The Smithsonian has a museum up for grabs -- if only it can finish renovations -- and deciding what to do with it has been contentious.
Some people want to devote the Museum of Arts and Industries to entrepreneurship and innovation. Most recently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others introduced legislation that would turn it into a Museum of the American Latino, which has been seeking a home for years.
When you get a chance to see the National Building Museum's new exhibit on Unbuilt Washington, though, you'll learn about what the Smithsonian itself had in mind: They retained Los Angeles-based Morphosis Architects to mock up some designs for the interior of the building, and they're pretty spectacular.
It's designed to create a "virtual index" of the Smithsonian system, with "touchstones" for each element (arts, science, history, etc.). The scale model and "fly-through" video depict a stunningly reshaped inner architecture, with plane-like ramps slicing through a giant black intestine that twists its way through the space, even cutting into walls. We don't have the images at the moment, but will update if we can get ahold of them.
That's just one of the pieces on display in the new exhibit that makes you go huh. My other favorites include:
The exhibition's artifacts are a mix of ideas that were either too innovative for their time, too absurd to contemplate, or just too impractical and expensive to build -- a study in counterfactuals that will shift how you look at the stuff that actually did make it to completion.
Museum of the American Latino May Supersede Smithsonian’s Dark Twisted Fantasy (And Other Revelations From Unbuilt Washington) was originally published by Washington City Paper on Nov. 17, 2011.