Renzo Piano’s Harvard Art Museum Ready to Open Soon

The newly renovated Fogg Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA will celebrate it’s new opening in November, 2014. Designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop with Payette as Architect of Record, the museum will combine the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler collections into a single, state-of-the-art facility.

H_1It’s no longer called the Fogg – it’s now “The Harvard Art Museums”.  The original building was constructed in 1927, designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott.  Estimated at around $350M, the new complex has kept the original Fogg’s exterior facade and interior courtyard intact (and restored), but the rest of the building has been reconstructed and added on to in such a way as to create a wholly new experience, both inside and out.

H_2With about 204,000 GSF (104,000 renovation, 100,000 new construction), the new complex will connect varying spaces together with a complex climate control system to keep both the visitors and art happy.  From Harvard’s Museum website, here are the building’s major features:

Public Spaces

Calderwood Courtyard
The historic heart of the Fogg Museum, the courtyard has been restored as the central point of circulation in the museums’ new home, and will be open to the public without the purchase of admission. This iconic space is modeled after the façade of the canon’s house of the 15th-century church of San Biagio, in Montepulciano, Italy. Architects Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbott reproduced this façade four times and turned it inward—an effect that suggests a variety of entrances through which the museums can be explored. The renovation and expansion project designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop preserves both the design of the historic courtyard and its function as the center of activity and circulation. The design opens up all of the courtyard’s ground-floor arcades, allowing visitors to move freely through the new facility, from galleries in the original Fogg Museum structure to the Busch-Reisinger Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum galleries in the new addition. The upper-level courtyard arcades provide a connection and central orientation point for visitors to galleries and the Art Study Center. The new glass rooftop allows controlled natural light to illuminate the upper levels of the facility and filter into the courtyard below. The revitalized courtyard also offers interior views throughout the museums to the galleries, the Art Study Center, and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies.

Museum Shop and Cafe
The shop and cafe are located off the Calderwood Courtyard on the first floor as part of a new open circulation path through the building. Visitors will be able to enter the new facility from either the original entrance on Quincy Street or the new entrance on Prescott Street. Both entrances allow access to the courtyard, shop, and cafe without the purchase of admission.

A new bank of three passenger elevators and a new staircase, centrally located just off the courtyard, run through the six levels of public space, making it very easy for visitors to travel through the new facility.


Expanded Exhibition Galleries
The renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums will bring the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums and their collections together under one roof for the first time, providing opportunities to exhibit these collections in ways that create dialogue and juxtaposition between objects from different cultures, time periods, and media. Strengths of the Harvard Art Museums’ collections include Italian early Renaissance paintings, impressionist and postimpressionist works, German expressionist art and materials from the Bauhaus, archaic Chinese jades and bronzes, Greek vases and Mediterranean coins, and works on paper from Islamic lands and India. Total exhibition space has increased by 40 percent, including far more space for special exhibitions (5,000 sq. ft.) and for three university galleries (1,000 sq. ft. each), which are programmed in consultation with students and faculty to support specific coursework. These university galleries, which are open to the public, can also be used for curatorial studies and training or to provide additional space to support the Art Study Center.

Lightbox Gallery
This new gallery space on the top level of the Harvard Art Museums will showcase the intersections of art and technology. The Lightbox Gallery also offers a unique perspective on key spaces and functions, from oblique views into conservation labs, to close-up perspectives on the technical aspects of the glass roof, including its louvers and shades, to a bird’s-eye view down through the building into the historic Calderwood Courtyard.

Study and Research Spaces

Art Study Center
Only a small percentage of the museums’ collections can be displayed in public gallery spaces at any given time. Designed to offer an environment for individual study, the Art Study Center will provide distinct learning opportunities for students, faculty, and the public through the close examination of original works of art from the collections of the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums. Each of the three museums has its own dedicated art study center offering access to thousands of works of art across all media, including Greek vases, Roman bronze figurines, Byzantine coins, Chinese jades, Japanese surimono prints, Islamic miniatures, Rembrandt etchings, Paul Gauguin still lifes, David Smith drawings, or photographs by Diane Arbus. Visits can be arranged through advance appointment. The Art Study Center as a whole (including two seminar rooms and large reception and orientation areas) totals approximately 5,000 square feet and inhabits the fourth floor of the new facility, making it unique in size and scale among U.S. museums.

Lecture Halls and Seminar Rooms
A 300-seat lecture hall for presentations, performances, and events has been created on the new lower level. This and other lecture and classroom spaces will be activated by Harvard faculty and students as well as through public programs and events.

Materials Lab
Located on the lower level, this space will be dedicated to exploring material ingenuity and innovations in art media. The hands-on, active learning experiences conducted will be based on works of art on view in the galleries and in the Art Study Center on the floors above.

Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies
The Harvard Art Museums are home to the first fine arts conservation, research, and training facility established in the United States. Visitors can gain a glimpse of the conservation and research activity under way in the glass-walled Straus Center, located on the building’s uppermost level.






H_8All photos courtesy Architizer.

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