Harvard Art Museums Reopen After Being 'Taken Apart' And 'Put Back Together'

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Exterior of the Harvard Art Museums (Courtesy Peter Vanderwarker)
Exterior of the Harvard Art Museums (Courtesy Peter Vanderwarker)

The Harvard Art Museums reopened Sunday after more than six years of renovations.

"This has been much more than a building project," says Thomas Lentz, director of the Harvard Art Museums. "In reality, we've taken everything apart here — physically, structurally, operationally, even conceptually — and put it back together again."

Lentz recently took Radio Boston on a tour of the museums, starting in the Calderwood Courtyard. He called the courtyard the "the newly transformed heart of the Harvard Art Museums." It's a stunning, light-drenched courtyard. It has the feel of an open piazza, which is fitting, given that the well-known Italian architect, Renzo Piano, designed it.

The very top floor of the remodeled museum contains a "Lightbox Gallery," where you can look out across the steepled rooftops of Harvard and much of Cambridge. Even on a cloudy day, light pours in through Renzo Piano's glass and steel structure, lighting up the stone courtyard below and the adjacent galleries.

The "Art Study Center" — a 5,000 square foot gallery — or study area — is designed to encourage that idea of "close looking" at art. The room works a bit like a lending library: students can come in and check out a piece of art and then just sit with it.


Thomas Lentz, director of the Harvard Art Museums, which tweets @harvartmuseums.

Joseph Thompson, director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which tweets @MASS_MoCA.


The ARTery: First Look Inside Expanded Harvard Art Museums

  • "Since the project began with the closing of the institution’s Fogg Museum and Busch-Reisinger museums in 2008, he’s taken the iconic Italian Renaissance-style courtyard at the heart of the 1927 Fogg, which has been protected with listing on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1980s, and extended it upward and crowned it with a futuristic-looking, steel and glass pyramid that floods the five-story-tall space with sun."

The ARTery: 7,000 Photos By Chinese Dissident Ai Weiwei Help Open The Harvard Art Museums

  • "The staff at the Harvard Art Museums unveils its new building Sunday with a free open house celebration. Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the academic institution’s galleries, laboratories and atrium to be more inviting to general public."


The Harvard Art Museum's Straus Center. (Courtesy Peter Vanderwarker)
The Harvard Art Museum's Straus Center. (Courtesy Peter Vanderwarker)

This segment aired on November 17, 2014.


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