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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - Premises, Entrance, Layout (Part 1)
Lightbox (134) Tags: museums smithsonian usa virginia washington-dc Posted: March 17, 2008 by Val
1. Udvar-Hazy Center, general view
2. Monument in front of the museum entrance
3. Panels with names of people who have contributed to aviation and space exploration heritage
4. Center entrance
5. Center entrance
6. View from observation tower
7. Air traffic controller's workstation showing real time traffic in Newark Area
8. Store with souvenirs
9. Inside the store
10. Museum cafe
11. iMAX theater inside Udvar-Hazy Center
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum opened its second facility named after Steven F. Udvar-Hazy in 2003. It is located on 176 acres of green fields and woods next to the Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia. The second facility is quite different from The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. (the National Mall building). The latter reminds more a traditional museum showing the history and science of aviation through artifacts as well as description of technology, achievements and discoveries. (Read our article on the National Mall museum's facility).
On the other hand, Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Center is rather a huge show room ( approximately, as big as three football fields) for legendary and famous aircrafts or those that played significant role in wars, business, space exploration or sport. It has 14 sections - four of which are dedicated to space exploration. After paying a fee of 14 dollars, you enter a vast parking lot in front of a huge building of glass and light gray metal. In fact, it is not one building but an architectural complex consisting of two hangers and a real airport observation tower (Photo 1). You can walk to the entrance from the parking lot or for more complete impression take the path which leads the way through the metal panels with the names of people who contributed to aviation and space exploration. The monument devoted to space exploration is in front of the entrance (Photo 2).
After passing solid glass doors (Photo 5), be prepared to be searched by security. They all were polite and smiling but when we wanted to make pictures of them and the checkpoint they lost their smiles and shouted: - "no, no, no, you can't do it". O'key, we did not insist. Having been "cleared", you are on your own (groups can be provided with a guide.
A long spacious vestibule takes you into the depth of the Museum. It feels good browsing alone in a quiet of a museum. But it feels even better when you have some literature in hand which provides you with adequate information, and you start looking for a Visitor or Welcome Center. Indeed, you see one on your right. Yes, that's what is needed, but unfortunately they only carry a brochure of general type with the description of all the Smithsonian museums including highlights and floor plan of Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It is definitely not enough but what one can do? To rely on descriptions of artifacts: there are plenty of them, but they are sealed under glass and you cannot take them with you.
We continue our exploration of the museum. On the left there are a store with souvenirs and books (Photo 8, Photo 9) as well as cafe (Photo 10). But do not hurry to see the main exhibits, there is something very attractive to look at - it is an observation tower with an air traffic controller station showing real time traffic in Newark area. The elevator takes you to the upper level of the tower which, in fact, is a big hall with glass walls. You have a 360-degree view of the area (Photo 6). But this view is not the only interesting thing to enjoy. When elevator takes you one story down, you can see an air traffic controller station (Photo 7).
Having finished with the observation tower, you get down to the entrance floor, passing iMAX theater (Photo 11) you return to the main vestibule which leads you to the Boeing Hanger (Photo 12). On your way to the exhibits, you come across a box for donations (Photo 13) to museum future phases. After all, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, as it is now, became possible because of Steven F. Udvar-Hazy $60 million donations.
Boeing Hanger is a central part of the huge exhibition of aircrafts. It is an enormous 10-story high structure approximately three football fields long (Photo 14 shows the view from one end into the whole Boeing Hangar giving an idea about the enormous size of this space). Visually, the hanger can be divided into three parts: central, northern and southern.
The central part can be thought of as a hub with access to the McDonnell Space Hangar, catwalks and ramp. Also, the central part hosts the most impressive artifact of the Center, Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird - you can see it in the background of (Photo 15). Its black slim body immediately attracts attention of every new visitor. Unfortunately, the dark grey color of the floor does not provide necessary background to the aircraft and even numerous lights, installed around an aircraft like a big triangle, are not much of a help. It is too dark in the Hanger and not because of lack of artificial light - there is plenty of it but there is no day light which could give some life and vigor to aircrafts which are light and air bound.
Northern and southern parts of the Hanger are its two wings: the larger one is the southern (Photo 16) - it will be on your left If you stand with your back to the entrance of museum looking at the Blackbird. The northern wing is smaller (Photo 17). In the northern wing you can see huge gates for the new aircraft arrivals (Photo 18).
Perhaps better idea of the Boeing Hanger layout provides the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center floor plan (Photo 19). The floor of the hanger (as well as its ceiling) provides space for ten theme sections: Mordern Military Aviation, Korea and Vietnam, Cold War Aviation, World War II, Pre-1920 Aviation, General Aviation, Commercial Aviation., Sport Aviation, Business Aviation and Vertical Aviation.
Now, equipped with better understanding of the Center organization, we are ready to resume our exploration.
12. Vestibule leading to Boeing Aviation Hangar
13. Collection box for donations to fund next phases on the museum
14. View from one end into the whole Boeing Hangar
15. The central part of the Boeing Aviation Hangar - Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is in the background
16. Southern (larger) wing of Boeing Aviation Hangar
17. Northern (smaller) wing of the Boeing Aviation Hangar
18. Huge gates to move huge aircrafts into museum
19. Museum floor layout and artifacts location.