Capital Brutalism

On view through Monday, February 17, 2025

Amid the Cold War, urban renewal efforts ushered in a “Brutalist” phenomenon that reshaped the nation’s capital in the mid-20th century. Many high-profile public buildings were designed and constructed with exposed structural elements and building materials, including concrete, brick, steel, and glass. They were viewed as cost-effective and efficient, but many haven’t aged well, and public reaction continues to debate their architectural significance.  

Capital Brutalism explores the history, current state, and future of seven polarizing buildings and the WMATA Metro system in Washington, D.C. The exhibition uses archival documents, drawings, construction photographs, architectural models, and contemporary photographs to provide context and shed light on the buildings’ stories. Selected buildings are reimagined by leading architecture firms, including Studio Gang, Brooks + Scarpa, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Gensler, and BLDUS, along with students from the School of Architecture at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

The exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Angela Person, associate professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma, and architectural photographer Ty Cole. 

Capital Brutalism is organized in collaboration with the Southern Utah Museum of Art. 

The National Building Museum’s presentation of this exhibition was supported by

Brutalist Reimagining Contributors: 

Studio Gang, including Jeanne Gang, Anika Schwarzwald, Alissa Anderson, Jay Hoffman, Austin Chod, and Manon Marimbert, as well as structural engineering consultants Joseph Burns and Thornton Tomasetti, and Labtop Rendering.  

Brooks + Scarpa, including Lawrence Scarpa, Ryan Clement, Iliya Muzychuk,Kiki Guo, Zongli Li, Ahmad Chehab, Matthew Hunt, Calder Scarpa, Karen Lopez, and Joseph Kim.  

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, including Elizabeth Diller, David Allin, Dustin Tobias, William Arbizu, James Brucz, Michael Etzel, Felipe Ferrer, Matthew Ostrow, and Haruka Saito. 

BLDUS, including Andrew Linn, Jack Becker, Adam Ainslie, Chris Parschalk, and Theo Morrow.

Gensler, including John Adams, Jeff Barber, Shawn Gehle, Rob Jernigan, Li Wen, Christine Barber, Jessica Griese, Heidi Konieczka, Duncan Lyons, Carrie Morrison, Chris Rhoads, Raffael Scasserra, James Schrader, Colette Smith, Ruben Smudde, Darcey Thomson, and Tam Tran.  

University of Nevada – Las Vegas School of Architecture, including Joshua Vermillion and Eric Strain and their fourth-year architecture students, Dane Cobb, Cameron Reese, Devan Rendon, Kayla LaRose, Emmanuel Muñoz, Ivan Gonzalez-Vazquez, Richard Martinez, Alyanna Mercado, Trisha Sinamban, Maria Peniazek, Judy Shaban, and Fabio Menendez, whose work is featured in Capital Brutalism, and their many talented peers.  

Additional support was provided by Deane Madsen, founder of Brutalist DC; Richard Z. Hooker, graphic designer; University of Oklahoma Gibbs College of Architecture, including Haley Sandell, Makayla Zimmer, and Ashley Darden; University of Arizona College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture, including Eric Weber and Bret Smith; and many other members of the design and preservation communities.