Stunning Design Suggested for Museum
At Washington, DC's L'Enfant Plaza Overlook Site


The coalition released an architectural vision of the proposed National Museum of the American People that depicts what could become a major new Washington landmark at the end of L'Enfant Plaza, overlooking the Maine Avenue waterfront and the Washington Channel of the Potomac River.

The architectural vision developed by MTFA Architecture of Arlington, Virginia provides a sense of what this major new museum could look like on one of the major sites in Washington designated as a location for a future museum by three federal agencies -- the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission and U.S. Commission on Fine Arts. The final selection of an architect will be made by the Museum once it is created and the Museum will work with federal agencies and Congress to obtain the best possible site.

If the Museum is built at what is called the Banneker Overlook site at the end of L'Enfant Plaza, it would serve to link two central spaces in Washington, the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront along Maine Avenue which is undergoing a major redevelopment that will include condos, shops, restaurants, a river walk and other amenities to attract visitors. The Overlook site is under NPS jurisdiction. The Museum would be in a direct line of sight of the Smithsonian's Castle Building, a short walk away down L'Enfant Plaza which is slated to be revitalized. This museum site would provide fresh views of the Potomac River and downriver scenes of Virginia and Maryland. The L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station is nearby and automobile and parking access would be readily available.

The four soaring structures arising from the grass covered roof of the central building in the MTFA Architecture design evoke several aspects of the proposed Museum's story: Flags of nations over a landscape of waves, four books opening to reveal chapters of the story of the making of the American People or sails recalling vessels that brought many to this land over the early periods of the formation of the American people. The maritime aesthetic also relates to the nearby marina where an extension of the museum could berth sailing vessels of the type used to bring early European settlers, slaves, and others to these waters.

During the day, the textures of the concrete "flags" will constantly change with the movement of the sun's shadows across the facade. At night, films could be projected onto these surfaces. The MTFA Architecture design calls for a state of the art green building that would serve as a model for the Southwest Ecodistrict.

While the new Arena Stage theater anchors Maine Avenue at one end, this museum could anchor the redesigned waterfront at the other end. The Museum's international food court and plaza, with a mix of restaurants and a gift shop located along Maine Avenue, could remain open after museum hours and help to stimulate nighttime street life.

The Museum is envisioned to include more than 400,000 square feet of space devoted to exhibitions, collections, educational resources, genealogical research, films and a major academic center.

The Museum's final design would have to go through an extensive review process as do all proposed buildings in Washington's central core area on or near the National Mall. After the Presidential Commission studies establishment of the Museum and issues its report to the President and Congress, legislation would be required to create an entity that would be charged with building the museum and raising all of the money to build it.

MTFA Architecture is an award winning firm located in Arlington, Virginia that specializes in projects that shape our culture, build on commerce and positively shape people's lives. They have a long history of projects that build consensus for planning and design involving mixed use, commercial, cultural and educational functions.