National Building Museum

Location: Washington, D.C.

Project type: historic preservation

Client: GSA


  • historic preservation
  • artifact preservation

The National Building Museum is one of D.C.'s prestigious historic buildings built between 1882 and 1887. The building includes eight 75-foot-high Corinthian columns that are eight feet in diameter.

The General Services Administration commissioned MTFA Architecture to evaluate the capitals of the columns as pieces of the aging plaster were falling to the ground. The history, fabrication and craftsmanship of the columns were studied in order to develop alternatives to stabilize and protect the public under the columns. Using the Department of the Interiors historic guidelines, the MTFA team developed multiple schemes to address the issue.

The selected alternative involved adding a fine mesh around the entire capital, hardly apparent to the eye. This solution protects the public, does not harm the historic artifact and provided an aesthetic solution that preserved the visual impact of the columns. The project was developed in record time in order to meet a schedule based on the visit of Prince Charles and former President Bush to the National Building Museum.