The Pennsylvania Military Museum


Purdy O’Gwynn Architects, Inc.

Practice Area


Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission


Project Vision

The Pennsylvania Military Museum was an under-attended facility occupying a popular and well-used site. (Located 300 yards back from a major highway, the museum was often mistaken for a storage facility.) Beyond adding needed visitor amenity and gallery space to the museum’s interior, the architects employed environmental graphic design to broaden the significance of the building as an object in the landscape.


The solution to the museum’s identity and visibility problem is a 100-foot-long front façade depicting military service ribbons in full color. The façade becomes an outdoor educational exhibit and a point of orientation and connection between the various site features. The massing of the building curves to reflect the adjacent stream flow and inflects towards the adjoining war memorial. A raised terrace at the museum’s main entry completes the site sequence.


The ribbons are constructed from open joint aluminum panels acting as a rain screen. Fluoropolymer coatings achieve the colors of the ribbons. The building base is an inexpensive buff brick to match the existing structure, punctuated by a limestone building sign at the entrance. The project is a study in economy of means, with a limited number of strong design elements employed to create the sense of dignity and permanence appropriate to a civic institution.

Project Details
The large, full-color service ribbons immediately identify the building in a bold way that could not have been accomplished with just words. In fact, the actual name of the museum is secondary to the point of invisibility. This is a perfect example of graphics clearly communicating the content and themes to be explored within the facility without resorting to clichéd images of military heroism and honor.
Juror 1
Design Team

Tom Purdy (Principal in Charge), Rachel Goffe, Kathryn Kelly, Glenn Snyder

Design Firm

Purdy O’Gwynn Architects, Inc.


Metalwerks (metal panels), L.S. Fiore, Inc. (general contractor)