After nearly 2 decades based at 635 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC, the award-winning, multimedia news organization NPR relocated its headquarters to 1111 North Capitol Street, NE, in the business improvement district NOMA (North of Massachusetts Avenue). A landmark-status, 4-story 1920’s warehouse was renovated and an adjoining new, 7-story building was developed to create a 440,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, LEED-Gold certified headquarters that accommodates a staff of over 700 that was previously divided into 3 separate locations.
Along with developing a comprehensive environmental graphics, donor recognition and wayfinding sign program for the headquarters and a branding and identity program for the NPR store and staff cafeteria, the designers were also responsible for creating a permanent, interactive lobby exhibition entitled “This is NPR.”
Complementing the adjacent 2-story digital media mosaic which mirrors the NPR website in real-time, Poulin + Morris developed a 70-foot-long, permanent, interactive exhibition entitled “This is NPR” that spans the length of the new building’s lobby. The exhibition consists of a reader rail supporting 2 tiers of angled panels displaying narrative text, images, video monitors, and interactive audio listening devices featuring detailed information about NPR. The rail is divided into 5 sections, each dedicated to a story significant to NPR: History and Mission provides background information on the organization; Signature Storytelling features anecdotes about some of NPR’s favorite personalities and programs; Grand Trunk Road offers stories from a series NPR aired about the historic South Asian road; A Spirit of Innovation documents NPR’s technological advancements over the years; and A Community of Stations and Listeners highlights the relationship shared between NPR member stations across the nation and their listeners and includes a striking, member network map displayed above. Created in a translucent white resin with raised translucent blue rods to pin-point the location of each member station, the map’s placement at a window allows it to glow with natural light. The upper portion of the reader rail features NPR milestones, a continuous timeline highlighting important moments in public radio history juxtaposed alongside significant events in world and radio broadcast history.
The interactive component of the exhibition includes an interface that allows smart phone users to access a specially designed website offering a selection of audio clips to accompany each section of the exhibition. The designers collaborated with a media developer to create this user interface adding an audio element to the exhibition that elaborates on the stories featured on the reader rail and creates an engaging and memorable experience.