In our new role as owner’s representatives, we took over management of the budget, schedule, design, graphics, exhibition teams, and construction. By design, museum projects are multifaceted as they’re truly two distinct projects – the exhibits and the facility – in simultaneous production. We dedicated a project manager to each – facilitating consistent communication between the two teams and ensuring the unique needs of both were addressed.
The project had been underway for a year by the time we became involved. We quickly assumed oversight of four architects on separate schedules, negotiated ownership of a single comprehensive set of drawings, and coordinated efforts on-site with the client and exhibit fabricator.
Complex from the start, the project also involved extremely complicated modifications to five historic buildings which required review and approval by the Historic Preservation Review Board. The original building foundations were lowered to accommodate taller ceilings in the basement and retail spaces. And, all new infrastructure, including HVAC, electrical, and vertical transportation systems was installed. The final 65,000 SF space includes the museum, offices, meeting rooms, retail, and food service.
In a radical departure from other museum projects, we found ourselves devising different ways to accommodate the ongoing acquisition of additional artifacts – including safely moving James Bond’s, or rather, Sean Connery’s, Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger into the exhibit space. And, we had the pleasure of consulting with real-life spies, such as Argo inspiration Tony Mendez and his wife, former CIA Chief of Disguise, Jonna Mendez.
As the museum approached its final phase, the events of 9/11 shook the world and changed the future of international espionage. The conclusion to the museum’s seven-chapter narrative needed an update – one that reflected the important role of electronic surveillance and the people behind it. Placing a priority on quality while minimizing impact to schedule, we worked with the design and construction team to stop work already in progress on the final chapter and get the story right.
06 Grand Opening
Though faced with an aggressive design and construction schedule, we delivered the museum to much fanfare. The grand opening, during which Washington, DC Mayor Tony Williams “revealed” his true identity in Mission Impossible style, was a national multimedia press event – including a live broadcast on Good Morning America. Since then, millions of visitors have learned the “secret history of history” through the incredible adventures of real-life spies.
The project was honored with an array of awards for its design and craftsmanship including, an Outstanding Achievement Award by the Themed Entertainment Association, Best Renovation Project by National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Craftsmanship Award by Washington Building Congress, and the Catalyst Award by the American Institute of Architects.
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