Ever wonder what it would take to be James Bond, Jason Bourne or another notorious spy? SPYSCAPE, a recently opened experiential museum in New York, provides the answer by giving attendees the opportunity to enter the world of special agents, covert operations and secret missions.
Created by Adjaye Associates, SPYSCAPE is deceptive from the outside, appearing like any conventional Midtown Manhattan office building. But, a step inside its darkened doors reveals a futuristic and imposing interior with deep grey cement walls, polished black floors and a breathtakingly high ceiling. Even the museum’s lobby recalls the sleek architecture and shadowy color palate of intelligence agencies and top-secret headquarters.
The intrigue builds from there as viewers move through the museum. Fitted with a unique identity band that records each visitor’s performance in four Spy Challenges and personality tests prompted at minimalistic question stations, viewers are led into an enormous elevator. This seemingly innocuous elevator transforms, as the doors close, into a dizzying immersive video installation. Developed by the same studio that created the visual effects for films like Ex-Machina and Blade Runner 2049, the video not only briefs incoming spies on how to maneuver through SPYSCAPE, but also narrates a short history of spying, culminating in the most prevalent form of surveillance today–our smartphones.
Reaching the third floor, a monumental LED light installation introduces viewers into the labyrinth-like exhibition spaces. SPYSCAPE is divided into seven rooms that investigate different facets of spying including intelligence, surveillance, cyber-warfare and hacking. While historic pieces such as the iconic code-breaking Enigma machine from World War II are on display, SPYSCAPE isn’t an ordinary museum with antiquated objects in vitrines and dry wall texts. Each gallery presents numerous video projections, moving portraits of notable figures, like British code breaker Alan Turing and NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and impressive installations, including an entire central wall of Guy Fawkes masks, associated with the hacking group Anonymous.