The Landscape Architect’s Guide to

Washington, D.C.

Penn Quarter / Chinatown / NoMa

Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery

The Kogod Courtyard is a sanctum of serenity in the midst of downtown Washington. It is an unexpected oasis of modern landscape set within a classical context. It's unexpected because this landscape has a lid – a sinuous glass canopy that encloses the space while admitting full sunlight.

The space, which was designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, is especially inviting in summer or winter, when one can linger in climate controlled comfort in spite of the temperature outside. The landscape itself is deceptively simple. A granite floor features three large rectangular scrims of water that ripple across the ground plane, reflecting the sky and offering a gentle sizzling sound. Sensually shaped marble seats and planters offer visitors a generous perch to sit, lounge, and gather. Exotic tropical plants complete the scene, adding a splash of color and texture to the composition. A detail worth noting is the manner in which the trees have been pruned, reminiscent of the romantic style of landscape painting, examples of which are found right inside the building walls that frame the courtyard.

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