Sarah P. Harkness

Sarah (Sally) Pillsbury Harkness, FAIA (July 8, 1914 — May 22, 2013[1]) was an American architect.[2] She was a cofounder of The Architects Collaborative (TAC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was one of two women among seven young architects who formed the firm with Walter Gropius in 1945.[1] She was an inspirational figure for women in architecture throughout her long career; early on she valued the idea of accessible design and sustainable practices in architecture. She gave voice to these ideals in 1985 as President of the Boston Society of Architects.

Early life and educationEdit

Born Sarah Pillsbury in Swampscott, Massachusetts, but called Sally, she was the daughter of Samuel Hale Pillsbury, a lawyer, and the former Helen Farrington Watters. She graduated from the Winsor School and studied at the Cambridge School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, which was affiliated with Smith College. She also received a Master's certificate in Architecture. In 1941, she married John Cheesman "Chip" Harkness, one of the other co-founders of the Architects Collaborative, and they had seven children.

She attended the Smith College Graduate School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in 1940. She was a founder, in 1945, and Principal Emeritus of the Architects' Collaborative (TAC). She is the author of Sustainable Design for Two Maine Islands, The Architects Collaborative Encyclopedia of Architecture, and co-edited The Architects Collaborative Inc., 1945 to 1965 with Walter Gropius. Her papers are stored at the International Archive of Women in Architecture.

She lived in Lexington, Massachusetts, at Six Moon Hill, a community dwelling designed by TAC. [3]Harkness received a D.F.A. from Bates College in 1974.

Harkness was elected as fellow to the American Institute of Architectsin 1979. [4]

Harkness was a registered architect in both Massachusetts and Tennessee. [4]

Work, Recent ProjectsEdit

Principal Designer of the Olin Arts Center and Ladd Library at Bates College in Lewiston, ME

Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania [4]

Art School Addition at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts [4]

C. Thurston Chase Learning Center of the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts [4]

Co-Partner-in-Charge of Six Moon Hill Lexington, Massachusetts [5]

Partner-in-Charge of Independent Study Unit (Carrel) for the Bedford Middle School in Mount Kisco, New York [5]


1941 Prize, The Boston Society of Architects [4]

1967 The design of the Fox Middle School in Bedford, New York, The American Association of School Administrators Award [4]

1967 Honor Award for the design of the Chase Learning Center of the Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts, The American Institute of Architects [4]

1987 The design of the Olin Arts Center at Bates College, The American School and University of Louis I. Kahn Citation [4]

1991 Award of Honor, The Boston Society of Architects[1]


"Still Standing" - Featured in this 2006 documentary about The Architects Collaborative.

Independent Study Unit (Carrel)Edit

The goal of the Carrel was to provide each student with a study space and privacy. This space consisted of a study space, dining area and coat storage. The independent Study Units were designed for Bedford Middle School. When introducing the Study Unit to the school, a choice was made that two-thirds of the students would have a Carrel and one-third would not. This decision was made through the assumption that not all students would be ready for the independence that the Carrel provides. The Carrels were placed with the storage units, this allowed students to chose between working with their table-mate or independently. This was accomplished by opening the door on their storage unit. For students to be social for lunch, the tables were moved away from the storage units and combined together. This made enough room for six students to eat at the combined table. The arrangement incorporated the students who did not have a Carrel. The Carrels also had screens that could be used to divide the students into groups. All the students' belongings were in their Carrel, including coats which were hung on pegs at the end of the storage units. [5]

Work and MotherhoodEdit

Sarah P. Harkness and Jean B. Fletcher were the only two female founding partners of TAC. They were both mothers, with Harkness having seven children and Fletcher having six. The women worked together to create a schedule that made it possible to work at the firm and to meet the responsibilities as mothers. The women worked half days; Fletcher would work in the morning and Harkness would work in the afternoon. The women also shared the same baby-sitter. [6]


  1. ^ a b c Globe Staff (July 6, 2013). "Sally Harkness, 98; cofounder of The Architects Collaborative was inspirational figure in profession". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on April 28, 2017. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  2. ^ "Obituary For: Sarah Pillsbury Harkness | Douglass Funeral Home". 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
  3. ^ Crosbie, Michael J. (July 1995). "Sarah Pillsbury Harkness: Homemade Modernism" (PDF). Progressive Architecture. Vol. 76. p. 77. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "A Guide to the Sarah Pillsbury Harkness Architectural Collection, 1985-1997, 2013 Harkness, Sarah Pillsbury, Architectural Collection Ms1997-024". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  5. ^ a b c Gropius, Walter (1966). The Architects Collaborative. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Co. Inc.
  6. ^ Torre, Susan (1977). Women in American Architecture: A Historic Contemporary Perspective. New York: Whitney Library of Design. p. 96.