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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Smithsonian Slated for $2B Renovations

ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one of the museums subject to the $2 billion Smithsonian renovation and restoration.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one of the museums subject to the $2 billion Smithsonian renovation and restoration.

The Smithsonian Institution will renovate museums and gardens on the South Mall campus to improve infrastructure, visitor services and accessibility in a multiyear project that will begin in 2016, the institution announced Nov. 12.

The $2 billion redesign and restoration of the world’s largest museum and research complex will affect museums located between the National Mall and Independence Avenue SW, notably the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Arts and Industries Building, the Smithsonian Castle, the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Freer Gallery of Art and the S. Dillon Ripley Center. The other Smithsonian museums and galleries on the National Mall — the Air and Space Museum, the American Art Museum Portrait Gallery, the American History Museum, the National History Museum, the Postal Museum, and the Renwick Gallery — will remain untouched.

The proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan will be implemented over a 10- to 20-year period, combining major projects that will improve infrastructure of the Smithsonian museums and galleries, reinvent the style of the South Mall campus and ensure the energy efficiency of the complex. The cost of the master plan will be split between federal funding and privately raised funds, though fundraising has not begun yet.

Smithsonian Public Affairs Specialist Becky Haberacker explained that the renovations will focus on the oldest part of the Smithsonian campus.

“The proposed plan makes these museums more accessible to our visitors and better connects them to one another. It enables us to provide visitors with a better experience when they come to visit,” Haberacker said.

Haberacker confirmed that, despite the renovations of the South Mall campus, the respective identities and goals of each museum would remain the same.

“The mission and focus of each of the museums won’t change. The proposed South Mall Master Plan increases the usable space for the museums and helps all of the spaces — both above and below ground — flow together better. It also provides more space for public programs and educational activates,” Haberacker said.

The master plan was designed by a Denmark-based architectural firm, Bjarke Ingels Group, which has worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution to develop the redesign ever since the group’s proposal was chosen in March 2013.

“The design has a modern aesthetic that works in harmony with the classic architecture of the buildings that already exist in the South Mall Campus,” Haberacker said.

BIG founding partner and Master Plan architect Bjarke Ingels expressed his excitement regarding the redesign of the South Mall campus.

“It’s a great honor and a humbling challenge to reimagine one of the most significant American institutions on the front lawn of the nation’s capital,” Ingels said in a press release from the Smithsonian Institution. “We have created a new landscape of connectivity and possibility. We believe this plan holds the potential to guide the Smithsonian South Mall campus into the future while remaining firmly rooted in its heritage.”

The centerpiece of the master plan is the restoration is the Smithsonian Castle, which was built in 1855 and is the oldest structure of The Smithsonian Institution. Currently used as an information center and as headquarters for the institution, the castle will add two underground floors for visitor services, a cafe and a shop that will have direct access to the Enid A. Haupt Garden and the Ripley Center.

The redesign will also construct pathways to connect the museums and gardens on the South Mall campus.

“Currently, the museums are not connected to each other if you are traveling east to west or west to east on the campus. The proposed plan will link the museums together both above and below ground to enable visitors to move from one to another more easily,” Haberacker said.

The proposed master plan still awaits review by the National Capital Planning Commission, which will work with The Smithsonian Institution to ensure the renovations fulfill the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the Historical Preservation Act. An updated master plan will be issued in a formal meeting in December.

Dan Corry (COL ’15) was excited by the changes, hoping it would inspire more students to visit the museums.

“[The Smithsonian is] a really important resource that is right at your fingertips. You have all these specialized museums basically in one place, and because of the Georgetown bubble, they are really underutilized by Georgetown students. How many people do you know who have gone to the National Museum of the American Indian?” Corry said. “I am excited to see how the renovations turn out.”

Andrea Roos (SFS ’17) agreed that the renovations would be a positive change.

“I’m excited that it seems the government is putting a higher priority on educating its public through methods other than the schooling system. It’s a move in the right direction,” she wrote in an email.

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