Designing the Shop Experience

July 24, 2014
The architectural details of the new shop in the Harvard Art Museums seamlessly connect with the building’s overall design.  

Among the public amenities in our new facility, opening this November, is a freshly designed 500-square-foot shop. Tasked with developing the architectural vision of this new space were Director of Visitor Services Sanja Cvjeticanin and Deputy Director Maureen Donovan, working in collaboration with Renzo Piano Building Workshop and retail design consultant Charles Sparks + Company.

When approaching the design, they chose a palette of wood, stone, and glass—materials prominently featured throughout the new museums. “It was important to us that the shop fit with the overall architectural design,” said Cvjeticanin.

Wood is the main material for most of the shop’s custom fixtures, from display tables to jewelry holders. Ash, stained gray to mimic the Alaskan Yellow Cedar facade of the new addition, was chosen because of its durability.

Pennsylvania bluestone, featured on the floor of the Calderwood Courtyard, continues into the shop space, and extra care was taken to make that transition seamless. “I never wanted to treat the shop as a separate space from the courtyard, and so the floor needed to suggest that,” said Cvjeticanin. “The stonework helps connect the shop to the courtyard experience.”

Continuing the new facility’s theme of transparency, glass cases were constructed to line a wall featuring large historic windows from the space’s former life as the Agnes Mongan Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. The clear cases create an elegant display for fine merchandise while maintaining the natural light source, which allows artificial lighting to be minimized.

To guide the design of the shop layout, Renzo Piano Building Workshop developed a set of organizing principles, giving the space a sense of balance. For example, the columns of the bookshelves were built to align with the windows along the wall that face them. “The shop is so well thought out, with fixtures that feel perfectly suited for the space,” said Cvjeticanin.

Like our galleries being installed with great works of art, the shop now awaits its merchandise to bring the space to life. Stay tuned later this summer, when we’ll share more about how the merchandise for the new shop was chosen and what visitors can expect to browse come November. 

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