Project DescriptionFROM THE AIA MARYLAND:
The White House Visitor Center, operated by the National Park Service in conjunction with the White House Historical Association, is located in historic Baldrige Hall within the 1932 U.S. Department of Commerce building. The design team’s goal for the renovation was to create opportunities for children and families to connect to the history of the White House as a home, office, museum, and stage for ceremony. Improvements to the visitor center include new interactive interpretive exhibits, a theater with an introductory film, a permanent museum gallery, a temporary exhibit area, a retail shop, and visitor information facilities. The strong character of Baldrige Hall required that any interventions in the space respect and remain independent from the historic fabric. To this end, the architecture and exhibits became interwoven, utilizing freestanding casework and theater walls that supported exhibit and retail activity. This seamless integration of architecture and exhibits within the distinct character of the room creates a dialog between old and new, a respect and sympathy for the past while embracing the present. The design team sought to preserve the strength and natural beauty inherent in the room by maintaining the natural light coming from both sides of the main axis. The lightness of the new, white materials contrasts with the classicism of the room while making reference to the White House itself. The glass and steel entry vestibule serves to protect the interior conditioning necessary to maintain the historic fabric while minimizing visual impact on the historic space.