Posts tagged with "Washington D.C.":

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SHoP Architects makes waves in D.C. with patinated copper and a trio of skybridges

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Located in the heart of staid Washington, D.C., SHoP Architects' 14-story Midtown Center establishes a prominent presence with a contorting copper-and-glass facade and a trio of sky bridges. Opened in September 2018, the one-million-square-foot project stands on the site of the former headquarters of The Washington Post.
  • Facade Manufacturer Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, Tivitec, Soheil Mosun
  • Architects SHoP Architects
  • Facade Installer Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope, Clark Construction
  • Facade Consultants Curtainwall Design Consulting, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
  • Location Washington D.C.
  • Date of Completion September 2018
  • System Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope WT-01 and WT-03
  • Products Pre-patinated copper components, Guardian Climaguard Premium 2T and AGC Stopray Vision 50T, Ipawhite Low-Iron Glass
Built according to a U-shaped layout, the street-facing elevations are defined by sawtooth protrusions on the curtain wall. The projections ripple across the elevation, originating from two corners of the facade and softening toward the center. Each of these three-dimensional units that hang off of the structure’s rectangular mass share a standard width of 5 feet and a height of up to 10 feet. While the use of a traditional material such as copper facilitates a stylistic link between Midtown Center and its historic surroundings, the metallic surface is also performative. The copper accretions are oriented toward the direction of the sun, reducing internal glare and solar heat. Each panel is clipped to the facade system with formed stainless steel angles and pop rivets. The three sky bridges that crisscross above the courtyard echo the use of copper as an exterior detail; approximately 350 vertical fins, two inches wide and five inches deep, line the skyways. Although the fins function as a brise-soleil for the suspended corridors, their primary effect is visual. A rich turquoise rhythm reflects off of the courtyard’s glass modules while ribs create a matrix of shadows below. The fins themselves are bolted to a substructure rail that is held three inches off of the glass by horizontal mullions running across the top and bottom of the sky bridges. To clad the bulk of the enclosure system, SHoP Architects turned to Spanish glass-fabricator Tvitec. For the 4,500 facade panels, the fabricator used Ipawhite low-iron glass subjected to multiple thermal coatings to ensure visibility while meeting thermal control standards. At the ground level, SHoP Architects collaborated with SCAPE to design the publicly accessible 15,000-square-foot courtyard. According to SHoP Founding Principal Gregg Pasquarelli, the design team "took inspiration from Washington's original master plan to create a building that allows the public to angle strategically across the site." Diagonal paths cut through the building, past sunken granite fountains and plots of landscaping.
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D.C.’s newest museum goes underground to explore the American police system

The new National Law Enforcement Museum isn’t easy to find, and that’s a good thing. Tucked beneath Washington, D.C.’s Judiciary Square, the 57,000-square-foot facility, which opened in mid-October, is only visible via two glass pavilions that mark its presence on the street. Driving, walking, or pedaling by, you’d never know that under the asphalt lies a structure that dives deep into the history of the policing profession in the United States. In a recent article, The Washington Post noted that the museum, designed by Davis Buckley Architects and Planners (DBA), “exhibits history with a light touch of controversy.” The architecture goes out of its way to minimize that controversy. An attention-grabbing, large-scale structure would have been a mistake given contemporary anger between local communities and law enforcement agencies. The museum goes underground in an apparent sign of humility, but also largely because of the federal building requirements already in place for that specific site. It’s located under a plaza in front of the historic District of Columbia Courthouse, a striking neoclassical building. The museum's pavilions rise 25-feet above the courthouse square, allowing the landmarked structure to retain clear sight lines of the adjacent National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which DBA completed in 1991. In an effort to respect this context and comply with public law, the museum was constructed below-grade, rendering it nearly invisible to the public. Despite this, the space is more rooted in light than shadow. The semi-submerged three-story building boasts ample natural light thanks to the aforementioned above-ground transparent boxes that serve as the entrance and exit. As the sole points of access to the outside world, these portals enliven what would have otherwise been a claustrophobic sunken space. The architects chose to make light a central feature of the design, which is helpful considering the sometimes somber nature of the museum’s content. DBA, a local firm, has plenty of experience with the difficult nature of designing commemorative architecture. Principals Davis Buckley and Tom Striegel have created award-winning designs all over D.C., most notably the National Japanese American MemorialTheir work is thorough and thoughtful, two major reasons why the non-profit organization in charge of the memorial plaza and garden, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, chose them again to build out the major exhibition space. The museum is the result of a near 20-year effort. In 2000, Congress passed a bill supporting the project that President Clinton signed it into law later that year. Though constructed on federal land and supported by the government, the $103 million museum was entirely funded through private donations raised by the Memorial Fund. Nearly a quarter of the money was raised through an annual police bike-riding fundraiser. This allowed the vision for the museum to be dictated solely by its supporters. Based on this timeline, the museum's creation was not intended to be a response to this current political moment, but it's hard to detach from the fact that it came online this year at the height of 21st-century racial tension and police brutality in the U.S. The exhibits, as well as, the building's design, don't explicitly confront these issues. Since the museum opened, it’s maintained a relatively low-profile for smart-but-obvious reasons. According to Rebecca Looney, lead director of exhibits and programs, it isn’t here to address current national politics but to give civilians a “walk in their shoes” experience of what it’s like to be in law enforcement. For all intents and purposes, the museum does just that. With an extensive collection of over 20,000 artifacts from historic moments in our nation’s history, such as the handcuffs used by police to arrest Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin to the bulletproof vest that Al Capone wore, anyone who is remotely interested in crime will be gripped. The curation even caters to pop culture enthusiasts with RoboCop’s full costume and clips of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When a visitor steps into the facility, they get a sweeping view of almost the entire exhibition space simply from traversing the curved, second-floor walkway. With a sneak peek of what’s to come, people of all ages can zero in on the interactive exhibition they’d like to view first, whether it’s hearing about how cops train search-and-sniff dogs or taking a faux emergency call at a police dispatcher’s console. Many of these exhibits are laid out within a single, spacious room that makes other over-crowded local museums seem even more stifling. Several of the museum’s exhibits look at law enforcement through the lens of heroism, but none more respectfully than the small room known as the “Hall of Remembrance.” Photos of officers who have died this year in the line of duty are displayed in row after row on the room's back wall. It’s a startling view, given the wall is nearly full with well over 300 people. The headshots will rotate each year, according to Looney, and will play a special role in National Police Week every May when officers and their families visit for the first time. Other media exhibits show how law enforcement responded to and worked with communities after September 11, 2001, and the Emanuel 9 massacre, among other recent tragedies. One of the museum’s main offerings is a 20-minute introductory video that details the history of law enforcement and current issues officers face every day in police work. It’s set inside a striking, 111-seat theater with dramatic acoustics. According to Looney, weighty topics like police brutality and corruption within the profession won’t be explored in the museum’s main exhibits but will be part of educational programming and temporary shows when possible. Critics are already calling this a major flaw and a missed opportunity.   The National Law Enforcement Museum's completion comes on the heels of the David Adjayedesigned Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which opened in September of 2016. The two museums are starkly different. While the NMAAHC gives much more space to the Black Lives Matter movement and the relationship between the African American community and the police, the law enforcement museum only dips briefly into those issues, touching on the 2014 shooting and subsequent riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe this will change, maybe it won't.   Regardless, the NMAAHC rightfully stands tall in all the glory that its 100-plus years of planning should produce. The Davis Buckley–designed museum for law enforcement—while hidden—is full of light, exuding a subtle poise, and perhaps providing a much-needed point of connection for the American people who are having trouble relating to or caring for law enforcement today. Only time will tell if it makes an impact on our cultural divide. At the very least, the museum will be a place of solace for friends and family who have lost loved ones in this profession, and for those who serve today. The National Law Enforcement Museum is located at 444 E St. NW in Washington, D.C. It’s open Sunday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Buy tickets here.
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Trump’s Parks Department explores restricting spaces for protest in D.C.

Public commentary ends tonight on a proposed rule that may restrict protests from occurring in front of the White House and along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Atlantic reported that the National Park Service (NPS), which manages those lands, put out a proposal in mid-August to revise special regulations concerning how certain landmark locations could be used in the future as spaces to exercise free speech, put on peaceful protests, and host sporting or entertainment events. According to the draft rule, the NPS aims to “provide greater clarity to the public about how and where demonstrations and special events may be conducted in a manner that protects and preserves the cultural and historic integrity of these areas.” These distinguished areas include the National Mall and Memorial Parks as well as President’s Park, the three connected landscapes surrounding the White House. Within that grouping is Lafayette Park to the north of the president’s home, a site that’s long been the stage of last-minute political gatherings and demonstrations. It’s bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue and the perimeter fence that separates the White House back lawn from the public. With the new rule, the NPS seeks to limit the number of people allowed in some of these areas and, in more extreme cases, prohibit public access altogether. The changes would specifically restrict access at the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The same restrictions, made to “preserve an atmosphere of contemplation,” were placed decades ago at some of D.C.’s older monuments. Permanent security zones will also be set up in President’s Park (largely south of the White House) while Lafayette Park and the White House north sidewalk will remain places for planned demonstrations. In addition, the NPS wants to potentially increase the cost of permit applications for hosting demonstrations in the capital city and cap the amount of time needed for advance notice of such gatherings. Per the draft rule, this is all in an effort to recover the costs of event management, clean-up, and more. Public comment ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. So far, 36,596 comments have been received.
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Trump appoints opponent of Gehry’s Eisenhower Memorial to D.C. planning agency

President Trump has appointed National Civic Art Society President Justin Shubow to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, an independent federal agency that oversees the design and construction of all buildings, monuments, and memorials in Washington, D.C. Shubow will join six other presidential appointees on the commission to review all new projects in accordance with the 1901–1902 McMillan Plan, which laid out the National Mall and surrounding monuments. The commission was started in 1910 and has since assisted the District in building out its ever-evolving landscape.  Shubow made headlines in 2014 when he authored a 150-page critique of the controversial Eisenhower Memorial competition. The National Civic Art Society report detailed Shubow’s disapproval of Frank Gehry’s plans to design a monument dedicated to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to an executive summary of the document, Shubow and the Eisenhower family viewed the proposal as a disgrace to the 34th U.S. President:
“The Memorial’s titanic ‘columns’ tower over the stone reliefs of Eisenhower and the puny Ike statute. The result is a Leviathan Memorial swallowing a small-fry Eisenhower. The behemoth commemorates Gehry’s ego, not Eisenhower’s greatness and humility.”
In 2012, Shubow testified to the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks in an effort to pass a bill that would nix Gehry’s design for the memorial once and for all. The bill didn’t pass, and the Commission of Fine Arts approved a revised preliminary design for the project. Congress appropriated $150 million to the memorial in 2017 and the city broke ground on construction last fall. It is scheduled to be finished on May 8, 2020. Shubow has an extensive background discussing architecture, having written about the field for Forbes and served as the current executive director of Rebuild Penn Station. He’s also lectured widely on architecture at universities across the U.S., although he was not trained in the field.
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Artist to transform Hirshhorn Museum into responsive experiences

A new exhibition will bring the immersive environments of Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse will present several of the artist's responsive artworks that use biometric sensors to modulate visual and sonic effects. The works play with the growing ubiquity of public surveillance, frequently used to monitor and control large populations, a topic that designers and artists are increasingly exploring for its ethical and aesthetic implications. Lozano-Hemmer's works in the show record data like heartbeats and fingerprints from visitors and volunteers and translate that information into the gentle pulsing of a field of light bulbs, a projected grid of skin, or waves in a pool of water. The works play with the way sensors can transform biological phenomena into ephemeral robotic effects, in the process dehumanizing the lived experience. Rather than focusing on the political implications of big data collection, the works instead suggest that there might be something beautiful in the role of sensor technology in modern life and that people should feel empowered to assert control over when and how they give their information. The show opens on November 1 and will run through April 28, 2019. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse  Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Independence Avenue and 7th St Washington, D.C. 20560 Free admission
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Arlington National Cemetery adds 27 acres to extend its lifespan through 2050

A 27-acre expansion of Arlington National Cemetery opened yesterday in Arlington, Virginia, with a ceremonial burial for two unknown Union soldiers from the Civil War. The $87-million addition, designed by landscape firm Sasaki, design architect Beyer Blinder Belle, and Jacobs Engineering, added 27,282 interment spaces to the cemetery, including 6,000 pre-dug graves and 16,000 niche wall burial spaces for cremated remains, according to Military Times. The development, dubbed the Millennium Project, began nearly two decades ago when the cemetery announced it would likely run out of space to bury the nation’s veterans by 2040. Currently housing over 400,000 gravesites, Arlington only has about 100,000 spaces left, even after the addition, but the new land will extend the 154-year-old cemetery’s lifespan by 10 years. Construction on the project began in 2014 just above the northwestern part of Arlington’s current plot. The new section takes over land formerly used as a recreation spot for a nearby military base, the cemetery’s construction staging area, and woodlands owned by the National Park Service. The Millenium Project is the first time in 40 years the site has undergone any significant additions, and it won’t be the last. By 2025, another project called the “Southern Expansion” will add 37 acres of land to Arlington, taking over the location of the demolished Navy Annex building. Both projects will provide new, space-saving opportunities for the cemetery. The new addition features pre-placed concrete grave liners that ease grave openings and prevent major amounts of on-site excavation. They boast only a 3-by-8-foot footprint compared to the 5-by-10-foot footprints found throughout the rest of Arlington, wrote Military Times.   Shelters made of granite and concrete were also constructed for the expansion, along with new walkways, stainless-steel step railings, and stone gardens. The landscape additionally features new trees, plantings, and shrubs native to the region. 
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Library of Congress uploads massive collection of Frederick Law Olmsted papers

The Library of Congress announced last week that it has digitized its massive collection of personal papers and correspondence detailing the life and work of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. ARCHITECT reported that the resource comes online ahead of the bicentennial of Olmsted’s birth, which will be celebrated in 2022. Olmsted is best known for designing both Central Park and Prospect Parks in New York, as well as the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Many of his long-loved landscapes across the United States and Canada, including his designs for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and Montreal’s Mont Royal Park, are still vibrantly maintained and visited today. His vision for these sites and more can now be studied via the Olmstead Papers on the Library’s website. The collection includes about 24,000 items—that’s 47,300 images—dating from 1777 to 1952. The bulk of the papers, including family letters, journals, drafts of his articles and books, as well as correspondence with his clients and colleagues, spans from 1838 to 1903. The collection is organized online in eight sections and additionally unveils Olmsted’s project proposals, reports, drawings, speeches, lectures, and his legal and financial records. The papers were acquired by the Library as a gift from Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and other family members from 1947-1948 and 1968-1969. Laura Wood Roper, one of Olmsted’s first biographers, gave the Library nearly 3,000 items in 1975. Two additional items purchased six years later were transferred from the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection to the Olmsted Papers in 1996. According to the Library, the Olmsted Associates Records collection, which documents the work of the architect’s sons and their associates, will also be digitized ahead of the bicentennial celebration.  
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John S. Chase, trailblazing Texas architect, celebrated in two exhibits

John Saunders Chase, FAIA (1925–2012) was a Houston architect who realized a large body of work in the city, throughout the state of Texas, and around the United States. At its peak, his office had nearly fifty employees in four cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Chase, an African American in a profession that has struggled with diversity and discrimination, achieved many historic firsts during his career. His life, as seen via his personal and professional achievements and the work of younger architects who passed through his office, was on display this spring in Chasing Perfection, a two-part exhibit produced by the Houston Public Library. Born in Maryland, John Chase moved to Austin in the late 1940s after receiving initial architectural training at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and serving in the Army during World War II. He applied to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) School of Architecture after the Sweatt v. Painter Supreme Court decision in 1950 that fought the “separate but equal” policy of racial segregation in college education. After graduation, no firm would hire him, so Chase established his own practice in Houston, and in 1956, he became the first African American architect to be licensed in the state. Throughout his career, he designed churches, homes, union halls, libraries, high schools, fire stations, and institutional buildings, including much of the campus of Texas Southern University. He was a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 1970 and received his AIA Fellowship award in 1977. In 1980, Chase was selected by President Jimmy Carter to join the Commission of Fine Arts and was part of that committee during the contentious process of realizing Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. He was the first African American to serve on this commission. During the 1980s, his office was part of a consortium of local architects responsible for the design of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Chase is survived by his wife, Drucie, and their three adult children. According to Danielle Wilson, the exhibition’s curator, discussions about the show began in 2009 with Chase’s participation. At that time, his architectural archive had been donated to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center’s Architectural Archives, and his personal archive was in the process of being donated to the African American Library at the Gregory School. Wilson’s father grew up next to the Chases in Houston, so she was familiar with the family and immediately knew that she wanted to work on a show about the architect when she joined the staff of the Gregory School. After Chase passed away, it took a number of years to assemble the parts for this successful exhibition. On the second floor of the Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston, letters, photographs, and artifacts were installed alongside photographs of built work, architectural drawings, and hand-drawn renderings. Seen together, Chase’s life and work could be understood through the staging of these personal and professional artifacts, sequenced together to tell a holistic life story. Wilson said, “When I think about architects and their work, everything goes all together. I think it’s great when you have that context of both. I think it makes works more powerful.” The room also included a large–scale model and drawings of the George R. Brown Convention Center mounted on a drafting table. At the Gregory School, the work of four architects who worked with Chase is on display and demonstrates the effect his mentorship had on a subsequent generation of African American architects. “When I was focusing on his work and life, it was hard to tell a comprehensive narrative without talking about these men,” Wilson said. Daniel Bankhead, AIA; Darrell Fitzgerald, FAIA; James Harrison; and Wilbert Taylor all worked at various points with Chase and went on to become professional and community leaders themselves. In February, the library hosted a discussion between these architects, in addition to a conversation with Mrs. Chase and her children. Chasing Perfection offered a powerful portrait of a 20th–century American architect through Chase’s life, work, and impact on the profession. Wall text for the exhibit was excerpted from a manuscript titled The Life and Work of Architect John Saunders Chase: You Can Do More from the Inside, by architectural historian Dr. Wesley Henderson with Andrea Lazar. Both worked for two years to conduct interviews with family members, colleagues, and former employees of John Chase. Henderson and Lazar believe that Chase’s life story deserves to be more widely known since very few biographies of successful black architects have been published. They were very pleased to be able to contribute to the show at the Houston Public Library. Chase’s legacy continues to be explored and celebrated. In February, UT Austin announced that it had purchased one of Chase’s early buildings in east Austin to renovate and use as a community engagement center. While Chasing Perfection closed in early June, Wilson says there are already discussions underway about touring the show at other institutions. She also said a brochure from Chase’s firm and drawing supplies from his office were recently acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Wilson added that she and Mrs. Chase are “going to go through his personal archives to see what materials might go to the NMAAHC, and the rest will be housed at the African American Library at the Gregory School.” Chase is an important figure among the talented architects who practiced in Houston during the second half of the 20th century. His career opened the door for many architects of color to enter the profession, and he serves as an example of the countless ways in which an architect can effect positive change in the world.

Chasing Perfection: The Work and Life of Architect John S. Chase Houston Public Library Julia Ideson Building

Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase The African American Library at the Gregory School

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Washington, D.C., turns recycling trucks into art

In an effort to encourage locals to reduce landfill waste and pollution, Washington, D.C. has relaunched a beloved program that wraps recycling trucks in brightly-colored art. The “Designed to Recycle” initiative, put on by the Department of Public Works, selected 15 local artists this year to design graphic artwork for the trucks this summer. Last week, the city released the first two of the newly-wrapped trucks and will continue to launch them in weekly pairs through September 6. The program, which started in 2015, also plans to rewrap and “refresh” five of the trucks that received the treatment during the inaugural year. The project is funded by the Commission on the Arts and Humanities and is part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s commitment to expanding the creative economy in the city. “Through the Design to Recycle Project, we are able to support and showcase the talent of our local artists, further enhance the visibility of the city’s recycling efforts, and add to the creative landscape of the District in all eight wards,” said Angie Gates, interim director for the commission, in a statement. As one of the country’s leaders in sustainability and efforts to address climate change, D.C. has worked tirelessly to advance its zero waste goals and introduce green building laws into its current construction market. Here are the 15 selected designs along with the artists: Waste Not by Nicole Hamam; Recycle Now by Michael Marshall Design; Urban Jungle by Jackie Coleman; Nurturing Nature by Kofi Tyus; Untitled by Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann; Untitled by Dean Kessman; Recycled Fish by Carly Rounds;  Evolution with an “R” by Gordon Steven Spencer Davis II; Mapping by Santiago Flores-Charneco; Inform, Reduce, Recycle by Minsoo Kang & Andre Sanchez-Montoya; Untitled by Anne Masters; Pop District by Sarah, James & Parvina Gilliam; Recycled Flowers by John Gann; Nuestra Terra I recycle DC by Nicolas F. Shi; and Fair Chard Value by Michael Crossett.
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Snarkitecture swings for the fences with All-Star Game installation

The 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. may have already passed, but the MLB Assembly, a weeklong collection of art, architecture, fashion, and food projects centered around baseball, is worth revisiting. New York-based Snarkitecture contributed to the Assembly, which ran from July 13 through July 16, with their Field installation. Visitors to the Wharf’s District Pier were greeted with a rising forest of baseball bats supported on white plinths and arranged into four diamonds that referenced the layout of a baseball field. At the beginning of Field’s four-day installation, 1,100 baseball bats were mingled with 200 billets, or unfinished raw wood cylinders. A woodturner was stationed in a booth behind the installation and using a lathe, they converted the billets into fresh bats. The project was envisioned as an interactive exhibition, where visitors would enter the rising arrangement of baseball bats and uncover the performance on the other side. Field was constantly evolving and on the last day of the exhibition, the billets had all been swapped out for finished bats. Field was not the only immersive Snarkitecture installation available to those in D.C. Fun House, the sprawling 10-year retrospective of the firm’s work, is on display in the lobby of the National Building Museum for the rest of the summer, and the same sense of spontaneity brought to Field permeates that show.
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Design for Native American Veterans Memorial reflects “very deep kind of patriotism”

Few know that Native Americans are more likely than any other population group to serve in the U.S. armed forces. A new National Native American Veterans Memorial spotlights the contributions and sacrifices of Native Americans who have served. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. has recently selected the design by artist Harvey Pratt titled “Warriors’ Circle of Honor.” The memorial will break ground in 2019 and is expected to open in the following year. According to a statement from the Smithsonian Museum, Pratt designed “an elevated stainless steel circle” built on a stone fountain in the shape of a drum. The water symbolizes the blessing of holy ceremonies, and a fire will light up at the base of the circle during Veterans Day and other holidays. Pratt is a self-taught Oklahoma-based artist and a Vietnam War veteran. As a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, his work deals with the history and traditions of those people and other Native American communities. Pratt partnered with Hans and Torrey Butzer of Butzer Architects and Urbanism in designing this memorial. Last year, Congress commissioned the museum to build the memorial to honor “the contributions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians who have served in the military since colonial times.”
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Snarkitecture makes a Fun-House mini-retrospective for the National Building Museum’s Summer block Party

For its 2018 Summer Block Party exhibition, the National Building Museum reenlisted Snarkitecture to create Fun House. The New York-based architecture firm also designed the museum’s 2015 Summer Block Party; BEACH, which covered the 10,000-square-foot Great Hall in white plastic balls, and proved to be one of the most popular Summer Block Party exhibitions ever. This year, Snarkitecture worked with curator Maria Cristina Didero to take a different approach with Fun House, a full-size house with over 50 objects and installations that reference some of the firm’s previous work. Eleven different rooms, a front yard, and a backyard invite visitors to explore and play.  “We wanted to make the objects and environments in the show as accessible and interactive as possible, while also respecting the nature of some of the pieces as fragile design objects and ensuring the safety of visitors,” said Alex Mustonen of Snarkitecture. “In the end we've aimed to create a balance between moments that are playful and interactive with ones that are reflective and visually engaging.” In the front yard, people will find soft, oversize upholstered letters derived from A Memorial Bowling—a sculptural artwork completed in 2012 for Miami’s Orange Bowl Stadium—while a pool filled with white balls— “a domestic version of BEACH” explained Mustonen—occupies the backyard. Inside, functional items and accessories such as Broken Mirror and Pillow as well as limited edition pieces like Break and commissioned works like Beach Chair, provide moments of delight and discovery. “We wanted people to experience the projects in the same direct and tactile way that they would have with the original [versions],” Mustonen said. “With that as a starting point, we worked with Maria Cristina to develop the concept of the house as a framework that would organize the display objects and installations within an environment that would feel both familiar and unknown as visitors explore and discover the different rooms. Maria Cristina's proposal to reframe much of our work within an emotional context was something new for us, but also an idea that resonated with the way that we approach creating unexpected and memorable experiences.” “Fun House represents a unique opportunity for us to bring together a number of different Snarkitecture-designed interiors, installations, and objects into a single, immersive experience,” said Mustonen in a press release. “Our practice aims to create moments that make architecture accessible and engaging to a wide, diverse audience. With that in mind, we are excited to invite all visitors to the National Building Museum to an exhibition and installation that we hope is both unexpected and memorable.” Fun House opens at the National Building Museum on July 4 and will run through September 3, though Mustonen hints that it may travel to other locations in the future.