Hayden Memorial Library, 1948

Ralph Thomas Walker
Grey building with 5 large vertical windows and a sculpture on the front lawn.

Ralph Walker, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, 1948.

Building 14
Ralph Thomas Walker

One of the first building projects initiated after the end of World War II, Hayden Memorial Library (Building 14) is home to the Institute’s humanities and science collections.

The expansion of the Institute’s library system coincided with advances in the fields of library science, conservation, and photographic reproduction technologies. Coupled with the influx of new technical literature, largely brought on by the war, the Institute identified the need for increased storage and upgraded library facilities. Ralph Thomas Walker, an alumnus, was invited to take on the project of designing a library that would serve both the humanities and the sciences and successfully adapt to the rapid developments in technology that were underway.

The exterior of the two-story building is clad in limestone, and its isolated, ground-level presence along Memorial Drive sets it apart from earlier libraries at the Institute, such as Baker Library, which is housed directly underneath the Great Dome and deeply embedded within the labyrinthine network of spaces at MIT. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the Charles River, flooding the study spaces with natural light. Following an extensive renovation in 2021 by Kennedy and Violich Architecture, the interior now boasts improved daylight and vertical circulation, flexible gathering spaces, and a redesigned courtyard with a woodland garden that features three sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz.

Ralph Thomas Walker was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1889. After studying architecture at MIT (class of 1911), he received a Rotch Travelling Scholarship and served in the US Army Corps of Engineers in World War I. In 1919, Walker joined the office of McKenzie, Vorhees, and Gmelin (known today as HLW) in New York City, where he became a partner in 1926, designing numerous Art Deco skyscrapers during the twenties and thirties. Walker spent the remainder of his architectural career at the firm, where he also designed various laboratories and research centers across the US. Hayden Memorial Library was designed by Voorhees, Walker, Foley, and Smith, with Walker as principal.

Notable projects completed by Walker include the Barclay-Vesey Telephone Building (now the Verizon Building), New York; the Western Union Building (now 60 Hudson Street), New York; the Irving Trust Building (now One Wall Street), New York; Bell Telephone Laboratories Headquarters Building, Murray Hill, New Jersey; and buildings for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. He was President of the American Institute of Architects from 1949 to 1951 and received the AIA Gold Medal in 1957. Walker died in Chappaqua, New York, in 1973.