Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden preliminary concept design.

Hirshhorn Museum Plans Major Redesign of Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, announced today that it is planning a major renovation and redesign of its sculpture garden. The institution’s board of trustees unanimously voted in favor of the project, which marks the first revitalization of the outdoor exhibition space since the 1980s.

The museum is working with architect and artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, who renovated the building’s lobby last year, to develop a concept design. Since the sunken garden, which is adjacent to the National Mall, can barely be seen by visitors to both the mall and the museum, Sugimoto will design an enhanced entrance that will increase the space’s visibility.

“This project creates a ‘front door’ for the Hirshhorn on the National Mall,” said Hirshhorn’s board chair Dan Sallick. “I can think of no better way to expand our mission than by creating a twenty-first-century outdoor space for sculpture and performance that will become a beacon for many more visitors.”

Sugimoto will reorganize the one-and-a-half-acre garden into three sections, one for modern art, performances, and large-scale installations. The initial concept designs also include the reopening of an underground passage, which connects the garden to the museum plaza. The tunnel has been closed for thirty years but was an important element in architect Gordon Bunshaft’s original design.

Commenting on the project, Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn, praised Sugimoto’s “deep understanding and respect” for Bunshaft’s vision for the garden. Bunshaft’s original design was never fully realized; he intended to make the garden much larger. It was also supposed to traverse the entire National Mall’s width and to feature a substantial reflecting pool. His revised plan for the space was completed in 1974. The last major modification, led by landscape architect Lester Collins, took place in 1981.

Sugimoto, who leads the New Material Research Laboratory Co. Ltd. in Tokyo with Tomoyuki Sakakida, will work with Yun Architecture in Brooklyn, New York; Quinn Evans Architects in Washington, DC; and landscape architect Rhodeside & Harwell Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia, on the redesign.

The Hirshhorn will share its proposal for the garden with the community at a public meeting at the museum in the weeks to come. Following the community review, the institution will submit the design to the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts for approval.