The renovation of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto has been completed only two months after renderings were first revealed for the project. The lobby’s light new look not only pays homage to the curved Gordon Bunshaft-designed museum housing it but will also introduce a serpentine café when it opens to the public on February 23.

Sugimoto and his Tokyo-based architectural firm, New Material Research Laboratory (NMRL), drew inspiration from the clash between the uneven swirls of the natural world and the mathematically perfect (and unnatural) roundness of the Hirshhorn. As previously reported, Sugimoto had discussed transplanting the roots of a 700-year-old Japanese nutmeg tree into the lobby, and he made good on his promise by turning the root bundle into a twin set of glass-topped tables. The effect is quite striking, as the chaotic branches have been trimmed down, cut in half, and trapped under a sheet of manmade material.

“Looking deeper into the roots, I became equally delighted by the randomness of the lines, drawn by nature. There are no perfectly round circles or perfectly straight lines,” said Sugimoto in a statement. “I found it fitting to place one of nature’s circles inside this manufactured one so that we might compare the two: notional shapes and natural shapes.”

Sugimoto has installed two centerpiece tables in the lobby, cut from the roots of a 700-year-old nutmeg tree. (Farrah Skeiky/Hirshhorn Museum)

The lobby’s white chairs also reference natural spirals in their design, with their backs twisting as they rise, resembling the helical curve of DNA strands. Brushed brass benches with legs made of optical glass blocks, referencing Sugimoto’s storied photography career, have been installed throughout the space.

The largest change to the lobby has been the removal of a dark film over the 3,300 square feet of curvilinear windows, which has allowed natural light to flood the space, and the installation of Your oceanic feeling (2015), a swirling light sculpture by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson that hangs from the ceiling.

Dolcezza Coffee and Gelato at Hirshhorn in the lobby of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. (Farrah Skeiky/Hirshhorn Museum)

While the Hirshhorn had held a special preview event of the space last week, the lobby will officially open to the public on February 23, 2018. Visitors will be able to check out the new Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato café, a 20-foot long coffee bar clad in diamond-shaped tin and brushed-brass plates that resembles serpent scales. Guests can also view a video preview of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, 1988–2000 before the projection is once again displayed on the museum’s exterior.

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