The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, gardens and a research library for Byzantine and pre-Columbian studies, has plans to renovate its current greenhouse into an education space and construct another.
Planning for the project at Dumbarton Oaks, located in north Georgetown, began early this summer in coordination with the project’s lead New York-based architecture firm, Selldorf Architects. The official timeline for construction will be announced once designs are completed, according to Annabelle Selldorf, principal of Selldorf Architects.
Dumbarton’s new greenhouse will be more energy-efficient with solar panels, improved irrigation and climate control features included in the plans.
The project is a part of the estate’s three-year Access Initiative to improve its campus, Dumbarton Oaks Communications Manager Erica Bogese said.
“We envision that this project will enhance sustainability, K-12 educational activities, and support of the arts and humanities at Dumbarton Oaks,” Bogese wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Dumbarton’s existing greenhouse was designed by Lawrence Grant White in 1925 and is one of the oldest structures standing on its campus. The current project, which integrates the old and new, is a unique opportunity, according to Selldorf.
“While on the one hand it is two distinct and separate buildings, and one is new construction while the other is the renovation of an existing structure, they are intertwined,” Selldorf wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Both are premised on finding a design solution that is appropriate for their beautiful campus that will allow them to increase their educational programs and continue the critical stewardship of the historic garden.”
The project will occur in two phases, delineated by work on the greenhouse and the education space separately, according to Lisa Green, a partner at Selldorf Architects.
“The new greenhouse needs to be constructed first so that the activities taking place in the current greenhouse can move there,” Green wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Once that is done work on the historic greenhouse renovation will begin to transform that to the education space.”
Dumbarton Oaks currently hosts an Early-Career Musician Residency, which provides young composers and musicians with resources to study classical music and exposes a younger generation to the genre, according to Bogese. The museum’s current musician-in-residence, American violinist Robyn Bollinger, is holding free pop-up concerts in the galleries throughout the fall months for local residents.
The renovated greenhouses will allow for programming that the entire Georgetown community will have the opportunity to enjoy, according to Bogese.
“This space will also provide us with more room to support emerging artists,” Bogese wrote. “The Greenhouse renovation will allow us to expand the program by providing a studio for a future artist in residence, which will be one more way we can contribute to the vibrant arts and culture community of Georgetown.”
Dumbarton Oaks has been a hub for cultural, artistic and political discovery since its owners, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, donated the museum to Harvard University in 1940. The Dumbarton Oaks Museum houses collections of Byzantine and pre-Columbian art, as well as sprawling, picturesque gardens. The gardens, where the greenhouse project will take place, were designed by Beatrix Farrand, a noted landscape architect.
The greenhouse project is a step in the right direction in terms of sustainability, according to Amelia Walsh (SFS ’20), president of the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network.
“In general I’m really excited about any work that Dumbarton is able to do, as they work with leading conservationists and landscape architects and are thoughtful about how they approach sustainable development,” Walsh wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I’m hopeful that Dumbarton continues to be transparent about where they source their energy from, and that they take both greenhouse gas emissions and conservation efforts into account, as is important with all energy projects!”
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