International Spy Museum, Washington DC

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has completed its first cultural building in the US: The International Spy Museum in America’s capital, which features an angled black volume, splayed red columns and a zig-zagged glass wall. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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