A light in the earth: Shafts and pools of light illuminate art of Africa, Asia, and the Near East in Washington's two new subterranean museums

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The article describes how architect Jean-Paul Carlhian caused natural light to penetrate the underground rooms of the Smithsonian Institution's two new museums, the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery for Asian and Near Eastern Art. The article also discusses his unique design for the exteriors of the buildings and how construction challenges were handled to provide structural safety for the Smithsonian's surrounding buildings.


  • Carlhian, Jean-Paul
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Ripley, Sidney Dillon 1913-2001
  • Smithsonian Institution Quadrangle Complex
  • Arts and Industries Building
  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian Institution)
  • National Museum of African Art (U.S.)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Smithsonian History Bibliography


Article includes two photographs and an illustration.

Contained within

The Christian Science Monitor (Newspaper)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


September 10, 1987


  • Museum buildings
  • Design
  • Structural design
  • Architects
  • Architecture
  • Construction (Buildings)
  • Museum architecture
  • Architectural design


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

Number of pages: 2; Page numbers: 16-17

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