The U.S.’s first purpose-built art museum, the Renwick Gallery in Washington was founded in 1859 with the aim to encourage “American genius.” Bringing it into the 21st century took major brainpower, too. Westlake Reed Leskosky’s two-year renovation of the 50,000-square-foot National Historic Landmark tastefully blends old and new. The firm restored the original window configuration, shedding light on ceilings vaults that had been hidden for decades. LED fixtures developed especially for the project reduce energy usage by 70 percent, while also spotlighting Odile Decq’s sumptuous carpet for the grand stair.
The Second Empire–style building, designed by James Renwick, Jr., and saved from demolition in 1962 by then first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, now houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of craft and decorative arts as well as hosts changing exhibits. Just opened is “ Wonder,” nine gallery-size installations by the likes of Maya Lin, Tara Donovan, and Patrick Dougherty.