Saturday, July 24, 2010

I would like to take you to the National Building Museum

The National Building Museum is my Favorite Museum in Washington DC. Every time I go, I recall the first time I went, first semester in architecture school, with Kathy and other classmates, for a lecture by rockstar architect Rem Koolhaus. The city was a shock to our senses, even though we'd been living in small town Blacksburg but two months. Emerging from the metro at Judiciary Square and seeing the red-orange brick edifice rising from the view cone made by the escalator shaft was dramatic, as was the entry into the grand hall where Inaugural Balls were held for more than a century, volumes of open space framed by massive columns, lit by clerestory above the gallery of marble busts, barely identifiable as human heads from all the way down here. I feel tiny inside this space.

Today we saw some excellent exhibits that allowed us to touch the terra cotta architectural ornament made for cornices and the like, normally touched only by birds. I was captivated by the drawing techniques of earlier centuries in the New England House Design exhibit, Drawing Toward Home. Exhibits notwithstanding, the Building is a Museum in itself, in its stone relief friezes telling the stories of American battles and settlement and its interior spaces showing off the height of classicism.

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