The redesign of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto has passed the final hurdles of the approval process that began in 2018.
On Thursday, the National Capital Planning Commission, the central planning body of the federal government in Washington and its surrounding areas, voted in favor of a $ 60 million project. Adds an open-air gallery, new water features, and improved access to the 1974 design with Gordon Bunshaft.
“Since the start of the project, we have focused on ensuring that the activated sculpture garden becomes a local, national and international beacon,” said museum director Melissa Chiu before voting. I told the committee members. “We hope that this new design will attract more visitors and give everyone free access to art.”
In 2018, the Hirshhorn Museum, home of the Smithsonian’s modern and contemporary art, is a national mall where the works of famous artists such as Auguste Rodin are exhibited by Sugimoto, a Japanese artist and conceptual photographer. I asked him to reconsider the sculpture garden, which is the sinking area. Henry Moore and Yoko Ono.
“I chose Sugimoto because he understands the traditions, past, and architectural heritage of the space,” Chiu said in an interview. “Throughout this process, he is very supportive and wants to make this an important space for the artist.”
“We want to incorporate the welcoming spirit of the campus into the architecture of the outdoor gallery,” Sugimoto said in a statement. When his photo was shown, he added, “I feel the same strong connection with the Hirshhorn that I experienced as an artist in 2006.” “
However, the Commission’s decision offended landscaping historians who saw the beauty in detail of the historic Brutalist in the garden by Bunshaft, who designed the famous circular museum.
“The DNA of the garden will change significantly,” said Charles Birnbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, in an interview this week. “I’m disappointed that this original work has changed significantly and is less complete.”
For the past 50 years, museum staff have had a hard time getting the sculpture garden to work. When Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill’s Vanshaft announced their designs, some complained that the sharp edges and scales of the garden walls cast a shadow over the lawn monuments. Adal Ease Hakustable, an architectural critic at the New York Times at the time, considered the design of the garden and ended the debate over whether to allow the mall to expand to open greens due to lack of elegance. You can not. “
Seven years later, landscape architect Lester Collins sought to soften the space with cherry trees and a new lawn. However, it was not enough to attract tourists, who often pass through the greenery on their way to the museum, without noticing the world-class sculptures along the way. According to the Hirshhorn, only about 15% of museum visitors usually find a way into the garden.
Sugimoto’s new design reorganizes the sculpture garden into an outdoor gallery separated by stacked stone walls, with a new basin that can be drained and used as a performance stage. He has worked with several other architects to improve wheelchair access, introduce new flood-resistant plants, and restore the underground entrance to the museum from the original design of the garden. I did.
Sugimoto has already changed the garden plan at the request of the Art Committee, which requested more tree covering overhead, and reduced the size of the conversion basin for the performance.
There was a tense moment of negotiation during the design process, and in a recent interview with the New York Times, Sugimoto said he threatened to withdraw if his new wall was not approved. “Why don’t you ask Picasso?” I don’t like this blue color. Let’s make it red, “he said last year. He smiled at the idea of being fired. That’s good. “
However, the 73-year-old Japanese artist stuck to the project. After all, he had a long relationship with the Hirshhorn. Hirshhorn conducted its first career photo survey in 2006. A realistic wax figure from Madame Tussauds. Sugimoto was later asked to redesign the lobby on the ground floor of the museum. He replaced the information desk with a coffee bar and installed a table made from the roots of a 700-year-old Japanese jujube tree.
Hirshhorn spokeswoman Kate Gibbs said construction of the project would begin as soon as the museum had completed the renovation of the square, with approval. The redesign is already 60% funded and may resume in 2024. This coincides with the institution’s 50th anniversary.
“There were many compromises in every aspect and openness to new ideas and perspectives,” Hirschhorn’s board chairman, Daniel Salrick, said in a hearing on Thursday at the National Capital Planning Commission. rice field. “This project is certainly excellent today, thanks to the public opinion and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ability to make changes without compromising his greater vision of the sculpture garden.”
In December last year, project critics filed a complaint with the Smithsonian Institution, pressured museum officials to submit letters of support for the redesign to contractors, suggesting that these actions constitute a quid program. Insisted. “Smithsonian contractors would have felt pressured or obliged to provide the required approval,” Birnbaum of the Cultural Landscape Foundation wrote in a letter reviewed by the Times. I am.
Inspector General’s adviser, Epin Hu Christensen, did not say whether the office was under investigation. Hirshhorn spokeswoman Gibbs also declined to comment.
However, with final approval from federal authorities, Hirshhorn staff are eagerly awaiting their new garden.
“We are very happy with the result,” Chiu said. “This was to transform the sculpture garden into a space where the artist could catch up with where he is.”