I was invited along with TV Tech Editor in Chief Tom Butts to tour the new headquarters of the National Association of Broadcasters at 1 M Street Southeast in Washington last week.
Any trade association that lobbies Congress desires an impressive home, ideally near the Capitol; and this facility certainly fits the bill.
Having attended the groundbreaking six years ago, I was eager to see the results. The building was originally expected to open in 2018 but was slowed by various factors including permit delays. NAB moved in April 2020, just as the pandemic was hitting, and employees began returning last summer. They are now on a hybrid schedule.
What follows is a photo essay of images provided by NAB, LG Business Solutions and my own iPhone, taken during our tour.
NAB owns the 11-story, 118,000-square-foot building and occupies six floors, leasing the rest. There is a conference center on the top two floors and retail spaces on the first floor. The LEED Silver building was designed by architectural firm HOK (which also did the new BBC Studios headquarters). It is located in the new, very popular Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.
The ground-floor entrance shown below serves all building occupants, who are welcomed by a carpet declaring the address: “1M.” The lobby includes a 22-foot-wide by 20-foot-tall LG LED Signage video display that can be used for high-profile branding and messaging and is visible from the sidewalk, which gets a lot of public foot traffic including games at nearby Nationals Park.
As one NAB exec put it, “We want to send a message that we represent an industry that is on the cutting edge across the board, from public policy to programming to technology.”
You would want to make a bold first impression on a visitor. Well, below is what you see as you get off the elevator and enter the NAB lobby on the 10th floor. This large reception area and its striking video display have a lounge area with skyline views as a backdrop. Technology solutions provider Diversified, audiovisual consultant Miller, Beam and Paganelli, design firm Hickok Cole and commercial display provider LG Business Solutions played key roles in how the facility looks.
That display behind the reception desk is a transparent video wall that allows you to see through the video messaging and TV content to the skyline. The LG wall is made up of six 55-inch transparent OLED panels; the display measures 144 inches diagonally, and can show live TV programming and NAB messaging as one large image or as six separate screens running different content.
The video wall is flanked by vertically mounted LG displays for additional communications; you can see one on the left in the photo above.
The spacious lobby offers sweeping views that include the Washington Monument.
Large touchscreens on one side of the lobby highlight the radio and television recipients of the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame through images, video and audio clips. The old NAB lobby had nice, but traditional bronze plaques. This multimedia experience is a dramatic upgrade:
This exhibit uses five 55-inch 4K UHD LED displays in a 5×1 configuration, with the touchscreen overlay so you can navigate the content. When you stand there you really want to play around with it.
Early inductees of the Hall of Fame are remembered with photos and audio clips, like Ronald Reagan below. The display also includes acceptance speech videos by more recent honorees like Delilah.
As you walk around the building, glass and fine wood surfaces dominate meeting spaces, and there are lots of views. This photo of a hallway and meeting areas gives you a flavor of the design aesthetic of the overall project.
Signage and branding throughout the NAB offices are top-notch. The sophisticated system of monitors, screens and projectors allows a great deal of customization of meeting spaces and common areas.
On floors 5 through 9, visitors are greeted by 65-inch 4K Ultra HD displays showing NAB messaging as they exit the elevator; there’s also one in the CEO Team Room. There are another five conference rooms as well as executive offices and team rooms, and most of them also feature digital displays.
Also on the 10th floor is a large multi-purpose Conference Center that can be divided into three rooms with drop-down walls, shown below.
One end of this room is dominated by an LG LED Signage UHD video wall. It is 32 feet wide, gulp. A boardroom on a different floor has a 98-inch version. While taking us around, Michael Tow, NAB senior VP of IT, used his laptop to demonstrate how easily a user can change the graphics or videos on this or any screen in the place.
Clearly this would be a great place for business meetings. (During our visit, the NAB staff was preparing to host the General Assembly of AIR IAB, the International Association of Broadcasting.)
The hallways and offices also offer numerous fun visual references to radio, TV and film. Little things like that can can leave a lasting impression. Below, see the treatment of the meeting room windows at left, reminiscent of a Golden Age radio; and by the elevator doors note the countdown graphic that doubles as a floor number.
The Gordon Smith Conference Room, named for the former association president/CEO, is on the eighth floor. Another conference room is named for Walter Cronkite.
And here is the entrance to the fifth-floor NAB Innovation Center, which comprises the NAB Technology Lab, another conference room and the new NAB media production facility.
The production facility will be used to create national spots, branded educational content, PSAs, podcasts and material for NAB events and trade shows. Radio World and TV Tech were among the first visitors.
Its studio, below, has a curved, 15-foot interactive video wall/backdrop, energy-saving LED lighting and robotic cameras.
Vice President of Media Production Michael Khatcheressian is an Emmy-winning producer so he knows how to use tools like this to maximum effect.
Logos on the large video display include companies that donated equipment and design services. Below is a view into the studio from its control room. The suite is capable of 8K post-production. An audio room was located to my right, not visible in the photo.
NAB Executive Vice President of Industry Affairs April Carty-Sipp was explaining the uses of the room:
Nearby is the new home of the NAB Technology Lab.
Its mission statement hangs on the wall: “The NAB Technology Team serves the members and the National Association of Broadcasters as the trusted resource for technical expertise and guidance. We provide leadership as technology innovators, educators and advocates. We work to strengthen current broadcast services and to foster new media opportunities.”
A more succinct motto hangs on another wall: “We improve lives through broadcast technology and broadcaster innovation.”
The large lab room has equipment for testing and research work in both video and radio. Several high-end video monitors face a couple of comfortable chairs for viewing.
Members of the team posed for me, below. From left, Kelly Williams is vice president, engineering and technology policy at NAB. Lynn Claudy is senior vice president of technology. David Layer, well known to Radio World readers, is vice president, advanced engineering. Joining us via telepresence on the mobile monitor in front was John Clark, executive director of the PILOT technology initiative, who talked with us about the Android Automotive reference application that PILOT has built.
The racks behind them in the photo are the lab’s radio test bed, where the engineers can do interference measurements. Below, David Layer gives us a closeup. The equipment in these racks essentially constitutes three AM and three FM radio stations. This gear has been used in lab testing of all-digital AM HD Radio and in verification of MP11 mode for FM HD Radio. Until the new headquarters opened, this equipment had resided at the offices of consulting firm Cavell-Mertz & Associates in northern Virginia.
As you know, the NAB also honors industry engineers. In its lab, you can bring up information about the recipients of the NAB Radio and TV Engineering Achievement Awards, going all the way back to John Wilner of Hearst Corp., the first recipient in 1959.
Near the lab is a conference room that is named after former NAB President/CEO Eddie Fritts. It includes a display of images from his career as one of the association’s most important leaders of the 20th century. (Also visible is the posted “social distancing capacity.” A sign of the times.)
There is also an NAB staff fitness center, an IT Counter-Intelligence Center (another sign of the times), staff project rooms and an open team room for the conventions department.
Of course, the offices also include cubicle work areas like the one below. One hundred and fifty desks around the building are outfitted with 34-inch curved LG monitors (instead of dual displays).
You can see why LG has been highlighting this installation; in fact according to an LG press release, NAB and LG are planning to use the space as a showcase for businesses in the Washington metro area looking for new technologies.
We visited on a Friday, and given that NAB is working on a hybrid workflow policy like so many organizations, it wasn’t surprising that the building wasn’t too busy that day.
But when looking to relax, staff or visitors can head to this 9th-floor café area below. Not visible in the photo are banks of TV monitors that hang above the coffee machine and other amenities, playing various broadcast channels.
I mentioned fun visual references, and this one speaks for itself:
The whimsy also extends to signs on the bathroom doors, where a camerawoman and dude with a microphone can be found.
We finished our tour at the spot below, a nice patio venue on the 9th floor for events or meetings when weather allows. This outdoor area overlooks South Capitol Street to the left; here we are facing to the north and can see the U.S. Capitol.
The skyline in this part of town is changing so fast that you never know if a given view will still be there in a year or two, though there is an historic church right across M Street whose low profile should assure that at least part of this viewscape remains open.
The new headquarters of NAB is sure to impress its visitors, broadcasters and members of Congress who will come through its doors.
Our final photo, from the main NAB lobby, is a reminder of the names of Hall of Fame broadcasters and radio and TV programs that have had such an impact on American life.
Our thanks to Ann Marie Cumming, Zamir Ahmed and Alex Siciliano of the NAB communications team for taking time to show us around.