The New Cooper Hewitt Experience

Image of two silhouettes in an architectural rendering of a room with pattern all over the walls and one of the people is hunched over a table, as if to draw. on the right, a different image of a woman sketching on a digital table, drawing a thick black line over the contour of a drawn teacup.

Rendering (left) courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Local Projects. Photo (above) Copyright © 2014 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Opening to the public on December 12, 2014

The museum will boast 60 percent more gallery space to present its important collection and temporary exhibitions and will offer an entirely new and invigorated visitor experience, with interactive, immersive creative technologies.

Cooper Hewitt’s renovation provides the opportunity to redefine today’s museum experience and inspire each visitor to play designer before, during and after their visit. Visitors will explore the museum’s collections and exhibitions using groundbreaking technologies that inspire learning and experimentation. This new participatory experience is specifically designed to engage all audiences—students, teachers, families, designers and the general public—and increase repeat attendance.

Making the new experience

The transformation of the Carnegie Mansion into a 21st-century museum respects the spirit and character of the landmark building (the former residence of Andrew Carnegie), restoring key elements to their original grandeur while providing much-needed upgrades to lighting and signage, more flexibility to reduce installation time and better accommodate object handling and above all enhanced public access on every level.

The multiphase project has also provided for the creation of the new Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library (completed in 2011), which includes the Arthur Ross Reading Room, an additional study room, the Fred and Rae S. Friedman Rare Book Room, reference spaces, a workroom, open stacks and offices, as well as the development of the museum’s website, the collection move to expanded off-site facilities and the growth of the endowment.

A team of leading design firms have joined forces to realize the project. Gluckman Mayner Architects developed the overarching vision for the interior renovation of the mansion, in collaboration with executive architect Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP, which oversaw the engineering, architectural and historic-preservation aspects of the project. Hood Design is evolving the original Richard Schermerhorn Jr. design from 1901, using durable local New York schist as terrace pavers, garden pathways and in the reimagined rockery, tying the garden to its larger context of Central Park. Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the casework and the first layout of the movable display cases for the exhibitions in the first- and second-floor galleries, as well as the new SHOP Cooper Hewitt retail space; Thinc Design conceived the Tools exhibition design; Local Projects focused on the design and production of the interactive media concept; and Ideum developed the interactive table hardware. Goppion engineered and fabricated the casework on the ground-, first-, and second-floor galleries.

Through reprogramming of portions of the mansion and the adjacent townhouses, as well as reconfiguring conservation and collection-storage facilities, the project will increase the museum’s total exhibition space from approximately 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet, including the 6,000-square-foot gallery on the third floor, which has never before been used for public exhibitions.

The pen

All visitors will be loaned an interactive Pen to collect and create during their visit. Symbolizing and embodying human creativity, the Pen is a key part of every visitor’s experience. With it, they will be able to record their visit, which can be viewed and shared online and supplemented during future visits.

Find out the full story behind the realization of the Pen and how it works.

Immersion Room

Cooper Hewitt’s extraordinary collection of wall coverings will be featured in a new high-tech space, the Immersion Room, designed by Local Projects, where visitors select digital images of wallpapers—or sketch their own designs—and then project them onto the walls at full scale to see their impact. In addition to offering an entertaining interactive experience, the Immersion Room, for the first time, allows museum visitors to explore and appreciate Cooper Hewitt’s wall coverings as they were intended to be viewed.

Learn more.

Process Lab

In the dynamic and interactive Process Lab, visitors will brainstorm design solutions through hands-on and digital activities. It will emphasize how design is a way of thinking, planning and problem solving, and provide a foundation for the rest of the design concepts on view in the museum.

Learn more.