After enduring years of scattered offices and classrooms, the Harvard anthropology department desired a new, consolidated space. With the help of Kennedy & Violich Architecture, the 1971 Tozzer Library was transformed from what was originally just a building wing into the independent Tozzer Anthropology Building. In short, the renovation would completely transform the building’s envelope and reunite the anthropology department for the first time in over 50 years.

Tasked with strict guidelines from University officials, the architects worked within the administration’s following three criteria: the preservation of the existing infrastructure and foundation, an increase of building’s square footage by 25%, and the creation of a new public identity for the anthropology department.

The architects chose a brick that expresses an authentic contemporary materiality, yet still resonates with the enduring quality of a nineteenth century structure. Although the new building uses brick veneer construction, one of its contemporary features is the meticulously corbelled brick detail at the entry.


The building’s new entry features inclined courses that exactly follow the massing’s geometry. The corbelled brick details were digitally modeled course by course and mocked-up by local masons. A tilted metal stud back-up cantilevers past the second floor, creating a 30-foot brick entry that has no control joints or relieving angles but instead just one custom-designed loose lintel set above the hung brick ceiling.

The main building is wrapped by thin, taught brick bands that express the existing slab, off of which the new brick envelope is relieved. Vertical expansion joints are staggered between floor levels while horizontal expansion joints occur behind recessed soldier courses. With a play of thick and thin, the design creates an authentic brick expression that reflects not only contemporary construction and existing reuse requirements, but also reflects the layered brick of the nearby Landmarked Peabody Museum.

The project was designed to above LEED Gold Certification.


For more of Tozzer Anthropology Building, see its feature article in Brick In Architecture.  It will also appear in the December issue of Architect magazine.