Cluss and the Exposition Building Model

International exposition halls and museum buildings developed in tandem during the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution brought with it new construction materials and technologies, which in turn led to new architectural design concepts.

Illustration of the Crystal Palace in London circa 1853Adolf Cluss, the architect chosen by the Smithsonian to design what is now known as the Arts and Industries Building (AIB), drew upon the building designs used for the international expositions of the era, starting with the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Exposition buildings were typically one-story and often cross-shaped, with a large rotunda at the intersection of the cross. The interior of these buildings was typically a single large exhibition space, often arranged to resemble a market floor, with individual booths for exhibitors. The buildings incorporated plenty of natural lighting since, being temporary structures, they were difficult and impractical to light artificially.

Exposition buildings provided extraordinary spaces for collection exhibits. Cluss wanted to recreate that soaring atmosphere for the Smithsonian, while also giving his building a greater sense of permanence.

Image of illustrated cards showing the various exhibition buildings at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876.