United States Institute of Peace Headquarters
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United States Institute of Peace Headquarters
United States Institute of Peace.jpg
USIP's headquarters in 2011
General information
Architectural styleModernism[1]
LocationWashington, D.C.
Address2301 Constitution Avenue NW
CountryUnited States
Coordinates38°53?33.92?N 77°3?2.49?W / 38.8927556°N 77.0506917°W / 38.8927556; -77.0506917
Cost$186 million
Height91.33 ft (27.84 m)[1]
Technical details
Floor count5
Floor area154,000 sq ft (14,300 m2)[2]
Design and construction
ArchitectMoshe Safdie
Main contractorClark Construction Group

The United States Institute of Peace Headquarters houses staff offices and other facilities for the government-funded think tank focused on peacemaking and conflict avoidance. The building is the first permanent home for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), established in 1984. The headquarters is sited on a prominent location near the National Mall and Potomac River in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The environmentally friendly building, noted for its unique roof, was designed by architect Moshe Safdie and completed in 2011. Critics' reviews of the building's design have been mixed.


In the 1980s, Democratic Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia led a group of lawmakers calling for a federal peace institute.[3] USIP was established by Congress in 1984 and for many years rented office space in various buildings in downtown Washington, the last being 1200 17th Street NW.[4] In 1996, Congress approved a site on the National Mall for USIP.[5] The site chosen for a new headquarters, the first permanent home for the USIP, was on the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NW in Foggy Bottom.[6][7] It was previously a parking lot for Bureau of Medicine and Surgery employees at the adjacent Old Naval Observatory. The land was transferred to the USIP without charge with an agreement that underground parking spaces would be built for the Navy employees.[6] The site is on the northwest corner and last buildable site available on the National Mall, overlooking the Lincoln Memorial, and across the street from the historic American Institute of Pharmacy Building.[8][9]

In 2004, Congress authorized $100 million for construction of USIP's headquarters, in part due to the efforts of Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, while the institute was required to raise the remaining $86 million.[2][10][11] The funds raised by USIP included a $10 million donation from Chevron Corporation.[5] Another corporate donor to the building fund, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, was named a "Founding Corporate Partner" after donating $1 million. William Hartung of the Center for International Policy criticized the USIP for "taking money from the world's largest producer of the weapons of war."[12]

In April 2001, USIP issued solicitations for a design and twenty-six architects submitted proposals.[6] Moshe Safdie had never heard of USIP before receiving the design request, but he was one of the five finalists chosen. The other four were Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Michael Graves and Associates, Polshek Partnership (now known as Ennead Architects), and Weiss/Manfredi (which withdrew). According to USIP president Richard H. Solomon, Safdie's design was chosen because the other designs "were basically square buildings."[9] USIP's headquarters is the second building in Washington, D.C. designed by Safdie. The first was the fortress-like headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, completed in 2008, which dominates the busy intersection of Florida and New York Avenues NE.[8][13]

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) unanimously approved plans for the building in 2007.[5] The groundbreaking ceremony took place the following year in June. Dignitaries in attendance included President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George P. Shultz, and Madeleine Albright. During the ceremony, some of the speakers hinted their opposing views of Bush's use of preventive war.[11] Construction of the 154,000 sq ft (14,300 m2) headquarters, which is LEED Gold certified, was carried out by Clark Construction Group of Bethesda, Maryland.[2][7] The U.S. Green Building Council certified it as the first environmentally friendly building on the National Mall.[5] The headquarters, which is managed by real estate services firm Akridge, was dedicated in October 2011.[8][14] That same year, the Samuel W. Lewis Hall was dedicated in honor of the former ambassador to Israel and USIP president."[15]


The western face of the headquarters

According to Safdie, the building "is by definition the physical symbol of peace in the capital's skyline" and needed to convey the spirit of peace.[16] Safdie stated: "I'm not one who believes in overt symbolism, but my sense of a building dedicated to peace was a sense of the lightness of being,...It should be a serene building. It should not be an aggressive building. It should be full of light."[7] Safdie achieved this by designing a glass curtain wall facing the Lincoln Memorial and a billowing glass ceiling.[9] The ceiling is one of the building elements in common with Safdie's design for the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Israel.[16] The 8 inches (20 cm) thick roof is made of 1,482 white glass panels and supported by steel frames while the interior of the roof is covered by a translucent plastic film.[7][9] It is opaque and white during the day and glows at night.[17]

There are two main entrances to the building, one facing Constitution Avenue, and another facing 23rd Street NW. The building is made of acid-etched precast-concrete and resembles limestone.[7] The design is centered around two atria, a large one facing the National Mall that is designed for the public, and a smaller private one for staff that overlooks the Potomac River.[16] The larger atrium, the George P. Shultz Great Hall, measures 11,800 sq ft (1,100 m2) and features the 80 ft (24 m) high glass curtain wall facing the National Mall. The 230-seat Frank C. Carlucci III Auditorium, Jacqueline and Marc Leland Atrium, and 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2) Global Peacebuilding Center, an interactive museum dedicated to peacemaking, are accessible via this atrium. The roof over the Great Hall, designed to convey a dove's wings, is called Ansary Peace Dove. The second atrium, also known as the International Women's Commons, measures 3,600 sq ft (330 m2) and is lined with offices, a library, meeting rooms, conference center, and the Farooq Kathwari Amphitheatre. The roof over this atrium is a simplified version of Ansary Peace Dove. There is a 2,000 sq ft (190 m2) outdoor terrace and adjoining boardroom facing the Lincoln Memorial.[7][18] A three-story underground parking garage can accommodate 230 vehicles; 140 of those spaces are reserved for Navy personnel.[19]


Katherine Gustafson of ArchitectureWeek thought the building "succeeds as a monumental edifice befitting its place in the urban frame of the National Mall" while Nathan Guttman of The Jewish Daily Forward described the headquarters as an "architectural gem."[7][15] Architect Roger K. Lewis, professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, had mixed feelings about the building. He said it was "most visible and aesthetically enticing after dark", while its "unique, idiosyncratic form appears somewhat less enticing" during the day.[20] During the NCPC meeting in 2007 giving final approval to the building, a National Park Service representative said "This building will be a foreign object in the landscape of classical architecture of this city", criticizing the design compared to the neoclassical and Beaux-Arts buildings along Constitution Avenue.[10] The building is highly visible to commuters on Interstate 66 as they enter the city, a fact lamented by Philip Kennicott, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The Washington Post. In two scathing reviews of the headquarters, Kennicott said "If it were not for the roof, the building would be unexceptional, just another exercise in boxy architecture pierced by deadening rows of identical rectangular windows" and "The institute's design marks yet another low point in Safdie's long descent into repetitive corporate architecture."[8][10]


  1. ^ a b "U.S. Institute of Peace & Public Education Center". Emporis. Retrieved 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Krouse, Sarah (March 22, 2010). "U.S. Institute of Peace already in expansion mode". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ The Editorial Board (June 12, 2008). "Below the Radar: A Federal Peace Agency". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014.
  4. ^ White, Suzanne (November 19, 2011). "Peace Institute prepares to `give blessing' to architects". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Zongker, Brett (June 13, 2007). "Giving Institute of Peace a chance". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ a b c White, Suzanne (August 20, 2011). "Institute of Peace to build new HQ". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Gustafson, Katherine (November 9, 2011). "Moshe Safdie Builds for Peace". ArchitectureWeek. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d Kennicott, Philip (May 20, 2011). "Not at peace with building's style". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Raskin, Laura (October 25, 2011). "A Permanent Home for Peace". Architectural Record. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Kennicott, Philip (June 24, 2007). "Taking the Wrong View". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014.
  11. ^ a b Abramowitz, Michael (June 6, 2008). "At Peace Institute Groundbreaking, War Dominates the Proceedings". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014.
  12. ^ Hartung, William (July 26, 2009). "War Contractor Funds Peace Institute". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ Kennicott, Philip (September 12, 2010). "The architecture of the U.S. Institute of Peace on the mall". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014.
  14. ^ "United States Institute of Peace Selects Akridge to Manage Landmark Headquarters Building" (PDF). Akridge. October 6, 2010. Retrieved 2014.
  15. ^ a b Guttman, Nathan (December 6, 2011). "Peace Institute Dedicates Hall to Ex-Ambassador". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 2014.
  16. ^ a b c Safdie, Moshe (2009). Moshe Safdie: Volume 2 (Millennium). Mulgrave, Victoria: Images Publishing Group. pp. 17, 202. ISBN 9781864701630. Retrieved 2014.
  17. ^ Strickland, Carol (June 3, 2011). "Designing for dignity". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2014.
  18. ^ "Hosting an Event at USIP". United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 2014.
  19. ^ "United States Institute of Peace Headquarters and Public Education Center". National Capital Planning Commission. June 7, 2007. Retrieved 2014.
  20. ^ Lewis, Roger K. (February 24, 2012). "At U.S. Institute of Peace, building's provocative design doesn't entirely succeed". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014.

External links

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