Finding Perfection—and Fingerprints

April 7, 2014
Thanks to Aparna Bapu and the team’s careful inspection, the galleries in the new Harvard Art Museums will appear clean (and fingerprint-free) when we open in November.

As the Harvard Art Museums prepare to open on November 16, project managers are inspecting every aspect of each room, down to the fingerprints.

“Sometimes we find them on the ceiling,” said project manager Aparna Bapu. She is with ARCADIS, the Owner’s Representative for Harvard Planning and Project Management, and is coordinating with the design team, the construction team and the museums to find such small imperfections. “It’s not uncommon. Someone installs a light fixture, and then touches the ceiling. It happens.”

Bapu joined the Harvard Art Museums renovation team about a year ago, and has been working on the punch list—a comprehensive compilation of usually minor finishing tasks for a construction project—that began to take shape in January. Once a punch list is complete, everything is near perfect.

Among other tasks, the team will inspect newly installed wood floors to make sure that the stain applied to the wood has taken, that there are no visible paint drips on the walls, and that the corners of rooms appear crisp and clean.

One of the benefits of spending that much time in the museums, Bapu said, is the chance to experience the facility solely as a design space. As she walks through the museums, she often encounters “these beautiful surprises of light.” All at once, she said, “you are suddenly engaged with the outside world.”

Bapu spent the last five years at the Cleveland Museum of Art, which was undergoing its own large renovation project. But that was a phased construction, with punch lists happening in stages over five years. With the Harvard Art Museums’ project, the team is finishing the entire building at once.

“You don’t want to miss anything,” Bapu said. “You want to make sure it’s perfect.”

  • Filtered light streams into the future home of the Art Study Center.
    of Filtered light streams into the future home of the Art Study Center.
  • A play of shadows on the shades in the Art Study Center.
    of A play of shadows on the shades in the Art Study Center.
  • A groundfloor gallery facing the corner of Prescott Street and Broadway.
    of A groundfloor gallery facing the corner of Prescott Street and Broadway.