East Building, National Gallery of Art by I.M. Pei - Washington, D.C.
Posted by: Hikenutty
N 38° 53.500 W 077° 01.037
18S E 325046 N 4306689
Quick Description: The East Building of the National Gallery of Art was designed by architect, I.M. Pei, and opened to the public on June 1st, 1978. It houses the gallery's modern collection, temporary exhibitions, as well as a center for research in art history.
Location: District of Columbia, United States
Date Posted: 7/7/2008 1:33:16 PM
Waymark Code: WM44Y3
The East Building of the National Gallery of Art was designed by architect, I.M. Pei, and opened to the public on June 1st, 1978. It houses the gallery's modern collection, temporary exhibitions, as well as a center for research in art history.
Pei's team had to deal with several site constrictions, including a trapezoidal shape to the site, the huge scale of the Mall and its architecture, and also the neighboring West building, designed by Pope in 1941 in a classical style.
The following text is from the National Gallery's page about the East Building and its design:
In a moment of insight, I. M. Pei solved the problem of the site's irregular shape by dividing it into an isosceles triangle and a smaller right triangle. He later recalled, "I sketched a trapezoid on the back of an envelope. I drew a diagonal line across the trapezoid and produced two triangles. That was the beginning."
The early sketch, shows the division of the site into two triangles. The West Building is represented by the lines to the left of the drawing, with the arrow suggesting its strong east-west axis.
During the fall of 1968 and winter of 1969, Pei and his design team explored the underlying geometry governing the structure of the new building. Many of their ideas are recorded in quick working studies, some relating closely to Pei's initial plan based on two triangles and others testing alternative possibilities.
Early in 1969, Pei's design was refined and elaborated to near-final form. The two triangles of the architect's original conception were pulled apart to create a slot that would emphasize the separateness of the two spaces: one for the museum's public functions and the other for its study center. Three towers were beginning to emerge at the corners of the isosceles triangle, balancing the east-west axis of the West Building.
Pei's original plan for the plaza between the East and West Buildings included a circular pool, an echo of the grand rotunda of the original building. Eventually this plan was replaced by scattered skylights ("crystals") and a waterfall to add light and motion to the concourse linking the two buildings underground.
Dennis Sharp says this about the building in his book "Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History", p 379:
The new East Wing extension to the National Gallery, Washington D.C., sits on a difficult triangular site. However, Pei was able to exploit this feature, giving his wedge-shaped building a marvelous sense of presence and sculptural purpose. A post-tensioned concrete structure, this extension to Washington's major art gallery follows the triangular shape of its Fourth Avenue site. It is situated on an 8.8 acre site with some 110,000 sq ft of main exhibition space and 16,000 sq ft of temporary exhibition areas. This building helped to shape attitudes to museum building throughout the United States in the 1970s and later.
Pei was born in China in 1917 and moved to the United States at eighteen to study architecture, and eventually received degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He opened his own firm in New York City in 1955. Pei has designed some of the world's most notable buildings, including: the Mile High Center in Denver, National Airlines terminal at JFK Airport in New York, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, Pyramids of the Louvre in Paris, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the extension building for the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, and many, many more over his long and illustrious career.
To learn more about the East building and view some of Pei's drawings and models that have been donated to the gallery, link to the National Gallery's "A Design for the East Gallery" Web presentation.
Be sure to open the gallery to see all of the interior and exterior photographs of the building.