A Familiar Intersection

November 20, 2013
Justin Lee at the corner of Prescott Street and Broadway, directly across from the Harvard Art Museums. Photo: Antoinette Hocbo.

While studying architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), Justin Lee lived in an apartment on the corner of Prescott Street and Broadway, directly across from the Harvard Art Museums. Lee studied late into the night at the GSD, crashing at his apartment for a few short hours before rising early for class. When Lee graduated in 2004, he couldn’t wait to leave Cambridge and begin his professional career. So when Lee landed a job with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) in Genoa, Italy, it was a perfect fit. But little did Lee know this position would send him right back to the same intersection he was once so eager to flee, working as the on-site architect managing the renovation and expansion project of the Harvard Art Museums.

In 2007 Lee began contributing to Piano’s early design for the Harvard Art Museums. Because of Lee’s involvement in the building plans and his familiarity with the area, RPBW assigned him to his old stomping grounds to oversee the project. At this point, few people know the details of the project better than Lee—he can explain the thermal behavior of our glass roofing system, the density of the wood that covers our new addition, and the fire-proofing material applied to the steel beams that hold up our building.

Lee’s latest stay in Cambridge brings his journey full circle, as he recently returned to the GSD as a guest lecturer in Cases in Contemporary Construction, a class he took himself just a decade ago. The corner of Broadway and Prescott seems to have a lasting hold on Lee—he will remain a familiar face in our community well after our building opens in fall 2014, as he is in the process of setting up his own architecture practice in Boston.