Harvard University Architecture: Memorial Hall

When walking through Boston’s renowned Harvard Yard, one may scope out the mixture of architecture throughout its landscape. From the traditional Memorial Hall influenced by Romanesque churches, to the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard Yard is like a salad bowl of architecture. Perhaps because I am a lover of Victorian style structures, or maybe because of its interior’s beauty and richness, Memorial Hall intrigued my interest most of all.

Memorial Hall, which was originally a civil war monument, is now a theater and student union for Harvard University. The 19th century architects Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt designed this building to resemble the Victorian Gothic Romanesque churches of the time. Memorial Hall contains a theater, dinning hall, and a crossing (the civil war memorial).

The use of brick color on Memorial Hall is an important aspect of its exterior, as it creates a striped pattern and border along the outside walls. Furthermore, the slate on the roof displays a pattern to view as well. Upon examining this building one can’t help but notice the traditional stained glass windows at the crossing of the structure. Although none of the stained glass windows contain religious references, the architects used the glass to create the traditional rose window, common in Victorian architecture. This window also allows a colorful light inside the memorial of the building. The interior of Memorial Hall differs from the gothic structures that the building resembles from the outside. While gothic structures were composed mostly of stone, Memorial Hall is decorated with walnut. The vaulting, which traditionally would be made of stone, is made of wood. There is a repeated use of the rosette, trefoil, quatrefoil, and cross motifs that help connect the exterior with the interior of the building. These details are found in the wood carvings of Sanders Theater, the great transept doors, the sandstone frieze that surrounds the exterior, the columns and wrought iron gates, the buttress, the stained glass windows, and the chandeliers. Also there is ornamental ironwork that outlines the roof if Sanders Theater and crowns the four subsidiary towers. Another feature of Memorial Hall that captures the mood of its exterior is the layout of the remaining original furnishings throughout the building. The materials used to construct the interior and exterior of Memorial Hall create a defined space in which the building captivates.

When I walked through Memorial Hall I became instantly drawn into the structure. The marble floors, the dark wood moldings, and the gold, maroon, and green décor are qualities that I find most attractive to my eyes when it comes to interior design. The lighting inside of the building was dim, yet it was nighttime when I visited so I was unable to capture the full affects of the stained glass windows. I can imagine however that the sun sends colorful images and vibrant light throughout the structure when it shines over the city of Boston and through Memorial Hall’s stained glass windows. There is a vibe of richness and mystery running through the halls of Memorial Hall. The high arched ceilings and open staircases make it seem as though the building stretches on into eternity. I couldn’t help but wonder about the events of this building’s background. As I walked out of Memorial Hall I said to my friend Brie, “That building’s beauty almost left me speechless.” Brie glanced at me with a dazed expression that mirrored my own, as she simply nodded with agreement.


Published by Author Stacy A. Padula

Stacy Padula has spent the last 14 years working daily with teenagers as a college counselor, mentor, and life coach. She was named "Top Inspirational Author of the Year" for 2022 by the International Association of Top Professionals (New York, NY). In 2021, she was broadcast on the famous Reuters Building in Times Square as "Empowered Woman of the Year." Her Gripped book series is currently being adapted for TV by Emmy-winning producer Mark Blutman. She is the founder and CEO of Briley & Baxter Publications: a publishing company that donates a portion of its proceeds to animal rescues each month. She has edited and published a variety of titles, including Boston Bruins Anthem Singer Todd Angilly and Rachel Goguen's The Adventures of Owen & the Anthem Singer, LaTonya Pinkard of Netflix's Last Chance U's Nate & His Magic Lion, and former NHL player Norm Beaudin's memoir The Original: Living Life Through Hockey. Stacy resides in Plymouth, Massachusetts with her husband Tim and two miniature dachshunds, Briley and Baxter.

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