Museum of Fine Arts

Boston, Massachusetts
Architect: Museum of Fine Arts (MFA)
Contractor: ELEMENT

Project Overview:

Founded in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is the fourth largest museum in the United States and attracts over 1 million visitors per year. A number of renovations were undertaken in the early 2000’s of which the most notable was a new atrium designed by Foster and Partners. Other remodeling activities in various exhibition spaces were also undertaken at this time.

Tasked with housing a unique gift of artwork from a private collector, the MFA renovated an exhibit hall and designed new display cases specifically for the endowment. These display cases contained no exterior structure; glass panels formed all walls and the ceiling. At over 50′ long (15m) and with every other panel providing a hinged access door that opened 180 degrees, this presented a number of unique engineering and fabrication challenges. All glass was custom fabricated non reflective laminated glass from Austria, sourced through U.S. suppliers. This glass was supported by a center spine and base supports designed to provide sufficient rigidity to allow the 9’ high x 6’ wide glass doors to open without overstressing adjacent panels. Removable and interchangeable interior wall panels designed to accommodate various exhibits added to the complexity of the structure.

ELEMENT provided full Design-Build services for the display cases.

Key Contribution by ELEMENT:

  • Materials: Structural steel, aluminum extrusions, glass.

ELEMENT Services:

  • Design Review
  • Preliminary materials, manufacturing, engineering, scheduling and budget estimation
  • Engineering analysis, calculations and submittals
  • Design, fabrication and installation options and analysis
  • Scheduling
  • Prototyping and Samples
  • Fabrication
  • Delivery and installation


  • People’s Choice Award, 2013 Boston Society of Architects’
  • Preservation Achievement Award, 2011 Boston Preservation Alliance
  • International Award, 2011 RIBA
  • Harleston Parker Medal, 2014 Boston Society of Architects Design Awards

Select Publications:

  • “The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) Art of Americas Wing” 25 Feb. 2015, ARCHITECT Magazine
  • “The Art of the Americas: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston”, Summer 2010, American Art
  • “Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to open Art of the Americas Wing and Shapiro Family Courtyard, designed by Foster + Partners”, 19 May 2010, Museum of Fine Arts Boston Press Release
  • “Emerald Jewel: The new Art of the Americas wing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts transforms the institution for the next century”, 4 Feb. 2011, Architectural Lighting
  • “Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA, Foster + Partners”, 10 Feb. 2011, Architect’s Journal