Straus Center for Conservation, Harvard Art Museums

The Straus Center for Conservation was SAA’s very first conservation laboratory, completed in 1996. As we started the process of designing a facility about which we knew very little, we visited many other labs and discovered the pitfalls of failing to address the technical challenges of dynamic solvent exhausts, x-radiation shielding, and numerous other esoteric essentials. We studied how to address these issues, but we also aspired to fulfill the wish of James Cuno, director of the Harvard Art Museums, to reassert the department's premier leadership in conservation, research, and training by designing a beautiful light-filled space that inspires creativity and collaboration. Upon completion, Straus Center director Henry Lie reported, "The staff is ecstatic."

Observations, Reviews & Awards

“The staff here is ecstatic!” – Henry Lie, Straus Center for Conservation

“Just a line to say how extraordinarily impressed Angelica and I are by the Straus Center. It is a formidable achievement, involving the subtle long-standing interactions between you and your highly intelligent clients. This is clearly going to be a model conservation environment, outstandingly designed and functional down to the last millimeter.” – Neil L. Rudenstein, President, Harvard University

“The place is not only beautiful and beautifully functional, it is profoundly whole, profoundly human and dazzingly assured.” – Lisa Cunningham, Cultural Critic

“…the new Straus Center is an elegant solution… Indeed, much more of the verve of the design comes from the thoughtfulness with which Anderson and his associates have interwoven the aesthetic sensitivity that informs the art studio with the precision necessary for the science lab.” – Nancy Levinson, critic, Architectural Record

“The Straus Center is magnificent – a huge success. I love the way it looks and the way it works and the way one moves through it. You have a superb eye.” – Mary Rose Bolton, Director of Fellows and Special Programs, Harvard University Art Museums

“…the facilities are breathtaking. Architect Samuel Anderson has transformed them into spaces so appealing that the staff doesn’t want to leave at night… Visually, Anderson’s spaces are stimulating without being distracting – perfect for people whose profession depends on visual acuity.” – Christine Temin, the Boston Globe

“(Mr Anderson) has transformed formerly cramped and inefficient rooms into spaces notable for their liberating flow of inner and outer perspectives, elegant marriage of traditional and high-tech materials, and attentiveness to the technically complex needs of the distinct groups of conservators. You toy with changing careers in hopes of working here one day.” – Marvin Hightower, Harvard University Gazette

“I agree that there can be MANY problems with new buildings and renovations. There is hope, though. We have now found an architect who not only works very hard to understand our needs and puts them first but also is meticulous about every phase of the project, whether or not it is officially the architect’s responsibility. And he is a great pleasure to work with!” – Fran Beane, Deputy Director, Harvard University Art Museums

“This is not the best laid out conservation laboratory in the world.” – Craigen Bowen, Deputy Director, Straus Center for Conservation

Excellence in Architecture Award for the Straus Center for Conservation, Boston Society of Architects/American Institute of Architects, 1996

Artist’s Fellowship, New York State Foundation for the Arts, 1986

Matthew Del Gaudio Award for Excellence in Total Design, NY Society of Architects, 1982

Excellence in Planning & Design Award for the Straus Center for Conservation, Architectural Record/McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1997

Client: Harvard Art Museums (James Cuno, Fran Beane, Henry Lie, Craigen Bowen, Tony Sigel, Terri Hensick, Kate Olivier, Eugene Farrell, Nancy Buschini, Anne Driesse)
Design Team: Edward Gormley, Alexy Grigorieff, Serverud, Exergen, Thompson Engineering
Builder: Shawmut, Mark Richey (millwork)
Photographer: Paul Warchol

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