Washington, D.C. Journals

The Great Indoors

A February 2009 trip to Washington, D.C. by Idler

National Building Museum Photo, Washington, D.C., United States More Photos
Quote: Join me on a mostly indoor architectural tour of some of the capital's most impressive buildings.

National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden

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Attraction | "Architecture of the East Building: Variations on an Isosceles Triangle"

National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden Photo, Washington, D.C., United States
Quote:
Famed architect I.M. Pei's love affair with geometrical forms is evident in the repeated use of triangles in the East Building. Actually, the triangle-based layout of the building was an ingenious answer to a challenging problem that Pei faced -- an oddly-shaped site across from the old (now West) building of the National Gallery of Art. The limitations of the site presented multiple challenges. Somehow he had to link it visually with the old gallery, and yet it had to fit in with the surrounding buildings on the Mall as well. With nearby heavy hitters such as the Capitol dome to contend with, the new museum also needed to stand out somehow, to make its own architectural statement.E...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 25, 2009

National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20565
(202) 737-4215

National Building Museum

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Attraction | "Some "Old Red Barn!" "

National Building Museum Photo, Washington, D.C., United States
Quote:
The National Building Museum may suffer a bit from a rather dull-sounding title, but that certainly beats what it was once pejoratively nick-named: "Meigs' Old Red Barn." It seems that back in 1887, many felt that architect Montgomery C. Meigs had gone overboard in constructing a vast new government office building, with some fifteen million bricks used in its construction. Meigs' task had been to construct a fireproof building to house a burgeoning Pension Bureau, a much-needed building after the Civil War. However, when one former Civil War general was asked for his opinion of the building, he reportedly replied, "I have but one fault to find with i...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 21, 2009

National Building Museum
401 F Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 272-2448

Smithsonian American Art Museum

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Attraction | "Grafting the Contemporary onto the Historic: The Kogod Courtyard "

Smithsonian American Art Museum Photo, Washington, D.C., United States
Quote:
In November 2007, a much anticipated new public space opened at the National Gallery of Art/Smithsonian Art Museum -- the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. The challenge had been to enclose a vast (28,000 sq. ft) outdoor space at the center of the massive Smithsonian museum. The building (1867) is one of the oldest federal buildings in DC, and originally served as the Patent Office. It was subsequently home to several government agencies over the years before being taken over by the Smithsonian in 1964. However, it was evident even then that the aging Greek Revival structure needed a complete makeover.The renovation, which began in 2000, was predictably expensive and lengthy, but the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 23, 2009

Smithsonian American Art Museum
750 Ninth Street NW
Washington, D.C., United States 20001
(202) 633-1000

National Portrait Gallery

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Attraction | "A Temple to Invention, Restored and Repurposed"

National Portrait Gallery Photo, Washington, D.C., United States
Quote:
Visiting the third-floor Great Hall of the National Portrait Gallery, it's instructive to reflect on the changes here since the building first opened in 1840. The original purpose of the Great Hall was to act as a "Temple to Invention" in the new United States Patent Office, with the galleries on the third floor constructed to house miniature models required of inventors. The building also served as the first national museum, and in fact the Declaration of Independence was on display in the Great Hall from 1841 to 1871. As many as 100,000 visitors a year came to see the wonders and curiosities housed in the Patent Office.However, when the Civil War came, the Patent Office, like many ot...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 23, 2009

National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution - Victor Building–Suite 4100
Washington, D.C.
(202) 663-8300