THROUGH LABOR DAY WEEKEND
In previous years, the Museum’s popular Summer Block Party has showcased massive, immersive, crowd-inducing installations in the Great Hall. This year’s iteration, however, features a handful of smaller projects and public programs both within the Museum and on the West Lawn that are better suited to the early post-pandemic era of smaller gatherings and social distancing, including a wooden maze filled with books, a hand-built cathedral truss, public programs, and, thanks to a partnership with the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID), interactive lawn art and outdoor movies.
INSIDE THE MUSEUM
Maze of Knowledge
Conceived by D.C.-area sculptor Foon Sham, this 26-foot-square, 8-foot-high labyrinth engages visitors of all ages. With walls and horizontal broken brick-line contours made of wooden blocks sourced from building materials, the installation resembles a dilapidated structure. The Maze of Knowledge symbolizing how humans acquire information and understanding from the ruins of the past. Dozens of books, representing this knowledge, are embedded within the layers of wood throughout the walls, offering visitors an incentive to traverse the structure’s many paths and discover the variety of works it contains. A scavenger hunt guide that shows the four different themed routes within the labyrinth is available as part of your Museum exhibition ticket purchase. Located in the west court, the maze is available to experience through September 6.
• Watch our July 14 program with Foon Sham and Angela Adams, director of Arlington Public Art, at the bottom of this page.
• Family Workshop with Foon Sham: Repetition in Wood Modules: August 21, 1–3 pm. Limited tickets available, see event page for details.
Notre Dame de Paris Truss Project: August 6–September 16
Inspired by the terrible April 2019 fire that nearly destroyed the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, Massachusetts-based HandsHouse Studio, which develops projects outside of the traditional design and construction classroom that energize history through the reconstruction of large historical objects, has partnered with multiple organizations, including the School of Architecture and Planning at D.C.’s Catholic University, to design, construct, and raise a traditional timber-frame truss built to the cathedral’s specifications. The goal for the project is to donate the truss to the cathedral so that it can be used in the rebuilding process.
The structure will be erected in the southeast corner of the Great Hall in on August 6 and will remain on-site through September 16. Ground-floor signs by the installation will offer information about HandsHouse Studio, the story of the Notre Dame de Paris Truss Project, and a brief history on large-scale installations in the Museum’s Great Hall.
How can complex structures be built in areas where skilled labor is in short supply? How can designers use local materials to construct large structures with small components? The Lo-Fab Pavilion offered MASS Design Group the chance to explore these questions with the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design’s Center for Design Research. Created for the 2015 Design Boston Biennial, the Lo-Fab Pavilion is an experimental grid-shell structure merging traditional craftsmanship and computationally driven manufacturing processes, featuring metal nodes created through robotic-fabrication techniques and hand-cut wooden struts joined to them manually to erect the structure. A section of the Lo-Fab Pavilion has been built as part of the exhibition Justice is Beauty: The Work of MASS Design Group. Located in the southwest corner of the Great Hall, it is available to experience through September 25, 2022.
OUTSIDE THE MUSEUM
Summer started early this year thanks to a Museum partnership with the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) to bring two experiences on the West Lawn for D.C. residents and visitors.
Interactive Lawn Art: June
The BID commissioned D.C. muralist Lisa Marie Thalhammer to create a series of outdoor, lawn-based artworks around the neighborhood that would allow visitors to safely enjoy being together while social distancing. One of those designs, Equilateral Network, was added to the Museum’s West Lawn, using environmentally safe materials, for the month of June. A series of pink triangles and walking paths, comfortably spaced 6 feet apart, it was inspired by Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s use of sacred geometry in his 1791 city plan for Washington, D.C. The use of colors is also important, as rainbow spectrums and pink triangles are both historic symbols of identity and gay-rights activism, and the artwork was completed at the start of June, which is LGBTQ Pride Month.
• Join us for a free online program with Lisa Marie Thalhammer: July 28, 6:30 pm.
DowntownDC Summer Flicks: June–July
The Museum is hosting the fourth annual DowntownDC Summer Flicks–Can I Kick It? outdoor free movie series, produced by the BID with local DJ collective Shaolin Jazz. This year’s theme is “The Future,” and weekly Tuesday night screenings that began on May 25 will travel through time and space across a range of science fiction movie favorites. Each film will be scored with an original music soundtrack of hip-hop, soul, and more mixed by weekly guest DJs. Movies begin at sunset, and attendees are encouraged to arrive at 7:30 pm for best seating. For those who arrive early: A series of swinging benches and tables are set up around the perimeter of the lawn. The series concluded on July 27.
TALK WITH THE ARTIST: FOON SHAM AND THE MAZE OF KNOWLEDGE / July 14, 2021
Meet the artists, designers, and educators whose projects at the National Building Museum are helping us turn the annual Summer Block Party Inside Out. First up: Foon Sham, a D.C.-area sculptor. Foon works primarily with wood in creating large-scale structures, including the Maze of Knowledge, a 26-foot-square, site-specific labyrinth in the west court of our Great Hall. It features walls of varying height and horizontal broken brick-like contours built with wooden blocks commonly used as construction materials. Foon is joined by Angela Adams, director, Arlington Public Art, to discuss this installation, his other work, and the important role of art in the public realm.