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Carpenter Center Section Model

The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, located on the Harvard campus and completed in 1963, is the only building that Le Corbusier designed in the United States. The most noticeable feature of the structure is the large ramp that runs through the building and spans most of the site. Le Corbusier falsely believed that the building was going to be located in the heart of Harvard's campus; because of this, he wanted to allow for passage through the building without ever walking into it.


Fig. 1 - View of the backside of Le Corbusier's Carpenter Center


After reviewing the site and making rough dimensions based off of various moduli identified on the structure, my architecture class was assigned to model a back section of the Carpenter Center at quarter-scale (1/4" = 1' 0") using just 3/16" foam core and wooden dowels. The section modeled excludes the rounded volume and only contains the ramp and the brise-soleil area.


We were told to leave a 2" (equivalent to 8 feet) excavation framed by the ramp and the edge of the building in our model so that we could later design an outdoor learning space in that location. This outdoor space is meant to be a flexible area which can accommodate large, medium, and small-sized groups.


Since this was one of the first assignments I've completed for an architecture class, I decided to experiment with the foam core and attempt to make the space as fluid as possible. To do this, I tried to incorporate curves into my plan and play around with various levels. In my experience, many spaces which accommodate large-sized groups have some sort of tiered seating or hierarchical positioning; to mimic this, I included three circular platforms in my design.


Additionally, I decided to construct a small sweeping pedestrian bridge to obviate pedestrian interaction from the garbage area, which is located directly to the left of the chosen section. My first model is pictured below:


(From left to right, top to bottom)

Fig. 2 - Perspective view of the overall quarter-scale model

Fig. 3 - Plan view of the model

Fig. 4 - View from inside the building looking outwards at the ramp

Fig. 5 - View from under the ramp looking towards the Carpenter Center

Fig. 6 - View from end of the ramp detailing the interaction between the Carpenter Center and the ramp


After creating my first model, I decided to simplify my space since my first design looked a little cluttered. Instead of keeping the 8 foot excavation, I decided to fill in the ground again so that I was once again building off of ground level. I kept a remanence of the bridge's path by creating a level, elevated walkway through gently sloping hills. The hills are positioned in a way which invites users towards the path, and since the path is centered between the two mounds, it can be used as a platform to address groups on either side of the space. Because of its simplicity and its openness, the area is flexible enough so that it can accommodate various group sizes.


Fig. 7 - Perspective view of the second quarter-scale model

Fig. 8 - View from the end of the ramp directed at the brise-soleil


When visiting the Carpenter Center, I measured enough of the structure to build a floor plan of the ground level. I have since used those measurements to make a drawing in autoCAD, but I am planning on transferring that plan into SolidWorks so that I can 3D print a miniature model of the building.

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