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Posts Tagged ‘Modern Art’

BY ZACH MORTICE

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s plan for the Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden. Image courtesy Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

At the Hirshhorn, a preservation row tests the bounds of unity between building and landscape.

 

The Hirshhorn Museum’s Sculpture Garden is a cloistered 1.5-acre art landscape just across Jefferson Drive SW from the museum. Stepped into the earth and filled with modern sculpture arranged in intimate outdoor rooms, it’s a definitive change of pace from the broad civic expanse of the National Mall, though no less significant as it’s the only Smithsonian entity with “Sculpture Garden” in its official name, per the law that established the institution.

The sculpture garden was originally designed by the Hirshhorn Museum’s architect, Gordon Bunshaft. His initial sculpture garden was a harsh, wide expanse of hardscape and gravel when it opened in 1974, centered on a 60-foot-wide rectangular reflecting pool. In 1977 the Smithsonian enlisted Lester Collins to soften the landscape and make it more hospitable, especially during Washington, D.C.’s sweltering summers. When the new landscape opened in 1981, it was with additional lawn and shade cover recessed into the ground—a more layered experience of concrete walls that cordoned off and defined outdoor rooms for the quiet contemplation of sculpture. Collins selected trees with an intense sculptural presence (weeping willows, weeping beeches, ginkgoes, dawn redwoods) and was lauded for his progressively accessible design, nearly a decade before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But the museum’s new plan for a revised landscape by the artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto is drawing the attention of landscape advocates who charge that the changes proposed will alter the relationship between the landscape and Bunshaft’s monumental ring of aggregate concrete, two elements of the museum campus that were conceived as one. With the new landscape, the Hirshhorn (the staff is quick to point out that only 15 percent of museum visitors make a visit to the sculpture garden) hopes to offer art lovers more programmatic flexibility in the garden and the chance to host larger, more performance-driven events. (more…)

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