NASM Restaurant Addition Section 106


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


Advocacy, DC, Section 106
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Docomomo US is participating in the Section 106 process for the Smithsonian Institutions's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Restaurant Addition Replacement. This is a separate 106 process than the one for the museum itself, which Docomomo US did not participate and for which work is currently underway.


The main building of the NASM was completed between 1972-76 and was designed by Gyu Obata of the firm Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK). The restaurant addition was initiated in 1982 and completed in 1988. Obata was responsible for the architectural design and HOK architect Robert Blaha prepared the interior design.

From the DC State Historic Preservation Office Determination of Eligibility:

Completed in 1988, a large restaurant addition was added to the east side of the original museum. The symmetrical addition is cruciform in plan with a stepped, hipped roof. The tubular steel structure is fully encased in gray-tinted glass. The interior of the space is three stories in height with a second story mezzanine and below-grade basement story. 

...The two-story pavilion featured a tiered pyramidal form, fully encased in dark tinted glass supported on a space frame structural system. The glass originally installed on the restaurant addition matched that originally found on the main museum building. The sloping glass was replaced c. 2000.

In contrast to some of HOK's other work of the same time period that was leaning towards Postmodernism, the NASM restaurant "is modest, light and glassy, and only subtly references the past through its pyramid-like form," in keeping with the simple, Modernist forms of the main museum itself.

Update: August 2, 2023

The Smithsonian Institution will conduct a series of public meetings concerning the 106 consultation. The first meeting will be held on August 9, 2023 from 3:00-5:00 PM online. See more information here.  


In October of 2020 the Smithsonian announced plans to build demolish the current structure and build a new restaurant. After a $300 million donation from Jeff Bezos this past July, the proposal was changed to create an educational center in the restaurant's place.

In its Determination of Eligibility (DOE), the DC State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) found that the NASM is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under criterion A "for its reflection of the evolution of the Smithsonian Institution in the second half of the twentieth century," and criterion C "as an outstanding example of Modernist architecture by a recognized master in the field." The DOE proposes that the period of significance be limited to 1976, the year the main museum building was completed, despite later additions such as the restaurant, and also makes the argument that the restaurant does "not rise to the same level of significance as the original design," because "the addition has been operationally and functionally separate from the museum and its development was not an expansion of its exhibition and programs."

Docomomo US believes the restuarant should be eligible and has issued a letter in response to the DOE. We recommend the Smithsonian Institution reconsider the restaurant addition to be significant under Criteria C and G based on its functionally related relationship to the overall purpose of the museum, its merit as an outstanding example of Modernist architecture by a master in the field, and because the restaurant was designed by the same designer as the original building. We recommend revising the DOE to extend the period of significance to 1988 before moving on to evaluating the proposed project’s adverse effects on the resource and any mitigation efforts.

You can find all materials relating to the Section 106 process for the "East End Project" on the NASM website.

This is an ongoing Section 106 process and we will continue to provide updates as the situation progresses.