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The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Famous Buildings in Washington, DC: The Hirshhorn Museum


Resembling a giant space ship, the Hirshhorn Museum is a dramatic contrast to the Neoclassical buildings on the National Mall.
The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC

The Hirshhorn Museum

Photo © Medioimages/Photodisc, Getty Images
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Built: 1969-1974
Style: Modernist, Functionalist
Architect: Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Landscape Architect: Redesigned plaza by James Urban opened in 1993

Learn About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is named after financier and philanthropist Joseph H. Hirshhorn, who donated his extensive collection of modern art. The Smithsonian Institution asked Pritzker Prize-winning architect Gordon Bunshaft to design a museum that would showcase modern art. After several revisions, Bunshaft's plan for the Hirshhorn Museum became a massive functional sculpture.

Made of a precast concrete aggregate of pink granite, the Hirshhorn building is a hollow cylinder that rests on four curved pedestals. Galleries with curved walls expand views of the artworks inside. Windowed walls overlook a fountain and bi-level plaza where modernist sculptures are displayed.

Reviews were mixed. Benjamin Forgey of the Washington Post called the Hirshhorn "the biggest piece of abstract art in town." (November 4, 1989) Louise Huxtable of the New York Times said that the Hirshhorn was "born-dead, neo-penitentiary modern." (October 6, 1974) For visitors to Washington, DC, the Hirshhorn Museum has become as much an attraction as the art it contains.

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