Saturday, December 11, 2010

Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery

Building facade along F Street with the Downtown Holiday Market
occupying the sidewalk in front.
After the Downtown Holiday Market, I decided to check out the museum that the market fronts. The Smithsonian's American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are both located within this building, the former Patent Office and now the Reynolds Center, in Washington DC.

This visit was not planned so I stopped by the information desk and picked up some brochures about the museum. Rather than visit the permanent collection, I was more interested in seeing three architectural features of the museum's building: the Kogod Courtyard, Great Hall and Luce Foundation Center.

Above & Below: Kogod Courtyard

Kogod Courtyard: A glass covered canopy covers one of the largest public places in the city. The canopy was designed to appear to float above the museum. The canopy measures about 37,500 square feet with 864 panes of glass. Eight steel columns support the canopy which weights around 900 tons. The interior features ficus and black olive trees and includes the Courtyard Cafe. Such a feature would normally be breathtaking if not for the business and clutter down below (in preparation for an event) that distracted from the look of the open space.

Above images: Great Hall
Great Hall: The fully restored Great Hall dates back to the late 1800s after a fire destroyed the original third floor of the building. The hall boasts colorful floors of patterned tile and marble, wrought iron railings and an entrance hall topped by stained glass. Walk the hall and enjoy the grandeur of the space.

Above and below: Luce Foundation Center
Luce Foundation Center: The center is a study center for American art featuring over 3,000 works. But the center itself, a three-floor atrium, is an attraction. The $10 million renovation in 2006 restored the ornate columns and balconies, recreated the marble flooring and installed new chandeliers.

All three spaces are available for rental for special events. For more info about the museums visit: (National Portait Gallery) (American Art Museum)
The museum is open 11:30am-7pm daily. Admission is free.

Twin grand spiral staircases lead to Great Hall & Luce Foundation Center.


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