Furnished with Color

June 5, 2014
The design team chose dramatic colors for the seat fabrics in Menschel Hall and Deknatel Hall, in the new Harvard Art Museums facility.

As the Harvard Art Museums get closer to opening this November, all eyes are on the installation of art in the new galleries. But surprises of color are coming into view in unexpected places: on the furniture in spaces throughout the new facility.

“We try not to introduce a lot of color that will draw attention away from the art,” said Justin Lee, architect at Renzo Piano Building Workshop. “But at different locations, when it’s not competing with the artwork, we want to introduce accent colors that bring life to the spaces.”

Two such locations are the 300-seat Menschel Hall and the 100-seat Deknatel Hall, both of which will serve as a venue for classes and other lectures and programming. The halls’ video projectors—one of them cinema-quality—require that the floors, walls, and ceilings have matte surfaces in a neutral color. This inspired the design team to choose dramatic colors for the seat fabrics: bright orange for one hall, and a bold lime-green for the other.

“We wanted to bring in some striking color, something that would contrast with the neutral matte surfaces of the space,” said Lee.

Glimpses of those colors can also be seen in small swatches throughout the facility: in office chairs of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, for example, or atop filing cabinets in the curatorial offices. Lee noted that museums staff and visitors will further expand the color palette, simply through their presence. “Once people are in the spaces, of course, it will all change again.”

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  • Bright colors bring life to office spaces throughout the new facility.
    of Bright colors bring life to office spaces throughout the new facility.
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