Gallery: The Smithsonian’s Vaulted Canopy Brings Nature and Light Insid...

The centerpiece of the restoration is the building's impressive Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard.
The centerpiece of the restoration is the building's impressive Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard.

The courtyard is now the largest event space in Washington D.C, complete with fully grown trees. The lattice work of the ceiling is reflected in the unique water feature on the floor, and the feeling of being outside is enhanced by the beautiful landscape design by Kathryn Gustafson of Seattle–based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. It is meant to be a gathering space with lectures and concerts happening regularly, free public WiFi and a casual dining cafe.

The courtyard’s wavy steel and glass design is the latest of Foster + Partner‘s impressive list of projects. They also designed the LEED Gold Hearst Tower in New York City, the Great Court at the British Museum in London and the Reichstag, the New German Parliament in Berlin. The roof was designed with eight aluminum-surfaced columns that reflect the style of the building and are perfectly placed to insure the weight of the vaulted ceiling does not affect the historic structure. Along with being a beautiful place to gather, the courtyard can be seen from the museum’s many galleries providing a summer-like vista even on the coldest of winter days.

+ Foster + Partners


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  1. Mandy June 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm


    Just a few clarifications regarding your post above. The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery are two seperate museums that share one building, which underwent an extensive renovation between 2000 and 2006. Foster + Partners was only involved in the creation of the courtyard canopy, which opened to the public in November 2007. Also, the water feature on the courtyard floor is scheduled for repair in early 2011 and is currently turned off.

    Thank you for the kind words about the beauty of the space–we do feel fortunate to call such a remarkable building our home! For the most up to date information about the museum and its facility, please visit!

    Mandy Young
    Public Affairs Associate
    Smithsonian American Art Museum

  2. daniel shand June 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Nice Architecture!

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