On the surface, designing a new art museum for Harvard University is a brief so straightforward that it sounds like part of university curriculum itself. The program lends itself to the type of light and airy spaces architects dream of creating; the campus site promises both steady and engaged traffic. But, for all the apparent advantages, the road to realizing Harvard’s Art Museums was a deceptively complex one - one that ultimately took six years to see realized. The first hint lies in the structure’s strangely plural name: Harvard Art Museums. The building is, in a way three, unifying multiple formerly distinct collections under one roof. Co-locating Harvard’s Germanic, Asian, and North American Art collections (not to mention facilities dedicated to scholarship in art and conservation) meant not just accommodating each collection but streamlining the established organizations. Where things once were individual, now they are shared. The architecture had to facilitate a social learning curve not entirely unlike the one happening in the nearby undergraduate dorms.
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