert Gallery in the Carpenter Center displays materials relating to Sert's arts-related architectural commissions, as well as art from his personal collection—including works by Léger, Le Corbusier, Calder, Nivola and Miró—some of which is on public display for the first time. Photographs and drawings document Sert's design for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. Significant for its design and artistic collaboration, the Pavilion is also historically significant as it was built during the Spanish Civil War and was the location for the first public exhibition of Pablo Picasso's "Guernica." Sketches, plans, and photographs of Sert's designs for Joan Miró's studio offer a glimpse into a famed artist's workspace. Miró's payment for Sert's work on his studio, a mural he painted for the architect and entitled "Mural March 20 1961," also hangs in the exhibition.

As the Design School's dean from 1953 to 1969, Sert established the nation's first professional degree program in urban design. A committed educator and influential dean, he remained active throughout his deanship as a practitioner, first as a founding partner of Town Planning Associates, which specialized in architectural as well as urban design projects, and later through the Cambridge firm of Sert, Jackson & Gourley.

Daniels states,"Sert was instrumental in bringing together architects, landscape architects, and planners to engage in the formation of the city. Through his teaching and practice, he fostered the integration of the design disciplines at all scales of the urban framework, and the creation of new 'hearts of the city' that would become unique centers of collective vitality."

The two exhibitions show Sert as a man influential to the fields of architecture, art, urban planning, and design, and an understanding of his work is essential for an informed appreciation of architecture of the period, and especially the development of urban design as a discipline at the Design School. Visitors to the exhibitions will gain a new appreciation for the man as well as his works that surround us here in Cambridge.

Table of Contents | Previous Article | Next Article

Last modified on Monday, November 17, 2003.