Museum in Arlington
Rafael Viñoly Architects have revealed the first look of renderings of the National Medal of Honor Museum (NMOHM). The planned museum is dedicated to honour the over 3,500 Americans who have been awarded the country’s most prestigious military decoration, typically for acts of valour in combat. The creation of this museum was first authorised in 1999 by Congress; while its Arlington location was finalised only in 2019 following a competition for a host city. Shortlisted from a group of teams in January, Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA) was selected to lead the design along with the landscape architecture and urban design firm MPFP.
Rafael Viñoly Architects, based in New York City, was founded in 1983 with offices now across several countries. An internationally renowned architectural firm, their projects span over six continents. The ability to integrate the public realm into civic buildings and reinvent institutional typologies is their key trademark. They unveiled the first renderings of the National Medal of Honor Museum dedicated to the US Armed Forces Medal of Honor in October 2020. These renderings mark incredible progress towards honouring America’s bravest heroes.
The Museum, a project of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation (NMOHMF), is scheduled to open to the public in 2024. Built alongside a lake near the Texas Rangers baseball stadium and Cowboys football stadium, it is set into a five-acre tranquil landscape, with galleries, education centre, conference and event spaces, and an outdoor amphitheatre. The main galleries, hosting various permanent, interactive and temporary exhibitions will be located in a 25,000 sqft slab of steel, seemingly suspended in mid-air, that can be accessed by two large, spiralling staircases. This block will be positioned above an open amphitheatre that can be used as an events space. The museum will also include an education centre, which will primarily be for the character development of the nation’s youth. Life experiences which portray the highest form of bravery will be depicted to inspire people and motivate them to be their best selves.
The design inspiration for this museum was realised by chance, when the principal and lead designer, Rafael Viñoly, strained himself lifting a heavy slab of metal in his studio. It reminded him of the heavy burdens the nation’s men and women in uniform battle as they protect and defend the country. The strength of steel, forged in fire, is a metaphor to the strength of the country’s armed forces which is forged in the heat of battle.
The symbolism of the project is manifested by the gallery space, ‘slab of steel’, that appears suspended on five pillars, each representing one of the traditional branches of the Armed Services. An oculus, at the centre of this floating volume, represents the newly created Space Force. This also brings light and glimpses of the sky into the entry court, where the two spiral glass ramps circle into the steel slab floating above. This represents the acts of valour of the recipients of the Medal of Honor, who have lifted the heaviest burdens in battles to support the entire country.
The open amphitheatre that acts as the main entry plaza, below the galleries, can be utilised as conference spaces or events space, as required. Inside the steel slab, flexible exhibition space presents testimonies to the warriors’ most heroic acts. The vast Field of Honor, a plane of turf, becomes the background to this composition that overlooks the water. The National Flag will fly proudly above on the tall flagpole raised from the centre of the secluded reflection space.
During the live event, where the RVA’s renderings were revealed, NMOHMF also announced that they had surpassed the fundraising goal of $61 million. NMOHMF received a legacy gift of $3.5 million from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation to mark the first anniversary of the Arlington project. A National Medal of Honor Monument is also scheduled to be erected in Washington D.C.
Viñoly expressed his gratitude during the live, virtual event, “As someone who wasn’t born in America, but chose it as my home more than 35 years ago, it is the privilege of a lifetime to have the opportunity to design and build America’s next national treasure in Arlington – the American Dream City,”
“This museum will proudly celebrate the service and sacrifice of the most courageous members of a great American institution – our armed services,” he continued.
“I am humbled to play a part in inspiring current and future generations of Americans by recognising these exceptional patriots and designing a building which will boldly demonstrate their deep love of country, of devotion to others, and unity.”
The museum was previously scheduled to be constructed in a harbour-side location in Point Pleasant, South Carolina. The plan for a five-pointed structure, designed by Safdie Architects, was scrapped in 2018 due to contention over the design of the museum, among other things.