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WEEKEND | 05.10.2019 | EXPRESS | 3

page three Intrigue’s intriguing new home REVIEW With its move from the Penn Quarter neighborhood to a new, purpose-built building at L’Enfant Plaza on 10th Street SW, the Spy Museum is making an investment not just in a bigger space, but also in a neighborhood that planners and developers are desperately trying to redeem, from Brutalist office-block dead zone to a lively entertainment and commercial district. The new $162 million building is part of an effort to fill in some of the heroically scaled blank spaces along 10th Street, which was once meant to be a cultural center but evolved in the late 1960s and early ’70s into a littleloved district of exposed concrete buildings set in a desolate plaza. If the museum —which opens to the public Sunday — attracts its typical annual attendance of about 600,000 (or even more), it could help connect the Mall, to the north, with the Wharf development, along the Southwest Waterfront, into one self-reinforcing tourist and commercial quarter. The building itself could be

TONI L. SANDYS (THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Spy Museum’s new space pairs well with its dark subject matter

The Spy Museum at L’Enfant Plaza has a technologically sophisticated look.

an attraction. Designed by Ivan Harbour of the London-based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the museum has a sharp, technologically sophisticated look that is both at odds with its surroundings and organically connected to them. From the outside, it reads as an inverted rectangular pyramid, topped by a cantilevered box, with industrial-looking supports anchored into the ground. The exterior metal skin, which

the architects call “the veil,” is fitted with lights that define its shape at night. When one catches glimpses from Interstate 395, the building suggests some kind of spaceship or top-secret communications hub — windowless, alien and slightly forbidding. There’s no more fashionable word in architecture today than transparency, but the Spy Museum, like other experiential museums, isn’t about

transparency. The experience requires a dark space just as the subject matter — surveillance and covert operations — take place in the dark corners of our manmade world. The building can’t glorify its contents in the same way an art museum can be a temple of art, or a history museum conceived as a kind of national monument. The architects have finessed this problem, creating a building that, like spying, is intriguing rather than beautiful. Yet the Spy Museum does not feel fully public spirited. Although it is a nonprofit museum, it charges admission and its exhibitions, such as one on torture, aren’t always sufficiently critical of their topic. So it’s hard to love the institution in the way that one loves the National Gallery of Art or the Smithsonian or the Phillips Collection or the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It would be delightful if the same designers who have wrapped the dark spaces of the Spy Museum in such fine form would now create something that could be universally enjoyed and admired. PHILIP KENNICOTT (THE WASHINGTON POST)

CHEERS!

Send the royal family your best At the British Embassy’s annual open house this Saturday, visitors can personally congratulate Meghan and Harry on the new addition to their family, Archie Harrison, Washingtonian reports. The embassy will mail any letters written directly to the couple. According to the Facebook event, the open house will also feature a section of British cars such as Aston Martin, Bentley and Lotus, as well as entertainment from the British International School of Washington and the Shakespeare Theatre Company. (EXPRESS)

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