Planning Process

Smithsonian Campus Master Plan – Phase 1

The South Mall Campus Master Plan includes both internal Smithsonian planning activities as well as a public phase of planning input, conducted through the NEPA and Section 106 processes, through submission of the master plan for NCPC review and CFA comment, and through consultation with neighboring agencies. Refer to separate tabs for more information about NEPA and Section 106. Below is a brief summary of the overall activities involved in developing the Campus Master Plan for implementation over a 10-20 year time frame.

Planning activities prior to initiating nepa and section 106 review in Fall 2014:

  • In spring of 2012, prior to engaging an architectural team for the project, the Smithsonian conducted a facilitated retreat with a Steering Committee drawn from our senior leadership (including representation from the Secretary, Regents Facilities Committee, Education and Access Assistant Secretary, Museum directors, Gardens director, Facilities director etc.) to develop a statement of project goals and priorities for the South Mall area of our campus. This broad briefing document served as a basis for developing a scope of work for the project and was provided to a short list of architects identified through a federal selection process for interviews.
  • A team led by the New York City office of BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) was selected as the master plan architect towards the end of 2012 and began working with the Smithsonian facilities staff and the Steering Committee in spring of 2013.
  • Much of 2013 was spent in analyzing the existing conditions of our buildings, interviewing key stakeholders throughout the Smithsonian, conducting surveys of visitors and exploring and testing initial planning options for their feasibility in meeting the Smithsonian’s diverse requirements. Research on the history of the buildings and gardens was initiated. This research was compiled in a Cultural Landscape Report completed in spring 2018.
  • In March 2014, the Steering Committee identified a planning direction for further development and presentation to a wider group of Smithsonian stakeholders including our Regents, National and individual Museum Boards and other key supporters. The plan received support from our internal stakeholders and the team continued to refine it, including developing a phasing and implementation plan and identifying a range of costs for the component projects.


  • In September 2014, Smithsonian Facilities staff met with representatives of District and Federal external agencies and neighbors, including the US Commission of Fine Arts, the National Planning Commission, the DC Offices of Planning and Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, GSA and National Park Service among others, to introduce them to the plan as a first step in the public phase of input to the plan.
  • The Smithsonian initiated the Section 106 review process with the DC Historic Preservation Officer and began planning the NEPA process with NCPC in Fall 2014.
  • NCPC and the Smithsonian considered the input received at the Scoping Meeting on December 16, 2014, and through other sources of comments like this website in refining the Alternatives that were evaluated and the environmental factors that were considered in developing the Environmental Assessment. Similarly, the Section 106 Process was conducted to assess the effects of the project on historic resources.


  • The Smithsonian will establish internal project steering committees to guide the detailed programming, design and implementation of individual projects. The internal process includes review by individual units as well as review by the Smithsonian leadership and Regents.
  • Projects that increase the footprint of federal facilities must receive authorization for those increases from Congress. This permission is requested after approval of the project by the Regents, about two years before the start of construction.
  • As individual projects of the approved Campus Master Plan are implemented, they will be subject to review by NCPC, CFA and DC HPO if they involve external changes and affect historic resources.
  • Implementation of the plan will require a combination of federal appropriations and private funding. Our goal is to begin the Castle project construction in 2021, with supporting projects occurring prior to that to relocate staff and activities. Initial projects for the Freer and Hirshhorn may also occur prior to the start of the Castle construction if funding is in place.


General inquiries can be sent to the project email address below: