One of the secrets of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the contemporary art institution that’s part of the Smithsonian and housed in an iconic, doughnut-shaped building right on the National Mall, is that it has a hidden tunnel from the building to the gardens outside. That underground passage, designed by Gordon Bunshaft, has been closed for 30 years, but it will soon reopen as part of a sweeping plan by the photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto to modernize the gardens, giving the sculpture yard its first major redesign since the 1980s.
The museum announced on Monday that, following Sugimoto’s successful reimagining of the museum’s lobby, he will soon be taking on the outdoor part of the institution as well. Not only will the project open up the long-dormant tunnel that allows for another access point to the garden, it will provide more space for recent acquisitions of contemporary sculpture, and allow for more performance art outside of the Hirshhorn’s building.
In a statement, Dan Sallick, the chair of the Hirshhorn board, said:
This project creates a “front door” for the Hirshhorn on the National Mall. I can think of no better way to expand our mission than by creating a 21st-century outdoor space for sculpture and performance that will become a beacon for many more visitors.
The Hirshhorn’s announcement revealed the project has already been underway for two years, but the final timeline for completion will be shared at a public meeting “at a date to be announced.” Once that happens, the plans will be submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission and Commission of Fine Arts.