Rogallo Museum of Low-Speed Flight


Location: Nags Head, North Carolina
Project Size: 11,000 SF
Status: In-Progress

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are renowned for their natural beauty and ecological diversity. Hallmarks of the islands—reliable winds, soft and sandy landing areas, and a horde of outdoor enthusiasts—have also led to area’s recognition as the birthplace of flight. Many know the of the Wright brothers’ story, but fewer know about the significant contributions of Frances and Gertrude Rogallo to low-speed flight, their inventions, and their incredible story.

The Rogallo Foundation is developing the Museum of Low-Speed Flight to embody and showcase the significant contributions of the Rogallos to aviation, their inventions, and their incredible story. The museum will be dedicated to the development, enthusiasm, adventures, and excitement of the worldwide sports of hang gliding, paragliding, flexible wing ultralighting, parachuting, and kiting. The museum is located in Jockey’s Ridge State Park, North Carolina’s most visited state park. The building is sited alongside the existing visitor center and hang gliding school to create a cluster that minimizes environmental disturbance while realizing the synergy between the buildings’ programs. A series of boardwalks helps tie the museum’s circulation into the existing site circulation and ultimately brings visitors out to the dunes.  

The design captures the thrill of flying and uses the process of taking flight as the means for organizing the museum and its program. Museum visitors experience the history and legacy of low-speed flight by ascending a ramp mimicking the experience of hang gliding. The ramp winds through a double-height space that enables gliders and other artifacts to be hung from the ceiling, thereby allowing visitors to experience the exhibits from a variety of vantage points.  This dynamic experience culminates in an overlook that further connect visitors to the park’s natural environment and recreational opportunities by allowing views over and to the forest, dunes, and sound.

The building is a derivative of the steel-framed hangars that typically house aircraft, creating a repetitive structure and enabling the second floor overlook. A lower volume houses the supporting program and is clad in alternating swaths of metal panel or glass. The upper volume is wrapped in corrugated metal cladding to play off of the lapped shingle siding of the existing visitor center buildings. Inside the museum, the ramp’s pivotal role in guiding the museum experience is celebrated through a playful punch of color reminiscent of the colorful fabric found in hang gliders.