Our project to expand and renovate the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass., has been recognized with a Build America Award, one of the nation’s most prestigious construction honors. Presented by Associated General Contractors, this award recognizes the highest levels of construction project complexity, innovation and client satisfaction. We accepted the award recently at AGC’s national convention in Puerto Rico.
The Art Museums project consolidated Harvard University’s three museums into a single facility designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano. The undertaking had two major elements: demolishing and then rebuilding 70 percent of the 202,000-square-foot interior of the original 1927 building, and constructing a 154,000-square-foot, five-story addition. Here, you can see how the old meets the new.
Precise work was a hallmark of this project. For example, nearly perfect steel and concrete placement was required to achieve the three-quarter-inch reveal between the bottom of the drywall and the top of the concrete floor in the galleries. We added the sloped, glazed roof shown here to bring daylight into the structure.
Among our innovations was developing an advanced Bluebeam Revu-based PDF document management system and pioneering the use of LED-based luminaires for construction lighting, saving more than $300,000 in energy costs.
One of the most complex parts of the project was moving and lifting a 76-year-old, 13- by 12-foot irreplaceable fresco that was affixed to a 16-inch-thick masonry wall. Skanska’s strategy for moving the artwork involved encapsulating the fresco and its supporting wall in a massive steel frame, then using a diamond-bladed cable saw to cut the 15-ton section free of the surrounding structure.We then used a crane – with its boom towering 140 feet in the air – to land the fresco in its final location.This required tremendous precision – the loading on the fresco needed to be constant so the artwork would not crack. Our attention to detail paid off, as the artwork was successfully re-installed without issue.
Our team erected 700 tons of temporary steel to brace the existing structure’s exterior walls, and later threaded permanent steel into place in that same space. Thanks in part to a three-dimensional model, there were few conflicts.
“We did a lot of things here that people will never do again in their careers,” said Claude LeBlanc, general superintendent. “Many things were done that that no one will ever see.”