Next House Dormitory, 1971
Located along Memorial Drive, Josep Lluís Sert’s Next House (Building W71) pays homage to the brickwork and zigzagging volumes of Alvar Aalto’s Baker House while substituting the fluid curvatures with rigid angles and modest cantilevered elements across the facade.
A band of windows wraps around the entire second level of the structure. Dorm rooms are organized along a single long hallway, endowing the plan with programmatic clarity. The bends in the structure break up the extended hallway, allowing for the creation of smaller communal groups within the greater housing complex.
Unlike most housing units on campus, Next House does not derive its name from a donor. During the planning stages of development, administrators referred to the five-story building by its address, 500 Memorial Drive. Students began referring to it as “Next House,” simply owing to its location as the “next” house along the row of dorms on Memorial Drive. As the largest donor was anonymous, the students’ name eventually stuck and remains in use today.
Josep Lluís Sert was born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1902. After graduating from Escuela Superior de Arquitectura, Barcelona, he moved to Paris in 1929 to work for Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. The latter’s language of modernism remained a consistent influence in Sert’s architectural practice. Sert was involved in the Spanish architecture group GATEPAC (Grupo de Arquitectos y Técnicos Españoles para el Progreso de la Arquitectura Contemporánea) and CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture). He was well-known for his collaborations with modernist artists, designing the 1937 Spanish Pavilion for the Paris Exposition (famously known as the setting for Picasso’s monumental mural Guernica) and studios and homes for Joan Miró and Georges Braque.
In the wake of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, Sert sought refuge in the United States. He formed Sert, Jackson, and Associates with Huson Jackson in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and served as the dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1953 to 1969, where he founded the urban design program. Sert designed a number of buildings on Harvard’s campus, including the Holyoke Center, the Harvard University Science Center, and Peabody Terrace. He commissioned Le Corbusier to build the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the only building in North America designed primarily by the Swiss-French architect. Sert, Jackson, and Associates received the American Institute of Architects Architecture Firm Award in 1977, and Sert was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1981. He died in Barcelona in 1983.