On View> Designing for Disaster at the National Building Museum


An elevated model home in Biloxi, Mississippi, designed by architect Marlon Blackwell in 2009 as part of an Architecture for Humanity Initiative, incorporates resilient and affordable design with porch living—an important part of local culture. (Timothy Hursley)

Designing for Disaster
National Building Museum
401 F Street NW, Washington, D.C.
Through August 2, 2015

The National Building Museum’s newest exhibition, Designing for Disaster, will explore how communities assess risks from natural hazards and how we can create policies, plans, and designs that create safer, more disaster-resilient communities. The two central questions that the exhibit addresses are where and how we should build.


New Orleans, Louisiana, September 4, 2005. Flooding on Claiborne and Desire Streets was slow to dissipate after levees failed during Hurricane Katrina, causing billions in damages. (Federal Emergency Management Agency Photo Library; photo Liz Roll)


As a result of research conducted after the 1988 Yellowstone Fires, a new fire management plan outlined strict guidelines for managing natural fires and allocated greater funding for fire management. (Billings Gazette, James Woodcock)

Through the use of unique objects, captivating graphics, video testimonials, and more, the exhibition explores new solutions for, and historical responses to a range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, storm surges, floods, sea level rise, tsunamis, and wildfires.

A special focus of the show is disaster-resistant residential designs, which highlight the importance of resilient housing for a future that may involve a greater number of natural disasters. Other typologies are also explored, including hospitals, schools, airports, public arenas, stadiums, fire and police stations, public transportation networks, commercial buildings, and retail outlets.

The selected buildings are geographically dispersed throughout the United States and have each been designed to address at least one sort of natural disaster in an exemplary way.

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