Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan

Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan

For updated information on the Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan, see the Historic Preservation section of this website.

The Smithsonian Institution proposes a radical make-over of its South Mall Campus, comprising its buildings and gardens south of the National Mall between 7th and 12th Streets.  The Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been retained to develop a range of concepts for a master plan of this area.  One option—and apparently the preferred option—proposes the demolition of the following architecturally and historically significant structures and landscapes on the site:

  • The three entrance pavilions designed by the acclaimed architect Jean Paul  Carlhian for the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley International Center;
  • The extensive Victorian Enid Haupt Garden; and
  • The Renwick Gates and walls, constructed from Renwick’s original design as the entrance to the garden.

The Smithsonian acknowledges the historic importance of these structures and landscape, which are slated to be designated “contributing structures” in a forthcoming update of the National Register of Historic Places designation of the National Mall.

The Committee of 100 has taken a position opposing the demolition of these structures and garden, which are proposed to be replaced by a large, flat grassy area with contemporary, relocated “eyebrow” entrances to the African Art and Sackler museums below ground.  The Smithsonian’s rationale for the demolition is to improve the visibility of the two museums’ entrance structures and to attract a greater number of visitors to this area.  The Committee of 100, however, does not believe the proposed solution accomplishes this purpose significantly enough to warrant the destruction of these nationally important landmarks.  Other solutions are available to address the perceived problem.

The master plan also contemplates modifications to the following designated historic buildings on the South Mall Campus: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle), Arts and Industries Building, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.  Also planned are extensive underground facilities with above-ground skylights.

The Smithsonian is currently undertaking a series of meetings, mandated by the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, to develop further and refine the master plan.  The Committee of 100 is participating in and offering comments at these meetings as a consulting party.  Additional remarks will be posted as further information becomes available.

Documents

icon Information On The Smithsonian Institution South Mall Campus Master Plan
May 6, 2015, John Fondersmith
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City has prepared this summary listing of background information that is now available on the South Mall Campus Master Plan (and the area it encompasses), and information that has not yet been made available, as a tool for participants in the Section 106 and NEPA review process, and to the public. This listing will be updated as more information becomes available.
icon C100 SI South Mall Master Plan Scoping Comments
January 27, 2015, Nancy MacWood
The Committee of 100 is very interested in and concerned with the South Mall Campus Master Plan. It is important for the future development of Smithsonian Institution programs and the National Mall, and has a larger area of influence involving the Monumental Core and adjacent areas.
Smithsonian South Mall