Navy Unveils Five Eye-Popping Ideas for New Flagship Museum in D.C.

DLR Group
Rendering of design by DLR Group for a new Navy museum. The final design has not yet been selected.

WASHINGTON – The Navy on Thursday unveiled five eye-catching design concepts for its planned new national museum in Washington, D.C.

The ideas are not part of an official design competition, which will come later, but are meant to signal the progress of an enterprise that could bring a dramatic new presence to M Street near the Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, the Navy says.

The offerings, displayed at an afternoon event at the Navy Yard, came from noted architectural firms, and presented some striking designs – one of a building with wings that look like sails, and one with a submarine conning tower in a pool of water out front.

“I was kind of blown away,” said retired Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox, the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

“It’s not the final design competition for actually building the museum,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “But one of these firms could wind up being the finalist for that when it occurs. Or it could be somebody else.”

“The idea is to generate interest among architectural firms, also, in our case, generate interest in the rest of the Navy, [and] generate interest in the American public,” he said. “It’s not just a pipe dream. This is coming.”

The formal design competition will come after the Navy Museum Development Foundation raises enough money to move forward, he said. “I don’t know when that will be,” he said.

The Navy envisions a museum campus of about 270,000 square feet, including about 100,000 square feet of gallery space, according to MGAC, a consulting firm for the service.

The Navy announced in January that five prominent architecture firms had been chosen to develop ideas for the new museum. They were Bjarke Ingels Group, DLR Group, Frank Gehry Partners, Perkins&Will and Quinn Evans.

“They’re all serious about wanting to do this,” Cox said.

Gehry, who designed Washington’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, offered what looks like a majestic building largely made of glass.

The DLR Group presented a design that included the submarine conning tower in the outdoor pool.

Perkins&Will’s design featured a giant glass facade flanked by wings that resembled a sailing ship.

“If any one of those was the final design, I’d be tickled pink,” Cox said. “I think at some point the artist is going to collide with the engineer. The building will have to meet basic Navy force protection standards, so that it can survive certain degrees of damage.”

The unveiling was another step in the Navy’s preparation for a $450 million museum to replace the almost 60-year-old facility in its cavernous Naval Gun Factory and an adjacent building at the historic yard.

The service announced two years ago that it wanted to build the new museum on a roughly six-acre plot on M Street next-door to the Navy Yard.

The site was secured via a land swap with a developer, pending environmental review, the Navy said. The Navy exchanged 15 acres of “underutilized” land in the southeastern part of the yard for the new museum site.

The service hopes to break ground in the fall of 2025.

Once completed, the Navy’s museum will join the National Museum of the U.S. Army, in Fort Belvoir, Va., which opened in 2020, and the National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Triangle, Va., which opened in 2006.

Rendering of design by Perkins&Will for the new Navy museum. A final design has not yet been selected.