For the first time in 42 years, the Hirshhorn Museum’s lobby has a new look as well as its first permanent food and beverage offering. After two years of design and three months of construction, Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and his Tokyo-based architectural firm New Material Research Laboratory (NMRL) has added new seating, tables, welcome desks, and more to reinvigorate the lobby.
When it came to the design process, Sugimoto was inspired by the building’s circular shape as well as the roots of a medieval Japanese tree that now form the lobby’s central tables. The twin glass-top tables were crafted from the roots of a 700-year-old Japanese nutmeg tree. The seating entails white and brushed-brass benches and chairs, whose legs feature large blocks of optical glass, the same used in camera lenses. According to a press release, this was meant to be a nod to Sugimoto’s photography career, while the shape was inspired by the helicoid shape of DNA.
Other new offerings include welcome desks made of brushed-brass and granite and a 20-foot metal coffee bar of tin and brushed brass with tin diamond patters, inspired by innovative fireproofing techniques used in 1930s Tokyo. There is also a prismatic light sculpture, made in 2015 by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, which now hangs from the ceiling, spanning 12 feet in circumference. The title is “Your oceanic feeling.” The dark film that previously covered the lobby’s 3,300-square-foot windows has been removed.
“[Sugimoto’s] unique aesthetic brings a renewed sense of sophistication and elegance to the lobby while at the same honoring Gordon Bunshaft’s original intentions,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu in a statement. “In 2006, the Hirshhorn was the first institution to present a career survey of Sugimoto’s work, and it is an honor for us to incorporate his work into the museum in a permanent way for visitors to enjoy for years to come.”
The food and beverage option now featured is specialty coffee bar, Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato. This is the coffee bar’s first location on the National Mall.
There is also now free Wi-Fi offered in the museum.
Expect more to come. Later this spring, the Hirshhorn will unveil new interior and exterior signage designed by Patrick Li and Li Inc., the studio behind the museum’s new logo. Li works as creative director of T: The New York Times Style Magazine.