Lawn, the interactive exhibition designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group, is now open at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. As the latest iteration of the museum’s Summer Block Party series, the pop-up installation pays tribute to how humans spend time in the many open green spaces that flourish during the sunny season.  

“As we delved deeper into the design process, it became clear that so many of the summertime activities that we look forward to enjoying with friends and family each year take place on a ‘lawn’— whether it’s a yard, a public park, a playground, or a rooftop,” said David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group, in a statement. “Lawn is our celebration of this iconic idea.”  

Photo of large white and blue sign with word LAWN printed on it and a blue checkered carpet below with people hanging around in the National Building Museum

On view through September 2, the temporary installation will simulate an outdoor experience for visitors. (Timothy Schenck)

As the background of several season-long events, the LAB imagined the exhibition as a giant lawn where visitors could come, connect, and play with one another, while also observing the museum’s Renaissance Revival architecture up close. The green expanse was built on a sloping superstructure made of scaffolding that lightly undulates and then levels out towards the center of the museum’s Great Hall. It’s a rectangular space that cuts directly through eight of the parallel Corinthian columns signature to the museum’s interior; they’re among the largest in the world and measure 75 feet tall. Additionally, the LAB suspended blue hammocks from the building’s 100-foot-tall ceiling grid, each of which features audio recordings of stories from Americans such as Venus Williams, Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Stamberg, Jose Andres, and more. 

Also scattered throughout Lawn are sets of white lounge chairs, umbrella stands, and equipment for spontaneous games of cornhole, cricket, bocce ball, and dominoes. The LAB designed a scaffolding tower at the top of the lawn which offers views of the museum’s third floor and the column capitals. The sides of the tower are subtly covered in clouds, which allows it to stand out in contrast to both the dark and light green colors of the lawn. The grass-like floor has a “just-mowed” effect. During the daytime, the sun streams in from the clerestory windows of the museum, giving the installation an outside feel.

Image of sunlight streaming in through upper windows of the National Building Museum Great Hall, reflecting on fake grass of Lawn installation

Each year, the museum invites an architect to create an interactive design for its historic entrance hall. (Timothy Schenck)

Another element that contributes to the simulated outdoor experience is the distilled audio of distant crickets chirping, bees buzzing, and lawnmowers at work. The design team collaborated with Yessian Music, a soundscape production company, to envelope the space in these classic summer sounds. Furthermore, the LAB developed an augmented reality game for kids and adults that provides them the chance to chase, collect, and release fireflies throughout the museum. 

On view through September 2, the Lab at Rockwell Group’s Lawn comes on the heels of past exhibitions for the Summer Block Party series by Snarkitecture, Studio Gang, James Corner Field Operations, and Bjarke Ingels Group.

Related Stories