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Sackler BuildingHarvard Real Estate | Cambridge, MA

In 1985, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum opened at Harvard University, designed by renowned British architect, James Stirling. Today, Stirling’s work at Harvard remains widely regarded as one of the foremost examples of post-modern architecture.

In 2016, designLAB was selected to lead the complex re-planning and renovation of the 46,000 SF building, transforming its galleries and museum support spaces into dynamic learning environments for Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), HAA Department, and the new Art Making ‘Annex.’ The elemental forms of this post-modern masterpiece were preserved, including the entry lobby, main stair, auditorium colonnade, and primary facades. Contemporary studios and classrooms with state-of-the-art technology mingle with these original features to create a compelling interaction between old and new.

A new student lounge, or “living room,” includes soft seating, a reintroduced large window looking towards the Harvard Art Museums, and ample shelving for books, artifacts, and resources that support faculty and graduate student discourse. The large, open “lofts” for the GSD are lined with tackable surfaces for pin-ups and studio critiques. The shared auditorium was upgraded with a new rake to meet accessibility requirements, as well as a new seating for improved sightlines, and critical updates to lighting, AV equipment, and acoustics. On the first floor, a 100-seat multi-use performance space can support a variety of programs, from theatrical performances, to lectures, to gallery events.

The transformed Sackler Museum reopened in the spring of 2019. In the months since, students of the GSD, HAA department and Arts Annex have made the building into their home, bringing energy, innovation, and arts-related discourse into the new spaces. The reinvented Sackler Building has resulted in a more dynamic and vibrant environment than the original, supporting a variety of contemporary pedagogies with fresh, new learning environments for each department.