Architecture

Lipstick pistols and surveillance pigeons feature in new International Spy Museum

Lipstick pistols and surveilla...
The new International Spy Museum, led by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, is an eye-catching addition to Washington DC's L'Enfant Plaza
The new International Spy Museum, led by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, is an eye-catching addition to Washington DC's L'Enfant Plaza
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Washington DC's International Spy Museum recently moved into an all-new building, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, in collaboration with Hickok Cole
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Washington DC's International Spy Museum recently moved into an all-new building, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, in collaboration with Hickok Cole
The International Spy Museum measures 130 ft (40 m)-tall
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The International Spy Museum measures 130 ft (40 m)-tall
The International Spy Museum has a total floorspace of 140,000 sq ft (13,000 sq m)
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The International Spy Museum has a total floorspace of 140,000 sq ft (13,000 sq m)
The International Spy Museum comprises seven floors 
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The International Spy Museum comprises seven floors 
The International Spy Museum is defined by eye-catching angled facades on its south and west sides
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The International Spy Museum is defined by eye-catching angled facades on its south and west sides
The International Spy Museum's new building offers over double the space of the old one 
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The International Spy Museum's new building offers over double the space of the old one 
The International Spy Museum measures 130 ft (40 m)-tall
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The International Spy Museum measures 130 ft (40 m)-tall
The new International Spy Museum, led by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, is an eye-catching addition to Washington DC's L'Enfant Plaza
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The new International Spy Museum, led by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, is an eye-catching addition to Washington DC's L'Enfant Plaza
The International Spy Museum features a staircase affixed to the exterior of the building that is encased in glass
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The International Spy Museum features a staircase affixed to the exterior of the building that is encased in glass
The International Spy Museum features a staircase affixed to the exterior of the building that is encased in glass
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The International Spy Museum features a staircase affixed to the exterior of the building that is encased in glass
Closeup detail shot of the International Spy Museum's steel structure
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Closeup detail shot of the International Spy Museum's steel structure
The International Spy Museum's new building offers over double the space of the old one
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The International Spy Museum's new building offers over double the space of the old one
The International Spy Museum includes James Bond-themed memorabilia
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The International Spy Museum includes James Bond-themed memorabilia
Another shot of the International Spy Museum's staircase
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Another shot of the International Spy Museum's staircase
The International Spy Museum is defined by eye-catching angled facades on its south and west sides
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The International Spy Museum is defined by eye-catching angled facades on its south and west sides
The International Spy Museum measures 130 ft (40 m)-tall
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The International Spy Museum measures 130 ft (40 m)-tall
The International Spy Museum shown illuminated at night
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The International Spy Museum shown illuminated at night
The International Spy Museum has a total floorspace of 140,000 sq ft (13,000 sq m)
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The International Spy Museum has a total floorspace of 140,000 sq ft (13,000 sq m)
The Coat Button Camera was hidden behind a false button on the coats of KGB operatives
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The Coat Button Camera was hidden behind a false button on the coats of KGB operatives
This letter was written by then-General George Washington to Nathaniel Sackett engaging him to spy for his country
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This letter was written by then-General George Washington to Nathaniel Sackett engaging him to spy for his country
The Lipstick pistol was nicknamed the "Kiss of Death" and given to KGB agents during the Cold War
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The Lipstick pistol was nicknamed the "Kiss of Death" and given to KGB agents during the Cold War
This surveillance camera was strapped to a pigeon and the bird was released over sites of military importance by Germany in 1917-18
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This surveillance camera was strapped to a pigeon and the bird was released over sites of military importance by Germany in 1917-18
This exhibit is named School for Spies and provides visitors with an introduction to the tradecraft of espionage and describes some of the skills and tools a spy needs
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This exhibit is named School for Spies and provides visitors with an introduction to the tradecraft of espionage and describes some of the skills and tools a spy needs
The Exquisitely Evil exhibition is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best Bond villains over the past 50 years
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The Exquisitely Evil exhibition is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best Bond villains over the past 50 years
The Steineck ABC Wristwatch Camera from Germany in 1949 allowed operatives to take photographs while pretending to check the time
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The Steineck ABC Wristwatch Camera from Germany in 1949 allowed operatives to take photographs while pretending to check the time
The Minox served as a spy camera for 50 years and could take 50 pictures without reloading
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The Minox served as a spy camera for 50 years and could take 50 pictures without reloading
The new International Spy Museum contains this Aston Martin DB5, which is a replica of the one James Bond used in Goldfinger
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The new International Spy Museum contains this Aston Martin DB5, which is a replica of the one James Bond used in Goldfinger
Operation Spy is an activity area that allows visitors to complete tasks suited to espionage
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Operation Spy is an activity area that allows visitors to complete tasks suited to espionage
One of Operation Spy's activities involves cracking a safe
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One of Operation Spy's activities involves cracking a safe
Operation Spy is an activity area that allows visitors to complete tasks suited to espionage
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Operation Spy is an activity area that allows visitors to complete tasks suited to espionage
The Exquisitely Evil exhibition is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best Bond villains over the past 50 years
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The Exquisitely Evil exhibition is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best Bond villains over the past 50 years
Another shot of the Exquisitely Evil exhibition
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Another shot of the Exquisitely Evil exhibition
This International Spy Museum exhibit depicts Berlin during the Cold War 
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This International Spy Museum exhibit depicts Berlin during the Cold War 
This International Spy Museum exhibit shows the anti-terrorist work that spies carry out
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This International Spy Museum exhibit shows the anti-terrorist work that spies carry out
This International Spy Museum exhibit shows some means of torture used throughout the past and in modern times
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This International Spy Museum exhibit shows some means of torture used throughout the past and in modern times
View gallery - 35 images

Washington DC's International Spy Museum recently moved into a new building designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, in collaboration with Hickok Cole. The futuristic-looking museum offers additional space for new exhibits dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and modern role of espionage.

The International Spy Museum is located in Washington DC's L'Enfant Plaza, a short distance from the NMAAHC. The 140,000 sq ft (13,000 sq m) building has more than double the floorspace of the museum's previous home and wouldn't look out of place in a spy movie itself with its eye-catching angled facades, as well as a metal staircase enclosed in glazing that's affixed to the exterior of the building.

"The building reaches the city's height limit of 130 ft [40 m] from grade in just seven stories," says Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. "Its most prominent features are the angled facades of the exhibit floors on the south and west sides of the site, encased in a black box. Propped up on columns over an aligned, existing structure, the black box comprises the bulk of building including its exhibition spaces."

According to the firm, "the museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display."

Some of the more notable exhibits and activities include Exquisitely Evil, which is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best 007 villains over the past 50 years.

The Exquisitely Evil exhibition is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best Bond villains over the past 50 years
The Exquisitely Evil exhibition is an interactive exhibition celebrating the best Bond villains over the past 50 years

Operation Spy brings to mind David Adjaye's Spyscape in New York City. It tasks visitors with carrying out fun espionage-themed activities such as breaking into safes.

One of Operation Spy's activities involves cracking a safe
One of Operation Spy's activities involves cracking a safe

There are many fascinating historic pieces, too, like this surveillance camera (pictured below) dating back to 1917-18 Germany. It was strapped to a pigeon before it was released over sites of military importance. The idea was that the camera would constantly take photos, offering early drone-like aerial intelligence if the bird made it safely back to base.

This surveillance camera was strapped to a pigeon and the bird was released over sites of military importance by Germany in 1917-18
This surveillance camera was strapped to a pigeon and the bird was released over sites of military importance by Germany in 1917-18

Another standout is the Lipstick pistol. According to the museum, it was nicknamed the "Kiss of Death" and given to KGB agents during the cold war. The single-shot weapon was hidden in a purse and was first detected while a spy attempted to cross from East Berlin into West Berlin.

The Lipstick pistol was nicknamed the "Kiss of Death" and given to KGB agents during the Cold War
The Lipstick pistol was nicknamed the "Kiss of Death" and given to KGB agents during the Cold War

Head to the gallery to see more on these and some other highlights of the International Spy Museum.

Sources: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, International Spy Museum

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