Smithsonian forges ahead with $2B South Campus project
The Smithsonian Institution is planning to complete the necessary environmental studies for its $2 billion South Mall Campus renovation, in Washington, DC, and will draft a master plan by spring 2018, despite not having the funding lined up to begin work as scheduled in 2022, according to Curbed DC.
The funds would likely come from private and federal sources. The Smithsonian's budget has been stretched by its most expensive project yet, the $1 billion renovation of the Air and Space Museum, also in DC.
The Smithsonian likely expected some criticism of the South Campus design after choosing Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) as its architect, a firm whose thinking is hardly conventional.
After all, this is the company that included a ski slope atop a waste-to-power incinerator near Copenhagen, Denmark, and that called for a moat for its preliminary design of the Washington Redskins' new NFL stadium. BIG is also designing Google's new Mountainview, CA, campus, which has been described as a "futuristic circus tent."
Those are new construction projects for high-profile clients, however, so they are in some ways expected to be eye-catching and boundary-breaking. Changing the design of an existing space that people have come to know and value is another matter.
Ken Colao, president of CNY Group in New York City, told Construction Dive last year that incorporating modern features into historic building renovations, such as CNY's Tammany Hall redevelopment, can make for an interesting contrast. But BIG is all about bold statements, and its latest plan includes replacing the Haupt garden with a plaza that Dezeen likens to "a carpet with its corners turned up."
That's not to say BIG's designs don't have architectural merit, or that they won't stand the test of time.
Earlier this year, the firm announced a new, in-house engineering division. The new business unit focuses on introducing technology earlier in the design process, improving collaboration between architects and engineers.
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