Smithsonian Hires BIG to Rethink Historic D.C. Campus

Institution © Karissa Rosenfield / ArchDaily

The Smithsonian Institution has commissioned the innovative practice of Bjarke Ingels to reimagine the heart of its antiquated Washington D.C. campus. The Danish architect has agreed to an eight- to 12- month, $2.4 million contract to draft the first phase of a master plan that seeks to dissolve the notable impediments and discontinuous pathways that plague the area.

More on this news after the break…

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden featuring Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads © Karissa Rosenfield / ArchDaily

The site – bordered by Jefferson Drive and the National Mall to the north, Seventh Street SW to the east, Independence Avenue SW to the south and 12th Street to the west – is home to some of the Smithsonian’s oldest buildings, such as the Castle, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Quadrangle Building, National Museum of African Art, Sackler Gallery, Dillon Ripley Center and the Freer Gallery.

Although the Smithsonian is only entertaining the possibilities for now, is expected to envision a gateway intended to invite visitors to “learn, to rest and to escape and then lead them north to the rest of the Mall.” In addition, the practice will be responsible for site and building investigations, programming, campus planning, architectural and engineering design concepts and cost analysis.

The first phase of the Smithsonian Campus Master Plan is expected to be delivered in the next 12 months.

Among Ingels’ latest designs in the U.S. are the W57 apartment building on West 57th Street in Manhattan, the Breach and Howe mixed-use proposal for Vancouver, the luxurious Grove at Grand Bay in Miami, and the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah.

Architect: BIG
Location: Washington D.C., USA
Status: Concept
Size: 700,000 square feet
Client: Smithsonian Institution
Collaborators: Surface Design (landscape), Traceries (historic preservation), Robert Silman Associates (structural), Atelier Ten (sustainability),
GHT Limited (MEP), Wiles Mensch (civil), Weidlinger Associates (security/anti-terrorism) VJ Associates (cost), Protection Engineering Group
(fire/life safety), FDS Design Studio (food services)
Partner in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Daniel Kidd
Project Manager: Ziad Shebab
Team: Suemin Jeon

via the Washington Business Journal

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Smithsonian Hires BIG to Rethink Historic D.C. Campus" 26 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Rob B.

    Oh, no…

    • connor covey

      Oh no what? One of the best practices in the world is gonna make this place the best that it can be? I dont see any problem at all.

  • Amin Neff

    please no…

  • Patrick H

    So many BIG haters, and I don’t understand why. Yes, BIG has a unique style of design and presentation which might not mesh with the historic structures. But for this project, they are being asked to brainstorm ideas and draft a master plan… which seems like the perfect type of job for them. Maybe the negative commenters thought that BIG was asked to demolish and redesign the entire campus?

  • Dave

    Well I’m excited to see what they come up with…

  • nicholas

    My respects to Bjarke, but the solution to this brief requires a more academic approach. Maybe the ideas (based on BIG’s portfolio) to be proposed will be on a different design plane than what may be required.

  • Assist

    Why don’t they open this up to a competition?

  • Paul Harding, FAIA

    What an awful choice. More bombastic architecture in our nation’s capital.

  • joe

    a push here a pull there … spray a little green on that roof and twist! check please and thank you for your patience.

  • jenny

    did they already have the D.C campus shaped model on their model racks? easy money, like taking candy from a baby.

    hope to see a floating chromed out ball or a ski slope …or maybe something pink … 2.4 million for a marketing package. very cool

  • alexine

    The man is on FIRE!…In a gd way =)

  • Chris

    BIG does some great work and also presents their work very well.
    That being said. This is a huge waste of money. The odds of them coming up with a feasible proposal are close to nil. They just had a national mall design competition and I think all of the firms that submitted designs are more qualified for this problem than big:
    I hope I’m wrong but they really don’t seem like the right choice.

  • Heywood Floyd

    What better way to symbolize democracy than with models in bikinis skiing on the roofs of didactically geometric buildings?

  • WTF

    Go back to where you belong. Not the US.

    • Pierre

      Wow! I never thought I’d see racism here…
      Obviously YOU don’t belong on Arch Daily!
      I would appreciate it if you would never post any more comments here, EVER!

    • Madeline R

      Better get used to it, he’s based in both Denmark and New York! BIG’s always welcome in my book, although $2.4 million dollar contract seems excessive for just study the possibilities of how you can modernize and streamline the landscape surrounding the Smithsonian.

  • connor covey

    @WTF: BOOOO, are you serious? He is better then anyone in the states, hence they hired him instead of any other American firm. Zaha Hadid, OMA, BIG, MAD, Foster anad Partners are all not from the states, shall I add more Starchitect firms?