Harvard University has added yet another sustainable building to its campus — the Harvard Artlab, a contemporary art space projected to meet net-zero energy targets. Designed by Berlin-based architecture studio Barkow Leibinger in collaboration with Boston-based Sasaki Associates, the 9,000-square-foot facility was created for students, teachers, visiting artists and the wider community. Rooftop photovoltaic panels power the building, which features a steel frame clad in transparent insulated glass and lightweight, high-insulating polycarbonate panels for easy assembly and disassembly.

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a nighttime street-view of a short, rectangular white building with "ARTLAB" written on the outside

Located on Harvard University’s Allston campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard Artlab is an adaptable space with a design that takes inspiration from its industrial surroundings. The boxy one-story building features a pinwheel-like plan centered on a common “Hub” space. A series of large sliding partitions can expand or close off the Hub to cultivate interactivity and enable a wide range of performances and exhibitions. The surrounding spaces house recording studios and sound-editing stations, as well as rooms for rehearsal, improvisation and other performances. 

interior studio space with gray floors and white walls. windows line the upper part of the wall, letting in natural light, and a person in a pink top poses with their arm raised toward the ceiling

“The ArtLab encourages and expands participants’ engagement with interdisciplinary arts-practice research, serving as a collaborative activator for the school and the greater Allston and Cambridge neighborhoods,” explained the architects in a project statement. Like its industrial appearance suggests, the art space will serve as an incubator for producing and experimenting with different art forms. 

Related: Harvard unveils Snøhetta-designed HouseZero for sustainable, plus-energy living

interior studio space with gray floors and white walls

Built to meet Massachusett’s high energy efficiency standards, the solar-powered Harvard Artlab was built using insulated glass and polycarbonate panels that range from transparent to translucent to opaque. The panels allow natural light to fill the building during the day while creating a glowing “lightbox” appearance at night. Since the building needed to be engineered for possible relocation in the future, the architects constructed the building with lightweight steel columns and open web steel trusses on a concrete slab on grade for easy and efficient disassembly. 

+ Barkow Leibinger

Images by Iwan Baan