THE PROJECT PLAYERS
Architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York, New York, USA, was
brought on for design and Turner Construction Co., also in New York, signed on
as the general contractor.
The museum also convened a commission to suggest ideas for improvements.
“The recommendations included concepts to transform the museum both physically
and programmatically,” says Patrick Ladden, renovation program director at the
Smithsonian Institution. The Washington, D.C.-based organization includes the
NMAH along with 18 other museums, nine research centers and the National Zoo.
Although the museum’s exterior
remained the same, the interior
design was gutted to let in a flood of
natural light. The new design plan
called for a central five-story atrium
in which white paint both tempers the
intensity of the light from the skylight
and guides it down to the ground
floor of the building.
O SAY CAN YOU SEE
One of the most famous exhibits at the museum is
the flag that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner
poem, which eventually morphed into the United
States’ national anthem.
Housed in its very own US$19 million chamber
complete with environmental controls, the flag is
now showcased in all of its tattered glory with a
new technological twist.
When the team began the project, multiple,
high-intensity lights were the only option. But the
flag’s delicate condition meant the lights would
have to be dimmed. There would have also been a
lot of bulbs, each of which might burn out at different times, adding to maintenance costs. Instead,
the team opted to use three high-tech projectors to
shine tiny rays of light—about a pixel wide—across
the surface of the flag, says Gary Haney, design
partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.