Concept for a 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center approved

In Washington, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) recently approved a concept by Fentress Architects for a new Visitor Education Center at the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. Fentress Architects developed the concept with the Pentagon Memorial Fund (PMF); both are based in Washington, D.C.

The forthcoming Visitor Education Center is sited within walking distance from the Pentagon Memorial at 1 North Rotary Road in Arlington, Virginia in close proximity to the Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Air Force Memorial by James Ingo Freed, of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. The Pentagon Memorial itself was completed in 2008 by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, cofounders of the Philadelphia-based Kaseman Beckman Advanced Strategies, with Buro Happold.

Site Plan (Courtesy Fentress Architects)

The design by Fentress Architects blends traditional and modern motifs. Its stone cladding and colonnade evoke the Federalist Style while its lack of ornamentation and sweeping curves is a clear nod to perhaps other, more modern D.C. buildings by Marcel Breuer or I. M. Pei.

The facade features a minimalist colonnade, evocative of the Federalist Style. (Courtesy Fentress Architects)

The facade uses a post-and-lintel system similar to Moshe Safdie’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Headquarters; located in northeast Washington, D.C. This design decision allows for generous fenestrations into the volume while providing a dynamic, rhythmic, signature exterior envelope.

Sectional Perspective (Courtesy Fentress Architects)

In section, the building delivers visitors from a vestibule with a dropped ceiling into a cavernous, open atrium. Here, museum-goers are oriented to the building’s wayfinding and programming. A grand stair connects visitors to the second floor where a secondary entrance is sited.

View from parking area (Courtesy Fentress Architects)

The Pentagon Memorial was the first official 9/11 memorial built in the U.S. Fentress Architects note that the forthcoming Visitor Education Center will commemorate the 184 victims of the Pentagon attack, as well as “explore the local, national, and international response to 9/11 and subsequent Global War on Terror,” according to a press statement. Thus, the Visitor Education Center will function as a national convening space to closely examine these responses, and their continuing impact, Fentress Architects continued.

Curtis Worth, founder and principal-in-charge of design at Fentress Architects added: “The new Visitor Education Center at the 9/11 Memorial will be a dynamic structure—imbued with meaning, conducive to contemplation, and encouraging of resilience.”

Side elevation (Courtesy Fentress Architects)

The green light from NCPC and CFA comes after a multi-year capital campaign drive to finance the new visitors center. To date, over $14 million has been raised to support the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial’s Visitor Education Center from donors such as Amazon and Amazon Web Services, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Transurban, Accenture, the J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation, and the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

The Pentagon Memorial Fund seeks to complete the Visitor Education Center in 2026 to commemorate the 9/11 attack’s 25th anniversary.

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