National Building Museum, Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C., United States
The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. is a leading U.S. museum dedicated to the built environment, architecture, engineering, and design.
Founded in 1980, the museum is housed in an imposing late-19th century building designed by U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs. Completed in 1882, the building is an imposing Renaissance-revival brick construction originally created to house the headquarters of the United States Pension Bureau. By the mid-1960s, the Pension Building was in disrepair and at risk of being demolished; yet, architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith successfully proposed to convert it into a museum of the building arts and, after a major restoration and renovation, it reopened as the National Building Museum in 1985.
The Great Hall of the National Building Museum, with its grandiose Corinthian-style columns, is one of the most impressive architectural spaces in Washington.
Another notable feature of the building is a 1200-foot-long terracotta frieze, called United States Soldiers and Sailors of the Civil War, created by German-born American sculptor Caspar Buberl in 1882 and which circles the entire exterior of the museum.
An aerial view of the museum. Image courtesy of the National Building Museum.
The Great Hall. Photo Kyle.tucker95.
An old postcard showing the Pension Office Building before it was converted into the National Building Museum. Image StreetsofWashington.
The permanent collection of the National Building Museum – which covers many subjects related to architecture, engineering, and design – comprises over 150,000 pieces, including drawings, photographs, prints, documents, toys, material samples, architectural elements, and models.
The program of events and activities of the museum features changing exhibitions, site-specific installations commissioned to American and international architects and designers – such as the giant maze designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group in 2014 -, guided tours, festivals, special events, conferences, educational programs for teens, families, schools, and educators, and a summer camp.
The museum, fully accessible to physically impaired people, also accommodates a cafe, and a book & gift shop.
National Building Museum, south counterfacade. Photo Ted Eytan.
“Hot to Cold: an odyssey of architectural adaptation”, National Building Museum, 2015, installation view.
Close-up view of the Civil War frieze by Caspar Buberl (1882). Photo Anne McDonough.
Detail of the Corinthian colonnade of the Great Hall. Photo Sarahtarno.
Cover image, the south facade of the National Building Museum; view from the Judiciary Square subway station. Photo Soomness
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