Working closely with the Smithsonian, we conceived a master plan for the South Mall Campus as an example of radical reinterpretation. To resolve the contradictions between old and new, and to find freedom within the boundaries of strict regulation and historical preservation, we chose to carefully reinterpret the elements that are already present in the campus. The proposed master plan will be implemented over a 10-to-20–year period beginning in 2016.
The proposal has three primary goals: to improve and expand visitor services and education; to create clear entrances and connections between the museums and gardens; and to replace aging building mechanical systems that have reached the end of their lifespan. The centerpiece of the proposed South Mall Master Plan is the revitalization of the iconic Smithsonian Castle. Opened in 1855, the Castle now serves as a visitor information center and the headquarters of the Institution. The plan calls for a restoration of the historic Great Hall, which has been altered by partitions that cut its floor space almost in half, as well as the addition of a two-level underground space for visitor services.
The proposed master plan combines several major projects, some of which address known infrastructure needs, including leaking roofs, failing mechanical systems and inefficient energy use. Integrated planning for the projects allows the Smithsonian to optimize the connections between the museums and gardens, while taking advantage of cost- and space-saving synergies, such as shared use of utility plants and a central loading dock.
The comprehensive plan also includes expanded visitor services; new Mall-facing entrances to the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery as well as improved visibility and access from the Freer Gallery of Art to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The proposed Master Plan requires review from the National Capital Planning Commission. The Smithsonian and NCPC will work together to fulfill the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.