International Spy Museum
NicLehoux, courtesy of Rogers StirkHarbour + Partners (RSHP)

International Spy Museum

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners as Architects

The International Spy Museum forms part of RSHP’s masterplan for L’Enfant Plaza in Washington DC, and creates a new home for the privately-owned Spy Museum originally located in a 19th Century building in Penn Quarter.


As a cultural building, The International Spy Museum generates activity and interest within a neighbourhood noted for large scale government office buildings. Consequently, the new Spy Museum is a catalyst for the regeneration of 10th Street, initiating and reinforcing the intentions of the National Capital Planning Committee SW Ecodistrict Plan.


Drawing its inspiration from the techniques of espionage, the building ‘hides in plain sight’. Its exhibition space is contained in a pleated ‘black box’, a dramatic diagonal-walled ‘box of secrets’ with opaque translucent walls, articulated by bright red fins. A glass veil, suspended by red columns, reduces glare and reflections.


The veil also encloses an atrium and ground floor lobby and circulation space – a continuation of public realm from 10th Street through to the new office buildings within the Plaza. Behind this veil, the prominent façade of the box angles out over the street and public space to one side, breaking the building line to create a disruptive landmark at the crest of 10th Street, visible from the National Mall at one end and Banneker Park at the other.


Above the double height lobby, and the three floors of exhibition and theatre space contained within the box, are two floors of set-back event space, inconspicuous from street level, with a roof terrace giving views across Washington DC’s cityscape and waterfront. Lifts are at the back of the building, but visitors can also exit the Museum box into the atrium above street level, contributing life to the façade.


The new International Spy Museum opened in 2019.

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