Renzo Piano Building Workshop, with Payette, 2014
Harleston Parker Medal, 2021
This six-year long, $350M project united Harvard's Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums in a single state-of-the-art facility, and expanded gallery space by 40%. A new glass, pyramidal roof over the old Fogg's classical interior courtyard centers the six levels of galleries, classrooms, lecture halls, workrooms, archives, and study areas. This carefully detailed "light machine," as Piano called it, includes 320 glass panels and 1,800 glass louvers which all work together to maximize light in the galleries while protecting the art from harmful infrared light.
The design integrates the neighboring Carpenter Center with views from the galleries and a connection to the iconic ramp along Prescott St. Some see this as helpful in restoring focus on Le Corbusier's only U.S. building, while others find it clunky at best and blasphemous at worst. The upper facade of Alaskan Yellow Cedar strips that change orientation at the building's corners provide a subtle detail, if one of questionable durability in the local climate. Certain gallery features seem half-baked, e.g. window bays on opposite sides of the building shaded by elaborate screens on rolling tracks, apparently to tailor light exposure for changing exhibitions; it seems they have never moved from their original position.
The 1925 red brick Fogg Museum facing Quincy St. was protected with landmark status, and from Harvard Yard it appears as if little has changed. Approaching the new entry on the opposite side, the building announces its presence boldly - a massive box over a stone base, punched with glass, with some of the structure exposed. Regardless of your point of entry, discovering the replica Italianate courtyard in the center of this massive new building is one of the more surprising and delightful architectural experiences to be found around Boston. This is a wonderful updated space for the Harvard community and its visitors to sample Harvard's 250,000-piece art collection.
For more information including visiting hours, see: www.harvardartmuseums.org.
Images: ©Anton Grassl / Esto