For today’s #ModernMonday posting, we are highlighting the Hayden Memorial Library at MIT.
Located on Memorial Drive, the library is named after Charles Hayden (1870-1937) an MIT alum (1890) who studied “mining investment.” Hayden was a philanthropist who donated vast sums of money for the construction of buildings including; the Hayden Planetarium in New York, the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, and the Hayden Memorial Library at MIT to name a few. Hayden was involved with philanthropy most of his life. During World War I, he donated $100,000 per year to the American Red Cross. Hayden’s largest philanthropic effort came following his death in 1937 when his will directed roughly $50,000,000 ($853 million in today’s dollars) from his estate be used to create a foundation to advance the education and “moral, mental, and physical well-being” of boys and young men. The organization, known today as “The Charles Hayden Foundation”, distributes grants of between $10,000,000 and $20,000,000 annually to support programs for children in the Boston and New York metropolitan areas.
The Hayden Memorial Library at MIT was unveiled beginning in 1946 when the Architectural Record highlighted the design of the building. The building was designed by Ralph Walker (MIT Class of 1911) of Voorhees, Walker, Foley and Smith Architects and was completed in 1951 in a Post-WWII Art Moderne Style. Walker was called “The only other honest architect in America” by Frank Lloyd Wright, and “Architect of the Century” by The New York Times when he received the Centennial Medal of Honor from the American Institute of Architects. He was most well known for his Art Deco buildings in New York. “Three years after accepting his award from the New York Times, he resigned from the AIA amid controversy surrounding a member of his firm who was accused of stealing another firm’s contract. Though he was later cleared of all wrongdoing and reinstated, he was apparently never the same afterwards. Ten years later, in 1973, Walker shot himself with a silver bullet, only after destroying his AIA award. His original firm still exists under the name HLW International, but as Walker and his wife had no children, all that remains of his great legacy are the buildings he created” (Ralph Walker: Architect of the Century).
The Hayden Library inaugurated the expansion and modernization of MIT’s academic facilities and was one of the first truly Modern buildings on the campus. At the time, vast amounts of technical literature – generated largely by the war – had to be housed, and facilities had to be updated to accommodate recent advances in conservation, storage, and photographic reproduction. The Hayden Library would have to meet those demands. The protruding two-story glass bays allow ample natural light into the library and the limestone façade serves as a nod to the older Beaux Arts MIT buildings nearby.
Utilizing the Hayden Library’s initial design goal of “flexibility”, Shepley Bulfinch re-imagined the building as the hub of the MIT Library System in 2012 and it now houses collections for science, engineering, humanities, music, and archives.
The 1951 building remains as a great example of Modern architecture in Cambridge and shows how good architectural design can be timeless and adapted to meet future needs.