The Razor’s Edge

Designed by I.M. Pei in 1978, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art is easily one of my favorite buildings in the city.  The prismatic stone volumes are laid out on a daring plan that follows the angled streets of the baroque city plan while also fulfilling its own internal geometry.  The central lobby is a grand multi-level space full of light, crisscrossing with cast-in-place concrete terraces and bridges.  Note the curvilinear form of the escalator handrail as it is cut into the stone wall.  This was a bold modern move in an era when escalators were considered sub-architectural add-ons.  Pei elevates the mechanical by registering the newly iconic graphic signature of the escalator on the monumental walls themselves.

Other I.M. Pei buildings on the straight torquer:






2 Responses to “The Razor’s Edge”

  1. thb Says:

    what a fabulous museum, what a chance to see and experience the best of our modern era, what amazing photographs…that ‘razor’s edge’ shot says it all!

  2. Jo-Ann Neuhaus Says:

    In the interview you listed some of Pei, Cobb, Fried buildings. Here are a few others:
    Schematic design for Bill Slayton’s [now deceased] house in Cleveland Park
    The four residential buildings that were part of Town Center in SW
    The north and south buildings at L’Enfant Plaza (I believe that Araldo Cossutto was the design principal) plus the original design for 10th Street and the overlook now called Banneker Plaza (since changed)
    The Holocaust Museum and the Ronald Reagan Building (James Indigo Fried was the design principal on both of these)
    The Warner Building (also Fried)
    555 13th Street (Henry Cobb was the design principal I believe) – This and the Warner Building take up the block between 13th, F, 12th, and E streets
    The Christian Science Office Building and Church (again, as with the Boston mother church, the design principal was Araldo Cossutta)

    There are probably others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

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