Smithsonian American Art Museum Selects Winner for Renwick Gallery Grand Salon Design Competition

June 14, 2013
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Renwick Grand Salon

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has selected Applied Minds, an interdisciplinary company based in Los Angeles, as the winner of its Grand Salon design competition. The proposed new concept for the Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon is part of a forthcoming major renovation of the Renwick Gallery, home of the museum’s craft and decorative art program since 1972.

The international design competition invited selected interior designers, artists and architects to envision the 4,300-square-foot Grand Salon as a must-see 21st-century destination for contemporary audiences. Applied Minds presented a technology solution that uses state-of-the-art high-definition projectors and audio speakers to create an immersive and interactive environment. The concept proposes unlimited opportunities to transform the Grand Salon with different looks that could range from a woodland forest to an aerial tour of Washington, D.C., to a distinctive historic interior. The design gives artists the opportunity to design new digital artworks to fill the space in creative and inspiring ways. The possibility of featuring digital artworks enhances the museum’s emphasis on developing its media arts program by expanding its display to the Renwick Gallery.

“The genius of the Applied Minds concept is that it encourages visitors to come back again and again to see the many new and ever-changing presentations there,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “I especially like the fact that their concept offers a new palette for artistic interpretation that continues the Renwick Gallery’s tradition of being ‘Dedicated to Art,’ as inscribed over the building’s front door.”

“Applied Minds is honored to be chosen as the winner of this prestigious competition,” said Bran Ferren, co-founder, chief creative officer and lead designer of Applied Minds. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce a unique technology-enabled design concept to the museum environment that will provide both a new palette and performance opportunity for the creative genius of our artists and to inspire new generations of visitors.”

Each of the five firms that advanced to the final round of the competition presented a thoughtful and creative concept. The finalists, in addition to Applied Minds, were Marlon Blackwell Architect, Studio Odile Decq, Vinci Hamp Architects and Westlake Reed Leskosky.

A major renovation of the Renwick Gallery is in the design phase. The renovation, which will begin in 2014, will include a completely renewed infrastructure, enhanced historic features and other upgrades to the National Historic Landmark building. A challenging aspect of the renovation is to preserve the building’s historic structure while integrating new technologies. During the next phase, Applied Minds will work with the museum to further develop their design concept, explore required support systems and requirements and develop a detailed cost estimate. The museum will decide whether to move forward to implement the design by March 2014, after the feasibility study concludes. Private funds will be raised to implement the proposed design.

Additional information about the Renwick Gallery and its renovation is available in an online press kit,

About the Renwick Gallery’s Building

The Renwick Gallery is one of the most elegant examples of Second Empire architecture in the United States. The building was designed in 1859 by the distinguished architect James Renwick Jr., who also designed the Smithsonian’s “Castle” and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Renwick was inspired by the Louvre’s Tuileries addition in Paris and modeled the gallery in the French Second Empire style that was popular at the time. The words “Dedicated to Art” are inscribed above the Renwick Gallery’s front entry. The collection, exhibition program and publications presented by the Renwick Gallery highlight the best craft objects and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present and honor the building’s original purpose.

The Renwick was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and in 1971 it was designated a National Historic Landmark building in the Lafayette Square Historic District. The Renwick Gallery is located steps from the White House in the heart of historic federal Washington.

A more detailed history of the building is available in a separate document or on the museum’s website.

About Smithsonian American Art Museum and Its Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. The museum’s branch for craft and decorative art, the Renwick Gallery, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Metrorail station: Farragut North (Red line) and Farragut West (Blue and Orange lines). Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, ArtBabble, Pinterest, iTunes and YouTube. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website:

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Courtney Rothbard

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Laura Baptiste

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