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Making Harvard’s art accessible

Harvard Art Museums’ renovation and expansion, designed by Renzo Piano, unites the historic Fogg Museum in Cambridge with the Busch-Reisinger Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum into one 204,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.

External view
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Six levels dedicated to art
Click on the play buttons to listen to audio commentaries from Sebastian Smee, art critic for the Globe.
Gallery space
Public space
Lab, work, specialized storage
Escalators, elevators
Glass roof
Accessible to light
The complex glass-and-steel roofing system’s ability to control natural light and stream it into the facility has earned it the label the “Light Machine.” Lighting, window shades, and temperature are all controlled by museum staff from a variety of mobile devices operated remotely.
Level 5
Where science and technology meet art
The Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies is the oldest fine arts conservation, research, and training facility in the United States. Visitors can glimpse the activity underway in the glass-walled center.
Level 4
Taking a closer look
The Art Study Center offers visitors the opportunity to examine thousands of original works of art from the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums upon request.
Gallery space
Public space
Lab, work, specialized storage
Escalators, elevators
Level 3
Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern works of art fill the arcades surrounding the courtyard as well as the Collections Galleries on this floor. The Special Exhibitions Gallery presents new research on artists and artistic practice. The inaugural exhibition in this space is “Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals.” Three University Galleries offer a peek into student coursework.
Wing gallery
Winter Garden
Level 2
Collections Galleries
Galleries on this floor showcase work from around the world. The University Collections Gallery is dedicated to the display of works of art from other Harvard University collections. The inaugural installation in this space is of African objects from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Islamic Art
Prescott St. Entrance
Calderwood Courtyard
Quincy St. Entrance
Level 1
Courtyard connects everything
Mirroring an Italian piazza or city square, Calderwood Courtyard is the focal point of the museums’ activity. Natural light from the glass roof funnels down into the courtyard and diffuses through adjoining spaces. The Collections Galleries on this floor feature modern and contemporary works of art, as well as Asian art.
Contemporary Art
The view from Calderwood Courtyard
This space is free and open to the public. The travertine stone is designed after the façade of the canon’s house of the 15th-century church of San Biagio, in Montepulciano, Italy. As part of the renovation, the stonework was cleaned and rehabilitated.
Looking up
A sophisticated climate-control system, which includes the glass roof, keeps visitors comfortable and artwork safe. Glass walls open upper-level floors to light while allowing visitors to see art conservation and research work that has typically been done behind closed doors.
Gallery space
Public space
Lab, work, specialized storage
Escalators, elevators
Lecture Hall
Lecture Hall
Lower level
A gathering space below ground
This new floor is dedicated to presentations, performances, and events and includes a 300-seat lecture hall. This and other classroom spaces will be used by Harvard faculty and students and open to the community through public programs and events.

SOURCES: Lauren Marshall, Harvard Art Museums, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

James Abundis, Chiqui Esteban, Joel Medina / Globe Staff; Photos by David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff