Destination Design Firm Supports Transformation Project at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum
From da Vinci to the Wright brothers to Armstrong, the history of air and space travel continually soars at the cutting edge of human progress. Starting this week, the nation’s top air and space museum will make some progress of its own, embarking on a transformation that will allow visitors to experience the history of flight with the latest advances in destination design.
With the temporary closure of the Apollo to the Moon and Looking at Earth exhibitions on December 3rd, a seven-year, $650 million renovation of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) is underway. St. Louis-based destination design firm PGAV Destinations will serve as the lead visitor experience design firm for the Commons, a critical piece of the overall transformation project.
“The Commons design can connect the dots in the story of air and space,” says Tom Owen, PGAV vice president and project lead. “We are thrilled to work closely with the NASM team to reimagine the visitor experience to inspire the next generation of aviation and space enthusiasts.”
The Commons is the connective link between the base building architecture and interior exhibit galleries, including the concourse and terraces, serving as circulation and gathering spaces – an area larger than two football fields. PGAV will leverage the Commons for storytelling and experiences that complement the galleries and improve the overall visitor experience. The project scope will draw upon many skills within the multidisciplinary firm, including interpretation, exhibit design, interior architecture, and graphic design.
Funded by Congressional appropriations, the Commons project is a major part of the more than 170,000 square feet of NASM that will undergo full infrastructure revitalization, which also includes transformation of its 23 exhibitions and presentation spaces. Phased gallery closure and reopening will commence over the next seven years while the Museum remains open, and some of its most popular artifacts will remain on display.
Since it opened over 40 years ago, hundreds of millions of people have visited the National Air and Space Museum to see the real machines that changed to world, like the Wright Flyer, Spirit of St. Louis, and Apollo 11 Command Module.
Keeping visitor empathy and experience as a central guiding light, PGAV will be working to envision and design a cohesive visitor experience that will engage, educate, and inspire. Integrating NASM’s artifacts and database will assist in developing concepts that will entice people to move through and around the Museum, maintaining a continuity of design, content, messaging, and visitor experience.
“Visitors to NASM have various goals, preferences, preconceived notions, and physical and cognitive abilities,” says Owen. “To that end, we are developing an inclusive, flexible, and context-driven solution that will evoke inspiration and awe, while forging a clear museum identity that communicates the Now and Next of Air and Space.”
As a designer of zoos, theme parks, aquariums, resorts, and museums around the world, PGAV Destinations has a special expertise for stories of air and space. The firm created a master plan for the Virginia Air and Space Museum, designed the Air Mobility Command Heritage Center at Scott Air Force Base, and has reimagined spaces and designed the Space Shuttle Atlantis museum at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. For updates on the renovation of NASM, follow PGAV Destinations and their designers on Facebook and Twitter.