National Building Museum reopens March 13, 2020, after Great Hall renovations

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New exhibition Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer kicks off 40th anniversary year

The Great Hall. Photo by Kevin Allen.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On March 13, 2020, the National Building Museum will reopen to the public following the completion of renovations to the historic Great Hall. The three-month-long project involved replacing the concrete floor with a modern foundation and was executed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). A new exhibition, Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer, will open at the same time, along with popular long term exhibitions like House & Home and PLAY WORK BUILD

The reopening marks the beginning of a yearlong 40th anniversary celebration, including a full slate of exhibitions, public programs, and special events. Up first and also opening March 13 is Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer, a new exhibition examining the work of a prominent photographer as well as the practice of architectural photography writ large. On display will be Karchmer’s iconic portraits of works by some of the most influential architects and firms of our time, including Santiago Calatrava, Tadao Ando, Gensler, and TEN Arquitectos. Complementing the professionally commissioned photographs will be personal photos and artifacts that shed light on Karchmer’s work. The exhibition celebrates Karchmer’s bequest of his professional archive to the collection of the Museum. 

During the renovation, Museum staff took advantage of the closure to convert second-floor classrooms into exhibition space where The Architects’ Photographer will be the first presentation. The Museum will also debut a new Ticketing Gallery on the ground floor. Housed in a renovated space with new lighting and electrical, acoustical treatment, and durable flooring, this gallery features a display of objects from the Museum’s collection, a new ticketing desk, and a seating area. Later this year, an orientation exhibition will welcome visitors with an introduction to the Museum’s mission and special exhibitions. 

“We used this opportunity to make some long-planned changes to the Museum’s layout,” said Chase Rynd, executive director. “By moving most exhibitions to the second floor and creating a new Visitor Center, we think visitors will have an easier time orienting themselves—and understanding our mission.” 

Following the reopening, the Museum presents the Architecture & Design Film Festival: D.C. from March 26 to 29. This is the third annual presentation of the popular series of film screenings and discussions with filmmakers. Just in time for Women’s History Month, the 2020 festival will open with City Dreamers, a film about the contributions of Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Denise Scott Brown—four trailblazing women who taught, mentored, and inspired thousands of professionals. Two spring exhibitions will explore issues of social justice in architecture and design. Architecture is Never Neutral: The Work of MASS Design Group examines the nonprofit’s body of work, from schools and hospitals in Rwanda, a cholera treatment center in Haiti, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama, and will include a prototype of their National Gun Violence Memorial. The Wall | El Muro: What is a Border Wall? will be a timely exploration of the border between the United States and Mexico from the perspective of architecture and design.  

“The decision to close the Museum was difficult, though we knew it was necessary for the long term stability of our historic home,” said Rynd. “So we are excited to welcome visitors back into our restored building, to celebrate the anniversary year and all the exciting exhibitions and programs we have planned.”

Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer
Through March 21, 2021


House & Home

For You By Youth: Urban Landscapes Reimagined
Through July 19, 2020

Animals, Collected
Through Fall 2020

Architecture Is Never Neutral: The Work of MASS Design Group
Opens April 18, 2020

The Wall | El Muro: What is a Border Wall?
Opens May 16, 2020

Shakespeare’s Playhouse, partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library
Opens July 4, 2020

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, web content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. Public inquiries: (202) 272-2448 or visit Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Karen Baratz,, 301.404.6977