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Urban Salon

Learn the past, present, and future of the built environment

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Urban Salon: Power
November 5, 2016

There’s an intriguing buzz about the National Building Museum these days.  It could be the sound of bees pollinating in the rooftop apiary at George Washington University.  Or perhaps it’s coming from the solar panels that local grassroots organization DC SUN helped a DC resident install.   No, wait, solar panels don’t make noise.  Then it has to be the enthusiastic discourse of “urban explorers,” discovering and sharing new perspectives on the city. 

Welcome to Urban Salon. 

Re-ball rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground

Urban Salons immerse participants in the past, present, and future of the built environment in the Washington metropolitan area through a unique salon-style program format. Each program consists of a short interactive site visit led by knowledgeable guides, followed by conversation in a nearby cafe to share reflections, ideas, and questions as well as to socialize and network.  Because each Urban Salon is limited to a small group, you’ll have more direct interaction with the guide and the other participants, and, the informal social aspect creates an atmosphere for deeper connections and insights. 

Urban Salon is for you if you hear about a project like Dupont Underground, and want to find out what’s really beneath the surface and behind the scenes of repurposing an enormous unused space in a central urban location. The Museum’s first Urban Salon on June 18 explored the transformation of the abandoned trolley station under Dupont Circle into a space for presenting, producing, and promoting cutting-edge arts, architecture and design. During the conversation at Circa restaurant following the tour, participants talked with Craig Cook about challenges his team has faced and with each other about adaptive reuse potential around the city. 

Urban Apiary
GW beekeeper photo courtesy GW Today.

The plight of honeybees has been in the news lately as they face a number of threats from disease, parasites, pesticides and habitat loss. But have you ever considered the role of the city in saving bees? The September and October Bees in the City Urban Salons explored the concept of integrating space for wildlife into the built environment through urban beekeeping. The salon began with a tour of George Washington University’s (GWU) roof-top apiary led by GWU student beekeepers, whereparticipants saw first-hand some surprising advantages that urban environments provide for honey bee colonies - a diversity of flowering plants in a smaller area, no widespread pesticide application (which can negatively affect honey bee and native bees alike) due to population density, and the safety of the rooftop hive location, which are less accessible by animal predators or human? vandals.

At the nearby Founding Farmers Restaurant, the group conversed with GWU beekeepers and researchers who are part of a partnership with the restaurant. The restaurant supports the GWU beekeeping efforts by offering the Founding Farmers Bees Fellowship to two research students at GWU. In return GWU donates a portion of the honey produced by the hives for the restaurant to use in their recipes.  Through this partnership, Founding Farmers and GWU are dedicated to the growth and maintenance of productive beehives in D.C.’s urban environment – a mutually beneficial relationship much like the one between honeybees and the flowering plants they pollinate.

While living in Washington D.C., have you pondered how to gain power - not the Capitol Hill kind, but the renewable kind for your home? Maybe you’ve wondered how new energy sources are integrated into cities built and rebuilt over decades or even centuries.  Enter DC SUN, an organization dedicated to expanding local access to solar power. At our upcoming Urban Salon on November 5, you can find out how to position solar panels to maximize exposure to the sun while conforming to city zoning regulations, as well as policies to encourage renewable energy use throughout the city.  Tour a Mt. Pleasant home with solar panels and share your own insights about lowering Washington, D.C.’s carbon footprint and enhancing the city's energy efficiency while you socialize and enjoy food and drink at locally owned Lia Cafe Brazil on Mt. Pleasant St. Space is limited, so register now to join us on Saturday. 

This spring, look for Urban Salons on urban farming, historic landscapes, preservation and creative place making. Multiple Urban Salon participants Brian Braa and Andrew Eiseman said it best when they described the salons as, “A great way to get an insider’s perspective on some of D.C.’s most interesting places.” Discover new aspects of the city, meet fellow urban explorers, participate in an experience unique to the National Building Museum, and be part of the buzz!

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