News & Politics

One of Washington’s Oldest Think Tanks Celebrates a $100 Million New Building (Photos)

The new Center for Strategic and International Studies opened with a dinner and music.

A view from the second floor of the lobby of the new CSIS headquarters. The chandelier, designed by Soso, is a world map made from 425 pendant LED lights that can glow brighter to highlight a particular region—for example, one that is making news. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

After 35 years in one downtown building, one of Washington’s best-known think tanks,
the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has moved into a stunning new
$100 million building on Rhode Island Avenue, Northwest, near 16th Street. The members
celebrated on Monday night with a reception, a seated dinner, and a few speeches,
followed by the
pièce de résistance: a rollicking country music performance by
Face the Nation host
Bob Schieffer and his band, Honky Tonk Confidential. Would it shock if I reported that during the
performance, rather than looping arms and dancing do-si-do, the guests—among them
Director of National Intelligence
James Clapper, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former Texas senator
Kay Bailey Hutchison—sat in rows of chairs as if at a seminar? (We did see some tapping toes.)

Besides those named above, the crowd included George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser

Brent Scowcroft, former defense secretary
Bill Cohen, CSIS board chairman
Sam Nunn,
Lynda Bird Robb and
Chuck Robb, former housing and urban development secretary
Carla Hills, EADS North America chairman and CEO
Sean O’Keefe, and dozens of others, who gathered first in the glass-and-marble foyer for cocktails.
Dinner followed on three floors of the building, with tables named after monuments
and popular tourist attractions, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool.

The speeches came after dinner and focused on the achievement of designing and constructing
the new headquarters building. There were remarks from Nunn, CSIS CEO
John Hamre, vice chair
Linda Hart, and finance and audit chairman
Michael Galvin, who said the new building “was about erecting a monument to bipartisanship.” On
its website, CSIS defines its mission as “practical solutions to the world’s greatest

Nunn, a former Georgia senator and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said,
“So many of you here played such a huge role in making this evening and this building
possible. It’s a wonderful night in the history of CSIS.” He cited three trustees
posthumously whom he called instrumental in the success of the organization: former
Merrill Lynch CEO
William Schreyer, diplomat and lawyer
Dick Fairbanks, and former ambassador
Anne Armstrong. “I’m confident they are looking down and smiling on us this evening,” he said. “We
would not be celebrating here tonight without the wisdom and dedication of these three

He called
David Abshire, who was in the audience, “the heart of this institution.” He said to Abshire, “David,
when you started in a small corner office at Georgetown University more than 50 years
ago I doubt you predicted, at least openly, that someday we would have such stately
surroundings as this building . . . but I would bet this building was part of your
long-range strategy.”

Of Bob Schieffer, Nunn said, “I looked up the word ‘legend’ in Webster and it said,
‘An unverified story passed on for the centuries.’ So that’s what we’ve got in just
a few minutes.” Before the band played the first song, Schieffer said he wrote it
for two of the young female members of his band. Its name? “Hot Stuff.”

Here are some facts about the new CSIS building:

Architect: Hickock Cole Architects

Builder: HITT Contracting

Construction hours: 500,000

Number of employees: 300

Square footage: 128,000

Floors: 9, including 3 for conferences and 6 for offices, plus 3 parking levels

Amount of Carrera marble used: 10,000 square feet

LEED Status: Platinum