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Washington, D.C. Sights

National Building Museum

  • 401 F St. NW, between 4th and 5th Sts. Map It
  • Downtown

Updated 05/23/2014

Fodor's Review

Architecture, design, landscaping, and urban planning are the themes of this museum, 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.


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 building 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. On exhibit through May 25, 2015 is Cool & Collected: Recent Acquistions, featuring the work of local sculptor Raymond Kaskey, among other new objects in the museum's collection. Designing for Disaster, through August 2, 2015, demonstrates plans for disaster-resilient communities.


Free historic building tours are offered daily at 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30. Or, you can take a self-guided smartphone audio tour that starts at the information desk.

Interactive Discovery Cart programs for children ages five and up are offered on weekends at 11:45 and 1:45.

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.

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Sight Information


401 F St. NW, between 4th and 5th Sts., Washington, District of Columbia, 20001, United States

Map It




Sight Details:

  • Free; Building Zone and temporary exhibits $8
  • Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 11–5 (Building Zone closes at 4)

Updated 05/23/2014


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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By clainDC

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Dec 16, 2010

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.

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