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Harvard Art Museums

Cambridge, MA
  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.

The Harvard Art Museums project renovated, restored, and expanded the institution’s facilities and centralized the collections, galleries, and curatorial staff of the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Musuem into one state-of the art building. The museum contains gallery spaces of varying sizes, art conservation laboratories, specially designed study rooms, a 300-seat auditorium, and art storage areas. The building is LEED Gold certified.

The original structure at 32 Quincy Street was built in 1927, with additions and renovations occurring in almost every decade thereafter. The new project involved removing all of the later additions to the original construction and building a new addition on its east side.

  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
  • Section through L-shaped truss spanning existing courtyard and supporting king post truss.
  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
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Courtyard + Skylight

The roof of the 1927 building was removed and replaced with a glass-enclosed study center. The renovation also enclosed an existing travertine-clad central courtyard with a new glass roof supported on built-up steel purlins and delicate king post trusses spanning above. The roof is supported on three sides on a spanning structure consisting of a unique design of a horizontal and a vertical truss that allows even more natural light while also coordinating with mechanical equipment and ducts.

Courtyard + Skylight

The roof of the 1927 building was removed and replaced with a glass-enclosed study center. The renovation also enclosed an existing travertine-clad central courtyard with a new glass roof supported on built-up steel purlins and delicate king post trusses spanning above. The roof is supported on three sides on a spanning structure consisting of a unique design of a horizontal and a vertical truss that allows even more natural light while also coordinating with mechanical equipment and ducts.

It was important to the university and the design team to keep as much of the existing building as possible both to respect the history of the building and to conserve materials. However, in order to accommodate the new program, it was necessary to remove areas of existing structure to either provide egress, MEP shafts, or new framing for areas with higher live loads such as high density storage.

Based on the percentage of new openings and the size of the addition, the Massachusetts building code dictated that the design team retrofit the entire building for seismic forces. Within the existing building, Silman created a lateral system of concentrically braced frames using a combination of plate reinforced existing columns and new steel columns. The existing spread footings under the reinforced existing columns were insufficient, so new minipiles were drilled through the existing footings. Steel armatures were added to transfer the loads from the existing column into the minipiles.

The existing floor system did not have the diaphragm capacity to transmit lateral forces into the new braced frames, so new steel horizontal lateral members were added at the underside of the existing joists to supplement the existing floor structure. Coordinating the locations of these members – with MEP systems, unforeseen field conditions, and finished ceilings that were as high as possible – presented a complex challenge during design and construction.

  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
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Addition + Carpenter Center

The concrete on metal deck on steel beam addition to the east posed its own challenges. Due to the site’s high water table, a slurry wall was installed for temporary dewatering during the excavation, then used as the permanent foundation wall to provide maximum basement area and to save time and materials. The project team also shored and protected Corbusier’s Carpenter Center ramp during this phase of construction.

Addition + Carpenter Center

The concrete on metal deck on steel beam addition to the east posed its own challenges. Due to the site’s high water table, a slurry wall was installed for temporary dewatering during the excavation, then used as the permanent foundation wall to provide maximum basement area and to save time and materials. The project team also shored and protected Corbusier’s Carpenter Center ramp during this phase of construction.

The second and third floors of the new addition contain column free spaces, requiring 50-foot-long spans. These galleries cantilever 15 feet to the east and over 12 feet both to the north and south. These cantilevers in turn support smaller cantilevered “winter gardens” – intimate gallery spaces with movable exterior facade panels to control light. To control the deflection of the winter gardens’ cantilevered cantilevers so that the exterior panels could be movable, Silman designed full-height trusses along the north and south face of the building.

  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
  • Photo credit: Nic Lehoux.
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