NIST Develops a Comprehensive Preservation Planning Strategy for Its Modernist Campus Gaithersburg, Maryland
Beginning in the 1960s, the National Bureau of Standards, today’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) began construction on a 579-acre campus to house its headquarters. None of the Gaithersburg campus had been evaluated for eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places before 2014. NIST originally proposed a smaller historic district within the center of the campus based upon an initial architectural assessment.When the Maryland SHPO recommended a much larger district, encompassing the entire campus, NIST sought the opinion of the Keeper of the National Register. In 2016, the Keeper determined the entire Gaithersburg campus is eligible for listing recognizing its association with significant advances in the history of science and technology, as well as its iconic mid-century modern architectural design. Of 64 campus structures, 26 have been determined to contribute to the significance of the district, and 38 were determined noncontributing.A National Register nomination is under development for submittal later this year. NIST has embraced its campus-wide historic property status and the modern architecture that makes it distinctive among federal agency facilities in theWashington, D.C., area. During the reporting
period, NIST has taken several steps to integrate historic preservation into the core values of its facilities management program as well as its master planning.With the support of the agency’s Chief Facilities Management Officer, NIST established an Architectural Design Review Board in 2018 to review proposed changes to facilities and landscapes on its Gaithersburg and Boulder, Colorado, campuses.The five-member board is composed of architects and landscape design professionals whose responsibility is to make sure proposed projects are compliant with the campus design guidelines found in the two master plans (Boulder Laboratories Master Plan and NIST Gaithersburg Master Plan) as well as the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.The Gaithersburg Campus Master Plan, which integrates historic preservation considerations into how it defines different campus use zones, has received awards from Preservation Maryland and the Federal Planning Division of the American Planning Association. NIST and the Maryland SHPO executed a Programmatic Agreement (PA) in 2019 for the Gaithersburg Campus that governs day-to-day maintenance and operational activities requiring review under Section 106.
Aerial view of Gaithersburg campus construction in 1964 (NIST)
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