We’ve built you a better ArchDaily. Learn more and let us know what you think. Send us your feedback »

National Museum of the Marine Corps / Fentress Architects

  • Architects: Fentress Architects
  • Location: Quantico, VA 22134, USA
  • Architect: Fentress Architects
  • Contractor: Balfour Beatty Construction
  • Project Year: 2006
  • Photographs: James P. Scholz, Ken Paul, Courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

© Ken Paul Courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Foundation © James P. Scholz

From the architect. As the main focus of the 135-acre Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, The National Museum of the Marine Corps, just outside of Washington D.C., opened in 2006 to coincide with the Marine Corps’ 231st anniversary. The primary building of the Marine Corps Heritage Center contains 120,000 square feet of museum gallery space, an orientation theater, office space, gift shop, and two restaurants, all welcoming visitors to explore the history and values of the Corps.

© Ken Paul
© Ken Paul

Visually dramatic and inspiring, the design of the National Museum of the Marine Corps is particularly meaningful when the primary inspiration for the architects is revealed. 

inspiration section © Fentress Architects
inspiration section © Fentress Architects

In seeking the most significant symbols for the Marines, Fentress was moved by one of the most enduring images of all time — the Rosenthal photograph of Marines and a Navy corpsman determinedly erecting the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima during World War II.

Nick Merrick © Hedrich Blessing
Nick Merrick © Hedrich Blessing

That inspirational event led to the Museum’s iconic architecture, evoking the form of the men raising their country’s flag.

Courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Foundation
Courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

From the angle of that long-ago flagpole being raised, Fentress distilled a central feature for the museum: a 210-foot steel mast that anchors the entry lobby and supports a ribbed, conical skylight. 

axon © Fentress Architects
axon © Fentress Architects

The mast is a signature element of the building, a low-slung, circular concrete structure partially covered by a green roof.

Nick Merrick © Hedrich Blessing
Nick Merrick © Hedrich Blessing

This image truly embodies the words of Admiral Chester Nimitz, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” 

© James P. Scholz
© James P. Scholz

The “taking of the hill” also inspired Fentress to site the building on the highest piece of ground visible from Interstate 95 by which 100,000 cars pass each day.

Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects
Jason A. Knowles © Fentress Architects
Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite:"National Museum of the Marine Corps / Fentress Architects" 17 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accesed . <http://www.archdaily.com/144570/national-museum-of-the-marine-corps-fentress-architects/>