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"Train Wreck House" Coming To The National Building Museum

The National Building Museum has an upcoming exhibit about houses and how we build them. Not just how we pick up hammers and nails to make material stick together, but how we go about housing before the first shovel of earth is moved out of the way. Called House & Home the exhibit looks at all the way society impacts our decisions about the type of homes we build and then, in a cool feedback loop kind of way, how those homes then influence society. The exhibit opens on April 28, 2012 (click through for the full press release). As for that house pictured above, it is a houseboat entitled "train wreck" from Sausalito, California.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Throughout American history, people have lived in all sorts of places from military barracks and two-story colonials to college dormitories and row houses. On April 28, 2012, the National Building Museum embarks on a sweeping tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, to explore the varied history of the American home. The exhibition, entitled House & Home, presents a wide spectrum of artifacts, photographs, construction materials, three-dimensional models, “please touch” walls, and films. Seen together, the objects illustrate how transformations in technology, government policy, and consumer culture have impacted American domestic life.

The exhibition, designed by the award-winning New York-based firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates, is organized thematically juxtaposing objects, images, and texts with interactive displays and films. Exhibition themes include:

Making a Home: Virtually every type of object used in the home—from cooking utensils to telephones to tables—has changed in appearance, if not function. Featuring a dramatic display of nearly 200 household goods used over the course of the past several centuries, this section showcases a kaleidoscopic array of objects including a butter churn; a spinning wheel; a combination radio-television-record player; an Easy Bake Oven; and a hand-painted screen door, to name only a few. But nostalgia is only part of the story. The installation introduces visitors to a broader context in which to understand these objects, discussing the ways in which they were used over time.

House & Home Balloon FrameBuilding a House: This gallery showcases 14 intricate models of iconic American homes and their architectural innovations. Examples highlight renowned architects such as Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, and Frank Gehry. In addition, full-scale “please touch” walls made from materials used in residential construction from adobe bricks to structural insulated panels (SIPs) are on display. These hands-on cross-sections introduce the ideas of construction and engineering as visitors are able to feel building materials, open windows and doors, and see the interior workings of the walls.

Home Economics: The American Dream, once more generally about the possibility of prosperity, grew in the 20th century to be synonymous with home ownership. In this gallery, visitors learn about the economy of housing, through an interactive timeline, which features historical documents and images that explore the stories of the government, mortgage industry, homebuilders, real estate agents, and others in promoting and selling American homes. In addition, issues of housing inequality, land distribution, and the role of the government are examined, from the Colonial period, though the Homestead Act and the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in the 1930s; from the building and razing of housing projects to the explosive growth in the market for single-family suburban homes; and from the Oklahoma Land Rush to the subprime loan.

Welcome Home: A panoramic audio-visual presentation takes visitors on a nationwide tour of 21st-century residential buildings. From Michael Maltzan’s dramatic single room occupancy apartments in Los Angeles to Maryland Institute College of Art’s futuristic dormitory in Baltimore, the images evoke the experience of residential space and illustrate the evolution and diversity of American domestic architecture and design.

From Home to Community: This gallery turns the focus of the exhibition outward, exploring the relationship of the individual house to the larger society by looking at six contemporary communities through film. The films include interviews with developers, real-estate agents, and residents, who describe different ways people come together to build a community. The featured communities are the Summerlin in Nevada; Parkside of Old Town in Chicago; Musicians’ Village in New Orleans; LeDroit Park in Washington, D.C.; Coyote Crossing Cohousing in Santa Cruz, California; and Rumford Center in East Providence, Rhode Island.

“House & Home explores the idea that architecture and material culture can tell us complex stories about who we are, how we live, and what we aspire to be,” says Chase W. Rynd, executive director of the National Building Museum. “By exploring the diverse history of America’s homes, we can better understand our society’s priorities and possibilities, and, in turn, we can better understand ourselves.”

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, online 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

Here is the specific information about each photo in the gallery:

1. “Train Wreck” Houseboat
Caption: “Train Wreck” houseboat, Sausalito, California. Built: 1979.
Credit: Photo ©Andrew Garn.

2. Van Ness Avenue Houses
Caption: Van Ness Avenue Houses, San Francisco, California, 1940. Built: 1880s.
Credit: Photo by A.J. Whittlock; Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey.

3. Family Barbecue
Caption: Family barbecue in Lakewood Plaza surburban development, Long Beach, California,
ca. 1950. Architect: Chris Choate with designer Cliff May.
Credit: Photo by Maynard L. Parker; The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

4. Loloma 5 Lofts
Caption: Loloma 5 Lofts, Scottsdale, Arizona. Architect: will bruder + PARTNERS. Built: 2004.
Credit: Photo ©Bill Timmerman; courtesy of will bruder + PARTNERS.

5. Julia Brooks’ Wedding
Caption: Julia Brooks’ Wedding, Washington, D.C., 1947
Credit: Photo by Addison N. Scurlock; Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of
American History, Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution.

6. Balloon Framing
Caption: Balloon Framing. Ten men building a wood frame house, Omaha Reservation,
Nebraska, 1877.
Credit: Photo by William Henry Jackson; The National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

7. Fishing Houses
Caption: Fishing houses, Dauphin Island, Alabama, 2010. Built: ca 2000.
Credit: Photo by Carol M. Highsmith; The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol
M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress.

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