Prominent storytellers lend voices to Lawn, the 2019 Summer Block Party installation at the National Building Museum

Categories: Articles, Press

Bette Midler, Venus Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Susan Stamberg, and other actors, chefs, and architects tell their tales of summer

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Lawn, the 2019 Summer Block Party installation at the National Building Museum designed by LAB at Rockwell Group, will feature interactive elements, games, community activities, and summertime memories recorded by prominent American storytellers. A full slate of daytime and evening programming rounds out the schedule. Presented with AARP, Lawn is open July 4 through September 2, 2019.

Lawn allows guests to unwind with quintessential summer activities while connecting to the design of the Museum. It features a vast, sloping green space built on a scaffolding superstructure. The green expanse is set on a graceful incline and dotted with clusters of communal lounging areas. Visitors can enjoy refreshments and lawn games. At the top of the lawn is a scaffolding tower that reaches the height of the Museum’s third floor, offering never-before-seen views of the Great Hall, column capitals, and sculptural busts lining the roof.

Rockwell Group is collaborating with Yessian Music, an award winning sound design studio to envelop the lawn in a soundscape of distilled audio elements that evoke time spent outdoors on a warm summer day: crickets chirping, bees buzzing, a lawnmower whirring in the distance.

The centerpiece of the lounging areas are interactive hammocks suspended from the 100-foot-tall ceiling grid. The hammocks contain hidden speakers programmed with audio from prominent American storytellers, sharing summertime memories. These never-before-heard stories will highlight shared themes of community and placemaking, further immersing visitors into the feeling of summer. Featured storytellers include:

  • David Rockwell, Founder and President of Rockwell Group
  • Bette Midler, Award-winning actress and singer, and founder of New York Restoration Project
  • Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and Founder of Shake Shack
  • Sophia Anne Caruso, Actress
  • Whoopi Goldberg, Award-winning actress, comedian, author, and moderator of ABC’s The View
  • Judah Friedlander, Stand-up comedian (America Is the Greatest Country in the United States on Netflix), actor, and author
  • Beanie Feldstein, Actress
  • Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture & Design and director of research and development at the Museum of Modern Art
  • Edward Lee, Chef/owner of 610 Magnolia, MilkWood and Whiskey Dry in Louisville, KY and Culinary Director for Succotash in National Harbor, Maryland and Penn Quarter; and winner of a 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Writing
  • Annaleigh Ashford, Tony Award-winning actress
  • Phylicia Rashad, Actor and director
  • Norman Lear, WWII Combat Veteran, award-winning writer and producer of television and film, and founder of People For the American Way
  • Susan Stamberg, Award-winning journalist and special correspondent for NPR
  • Amanda MacKaye, Musician and Fort Reno Concert Organizer
  • Jose Andres, Chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup and founder of World Central Kitchen
  • Deborah Berke, Founding partner of Deborah Berke Partners and Dean of Yale School of Architecture
  • Seth Hurwitz, Owner of I.M.P, the 9:30 Club, and The Anthem, and operator of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Lincoln Theatre
  • Venus Williams, Tennis champion, entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, philanthropist and founder and CEO of V Starr Interiors and EleVen by Venus Williams
  • Joel Grey, Actor, singer, dancer, director, and photographer
Rendering by the LAB at Rockwell Group.
Rendering by the LAB at Rockwell Group.

The LAB has also developed an augmented reality game for kids and adults to chase, collect, and release fireflies in the National Building Museum space.

Lawn programming kicks off with the first Late Night on July 10 from 6 to 9 pm, and Daybreaker, the early morning yoga class and dance party, on July 12 at 6 am. Other special programs include behind-the-scenes tours and a Spotlight on Design lecture with the LAB at Rockwell Group. Early learners can enjoy drop in story time and activities, and other regular events include:

Tuesdays, 9–11 am
Ward Days
D.C. residents visit Lawn for free with proof of residency. Meet with your councilmembers and enjoy drop in activities for all ages.

Wednesdays, 6–9 pm
Late Nights
Experience Lawn at night during weekly Late Nights, featuring food and beverage for purchase and tunes from DJ Henrietta Stacks.

Thursdays, 7–10 pm
Movie Nights
Curl up on a Rockwell Group-designed custom blanket and watch a movie.

Saturdays, 9–11 am
Members-Only Hours
Museum members get early access to Lawn before the installation opens to the public. Join today.

Sundays, 10–11 am
Join Beth A. Wolfe for an all-ages yoga class on Lawn.

For specific dates, times, pricing, and more details at

Lawn is presented with AARP. Additional sponsors are Synlawn, Costar Group, Downtown DC BID, HDR Inc., and Nixon Peabody. In-kind sponsors include Chemetal; DPR Construction; Design Within Reach; Focus Lighting; Gouda, Inc.; Loll; SenovvA, Inc.; Shaw Contract; Yessian Music; and ZGF.

A press preview will be held on Wednesday, July 3 at 11 am, and feature remarks from David Rockwell. Members of the LAB at Rockwell Group will also be available. RSVP to Emma Filar at or 202.272.2448, ext. 3458.

Renderings are available at Images from previous Summer Block Party installations are available as well.

Ticket prices for Lawn will be as follows and include admission to all other current National Building Museum exhibitions:

Free: National Building Museum Members
$16: Adult
$13: Youth/Student/Senior
$10: Blue Star Military/AARP member

Free passes will be available online for members on June 18; general admission will be available for advance purchase starting June 25. A limited quantity of tickets will be available on site each day. Tickets for Late Nights and special programs are sold separately and are not included in general admission.

Based in New York with a satellite office in Madrid, Rockwell Group is an interdisciplinary architecture and design firm that emphasizes innovation and thought leadership in every project.  Founded by David Rockwell, FAIA, and led by David and partners Shawn Sullivan and Greg Keffer, the 250-person firm merges theater, performance and architecture to create extraordinary experiences and built environments across the globe. A strong commitment to explore and experiment resulted in the formation of the LAB at Rockwell Group, a design innovation studio that blends interactive technology, architecture, strategy, and storytelling. The firm’s projects include Union Square Cafe (New York); Nobu restaurants and hotels worldwide; Warner Music Group (Los Angeles); Moxy Chelsea, Moxy Times Square, and Moxy East Village (New York); W Hotels (New York, Nashville, Paris, Madrid, Suzhou, Singapore and Vieques); The Shed (Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Lead Architect, and Rockwell Group, Collaborating Architect); the Hayes Theater (New York); NeueHouse (New York and Hollywood); TED Theater (Vancouver); The Diner for Surface magazine; product collections for Knoll, Stellar Works, Rich Brilliant Willing, and The Rug Company; and set designs for She Loves Me, Kinky Boots, the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, the 2009 and 2010 Academy Awards, the upcoming Broadway productions of Kiss Me Kate and Tootsie, and The Shed’s inaugural production—Soundtrack of America. Honors and recognition include 2016 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Scenic Design for She Loves Me; the AIANY President’s Award; the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award; and the Presidential Design Award. For more information, please visit

The National Building Museum inspires curiosity about the world we design and build. We believe that understanding the history and impact of architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, construction, and design is important for all ages. Through exhibitions and educational programs, we show how the built world has power to shape our lives, communities, and futures. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.