If you enter Harvard Yard from Quincy Street near its intersection with Massachusetts Avenue, watch for the rushing rabbit, grinning cat, top hat, and other small images in the subtly structured black ironwork of the gate, completed in December 2020. These might entice you to stop and look for more connections to children’s books, especially “Alice in Wonderland.”
Beyond the metal, on the ceiling of a space inside the granite portion of the gate, you might note a cautionary quote from Lewis Carroll, best viewed after settling in and gazing up. You would find other small characters and objects carved within the granite and maybe marvel at the swells, swerves, and meeting points of the whole. My photos here hint at possible discoveries. Links in red will lead to powerful photos by Kris Snibbe and an enlightening interview with Eric Höweler, cofounding principal of Höweler + Yoon Architecture and finally to Houghton Library’s online exhibit about “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” These are rewarding resources, whether or not you can get to the gate.
“As we were designing, we wondered if the gate could embody some of the themes from “Alice in Wonderland,” which is about norms and exceptions, perception, tricks of scale, and whimsy. For example, the ironwork gate itself is made up of horizontal bars that coincide with the inflection points of the stone, but they also resemble bookshelves.” (quote from Eric Höweler in interview with Harvard Gazette, Dec 14, 2020)
“This month a new gate was unveiled in Harvard Yard, near Houghton Library. It was made possible through support from Peter J. Solomon ’60, M.B.A. ’63, and his wife, Susan, as part of a larger gift, announced in January 2019, to renovate Houghton Library. That donation also included an extensive collection of rare and treasured children’s literature and illustrations, including a copy of the suppressed first edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” ” (quote from article in Harvard Gazette, Dec 14, 2020)
“So don’t be late! Venture again through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole, along to the mad tea party and the queen’s croquet ground. Please try to keep your head, and don’t seek to find a moral anywhere.” ( quote from introduction to online exhibition, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at 150, Houghton Library)