Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery

  • Client

    • Smithsonian Institution
  • Project Type

Design Achievement - As the first purpose-built art museum in America and a principal structure in the Smithsonian Institution portfolio, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum holds significant value for American history. The Renwick Gallery, situated across from the White House, was built in 1859 to the design of architect James Renwick, Jr. and was last renovated in 1967-1972. DLR Group's major renovation of The Renwick Gallery preserves and respects the historic character of the National Historic Landmark building, while modernizing infrastructure and systems with state-of-the-art sustainable and energy-efficient technologies. Rather than relying on rote historic preservation, the design employs an artful interpretation balancing heavy infrastructure improvements with a light architectural touch, to ensure the building continues to be an asset for our nation for years to come. The design takes advantage of already-modified interior core light wells and attic space to accommodate new infrastructure; thus, avoiding impact to historic spaces. Once considered a hidden gem, the Gallery has become a true destination for art lovers and visitors across all demographics who are passionate about its exhibitions, its history, and its national importance. 

Scope Summary - The renovation of this 51,386 SF historic structure replaced and improved major building infrastructure, enhanced historic features, and improved interior conditions. The project included: restoration of two long-concealed vaulted ceilings; re-creation of the original 19th-century window configuration; replacement of all HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire-suppression, and life safety systems; upgrades to art-storage areas and restrooms, as well as to security, phone, and data communication systems; repairs to the roof, roof drainage system, and exterior façade; and improvements to visitor entrance accessibility. The basement was reconfigured for improved staff offices and workshops, providing an entrance with well-defined separation from non-public staff areas and mechanical spaces. The building is one of the first museums in the U.S. to use an all-LED solution for gallery lighting. The significant use of LED illumination and exhibit lighting enhances energy efficiency, while preserving the level of controlled lighting necessary in a museum environment. The project was designed for energy performance approximately 30 percent better than ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007 and is pending LEED NC Silver certification. DLR Group provided architecture, integrated MEP engineering, sustainable design, interior design, lighting, technology, and historic preservation consulting services.



Awards & Recognition

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  • Top 10 Award

    American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment (AIA COTE)
  • Award of Merit for a High-Performance Building

    Sustainable Buildings Industry Council
  • DC | MD’s Award of Excellence for Best Renovations / Historic Restoration

    National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP)
  • Technology Award, for Existing Buildings/Public Assembly

    American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Region III
  • Craftsmanship Award, for Finishes: Plaster and Specialty Painting

    Washington Building Congress
  • Washington Contractor Award for 2016 Overall Best Project

    Associated General Contractors of America
  • Award of Merit

    Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
  • Interior Lighting Design Award

    Illuminating Engineering Society District of Columbia (IESDC)
  • 2018 AIA Cleveland Design Awards

    AIA Cleveland

Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery

Smithsonian Institution