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Inflatable Space Destined for Hirshhorn Museum

A $5 million blue vinyl balloon is slated for the Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 2011.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden was established in 1966 by an Act of Congress. Considered Washington's pre-eminent modern and contemporary art museum, it consists of three floors of painting galleries, a fountain plaza for sculpture and the sculpture garden.

The existing Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2014. This cylindrical building, built in 1974 by Gordon Bunshaft, with a hollow center (doughnut hole) has been called a "bunker," "gas tank," and even a "toilet seat" by its many critics.

As I have visited the nation's capitol many times, I can attest to the attraction of the outdoor fountain plaza and sculpture garden, especially in the summer months.

The Hirshhorn’s director, Richard Koshalek said, "They have a strong interest in curating public space." So then, a temporary inflatable structure has been designed by the architectural firm Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.

The structure is said to hold 600 – 1,000 people and can be used for a multitude of art related events.

To some critics, the blue balloon can be seen as a mushroom or dome. Actually, it is a metaphor for the "Sleeping Muse" by Constantin Brancusi, a bronze sculpture of a head lying on its side.

The dome is a popular architectural fixture in Washington, D.C. with the Jefferson Memorial and the U.S. Capitol Building nearby.

The color blue is also a popular choice for Washington. When the Washington Memorial was restored in 1997, a blue curtain was used to cover the construction.

The installation is intended to be erected twice a year, in May and October.

This photo is courtesy of the architectural firm Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.
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