In 1999, then director Edward Keenan addressed the critical need for increased library and research space at Dumbarton Oaks by finding a suitable building site away from the gardens and to the side of the McKim, Mead & White service court buildings. Keenan commissioned Robert Venturi (born 1925) of the Philadelphia architectural firm of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates to design and build a 44,500 square foot, free-standing structure that would integrate the institution’s diverse library holdings and become the centralized intellectual center of Dumbarton Oaks. This five-story structure was situated comfortably behind the McKim, Mead, and White-designed Gardener’s Cottage (see HC.AS.1925.002); its rear side offered four floors of panoramic views across the dell, while its front side presented itself as a two-story structure in scale with its Georgian Revival neighbors (see HC.AS.1925.004). Its Venturi signature-style “decorated shed” façade incorporated darkened brick “graffiti”—bands of design that echoed motifs from the Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and garden landscape worlds. Above the top story on the east side is a clearstory window row. The west façade has staggered bump-outs joined by a series of terraces. Both north and south facades have vertical window walls. The fenestration is otherwise irregularly placed. The building incorporates the preexisting Cool House (orangery), designed by Lawrence Grant White (1887-1956) of the New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, as its periodical reading room. The entrance door is unobtrusively set within a recessed porch to the south of the former Cool House. The building was completed in 2005.
Martin Filler, "Concerto in Brick Major, In Washington, D.C., A Library by Venturi and Scott Brown Adds a Grace Note to Historic Dumbarton Oaks," House & Garden (January 2006) 50-52 and 116.
Deborah K. Dietsch, "New Dumbarton library: Venturi's Way," Washington Times (March 18, 2006) B1 and B3.
Commissioned in 1999 by the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection from Robert Venturi, Philadelphia, PA. The renovation was completed in 2005.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.