Smithsonian Campus . Washington

BIG . + archdaily

The proposal has three primary goals: To improve and expand visitor services and education, to create clear entrances and connections between the museums and gardens, and to replace aging building mechanical systems that have reached the end of their lifespan.

The centerpiece of the proposed South Mall Master Plan is the revitalization of the iconic Smithsonian Castle. Opened in 1855, the Castle now serves as a visitor information center and the headquarters of the Institution. The plan calls for a restoration of the historic Great Hall, which has been altered by partitions that cut its floor space almost in half, and the addition of a two-level underground space for visitor services, a café and shop, with direct access to the Enid A. Haupt Garden and the underground Ripley Center.
The renovation of the Castle will transform the visitors’ experience, offering much-needed expanded amenities, including retail, cafes and public gathering spaces.
The proposed Master Plan combines several major projects, some of which address known infrastructure needs, including leaking roofs, failing mechanical systems and inefficient energy use. The initial cost estimate is about $2 billion, a mix of federal and private funds, over the course of the project. Integrated planning for the projects allows the Smithsonian to optimize the connections between the museums and gardens and take advantage of cost- and space-saving synergies, such as shared use of utility plants and a central loading dock.

Among the major proposed projects in the Master Plan are:
Revitalization of the Castle, including replacement of its building systems and restoration and preservation of the Smithsonian’s oldest historic structure; seismic reinforcement is needed to bring the building to current codes and avoid damage in the future
The Hirshhorn Museum will be made more open and accessible to the Mall, and the museum will expand underground to provide additional gallery and public programs space
Replacement of the original roof of the quadrangle building under the Haupt Garden, which is nearing the end of its useful life; this roof is above the Ripley Center, Sackler Gallery and National Museum of African Art, and new light wells will allow daylight to light the underground complex for the first time
Interior renovations and underground construction to support the Arts and Industries Building, once decisions are made regarding its long-term use
Mechanical systems of buildings built in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Hirshhorn Museum (1974) and the quadrangle (1987), are reaching the end of their useful life and require replacement
Above-ground and underground connections will be made between the buildings and the gardens running east-west along Independence Avenue
The proposed Master Plan requires review from the National Capital Planning Commission. The Smithsonian and NCPC will work together to fulfill the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. A public meeting to share the alternatives under consideration for the South Mall Master Plan will be scheduled for December.

Architects: BIG
Location: 419 11th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20004, USA
Partners In Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
Project Manager: Ziad Shehab
Project Leader: Daniel Kidd, Sean Franklin
Design Team: Suemin Jeon, Alana Goldweit, Cadence Bayley, Lina Bondarenko, Annette Miller, Otilia Pupezeanu, Choongyho Lee, Doug Stechschulte, Jeremy Alain Siegel, Alexandre Hamlyn, Julian Ocampo Salazar, Tammy Teng, Daisy Zhong
Collaborators: SurfaceDesign, Robert Silman Associates, GHT Limited, EHT Traceries, Stantec, Atelier Ten VJ Associates, Wiles Mensch, PE Group, FDS Design Studio, Kleinfelder

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