Sert House in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Sert House in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1957-1958) is considered a paradigm of the courtyard-house-type. Designed by the Catalan master Josep Lluís Sert as his private home while he was dean at the GSD the house was conceived as a prototype to be paired with its mirror, “…as part of a future group in a row.”

The house sits on a 900m2 trapezoidal plot of land previously owned by Harvard, at Irving Street, northeast of campus near the Divinity School. Although Sert thought the structure to fit on a 500m2 plot since its basic rectangular form is only 40 x 100 feet – excluding the two protruding volumes of the garage and guest room which expands it to 60 feet wide.

Le Corbusier’s Modulor dimensions and proportioning system were applied throughout the house. Thus, the floor plan proportions derive from the central courtyard, a 7.32m x 7.32m (twice 3.66m), from which the living and dining areas, and the bedrooms volume, as well as the two enclosed courtyards at the north and south are set.

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The sketch above is based on one made by Sert himself where he budgeted the house cost and laid out the basic spaces.

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Above is a spatial axonometric of the house and transversal section of living and dining room.

More important for me in this page is the small floor plan sketch illustrate a row of trees that were planted by Sert inside his property limits but outside the bedrooms courtyard wood fence, an idea that provided an extended sence of the southern boundaries, years later became a property limit issue with the neighbors.

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Below, on top of the perspective view of the main courtyard there’s a partial interior elevation sketch of Sert’s wife dressing room. Here the longitudinal mirror is capped by a pair of square windows in order to cast an equal amount of natural light to the person in front of it. Below the mirror is a cantilevered drawer chest, all of which as been set (mirror and drawers) at seating height.
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2 thoughts on “Sert House in Cambridge, Massachusetts

    1. Hi, the house is privately owned but you could arrange a visit through the Graduate School of Design at Harvard.

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