National Museum of Intelligence + Special Operations

Ashburn, Virginia, USA

The Museum heralds the importance of strategic intelligence and special operations in the preservation of American freedom.

Fentress’ design for the Museum was inspired by both Office of Strategic Services (OSS)’s spearhead insignia, which was later adopted by United States Special Operations Command, and the American Bald Eagle. The spearhead serves as the organizing element for the landscape plan and is easily identifiable as such from the ground and air. It is also embossed in the building exterior through the use of acute, angular geometry resolving in a sharpened point against the skyline, seen most dramatically at the entrance.

The elevation of the museum symbolizes the wing span of an eagle in flight. Through the twisting gestures of its roof members, each entrance is lifted from the ground below. Glazed ribbons of glass between the building’s structural ribs represent feathering on an eagle’s wing. This concept also represents—in the number of ribs—each of the eleven major Operations and Intelligence branches within OSS.

Curving and made of heavy concrete with fissures for light to escape, the Remembrance Wall rises and dips like the wings of a bird about to take flight. Etched in the 500-foot-long Wall are the names of 116 OSS members killed in action during World War II. Rising up to 80 feet, a significant section of the Wall also acts as a screen for the projection of large-scale epic scenes from OSS training and endeavors.

Award-Winning Design

  • Finalist (Cultural – Future Projects Category), World Architecture Festival, 2021
  • American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2019
  • Merit Award, AIA Denver, 2017