Museum of Fine Arts

Guy Lowell, 1907–1909

The Museum of Fine Arts, incorporated in 1870, held exhibits on the top floor of the Boston Athenaeum until 1876, when it acquired an ornate Victorian Gothic building on Copley Square. In 1909 it followed other Boston institutions to the Fenway cultural center, building this massive granite classical revival building on twelve acres.

Its two original façades on Huntington Avenue and the Fenway offer a contrast. An Ionic temple portico announces the Huntington entrance, and the two flanking wings, each with smaller temple porches, embrace the entrance courtyard and its incongruous equestrian statue of the American Indian. On the Fenway side, the scale is more monumental. A long Ionic colonnade rises two stories across the flat façade.

While the exterior form conveyed a sense of simplicity and organization, interior circulation became more complex with each addition, a problem Norman Foster tried to resolve in his American Wing. In contrast to I. M. Pei’s West Wing addition, with its understated façade of gray granite matching the original building, Foster relied heavily on glass, as he did in renovating Berlin’s Reichstag. By enclosing the two large courtyards, he sought to reestablish their role as organizing points for the series of enfilade galleries that encircle them.

Image: Alexf at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia(Original text : Alex Feldstein's Photo Gallery), CC BY 2.5,