Hirshhorn Announces Appointment of SOM | Selldorf Architects To Undertake the Largest Revitalization in Museum’s History

Project Follows Museum Façade Upgrade and Sculpture Garden Revitalization
October 31, 2022
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Brutalist architectural features of the Hirshhorn museum

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden has announced the selection of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Selldorf Architects (SOM | Selldorf) to jointly develop a modernization plan for the museum’s interior and plaza. After nearly a half-century, the Hirshhorn will upgrade galleries and public spaces to respond to the requirements of a public museum of modern and contemporary art and its dramatic increases in attendance since 2017.

“Art making has changed dramatically since our opening in 1974, and the Hirshhorn’s annual attendance has increased 40% in the past five years,” said Melissa Chiu, director of the museum. “In response to these developments, the revitalization of our museum campus prepares us for the 21st century. We are pleased to work with SOM | Selldorf to do this.”

In addition to the changing needs and expansion of exhibition space, SOM | Selldorf will address aging infrastructure, including fine art storage, vertical transportation and storm water management. The federal contract was awarded following a competitive process by Smithsonian Facilities in consultation with the Hirshhorn. SOM | Selldorf will submit a visioning document in 2023 in anticipation of their concept design, which will be subject to a public consultation process.  

The Hirshhorn was originally designed by SOM under the direction of Gordon Bunshaft. 

“We are thrilled to be working together on the revitalization of the Hirshhorn Museum,” said Chris Cooper, FAIA, partner at SOM, and Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA, principal at Selldorf Architects, in a joint statement. “Ensuring that the building is better able to accommodate the museum’s ambitious programs, while serving a larger and more diverse audience, is of critical importance. And we need to be able to do so while making the building more sustainable.” 

The appointment of SOM | Selldorf marks the onset of the final chapter of successive projects—the largest campus revitalization in the Hirshhorn’s history. The three-phrase upgrade began with the building façade repair and continues with the Hiroshi Sugimoto-led redesign of the Sculpture Garden. While some interventions will require spaces to close temporarily during construction, the Hirshhorn will program throughout. 

The first project, expected to be complete by end of this year, replaces the museum roof and pre-cast panels in-kind to improve thermal performance and provide new structural attachments.

A second project, the revitalization of the Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden by artist-architect Sugimoto, will begin in spring 2023. Sugimoto leads his design team of New Material Research Laboratory Co. Ltd. in Tokyo, in association with Yun Architecture; Quinn Evans Architects, architect of record; and Rhodeside & Harwell Inc., landscape architect. 

The Sculpture Garden’s redesign expands the Hirshhorn’s “front door” on the National Mall to increase visitation by 300% and introduce three distinct showcases for modern sculpture, time-based and performance art, and large-scale commissions. Sugimoto’s plan also reopens the underground passage designed by Bunshaft to reconnect the National Mall through the Sculpture Garden with the Hirshhorn Museum and plaza. A groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 16 will signal the start of this second project.  

About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Its holdings encompass one of the most important collections of postwar programs on the art of our time—free to all. The museum and its outdoor sculpture garden are open daily (except Dec. 25), 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

About Selldorf Architects

Selldorf Architects is a 70-person architectural design practice founded by Annabelle Selldorf in New York City in 1988. The firm creates public and private spaces that manifest a clear and modern sensibility to enduring impact. Since its inception, the firm’s design ethos has been deeply rooted in the principles of humanism. At every scale and for every condition, Selldorf Architects designs for the individual experience. As a result, its work is brought to life—and made complete—by those who use it.

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) 

SOM is a collective of architects, designers, engineers and planners responsible for some of the world’s most technically and environmentally advanced buildings and significant public spaces. From a strategic regional plan to a single piece of furniture, SOM’s designs anticipate change in the way people live, work and communicate, and have brought lasting value to communities around the world. The firm’s approach is highly collaborative, and its interdisciplinary team is engaged on a wide range of international projects, with creative studios based across the globe.

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