Sep '06 - Dec '09
I am sure that we all have had experiences inside of buildings by the more well known architects. I have lived inside a Legorreta and a Sert. The Legorreta was in the Santa Fe Art Institute during my wife's art residency, and I have to say that I was in love with the place. The materiality, scale, and light conditions made our stay there a wonderful one. The building is a typical Spanish courtyard house with rooms for the invited artists on the edges allowing for a hallway to face the interior courtyard. The courtyard is different all along its perimeter allowing for a beautiful change of light throughout the day.
Photos by Johnny Panic
Images by Lourdes Legorreta
ON THE OTHER HAND, I was thoroughly disappointed with Peabody Terrace by Josep Lluis Sert. On my very first post I mentioned that it felt a little dorm-like, but I still enjoyed it. The longer we lived there, the more we began to dislike it. Let's start with the materiality, the interior concrete is very rough and cold. Then we can move on to scale, I think that Sert was a short man, but there is no excuse to making floor to ceiling heights of just over 7'!! It feels crammed and (to us at least) felt claustrophobic inside. Next, the one thing I thought genius of this place is the skip-stop elevator system which allows for a lot of the apartments to span the entire building width. Well, I do not think that was used effectively. On one side (in the living / dining / kitchen) there is a huge window that leads to the balcony. After making so much fuss to allow the apartment to span the entire width, the bedroom side is blank, no window but a only really small opening on the side. The result is an apartment that feels much darker than it should. Finally, the courtyard is typical modernist dystopia (much unlike other Sert buildings around Harvard). It is a dead space that feels sad and no one really inhabits (is it ok to talk about feelings when talking architecture?).
It was sad to me, because I like to like Sert, and I wanted to like Peabody. But at the same time I think that this will be among the most valuable lessons I'll take with me; that even the smartest idea-building can fail miserably (at least on the eyes of some of its residents). I guess that the idea became all-powerful and they forgot about the people that would have to deal with the building. At the end the views were not even worth the trouble to us, so we broke our lease early and moved to a much older neo-Carolingian building we actually like much better (tall ceilings, wood floors, lots of light during the day even though it faces east).
And let us not even get into the way Harvard Housing treats grad students and the outrageous prices they charge for all these apartments. It really is only worth it because you are closer to school, and the maintenance crew is very helpful.
I actually did not take any interior pictures of peabody, so you'll have to take my word for it. Here are some more exterior shots.