Essential Architecture- Washington D.C.

Arts and Industries Building


Adolf Cluss and Paul Schulze


National Mall, Washington, D.C.








  Arts and Industries Building at the Smithsonian.
The Arts and Industries Building is the second oldest of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Called initially the National Museum, it was built to provide the Smithsonian with its first proper facility for public display of its growing collections. The building, designed by architects Adolf Cluss and Paul Schulze, opened in 1881, hosting an inaugural ball for President James A. Garfield.

The building was designed to be symmetrical, comprised of a Greek cross with a central rotunda. The exterior was constructed with geometric patterns of polychrome brick, and a sculpture entitled Columbia Protecting Science and Industry by sculptor Caspar Buberl was placed above the main entrance on the north side. The interior of the building was partially lit through the use of skylights and clerestory windows. In 1883, the exterior was adjusted to use a more vibrant maroon-colored brick.

In 1910 the natural history collections were moved to the new National Museum of Natural History, and the old museum was given its present name. In 1964 the remaining exhibitions were moved to the National Museum of History and Technology, now known as the National Museum of American History. In 1976, the Arts and Industries Building reopened with 1876: A Centennial Exhibition, featuring objects from across the globe that had been displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The building later housed temporary exhibitions and a children's theater, known as the Discovery Theater. In 2004 the museum was again closed for renovation. Its uncertain future and deteriorating condition led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to name it in 2006 as one of America's Most Endangered Places, an annual list of endangered historic sites.