The Smithsonian has chosen the architectural firm Perkins&Will to design the Bezos Learning Center, which will be located on the east side of the National Air and Space Museum at its flagship location on the National Mall.
Perkins&Will was among five architectural firms that competed in the final phase of the design-firm selection. The Bezos Learning Center will be funded by a large portion of a $200 million gift from Jeff Bezos to the Smithsonian. It will provide space for educational programs and activities. The building will also include a restaurant for museum visitors.
The Smithsonian will work closely with Perkins&Will on the design of the center with construction anticipated to begin in 2025. A construction firm has not yet been selected.
“Having worked with the architects behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I understand how important a building’s design is to its mission, its functionality, its character and its ability to engage the people who enter its doors,” said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III. “We look forward to working with the architects of Perkins&Will on the design of the Bezos Learning Center to produce another unique Smithsonian landmark on the National Mall that will expand and enhance our educational impact.”
Perkins&Will, which was founded in 1935 in Chicago, was selected because of its project experience, past performance and management approach. The firm has substantial experience in museum and educational facility design, and it integrates significant food service amenities and sustainable design strategies into those projects.
“We look forward to working with the team at Perkins&Will as they develop a design,” said Chris Browne, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the museum. “They have demonstrated experience in similar projects, and I am confident they will design a building that will serve as an incredible resource for educational programming.”
Twenty-three teams responded in early 2022 to the Request for Qualifications. The teams were narrowed to five finalists and were asked to submit conceptual designs for the center solely to demonstrate their design aesthetic. These designs were presented for public comment in September 2022. Smithsonian staff from various offices, including Planning, Design and Construction, Contracting, Administration, as well as the National Air and Space Museum, made up the committee to select the design firm.
During the design phase, the Smithsonian will conduct Section 106 historic preservation consultation and seek approvals from the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Institution will continue to consult with other agencies including the National Park Service. Interested parties will have the opportunity to participate in design consultation and provide comments through the Section 106 process. The building is anticipated to open in 2027.
Image : The National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall
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