Buildings: West Building, East Building, and Sculpture Garden
The West Building
Andrew Mellon selected American architect John Russell Pope (1874-1937) to design the museum’s original West Building. His proposal was for a building in a traditional classicizing style but built with the most modern technology. Most of the building’s three-acre roof is composed of skylights so that the galleries below are bathed in bright, unifying natural light.
Andrew Mellon and John Russell Pope died within twenty-four hours of each other in August 1937. The West Building was completed in accordance with their plans and the structure was accepted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the American people on March 17, 1941. To maintain the buildings and infrastructure at optimal efficiency, the Gallery has implemented an ongoing, long-term program of repair, restoration, and renovation.
The East Building
When he created the National Gallery of Art, Andrew Mellon asked Congress to set aside an adjacent plot of land for eventual expansion. After little more than twenty-five years, that expansion already was needed.
In 1967, Andrew Mellon’s children, Paul Mellon (1907-1999) and Ailsa Mellon Bruce (1901-1969) offered funds for a second building to meet the museum’s pressing space needs. Architect I. M. Pei was selected to design the building in a modernist style, but closely linked to the original West Building. Construction began in 1971 and the museum opened to the public on June 1, 1978.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
In 1966, preparation began for a national sculpture garden on a site immediately to the west of the West Building. After more than 30 years of planning, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden opened to the public on May 23, 1999. The pool and fountain at its center become an ice skating rink in winter.