Did you know there are 10 archetypal spy roles? They range from cryptologist and hacker to intelligence operative and agent handler. Visitors to Spyscape, New York’s first museum dedicated to secret intelligence, can determine which they are through interactive experiences designed by Adjaye Associates, which was also responsible for the overall 60,000-square-foot, three-level space. In fact, the London office handled the design, while the Manhattan team served as architect of record, a first for the firm.
“I’m interested in exploring the evolution of the museum,” David Adjaye says of taking on the commission, “how the typology can be expanded or pushed.” Whereas his Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is “concerned with a narrative experience,” Spyscape addresses technology’s relationship to the built form.
Indeed, rising up the 350-square-foot elevator, dubbed the briefing room, visitors encounter a canopy of nearly 4,000 LEDs, capable of being programmed to correspond with music, season, or time of day. Then, with the RFID wristbrand they’re given to create a spy profile, they might take a turn at the special ops challenge, where they negotiate a path through laser beams racing against a digital clock. Or take a lie-detector test, attempt to crack codes, and monitor actual CCTV footage. The latter takes place in the surveillance pavilion, one of seven made with materials usually used for facades, such as fiber cement and weathered steel, playing with the relationship between the hidden and the revealed.