On Veterans Day, SOM and the Army Historical Foundation celebrated the completion and opening of the National Museum of the United States Army (NMUSA), a cultural institution of national significance that is the first to tell the story of the oldest branch of the United States military. The building, located just 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C., is designed to serve as a center of education and as the Army’s symbolic front door. By walking visitors through every generation of the Army, the museum focuses not on battles or wars, but on the individual soldier—a centuries-long narrative of honor, sacrifice and valor.
Spanning 84 acres across the Fort Belvoir Military Installation in Virginia, the LEED Silver-certified museum is designed in a series of pavilions for exhibits and special events. The symbolic experience begins with the access road, which offers a glimpse of the stainless steel-clad museum through the trees and across a long meadow. The museum rises to 100 feet at its peak, and its façade is composed of a regular grid of laser-cut, stainless steel panels that establish the sense of rigor and discipline that are central to the design.
The panels reflect their bucolic surroundings—expressing a sense of optimism by transforming the building’s character through every season and time of day. At the corner of each pavilion, recessed glass panels alternate with painted aluminum fins to add a sense of dynamism. Because the complex lies on a three-foot grid system, with every joint and edge of the building falling on each subdivision with precision, the aluminum fins are spaced 18 inches apart to fall exactly on the edges of the panels.
EFCO Corp. supplied a custom 5600 curtainwall, entrance doors and the project’s aluminum fins. Viracon supplied 10,686.40 square feet of glass, which included the company’s VRE-59 coating and some lamination. Tidewater Glazing was the glazing contractor for the project.
The symbolism continues inside. Stainless steel pylons sharing individual soldier stories lead visitors from the promenade, through the vestibule, and into the exhibition hall. In the grand lobby, which can be used as an event space, a black granite wall lists every campaign in the Army’s history, and the Department of the Army’s emblem is inscribed on the terrazzo floor. Above, a coffered ceiling with 22 rows of translucent, laminated glass panels match the colors of the campaign streamers from the Army’s past—bringing the focus to the individual soldier.
The building achieved LEED® Silver certification through a variety of sustainable features, such as increased insulation, improved glazing, high-efficiency LED lighting, automatic daylighting controls and occupancy sensors, and a green roof. Through SOM’s integrated, proactive approach toward sustainability, the museum minimizes the use of energy and water, creates healthy spaces for visitors and employees, and engages actively with the outdoor environment.