Growing Ideas in the Winter Gardens

June 3, 2014
The Winter Gardens, projecting from each end of the Harvard Art Museums’ new addition, mark the transition between interior and exterior.

While no vegetation will be found growing in the Harvard Art Museums’ Winter Gardens, these are spaces where ideas take root through the close examination of original works of art. Projecting from the second level at each end of the museums’ new addition, these two large glass galleries provide unique installation spaces. Like the glass galleries on the first level, the Winter Gardens mark the transition between interior and exterior. They offer a place for people to shift perspective: walking outside while remaining inside; entering the facility visually while remaining outside.

During the design process, Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) looked at how the museums’ facility relates to the immediate neighborhood: Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, residences on Prescott Street, and pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Broadway. RPBW wanted to build spaces where people could step out of the enclosed galleries and into a new environment for looking.

The initial design for the Winter Gardens was a trapezoidal shape. After dialogue with museums staff, the team decided to make the spaces rectangular, which offers more flexibility in displaying art. Composed of glass, steel, and wood, the Winter Gardens knit together the new facility’s materials and design language.

Careful thought went into selecting the non–light sensitive works that will be on view in the spaces. Moveable timber-clad panels, mounted on exterior tracks attached to the Winter Gardens’ glass walls, provide shade for the objects on display, while also letting controlled natural light flow into the galleries. The position of the panels can be shifted at certain times of year or for special events, offering passersby a view into the museums’ world-class collections.

Curious what will be on display in the Winter Gardens? Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement.


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