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The Harvard Art Museums have been through a 204,000-square-foot renovation and expansion since the Fogg museum closed in 2008. (Images: Harvard Art Museums)

The Harvard Art Museums have been through a 204,000-square-foot renovation and expansion since the Fogg museum closed in 2008. (Images: Harvard Art Museums)

031114i Harvard Art MuseumsKey among the features of the $350 million, 204,000-square-foot renovation and expansion led by the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano and Renzo Piano Building Workshop is a five-story Calderwood Courtyard done Italian piazza-style, with glass arcades and a new glass roof allowing controlled natural light into the heart of the building.

The six-story building keeps its 32 Quincy St. entrance and adds one on Prescott Street and includes galleries, a 5,000-square-feet Art Study Center with two seminar rooms and reception and orientation areas, classrooms and lecture halls and a top floor that offers views into the heart of the facility and outside to Cambridge and Harvard Yard. The ground floor of the building, including a shop and cafe, will be open to the public without paid admission. Visitors will be able to see conservators at work and get hands-on experiences with objects from the museum collections.

“We are eagerly anticipating the opening of the new Harvard Art Museums facility,” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said. “Renzo Piano has designed a building that is as beautiful as the works of art it will house and as thoughtful as the people who will work and learn within it. It will expand the ways in which we use art and art-making as part of the curriculum, and it will invite our neighbors and visitors to enjoy some of the University’s unparalleled treasures.”

To celebrate the opening, the museums will host a series of special events, starting with a celebration for Harvard students but followed by invitations for faculty, donors, museum supporters, alumni and others and culminating in a preview for Cambridge residents ahead of the public opening celebration.

Harvard officials said the museums have raised $237 million for the work, including donations from longtime benefactors of Harvard that include such names as Pulitzer and Rockefeller, as well the Calderwood Charitable Foundation – namesake of the centerpiece courtyard.

The renovation and expansion was designed to minimize impact on the historic 1927 Fogg Museum building and to create a dialogue with the residential neighborhood and neighboring Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the only building in North America designed by architect Le Corbusier, officials said.

In addition to the central courtyard and Art Study Center, the renovation adds the Lightbox Gallery, a top-floor space intended to showcase the intersections of art and technology (and offer a bird’s-eye view down through the building into the Calderwood Courtyard); seminar rooms and a 300-seat lecture hall for presentations, performances,and events; and a Materials Lab dedicated to exploring material ingenuity and innovations in art media keying off the works of art on view elsewhere in the museums.

The renovation and expansion project has increased gallery space by 40 percent, for a total of approximately 43,000 square feet.

“We knew that we had an opportunity to redefine the Harvard Art Museums as an accessible and connected 21st-century facility for teaching and learning,” said Thomas W. Lentz, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot director of the museums, explaining the focus of Piano as designer. “We asked him to design it from the inside out – to create a new kind of laboratory for the fine arts that would support our mission of teaching across disciplines, conducting research and training museum professionals.”

“We also wanted to strengthen the museums’ role as an integral part of Cambridge and Boston’s cultural ecosystem,” Lentz said. “We look forward to welcoming students, faculty and staff at Harvard, our Cambridge friends and neighbors, the entire Greater Boston community, and travelers from afar into our new home this November.”

This post was written from a press release.