Trahan Architects to Design D.C. Museum Renewal

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Orleans-based Trahan Architects announced that the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has approved its new concept design for the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum.

The design recognizes the extensive collection of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which has been voted “Best Place to Take an Out-of-Towner” in Washington City Paper’s Best of D.C. poll for three consecutive years. Located within the U.S. National Arboretum’s Core, the museum is conceived as an immersive and cohesive garden experience, intended to evoke awe and wonder while also drawing connections to the larger Arboretum landscape. Funded through a gift to the National Bonsai Foundation, which provides financial support to the museum, this design organizes the museum’s program around a central court which orients the visitor to a network of paths that lead to the four exhibitions, expanded classroom, and administrative services. The exhibitions, conceived as gardens rather than buildings, blur their boundaries with the larger, surrounding garden to offer continuing revelation of surprise and discovery.  

“The stunning design that Reed Hilderbrand and Trahan Architects have presented, made possible by a generous gift to the National Bonsai Foundation, are a stimulating first step in the development of a master plan for the museum,” said NBF Board Chair James Hughes. “NBF is proud and pleased to be assisting in the revitalization of the world’s first public bonsai museum and looks forward to working with the U.S. National Arboretum on the next steps of this project.”

“It’s about deferring to the power of the Bonsai and Penjing,” said Trey Trahan, architect for the project and founding principal of Trahan Architects. “The architectural expression is subtle — composed of elemental components that respond to the unique environmental conditions of the site. We wanted the visitor to embark upon a journey that created a sense of mystery, where the boundaries between the landscape and the architecture are blurred, inviting people to reflect upon these unique cultural artifacts within a lush garden setting.”

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