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National Children's Museum Unveils Building Design by Cesar Pelli
The space boasts an outdoor courtyard, wind turbine, green wall façade, and glass arrival area.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The National Children’s Museum (NCM) unveiled plans for its new Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed building, slated to open in 2013 at National Harbor, as a physical demonstration of the Museum’s mission to inspire children to care about and improve the world. NCM’s new 150,000 square-foot, LEED-certified building will serve as an active teaching tool, highlighting the accomplishments of children; using recycled and sustainable materials; and celebrating the natural environment. The space boasts an outdoor courtyard, wind turbine, green wall façade, and glass arrival area.

“The building’s overall design reflects the mission of the National Children’s Museum through a series of dynamic architectural forms surrounding a large exterior courtyard,” said Cesar Pelli, Senior Principal of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. “Areas of the structure vary in shape and size to create a ‘village of forms’ that provides great architectural scale and experiential variety to the visitor, along with intuitive wayfinding and seamless interaction between exhibits, programs, and activities. In all aspects, the design seeks to encourage and inspire children to think about their role in the community and the world.”

With its unique mission, NCM strives to teach children how to become informed, active citizens. NCM’s eco-friendly building provides another means to demonstrate the Museum’s commitment to children and the planet. Through its new space, NCM will encourage and foster an understanding and love of nature; champion outdoor play (in the Museum courtyard and beyond); and encourage the use of natural materials to foster connections to the environment, helping kids become better stewards of the earth.

In his FY 2010 capital budget, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley included 5 million towards the construction of the Museum.

“We are thrilled to welcome this beautiful new museum to Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “The National Children’s Museum’s green building is a wonderful example of best practices in sustainability, and demonstrates a commitment to the environment that sends a positive message to children and families in our region, across the country, and around the world.”

Green Features

The Museum plans to incorporate a number of green features in the new building, including:

A Wind Turbine: The building’s wind turbine, a symbol of NCM’s commitment to sustainable and renewable energy, will be a source of power.

A Sun Reflector: A series of reflective panels on the roof of the arrival space will reflect sunlight, minimize artificial lighting, and reduce energy loads during the day.

A Living Wall: The Museum’s south facing façade features a cable and tray system to support a framework for a living, green wall. The Living Wall will shade the building from the bright, hot southern sun, helping to cool the building and reduce energy demands.

A Green Roof: A green roof system will provide for sedums and small scale planting, absorb rainwater (reducing storm run off), improve thermal insulation, and reduce the “heat island” effect.

Recycled Materials: The new Museum will use recycled structural steel and some recycled brick from demolished buildings.

When completed, the new NCM will house exhibits, programs, and resources designed to spark the imagination and celebrate the power of children and their families. Interior exhibits will highlight six core content areas (the environment, health and well-being, play, civic engagement, the arts, and world cultures) and will be created by three prominent design firms: Amaze Design, Roto Studios, and Aldrich Pears. The Museum is projected to attract 600,000 visitors annually.

NCM Launch Zone and Website Provide ‘Kid Ownership’

Children and families will learn about the green building through two new initiatives that embody the NCM mission and provide “kid ownership” of the new Museum: The NCM Launch Zone and the new NCM website. On April 25, the Museum will open the NCM Launch Zone at National Harbor, a 2,700 square-foot space on Waterfront Street. Open to the public seven days a week, the Launch Zone is a place where children can prototype exhibit components and programs; share their ideas about what should be included in the new Museum; learn about NCM’s green features; and participate in programs related to the Museum’s six core content areas. Through images, table-top interactive exhibits, and computer kiosks, NCM will introduce select areas of the Museum, while soliciting feedback and input from the children and families. The Launch Zone will also host ongoing Museum Without Walls programming, professional development workshops and trainings, and community learning events for parents and caregivers.

A newly designed NCM website ( features new and updated Museum information, a schedule of activities, opportunities to get involved with the organization, as well as a virtual Launch Zone. The Launch Zone page provides kids from across the country the opportunity to learn about NCM’s green building features, test select exhibit and program content, and help shape the Museum through rotating interactive experiences.

“NCM belongs to the nation’s children and these new experiences provide additional opportunities for children and their families to share their voices and shape the Museum’s exhibit and program content,” said S. Ross Hechinger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Children’s Museum. “We look forward to continuing to introduce innovative ways for children to care about and improve the world as we build our new home.”

NCM’s Board of Trustees and volunteer leadership continues the Museum’s national campaign to build the new institution, reaching out to potential contributors in the public and private sectors in the Washington community and across the country.

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