Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, Kogod Courtyard

Customer Need

This National Historic Landmark built in 1840 recently completed a seven year renovation with a glass enclosure of the 28,000 sf central courtyard designed by architects Foster + Partners. The interior landscape designed by Kathryn Gustafson of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol called for two 32’ Ficus rubiginosa, sixteen 18-25’ Bucida buceras as well as 1295 smaller shrubs and ground cover plants to be installed in eight large planting beds.

Access to the building is very limited partly due to the narrow doorways and irreplaceable original marble and granite flooring and partly because the museum serves public 364 days of the year. Hence, all of the largest, heaviest pieces would need to be hoisted by tower crane over the building and lowered through the glass canopy into the courtyard.

Image of Ambius large scale interior landscaping at Smithsonian Institution


Project Development was contracted to provide rigging and protection plans to ensure safe and successful installation of these large trees into the Kogod Garden. Normally, to lift and set such huge specimen trees (i.e. each Ficus rubiginosa weighed approx. 16,000 lbs) large construction machinery would be used even inside the building. As mentioned above however, the access is limited, and the new courtyard had been constructed over a 346 seat auditorium making the weight and size of such equipment prohibitive.

Ambius needed to first create a 1 ½” wooden plank ‘road’ to traverse the finished granite floor with equipment and trees. Then, specialized steel gantries needed to be custom built to enable handling of such enormous weight without mechanized assistance.

Image of Ambius large scale interior landscaping at Smithsonian Institution

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