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Members Only Tour: Designing Exhibitions – The Design Offices at the NGA

Join Senior Architect Donna Kirk, AIA and the design team for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Design Department at the National Gallery of Art. The department is responsible for all temporary and permanent exhibitions and installations in both IM Pei’s iconic East Building and JR Pope’s neo-classical West Building.

The group will take a seldom offered tour and see current and up-coming exhibitions in various stages of planning. They will look at layouts, models and see the latest technology used in creating maquettes and design components. A PowerPoint presentation will illustrate forty plus years of exhibition design, including challenging installations that included a 13 ton Olmec head, a 30 foot tall Islamic minbar and a 52 foot long backcloth for the ballet “Firebird”.

Presented by: Donna Kirk, AIA

Ms. Kirk, a licensed architect in the Design Office at the NGA for over three decades works closely with Chief of Design Mark Leithauser on the planning and installation of all temporary and permanent exhibitions. She was formerly a principal in her own architectural design firm focused on residential and historic house structures. The National Gallery of Art Design Office has won two Presidential Design Awards for Exhibition Design Excellence and the Inform Award from the Virginia Society of the AIA. Ms.

Kirk has been a visiting critic for the Rhode Island School of Design, the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Catholic University, the Virginia Polytechnic University, and the Washington Alexandria Center for Architecture. She holds a Master of Architecture degree from Virginia Polytechnic University and a B.F.A. degree  from Montclair State University.

Organized by: AIA|DC Public Architects Committee

Please note: This tour is open only to Assoc. AIA, AIA & DAC members. Please click here to join.


At the completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the tools and technology used in the planning and design of exhibitions;
  • Discuss and gain insight into the various talents/skills that contribute to the design of an exhibition;

  • Explain how the architecture of both buildings contribute to a successful installation; and

  • Explore and visualize how the spaces in the East Building have been shaped and adapted over the years to accommodate various genres and works of art from around the world.