Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA) has shared a first look at renderings of its National Medal of Honor Museum (NMOHM), a planned museum in Arlington, Texas, that will honor the over 3,500 Americans who have been conferred the country’s most prestigious military decoration, typically reserved for acts of valor in combat.
The creation of the NMOHM was first authorized by Congress in 1999 and its Arlington location was finalized in October 2019 following a competition for a host city. Rafael Viñoly Architects was selected in January to lead the design along with landscape architecture and urban design firm MPFP from a shortlist of teams that also include Davis Brody Bond with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Ennead Architects with Hargreaves Jones, and Fentress Architects with Civitas. The museum had previously been slated for a harbor-side location in Point Pleasant, South Carolina, with a design by Safdie Architects although that plan was ultimately scrapped in 2018 due to contention over, among other things, the museum’s design.
The $150 million NMOHM in Arlington, which will be integrated into a larger sports and entertainment district alongside Johnson Creek, is slated to open to the public in 2024.
RVA’s just-unveiled renderings for the five-acre complex depict a squat, slab-like volume fabricated from steel that appears to levitate over the site. The inspiration for the design, as a press release from RVA explains, first occurred to Viñoly while lifting a large, leaden slab of metal at his New York studio. Hoisting the slab reminded him of the “heavy burdens” that the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces must carry for the rest of the country.
“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,” said Viñoly in a statement. “I am humbled to play a part in inspiring current and future generations of Americans by recognizing these exceptional patriots and designing a building which will boldly demonstrate their deep love of country, of devotion to others, and unity.”
The NMOHM, a project of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation (NMOHMF), will encompass a total of 25,000 square feet of main exhibition galleries along with an education center, event and conference space, as well as an outdoor amphitheater. The renderings depict quite a dramatic entrance to the museum: Directly beneath the column-supported slab, spiraling ramps lead up and into the museum’s main exhibition space from a sunken plaza-rotunda stamped with a massive likeness of the Medal of Honor. In addition to serving as a main entrance and gathering spot, the rotunda will host a variety of special programming and events.
In addition to revealing RVA’s renderings, the NMOHMF also announced it had surpassed a major fundraising goal of $61 million and counting. To mark the first anniversary of the Arlington project, the NMOHMF also received a legacy gift of $3.5 million from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation. A National Medal of Honor Monument is also slated to be erected in Washington, D.C.