Something incredible is afoot at the National Building Museum. Created by an act of Congress in 1980, the museum has become a leading institution covering many facets of the built environment. As a center for discussion and debate, the museum regularly produces programs, publications and exhibitions on a range of topics, from architecture and construction to development and urban planning. In the last five years, the National Building Museum has begun hosting a “Summer Block Party,” a program that takes over the Great Hall and features wonderfully surprising large-scale exhibitions.
Featuring some of the world’s leading architects and designers, from Bjarke Ingels with BIG to Jeanne Gang with Studio Gang and James Corner Field Operations, the exhibits have raised the bar for public engagement and interaction. Designed to entertain, delight and inform, this new class of exhibits are as surprising as they are imaginative and serious. For those that can’t make it to Washington D.C. this summer, join us as we dive in and explore the museum’s inspiring new block parties.
Taking the form of an underwater world and glacial ice fields, ICEBERGS was made with a 20-foot “water line” to bisect the Great Hall. Large polycarbonate icebergs were designed among the water, and the forms were made with reusable construction materials to address concerns like climate change and material waste.
Exploring the hottest and coldest parts of the planet through BIG’s design solutions, the HOT TO COLD exhibition examined cultural and climatic contexts. Over 60 3D models were suspended in the National Building Museum’s Great Hall to reveal different formal and spatial architectural investigations designed by BIG.
Created by Studio Gang for the 2017 Summer Block Party, Hive was made as an interactive space that would “buzz with activity and sound.” Made with wound and stacked paper tubes, the project was interlocked to create three domed chambers. Inside, silver and magenta colors contrast with the National Building Museum’s columns and interior.
Curated and designed by Yugon Kim and Tomomi Itakura, founding partners of the Boston-based architectural design firm ikd, Timber City was formed with prefabricated wood walls, architectural models and large-scale samples of mass timber. The exhibition highlighted timber technology and manufacturing to demonstrate its viability in modern construction.
Designed to bring the “fun of the beach indoors,” Snarkitecture’s design is an interactive installation with an interior enclosure. The BEACH was made with wooden panels, scaffolding and perforated mesh clad in white. Visitors are invited to swim through an ocean of recyclable translucent plastic balls.
Built in 2014, the BIG Maze is a maple plywood structure formed with twists and turns. The design encourages visitors to explore and weave through different routes as the square plan was carved out to reveal shorter height walls near the maze’s center.