Change in the air
For the last several months the newly appointed director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Richard Koshalek, has been quietly at work on a plan to erect a 145-foot-tall inflatable meeting hall that would swell out of the top of the internal courtyard of the museum, which sits on the Mall midway between the White House and the Capitol.Read the NYT report here.
Designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the translucent fabric structure, which would be installed twice a year, for May and October, and be packed away in storage the rest of the time, would transform one of the most somber buildings on the mall into a luminous pop landmark. It could be the most uplifting work of civic architecture built in the capital since I. M. Pei completed his East Building of the National Gallery of Art more than 30 years ago.
But it is what the project is intended to house, and to represent, that has the potential to shake up Washington. For decades government power brokers have dismissed much of contemporary culture as a playground for elites. Mr. Koshalek’s vision would challenge that mentality by using performing arts, film series and conferences to foster a wide-ranging public debate on cultural values.
Mr. Koshalek, who is known for his bubbly enthusiasm, has been a champion of architectural causes since his days as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in the late 1990s, when he helped lead the drive to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Later he worked behind the scenes with the city’s government agencies and cultural institutions to hire respected architects for their new buildings rather than the kind of politically connected firms that were then the norm.
He arrived at the Hirshhorn last April with a dual agenda: to raise the museum’s national profile and to put Washington in closer touch with creative life around it.