The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is an art museum beside the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., the United States. The museum was initially endowed during the 1960s with the permanent art collection of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. One of the "big five" modern art museums in the U.S., it was designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft and is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It was conceived as the United States' museum of contemporary and modern art and currently focuses its collection-building and exhibition-planning mainly on the post-World War II period, with particular emphasis on art made during the last 50 years.
Bunshaft conceived the Hirshhorn as "a large piece of functional sculpture" among the shrine-like structures of the National Mall. The hollow-centered, elevated cylinder-primarily a gallery for paintings-floats above nearly four acres of landscaped grounds for sculpture.
Curved galleries expand the visitor's view of works. An entire wall of windows opens the interior and focuses on the fountain, while a recessed garden provides serenity. Like the round Guggenheim Museum in New York, the drum-shaped Hirshhorn is bold compared with its neighbors (Mall constructions tend to be brick Victorian fantasies, modernist block buildings, or neoclassical temples), but symmetry and frontality conserve the official Washington, DC, architectural mode.