History

William James Hall, built in 1963 and designed by famed architect Minoru Yamasaki. Harvard University hired Yamasaki to design a new building to house the new Behavioral Science Department, including: offices, laboratories, animal quarters, classrooms and a library for the growing department. The new building was constructed largely of precast concrete panels, set inside slender columns which were poured in place concrete.  Yamasaki is likely most well-known for his 1970 design of the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. Yamasaki also designed Harvard’s Engineering Science Lab at 40 Oxford Street in 1962.

The building stands at 215 feet, comprised of 15 stories (16 1/2 if you count the mezzanine and the penthouse on the roof). The 15-story structure was designed in the New-Formalism style which Yamasaki perfected. He is known today as being one of the two masters (Edward Durell Stone being the other) of the architectural style, which typically exemplified symmetrical facades, columnar arched supports and smooth-finished and un-adorned wall materials, commonly in a white color.

The $5.8 million dollar building was named for William James, a philosopher, whose pioneer work was undertaken at Harvard. Initially trained in painting, James abandoned the arts and enrolled in Harvard in 1861 to study chemistry and anatomy. In 1875 James taught one of the university’s first courses in psychology, “The Relations between Physiology and Psychology,” for which he established the first experimental psychology demonstration laboratory. In 1890 James published a highly influential, two-volume synthesis and summary of psychology, Principles of Psychology. The books were widely read in North America and Europe, gaining attention and praise from Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in Vienna. James then moved away from experimental psychology to produce more philosophical works (he is credited as one of the founders of the school of American Pragmatism), although he continued to teach psychology until he retired from Harvard in 1907.

“The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.” -William James