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From the Lumberyard to Harvard Yard

The Alaskan Yellow Cedar currently being installed on the Harvard Art Museums’ Prescott Street facade has made quite a journey from western Canada. The museums and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) partnered with the green, sustainable firm Mark Richey Woodworking to fashion wood siding from these massive trees. The team traveled from their shop in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to British Columbia to harvest and process the cedar.

Because the exterior cladding is such a highly visible feature of the building project, RPBW had much to consider when selecting the wood: How it would perform in certain climates and conditions, and what patina would it have after it ages? A key factor in choosing the Alaskan Yellow Cedar was its ageing process. When growing, the flesh of the Alaskan Yellow Cedar is golden yellow. When the cedar’s wood grain is exposed to UV light, it slowly fades to driftwood grey—similar to how cedar shingles weather on seaside cottages in the Hamptons and on Cape Cod.

Mark Richey Woodworking is a subcontractor of Skanska USA Building, Inc., the construction manager of our project, who contributed the striking images for our story. See their pictures of a stand of Alaskan Yellow Cedar being transformed into the bowed planks that Renzo Piano envisioned for our Cambridge facility below and on Flickr.


  • 01 - 04 Mark Richey Woodworking fabrication shop in Newburyport, MA; Cut planks for the Harvard Art Museums, before staining; An Alaskan Yellow Cedar begins its trip to the Harvard Art Museums; Assorted wood stock for the Harvard Art Museums. All photos courtesy Skanska USA Building, Inc.