October 13, 2017

Press Release

Floor 1: Overview - Glass Galley

World’s Clearest Glass for Best Views in Washington: The Galley Lobby Skylight


The galley lobby skylight encloses prefunction lobby space for Museum of the Bible’s World Stage Theater and gathering room. It descends from atop the sixth floor to create a curved wall on the north and west façades of the fifth and sixth floors. The two-story, aluminum-framed, glazed-curtain wall assembly with channel-glass infill is a compilation of more than 350 pieces of glass and more than 170 pieces of steel. The steel installation began in March 2016, with aluminum installation beginning one month later. In June 2016, the installation of glass began on-site and was completed in early 2017.

The glass galley is adjacent to the museum’s gathering room, in which private and public group events are hosted, as well as to the upper- and lower-level lobbies of the theater, giving guests a bird’s-eye view of some of the city’s most breathtaking skylines. From the galley, guests will have an unobstructed view of the U.S. Capitol, behind which the sun rises, and the Washington Monument, behind which the sun sets.


The atrium glass roof measures 250 feet by 23 feet.The western prow cantilevers 15 feet above the historical building edge at the museum entrance.


This structure is a remarkable compilation of more than 350 pieces of the clearest glass manufactured due to its extremely low iron content. Each piece of glass was fabricated at six millimeters thick to minimize visual distortion. The book-edge frit pattern on the glass has more than 16 million custom points and varies in density as needed for solar shading. More than 170 individual pieces of custom, curved steel, which have an intumescent (increasing in volume and decreasing in density when exposed to heat) fireproof coating among the smoothest available, work to hold the galley structure together.

The glass panels, steel frames and aluminum were all prefabricated in Augsburg, Germany, outside Munich, and transported via a container ship. Transportation took one month door-to-door.


The design team explored multiple biblical metaphors and icons for the museum’s roof to help express the interpretive message within the architecture. They first started with an open book and a crown, but then developed a composition that recalled two vessels recounted in stories in the Bible: the Sea of Galilee boat and the ark. The final design also alludes to a rolled scroll. A ceramic frit pattern on the glass recalls the deckled edge of a book. The ceramic frit is used to reduce heat gain through the glazing.


The atrium glass roof was designed by the project’s lead architects, SmithGroupJJR. The galley subcontractor was Roschmann Group, a Gersthofen, Bavaria-based company.  

The first design collaboration meeting between SmithGroup and Roschmann was held in January 2015. In October 2015, a full-size performance mock-up was erected in Dornbirn, Austria, to determine if the galley met the performance requirements outlined in the specifications (air/water infiltration, static and dynamic testing, lateral movement testing, etc.). The galley design was enhanced until its performance met all visual and safety requirements.