Down-to-Earth design

31 Oct 2011

Colour scheme for geospatial-intelligence agency drawn from satellite images of Earth

As a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, NGA provides imagery, geospatial and targeting analysis, along with image sciences and modelling for U.S. national defense, disaster relief and safety of navigation.

NGA's unique mission requires a large number of employees to work in enclosed, dimly-lit, monochrome environments to support high-definition analysis of highly sensitive information. Colour was strategically used in the design of NGA's new headquarters to offer a playful respite from the work environment as well as aid in navigation and orientation throughout the building.

The colour scheme draws from a distillation of the 'Colours of the Earth' from satellite imagery which is then aligned with NGA's historic cartography mission. The north and south wings of the building are divided into distinct areas based on the colour symbology used in map making.

This concept is further expressed with colour-rich, graphic imagery and in naming conventions where room names are derived from land features in the northern hemisphere in the north wing and from the southern hemisphere in the south wing.

The full spectrum of the colour scheme radiates under the abundant natural light of the building's atrium. The large open space, along with its typical amenities, provide for a hub of social activities for more than 8,500 employees. The colour scheme is further enhanced within the atrium by an abstracted pattern 'mapped' onto the atrium's glass curtain wall, recalling the geographic coordinate framework of the earth and the complex networking of intelligence agencies.

The layering of these elements emulates the NGA mapping process where information from myriad intelligence sources is collected, overlaid and assembled. In a play on the NGA motto, 'Know the Earth, show the way', Thomas J. Bukoski, Deputy Director of NGA's Facility Programs Office said of the color concept: "These colours show us the way, symbolize who we are and carry into our work environments to give us identity. Our central atrium is aglow with these colours throughout the day, and in the hours of darkness they enliven this central area. The colours brighten our spirits and workforce and make NGA a great place to work."

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