Campus & Community

Gridlocked: Unlocking Harvard’s secrets by design

3 min read

Grids, Golden Section, Swiss style — the human eye enjoys simplifying the world, creating order, and finding patterns. The desire to frame, contain, and understand is instinctive. The photographer finds frames within frames.

Grids are easily perceived, and boxes are everywhere. Architecture makes regular use of repeating structures and details. Bookshelves and windowpanes — the world has a way of aligning its elements.

There is efficiency and elegance to the grid form, but there is also beauty in the chaotic, the random, and in nature’s proportions. Human activity and the whimsy of the natural world collide with the well-tested structure of the grid.

Admire a campus that frames, and challenges, borders.

A glass structure marks the entrance to the Harvard Square MBTA station and the network of trains, tracks, and bus lines below.
From Memorial Church, window frames, columns, tree limbs, and reflections blend together by Widener Library in Harvard Yard.
Kristen Cronon ’12 (left) and Arthur Bartolozzi ’12 hang “Body of Work,” an art exhibit focusing on body and body image, in the Student Organization Center at Hilles.
Jagged winter branches are set against the cool, contrasting grid of concrete and glass in the modern architecture of the Harvard Science Center, designed by Josep Lluís Sert.
The Museum of Comparative Zoology and Hoffman Laboratory meld forms and reflections.
In stark black and white, a lattice of decorative squares adorns a vent inside a Harvard Hall lecture room.
Holden Chapel, built in 1744 and among the oldest buildings in Harvard Yard, is framed in the windowpanes of Harvard Hall.
The view from the Carpenter Center segments the medley of snow, crimson berries, and snarled branches.
Volumes neatly line the shelves of the library nestled within Robinson Hall’s History Department.
Disjointed reflections form an impression of the Yard in the windows of Memorial Church.
The Laboratory for Integrated Science and Engineering is connected by bridge to Cruft and Lyman laboratories.
Human forms, a model of the golden ratio, reside in the window of Gund Hall at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Instruments of construction and design are the tools of students at work in Gund Hall at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Concrete slabs comprise the walls, floors, and stairwells of the Carpenter Center. Squares and rectangles are celebrated forms in Le Corbusier’s only building in North America.
Light is diffused and vision is distorted through the wall of glass blocks lining this Carpenter Center stairwell.
The view from the Sert Gallery in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. Staff Photo Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University News Office
Shepard Fairey posters decorate a storefront construction site on Brattle Street.
Harvard Square is revealed in all its bustle and disarray.