Smithsonian South Mall Campus
The Smithsonian defines its South Mall Campus as the area between 7th and 12th Streets that encompasses the nationally landmarked Freer Gallery of Art (1923), Smithsonian “Castle” (1855), and Arts & Industries Building (1881), as well as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (1974). The Campus also includes these structures in the Quadrangle behind the Castle:
- The three entrance pavilions designed by noted architect Jean Paul Carlhian for the underground National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley Center;
- The Victorian Enid A. Haupt Garden designed by landscape architect Lester Collins; and
- The Renwick Gates, constructed from James Renwick’s original 1849 design, now the southern entrance to the garden.
Completed in 1987, the Quadrangle complex was the mastermind of Secretary S. Dillon Ripley as his final contribution to the Smithsonian’s legacy on the Mall. An equally important contribution was the inspiration and generosity of Enid Haupt, who funded the garden named in her honor and an endowment for its upkeep. The garden, with its Victorian seating and water features, has over the years become a cherished and contemplative refuge from the bustle of the Mall.
In 2013 the Smithsonian announced its intention to undertake an extensive and controversial “updating” of the features in the Campus and retained the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to produce a Master Plan that was estimated to cost over $2 billion. While internationally recognized for innovative contemporary design, the firm had no experience working within an American historic context. The plan proposed alterations in all of the buildings and landscape in the Campus. Most egregious was the proposal in the Quadrangle for the complete elimination of the Haupt Garden, the Renwick Gates, and one of the pavilions, and the demolition, relocation, and simplified redesign of the two other pavilions.
Led by the Committee of 100, opposition to the proposed losses—and especially the Haupt Garden—poured in nationwide from such organizations as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the 18,000-member Garden Club of America, the Garden Conservancy, the Washington Post, the National Mall Coalition, the DC Preservation League, and leading scholars in American landscape and architectural history. Over 2,300 individuals signed an on-line petition opposing the destruction of the Haupt Garden. The Committee of 100 then prepared and submitted an application that successfully listed the Quadrangle structures on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites.
The success of these groups has been limited. The Master Plan has been modified to preserve the Renwick Gates and to reinstate a radically redesigned garden. Two entrances to the underground museums have been provided by new glass-fronted structures. In a minor victory, the plaza walls around the Hirshhorn will be retained, but a proposal is currently in progress for significant modifications of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, to which the Committee of 100 has offered comments. One of the proposals in the Master Plan that is generally supported is the proposed restoration of the interior of the Smithsonian Castle. To date, there has been no further action on implementation of the Master Plan, given lack of federal appropriations and the Smithsonian’s several competing capital projects. More important, newly-appointed Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III has stated that he is not committed to the Master Plan and would undertake a review as needed.
In the News:
Latest iteration of the Master Plan: https://www.archdaily.com/887421/big-reveals-updated-vision-for-smithsonian-campus-master-plan-scheme
“John Kelly’s Washington” column in the Washington Post titled “Fans of Garden by Smithsonian Castle don’t want grassy successor to swoop in,” March 14, 2017.
“Don’t destroy the Smithsonian’s beloved Haupt Garden.” James M. Goode. The Washington Post, March 20, 2016.
“Mall Plan Scrutinized.” Peggy McGlone. Washington Post. April 9, 2016
“Smithsonian Should Set Standard on Public Signs, Not Fight Oversight.” Philip Kennicott. The Washington Post. December 4, 2015.
- C100 Letter Hirshhorn Museum And Sculpture Garden Restoration
- June 10, 2020, Kirby Vining
Comments from the C100 regarding the current proposal to restore and rehabilitate the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
- C100 Testimony (Partial) Smithsonian Quadrangle
- April 27, 2017, Richard Longstreth
[The Quadrangle Historic District] is an extraordinary ensemble of buildings and landscape, created over a period of nearly a century and a half, from 1846 to 1987. The nomination delineates the many facets of this complex that render it historically significant. Our research draws from a very substantial array of period documents – popular and professional journals, newspapers, and the extensive archives of the Smithsonian – from scholarly studies, and from a firsthand knowledge of architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, and historic preservation projects across the United States and from many places abroad.
- C100 Letter NCPC Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan
- January 16, 2018, Stephen A. Hansen
As a follow-up to that Commission meeting, I write with concern given the number of Commissioner questions raised to which incomplete, incorrect, or no answers were provided by Smithsonian Institution representatives. Each issue, we believe, touches on vital base information needed by the Commission before executing its due diligence in approving/ disapproving the Master Plan. We have outlined these below as brief summaries with recommended “Actions”. We trust this proves helpful in this important process.
- C100 Testimony NCPC Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan
- January 4, 2018, Stephen A. Hansen
As my time is brief with you this morning, I wish to frame our concerns around three issues: 1) proposed destruction of The Quadrangle Historic District; 2) possible destruction of the Hirshhorn Museum plaza perimeter walls; and, 3) the Smithsonian’s refusal to make wise and better use of the 1881 Arts and Industries Building.
- C100 Recommendations Following 7-26- 2017 Section 106 Meeting On Proposed Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan
- August 9, 2017, Stephen A. Hansen
As we approach the 3rd anniversary of the South Mall Campus Master Plan public reveal and responding to the July 26 public consultation meeting on the same, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City offers our continuing thoughts on this important project.
- 2017-05-09 C100 Letter Spofford Section 106 Consultation Meeting On Proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan
- May 9, 2017, Stephen A. Hansen
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City offers these comments on the new Alternative F unveiled at the May 3 pubic meeting as well as on continuing discussions and conceptual iterations of the proposed Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan. While we find many aspects of the Plan laudable, we remain firmly opposed to demolition of the Haupt Garden and the Carlhian-designed pavilions in the Quadrangle Historic District, which was recently designated a DC landmark by unanimous vote of the Historic Preservation Review Board.
- C100 Press Release Smithsonian’s Haupt Garden Declared Historically Significant
- May 2, 2017, Kate Perry
The DC Historic Preservation Review Board has unanimously approved the application by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City for local landmark designation of the “Quadrangle Historic District” that abuts the Smithsonian Castle and includes the Enid Haupt Garden, the Renwick Gates, and the entrance pavilions to the Sackler Gallery, the Museum of African Art, and the Ripley Center. The Smithsonian is considering a plan that would demolish all of these structures.
- C100 Letter Garden Club Of America Enid A Haupt Garden
- July 18, 2016, Nancy MacWood
We are grateful for The Garden Club of America’s interest in the historic Enid A. Haupt Garden and its preservation. Your featuring the proposed destruction of the garden on The Garden Club’s website home page was welcome news to the several organizations nationally and locally that are also opposing the demolition of the garden.
- AOIDC Smithsonian South Campus Plan Opposition
- April 1, 2016, William N. Brown
Although we are supportive of efforts to rehabilitate the Smithsonian Castle and, perhaps, redesign the entrances to the Sackler Gallery, the National Museum of Asian Art and the Ripley Center, we believe that these initiatives can be accomplished without the extreme changes that would removed the custom-designed and compatible Renwick Gates and destroy the Haupt Gardens.
- C100 Call To Action - Oppose Smithsonian Proposal To Destroy The Haupt Garden
- April 08, 2016, Historic Preservation Subcommittee
CALL TO ACTION: Oppose Smithsonian Proposal to Destroy the Haupt Garden
- ACHP Response To C100 Regarding SI South Mall Campus Master Plan
- February 19, 2016, Reid J. Nelson
At the urging of C100 and other consulting parties, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) determined that it should enter into the process to ensure that the procedural issues raised by consulting parties are properly addressed, and that the Smithsonian meaningfully considers alternatives to adverse effects on two National Historic Landmarks and other properties potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
- C100 Letter NCPC South Mall Campus Master Plan EIS
- February 18, 2016, Nancy MacWood
The C100 has responded to the National Capital Planning Commission's Federal Register Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on the Smithsonian Institution's proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan.
- C100 DCPL South Mall Master Plan Ensure Historic Accuracy
- February 19, 2016, Nancy MacWood, Rebecca Miller
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City (C100) and the DC Preservation League (DCPL) urge the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to enter consultation on the Smithsonian Institution’s proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan to ensure resolution of the Plan’s potential adverse impacts on National Historic Landmark buildings, buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register), and potentially eligible historic properties.
- December 5, 2015, Nancy MacWood, Rebecca Miller, Robert Nieweg
C100, DC Preservation Leauge, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation calls on Smithsonian Institution to fully comply with Section 106 requirements.