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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

2017 Preservation Achievement Award Winner: Harvard Medical School Gordon Hall Marble Restoration

In conjunction with our 29th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards, we are profiling each of this year's winning projects. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.

August 28th, 2017  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The first of its kind 

When Harvard Medical School established new clinical departments and rewrote its curriculum in the early 1900s, it became clear that a new campus was needed to match its new, elevated medical program. Out of this, two legacies—world-class medical care and exemplary education institutions—converged in the Longwood Medical Area, site of Harvard’s Medical School since 1906. The five structures that were built were the first in the area; they were initially surrounded by swamp land or farms. Together they formed the quadrangle on Longwood Avenue, with Gordon Hall serving as its focal point. Now Gordon Hall has once again been revived as the white icon so central to the Longwood Medical Area.

The building was designed by Shepley Rutan and Coolidge (now Shepley Bulfinch) in neoclassical revival style. The marble used to construct the building was provided at a discounted rate by the builders after it had been deemed unsuitable for their New York City Public Library project. In the ten years following the construction of Gordon Hall, the swamp and farm lands of Longwood were transformed into Beth Israel, Deaconess, Robert Beck Brigham and Children’s Hospitals.  The construction of the quadrangle sparked the creation of Boston’s interconnected center of medical treatment, research and education.

BEFORE: Deteriorating carved panels

AFTER: Panels were cleaned, restored, and, where necessary, replicated

19th century craftsmanship + 21st century technologies 

The design team at McGinley Kalsow & Associates was originally engaged to assess the condition of the marble exterior and key historic elements within Gordon Hall. Upon inspection they determined that a comprehensive repair and restoration project were needed. Together with McGinley Kalsow & Associates, Shawmut Design and Construction, and Haven Restoration, Harvard Medical School embarked on the process with precision and quality in mind.

Great care was taken by an extraordinary range of specialists to restore the original material, and when aspects were beyond repair, the team carefully utilized original materials as models for replacement elements. Stone carvers and local masons hand carved and in-place carved, conservators veined and tinted replacement marble, and sculptors recreated missing details. Meanwhile, the building was laser scanned, models were 3D printed, and countless other modern technologies were used to cut marble, prevent rust and decay, and secure the largest Dutchmen ever installed in New England. The result is a seamless transition between the restored and the replicated.

The challenging scale, detail, and original craftsmanship of the project were balanced by the team’s skill, care, and devotion. Throughout this project, Harvard Medical School and the team it enlisted recognized and matched the quality of materials and craftsmanship of the original icon. That investment is a victory for the building, campus, Longwood, and the tradition of excellence that they each represent.


Project Details: 25 Shattuck Street, Fenway
Owner/Developer: Harvard Medical School
Architect: McGinley Kalsow & Associates
Project Team: Building and Monument Conservation; Haven Restoration; John Canning & Company; Les Pierres Technoprofil Inc.; Silman; Shawmut Design and Construction; Skylight Studios Inc.

Written and researched by Jessica Saunders




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