UPDATED: November 7, 2014, at 7:55 p.m.
More than five-hundred undergraduate and graduate students draped in festive attire filled the Calderwood Courtyard to mark the student opening of the Harvard Art Museums Thursday.
The lucky recipients of the tickets, which sold out within a few hours, were greeted by numerous members of the administration including Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, amid exclamations of wonder at the sight of the renovated space.
The director of the Harvard Art Museums, Thomas W. Lentz, discussed the novelty of the new building. “This is a brand new museum,” he said. “We have taken everything apart about the old museum and put it back together again.”
Designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, the new features of the 240,000 square-foot building include an expansion of gallery space to 43,000 square feet, six levels of all-purpose “public space,” a glass roof, a 300-person lecture hall, rooms for teaching, exhibition, and research, and a cafe.
The Harvard Art Museums will open to the public on Nov. 16 after six years and $250 million worth of renovations. Throughout the six years, construction workers have worked more than one million labor hours and the muesums’ collections have been moved twice. The renovation combined the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum into a single complex, with the staff of all three museums working together for the first time to fill the 50 galleries.
Students who had attended the University in 2008, when the Fogg first closed for remodeling, marvelled at its transformation. “Having been an undergrad when the museum first shut its doors for renovation, I can attest to the incredible transformation of this museum and this courtyard,” said Victoria D. Sung ’10, a member of the student board of the Harvard Art Museums.
The museum will keep its property in Somerville, where the entire collection was stored prior to the reopening, as a storage space. The remodeled museum’s basement storage space does not have the capacity to store all 250,000 pieces in the museum’s collection.
Addressing attendees, Dean of the College, Rakesh Khurana said that the museum fulfilled the goals of the College. “Welcome to this transformative museum,” he said. “We hope it will play a critical reflective role in the lives of our students. As Tom [Lentz] said, this is yours.”
Students in attendance expressed their excitement regarding the space, as well as the prospect of access to a huge collection of art within such a close proximity.
“My impression is that a lot of harvard students are here to come check it out and celebrate it,” said Gabriel L. Guimaraes ’17. “ The paintings are all amazing and I wasn’t aware that Harvard had such an awesome collection.”
Others expressed concern regarding the juxtaposition of different styles of architecture in the combination of three museums but said they were were pleasantly surprised.
“I was a little skeptical and a little afraid but I am floored by how this building has taken the old and merged it with the new,” said Liesl Ulrich-Verderber ’15. “ It’s absolutely glorious.”