The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an extension of the Smithsonian’s original National Air and Space Museum designed by HOK on the National Mall. The twin design goals for this project were to provide a museum-quality environment for historic aviation and space artifacts and an interactive experience celebrating the excitement of air travel and space exploration.
The site is located near Washington Dulles International Airport, allowing large aircraft and spacecraft to be flown directly to the museum. As with the airport’s main entrance, visitors approach the museum along a sweeping boulevard. The main hangar’s high curve is flanked by the geometric forms of the theater and observation tower, creating a dramatic presence.
The Center consists of two large display hangars highlighting thousands of aerospace artifacts—the larger one for aviation (complete with an artificial sky) and the other for space (with a darker ceiling). Configured like an airport terminal, with a “land side” and an “air side,” the 10-story aviation space features air- and spacecraft suspended from 21 gracefully arching steel trusses, each of which is capable of supporting 20,000 pounds. In this aviation hangar, visitors can use two elevated observation areas to get close views of the planes.
To preserve the museum’s artifacts, the design team followed careful environmental parameters for controlling temperature, humidity, light, air pollution, pests, vibration and noise.