INTELSAT Headquarter Building

Completed in 1984, the INTELSAT Headquarter Building evoked “the space-city imagery of Star Wars” through its Modernist architecture.

“[H]alf way to the Maryland line is a startling apparition: seemingly a huge jeweled fortress with gleaming turrets, set on a wooded hill.” Architecture magazine critic, 1985

Designed by architect John Hamilton Andrews, the INTELSAT office building is a distinctly Modernist  complex, identifiable through its glass and metallic silver finishes, modular and segmented design, and irregular, octagonal collection of office “pods.”

Established in 1964 as a public-private consortium of eighteen countries dedicated to providing telecommunications internationally, the INTELSAT Organization grew substantially in its first decade of operation. The membership expanded from 18 countries to 86 by 1974, and by 2001, 150 countries had joined. INTELSAT focused on ensuring that appropriate satellite communications were equitably available across the world, providing service to economically underdeveloped countries and developed countries alike.

Previously housed in cramped headquarters at 409 L’Enfant Plaza SW, INTELSAT’s new campus at 3400 International Drive NW occupied 11.75 acres with wooded open spaces in Northwest Washington, just off Connecticut Avenue. The building itself is primarily composed of 13 octagonal office pods connected through six open atria covered by glass cupolas. Upon completion, the building invited intense criticism and praise from both architectural experts and neighboring Washingtonians.

The INTELSAT building is architecturally significant as a prime example of Modernist architecture and as a pioneer in “green” engineering. The structure utilized numerous construction techniques that resulted in dramatic reductions in energy usage, and remains an example for energy-conscious architects and builders today.

INTELSAT sold the building in 2012, and the Whittle International School opened their doors in the fall of 2019.

DC Inventory: April 25, 2019



3400 International Drive NW Washington DC 20008