Harvard Art Museums win Harleston Parker Medal

Harvard Art Museums.

Harvard Art Museums. Photo © David Heald

3 min read

The Harvard Art Museums were recently awarded the 2021 Boston Society for Architecture’s Harleston Parker Medal. The achievement recognizes the work of Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Payette and other partners on the museums’ 2014 major renovation and expansion.

Established in 1921 in memory of Boston architect J. Harleston Parker, the medal recognizes “the most beautiful piece of architecture, building, monument or structure within the City or Metropolitan Parks District limits.” It is the highest honor awarded by the Boston Society for Architecture, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

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In a written statement, the award’s jury of 10 architects, designers, and leaders in the built environment declared: “Becoming a neighbor of Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center in a historically dense campus of Harvard University is both enviable and challenging, a riddle the project boldly accepts and elegantly resolves like a Zen koan. The building embodies all of the traditional tenets of beauty in the way it engages light, lightness, material and structure. Design thoughtfully weaves neighborhood textures into the new addition of the museum, while restoring the existing historic structure and reviving the courtyard to become a new public space that feels welcoming, warm, and filled with the endless variations of diurnal and seasonal play of light. The mix of natural and artificial lighting is as carefully curated as the exhibits housed in the building. Every inch of this building was considered in the design and construction to work harmoniously together. The building deftly connects the inside with the outside, the ground with the sky, and the building with the larger landscape of the region. The jury wants this building to encourage–and celebrate that its beauty is accessible to people of all backgrounds.”

“We are delighted to have been recognized with this distinction,” said Maureen Donovan, deputy director of the Harvard Art Museums. “The Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Payette teams worked seamlessly with our staff and many other partners to realize the 21st-century laboratory for the arts that was needed to display and protect our collections, provide new spaces to further teaching and research activities in the visual arts, and provide a dynamic public space for visitors to engage with works of art.”