The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., announced today in a press conference that they have chosen BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) for its south campus redesign. The master plan, which includes a complete overhaul of the institution’s oldest buildings, will begin in 2016 and is expected to take 10 to 20 years. In the works for the past year and a half, BIG’s redesign includes renovations to the Smithsonian Castle, new entrances for the National Museum of African Art, and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and improved access to the Freer Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which are located along Independence Avenue SW, from Seventh to 12th streets.
The purpose of the new master plan is to make the campus more inviting and open, removing existing partitions and gardens so that the museums no longer exist as their own units, Bjarke Ingels, founding partner and creative director at BIG, said at the press conference. According to the press release, the three primary goals the redesign aims to accomplish are 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 cost of the entire project is estimated to be $2 billion, a total that also addresses other known infrastructure needs, such as leaking roofs, failing mechanical systems, and inefficient energy systems. The funds will come from a combination of federal and private sources, which will allow both the public and private museums to be developed under the same, integrated plan while taking advantage of the same utility plants and a central loading dock.
To go through with the master plan, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) has to review it. In the meantime, the Smithsonian and the NCPC will work together to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The alternatives and solutions that come out of this will be presented at a public meeting in December.