HAM Exterior - Peter Vanderwarker

Boston’s Most Beautiful Building: An Award Winning Project and The Journey of the Naumburg Suite

Top image by Peter Vanderwarker

Back in 2002, Harvard University began the plans to offer an improved gallery experience by showing its three art collections together. The vision was to leverage the existing location of the Fogg Museum on Quincy Street, renovating and expanding for the Harvard Art Museums.

The plan and vision culminated in the museum being named the 2021 Harleston Parker Medal Winner as the ‘most beautiful” building, monument or structure in Boston. The award is the highest award granted by the BSA, Boston Society for Architecture. It was an absolute honor to have worked on a portion of this incredible project under the leadership of Payette from Boston and Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the architects and general contractor Skanska Building USA. Their vision and work transformed the site to an asset for all to explore the arts.

In the overall scope of the project, our restoration and preservation work was centered on a gem within the Fogg that has quite a story. 

The Naumburg Suite – from England to Manhattan to Cambridge

Restoration and preservation were an integral part of this award winning project as the Fogg Museum was a historically protected Georgian Revival structure originally built in the 1920s. The museum housed the Naumburg Suite, a Gilded Age Jacobian apartment that was moved from England to Manhattan when the Naumburgs moved to New York. Nettie Naumburg, a supporter of the arts, bequeathed a large number of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and furniture as well as her Manhattan apartment to Harvard. So, years later, the apartment was disassembled, then reinstalled and dedicated as part of the Fogg in 1932. This included the principal first floor rooms, complete with entrance hall and troubadour balcony.

The Suite is Dismantled, Preserved & Reinstalled…Again

When the project launched to achieve Harvard’s vision, M&A Architectural Preservation’s role was focused on the Naumburg Suite. Our work started back in 2009, when we provided a complete documentation report of the existing conditions of this Jacobian-style period apartment, which included the paneling, beams, staircase, balcony, windows, doors, limestone and granite fireplaces and mantels, and antique chandeliers and sconces.

After documentation, M&A preservation carpenters carefully dismantled the entire apartment – marking, measuring, disassembling, and carefully crating over 1,000 individual architectural elements.  At the limestone fireplace, molds were created as a precautionary step in the event that the disassembly and storage might have broken any of the components. The crated architectural components were stored in a climate-controlled location until their new space was ready for reinstallation.

Beginning in 2012, M&A re-installed the entire apartment to slightly smaller dimensions, with reconfigured stairs, paneling, and metal windows.

Boston’s Most Beautiful Building – 2021 Award Winner

As we focused on restoration and preservation, the architectural team of Renzo Piano Building Workshop and project architects, Payette from Boston, collaborated to design an extraordinary structure blending the restored and preserved with glass, light and wood. Congratulations to all involved in the transformation of Quincy Street in Cambridge where the three art collections of the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum and Arthur M. Sackler Museum are now displayed in this beautiful combination of preserving history and pushing the envelope.

Naumburg Suite, Greg Premru Photography
Greg Premru Photography

For more details on the restoration and preservation work completed at the Fogg Museum and the Naumburg Suite, click here.

To learn more about the work of Renzo Piano Building Workshop team and collaborating with Payette, click here.

To learn more about the Harvard Art Museums and to visit, click here.

Note: M&A’s extensive restoration and reinstallation of the Naumburg Suite at the Harvard Art Museums was featured in the book, “Manhattan’s Hotel des Artistes: America’s Paris on West 67th Street,” published in December 2020.