TASK: A Magazine for the Younger Generation of Architecture

Task Exhibit

TASK was published in Robinson Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) was based before moving to Gund Hall in 1972. The magazine was published by architecture students at the GSD, MIT, and Smith College, and was consistently active from 1941 to 1945, during which time six issues were printed. A final double-issue was released in 1948. Like many student publications, TASK was a platform for the exchange of information, ideas, and experiences. In the first issue, published in the summer of 1941, the editors wrote that the magazine was meant to be an “expression of students who realize that architects today are unaware of the rapidly changing needs of society or unable to answer them.” Like FOCUS, a British counterpart started in 1938 by students at the Architectural Association, TASK sought to establish a voice for the younger generation it represented amid a time of crisis and war.

Articles published in TASK reflected a broad range of interdisciplinary interests and an international perspective that have characterized the GSD since its founding. I. M. Pei’s bachelor’s thesis—Standardized Propaganda Units for the Chinese Government—was completed at MIT in 1940 and published in TASK 2 in 1941. Writing on subjects ranging from defense housing and education to reconstruction in Poland and Soviet architecture, contributors included such figures as Edward Larrabee Barnes, Lazslo Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius, Christopher Tunnard, Hannes Meyer, Catherine Bauer, Mary Cooke, Martin Meyerson, Harry Cobb, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Julian Huxley, and Joseph Hudnut.

I.M. Pei at the GSD

Ieoh Ming (I. M.) Pei was born on April 26, 1917, in Guangzhou, China. During his childhood, he lived in Hong Kong and Shanghai. In 1934, he traveled to the United States to study architecture, expecting to return to his native country to practice. He initially enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, but soon transferred to MIT, where he received his bachelor of architecture degree in 1940. In 1942, he met and soon married his lifelong partner, Eileen Loo, who was enrolled in the landscape architecture program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD).

I.M. was immersed in the lively academic and social milieu of the GSD, and he enrolled in the spring of 1943. Among other faculty, he studied under Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, and following a brief interruption in his studies caused by World War II he submitted his master’s thesis in 1946. The project, titled A Museum of Chinese Art for Shanghai, incorporates the bare wall and the small garden patio, a spare use of architectural elements rooted in a traditional cultural context yet firmly embracing a modernist sensibility. Such modern translations of traditional designs have become emblematic of what I. M. himself has referred to as the “enduring quality” of his work.

On graduation from the GSD, I. M. taught a variety of architecture classes as an assistant professor at the School. In 1954, he became an American citizen, and in 1955, he established what would become one of the most celebrated and renowned architectural practices of the 20th century, currently known under the name Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Among many other honors, I. M. has been awarded with the Pritzker Prize (1983) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1993). With this exhibition, the GSD is proud to celebrate I. M.’s formative years at the School, an unparalleled career now spanning eight decades, and his 100th birthday.


This exhibition was initiated by Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Faculty of Design, Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design

Curatorial Team:
Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Interim Chair of the Department of Architecture
Ines Zalduendo, Special Collections Archivist & Reference Librarian

Administration and Development:
Patricia Roberts, Executive Dean
Beth Kramer, Associate Dean for Development & Alumni Relations

Frances Loeb Library:
Ann Whiteside, Director of the Frances Loeb Library
Irina Gorstein, Conservator
Ardys Kozbial, Collections and Outreach Librarian
Alix Reiskind, Digital Initiatives Librarian

Office of Communications:
Ken Stewart, Assistant Dean and Director of Communications and Public Programs
Dan Borelli, Director of Exhibitions, MDes ‘12
David Zimmerman-Stuart, Exhibitions Coordinator
Travis Dagenais, Communications Manager
Marianna Gonzalez, MArch I ’19, Model Fabrication

Installation Team:
Jef Czekaj, Ray Coffey, Anita Kan, Sarah Lubin, Jesus Matheus, Matt Murphy, William Talbot Penniman IV, and Joanna Vouriotis