Client Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation

Saint John Paul II National Shrine

Washington, DC

For a decade, Cardinal Adam J. Maida thought of capturing the legacy of his pontificate with a facility similar to a U.S. presidential library. Pope John Paul II suggested a place “to contribute, using technology, to making the Church and her message better known and understood." The facility is a scholarly study center and interactive museum dedicated to religion and modern cultural issues.
LEO A DALY was hired at the site selection stage. The late Pope suggested Washington, DC over international sites, and the foundation chose an urban park near The Catholic University of America. Conceptual drawings were used to raise funds. After successful fundraising, we designed a contemporary building that integrates art, architecture, technology and expresses the more traditional vocabulary found in Catholic architecture.

The 100,000-SF structure with a sweeping copper roof offers open, light-filled interiors housing exhibits connected on three floors by gently sloped, translucent walkways. The top story houses the foundation’s Intercultural Forum, an endowed think tank open to 12 visiting scholars at a time. LEO A DALY hired exhibits consultant Edwin Schlossberg, who incorporated smart cards into the interactive exhibits. They are used to obtain real-time input from visitors and the tracking of guests to determine exhibit activity.

At a glance

Interactive museum

Gallery space


Scholar's library


Award for Excellence in Conceptual Design
American Institute of Architects, Virginia Chapter

Award for Excellence in Architecture
American Institute of Architects, Virginia Chapter

Religious Art and Architecture Award
IFRAA / Faith & Forum


Architectural Design




Master Planning

Site Planning

Exhibit Programming and Design

Interior Design 

" of the more compelling works of architecture to go up in the Washington area in the last few years... this emphatic modernist statement comes as a shock when it first pops into view... already is an architectural landmark of a high order - an at-times exhilarating demonstration of architecture's power to move the soul."