RSHP’s International Spy Museum opens in Washington

Spy museum
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners are behind the newly completed International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.
(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

The fascinating, state-of-the-art world of international espionage now has a home to match its intrigue and allure; enter the newly launched International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. The structure, designed by London based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP), is about to open its doors to the public in a celebration that also marks the very first cultural building in the US for the renowned UK architecture firm. 

The structure, which spans some 13,000 sq m, is now the permanent home for the non-profit organisation that was previously housed in the historic Le Droit Building in Downtown Washington. The new home's angled façades and strongly transparent character are instantly arresting, but they hide a surprise within; propped up on columns a ‘black box' comprises the majority of the ultra-flexible exhibition spaces.

Underneath this floating structure sit generous public spaces and specialised areas. Meanwhile, a metal staircase connecting all seven floors is suspended along the outside of the metal-panelled west façade and enclosed in a suspended glass atrium called the ‘Veil', explain the architects.

The building includes a generous lobby, ticketing and retail space, a 150 seat theatre, classrooms, an event and banqueting area and offices – as well as over 3250 sq m of exhibition space to display its unique collection of spy artefacts from all over the globe. It is, after all, the only public museum in the United States ‘solely dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and contemporary role of espionage,’ explain the architects. 

‘It has been an absolute delight to have been involved in the design of the International Spy Museum. It is a building for the future that will bring its neighbourhood to life,’ says Ivan Harbour. ‘A celebration not only of the long-standing human activity that it showcases, but also of the city around it. A landmark for 21st century D.C.’

Washington’s International Spy Museum opens to the public this weekend.

International spy museum washington

(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

International spy museum exterior

(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

International spy museum washington interior

(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

Spy museum washington

(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

Spy museum exterior

(Image credit: Nic Lehoux)

For more information visit the RSHP website


International Spy Museum
700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington DC


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).