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

The museum’s elevation symbolizes the wing span of an eagle in flight. Each entrance is lifted from the ground below through the twisting gestures of its roof members. 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.

A 500-foot-long Remembrance Wall rises and dips like the wings of a bird about to take flight. In addition, it is curving and made of heavy concrete with fissures for light to escape.  The names of 116 OSS members killed in action during World War II are etched in this Wall.  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