Sophia Hayden Bennett (1868-1953)

Fine Arts Museum

Fine Arts Museum
elevation, 1890
watercolor, ink and pencil on paper

Sophia Hayden Bennett was born in 1868 in South America. She entered MIT in 1886 and in 1890, became the first woman to receive a degree in architecture from the Institute. The following year, she entered a design competition for a Woman's Building to depict the place of woman in the world of art for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.Sophia Hayden Bennett

There is a striking resemblance between Bennett's thesis project for a A Fine Arts Museum and the Woman's Building. Both feature an Italian Renaissance detailing, straight-forward massing, and both make use of projecting pavilions and skylights. Eugène Létang's influence on her work is apparent. The similarities are also apparent in the plans. Both are compact and feature devices such as projecting and recessed pavilions.

Of the many buildings designed by former MIT students, the Woman's Building was quite significant in that all aspects of the building were planned by women. While the design of the building was not unusual for its time, the concept was. The Board of Lady Managers, headed by Mrs. Potter Palmer, not only held a competition and designated their architect, but women artists and artisans also carried out the decorative program, with notable artists like Mary Cassatt responsible for the murals.

Fine Arts Museum

Fine Arts Museum
plan and section, 1890
watercolor, ink and pencil on paper

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