On the vehicular approach to the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a northward turn onto its entrance drive reveals the gleaming building perched like a citadel on a hilltop. As one winds clockwise toward the museum, its solid-looking metallic mass, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, dissolves into discrete pavilions that flank its glazed central entryway.
Visitors find themselves in a vast lobby whose coffered ceiling bears the streamers of every campaign waged by the US Army through its 245-year history, rendered in illuminated glass. Passing through a formation of vertical steel pylons—each of which tells the story of a soldier—visitors enter a 90,000-square-foot pavilion (almost half of the overall square footage) that houses an orientation theatre and historical galleries. “The soldier’s story in all of that helped us to guide the project in a more abstract direction,” says Roger Duffy, who was the SOM design partner on the project before retiring in 2018.