RSHP-designed The International Spy Museum Opens to the Public

09 May 2019

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is delighted to announce the opening of the new home of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is delighted to announce the opening of the new home of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Near to the Washington Monument, this is to be the permanent home of the non-profit International Spy Museum, which has until now, been based in a 19th Century building in the historic Penn Quarter neighbourhood of D.C. Opening to the public on Sunday the 12th of May 2019, the museum is to house its world-renowned collection of spy artefacts from around the globe, offering interactive installations for visitors of all ages. It is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and contemporary role of espionage. The museum features the largest collection of international espionage artefacts ever placed on public display.

Led by Museum Founder and Chairman, Mr. Milton Maltz, the 140,000-sq-ft facility is located at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C., between the National Mall and The Wharf. It is the first cultural building to be designed by RSHP in the U.S. and was conceived as a catalyst for regeneration in the area, aiming to attract people from the Mall to L’Enfant Plaza, and in turn to its surrounding area all the way down to the southwest waterfront marina— which contains hotels, restaurants, and offices.

The building reaches the city’s height limit of 130 ft from grade in just seven stories. Its most prominent features are the angled facades of the exhibit floors on the south and west sides of the site, encased in a black box. Propped up on columns over an aligned, existing structure, the black box comprises the bulk of building including its exhibition spaces. This is a floating structure which creates public and private spaces for a combination of different uses.

The lobby and retail facilities are located within the double-height ground level space, with a mezzanine that holds an educational space for student and teacher workshops. Above the ground-level lobby are the museum’s three main exhibition areas featuring floor heights of up to 20 ft. These include the ‘Special Exhibitions’ floor, the theatre, permanent exhibition and task-finding, as well as the future ‘Operation Spy’ space. A metal staircase connecting these floors is suspended along the outside of the metal-panelled west facade and enclosed in a suspended glass atrium called the ‘Veil.’ Office spaces can be found above the exhibition floors and floating above these is the events space which is encased in a white box and crowned with a large, rooftop terrace. The steel structure found within the events box gives the museum 60-ft spans with floor-to-ceiling windows arranged in a 180-degree span around the building. These provide a platform for observing the Washington Monument and the Capitol, the National Cathedral and the Basilica, the District Wharf and National Harbour.

With its large and slender, structural-steel beams extending upward from the site on L’Enfant Plaza in a predominantly concrete area of Washington, D.C., this type of architecturally expressed structural steel is unlike any other in the district. The glass veil on the west facade protrudes from the building like a shining jewel, enticing people up toward it from 10th Street.

“It has been an absolute delight to have been involved in the design of the International Spy Museum. It is a building for the future that will bring its neighbourhood to life; a celebration not only of the long-standing human activity that it showcases but also of the city around it. A landmark for 21st century D.C.” - Ivan Harbour, Senior Design Partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

“Partnering with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on The International Spy Museum was a rewarding experience for all involved here at Hickok Cole. The building is simultaneously a testament to technical sophistication, as well as a poetic concept representing the essence of espionage. The project also serves as a catalyst for future investment in Washington, D.C.’s L’Enfant Plaza neighborhood. We can think of no better example of work that matters, and look forward to seeing the building take its place among the city’s architectural landmarks.” - Hickok Cole, Architect of Record, Michael Hickok, FAIA, Senior Principal and Owner.