National Building Museum

Description And Comments

The National Building Museum is dedicated to examining the influence of architecture and buildings in our lives. Its exhibits cover a wide range of ideas, from the evolution of American home design and building materials, to re-thinking the boundaries of public and private spaces.

The museum typically has around six exhibits open, spread over two floors. Past exhibits have covered how local culture and climate affect building design; architecture for surviving natural disasters; and an indoor “beach” made from a million white, translucent, plastic balls (it was amazing – we have photos). At least a couple of exhibits will have large video installations or films, and these are nice breaks if you’ve been walking around DC all day.

The House and Home exhibit on the second floor is one of the museum’s best, showing the evolution of the American home in concept, design, building materials and techniques, decoration, and use. Each area gets its own dedicated space. The “design” segment includes 14 detailed, scale models of iconic homes, from Fallingwater to Monticello. To illustrate building materials and techniques, full-scale model rooms are build along one long wall of the exhibit, starting with post-and-girt, through adobe bricks, to steel, glass, and concrete. The best part about this display is that you’re encouraged to touch the materials and walk inside the models.

Also in House and Home are two multimedia presentations: Welcome Home, showing different designs for 21st-century residential architecture, including one-room apartments and spaceship-like college dormitories; and From Home to Community, examining the role of individual houses in six American neighborhoods.

The museum typically has two ongoing, hands-on play areas for kids: Building Zone, for children ages 2 to 6, includes giant foam blocks to build with, picture books about architecture, construction-themed toys, and an eco-friendly play house; and Play Work Build, for older children and adults, with smaller building blocks, virtual design tools, and more. These areas tend to be somewhat crowded, and it’ll take some patience and time to complete a design.

Because the museum charges admission, it’s not usually as crowded as some of the free sites. It is popular with parents and small children, however, especially on weekends.


401 F St NW
Washington, D.C.
Penn Quarter - Chinatown - Judiciary Square
Judiciary Square

Mon-Sat 10am-5pm
Sun 11am-5pm

Adults $8; Children, Students, Seniors $5
Special Exhibits typically $8

Attraction Photos