Robert and Arlene Kogod, prolific Washington philanthropists and art collectors, yesterday gave the Smithsonian Institution $25 million toward the renovation of the historic Patent Office Building.
The gift is the fourth largest donation in Smithsonian history and the biggest since the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation gave $30 million in 2001.
Robert and Arlene Kogod's $25 million gift will help fund a new glass enclosure over the courtyard at the Old Patent Office Building.
(Smithsonian American Art Museum)
The Kogod money will enable the museum to proceed with a dramatic glass enclosure over the courtyard of the building, which will reopen in 2006 as the restored home of both the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.
"It is clearly a magnificent gift in terms of philanthropy and answering a need. It is really a dream for us to have the transformation from an open green space that was underutilized into a useful space for special events," said Ned Rifkin, the Smithsonian undersecretary for art.
Norman Foster, the British architect renowned for the new Reichstag building in Berlin and the Great Court at the British Museum, is designing the glass roof for what will be named the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. The $38 million courtyard project, comprising 28,000 square feet, will provide a year-round space for concerts, meetings, art installations and parties.
This is the Patent Office project's third major gift. Nan Tucker McEvoy and the Henry Luce Foundation each donated $10 million in 2001.
A National Historic Landmark, the Patent Office building -- across Seventh Street NW from MCI Center -- has been closed to the public since 2000 and has been gutted. Much of the contents of the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery have been put on the road in traveling shows. The renovation, designed by Hartman-Cox Architects of Washington, is scheduled to be completed by July 4, 2006.
But the Smithsonian still needs to raise $60 million more to pay for the $298 million cost of renovating the building and reinstalling the museums. The federal government has appropriated $166 million, and $70 million has been raised from the private sector.
"We are immensely grateful for the Kogods' transforming gift, which will make the Norman Foster plan a reality. They came forward at a crucial time to enable us to put a crowning touch on one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the nation's capital," said Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small in a statement.
In a statement Robert Kogod said, "Arlene and I are happy to make this contribution because it combines our feelings for the Smithsonian, our city and our country with our interests in the fine and decorative arts and building design." He declined yesterday to elaborate on the donation.
Robert Kogod, 73, is a trustee of the real estate firms Archstone-Smith and Vornado Realty Trust. Arlene Kogod, 69, is the daughter of the late developer Charles E. Smith. The Kogods are generous supporters of local cultural and education institutions. Recently the couple gave Signature Theatre in Arlington $1 million. They have also contributed to Woolly Mammoth Theatre, American University and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland.
The Patent Office Building, which dates to 1836, is the third oldest federal building in Washington and has served as a government office and, during the Civil War, even as an infirmary. Walt Whitman worked as a nurse there and called the site "the noblest of Washington buildings." Abraham Lincoln held his second inaugural ball in the building.
Congress gave the building to the Smithsonian in 1962. The two museums began sharing its space since 1968.
Earlier this month the National Capital Planning Commission approved the preliminary site and building plans for Foster's canopy. But questions have been raised among preservationists about the removal of historic elm trees from the courtyard, the canopy's height and color and the replacement of the original staircase on F Street NW. Final approval is still pending.
The only Smithsonian donations that exceed the Kogods' gift are a total of $100 million from Kenneth E. Behring in 1997 and 2000, $65 million from Steven F. Udvar-Hazy in 1999 and the Reynolds Foundation's $30 million in 2001.