Hidden In Plain Sight

Hidden In Plain Sight

International Spy Museum

Having outgrown its original home in Washington, DC’s Penn Quarter, the International Spy Museum’s new 140,000-SF build-to-suit facility provides an iconic and flexible design to support the institution’s mission and vision for the future. Situated directly between the National Mall and The Wharf, the new cultural beacon bridges two signature DC destinations and serves as a catalyst for future development and activity along the evolving L’Enfant Plaza corridor.

The design concept plays on the business of espionage, hidden in plain sight. Core to the design is an inverted trapezoid form known as the Black Box where the museum houses artifacts and exhibits. The Black Box represents the aspects of spy craft that are hidden from our consciousness.

Suspended in front of the Black Box is a five-story glass atrium, dubbed The Veil, which represents the crucial elements of espionage that appear ordinary – at first glance. This unique structure provides a stage for the movement of people throughout the exhibit levels, engaging passersby and contributing to the pedestrian experience along 10th Street.

Resting on a base of retail, education and lobby spaces, the project includes three floors of museum exhibits topped with administrative offices, a special events facility and rooftop terrace with panoramic views. Measuring its federally mandated height limit from an artificially high sidewalk, the Spy Museum enjoys a roof height taller than any other building in the area.

Educational programming space increased in the new complex—including a 30% larger classroom and a new 150-seat theater—allowing the museum to host more diverse educational programming and events, including the largest ever Spy Fest family program, the highest attended Educator Night Out, and an Access to SPY day designed for families with children on the autism spectrum.

The Spy Museum received a warm reception from the public and media following its May 12, 2019 grand opening. While the museum’s original Penn Quarter facility attracted 600,000 people annually, the new location accommodates nearly double the number of visitors, drawing local, national, and international crowds to the evolving neighborhood.


Green roof

1.8 M

Gallons of water saved / year


LEED points

$135 M

Project budget


Months to design + construct


700 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC


The International Spy Museum


Development Manager: JBG Smith
Design Architect: Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners
Construction Contractor: Clark Construction
Structural Engineer: SK & A Engineers
Electrical Engineer: Vanderweil Engineers
Exhibit Interior Designer: Gallagher and Associates
Civil Engineer: Wiles Mensch
Landscape Architect: Michael Vergason Landscape Architects
Lighting Designer: Available Light