BIG has unveiled an updated vision for the Smithsonian Campus Master Plan, a major redevelopment project in Washington, D.C. that’s been mired by debate. When the renowned architecture firm unveiled their initial plan in 2014, they drew fire from critics opposing the removal of the four-acre Enid A. Haupt Garden that sits in front of the Castle. This time around, BIG’s proposal attempts to balance modernization with preservation – including plans to reconstruct the Haupt Garden beneath an upgraded underground space.
Redeveloped after years of public comment and close collaboration with Smithsonian, the new Smithsonian Campus Master Plan is a roughly 17-acre, $2 billion restoration and revitalization project of Washington, DC’s South Mall Campus comprising the Castle, the Arts and Industries Building, the Freer Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the mostly subterranean Quadrangle Building. The massive undertaking is a difficult but necessary step to upgrade aging infrastructure and accommodate growing numbers of visitors to the South Mall Campus.
The new plan will improve accessibility to programming beneath the garden and add an expanded Visitor Center and new Education Space. Aging building mechanical systems will be replaced and earthquake-resistant structural reinforcements will be added.
“We also want to make more accessible some of the hidden treasures underneath the Haupt Garden – the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery – which are so well hidden that they’re under-enjoyed compared to the value they represent,” said Bjarke Ingels about the programming in the mostly subterranean Quadrangle Building and the addition of a new garden constructed in the image of the Haupt. “If we can make them more accessible, more people might be tempted to explore.” The first phase of the plan, the renovation of the Castle, is slated to begin in 2021.