Memorial Church’s Modest Makeover

With renovations largely complete, services resume this semester.

The new ramp providing accessible entry to the Memorial Church sanctuaryPhotograph by Harvard Magazine/Lydia Carmichael
Another new ramp provides access to Memorial Church's renovated lower-level offices and meeting spaces.Photograph by Harvard Magazine/Lydia Carmichael

Memorial Church closed after Commencement last May, making way for construction crews and displacing Morning Prayers and Sunday services during the fall semester—to Holden Chapel and the Radcliffe Institute campus, respectively. With the resumption of academic activity in the new semester, the church website happily bannered the news of “Reopening Jan. 23!”—and indeed, Morning Prayers were back in business in Tercentenary Theatre.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/Lydia Carmichael

Much of the completed work is of the invisible variety: maintenance and infrastructure, new climate controls for the sanctuary and lower level (which will be felt, if not seen). Other construction remains in progress, most visibly on the church’s northern edge and northwestern corner—facing the Canaday freshman dormitory, and toward the Science Center plaza. There, the former grassy bank topped by a lush profusion of cherry laurels and rhododendrons has been removed to make way for an accessible ramp to the lower level of the church and a new entry. An accessibility ramp has also been constructed to overcome the barrier represented by the formidable granite steps at the western entrance to the main sanctuary. The lower level has itself been reconfigured for teaching and program uses—staff offices, group meeting spaces—with finishing work and some furnishing yet to come.

The photographs shown here focus on the reconfiguration of the exterior to accommodate new accessibility structures, work that makes the church that much more open to the Harvard community as a whole, in its accustomed place, as of this week.    


Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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