Neighbors and other onlookers witness historic step in University’s largest-ever capital project
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Amid the buzz of Boston-area media — including television reporters and several news helicopters circling then hovering overhead — contractors for the university rolled the former North Prospect Congregational Church 80 feet south on Massachusetts Avenue. Next week, crews will edge the church 24 feet closer to the avenue.
The Lunder Arts Center, designed by Bruner/Cott Architects and Planners and now under construction by John Moriarty and Associates, is slated for completion in January 2015. It will be the home of the Lesley University College of Art and Design — the new name of The Art Institute of Boston, which for 100 years has helped shape the vision and career paths of artists — and will support the university’s myriad interdisciplinary and arts-integrative curricula.
To move the 188-ton former church, which Lesley purchased in 2006, construction workers used a hydraulic system and beam rollers to slowly ferry the building to its new foundation. This is the second time the former church has been transported: The first move was in 1867, when a team of draft horses hauled the church and its contents a mile up Massachusetts Avenue from Harvard Square, over the course of 21 days.
Lesley’s contractors are restoring the church building’s exterior to its 19th-century glory, while the interior will house an arts library and design space. Complementing this facility will be a new terra cotta-and-glass building for art galleries and studio spaces that will occupy the former church site. The scale and detail of the church inform the new building, and its terra cotta detailing harmonizes with neighborhood brick and clapboard. The two buildings will be linked by a multi-story glass entry commons.
The center bears the surname of philanthropists Peter and Paula Lunder (Lesley Class of 1959), whose transformational commitment to the university came in the form of a matching gift challenge in fall 2012. The address of the Lunder Arts Center property is 1801 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge.
“This center is the high-water mark in a period of energetic and focused expansion and new construction at Lesley, and an important nod to the history of our city,” Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore said. “The Lunder Arts Center helps us to continue to give students an educational experience of the highest quality, broaden our interaction with our friends and neighbors in Cambridge, and take the lead as a future-focused institution of higher learning.”
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