Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

  • Selected Restoration
  • New York, NY
  • 2011


Andrew Carnegie’s 5th Avenue home on the National Register houses the National Design Museum.   As a place for exhibitions, many of the historic features needed renewal:  the lozenge shaped conservatory and the entrance among others.   Analysis of reasons for their degradation was critical since many of these elements had been restored a decade earlier.




Through study of original drawings and environmental monitoring, changes made in these areas contributed to most of the problems being encountered.  This required that the museum had to understand that the building’s envelope was not able to hold the environmental criteria as exhibition space without contributing to future problems.  Various mitigation concepts were explored, but the criteria of acceptable conditions had to be expanded in order to preserve the historic fabric.


Rather than being viewed as ‘unusable’, specific historic spaces were set aside as spaces for other activities or display of materials where tight environmental conditions were less of a concern.  While the outcomes were different than expected, leadership understood that ‘pushing’ these spaces would ultimately not be successful or sustainable, and that new opportunities arose as these spaces were repurposed as part of the larger visitor experience.