Smithsonian Institution

The most prominent museum system in the US, the Smithsonian Institution, invited RTKL to propose a new strategy for the building cluster around the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall. The existing architecture suffers from ambiguous identity, confusing spatial organization, and inefficiency in acting as an exhibition platform for the enormous collection of the Institution. In fact, only two percent of the 120 million pieces of the Smithsonian collection are on display at any time. An increase in space as well as new means of exhibition are in demand.
My proposal is to give Smithsonian a new visual identity by erecting an undulating canopy on the existing campus, which will be visually identifiable from both the Mall and the Independence Avenue side. Acting not only as an inviting apparatus that draws visitors in from the Mall, the canopy also has its underside used as LED display, so to act as a rotating billboard for the Institution’s collections.
The first basement level of the campus, which currently gives its visitors an impression of a series of “rabbit holes”, will be expanded to provide more exhibition space, illuminated by large skylights. The circulation will be organized around a loop that also connects to the underground of the Freer Gallery and the Arts and Industries Building. Thus the buildings that are separated on ground level can be connected from underneath, and unify the different programs into a whole.