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National Museum of US Army Opens

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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In celebrating Veteran’s Day last week, the National Museum of the United States Army officially opened its doors to the public for the first time. According to NMUSA, the museum is the first and only museum to tell the entire history of the U.S. Army since its establishment in 1775.

“The museum is stunning, and it is an honor to present this history in a way that shows the connection between the American Soldier, the U.S. Army and the nation,” said the museum’s director, Ms. Tammy E. Call.

Designed by global architectural, urban planning and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the new museum takes up 84 acres on the Fort Belvoir Military Installation in Virginia, and is reported to have drawn inspiration from three core ideals: discipline, modesty, and rigor.

Built atop a plateau to evoke a sense of monumentality, the building features five pavilions for exhibits and special events, rising 100 feet at its peak. At the corner of each pavilion, the building alternates between recessed glass panels and painted aluminum fins in an effort to create a sense of dynamism.

The complex lies on a three-foot grid system with every joint and edge of the building falling on each subdivision with precision, meaning the aluminum fins are spaced 18 inches apart to fall exactly on the edges of the panels.

The majority of the building’s façade, however, utilizes laser-cut stainless-steel panels also placed into a grid-like system. While the choice of stainless-steel materials were used to establish the sense of rigor and discipline as previously mentioned, the materials also serve to reflect the bucolic surroundings—transforming the character of the building through every season and time of day.

In the future, SOM plans to add a quiet memorial garden, a parade field and grandstand, and an Army Trail with interpretive stations.

Upon entering the grand lobby, visitors are met with the Department of the Army’s emblem inscribed on a terrazzo floor at their feet, a black granite wall listing every campaign from the Army’s history in front of them, and 22 rows of translucent, laminated glass panels designed to match colors of historic campaign streamers within the ceiling.

The entry space is surrounded by retail, a cafe, landscaped terraces, exhibition spaces, a 300-degree theater, stainless steel pylons sharing individual soldier stories and a monumental staircase leading to more exhibitions on the second floor.

Throughout the museum, the interior also boasts a variety of natural materials including stone floors, American white oak and ash finishes, and glass, among others.

On the third level, the Veterans’ Hall offers additional event space and connects to the Medal of Honor Garden —complete with a 10-foot-tall granite wall engraved with the names of every medal recipient.

In using sustainable design strategies, the museum achieved an LEED Silver certification. The certification was obtained through increased insulation, improved glazing, high-efficiency LED lighting, automatic daylighting controls and occupancy sensors, and the installation of a green roof.

“The Army is people. They are our greatest strength and our most important weapon system,” said the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville. “The National Museum of the United States Army is designed to tell the compelling and heroic stories of our people and take visitors on an exciting journey through the history of the U.S. Army as told through the American Soldiers’ point of view.”

The museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization. The AHF constructed the building through private funds, and the U.S. Army provided the infrastructure, roads, utilities and exhibit work that transformed the building into a museum. The Army owns and operates the museum, and the AHF manages retail, catering and special events.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Color + Design; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Commerial/Architectural; Design; Design - Commercial; Design build; Museums; Museums; NA; North America; U.S. Army

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