Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Today in Pictures - National Gallery of Art



The National Gallery of Art has a new exhibit: its exterior. The 33-year-old East Building is in the midst of a major renovation that recently included the removal and reinstallation of the marble veneer - 16,200 Tennessee pink marble panels with new supports. Each five foot wide, two foot high, three-inch-thick panel weighs about 450 pounds. The I.M. Pei design, completed in 1978, is not holding up nearly as well as the John Russell Pope design of the West Building. A "systemic structural failure" of the facade's design prompted Congressional emergency aid (too big to fail?) and scaffolding to protect pedestrians. On the upside, DC is treated to an architectural undressing thanks in part to an open, vertical-access scaffolding system. Work is expected to be completed by spring 2014.






Photographs by Rey Lopez. Washington D.C. real estate development news

17 comments:

Anon202 said...

With the marble taken off, the IM Pei building becomes a Louis Kahn brick building!

skinnytree said...

I may be in the minority, but I've never really liked the IM Pei building. It's a huge space, but mainly wastes it to serve IM Pei's ego, not visitors or the art collection. The art is almost an afterthought. The galleries are split up in corners of the building, are cramped, have no natural light, and don't flow particularly well. The big modern galleries are subterranean--I feel like I'm descending down to the Metro to get there. I don't appreciate that my my 70-year old folks are forced to climb that awkward and super narrow spiral staircase in the special exhibit space either... That he can't design a building to last more than thirty-some years is embarrassing as well.

Anonymous said...

skinnytree said +1
IM Pei's gallery has always been one of the building's cultured people are supposed to like, but you've eloquently described all the things that make it not work, to say notheing about how ugly it is.

I think it's notable to see how the thin stone veneer was in danger of falling down, where as the solid walls of the older gallery accross the way are intact. Yet another example that "progress" isn't always what it seems.

Erin said...

Just need to chime in my agreement. The "masters" like IM Pei are more concerned with legacies and being noticeably different, which often doesn't make for great architecture. I don't have the building (like I do much of his other projects), but its sad that its not even structurally sound.

SJL on Dec 22, 2011, 1:29:00 PM said...

The Pope building was met with extreme criticism from architectural critics and academics when it was built (because it was classically designed), and the Pei building was met with praise and admiration. I wish Pope could be around to see what a disgrace has been made of the field of architecture, and also to see that his buildings which were rooted in tradition and practical building methods, have endured. Between 1935 and 1950, we threw out our knowledge of how to build for the centuries and turned to the architecture of the zeitgeist, the fleeting moment, and have been paying the price ever since.

Silver Spring: Then and Again on Dec 22, 2011, 1:29:00 PM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silver Spring: Then and Again on Dec 22, 2011, 1:31:00 PM said...

Does anyone know what the taxpayer's tab for this rebuild is? It has got to be hundreds of millions of dollars. Think what that amount of money could do so DC's libraries and schools.

Anonymous said...

Surprise, surprise! The modernist pile is falling to pieces while the classic buildings have (quite literally) stood the test of time. When will we learn that traditional design will always be superior to the architecture profession's style du jour?

Just look at all those mid-century houses scattered throughout the DC suburbs - you can barely give them away and the land is often worth more than the structure. Meanwhile, the classic homes are still getting bid up.

Anonymous said...

Where's the air/moisture barrier? Even for $94M of Mellon's hard earned money in 1974 they could have afforded some waterproofing. It would also be "nice" if the building was more filled with art. It always looks empty, like one big lobby.

Anonymous said...

All these quotes above should serve as an answer from all those who wonder why DC doesn't get more "Contemporary" architecture, or complain about our "conservative" architectural culture.

We've been "getting" this stuff for years, we don't buy that these piles make you sophisticated, becasue they're ugly. Plain and simple, Ugly! If conservative means we don't get duped by projects like Gehry's Eisenhower Memorial design, call me doopey!

The real suckers are the small towns that let them tear out their historic cores for these signature pieces of stuf. You got to feel sorry for China, which is knee deep in the "modernization" craze and will turn around in twenty years, when the candy coating has worn off, and they realized they tore out the hearts of their towns for what? Congratulations, your a first worlder!!!

Anonymous said...

A magnificent building. The best one on the mall. Many other comments here are misinformed. the Pope building uses veneer stone too, not "solid" stone. The building is "structurally sound," but needs new clips to hold the stone. The original stone will be put back. The costs is not "hundreds of millions of dollars." The building is not "falling to pieces." The other buildings on the mall have been renovated in the past.

Anonymous said...

What is the statute of limitaions on trying to recover the cost of correcting this structural failure via an insurance claim and law suit against all parties involved that would be inevitavble in the private sector?

Anonymous said...

Another IM Pei building with problems? I'm not surprised. I feel Mr. Pei is the most overrated architect of our age. Most of his buildings are disfunctional artifacts the day they are commissioned. Living in Cleveland, I see his ugly pyramid called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with every visit downtown. It was undersized the day it was built, limits their gallery spaces to cubby holes and odd corners stuck at the top of narrow stairs, and I doubt it will stand the test of time and weather on the shores of Lake Erie.

Anonymous said...

look at alvar aaltos Finlandia Hall- built from Carrara marble and it has had to be replaced and will have to be done again and again- hopefully they don't have to do this more then once- and yes Pope would be proud

Anonymous said...

The reactions to the renovation of this landmark modern building are indeed interesting. It is clear that those who dislike modern architecture (although this building is now 33 years old) are taking the opportunity to hurl every criticism possible in support of classical methods of designing and building structures.

The initial description that there is structural failure is obviously incorrect and must be challenged from a factual standpoint. The building is in no way in danger of structural failure - only the cladding is being re-hung, most likely due to the use of anchors that are not stainless steel. It is odd that there appears to be no air/moisture barrier, but that would not cause the anchors to fail and will certainly be installed as part of the renovation. Most likely the second culprit is the use and lack of maintenance of sealant at the joints of the stone, which undoubtedly let excessive moisture into the cavity. This can also be seen at the Air and Space Museum, which is not a Pei building. If one were detailing this building today, the insulation would be applied over the air/moisture barrier and the joints would be left open for air circulation - a true rain screen system which would allow ventilation to occur in the cavity and remove moisture buildup.
At the time of the detailing of this building, many technical aspects of how to construct the new types of wall systems that were required to create the daring forms of modern buildings had yet to be perfected. Detailing wall systems is often a matter of trial and error that continues today and will in the future.

Claiming that the Main Wing is superior because it hasn't had a major renovation is most likely inaccurate - it clearly has been worked on over the years. The cladding has lasted, I'm guessing, because mortar, and not sealant was used in the joints, and the veneer is load bearing, and not attached with anchors. The use of anchors was introduced throughout the industry to limit construction cost and limit the wight of the cladding so that larger spans and heights could be achieved. Such sweeping claims also overlook some of the short comings that the original building likely had, such as lack of any insulation, which was common at the time of its design.

Those that despise the new and different would be more credible in their arguments if they stuck to opinion when discussing likes and dislikes, and dealing with facts when trying to make a technical point.

Regarding the galleries, creating buildings is a very complex process often molded by influences of site constraints and program. For instance, yes, there are subterranean galleries, largely because the site and program required the East Wing to connect to the original building without closing off the street between, which I think was solved quite creatively by the design team.

To those who love traditional architecture, claiming superiority over any modern building ignores the shortcomings of some traditional designs, especially in houses. They are often cut up into small, disconnected rooms, have a lack of natural light, are often cluttered with mindlessly copied details. One should not generalize by comparing style v. style - it just has very little meaning.

Anonymous said...

That last post was incredibly well-composed and informative. Thank you to the person who wrote it.

Paul Wilson on Dec 28, 2011, 4:37:00 PM said...

The best explanation of the curtain wall failure that I've seen. A confluence of three factors, starting with the Pei's unconventional and untested selection of 1/8" joints, where 3/16" or 1/4" would have been more prudent and more in keeping with standard practices. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703558004574581890709007568.html

 

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