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Renwick Gallery: Wonder

Posted by
Roger Chang, November 11, 2015 at 12:00 am

On November 13, 2015, the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery will reopen to the public, after a major two-year renovation. WRL had the honor of leading the architecture and engineering design of this renovation. After seeing the integration of 9 incredible works of art, specifically designed for the building, I'm humbled by our part in ensuring the sustainability of the building for another generation of visitors and artists. Over the next couple of months, we'll be working to tell the broader story of the renovation and the challenges and triumphs of the design and construction process.

Key highlights:

  • First museum for the Smithsonian to use all-LED lighting in gallery exhibition areas. Our team worked closely with the Smithsonian and lighting manufacturers to develop a lighting solution that allowed for great flexibility of beam control, while using more readily available sources and fixtures. we were able to reduce lighting power density to approximately 1 watt/sf, comparable to that of an office space and 75% less than a halogen based solution.
  • Building reuse: almost 100% of the building's exterior was restored, while still allowing for significantly upgraded building systems. New windows provide significantly improved security, UV, light, and thermal control, while replicating more historic profiling found in the 1800s.
  • Environmental management: new cooling, heating, and airside equipment works in concert to meet the Smithsonian's museum criteria: 72 +/- 4F and 45 +/- 8% RH. The post-renovation energy use is expected to be 35% better than a minimally energy code compliant building.

One of the major challenges of the renovation was spatial coordination - for a building originally constructed in the 1860s, pathways for modern infrastructure and life safety systems were non-existent. By working as an integrated team, we were able to use space creatively, while having no negative impacts on public gallery spaces. In fact, two coves on the second floor were able to be restored to their 1800s configuration. Kriston Capps of Atlantic Monthly's CityLab recently authored an article on the construction and enigneering of the project.

If you're in the DC area this winter, drop by the Renwick for a visit. We hope you'll develop a sense of Wonder and respect for the building, as we have over the last three years working on the project.

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