The Smithsonian Institution received a $200 million donation from Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chair of Amazon, and founder of aerospace and space flight company Blue Origin. A portion of the donation will launch a new education center addition to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) National Mall Building. NASM is a contributing resource to the National Mall Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and this project is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
The Smithsonian Institution will conduct a series of public meetings as design progresses concerning Section 106 consultation.
The Smithsonian Institution (SI) received a $200 million donation from Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chair of Amazon, and founder of aerospace and space flight company Blue Origin. A portion of the donation will launch a new education center addition to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) National Mall Building. NASM is a contributing resource to the National Mall Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and this project is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
What is Section 106?
Section 106 is the portion of the National Historic Preservation Act that requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their projects on historic properties and to provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment. Section 106 requires Federal agencies to consider the effects on the undertaking on historic properties in consultation with historic preservation stakeholders and the public.
The Smithsonian Institution will conduct a series of public Section 106 consultation meetings as the design of the BLC progresses.
What is the history of the museum?
NASM opened to the public in 1976 as part of the Nation’s Bicentennial celebrations. NASM was designed by the architect Gyo Obata to house a nationally important collection of artifacts documenting the history of flight and space travel. Since opening, NASM has welcomed over 300 million visitors and has the highest visitation of the museums on the National Mall.
The BLC is proposed on the east side of the NASM. This area was originally an open terrace space; in 1988 a glass restaurant addition pavilion was added. In 2023 the restaurant addition was demolished. Please see the Programmatic Agreement for more information (NASM East End Programmatic Agreement).
Who is designing the BLC?
SI has chosen the Chicago-based architectural firm Perkins&Will. Perkins&Will was selected after a competition to evaluate qualifications, and was selected for their project experience, past performance, and management approach.
What are the goals for this project?
The BLC will be a nexus where creativity, problem-solving, and innovation take place, linking learners to the unparalleled collection that the NASM and its unique positioning on the National Mall offers. The BLC will house and present programs focused on the work of NASM and efforts that uniquely bring together resources and expertise from across the Smithsonian. Two of the primary program initiatives funded by the Bezos gift are the Bezos Empowering Educators Program (establishment of a national network of K-3 grade classroom educators working with NASM Museum educators) and the Bezos Science and Technology Innovation Challenges (middle/high school age learners are teamed to engage in future oriented problem solving rooted in the work of NASM and Smithsonian overall)The BLC program will be housed in a new building addition, which will be placed above a ground floor restaurant space. This project will incorporate a permanent location for the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory and the Phoebe Waterman Hass Astronomy Park with interactive exhibits.
How will this impact NASM?
NASM will continue to operate throughout the construction of the BLC. Upon completion, it will provide a dedicated entrance for youth field trips in addition to serving as ‘the space’ for deep, intentional engagements by youth and teachers that would not be possible at the Museum’s National Mall location otherwise. While historically the National Mall Building location has welcomed millions of visitors, since its opening in 1976, the original building does not have the capacity to house dedicated learning spaces.
How long will this take?
The Smithsonian will work closely with Perkins&Will on the design of the center with construction anticipated to begin in 2025. A construction firm has not yet been selected. Based on current planning, the SI anticipates completion in 2027.
How do I participate?
Any interested member of the public is welcome to participate in the Section 106 consultation meetings or other public meeting. Please submit comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meetings and Documents
Public Consultation Meeting Information
All Consulting Parties meetings will be recorded and available for view upon request to email@example.com.
NASM Construct Integrated Bezos Learning Center - Consulting Parties Meeting #2 and NEPA Scoping
November 1, 2023 from 3:00-5:00 pm on Zoom
NASM Construct Integrated Bezos Learning Center - Consulting Parties Meeting #1
August 9, 2023 from 3:00-5:00 pm