Building a Bezos

John Hill
8. September 2022
The Bezos Learning Center will sit at the eastern end of the 1976 National Air and Space Museum designed by Gyo Obata. (Photo: xiquinhosilva/Wikimedia Commons)

The National Air and Space Museum was already in the midst of renovating its nearly 50-year-old home when it received a $200 million donation last year from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and, more relevantly, founder of space flight company Blue Origin. Seventy million dollars of his donation will go toward the $900 million, seven-year renovation that will open next month, while the remaining $130 million will be used to build the Bezos Learning Center connected directly to the museum on the National Mall. The new building will sit at the east end of the long Air and Space Museum that was designed by HOK partner Gyo Obata in 1976, with the glass-roofed Wright Place Restaurant added to the museum in 1988 being demolished to make way for the Bezos building.

The glass-roofed Wright Place Restaurant, designed by Gyo Obata and built in 1988, is being demolished to make way for the Bezos Learning Center. (Photo: Google Maps)

Who will design the new education center that will "feature programs and activities that inspire students to pursue innovation and explore careers in STEAM" and "help teachers better utilize the Smithsonian’s collections"? It will be one of five "potential design firms" whose "aesthetic concepts" are available on the Air and Space website in PDF, 3D PDF, and Revizto formats. The public is invited to submit feedback on the individual schemes by September 19 using an online form.

While the five schemes labeled simply "Firm A" through "Firm F" are anonymous, certain diagrams, rendering styles, and formal aspects hint at some of the potential architects: BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, which has a professed interest in space exploration, as well as Morphosis and Snøhetta. The website does not indicate when a project will be selected and the winner will be announced, but we will the news once that information is made available.

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