Last week, word got out that the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., was proposing a new location in the district's Southwest quadrant, and the project was being designed by London's Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. Today, that project goes before the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts for an initial concept review, and the commission provided ARCHITECT access to the presentation materials as well as a few renderings.
The Spy Museum is currently located at F and 8th streets NW, and has been searching for a larger space. In October, the museum withdrew a proposal by Philadelphia's MGA Partners and landscape architecture firm Olin for the city's 1903 Carnegie Library after the city's Historic Preservation Review Board declared that the proposal did not meet preservation guidelines.
"It has long been the goal of the Spy Museum to identify a larger space than our current one to serve as a future, permanent home," says Spy Museum spokesperson Jason Werden over email. "However, this presentation does not solidify the Museum's move to L'Enfant Plaza." Gallagher & Associates is the lead exhibition design partner on the project.
The museum's development partner, Chevy Chase, Md.–based the JBG Companies, has been collaborating with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on this site for several years, and a design from Feb. 2013 proposed two connected office buildings for the site. In this latest proposal to go before the commission, these structures have been scaled back to accommodate a roughly 100,000-square-foot building fronting 10th Street designed to house the Spy Museum.
"It is important to note that while we are in discussions with the Spy Museum, though contrary to the reports in various media sources, we do not have a deal at this point in time," says JBG principal Britt Snider over email. "With that said, we are very excited about the possibility of the Spy Museum coming to L'Enfant as we believe that it would provide an incredible amount of energy to this area of Southwest, similar to their impact when they opened in the Penn Quarter."
In 2009, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, founded by Richard Rogers, Hon. FAIA, wrapped a 274,000-square-foot office complex project at 300 New Jersey Avenue NW, hired by the same developer behind this L'Enfant proposal. The firm also designed another unbuilt project for JBG at 1201 K Street NW.
"Three years working on the Carnegie Project has taught us an invaluable lesson—we can’t keep all of our eggs in one basket," Werden says. "We are continuing to evaluate other sites and other properties that best fit our needs."
Update, April 24, 2015: The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts issued a letter to Dean Cinkala of the JBG Companies regarding the Spy Museum concept proposal presented on April 16. Secretary Thomas Luebke, FAIA, writes: "The Commission endorsed the project with enthusiasm and approved the general concept, requesting further development of the design for a revised concept submission." The full letter is posted on the CFA website.