Sunday, November 27, 2011


One of the truly elegant things about the National Gallery is the way I. M. Pei uses movement through the building. The structure makes reference to the city plan of Washington in several ways, beginning with a series of diagonal rifts that split the solid block of the building into triangular prisms, echoing the Baroque geometry of the streets outside. Inside, the theme of diagonal circulation reappears in the cascading stairs and escalators of the main atrium. Diagonal movement gets translated into the vertical dimension. It produces a beautiful space which offers just the right amount of room for the small number of extraordinary works on display.

The National Gallery is a good example of how poetic circulation can be. Besides referring to the city's streets - the horizontal circulation of the metropolis - the stairs and escalators generate shifting views of the art displayed, allowing multiple perspectives onto each work
Here's what the stairs and escalator look like in motion, as recorded on an iPhone.

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