The Architects Collaborative

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The Architects Collaborative
Practice information
FoundersNorman C. Fletcher,
Jean B. Fletcher,
Walter Gropius,
John C. Harkness,
Sarah P. Harkness,
Robert S. McMillan,
Louis A. McMillen,
Benjamin C. Thompson.
LocationCambridge, Massachusetts
Manton Research Center at Clark Art Institute, designed by The Architects' Collaborative in 1973

The Architects Collaborative (TAC) was an American architectural firm formed by eight architects that operated between 1945 and 1995 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The founding members were Norman C. Fletcher (1917–2007), Jean B. Fletcher (1915–1965), John C. Harkness (1916–2016), Sarah P. Harkness (1914–2013), Robert S. McMillan (1916–2001), Louis A. McMillen (1916–1998), Benjamin C. Thompson (1918–2002), and Walter Gropius (1883–1969).[1] TAC created many successful projects, and was well respected for its broad range of designs, being considered one of the most notable firms in post-war modernism.


Norman Fletcher, Louis McMillen, Robert McMillan, and Ben Thompson first laid the conceptual foundation for what became the Architects Collaborative while they were classmates at Yale University, where they discussed forming "the World Collaborative," which would be an ideal office combining painting, sculpture, and architecture.[2]

Upon graduation, Norman Fletcher worked with John Harkness during the war at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York, and later, John Harkness worked with Jean Fletcher for Saarinen and Swanson[3] in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan the firm started by Eliel Saarinen. Jean Fletcher and Sarah Harkness had both studied at the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.[2]

This group of friends were committed to forming a collaborative practice. To help them navigate the professional world and lend notability to the firm, they sought to add a senior practitioner. John Harkness pitched the idea of joining the Architects' Collaborative to Walter Gropius, who had asked Harkness to teach a master's class at Harvard. Walter Gropius agreed and became the eighth member of the group.[2] Other principals came to include Richard Brooker, Alex Cvijanović, Herbert Gallagher, William Geddis, Roland Kluver, Peter Morton and H. Morse Payne, Jr.[4]

Design philosophy and organization[edit]

The idea of "collaboration" was the basis of TAC. As described by McMillen, conforming to the ideal of anonymity helped bind the office together.[5] It was carried out in that an entire group of architects have their input on a project, rather than putting an emphasis on individualism. There would be a "partner-in-charge", who would meet with clients and have the final decision of what goes into the design. Originally, each of the eight partners would hold weekly meetings on a Thursday to discuss their projects and be open to design input and ideas. However, as the firm grew larger there were many more people on a team and it was more difficult to consolidate into one group. Therefore, many other "groups" of architects within the firm were formed and carried out the same original objective. The position of the firm's president would be rotated amongst the senior partners.


TAC's initial work consisted of residential projects, mainly single-family houses. The most notable design was Six Moon Hill in Lexington, Massachusetts, a community dwelling in which several of the houses were the residences of the founding partners, excluding Gropius. Another one of TAC's specialties in this period was school buildings, which included many elementary and secondary public schools throughout Massachusetts and New England. TAC also designed many buildings for universities, among which was the Harvard Graduate Center, a small campus of dormitories and a building devoted to student activities.

King Faisal II had a bidding process for the redesign of the city of Bagdad in order to turn into a busting urban center, the process included many popular postwar architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Josep Lluís Sert, and Alvar Aalto.[6] Gropius, alongside The Architects Collaborative designed and planned the entire campus for the University of Baghdad, from 1958 to 1963.[7][6] Only a few of Gropius' designs survived into the campus' final iteration, the faculty tower, a few classroom buildings, and the Open Mind monument.[6] The project was met with both financial and political difficulties over several years which hampered a timely completion.[7]

TAC's other work included many corporate, government, and recreational buildings in both the United States and internationally.

In its initial decades, TAC's architecture was mainly in the International Style, early examples of which had been created by Gropius and his colleagues at the Bauhaus and elsewhere. Starting in the 1970s, TAC's style largely shifted from modernism to postmodernism, which was generally coming into favor in the architectural field.

Later years and demise[edit]

As the firm's staff increased and the scope of the projects became more complex, and an office in Rome was opened in the 1960s, which oversaw projects primarily in Europe and the Middle East. This was followed by the opening of an office in San Francisco in 1985.

Gropius was a part of TAC until his death in 1969 at age 86. The group continued on, but the firm fell into financial problems in the 1980s. This was largely due to TAC being unable to pay expenses which they owed to various financial institutions and other corporations. Among other things, the firm had been losing money in unbuilt designs, especially in the Middle East. TAC was bankrupt and closed in April 1995. In response, many archives and architectural libraries worked fast to retrieve TAC's drawings and records. The majority of these are now stored in the Rotch Library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[8] While the innovative process the TAC architects believed so deeply was carried out successfully, it did not become the norm for architectural firms.


For the most part TAC functioned as a team rather than on an individual basis, which was considered a unique method of architectural practice, which reflected Gropius' philosophy of working collaboratively with others when he was a Bauhaus instructor in Germany prior to TAC.

Notable works[edit]

Years Location Notes
1947–1950 Six Moon Hill; Moon Hill Rd, Lexington, Massachusetts [1]
1951–1959 Five Fields; Lexington, Massachusetts A neighborhood featuring plots of land for use by the community.[9]
1949 Harvard Graduate Center; Cambridge, Massachusetts [7]
1958–1963 University of Baghdad; Baghdad, Iraq The largest project with work by Walter Gropius, as of 2012 this school serves 30,000 students in 273 buildings.[7][10][6]
1958–1963 Pan-American World Airways Building; New York, New York with Emery Roth & Sons.[7]
1957 Walter-Gropius-Haus; Händelallee 1-9, Berlin, Germany also known as "Gropiushaus“[11]
1960 Wayland High School; Wayland, Massachusetts demolished 2012.[12][13][14]
1961 Embassy of the United States, Athens, Greece with consulting architect Pericles A. Sakellarios.[15]
1961–1966 John Fitzgerald Kennedy Office Building; Boston, Massachusetts
1962 Parkside Elementary School; Columbus, Indiana
1965 Rosenthal Porcelain Factory; Selb, Bavaria, Germany
1967 IPS Building; Nairobi, Kenya
1969 Tower East; Shaker Heights, Ohio
1973 AIA Headquarters Building; Washington, D.C.
1973 Amathus Beach Hotel; Limassol, Cyprus The first hotel designed by TAC (in collaboration with the Cyprus-based firm Colakides and Associates).
1974 Health Sciences Expansion; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
1976 San Francisco Tower; Kansas City, Missouri
1976–1979 Bauhaus Archive; Berlin, Germany
1979–1984 Corporate Headquarters for CIGNA; Bloomfield, Connecticut
1972 Shirley S. Okerstrom Fine Arts Building; Traverse City, Michigan
1973 Manton Research Center, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts [16]
1975 Jubail Industrial Complex, Jubail, Saudi Arabia An Industrial town and housing development joint project with Bechtel Group providing engineering.[17]
1984 O'Neill Library; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
1984 Copley Place; Boston, Massachusetts A mixed-use retail, cinema, hotel, office building development
1988 Heritage on the Garden; Boston, Massachusetts a condominium facing the Public Garden
1982–1986 Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, Sharq area, Kuwait [18]
1989 Snell Library; Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
1990 Flagship Wharf Condominiums; Charlestown Navy Yard, Massachusetts

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Six Moon Hill". Society of Architectural Historians, SAH Archipedia. 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  2. ^ a b c Kubo, Michael (Summer 2013). "The Cambridge School".
  3. ^ Kubo, Michael. "Jean Bodman Fletcher". Pioneering Women of American Architecture. Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation. Retrieved 30 January 2022.
  4. ^ Flowers, Benjamin. "The Architects Collaborative (TAC)". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Gropius, Walter; Harkness, Sarah P. (1966). The Architects Collaborative 1945-1965. Teufen AR, Switzerland: Arthur Niggli LTD.
  6. ^ a b c d Wisniewski, Katherine (2015-03-05). "Baghdad Could Have Been a Mega-City by Frank Lloyd Wright". Curbed. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Walter Gropius & The Architects Collaborative: The University of Baghdad, Baghdad Iraq Modern Ideals and Regionalism in a Tumultuous World – Postwar Campus". North Carolina State University (NC State), Postwar Campus. May 7, 2018. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  8. ^ Rotch Library's TAC Archive Page Archived 2013-07-03 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Schwab, Katharine (2017-02-21). "A Utopian Midcentury Neighborhood Gets Updated For Helicopter Parents". Fast Company. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  10. ^ Polier, Alexandra (February 29, 2012). "Architecture in Baghdad". Dwell. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  11. ^ Insight Guides Pocket Berlin. Apa Publications (UK) Limited. 2016-04-18. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-78671-030-7.
  12. ^ "Days Numbered for Midcentury-Modern School by The Architects Collaborative". BNP Media. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  13. ^ "Walter Gropius, 1883–1969". 20th Century Architecture. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  14. ^ Graves, Carson. "50 years of Wayland High School". Wicked Local. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  15. ^ "US Embassy, Athens, Greece". Docomomo US. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  16. ^ "The Clark Art Institute Turns Its 140-Acre Meadow into an Exhibition Site". Metropolis. 2020-11-06. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  17. ^ Architects Collaborative, Inc; Group, Bechtel (1975). "Jubail Industrial Complex". {{cite journal}}: |first1= has generic name (help); Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Architects Collaborative, Inc (2011-12-07). "Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science Headquarters". {{cite journal}}: |first= has generic name (help); Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • "TAC: Principles Process & Product", Currie, Leonard J. and Currie, Virginia M., Process: Architecture, V 19 pp 40–45, October, 1980 ISBN 0-89860-045-6
  • "The Architects Collaborative 1945-1965"
  • "The Architects Collaborative Suspends Operations", Progressive Architecture, v76, June 1995.
  • "Thirty-five Years of TAC", Harkness, John C., Process: Architecture, v19, pp 11–15, October, 1980 ISBN 0-89860-045-6

External links[edit]