Incredibly busy Italian architect Renzo Piano has finally completed work on the Harvard Art Museums, the culmination of a six-year renovation that united a protected 1920s Georgian Revival building with its opposite, a contemporary addition with an Alaskan cedar exterior stained gray to resemble New England clapboard. The two buildings—now henceforth referred to as the good twin and the evil twin—share the same soaring glass roof, which disperses light as only a Renzo-designed roof can, and contain art collections that were formerly housed in three distinct museums.
Most people think of the Harvard campus as home to mostly 19th-century buildings, but there's actually quite a lot of starchitecture. Renzo's new museum building sits right next to the only building that famous French modernist Le Corbusier built in the U.S., the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts. This latest project, which was argued about for a staggering 17 years, was a lot more complicated, due to the fact that the 1920s Georgian Revival museum had historic building status. Renzo was not allowed to change anything designed before 1925 or the façade, but he got to do as he wished with any additions or alterations that happened after that. He demolished all of them.
The 1920s good twin, described as "an absolute wreck" in a talk the architect gave at Harvard, required extensive structural, mechanical, and technical upgrades. The evil twin makes ample use of natural light and has allowed Harvard to increase its exhibition space by forty percent. The two buildings together hold around 250,000 objects in 200,000 square feet of space, including significant collections of European, American, and Asian art, as well as antiquities. The updated Harvard Art Museums opens to the public on Nov. 16 with a Mark Rothko exhibition. Photos, below:
· Renzo Piano Building Workshop - Harvard Art Museums renovation and expansion [Official site]
· Confrontation at Harvard Art Museums [Art News]
· All Renzo Piano coverage [Curbed National]
· All Grand Reveals posts [Curbed National]