Apr 19, 2024 - News

Bezos Learning Center's proposed design is inspired by galaxies

A rendering of the spiral courtyard in front of the future Bezos Learning Center.

The proposed design for a spiraling Learning Courtyard, with the Bezos Learning Center behind it. Rendering courtesy of CFA Public Meeting 4.18.24 Presentation, National Air and Space Museum

Newly unveiled design proposals for the National Air and Space Museum's forthcoming Bezos Learning Center lean heavily on spiraling designs inspired by galaxies.

The big picture: The learning center is funded in part by the $200 million that famously space-obsessed Jeff Bezos donated to the museum in 2021 and comes alongside the museum's $1 billion revamp.

  • The Bezos Learning Center will host STEAM programming and events to encourage more young people to pursue those fields.
A rendering of the Bezos Learning Center's exterior.
Proposals for the three-story building include spaces to host students and events. Rendering courtesy of CFA Public Meeting 4.18.24 Presentation, National Air and Space Museum

State of play: Proposed designs show a three-story, curved building with a restaurant fitting up to 700 people and areas to host school groups and events, per a new presentation filed with the Commission of Fine Arts by the Smithsonian Institution and center architects Perkins&Will.

  • The center will sit east of the museum on its former food court and the two buildings will be connected via a vestibule.
  • Also planned for the learning center's 2.5-acre spread: an outdoor Astronomy Park housing a new permanent version of the Phoebe Waterman Haas Observatory, plus an outside Learning Courtyard that spirals like a galaxy from the building.
A rendering showing the proposed design for the Bezos Learning Center's observatory.
Also included in the proposal: a new permanent version of the Phoebe Waterman Haas Observatory. Rendering courtesy of CFA Public Meeting 4.18.24 Presentation, National Air and Space Museum

Zoom in: The center's proposed exterior features aluminum elements meant to evoke the starry cosmos, creating shadow patterns during the day and emitting streams of light at night, per the presentation.

  • Native perennial and prairie plants, a pollinator garden, and more trees will make up the landscaping.

What's next: Construction is slated to start in late 2025, with plans for the building to open in mid-2027, says the presentation.

A rendering of people walking inside the Bezos Learning Center.
The proposed design features a terrace-level restaurant with seating for up to 700. Rendering courtesy of CFA Public Meeting 4.18.24 Presentation, National Air and Space Museum
A proposed design for the Learning Courtyard at the Bezos Learning Center.
In the proposal, the spiral-shaped Learning Courtyard sits against the curved building. Rendering courtesy of CFA Public Meeting 4.18.24 Presentation, National Air and Space Museum
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