Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Jewett Arts Center

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Institution Name: Wellesley College
Original/Historic Place Name: Jewett Arts Center
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1956-1958original construction Rudolph, Paul
Designer: Paul Rudolph
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Walls: brick; glass; metal (exterior)
Roof: glass and aluminum skylights
1958-present (2006)auditorium (performance and exhibition space)
1958-present (2006)library (various libraries)
1958-present (2006)classrooms
1958-present (2006)administration
1958-present (2006)academic department building (arts)

The Jewett Arts Center is important not only as the work of a well-known architect, but also for its harmonious union with its surroundings while remaining a strong statement of modern architecture. Architect Paul Rudolph studied under Walter Gropius at Harvard Graduate School of Design, and later served as dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University, where he designed several buildings, including the Yale Arts and Architecture School.

Rudolph related the Arts Center to the surrounding buildings on Wellesley's campus by quoting the Collegiate Gothic style in the building's elaboration. The main exterior material of the Arts Center is brick, matched in color to the brick of the surrounding structures. He used a bay width of 15 feet to correspond with the width of existing bays on the Collegiate Gothic buildings on Norumbega Hill. Pointed aluminum skylights on the roof of the visual arts wing echo the shape of the dormers on the Gothic structures. In addition, the concrete copings are similar in texture and color to the limestone moldings of the window and door surrounds on the adjacent buildings. Finally, Rudolph employed the use of clustered columns of a concrete aggregate reminiscent of the Gothic columns in texture and color.

The building is composed of three sections: two wings, one devoted to the visual arts and one to the performing arts, are bridged by an exhibition gallery. The original design intent was to locate studios in the upper stories of the visual arts wing; thus, large expanses of glass and skylights were used to provide the maximum amount of natural light. An interesting feature of this wing of the building is the "brise-soleils" shielding the windows on the north and south elevations. These porcelain-on-aluminum grilles provide a sunscreen, cutting the sun's glare and adding textural richness to the building.The performing arts wing is a more solid and inward-looking structure because it does not have the same large-scale use of glass.

Of note in the interior is the sculpture gallery. The cantilevered stairs leading to the gallery, the screened light providing perfect natural light for the gallery, the plan within the gallery incorporating different spatial levels, and the mosaic tiled floor are architectural details that contribute to the uniqueness of this space.

The location of the Jewett Arts Center location on the Academic Quadrangle affirms the importance of the arts at Wellesley College. The building also acts as a gateway, bringing people from the parking area on the west side or at the rear of the building into the heart of the campus, the academic quadrangle. This is accomplished through an elaborate system of stairs, which pull the visitor beneath the building and up onto Norumbega Hill. As one passes under the gallery of the Jewett Arts Center to surmount the stairs, the Stone Tower becomes the central focus.

Jewett was built to replace the Farnsworth Art Building which had been constructed in 1889 and was reaching its capacity in the early 1900s. In 1954 when the board of trustees felt that time had run out in solving the problem of additional space for the arts program, Frederick Jewett pledged the necessary funds to construct an arts center. At that time his wife, Mary Cooper Jewett, a college alumna, was a trustee of the college. Jewett's initial contribution was for an arts building. However, once he learned of the need for a music facility as well, he expanded his pledge to include an arts center of two parts: the Mary Cooper Jewett Art building in honor of his wife, and the Margaret Weyerhauser Jewett Music Building in honor of his mother, who had studied music at Wellesley in the 1880s. In 1961 the family established the Jewett Arts Center Maintenance Fund, endowed by the family to ensure continued maintenance of the building.


Dixon, John Morris. "Campus = Context: The Context of a University Campus Building Reaches Beyond Physical Relationships to Include the Institution's Mission and Its Place in the Wider World." Architecture 92 (October 2003): 41-43.

Fergusson, Peter, James F. O'Gorman, and John Rhodes. The Landscape & Architecture of Wellesley College. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College, 2000.

Gaines, Thomas A. The Campus as a Work of Art. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Saarinen, Eero. "Campus Planning, the Unique World of the University." Architectural Record 128 (November 1960): 123-30.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.


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