National Park Service and White House Historical Association

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White House Visitor Center

Location
Washington, DC

Size
16,000 sf

Services
Architecture, Engineering, Historic Preservation

Awards
Craftsmanship Award, Architectural Millwork, Honor Award - Interior Architecture, Merit Award - Interior Design

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“Not only does this transformative design help the White House Historical Association better achieve its educational mission, but it also exemplifies the National Park Service’s larger mission of preservation of the nation’s heritage, stewardship of the environment, and accessibility for all visitors.”

—David Greenbaum, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, SmithGroupJJR

Description

The White House Visitor Center needed an update to reflect the space’s changed function in a post-9/11 world. Prior to 9/11, the center served mainly as a queuing area for those with timed tickets to tour the White House. With the curtailment of tours, the visitor center needed to serve not only as an interpretive complement to a White House tour, but also as a stand-alone educational experience, sharing the history and complex role of the White House and President’s Park. The White House Visitor Center is located within Baldrige Hall (a 1932 U.S. Department of Commerce building), and operates as a National Park Service visitor center.

The design team organized the large hall into interpretive zones, creating space for new interactive exhibits, a theater, a museum gallery, a temporary exhibit area, a retail shop, and visitor information facilities. To respect the strong historic character of Baldrige Hall, the design minimizes the use of enclosed areas and utilizes freestanding casework and walls to keep modifications independent of the building’s historic fabric. The strategic use of open spaces provides unencumbered views to the historic stone walls and rich coffered ceiling, further enhanced by strategic uplighting. The lightness of the new, white materials contrasts with the classicism of the room and makes reference to the White House itself.

Related Content

In the News: White House Visitor Center Reopens
Designed by SmithGroupJJR and Gallagher & Associates, renovated center shows public its unique role as office, stage, museum, park and home.

VIDEO: The White House Visitor Center Design Team
David Greenbaum and design team members share their experiences renovating the White House Visitor Center