National Museum of the Marine Corps

Quantico, Virginia, USA

This Museum commemorates Marines who sacrificed their lives while defending the United States and its interests.  

hosen in a national design competition, Fentress Architects envisioned a museum inspired by the famous Joe Rosenthal photograph. In fact, oriented on the site’s high ground, adjacent to Interstate 95, the National Museum of the Marine Corps became an instant landmark.  Once on site, visitors glimpse the Museum through the trees in a series of increasingly dramatic views.

The design features an angled, 210-foot stainless steel-clad mast that pierces a conical glass and steel skylight.  This skylight also functions as a ceiling plane for the building’s Central Gallery, where an efficient radial plan extends to house galleries, classrooms, visitor services, and restaurants.

The museum’s core is not just a connector. Eloquent quotations engraved in the interior’s warm travertine walls speak of courage and commitment, while a terrazzo floor carries the pattern of a globe, representing the land, sea and sky by which Marines have fought.

The circular building features clean lines expressed in simple, strong materials: cast-in-place concrete, steel, stone and glass. A broad plaza and entry create a natural link to neighboring Semper Fidelis Memorial Park and Chapel.

Award-Winning Design

The Museum has garnered nearly 30 honor and awards including:

  • #1 History Museum in the US, USA Today, 2020
  • Best Institutional Project (Over $30 Million), Associated Builders and Contractors, 2017
  • Honor Award, AIA Western Mountain Region, 2011
  • American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2008
  • IDEAS National Award, American Institute of Steel Construction, 2008
  • Project of the Year Award (Under $50 million), Construction Management Association of America, 2008
  • Award for Outstanding Achievement, Themed Entertainment Association, 2008
  • Honor Award, AIA Virginia, 2007
  • Platinum Award for Engineering Excellence, American Council of Engineering Companies, 2006
  • Best New Museum, American Heritage Magazine, 2006
  • Project of the Year, Steel Erectors Association of America, 2006
  • First Place, National Design Competition, 2001

Sustainable by Design

Designed to standards required for LEED Silver certification, the Museum employs numerous sustainable strategies to conserve energy and reduce water use while elevating the visitor experience.  In fact, the circular form of the museum building does more than beckon visitors. The shape also allows part of the structure to be embedded in earthen berms and a green roof, which help reduce thermal load variations, temper heating and cooling demands, and, in conjunction with air flow up through the skylight, cool the building.

Meticulous Planning

Throughout the design process, Fentress Architects together with the client conceived of this complex as a place for education, community, remembrance, and the pursuit of peace. The evolving master plan envisions the addition of a small chapel, as well as other attractions that serve the Marine Corps community and public.