Renderings provided by Payette show the approach to the main entrance from the river walk and City Pier Plaza.

Building the Museum

The National Coast Guard Museum building is in the final design stages by project architect Payette. Over the past year they have worked to incorporate feedback from a broad range of constituencies while simultaneously developing the design as a home for the Coast Guard’s heritage and a signature element on the downtown New London skyline.

The updates include a reorientation of the building’s front door, reduction in the extent of the glass façade, and the addition of an iconic sail motif to the riverside façade. These refinements reflect a desire to better integrate the building into the city, maximize its environmental stewardship, and optimize the gallery design to flexibly support museum operations long into the future.

"Every museum should have its defining moment and for the National Coast Guard Museum, a rescue helicopter over the entrance was a perfect opportunity. We are honored to design a museum that recognizes the heroic efforts of Coast Guard men and women around the world.”
—Project Architect Charles Klee, Payette

Museum Association staff engaged with the Coast Guard, federal and state agencies and other community stakeholders during the Environmental Assessment process as part of the National Environmental Policy Act. Feedback from this process is incorporated into this updated design. 

We invited the The Connecticut State Historical Preservation Office to participate in the review of the modern building in the heart of the historic New London waterfront. They responded enthusiastically to the approach that provides space around iconic Union Station and welcomed development of the new curved pedestrian access walkway that protects the open Parade Plaza and provides new vistas of the train station and into the waterfront. 

The current design shifts the face of the museum building, from the east riverside facade in previous iterations, to the south façade at City Pier Plaza, creating a stronger connection to the City of New London. The entrance reinforces the museum’s relationship with the public park along the waterfront.  A five-story glass atrium at the southeast corner of the building maintains views to and from Union Station and the waterfront. 

 The pedestrian access walkway provides safe passage to the Museum and other waterfront amenities.

The pedestrian access walkway provides safe passage to the Museum and other waterfront amenities.

An historic Fresnel lens will be incorporated in the Museum which demonstrates the rich heritage of various forces, like the Lighthouse Service, that were integrated to form the Coast Guard.

Visitors will enter the museum either from the waterfront park or from the pedestrian bridge above, which links the museum and other riverside amenities to parking, restaurants and the train station. The two entrance options merge within the building in the welcome center of the dramatic atrium space. A rescue helicopter will be prominently displayed overhead, and will serve as the museum’s iconic Coast Guard image. 

Inside, visitors encounter three levels of exhibits, a theatre and a STEM Discovery Center. The top floor of the Museum features event space and a memorial  terrace. 

“We are thrilled with the updates to the design of this complex, multi-modal, urban development project.” says Executive Director CAPT Wes Pulver, USCG (Ret.), “The architects and design consultants have captured our vision and delivered a world-class museum, which we look forward to building.”