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Activating the Light Machine

We’ve spent many years looking at architectural renderings of our Calderwood Courtyard, the Harvard Art Museums’ center of circulation, trying to visualize how this space will appear once our renovation project is complete. So, you can imagine our excitement when we heard that the courtyard’s scaffolding was fully dismantled—the same scaffolding we were standing on top of mere weeks ago to glimpse the building’s core space, an area Renzo Piano calls the “Light Machine.” We had to visit as soon as possible.

When we passed through our courtyard’s travertine arches, none of the architectural renderings we’ve seen prepared us for the glorious transformation of this historic space. For the first time, we experienced the full effect of the Light Machine: a clear blue sky shone down on us, as controlled natural light filtered through the building’s new glass rooftop, bathing the courtyard’s floor and diffusing into the surrounding galleries.


  • 01 - 05 The Harvard Art Museums Light Machine. Photos: Zak Jensen.