Handrail Restoration

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, located in Washington, DC, is a major institution dedicated to educating the public about the Holocaust. Designed by the late James Freed of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the museum was dedicated in 1993.

The handrails presented a complex restoration challenge to the museum staff. The handrails had been painted and exhibited wear endemic to their function. However, paint continued to fail quickly and the railings had been recoated multiple times in only 15 years. The museum staff sought a long-term solution which protected the steel, was maintainable, and was still consistent with the design aesthetic.

We were contracted by Architrave P. C. Architects in 2008 to develop a comprehensive testing program of possible paint removal methods and alternative finishes. Finish options ranged from high performance coatings to chemical patinas which could actually be enriched by constant contact and use. Product selection was tailored to account for the logistical and environmental parameters inherent to a large, public museum. The finishes also needed to be visually compatible with the somber, industrial space. We subsequently directed the execution of the mock-ups and the implementation of a maintenance plan. We participated in monitoring and evaluating the results over the course of several months, helping the client arrive at a visually appropriate and long-lasting solution.