Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center

Wong Thumb 2

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center

Located on the National Mall, The Education Center at the Wall is an honorific and educational complement to the powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

0414 Vietnam Hero2

The architecture and the exhibits of the Center are as integrated as possible, so that visitors are enveloped within an all-encompassing environment.

Thomas Wong, Design Partner
0414 Vietnam Exhibition5

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. 

0414 Vietnam Exhibition4
0414 Vietnam Entry Via Stair

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.

0414 Vietnam Exhibition3

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.

0414 Vietnam Exhibition2
0414 Vietnam Courtyard Interior
0414 Vietnam Courtyard Looking West Copy

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.

0414 Vietnam Exhibition1


Washington, DC
39,800 GSF
Exhibition Halls
LEED Silver (pursuing)


Design Partners
James S. Polshek, Thomas Wong
Management Partner
Joseph Fleischer
Project Manager
Charles Griffith


  • 2009
    • Alpert, David. "Vietnam visitors Center: How do you make a building invisible?" (, 1/1/2009)
    • Worthington, George. "A Center We Can All Be Proud Of Human Events" (Conservative Underground, 3/24/2009)
  • 2007
    • Scruggs, Jan C.. "'The Right Place to Honor Vets' (letter to the editor)" (The Washington Post, 6/30/2007)


Vanderweil Engineers
Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.
Jaffe Holden