Decorative Aluminum in the Federal Triangle

The Federal Triangle is located between Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue and 15th Street, NW and is part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. It includes a group of important and prominent Federal office buildings.

Designed by the Philadelphia architects Zantzinger, Borie and Medary, and constructed between 1931 and 1935, the Classical Revival style building is distinguished by Art Deco architectural elements and its innovative use of aluminum. The building feature 20-foot-high aluminum doors that slide into recessed pockets. Aluminum was also used for interior stair railings, grilles, and door trims, Art Deco torchères, elevator doors, and more than 10,000 light fixtures.

Decades of use, uninterrupted exposure, and a succession of previous accidents and interventions led to loss, pervasive corrosion and the removal of their striking decorative paint scheme. An ambitious conservation plan was implemented which began with removing the doors, a feat which had not been undertaken since their installation, to an offsite studio.

Intervention focused on mediating aluminum corrosion, correcting mechanical issues, and re-creating the decorative scheme with an enduring finish that could be field-maintained in the future. Treatments were directed towards ensuring that the doors could fulfill their disparate roles as elements of security and works of art harmoniously. Each was then reinstalled and operated as their designer had intended when they were first created more than 70 years ago.