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National Gallery of Art, East Building

National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art

The East Building of the National Gallery of Art is one of Pei’s greatest achievements. The 600,000-square-foot museum expansion building was located on what, at the time, was the most sensitive site in the United States: opposite the Capitol at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues and the National Mall, each with its own zoning constraints. Pei divided the trapezoidal site diagonally and made the resulting triangles the leitmotif of the entire design.


Site plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Major components include a large isosceles triangle for the museum, a smaller right triangle for a study center and administrative offices, and a triangular skylit atrium at the heart of the building that unites the whole. A fourth major component, an underground service concourse, links the East Building to the original National Gallery of Art (an imposing Beaux-Arts building designed by John Russell Pope and completed in 1941).

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