Ansel Adams Gallery in the Wilderness Society
1615 M Street NW
Designer: Group Goetz Architects
Ansel Adams donated 75 of his most important works of landscape photography to the Washington, D.C.–based Wilderness Society, but until recently, space constraints prevented the society from displaying most of this extraordinary collection. This summer, the group unveiled the new Ansel Adams Gallery, a reconfiguration of the society’s second-floor offices and a renovation of their small pre-existing art gallery, designed by D.C.-based Group Goetz Architects (GGA). The project opened to the public in May, after a year and a half of design and construction on a shoestring budget, and won GGA the American Institute of Architects D.C. chapter’s merit award for interiors. A central wall splits the second-floor space into two galleries. On one side, screened windows filter in natural light, while high ceilings create an expansive feeling that complements the larger landscapes. On the opposite side, a lower ceiling and softer artificial lighting create an intimate setting for the details of Adams’ smaller works. Like Adams, Goetz restricted the palette to pure shades of white and gray, leaving little to detract from the photographs themselves. But the design element that really says “Ansel Adams” are the jagged breaks in the gallery’s central spine, giving it the abstracted appearance of one of the natural rock formations that dominate Adams’ oeuvre, and offering visitors intermittent glimpses of the gallery’s other side.