The 643,000 sq ft building, which is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at Sixth Street NW, caught my eye because it is quite large, shiny, and brand-spanking new... its doors have not opened yet and interior finish work is still being completed. I felt like a child amazed at a large shiny object, but when the seven-floor Newseum (a 250,000 sq ft chunk of the building... the rest is for a 24,000 sq ft multi-level conference center, a three-level Wolfgang Puck restaurant, offices and 140,000 sq ft of apartments spanning 12 floors) opens soon, it will surely impress all of its visitors.
The first aspect of the museum that caught my eye as I walked past was the massive 74-foot Tennessee marble wall engraved with the text of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which of course mandates freedom of the press in America. The rest of the front of the museum is an enormous wall of glass, which is also quite impressive. The view is even more impressive due to a tremendous atrium (The New York Times--Ochs-Sulzburger Family Great Hall of News) that lies behind it, providing 90 feet of vertical space for Newseum to present the latest news on a gigantic 880 sq ft hi-def video screen and a Times Square-esque news ticker.
A large, wraparound terrace that overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue will provide stunning views. Nearly everything I saw was either made of glass or clad in shiny aluminum/stainless steel. Lines and edges were really crisp everywhere I looked, which reminded me of The New York Times Building in Manhattan. In fact, a lot of the design elements resembled those of Renzo Piano's NYTimes Building... no ceramic tubes stacked outside the facade, of course, but the huge amount of glass panels and stainless steel/aluminum surely made me think back to NYC.
When Newseum opens, visitors will likely be overwhelmed with the vast amount of information available, but they will revel at the method in which it is presented. The museum will house fourteen main exhibition galleries of news, including galleries devoted to (i.e. sponsored by) The News Corporation, Time Warner World News, ABC News, and NBC News, as well as permanent galleries featuring 9/11-related journalism, the Berlin Wall, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photography. The Berlin Wall exhibit will even feature an actual three-story tower that was used to guard the wall. Talk about realism! Newseum also decided to include a gallery that will serve as a tribute to journalists who have died in their pursuit of the news.
Additionally, Newseum will contain two fully-functional broadcast studios and fifteen theaters. Yes. That's right. Fifteen of them. The largest of the theaters, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater, will have seating for 535 visitors, while the others will offer visitors a multitude of viewing experiences. One of the most fascinating of these is the Big Screen Theater, which will contain a 90-foot long video news wall -- this reminds me of the video news wall that can be found in InterActiveCorp's new headquarters in lower Manhattan...
Other than the views I mentioned earlier, I wasn't able to see much of this awesome museum but building architect Polshek Partnership Architects did a terrific job from what I saw (see photo to right, borrowed from flickr but essentially the same thing I saw). Site work around the building appears to be nearly complete, and some construction machinery was visible inside the lobby/atrium space. There is plenty to explore on Newseum's website, including a virtual tour of the building's galleries and theatre spaces, as well as a tour of the exhibits. Newseum Executive Director Joe Urschel said was quoted on the museum's website:
"The visitor will come away with a better understanding of news and the important role it plays in all of our lives. The new Newseum will be educational, inspirational and a whole lot of fun."
This museum will surely be a wonder to explore and should provide an excellent opportunity for anyone to learn about the past five centuries of news media. I may even have to take another trip back to Washington D.C. after this fascinating place opens. Newseum is set for a delayed opening due to the complex technology being installed (video news walls, theatres and studios are considered complex, I guess), but if I had to estimate, I'd say Newseum will likely open in early 2008, possibly in March of April.