12/22/2011 02:31 pm ET

National Gallery Of Art Presses On With Costly East Building Exterior Repairs

WASHINGTON -- If you think the National Gallery of Art's 33-year-old East Building is looking a bit gaunt these days, you're right.

The building, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei, is currently undergoing repairs to address a "systemic structural failure of the anchors that support the Gallery's East Building marble veneer," according to a gallery budget request.

The process involves the re-installation of 16,200 Tennessee pink marble panels with new supports, which has left the front of the building naked. DC Mud has pictures of its dramatic current appearance.

Each 450-pound panel is 5 feet wide, 2 feet high and 3 inches thick.

The repairs are not cheap: Congress approved more than $82 million for the project.

What's to blame for the building's issues? A 2009 article from The Architect's Newspaper explains:

Completed in 1978, the building was clad in the same type of marble as the West Building, its 1941 neoclassical counterpart across Fourth Street, designed by John Russell Pope. But creating the East Building's acutely angular shapes proved complicated. Whereas the older building is sheathed in nine-inch marble blocks, the East Building has three-inch-thick stone veneers set in large wall planes as long as 180 feet.

According to the article, NGA officials said that the panels are tilting due to "locked-in" stresses resulting from the "initial shrinkage of the concrete frame and the cyclical seasonal and daily thermal expansion and contraction of the marble panels."

The gallery aims to wrap up the project by spring 2014.