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Exterior photo of the Arts and Industries Building Arts and Industries Building
Aerial photo of the Smithsonian Institution Building Smithsonian Institution Building
Aerial view of the SI Castle and AIB


The Smithsonian Institution Building, the “Castle,” is the Institution’s first home and its symbolic heart. The Arts and Industries Building opened in 1881 as the first home of the National Museum. Together, these two buildings comprise the Smithsonian’s Historic Core. Both buildings are in need of major revitalization, work that will include new, efficient heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems; new electrical and plumbing systems, and new telecommunications, security and life safety systems. A new, underground Central Utility Plant will provide mechanical and electrical infrastructure and a new Consolidated Loading Facility will improve the efficiency and safety of materials handling in the South Mall Campus. A goal of the revitalization will prioritize exterior and interior restoration, and to provide efficient and accessible space for visitors and staff. Public spaces will be restored after years of piecemeal remodeling that has diminished their original proportions and appearance.

Public Consultation Meeting Information


Consulting Parties Meeting #3
November 16, 2021 and December 14, 2021

Information Presentations

Meeting Minutes

View the Draft Assessment of Effects on Historic Resources

Consulting Parties Meeting #2

May 26 and 27, 2021

Information Presentations

Consulting Parties Meeting #1 

Jan 13, 2021

Last Update: January 26, 2022

Project Background

There is a need for comprehensive rehabilitation of the Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB or "the Castle") and the Arts and Industries Building (AIB) in order to address physical deterioration, obsolete systems, and non-compliance with construction, accessibility, and life-safety codes. Construction of a Central Utility Plant and enhanced Loading Dock will link and serve the SIB and AIB buildings. Both the SIB and AIB are National Historic Landmarks, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and part of the National Mall Historic District.

The Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), familiarly known as “the Castle”, is a 10,200 square meter (110,000 square foot) building located on the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was designed by James Renwick, Jr., under the direction of the Smithsonian’s first Secretary, Joseph Henry, and the Board of Regents. When completed in 1855, the building housed all the Smithsonian’s operations including research and administrative offices, lecture and exhibition halls, a library and reading room, chemical laboratories, storage areas for specimens, and living quarters for Joseph Henry and his family. As each successive Secretary has redefined the Smithsonian’s mission and managed its growth, the Castle’s interior spaces have undergone many modifications. While the building's stewards do their best to maintain and repair it, continuing decay and piecemeal remodeling threaten the integrity of the building.  In order to prevent impending catastrophic failure of structural, environmental, mechanical, and electrical systems, the building needs a full system revitalization.

The Arts and Industries Building (AIB) was designed by Adolf Cluss and Paul Schulze to house the rapidly growing collections of the National Museum built between 1879 and 1881. The AIB is the nation’s best-preserved example of nineteenth century world’s fair or exposition architecture. From 2010 to 2014, the building envelope was revitalized, including structural enhancements, replacement of the roof and windows, and restoration of the masonry exterior. Following installation of interim service systems, the building has been used for special events. The Smithsonian now intends to engage in a full interior revitalization of the 16,300 square meter (175,000 square foot) building and reopen the building to the public.

Implementation of the South Mall Campus Master Plan, approved in 2018, will require excavation below and adjacent to the two buildings to provide an enhanced loading facility and a central utility plant that will serve SIB, AIB, and in the future the Freer and the Quadrangle. The loading facility will permit appropriate segregation of art and non-collections delivery and the handing of waste and recycling. The central utility plant will allow the disconnection of General Services Administration steam and chilled water services and will result in significant cost savings and reduction in carbon footprint. Underpinning, blast mitigation and seismic reinforcement of SIB and AIB will be integrated into the construction of these new facilities.

The last major renovation of the Castle, including upgrade of HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, was completed more than fifty years ago, in 1968. With the exception of its East Wing, the Castle’s exterior of Seneca sandstone has remained largely unchanged. In order to provide a world-class visitor center and executive office setting, all building elements and systems require replacement or restoration. This includes windows, roof, exterior stonework, mechanical, electrical, plumbing systems, life safety security and information technology systems. The Central Utility Plant will be essential to provide mechanical and electrical infrastructure support. 


Goals of the Castle revitalization will include:

  • Restoration of major historic interior public spaces
  • Installation of efficient building systems
  • Provision of state-of-the-art visitor services and amenities
  • Restoration of building exterior
  • Mitigation of blast and seismic vulnerability
  • Revitalization of iconic building for a century of further use

In order to complete the Revitalization of the Arts and Industries Building for a new programmatic use, the interior of the building requires installation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, life safety and security improvements, and communications infrastructure. The Central Utility Plant will be essential to provide mechanical and electrical infrastructure support. Goals of the revitalization will include:

  • Restoration of major historic interior public spaces
  • Installation of efficient building systems
  • Completion of mitigation of blast and seismic vulnerability
  • Interior build-out for museum programming
  • Revitalization and reopening of iconic building to the public


Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle)

Photo of the Smithsonian Castle

Arts and Industries Building

Exterior photo of the Arts and Industries Building

Check back soon for more information.

General inquiries can be sent to the project email address below:

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