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DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts reopened on October 21 after a two-year, $70 million renovation that dramatically updated the 1908 building while respecting its architectural legacy. The Classic Revival gem was designed by architect Waddy Wood as a Masonic temple. Over the years, it also served as an office building and a movie theater before the NMWA purchased the landmark in 1983.

The first major rehab since the museum’s 1987 debut brings it into the 21st century with flexible, expanded exhibition spaces; the Learning Commons complete with a gallery, library and classroom/studio; the updated Performance Hall; better accessibility; and state-of-the-art lighting.

“We’ve designed a forward-looking structure with versatile spaces while also maintaining the building’s historic spirit,” says lead architect Sandra Parsons Vicchio. The Great Hall (above) exemplifies this vision. Its original marble balustrades and coffered ceiling were preserved, as were the circa-1980s marble floors and chandeliers—now lit with LEDs. But a new, neutral palette elevates the space along with reworked gold-leaf accents and, on the mezzanine, custom Holland & Sherry wallpaper framing artwork on view.

“This transformative renovation makes it possible to be bolder and more inventive and imaginative,” notes NMWA director Susan Fisher Sterling, “and to provide strong programming now and into the future.”

Lead Architect: Sandra Parsons Vicchio, AIA, NCARB, LEEP AP, Sandra Vicchio & Associates, LLC, Baltimore, Maryland. Architect of Record: Cara Versace, AIA, NCARB, LEEP AP BD+C, MCA, Baltimore, Maryland. Interior Design of Public Spaces: Eileen Ritter & Associates, Washington, DC. Contractor: Grunley, Washington, DC. 

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