Harvard University W.E.B. Du Bois Institute

The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Studies at Harvard University is a 18,000 square foot, three-floor tenant improvement project in the center of Harvard Square. The Institute is a comprehensive research center comprised of the Image of the Black in Western Art Archive, an annual visiting fellows program, a host of incubator projects, and a substantial collection of African and African American art and memorabilia. The awkward and inefficient floor plan inherited by the Institute (replete with much wasted circulation space) was used in the renovation to the Institute’s advantage—all hallways were backed with plywood blocking to serve as both formal (the Africana Gallery) and informal galleries for their art collection. A simple palette was chosen to tie the three disparate floors together, and to allow the art to provide the primary visual interest to the space. Where possible, sustainable materials were chosen, such as the recycled aspen-fiber Tectum ceiling tiles, cork floor in the gallery, recycled carpet tiles, inexpensive MDF for all millwork, and low-VOC paints and adhesives throughout. The project was finished in time to be occupied for the start of the 2005–2006 school year.