Hirshhorn Museum Moves to the Next Phase of Design For Seasonal Inflatable Pavilion

NCPC Supports the Museum’s Continued Development of the Project

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden received supportive comments from the National Capital Planning Commission for a proposed seasonal inflatable pavilion to the museum’s plaza. Architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design for the structure was reviewed at the concept stage.

The NCPC voted to approve executive director Marcel C. Acosta’s recommendation of the project. To date, the Hirshhorn Museum has received encouragement to proceed with the development of this project by both the Commission of Fine Arts and the NCPC.

In the written recommendation, Acosta states, “…the semiannual transformation of the museum’s central courtyard will create an exciting and unanticipated attraction along the National Mall…” The commission recommends that the Hirshhorn continue to develop designs for two versions of the inflatable pavilion prior to making a determination on a final design.

The NCPC is the federal government’s planning agency for the National Capital Region, with a 12-member commission that meets monthly to adopt, approve or provide advice on plans and projects that impact the nation’s capital and surrounding areas.

The Commission of Fine Arts, a panel overseeing architecture in the nation’s capital, reviewed the initial design concept and approved it with enthusiasm Feb. 18. The commission praised the concept as “exciting” and raised no objections. Earl A. Powell, chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, said the museum should “go forth and inflate.”

The seasonal inflatable pavilion will be installed twice a year for new educational programs and collaborations between the Hirshhorn and other national, regional and local institutions. With an expanded auditorium, the pavilion will serve as the hub for a new series of conferences exploring important cross-disciplinary issues in media, technology and contemporary culture. Standing nearly 122 feet tall, the inflatable structure will sit in the Hirshhorn’s courtyard, ballooning through the top of the building. It will be visible from all sides of the museum and at points along the National Mall. Extending from the lobby and featuring an auditorium, meeting places and a café, the pavilion will transform the plaza into a vibrant public space.

“The pavilion and the activities it will house affirm the museum’s commitment to enhancing public understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and culture,” said Richard Koshalek, the director of the Hirshhorn. “Locally, nationally and globally the Hirshhorn will function as a meeting place where people can gather for the exchange of critical issues and ideas.”

New York City-based architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro was contracted in September 2009 to start working on the concept of the temporary inflatable pavilion. Initial construction of the pavilion has been estimated at $5 million, with an additional endowment of $2.5 – $5 million for continuing installation, storage and programmatic research costs. DSR’s recent projects include the redesign of Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and New York’s High Line.


Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Temporary Inflatable Pavilion. Courtesy: Diller Scofidio + Renfro