In recent years, the expansive halls have twice hosted the signature event “The Long Conversation,” a radically different speaking program where conversationalists trade-off for short talks unified by a common question.
The building has also housed the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, two installations of the Secretary, and other Smithsonian events.
These initiatives have propelled AIB forward towards the full realization of its original intention as “The Palace of Invention.” Plans are underway for more projects that celebrate the remarkable past of this space by looking to the future. Stay tuned for more updates on the next chapter, which is sure to be the most impactful yet.
Current Status: 2016; Shell revitalization completed; building in interim use
The AIB shell revitalization project (structural upgrades and replacement of the roof and windows) was completed in the spring of 2014. The old roof was removed and replaced with a new stainless steel standing seam roofing system. The majority of the Hall trusses were replaced with new steel trusses that replicate the appearance of the original iron trusses. Eight original Hall trusses remain in use as part of the historical record. The remaining Range, Court and other structural trusses have been reinforced, where needed, and continue is use. Over 80% of the original iron structure remains in use today. With the completion of the AIB Shell Revitalization project, the building’s structure and exterior envelope are sound. The roof and windows have been replaced and the exterior masonry has been repaired. The building structure has been augmented to meet wind, snow, and seismic loads.
Custom aluminum windows that meet the requirements for blast resistance have been installed that accurately reflect the original wooden windows. They are energy efficient and while the Hall, Range and Court windows and skylights are fixed, the windows in the Pavilions and Towers may be operated.
The building has a fire sprinkler systems, new fire alarms, lighting and a limited heating and cooling system. Modern bathrooms have been installed to allow for interim use and special events until a permanent use is designated for the building.
Some fun facts for about the Revitalization improvements to the building are:
19,509.64 square meters (210,000 square feet) of stainless steel was used for new roofing
2,200,000 kilos (one million pounds) of new structural steel was incorporated into the building
11,532.90 square meters (6,500 square feet) of slate replaced deteriorating slate on Towers and Pavilions
There is 1,219.2 meters (4,000 linear feet) of guttering on the building
There is 5181.6 meters (17,000 liner feet) of decorative trim on the building
The Columbia statue group over the North entrance weighs 2,640 kilos (1200 pounds)
911 new windows were installed as part of the revitalization
It is 33.53 meters (110 feet) from the ground to the top of the Rotunda finial
The hall trusses span approximately 18.89 meters (62 feet) clear