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Designing for Disaster

Natural disasters affect everyone, everywhere.

Opening May 11, 2014

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Designing for Disaster Programs 

Natural disasters can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. In 2012, the financial toll in the United States alone exceeded $100 billion, and the loss of life and emotional toll is immeasurable. No region of the country is immune—112 events in 32 states were declared natural disasters in the U.S. during 2012.

The National Building Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Designing for Disaster, will examine how we assess risks from natural hazards and how we can create policies, plans, and designs yielding safer, more disaster-resilient communities.

Two primary questions will help guide the Museum’s approach:

  • Where should we build?
  • How should we build?
Café - Seattle, Washington (2010).
Photo by John M. Feit.

Through unique objects, captivating graphics, and multimedia—including video testimonials—the exhibition will explore new solutions for, and historical responses to, a range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, storm surge, flooding, seal level rise, tsunamis, and wildfires.

Designing for Disaster will discuss disaster mitigation as an evolving science and highlight the tools and strategies that today’s planners, engineers, designers, emergency managers, scientists, environmentalists, and various business and community leaders are investigating and adopting to build safer, more disaster-resilient communities.

The Boardwalk After Sandy. Long Beach, NY. October 30, 2012.
Photo by Arden Designs, Kristie Arden.

Because of the importance of housing the exhibition will feature exemplary disaster-resistant residential design. In addition, the exhibition will also highlight a variety of other building or facilities: hospitals, schools, airports, public arenas/stadiums, fire/police stations, public transportation networks/systems, commercial buildings, and retail outlets. The selected structures will be geographically dispersed throughout the country and will have been designed to address at least one hazard in an exemplary way. 

By showcasing innovative research, cutting-edge materials and technologies, and new thinking about how to work with natural systems and the environment, the exhibition will present a range of viable responses that are functional, pragmatic, and beautiful. 

The exhibition will be complemented by vigorous education programming and online content.

Check out the Designing for Disaster blog, MitigationNation.


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 LaFarge  Home Depot  
American Red Cross  Andersen Windows logo  
 Nature Conservancy Logo    

Designing for Disaster is also generously supported by AECOM; Center for Disaster Philanthropy; National Endowment for the Arts; ASSA ABLOY; Construction Specialties, Inc.; National Fire Protection Association; United Technologies Corporation; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Kingdom of The Netherlands; Association of State Floodplain Managers and the Association of State Floodplain Managers Foundation; Florida International University; RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; Nixon Peabody LLP; Arup; and URS Corporation.

Science Channel is our exclusive television media partner, and the Washington Post is a media partner.