The Smithsonian's Kogod Courtyard, built in 2007 as a modern complement to the nineteenth-century museum's Greek Revival–style architecture, is an oasis in downtown Washington, DC.
The courtyard adjoins the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, which is a part of the National Portrait Gallery—one of the oldest federal structures in Washington, DC.
The strikingly contemporary Kogod Courtyard was designed by the architectural firm Foster + Partners, and is shielded by an enormous glass-and-aluminum canopy with a surface area of approximately 37,500 square feet. Each of the 864 glass panes is slightly different, and the entire structure is supported by eight cylindrical steel columns.
While the glass canopy is captivating, my favorite design element in the courtyard is the water scrim feature designed by landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson. Her design, which is a shallow series of rectilinear pools that run the entire length of the space, also includes plantings of olive and ficus trees, and white marble planters that offer a beautiful contrast to the granite floor.
The Smithsonian Portrait Gallery's Kogod Courtyard is free and open daily from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm. Added bonus: Free public wireless Internet access inside the courtyard!