February 2017

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About the National Building Museum


Great Hall, 2011.
Photo by Kevin Allen

Our mission is to advance the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives.


The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution devoted to interpreting the history and impact of the built environment. We do this by telling the stories of architecture, engineering, and design. As one of the most family-friendly, awe-inspiring spots in Washington, D.C., we welcome visitors from around the world to our exhibitions, public programs, and festivals. Located just four blocks from the National Mall, the Museum occupies a magnificent building with a soaring Great Hall, colossal 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns, and a 1,200-foot terra cotta frieze.



Since 1985, the Museum has presented more than 200 exhibitions to critical acclaim, including:

"Thousands of tourists and residents are lining up to play in an ocean of 750,000 plastic balls that look up at some of the largest indoor Corinthian columns in the world."— CBS News

Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete
"These technological advances deserve to be bragged about… so does the show itself."—The Washington Post

The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design
"[A] Must See"—Newsweek

Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s
"...never-before-seen artifacts, photographs, and models"—BBC

House & Home
"...explores a subject so wide and so fundamental to American life that it inevitably touches the pleasure buttons of nostalgia."—The Washington Post

Green Schools will look at several examples of what is possible in green school design and provide resources for all of us to consider as we look toward constructing the next generation of school buildings.

Designing for Disaster explores proven and emerging tools and strategies to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

Explore all of the Museum's current, past, and upcoming exhibitions.


Henry Cisneros
Henry Cisneros speaks at the Housing for Seniors Conference in the Museum's Great Hall.
Photo by Kevin Allen
Adult Programs

Our acclaimed lecture series, Spotlight on Design and Women of Architecture, welcome the best architects, designers, engineers, and urban planners from around the world to discuss their work. Speakers have included thinkers like I.M. Pei, Rem Koolhaas, and Jan Gehl and have attracted audiences ranging from professionals, policymakers, and students to the general public.

The Building in the 21st Century series addresses sustainable design and energy-efficient building and construction. For the Greener Good calls on experts to investigate links between environmental sustainability and design, infrastructure, and even popular culture. Smart Growth promotes dialogue and research on sustainable development strategies that preserve community character and protect the environment. 


Prince Charles & Vincent Scully
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales accepts the Scully Prize from the award's namesake, Vincent Scully.
© Vivian Ronay
Three Prestigious Prizes Bestowed by the Museum

Our prestigious awards salute leaders in a variety of disciplines within the field.

The Vincent Scully Prize is awarded to an individual for exemplary practice, scholarship, or criticism in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, or urban design. Winners include Robert A.M. Stern, Jane Jacobs, and His Highness the Aga Khan.

The Henry C. Turner Prize recognizes an invention, an innovative methodology, and/or exceptional leadership by an individual or team of individuals in construction technology. Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, and the U.S. Green Building Council are among its recipients.

The Honor Award recognizes outstanding individuals and companies who have made significant contributions in the fields of architecture, planning, construction, and building. Past recipients have included Cindy and Jay Pritzker, Michael D. Eisner and The Walt Disney Company, Clark Construction Group, LLC, and Related.


Boys construct a building of recycled materials.
Boys construct a building of recycled materials.
Photo by Kevin Allen
Youth, Teens, and Families

The Washington Post called us one of Washington, D.C.'s "Best Bets" for parents and children, and Nickelodeon's Parents Connect nominated us for "Best Indoor Playspace." In the past year, tens of thousands of visitors attended the Museum's free annual family festivals, including Discover Engineering Family Day, National Cherry Blossom Festival® Family Day, and the Big Build (formerly known as the Festival of the Building Arts).

We emphasize youth education because of the importance of teaching about innovation, science, and the arts. Our school programs enhance kids' critical thinking skills and meet curriculum content standards for math, science, social studies, language arts, technology, and art.


Museum Shop
The National Building Museum's Museum Shop.
Photo by Kevin Allen
The Museum's Award-Winning Shop

The Museum Shop spreads the message that good design matters by offering well-crafted and sustainable housewares, office items, jewelry, educational toys, books, and more. It was honored as the "Best Museum Store" in Washington City Paper's annual Best of D.C. competition, "Best Museum Store" in the country by Niche magazine, "Best All-Around Museum Shop" in the region by The Washington Post, a "Top Shop" by the Washingtonian, and named best museum shop in D.C. by National Geographic Traveler's blog, Intelligent Travel.

Browse the Museum Shop Online or visit in person on the Museum's ground floor.


Support the Museum

The Museum is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3), chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1980. It relies on contributions from visitors, foundations, associations, corporations, and other donors to deliver world-class exhibitions and programs.

Make a contribution. We appreciate your support.