The story of the design of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History belies its quietly restrained appearance. The building's architects, Hornblower & Marshall, were not responsible for the prominent Mall façade of the museum and its low Roman dome; rather, these were a secret effort of Charles Follen McKim, who, in turn, asked Daniel II. Burnham to add his ideas to the final composition. This history is entwined with McKim and Burnham's work on the Senate Park Commission (McMillan) plan of 1902. For them, the museum represented the model for all the buildings to be erected on the new National Mall. Although functional needs were an important part of the dialogue, Hornblower & Marshall and McKim and Burnham were most concerned with identifying the appropriate character for the new structure, the former admiring modern French style, the latter advocating a Roman Revival aesthetic. The finished building, the work of all these hands, demonstrates that many practicing architects at the turn of the century valued compromise and collaboration as least as much as they did creativity and independence.
Creating a Model for the National Mall: The Design of the National Museum of Natural History
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Cynthia R. Field, Jeffrey T. Tilman; Creating a Model for the National Mall: The Design of the National Museum of Natural History. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 March 2004; 63 (1): 52–73. doi: https://doi.org/10.2307/4127992
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