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Architecture Tour: Brandeis Modern

Architecture critic Alexandra Lange invites Dwell along as she observes a little-known trove of midcentury architecture at Brandeis University near Boston.
Berlin (Jewish) Chapel, Harrison & Abramovitz, 1955. The firm designed three interdenominational chapels, set around a small pond and clad in pale gray brick. Photo by Alexandra Lange.

The campus of Brandeis University in Watham, Massachusetts, is a little-known trove of midcentury modern design. Gerald S. Bernstein’s book, Building A Campus: An Architectural Celebration of Brandeis’s 50th Anniversary (1999), describes how the new school hired Eero Saarinen to create a campus master plan in 1949. Saarinen collaborated with Matthew Nowicki to lay out the school, creating quads with long, flatroofed buildings. Saarinen was working on the General Motors Technical Center outside Detroit at the same time, and one can see some similarities. Initial versions of the Brandeis plan included a circular structure and a striking vertical structure reminiscent of the Tech Center’s water tower and Styling Dome. Saarinen eventually designed four buildings for the campus; one has been demolished and the others altered. What remain are the striking buildings designed by Harrison & Abramovitz, who followed Saarinen as master planners. A map of the campus with dates and architects can be found here.

For more from Alexandra Lange, visit the archicritic's Tumblr page and Twitter feed.

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