Art lovers and tourists will be able to enjoy gelato and coffee from D.C. favorite Dolcezza Gelato in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s redesigned contemporary lobby starting in February.
The local coffee and gelato chain will be a permanent fixture in the Hirshhorn as part of a redesign of the museum’s lobby conceived by Japanese artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto. Dolcezza will be the first local cafe to be featured in a Smithsonian museum. Sugimoto’s redesign is the first since the museum opened in 1974.
Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu says that the new design will reflect the museum’s focus on global art and culture, while Dolcezza incorporates how the museum is “firmly centered” in D.C.
Chiu says the museum sees the new space as a community hub. The lobby will be have free Wi-Fi and open at 8 a.m., for commuters and tourists ahead of the museum’s daily 10 a.m. opening.
Dolcezza founder Robb Duncan says working closely with Sugimoto to design the cafe was a “dream come true.” All of the pieces used in the space, from the coffee bar to the chairs, were designed by the artist. Sugimoto took inspiration for the redesign from 700-year-old Japanese nutmeg trees, fashioning twin communal tables from the tree’s root ball.
Even the font in the coffee bar menu is custom and designed by the artist.
“Hiroshi builds stuff that probably shouldn’t be built,” Duncan says of the creativity that Sugimoto employs with materials. Duncan says he’s excited for the coffee shop to intersect with Sugimoto’s vision and the art community at the Hirshhorn.
“I could never have written it, if I was writing the script in my life, to do a coffee shop like this,” he says.
On the horizon, Duncan has some ideas to incorporate Dolcezza into the Hirshhorn’s after-hours artist events, and may bring back Dolcezza’s shipping container cafe that served customers in the sculpture garden during the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibit earlier this year.
Construction is underway now, but the museum remains open and visitors can see the construction taking shape. The new lobby and cafe will open Feb. 12, serving seasonal gelato, specialty espresso drinks, pastries and cocktails.