Beyer Blinder Belle Architects Complete Rubell Museum DC
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects Complete Rubell Museum DC
The adaptive reuse of a historic school preserves a beloved community landmark and brings it back to life as a public resource.
Rubell Museum DC facade. Photo by Chi Lam.
Washington, DC — October 27, 2022 — The Rubell Museum DC, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle, opens to the public on October 29, 2022. Located at 65 I Street in Southwest DC, less than a mile from the Capitol and National Mall, the museum presents exhibitions of works drawn from the Rubell Family’s unparalleled and ever-expanding collection of contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and site-specific work by American and international artists. Residents of Washington, DC receive free admission, providing expanded opportunities for the wider community to engage in a dialogue with the artists of our times.
The museum is housed in a historic Georgian revival-style building that opened in 1906 as Francis L. Cardozo Elementary, a public school serving the Black community of Southwest DC. It was reestablished in 1927 as Randall Junior High School, a tangible expression of the nationwide trend in the 1920s to convert elementary schools into junior high schools. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Southwest redevelopment program destroyed much of the neighborhood’s historic fabric. The Randall Junior High School, which ceased operations in 1978, remains one of the last surviving buildings associated with the pre-urban renewal history of Southwest DC.
The original building and its 1927 wings are a reminder of the cultural and social role the school played within the community and is a significant element of Washington’s architectural and cultural heritage. From 1982 until 2004, the building served a variety of uses, including as artist studios, a space for arts education programs, and as a housing shelter for men. Following years of neglect, the adaptive reuse of the building into a museum preserves this important landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places and brings it back to life as a public resource.
BBB worked with the Rubells to develop a specific design aesthetic for the museum that involved revealing existing features (such as the wood flooring and raw wood joists) while also maximizing finished walls for displaying artwork. Upon entering the building through the modest, new glass addition, visitors arrive in the entry space. Two curved walls from the entry lead into the main East Gallery, previously the school auditorium. Throughout the building, archways have been uncovered revealing beautifully exposed brick which marks the entrance to each gallery and generates a rhythm that draws visitors from one space to the next. The overall design aesthetic has been to reveal the base elements of the historic structure and create a simple but dramatic backdrop for the artwork to take center stage.
“The Rubell Museum is a transformative project in the heart of the historic Southwest area. It will give a new life to the historic Randall School—an iconic building with a rich social and architectural history,” said Hany Hassan, FAIA, Partner, Beyer Blinder Belle.
The historic building’s reinvigoration and redevelopment into a museum was conceived by the Rubells and Telesis, and realized by Lowe, a national real estate developer, which is also developing an adjacent new 492-unit apartment building, Gallery 64, with 20% of its units dedicated to affordable housing.
A selection of photos can be viewed here.
About Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners
Beyer Blinder Belle was founded in 1968, in the wake of the urban renewal movement in the United States, when the social fabric of cities, communities, and buildings was compromised by the prevailing attitudes about planning and architecture. This mission has guided us for more than five decades and has shaped an award-winning international practice. A persistent exploration of historic, cultural, and civic meaning guides our work, while our design is contemporary and reflects the materials and technology of today. BBB has extensive experience in creating visionary yet achievable plans for cultural and not-for-profit institutions, including many museums. Such places inspire people and lift spirits, making personal connections to other times, places, and cultures while broadening the identity of self and understanding of the world.
About the Rubell Museum DC
Located at 65 I Street in the Southwest neighborhood, the Rubell Museum DC brings the Rubell Family’s extensive contemporary art collection to the nation’s capital. After nearly 30 years as the Rubell Family Collection and with the 2019 expansion to a new location in Miami, the institution was renamed the Rubell Museum to emphasize its public mission and expand access for audiences. Shortly after Mera and Don Rubell married in 1964, they started visiting artists’ studios and collecting art in New York. Their son, Jason Rubell, joined them in 1982 in building the collection, creating the exhibitions, and developing the museums, reflecting the multi-generational family passion for discovering, engaging, and supporting many of today’s most compelling artists.
The Rubell Museum’s collection is distinguished by its unprecedented range and depth that has enabled the Museum to organize over 50 exhibitions during the last three decades drawn entirely from its holdings in painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation. These have included such groundbreaking and diverse exhibitions as Richard Prince (2004), Red Eye: Los Angeles Artists (2006), Against All Odds: Keith Haring (2008), Beg Borrow and Steal (2009), 28 Chinese (2013), NO MAN’S LAND (2015), Still Human (2017), Purvis Young (2018), and Yayoi Kusama (2020). Many of these exhibitions have toured to museums internationally and have been accompanied by catalogues.