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Smithsonian eyes 4-D theater for one of its oldest buildings

Tuesday - 6/25/2013, 8:43pm  ET

Visitors to one of the National Mall's oldest buildings will experience history in four dimensions.

Not literally, of course. The Smithsonian Institution is seeking a contractor to install and operate an “innovative, technologically advanced, user-friendly, first-class, innovation themed” 4-D theater, or a simulator, or a hybrid version of the two, in the Arts & Industries Building, currently closed for a long-needed overhaul.

A 4-D theater combines 3-D film with synchronized physical and sensory effects. The facilities are usually found in theme parks, zoos, hotel resorts and museums. The Newseum’s 450-seat Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater is 4-D. The National Aquarium in Baltimore also features a 4-D theater, as does Mount Vernon.

The Smithsonian’s theater, according to a solicitation issued Monday, will have an innovation theme that could use content from any topic of science, history, art or culture. It will be part of the Smithsonian Innovation Space at the Arts & Industries Building, an 18,000-square-foot temporary exhibit expected to draw, conservatively, 1 million visitors annually.

The theater area will be in the southwest quadrant of the building, in a 90-foot-by-50-foot area with up to 14-foot ceilings. It must be ready by September 2014 when the building is scheduled to reopen to the public.

Theater bids are due by Aug. 1.

The innovation space, developed in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will be set up for seven years and “feel more like a pop-up museum than a permanent museum installation.” The permanent use of the Arts & Industries Building is unclear. It has been pitched, for example, as the new home for the National Museum of the American Latino.

Designed by Adulf Cluss, the Arts & Industries Building opened in 1881 as the “National Museum.” The National Historic Landmark closed in January 2004 to undergo a structural review and extensive renovations. The work includes installation of 800 new custom windows, reinforcement and replacement of some original iron trusses with steel, repair of the brick facade and replacement of the 2.5-acre roof.

© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.

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