Client News: The International Spy Museum blends acoustics and color to capture a better experience

Posted on May 15th, 2020 by Heather West

Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_73-NicLehoux_web.jpgEvery inch of Washington, D.C.-based International Spy Museum was designed and constructed to capture the essence of espionage, secrecy and intrigue. Rockfon products help contribute to the intensive, quiet and focused feeling that permeates the space.

Designed by London-based lead architect Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in collaboration with Hickok Cole of Washington, D.C., the 140,000-square-foot building quickly has become recognizable for its distinct and dynamic identity. The building's exterior features dramatic, sloped columns; a backlighted, folded, metal panel skin; and a pleated glass veil – all emphasizing the museum's theme of "hiding in plain sight."

The theme continues into the seven-story building's eight-floor interior. Behind the scenes, sustainable goals also guided the building's design and construction in earning LEED® Silver certification. The purpose-built nonprofit museum facility more than doubled the space of the previous location's education and programming space. Above the two-story lobby and retail area, and the three floors of exhibition and theatre space, are two floors of set-back event space and a rooftop terrace with nearly 360-degree views of city.Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_69-NicLehoux_web.jpg

Enhancing the visitors' experience within the museum, sound-absorbing Rockfon Alaska®, Rockfon® Koral™ and Rockfon® Color-All™ acoustic stone wool ceiling panels were installed in the building's two-story lobby, corridors, bathrooms, designated galleries and the event space. All of these products offer a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of 0.85 or higher.

"The space presented some design challenges, as there were a lot of hard surfaces to counteract in a large area. The architect wanted a high-NRC product to help acoustics," said Rockfon's district sales manager for D.C., Patrick Blasi.

In the hallways, Rockfon Alaska's smooth, white surface reflects 86% of available light, and provides high sound absorption (NRC = 0.90). In the restrooms, Rockfon Koral also provides a cleanable surface with good sound absorption (NRC = 0.85).

Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_71-NicLehoux_web.jpgWith an NRC of up to 0.90, Rockfon Color-All 2-by-8-foot Anthracite panels were selected for the lobby and 1-by-5-foot Concrete panels for the gallery and event space. "They picked our Color-All colors, and designed the entire space around our colors, so everything would blend seamlessly together," added Blasi.

All of these stone wool ceiling products from Rockfon also offer high fire performance and have earned GREENGUARD® Gold Certification for low-VOC emission. Products with this GREENGUARD certification contribute to indoor air quality and support LEED criteria. Stone wool's natural properties for resisting moisture and humidity also are key attributes in museum installations with sensitive climate-controlled protection.

Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_67-NicLehoux_web.jpgThe new Spy Museum's permanent collection features more than 7,000 unique artifacts offering visitors the opportunity to come face-to-face with never-before-seen intelligence tools and gadgets. The expanded exhibits also reveal the often overlooked accounts of women and African- American officers and their crucial and largely unknown contributions, from the Revolutionary War to the present.

The Spy Museum's founder and chairman of the board, Milton Maltz, observed, "The world of espionage has been transformed since 2002 when we first opened the International Spy Museum and we felt it was vitally important to update and significantly expand the stories we tell and the insights we provide, addressing spying in the post 9/11 world, the growing threat of cyberwarfare, the passionate debate over enhanced interrogation, and operations we could not have even imagined 17 years ago. I welcome everyone to the new International Spy Museum to see for themselves what is at stake."Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_68-NicLehoux_web.jpg

"Our goal in creating the new museum was to expand the types of stories we tell and the methods we use to tell them in order to create a meaningful and personalized Museum experience," shared vice president of exhibitions and programs Anna Slafer. "We hope our visitors will walk out of the Spy Museum's doors empowered by their new knowledge of the intelligence world, understanding its role in our lives and world events—as well as how their oversight responsibilities as citizens can help shape that role."

"It has been an absolute delight to have been involved in the design of the International Spy Museum. It is a building for the future that will bring its neighborhood to life; a celebration not only of the long- standing human activity that it showcases, but also of the city around it. A landmark for 21st century D.C." noted Ivan Harbour, senior design partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_72-NicLehoux_web.jpgMichael Hickok, FAIA, senior principal and owner, agreed and added, "The building is simultaneously a testament to technical sophistication, as well as a poetic concept representing the essence of espionage. The project also serves as a catalyst for future investment in Washington, D.C.'s L'Enfant Plaza neighborhood. We can think of no better example of work that matters, and look forward to seeing the building take its place among the city's architectural landmarks."

Rockfon_DC-SpyMuseum_71-NicLehoux_web.jpgThe new building opened in May 2019. Its total construction costs were estimated at $162 million. The project and its team have been honored with a 2019 ENR MidAtlantic Best Projects Award in the Cultural/Worship category, an American General Contractors' Build America Award for New Construction and several Washington Building Congress Craftsmanship Awards.


The International Spy Museum, 700 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C. 20024;
* Owner: The International Spy Museum
* Developer: The Malrite Company LLC; Cleveland / The JBG Companies; Bethesda, Maryland;
* Lead architect and interior designer: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners; London;
* Architect of record: Hickok Cole Architects; Washington, D.C.;
* General contractor: Clark Construction Group, LLC; Bethesda, Maryland;
* Acoustic consultant: Jaffe Holden; Norwalk, Connecticut;
* Installing contractor: CJ Coakley Co., Inc.; Falls Church, Virginia;
* Ceiling system – manufacturer: Rockfon; Chicago;
* Photographer: Nic Lehoux
* Video - site tour:

About Rockfon

Rockfon is part of the ROCKWOOL Group and is offering advanced acoustic ceilings and wall solutions to create beautiful, comfortable spaces.

At the ROCKWOOL Group, we are committed to enriching the lives of everyone who experiences our product solutions. Our expertise is perfectly suited to tackle many of today’s biggest sustainability and development challenges, from energy consumption and noise pollution to fire resilience, water scarcity and flooding. Our range of products reflects the diversity of the world’s needs, while supporting our stakeholders in reducing their own carbon footprint.

Stone wool is a versatile material and forms the basis of all our businesses. With approximately 11,000 passionate colleagues in 39 countries, we are the world leader in stone wool solutions, from building insulation to acoustic ceilings, external cladding systems to horticultural solutions, engineered fibers for industrial use to insulation for the process industry, and marine and offshore.



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