Saturday, December 11, 2010

National Building Museum: More than Bricks

Building exterior from 5th Street.
West view of the Great Hall from second level
View from F Street, location of main entrance
Though the visit to the National Building Museum was to see the LEGO exhibition, the building that houses it is itself worth more than a few glances. Based on designs of a Roman palazzo, the red brick exterior hides a stunning interior atrium.

The atrium known as the Great Hall is dominated by eight colossal Corinthian columns painted to resemble marble. They are among the tallest interior columns in the world at a height of 75 feet. Step up to the second floor and visitors can definitely experience that 'wow' factor of the vast space.

The hall is much sought-after for gala events including the annual Christmas in Washington celebration attended by the President and First Lady and one location of the official Presidential inaugural balls.

Detail of Corinthian columns.
Preparations underway for the annual Christmas
in Washington event.
Also of note is a frieze sculpture (decorative band on the outside wall) in a continuous 1,200 feet (365 meters) parading over 1,300 figures. The sculpture depicts the Civil War.

Formerly the Pension Bureau building and completed in 1887, the structure has housed various federal government offices and was even considered for demolition when it fell into disrepair in the 1960s. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, Congress created the National Building Museum and renamed the building as such in 1997. The purpose of the museum is to educate people about the built environment and its impact on their lives.

More info at Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-pm; Sun 11am-5pm. Admission is free; $5 per person donation suggested. Admission for special exhibitions. A Firehook Bakery and Coffee House located at the museum with seating in the Great Hall. The Judiciary Square Metro subway station is located across the street.

Ground level view of Great Hall
Detail of Civil War frieze over main entrance.
One of four markers representing the art of building
located at each corner of the location of the museum.


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