Located on the National Mall, The Education Center at the Wall is an honorific and educational complement to the powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The architecture and the exhibits of the Center are as integrated as possible, so that visitors are enveloped within an all-encompassing environment.
The design balances divergent objectives: the building must be virtually invisible to maintain the harmony of architecture and landscape in its immediate context, it must support the poetic impact of Maya Lin’s memorial, and it must be a visible invitation to visitors.
The solution is an underground structure, whose orientation mirrors that of the Memorial. Visitors enter the Center via a gently sloping exterior ramp, which allows the grade level of the Mall to be maintained across the site. While descending the ramps, visitors view the exhibits, which are divided into three sections focusing on the importance of the Memorial in the national conscience.
Exhibits are presented on layered glass walls, inviting visitors to occupy the space between layers and view the themes of history, memory and faces simultaneously.
At the public entrance, a courtyard provides a sense of ease and openness to an otherwise subterranean experience and also permits natural light to enter the exhibit space through vertical surfaces fronting the courtyard.