Mind-Bending Installation Blends Art And Architecture At Renwick Gallery

Mind-Bending Installation Blends Art And Architecture At Renwick Gallery
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Parallax Gap, designed by architectural firm FreelandBuck, is on display now until February

Andrew Conrad
  • 26 july 2017

Thanks to the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, Washington, D.C. has a relative paucity of dazzling ceilings compared to other major U.S. cities. But a new exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery is bringing some of the country’s most impressive ceilings to the nation’s capital. Parallax Gap, designed by Los Angeles architectural firm FreelandBuck, features nine different landmark ceilings hung 15-feet above the floor of Renwick’s Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon.

Through an artistic technique called trompe l’oeil (which translates to “deceive the eye”), combined with multiple vanishing points, all nine ceilings can be experienced by visitors as they walk around the Grand Salon and look up at the 2,500-square-foot suspended structure from different angles.

“From other points of view, the illusion malfunctions: figures appear suddenly out of scale, space flattens out, or an entire dome seems to change orientation,” according to FreelandBuck’s website. “The Renwick installation amplifies and coordinates these gaps, opening up the illusion to creative interpretation and leaving the viewer with a visual puzzle to solve.”

Sharp-eyed attendees and architecture buffs may recognize the ceilings from Princeton University’s Chancellor Green Library, Minneapolis City Hall, New York City Federal Hall, Philadelphia City Hall Council Chamber and Caucus Room, Cincinnati Union Terminal, Newport’s Chateau-sur-Mer Dining Room, San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, and Washington, D.C.’s own Eisenhower Executive Office Building Indian Treaty Room.

The installation was assembled on the ground by a team from FreelandBuck, then raised to the ceiling and illuminated with LED lights. It will be on display until February 11, 2018 and admission is free.

FreelandBuck’s Parallax Gap

Thanks to the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, Washington, D.C. has a relative paucity of dazzling ceilings compared to other major U.S. cities. But a new exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery is bringing some of the country’s most impressive ceilings to the nation’s capital. Parallax Gap, designed by Los Angeles architectural firm FreelandBuck, features nine different landmark ceilings hung 15-feet above the floor of Renwick’s Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon.

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