Sad, glorious history of the Fogg

Original Fogg Museum (1896), by Richard Morris Hunt. (epodunk.com)

Original Fogg Museum (1896), by Richard Morris Hunt. (epodunk.com)

Here, before I unveil a bit of the sad Fogg history, is an intriguing comment from Eric Daum, whose lengthy and erudite essay on the Gloria Dei Swedish Evangelical Church, in Providence, graced this blog several weeks ago:

I love the quote from the Harvard Magazine article: “Instead of a single main entrance to the museum, there are now two: the old one on Quincy Street; and a new, more welcoming one on the Prescott Street side, as Lentz explained.” This implies that the lovely, human-scaled Georgian door surround of the Fogg with its baroque split pediment is somehow less inviting than the industrial-sized Moulinex chopper through which museum visitors will pass and hope they are not Julienned.

I also have serious concerns about the grey wood siding, a material which has no precedent in Harvard Yard of the immediate neighborhood. Architects in Boston run in fear from brick, considering it limiting and boring and deliberately attempt the novel. One day, perhaps, they will learn that best solution is the simple solution, the obvious solution, the straightforward solution.

Entrance to the Fogg viewed through gate of Sever Quadrangle, at Harvard. (britannica.com)

Entrance to the Fogg viewed through gate of Sever Quadrangle, at Harvard. (britannica.com)

The Fogg defaced by Renzo Piano and discussed in my earlier post is seen in the photograph to the left. In 1925 it replaced the original Fogg, seen in the postcard reprinted atop this post. It was completed in 1896 in a Renaissance style designed by William Morris Hunt. It may be supposed that the replacement was due not to any mere change in stylistic preference but to a need for more space at a growing institution. The museum relocated to the new Shepley Bulfinch Fogg; the Hunt Fogg was used and neglected for another half a century. It was demolished in 1974 to make way for student dorms, assuredly of an ugly modernist style. That’s sad, too, but arguably preferable to the insult represented by the Piano abomination.

“One day, perhaps, they will learn,” Eric hopes. I do not think so. They will never “learn.” They will be evicted by an exercise of democratic power. I believe the return of beauty and common sense in architecture must await a rising in the public, putting pressure on civic leaders, developers and design professionals to build in a way that treats people not like lab rats in a perverted “scientific” experiment but like the citizens of a democracy.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to Sad, glorious history of the Fogg

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