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  • Smithsonian Receives $25 Million Gift For Renovation
    November 19, 2004 WASHINGTON D.C.

    The Smithsonian Institution announced today that Robert and Arlene Kogod, Washington philanthropists and art collectors, have donated $25 million for the renovation of the historic building in downtown Washington that houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. In recognition of this gift, the enclosed courtyard—a signature element of the renovated building—will be named the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard.

    The building, known as the Patent Office Building, is the third oldest federal building in Washington (after the U.S. Capitol and the White House) and has been undergoing extensive renovation estimated to cost $217 million. It is scheduled to reopen in July 2006 at 8th and F Streets N.W., in the city’s revitalized, new downtown arts area.

    The construction of a glass enclosure over the building’s 28,000-square-foot courtyard will provide a dynamic year-round gathering and exhibition space, flexible enough to accommodate a variety of functions. World-renowned architect Sir Norman Foster of Foster and Partners in London was selected to design the enclosure following a design competition of 17 entries.

    “We’re immensely grateful for the Kogods’ transforming gift, which will make the Norman Foster plan a reality,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small. “They came forward at a crucial time to enable us to put a crowning touch on one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the nation’s capital. We can’t thank them enough for their abundant generosity and longstanding support of the Smithsonian.”

    “Arlene and I are happy to make this contribution because it combines our feelings for the Smithsonian, our city and our country with our interests in the fine and decorative arts and building design,” said Kogod.

    Kogod is a principal of the Charles E. Smith Realty Companies based in Arlington, Va., a major developer and manager of real estate, best known for its Crystal City complex. He is currently serving as a special advisor to Secretary Small on the renovation of the building. Arlene is a counselor who works with teenage girls in public schools. Locally, the Kogods have been supporters of a large number of education, social, museum and theater programs.

    The Patent Office Building, praised by Walt Whitman as “the noblest of Washington buildings,” is, in the eyes of many, the finest example of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. Begun in 1836 and completed in 1867, it was constructed to serve as the U.S. Patent Office throughout the 19th century. Several important early American architects were involved in the original design of the building, including Robert Mills (1781-1855) and Thomas U. Walter (1804-1887). A National Historic Landmark, the building was saved from the wrecking ball in 1958, and Congress transferred it to the Smithsonian in 1962. It has been home to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum since 1968.