Back in 2014, Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institution announced a major renovation just off the National Mall, which would “revitalize” the Smithsonian Castle, expand the Hirshhorn Museum, and create an underground visitor center and event space. The plan completely re-envisioned a large portion of the area between the entrances of two sparsely visited, underground museums there, the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) — which recently completed the VIA 57 West building in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and the LEGO House in Denmark — the Smithsonian design did away with the pavilions that now lead into the two underground museums and replaced them with corner entrances that looked like wings flapping up from the ground.
The ambitious (and expensive) design was viewed somewhat skeptically, and many locals saw in the plans the total destruction of a beloved quiet garden that currently stands in between the two museum entrance pavilions. In 2016, a petition began circulating to save the Enid A. Haupt Garden, which got over 2,500 signatures.
BIG and the museum seem to have listened. Last week, BIG shared its updated design for the Smithsonian, which saves the beloved garden space and leaves the Haupt Garden largely untouched in the middle of the new landscaping between the museums.
This isn’t the first time a museum’s renovation plan has been publicly scrutinized due to the perceived elimination of a much-loved garden. In 2015, New York’s Frick Collection abandoned a plan that would have destroyed its Russell Page-designed garden space.
Whether or not DC locals will be more receptive of BIG’s revised plan remains to be seen.