The location, massing, and materials of the exterior addition were carefully considered to respond to the proportions, symmetries, and “texture” of the original masonry building, which remains a delicately scaled “jewel” set among neighboring brick-clad research institutes and large science laboratories. The integrity of the existing building’s architecture, as well as the prominence of the site—along a primary circulation path between the historic Yard and the science and Divinity School quadrangles beyond—required an exterior design resolution that addressed both public presence and functional improvements.
The Art of the Fragment
Serving research and educational needs for the understanding of ancient art from the Middle East, the original 1903 building for Harvard’s Semitic Museum did not meet current code standards or satisfy the University’s commitment for universal accessibility in all its facilities, and thus constrained the institution in satisfying an expanding public interest in its unique collections.
Most significantly, the design provided a new elevator tower as an exterior addition to and re-working of the Museum’s east entrance.
As it can now serve all of the Museum’s potential individual public, school group, and academic users, the new elevator also greatly improves the Museum’s curatorial operations, facilitating the movement of large artifacts between grade-level deliveries, the upper level display and educational galleries, and the lower level conservation studios.
In responding to this long-standing need within a precisely defined scope and budget for such upgrades, the project re-designed the restroom facilities on each of the building’s four levels without impinging on either the public spaces of the Museum or the several departmental office suites sharing this extremely compact building.