Friday, May 28, 2004

DON'T LOOK UP: Smithsonian Building Closed to Public Due to Threat of Collapsing Roof

While this isn't exactly breaking news, I realized yesterday I haven't written about the threat of a collapsing roof at the historic Arts and Industries Building. The A&I Buidling, constructed next to the Smithsonian's Castle from 1879-1881, has been closed to the public for many months, but still is open to staff of the Smithsonian's associated academic programs housed in the building.

"They don't want to have large amounts of people in there," a Smithsonian source tells the Oculus. "For us, they say it's fine."

Essentially, large amounts of snow on the roof could threaten the integrity of the building, therefore, they don't want busloads of children inside.

According to the AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. (third edtion), it was "the least expensive major structure ever put up by the federal government" ($3 a square foot). And it was also the "most speedily and efficiently constructed." It was finished in time for President James Garfield's inaugural in 1881. (Garfield was shot by an assassin across the way at the old B&O Railroad terminal, where today's National Gallery of Art stands.

The building was closed for renovations from 1974-1976.

For more history on the building, click here.


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