Early Rejected Designs for the National Air and Space Museum

In 1958, President Eisenhower approved plans for a National Air Museum. See some of the fascinating and beautiful designs that didn't make it.
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Here is a terrific series of photographs and drawings of the then-proposed new Smithsonian museum dedicated to flight. It would eventually become the world-famous Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.

In 1958, President Eisenhower approved plans to build a new Smithsonian museum dedicated to aviation. The selected site was between 4th and 7th St. SW on Independence Ave. Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum proposed “a Museum for the Space Age” in a time when the country was space crazy. The designs were altered and construction began in 1971, ultimately being completed in time for the nation’s bicentennial celebration, opening to great fanfare on July 1st, 1976.

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The first few images show proposed designs from architectural firms that were not selected.

View of the exterior of a model for a proposed National Air Museum is of a circular building with four columns. The concept was to create a “National Shrine to Aviation” with three galleries: Wright Brothers Memorial, Pioneer Hall of airplanes to display famous firsts in aviation, and Main Exhibit. This design was not selected.

The series below was called the “Wineglass Design” by McKim, Mead & White. Though they weren’t selected to design the museum, they were responsible for a number of prominent buildings in the District, including the 1903 White House renovations during the Roosevelt Administration (which we wrote a bit about). They also designed the National Museum of American History as well as the Patterson Mansion on Dupont Circle.

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Model, called the “Wineglass Design”, submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building, shows an elevated view of the building from the front. Two model planes have been placed in an outside area. This architectural firm was not selected.
Model called the “Wineglass Design”, submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) is an exterior view of the building taken at street level from the northeast. This design was not used.
Model called the “Wineglass Design”, submitted by McKim, Mead & White, Architects, for a proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building is a close up of the Main Hall from the west end with model airplanes displayed inside and outside. This architectural firm was not selected.
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The next series of images was from the firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, the firm ultimately chosen to design the museum. The drawings and models begin to look more like what we now see as the National Air and Space Museum.

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Early concept model, as viewed looking southeast from Independence Avenue, S.W., shows the full length exterior of the front and west end for the new National Air Museum building (now known as the National Air and Space Museum), as designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum. In this design the windows are shown dark. A somewhat different design was eventually used.
Viewed from Independence Avenue, early concept model of the front entrance to the new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum), designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum. In this design for a “Museum for the Space Age”, two windows are shown dark, the front entrance window light, and the Wright brothers plane displayed inside the building.
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Drawing of the exterior the new National Air and Space Museum is of the north facade of the Mall front of the building as viewed from Jefferson Drive.
The original HOK architectural design for the National Air and Space Museum was revised, and this final design is of the interior showing rockets, planes, multi-levels, display areas and visitors.
Drawing of the exterior the National Air and Space Museum is of the north facade of the Mall side of the building and the east end as viewed from Jefferson Drive.
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Drawing of the exterior on the Jefferson Drive (north) side of the new National Air and Space Museum shows the four solid sections of the facade and the three banks of windows.

This is one of our favorites from the collection, showing the view from the front facade of the building, looking east towards the Capitol Building.

The original design was revised and this final design is a drawing of an exterior view for the new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum), designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK). The drawing is of the outside facade of the museum on the Mall side and shows people on the walkway and the United States Capitol in the distance.
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Here are a few more drawings from a firm not selected to design the building, Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson.

Concept drawing of the cross section through wing submitted by Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson, Architects, for the proposed new National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building. Interior of the cross section shows airplanes displayed on different levels and outside the building on the right is a rocket. They were not selected.
Long section concept drawing submitted by Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson, Architects, created for the proposed National Air Museum (now known as the National Air and Space Museum) building. Interior of the building shows airplanes displayed on two levels. They were not selected.
Cross section through main entrance concept drawing submitted by Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson, Architects created for the proposed new National Air and Space Museum building. Interior shows airplanes displayed on different levels. They were not selected.

Last, we see an aerial view looking down on the site, showing a larger section of the National Mall, west of the Capitol Building.

Aerial drawing of the National Mall shows the location of the present Smithsonian buildings on the Mall as well as the location for the National Air and Space Museum between 7th Street, SW and 5th Street, SW and Independence Avenue on the south side and Jefferson Drive on the north side of the building.

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