Pietro Belluschi, Bldg. W61

  • <p>Red brick and beige building featuring a bright blue sky in the background and sun lighting up the building.</p>

Pietro Belluschi, Bldg. W61

MacGregor House, 1970

Location: Building W61

Located along Memorial Drive, Pietro Belluschi designed MacGregor House (Building W61) in conjunction with The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC), a Cambridge-based firm known for its democratic organization and broad spread of projects and practices that resisted postwar trends toward individualization and specialization. The sixteen-story high-rise and four-story U-shaped low-rise residential areas surround a central courtyard. Many of the common rooms feature bay windows offering sweeping views of the Charles River. The alternating textures of concrete and brick on the exterior create a pleasing rhythmic order, and interior details include warm brick walls and waffle slab ceilings. The design was said to be based on a study that showed that students preferred the cluster concept in dorms, where living spaces were broken down into “family-like” smaller units with a shared common space and kitchen.

Belluschi, who served as dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning from 1951 to 1965, believed strongly in the practical obligations demanded by architecture. He insisted that Modernist endeavors could not lose sight of the lived realities of their users in favor of making sweeping aesthetic declarations at the scale of the building. His leadership was characterized by his humanistic approach to the practice and sensitivity to regionalist visions, along with his cross-disciplinary experience and interests in engineering, architecture, and the literary and visual arts. His perspective was particularly instrumental for the institution’s postwar self-reckoning as it sought to shift its public image from a trade school, focused on sciences and engineering, to a university consciously engaged with the arts and humanities.

Pietro Belluschi (1899–1994) was born in Ancona, Italy. He studied engineering at the University of Rome and Cornell University. After emigrating to the US in 1923, he joined the architecture firm of A. E. Doyle in Portland, Oregon, where he merged his Italianate training with West Coast regionalism. He quickly rose to the ranks of chief designer, and in 1943, the firm was renamed after him. Belluschi’s presence can be particularly felt in Oregon, where he returned in 1973 and spent the final two decades of his life. He participated in the design of over a thousand buildings, including the Equitable Building, Portland; the Bank of America Center, San Francisco; the Juilliard School and Alice Tully Hall, New York (with Eduardo Catalano; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; and the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco (with Pier Luigi Nervi). Projects completed with TAC include the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building), New York, and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Accession Number: 5000.29