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National Building Museum

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National Building Museum Review

Devoted to architecture, design, landscaping, and urban planning, the National Building Museum is the nation's premier cultural organization devoted to the built environment. The open interior of the mammoth redbrick edifice is one of the city's great spaces, and has been the site of many presidential inaugural balls. The eight central Corinthian columns are among the largest in the world, rising to a height of 75 feet. Although they resemble Siena marble, each is made of 70,000 bricks that have been covered with plaster and painted. For years, the annual Christmas in Washington TV special has been filmed in this breathtaking hall.

Highlights

The long-term exhibition House & Home features a kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that takes visitors on a tour of houses both surprising and familiar, through past and present, exploring American domestic life and residential architecture.

In PLAY WORK BUILD, children and adults alike are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild with blocks–small, big, and virtual.

Among the most popular permanent exhibits is the Building Zone, where kids ages two to six can get a hands-on introduction to building by constructing a tower, exploring a kid-size playhouse, or playing with bulldozers and construction trucks.

There is also a constant series of temporary exhibits: recent ones have covered environmentally sustainable schools and historic building techniques; the upcoming Designing for Disaster demonstrates plans for disaster-resilient communities.

Tips

Free historic building tours are offered daily at 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30.

Interactive Discovery Cart programs for children ages five and up are offered at 10:30 and 2:30 on Saturday and 11:30 and 2:30 on Sunday.

Before entering the building, walk down its F Street side. The terra-cotta frieze by Caspar Buberl between the first and second floors depicts soldiers marching and sailing in an endless procession around the building. The architect, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' General Montgomery C. Meigs, lost his eldest son in the Civil War, and, though the frieze depicts Union troops, he intended it as a memorial to all who were killed in the bloody war.

Find the café in the museum's Great Hall, and don't miss the highly regarded shop.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 401 F St. NW, between 4th and 5th Sts. Downtown, Washington, DC 20001 | Map It
  • Phone: 202/272–2448
  • Cost: Free; temporary exhibits $8; Building Zone $8
  • Hours: Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 11–5, Building Zone until 4
  • Website:
  • Metro Judiciary Sq. or Gallery Pl./Chinatown.
  • Location: Downtown
Updated: 06-05-2013

Fodorite Reviews

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    National Building Museum Review

    Walking into the National Building Museum is awe-inspiring because of the 75 foot tall Corinthian columns in a magnificent Great Hall. There's a reason why Inaugural Balls happen here. The public spaces of the building make great spots to read and people watch, especially watching kids and school groups build arches, domes, and cities. The exhibits are design-centric, shows like World's Fairs of the 1930s and the Italian Rennaissance architect Andrea Palladio and his influence on Thomas Jefferson and many public buildings on the east coast. The Museum is free.

    by clainDC, 12/16/10

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