After closing to the public for three months, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., has announced it will reopen its doors on March 13 with an exhibition showcasing the work of architectural photographer Alan Karchmer. The museum’s popular long-term exhibitions, including House & Home and PLAY WORK BUILD, will also reopen.

The National Building Museum, housed in the grand Renaissance Revival-style former Pension Bureau building, was shuttered to complete an extensive renovation headed by the General Services Administration. As part of the renovation, the aging concrete flooring in the 1887 building’s soaring Grand Hall, backdrop to numerous special events and the museum’s immersive annual Summer Block Party installations, was replaced with a modern foundation.

A new ticketing gallery and visitor’s center was also built out, and the museum’s second-floor classrooms were converted into an exhibition space as part of the overhaul. The Karchmer exhibition, Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer, will debut in this new space.

Originally trained at Tulane University as an architect, the D.C.-based Karchmer is one of the world’s preeminent photographers of contemporary architecture and the built environment. Over his career, Karchmer has stunningly captured the oft-difficult-to-capture work of numerous renowned architects and firms including, Santiago Calatrava, Tadao Ando, TEN Arquitectos, and Perkins + Will, among others. He’s photographed everything from the Morphosis-designed recreational center at the University of Cincinnati to Moshe Safdie’s airport expansion in Tel Aviv.

Self-taught as a photographer, “Karchmer combines his direct knowledge of the design process with his own artistic vision to express the essence of a building,” according to a press statement from the National Building Museum.

In 2019, the National Building Museum announced Karchmer’s gifting of his professional archive in its entirety to the museum while “still in the prime of his career.” Several pieces from this collection will be shown as part of the upcoming exhibition. Personal photographs and artifacts of Karchmer’s will also be on display alongside his professional commissioned photography, which has been widely published and featured in previous photography exhibitions at the National Building Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Julius Shulman Institute, and elsewhere.

“While the exhibition will feature numerous large prints of photographs of remarkable beauty,” said the museum, “it will also include didactic displays examining the technical and creative processes underlying such images, as well as the role of luck in achieving a particular image. It will thus illuminate why certain images are so successful in expressing both the physical and emotional aspects of architecture.”

Last month, the National Building Museum revealed that it had commissioned the Folger Shakespeare Library to conceive this summer’s “Elizabethan-inspired” Summer Block Party installation. As AN has noted, this is a dramatic departure for the crowd-drawing series given that the museum has traditionally enlisted architecture firms such as Snarkitecture, Bjarke Ingels Group, and most recently, LAB at Rockwell Group to transform the Grand Hall into an air-conditioned and Instagram-ready design destination. Titled Shakespeare’s Playhouse, the installation opens July 4.

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