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A Most Holy Project: Bible Museum Coming to the Mall in 2017

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There is a long history about the separation of church and state. But if the new Bible Museum has its way, it will be as close to the White House as possible. And naturally, this new development will have its share of controversy.

Why so controversial? Because the man behind the museum is none other than Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, of the notorious Supreme Court battle on providing no-cost contraceptive coverage to employees. They won, and Green is now off to the next project of a massive scale.

Scheduled to open in 2017, the museum will cost $800 million to build. On a total lot of 430,000 s.f., 300,000 s.f. will be open to the public. Comparatively, this is about the same size as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Comprised of eight floors, the museum is anticipated to house over 44,000 of Green's biblical artifacts.

After considering 20 potential locations, including New York City and Dallas, the final destination landed as a neighbor to the Smithsonian museums, just two blocks from the mall.

On a lot purchased for $50 million in July 2012, the 430,000-square-foot Washington Design Center was selected as the site for the new Bible Museum. Why? Because the building has no windows, which is ideal for a museum's needs. This substantial red brick structure, built in 1919, was originally a refrigerated warehouse that became a site for fabric, furniture and lighting makers.

SmithGroupJJR, the architects working on the African American museum and a proposed LGBT museum, are charged with converting this property to its new purpose. The challenge? Balance the demand and the controversy that the museum inevitably brings.

According to a Washington Post interview, David Greenbaum, SmithGroup's vice president, explains. "The building needs to communicate the long life of the Bible. We want to give a sense of a monument, that it's been around for years."

Many possible designs for the exterior to rise up from the roof, including inspirations from a crown, an open book, and an ark, were considered. What would draw the attention tourists who were walking down Independence Avenue?

The Post reports that a decider of DC aesthetics, Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, suggested an approach with "a more restrained architectural language — rather than the proposal's reliance on communicating through superficial visual symbols and gestures."

This museum, will focus on three aspects of the Bible: its history, its stories, and its impact. Impact is hard to measure, and is an ongoing matter rather than an historical one. This may explain the ambitions of the early plans, which will be comprised of traditional exhibitions, social media participation, and a theme park. Yes, a theme park.

This museum, which as of yet has no official name, is shaping up to be one of the city's most major projects. Stay tuned.

· Hobby Lobby's Steve Green has big plans for his Bible museum in Washington [Washington Post]