Consigli Construction Co. Inc., based in Milford, Mass., has been selected as the general construction contractor for the renovation of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, following a competitive proposal process. This is the first project in Washington, D.C., for the company.
Consigli was selected for its experience working with historic buildings and museums. Among its recent noteworthy projects are the restoration of Trinity Church in Boston, a National Historic Landmark building designed by H.H. Richardson; the renovation of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Conn., the oldest public art museum in the United States, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine.
The Renwick Gallery building, designed in 1859, was the first purpose-built museum in Washington, D.C. In 1972, the National Historic Landmark building became the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft and decorative art program. The renovation, currently underway, is the first comprehensive renewal of the building in 40 years. It includes completely renewed infrastructure and enhanced historic features and other upgrades to the historic building that will make it a 21st-century destination attraction. Funding for the renovation is a 50-50 public-private partnership.
Westlake Reed Leskosky, based in Cleveland with offices in Washington, D.C., is the lead architectural design and engineering firm for this major renovation and enhancement effort. Plans for renovating the 34,000-square-foot masonry structure include replacement of all heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and fire-suppression systems as well as upgrades to security, phone and data communication systems. Wireless access will be installed throughout the building. The original window configuration will be re-created, two vaulted ceilings in the second floor galleries will be restored and the basement will be reconfigured for improved staff offices and workshops.
The building will be outfitted with an all-LED lighting system, a landmark advance in energy efficiency that will reduce energy needs by as much as 70 percent. Since 2012, museum staff has worked with the lighting industry to develop brighter and more precise LED lamps specifically for the Renwick. These new lamps will allow the museum to achieve the goal of an all LED system that equals or exceeds the aesthetic benchmark set by halogen and incandescent lighting currently used in the galleries. Combined with other infrastructure improvements, the new lighting system will significantly reduce the building’s environmental footprint.
The museum and Applied Minds, an interdisciplinary company based in Los Angeles, are exploring a design concept to reimagine the Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon as an immersive and interactive environment that would allow artists to design new digital artworks to fill the space in creative and inspiring ways.
The museum closed to the public Dec. 9, 2013; staff and the collections vacated the building earlier this year. Construction is expected to be complete in 15 months.
About the Renwick Gallery’s Building
The Renwick Gallery is one of the most elegant examples of Second Empire architecture in the U.S. The building is named for its architect, James Renwick Jr., who also designed the Smithsonian’s “Castle” and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It was built originally as a public museum for William Corcoran’s private art collection. The Renwick Gallery is the third-oldest Smithsonian building.
In 1956, Congress proposed that the building be razed. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy led the campaign to save the Renwick Gallery as part of her plan to restore Lafayette Square, and in 1965,
S. Dillon Ripley, then secretary of the Smithsonian, met with President Lyndon Johnson to request that the gallery be turned over to the Smithsonian. The Renwick was subsequently dedicated “for use as a gallery of art, crafts and design.” The Renwick was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and in 1971 was designated a National Historic Landmark building in the Lafayette Square Historic District. The Renwick Gallery is located steps from the White House in the heart of historic federal Washington.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on , YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, , Flickr, Pinterest, iTunes U and ArtBabble. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website: americanart.si.edu.