At the end of the nineteenth century, MIT occupied an assortment of laboratories, classrooms, offices, and student facilities scattered across Boston’s Back Bay. In 1912, backed by some of the country’s leading financiers and industrialists, MIT officials purchased an undeveloped tract of land in Cambridge. Largely on the basis of a recommendation from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., MIT hired the École des Beaux-Arts–trained architect William Welles Bosworth to build and design a new campus.
Designing MIT is the first book to detail Bosworth’s challenges in the planning and construction of MIT’s unique Cambridge campus. MIT professor of architecture Mark Jarzombek provides a fascinating sample of the architectural debates of the time. He examines the competing project proposals—including one from Ralph Adams Cram, noted for his gothic West Point campus—and describes how Bosworth found his classically oriented vision challenged by the engineer John Freeman, a proponent of Frederick W. Taylor’s new principle of scientific management. Jarzombek shows that their conflict ultimately resulted in a far more innovative design than either of their individual approaches would have produced, one that employed new European concepts of industrialism, efficiency, and aesthetics in academic structures.
Generously illustrated with images from the MIT archives, the story of Bosworth’s new “Tech” offers more than just insight into the planning of a campus. Fraught with artistic clashes, bureaucratic tangles, and contemporary politics, the story of MIT’s design sheds light on the academic culture of the early twentieth century, the role of patronage in the world of architecture, and the history of the Beaux-Arts style in the United States.
About the Author
Mark Jarzombek is Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture at MIT. He is coauthor of A Global History of Architecture and Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective.
“The story of the design and construction of MIT’s monumental neoclassical campus in Cambridge is an extraordinary one—full of architectural debate, academic intrigue, and human drama. Mark Jarzombek has dug deep into the archives to recover the tale of William Welles Bosworth and MIT, and he tells it insightfully and vividly. This fascinating book illuminates not only a formative episode in the development of MIT, but also the career of a great American architect, and the preoccupations that animated architectural practice in the early decades of the twentieth century.”
—William J. Mitchell (1944–2010), Professor of Architecture and Architectural Advisor to the President of MIT
“Jarzombek’s thoroughly engaging, human story elucidates how the competing visions and aspirations of architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, and corporate industrialists shaped MIT’s unique architecture and campus plan. Together, they forged a compelling identity for a leading research institution in an age of technological enthusiasm and industrial expansion.”
—Gail Fenske, Professor of Architecture, Roger Williams University