Taking NASM into the Future

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC

Our modernization of this iconic museum will create a high-performance environment to showcase America’s achievements in aviation and spaceflight. One of the world’s most visited museums, the building welcomes several million visitors every year. We are renewing it inside and out to create a more resilient structure and inclusive visitor experience.

The comprehensive renovation integrates an all-new envelope with engineering systems and infrastructure to improve energy efficiency and environmental conditions for both people and artifacts. New visitor-focused spaces, including a bold entry vestibule and lower-level education area (called the “Launch Pad”), respect the building’s architectural character while enhancing the museum experience.

Taking NASM into the Future
Through stimulating new exhibition techniques and innovative digital engagement, we will tell exciting and relevant stories in ways that resonate with our modern communication-savvy world.
A photo of construction at the National Air and Space museum.

Renewing an Icon

One of our main goals was to respect and maintain Gyo Obata’s original intent and the museum’s character-defining features as a mid-century design. For major interventions like the complete replacement of the exterior stone cladding, we developed and mocked up several potential solutions to arrive at the best fit.

A rendering of the entrance to the National Air and Space museum.

A New Front Door

An expressive new entry vestibule forms a counterpoint to the rectilinear original structure. Inspired by birds’ wings and early flying machines, the addition will provide a climatized queuing and orientation area for visitors waiting to go through security screening.

A section cut showing the interior of the National Air and Space museum.

Optimizing the Environment & Saving Energy

Transforming NASM into a high-performance museum for the future required innovation and creativity. We applied extensive energy and daylight modeling and materials analyses to inform and drive our integrated solutions. We worked closely with conservators to determine temperature and humidity settings to optimize museum conditions. This yielded the most significant energy reduction results - energy costs are projected to drop by half while protecting the artifacts within the large, glazed atria.

A rendering of children inside a museum displaying airplanes.

Resilience for the Future

Our planning and programming efforts were focused to protect the priceless artifacts within the museum. Critical infrastructure was assessed and examined to mitigate risk from extreme weather events and potential flooding.

A series of floor plans.

Phased Construction

We developed a complex phasing plan that allows the building to largely remain open to the public during the six-year construction period. The facilities maintenance office and security office will maintain continuous operations throughout construction, moving into temporary spaces as needed.

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