Precedent – Final Project

National Portrait Gallery Atrium, Smithsonian Institution
Washington D.C.
Architect: Foster and Partners

1221d_portrait2_b 1221d_portrait1_b

The museum was looking to add an atrium in the center of the structure.  The original building was designed and built in the Neoclassical style. The new modern atrium structure is composed of steel and aluminum, in contrast to the tough stone exterior of the museum.  The shape was influenced by the spirit of the museum: knowledge.  The free flowing shape acts as pure structure, to keep cost down, as mentioned by the firm.

AcornTop3 AcornTop1

Remembering my personal visit to the atrium, what stood out to me was the pattern and the movement it created. Relating back to Acorn Alley, the possibility of creating the same experience sparked an idea. The influence I thought of was the pattern of a top of an acorn. Similar to a dome, it has a broad round shape that is able to cover an acorn completely. In terms of an architectural structure, it could do the same.


Isolating this natural pattern into shape and line, the relationship of solid and void is clearly seen.  In designing the structure, I plan to continue the hierarchy from outside to center, creating heavier, stronger beams and making them smaller as they move to the top of the dome.  The center circle may act as a centering point for each individual arch.


Acorn Alley is an active area during the day, as well as the evening.  The North-South path extends to a few different elevations, and empties into a central courtyard, which has plants that must be climate controlled. This may be achieved through the choice of materiality and span of the roof. In order to hold up the structure, a column system will also be developed. The glass panels can be tinted in terms of sunlight patterns that move perpendicular to the path.

Maitlyn Fitz

Mortice, Zach.  “Museum Courtyard Glides Through the Ages: “Once again, Foster +                  Partners prove their mastery of the historic public sphere”.   AIA Architect. American          Institute of Architects, 21 December 2007.  Web.  17 November 2013.         <>


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