Harvard Art Museums

Working alongside Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Payette, WHY collaborated with the museum’s curators and directors to create a unified art viewing experience which integrates three separate museums – the Fogg, the Sackler and the Busch-Reisinger – into one cohesive experience.

Key info
Design Architect
Executed by WHY Architecture Workshop Inc.
Cambridge, MA
  • 2011 - 2014
  • 43,000 sf
Gallery Designer

The combined collections encompass approximately 250,000 objects dating from ancient history to the present day, requiring a gallery planning and programming strategy to accommodate a wide range of media and cultural contexts. To address the complexity of scope, WHY’s design prioritizes clarity and visual immediacy throughout the galleries, minimizing architectural distractions and focusing attention towards the artworks themselves. The spatial relationships between exhibits is carefully assessed to allow for ease of circulation and direct sightlines, and the galleries are designed to flexibly accommodate the rotation of artworks.


Developed in collaboration with the renowned casework designers, Goppion, the custom display cases are designed to allow for a seamless art-viewing experience. WHY’s kit-of-parts approach to casework design and placement facilitates artwork rotation and installation, and the cases were tested by art handlers and curators throughout the project.

“Unlike its previous incarnation, as three separate museums in neighboring buildings, the new Harvard Art Museums now provides a unified viewing experience that places emphasis on the objects themselves. This is formally achieved by the work of WHY, creating an appropriate ambiance for our important collections to be used as an educational resource for the campus.”

Thomas W. Lentz
Fmr. Director of Harvard Art Museums
Building Architect
  • Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Executive Architect
  • Payette
General Contractor
  • Goppion
Structural Engineer
  • Robert Silman Associates
MEP / Lighting Design / Code Consulting
  • ARUP
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