The National Museum of the United States Army is designed to serve as the symbolic front door to the oldest branch of the U.S. military. Spanning 84 acres on the Fort Belvoir Military Installation in Virginia, the museum focuses first and foremost on the story of the individual soldier, and draws inspiration from three core ideals: discipline, modesty, and rigor.
The building, which rests atop a plateau to evoke a sense of monumentality, is composed of a series of five pavilions for exhibits and special events. The facade, designed in a regular grid of stainless steel panels, reflects the bucolic surroundings—transforming the character of the building through every season and time of day. At the corner of each pavilion, recessed glass panels alternate with painted aluminum fins to create a sense of dynamism.
The interior is characterized by natural materials, from stone floors to American white oak and ash finishes. Glass and wood thresholds connect each pavilion, marking transitions between spaces and providing views outside. The lobby, which can transition into an event space, features a coffered ceiling with 22 rows of translucent, laminated glass panels which match the colors of historic campaign streamers. This entry space is surrounded by retail, a cafe, the first of three landscaped terraces, exhibition spaces, a 300-degree theater, and a monumental staircase that leads to more exhibitions on the second floor. On the third level, the Veterans’ Hall provides additional event space and connects to the Medal of Honor Garden—a terrace featuring a 10-foot-tall granite wall engraved with the names of every recipient of the Army's highest and most prestigious decoration.
The museum is certified LEED Silver through a variety of sustainable design strategies, such as increased insulation, improved glazing, high-efficiency LED lighting, automatic daylighting controls and occupancy sensors, and a green roof. SOM’s design and planning for future phases of the museum's development also includes a quiet memorial garden, a parade field and grandstand, and an Army Trail with interpretive stations.