Superstar Danish architect wins Smithsonian contract

Copenhagen-based firm Bjarke Engels Group asked to redesign ‘America’s attic’

March 13th, 2013 1:33 pm| by admin

An award-winning Danish architectural firm has been awarded an eight-to-twelve month contract worth nearly 14 million kroner to create a master plan for a complete redesign of the 160-year-old Smithsonian Institution research and museum complex in Washington, DC.

The contract calls on the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to begin the first phase of a master plan slated to modernise the campus of the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum.

"It is a great honour and challenge to be asked to rethink one of the most important American institutions in the US capital," the firm's founder, Bjarke Ingels, wrote in a press release.

Ingels is considered one of the stars of his industry – New Yorker magazine said that he was in the "first rank of international architects". The Smithsonian said in a statement his selection signals that even the museum’s most historic buildings could use some 21st century attention.

"BIG's work is innovative, analytical, unexpected and intelligent," Smithsonian spokesperson Christopher Lethbridge said. "We believe that over the next decade they can help us transform this incompatible group of beloved buildings and outdoor areas to a place that is more dynamic, social and active."

The space BIG will be designing includes the oldest of the Smithsonian buildings: the Castle, Arts and Industries Building (now shuttered), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, Quadrangle Building, National Museum of African Art, Sackler Gallery, Dillon Ripley Center and Freer Gallery.

The Danish architects have been asked to envision a gateway, one that invites visitors to learn, rest and escape and then leads them north to the rest of the National Mall. BIG will be responsible for site and building investigations, programming, campus planning, architectural and engineering design concepts and cost analysis.

Lethbridge wrote that master plans are long-term visions and that there was no way to determine when or if the Smithsonian would implement Ingels' designs, “but it will be fascinating to see what he comes up with.”

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