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After two years of design and three months of construction, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will unveil its transformed lobby Friday, Feb. 23, reimagined by acclaimed Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. The new space will also feature the specialty coffee bar Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato at Hirshhorn, the museum’s first permanent food and beverage offering, and the only locally owned café on the National Mall.
In reenvisioning the Hirshhorn’s ground floor, Sugimoto and his Tokyo-based architectural firm New Material Research Laboratory (NMRL) looked to symbolize what is unique about both the building and the collection, ideally creating a space that functions simultaneously as sculpture, furniture and conceptual art. The artist-made furnishings are inspired by the fundamental shape of the Hirshhorn—the circle—and the ways in which the shape appears in nature, specifically the chaotic roots of a medieval Japanese tree that now form the lobby’s central tables.
Art and coffee fans can preview the space during special museum hours Feb. 13, 14 and 15, 6:30 p.m.–9 p.m., when the Hirshhorn will be open late to celebrate the opening of both “Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s” and a three-night-only restaging of an iconic 1988 outdoor projection created by artist Krzysztof Wodiczko.
Starting Feb. 23, Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato at Hirshhorn will be open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. on weekends, offering inspiring destination for early-morning coffee and creative collaboration.
The new space will feature:
- Twin glass-top tables crafted from the roots of a 700-year-old Japanese nutmeg tree, discovered by Sugimoto in Japan 15 years ago.
- Dramatic 20-foot metal coffee bar of tin and brushed brass, with tin diamond patterns inspired by innovative fireproofing techniques used in 1930s Tokyo. The menu behind the bar will a font designed by Sugimoto specifically for Dolcezza.
- Spacious seating with white and brushed-brass benches and chairs. Sugimoto’s bench legs feature large blocks of optical glass—the same used in camera lenses—a nod to his celebrated photography career. The chairs are inspired by the helicoid shape of DNA, blending natural and manmade spirals.
- Striking brushed-brass and granite welcome desks, mirroring the original brass of the building’s twin entryways.
- Prismatic light sculpture “Your oceanic feeling” (2015) by noted Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, hanging from the ceiling and spanning 12 feet in circumference.
- An open and elevated feel with views down to the National Mall, thanks to the removal of a dark film covering the lobby’s 3,300-square-foot windows.
- Free Wi-Fi throughout
Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato at Hirshhorn will offer:
- Seasonal and handcrafted gelato
- Specialty espresso drinks from a Modbar system
- Pour-over and iced coffee
- Gourmet sweet and savory pastries
In late spring, the Hirshhorn will also unveil interior and exterior signage designed by Patrick Li and Li Inc., the studio behind the Hirshhorn’s new logo. Li, best known as creative director of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, will reimagine wayfinding throughout the museum, inspired by both the building’s architecture and the lobby’s aesthetic.
The initiatives are part of a larger plan to transform the overall museum experience, designed to encourage creativity and foster greater connections between visitors and the artists of the time.
“Hiroshi Sugimoto is an internationally accomplished artist able to move seamlessly between art and design,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “In our case, his unique aesthetic brings a renewed sense of sophistication and elegance to the lobby while at the same honoring Gordon Bunshaft’s original intentions. In 2006, the Hirshhorn was the first institution to present a career survey of Sugimoto’s work, and it is an honor for us to incorporate his work into the museum in a permanent way for visitors to enjoy for years to come.”
More on the lobby project: https://hirshhorn.si.edu/bio/artist-hiroshi-sugimoto-to-reenvision-hirshhorn-lobby-opening-feb-2018/
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s artist statement: https://goo.gl/VVJdzq
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 American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year. For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.
About New Material Research Laboratory (NMRL)
NMRL was founded by Sugimoto and his partner Tomoyuki Sakakida in 2008. NMRL embraces materials and techniques of ancient and medieval architecture, reinterpreting and reimagining older materials for contemporary buildings. Its goal is to preserve and transmit almost-forgotten techniques previously known only to skilled artisans, improving upon traditional materials so they can be employed in bold, modern architecture.
About Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato
Founded in 2004 by Robb Duncan and Violeta Edelman, Dolcezza creates locally sourced and seasonal-minded gelato inspired by the traditions of Argentine gelaterias and the care and craft of mid-Atlantic farmers. Dolcezza produces its award-winning gelato out of its Factory location in the Union Market neighborhood, which is also a hub of coffee education, training, and culture. Voted both Best Coffee Shop and Best Gelato in DC, Dolcezza has nine unique locations in the DC area.
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