Smithsonian unveils selected designs for $130 million Bezos Learning Center


Written by the author Gabriella Angeletti

This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC has unveiled five design proposals for the $130 million Bezos Learning Center, a project that will be realized as part of a $200 million gift from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The largest donation the Smithsonian Institution has received since its founding in 1846.

The museum is seeking feedback on “aesthetic concepts” before announcing the winning company in the coming months. The proposals of the five anonymous companies can be analyzed until September 19.

“Firm A’s” design proposal for the future Bezos Learning Center. Credit: Bezos Study Center

The final design will be submitted for approval in 2023, and the building will open in 2026, coinciding with NASM’s 50th anniversary.

The former site of a glass-walled restaurant demolished in 1988 by the late architect Gyo Obata and his firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (now known as HOK) will be used for the new education center. The complex will have three floors and 50,000 square meters, including exhibition spaces, a restaurant, a roof terrace and an observatory.

Design proposal "Company D" for the future Bezos Learning Center.

“Company D’s” design proposal for the future Bezos Learning Center. Credit: Bezos Study Center

Some of the proposals include a honeycomb-inspired structure with elements influenced by the International Space Station and the James Webb Telescope; a bulbous dome reminiscent of rocket ships; and the design influenced by the spiral patterns of the Milky Way.

The donation from Bezos, who founded the aerospace company Blue Origin in 2000, will partially fund the ongoing renovation of NASM, which houses the world’s largest collection of aircraft and space artifacts.

“The Smithsonian has a vital role to play in sparking the imaginations of our future builders and dreamers,” Bezos said of the project in an earlier statement. “Every child is born with great potential, and it is inspiration that unlocks that potential. My love affair with science, invention, and space did that for me, and I hope this gift does that for others.”

Above image caption: “Company C”‘s proposed design for the future Bezos Learning Center.