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5 great D.C. design exhibitions to see this summer

Kid-friendly, architecture-focused, and definitely worth a visit

Image via National Building Museum

When there are so many events happening every month in Washington, D.C., it can be hard to know what’s worth checking out. In order to help those who have a special place in their hearts for architecture and design, Curbed has compiled the following five events.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the events are located in the National Building Museum, which is a D.C. museum focused on celebrating architecture, engineering, and design almost every day of the year. Readers can also expect a visually stunning exhibition at the D.C. Architecture Center and a permanent collection worth knowing about at Dumbarton Oaks.

From antique furnishings to larger-than-life interactive installations, see what there is to get excited about this summer.

Were there any events left off this list? Be sure to let Curbed DC know in the comments.

Image courtesy of the National Building Museum

Wright on the Walls

Runs through September 4, 2017

National Building Museum

For both children and adults, this interactive, large-scale coloring book gallery is sure to excite those with a penchant for colors and famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In honor of his achievements, which range from Fallingwater to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the National Building Museum is hosting this hands-on coloring space, called “Wright on the Walls.”

In order to create the gallery, two local artists, Scott Clowney and Vladimir Zabavskiy, focused on Wright’s residential and commercial works as well as his houses of worship, automobile culture, and decorative details.

Be sure to leave your colored pencils and paint at home as dry-erase markers will be available at the site.

Image via National Building Museum

Wish You Were Here!

July 10 through September 8, 2017

District Architecture Center

Take a visual journey through D.C.’s past with this gallery’s six sections, each filled with vintage postcards from the early-to-mid 20th century. These postcards offer a glimpse at what the city’s street scenes looked like along with images of its museums and government buildings, parks, and commercial establishments.

Want to see some postcards that give a peek into the Smithsonian’s past? Check out this Curbed DC article.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, American Architectural Foundation Collection

Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths, 1852-2017

Through January 15, 2018

National Building Museum

From the inside out, Congress Height’s vacant, former asylum, St. Elizabeth’s East, has a long history. Founded in 1855, the establishment eventually housed over 8,000 patients, serving as a federally operated hospital that at one time took care of animals due to a lack of lodging at the not yet built National Zoo. It was also an example of moral treatment of the mentally ill. Now, it’s empty and crumbling from the inside out.

This exhibition seeks to give an inside look at what the development was once like by showcasing historic literature, photography, and artifacts. Notable highlights of the exhibition include an electroshock machine and a section that introduces the hospital’s more well-known patients, such as Ezra Pound.

Image via National Building Museum


July 4 through September 4, 2017

National Building Museum

For many years now, the National Building Museum has hosted larger-than-life summer installations, designed by firms like New York-based James Corner Field Operations, the same firm behind the High Line and ICEBERGS, and New York-based Snarkitecture, who designed The BEACH.

This year, the public should get excited for Chicago-based Studio Gang’s 60-foot-high installation, called, “The Hive.” The structure will be composed of over 2,700 wound paper tubes, which will vary in size from several inches to 10 feet high and will be interlocked to create three dynamic interconnected, domed chambers.

Dumbarton Oaks
Dumbarton Oaks.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/AgnosticPreachersKid

House Collection Galleries

On display as part of a permanent collection

Dumbarton Oaks

In the historic, 1928-built Music Room of Georgetown’s Dumbarton Oaks, there are antique artworks and objects that offer a glimpse at what the site actually looked like when it was used as a residence. Here, there are 15th century sculptures, 20th century fresco-like paintings, tapestries, and furnishings.

According to the Dumbarton Oaks website, “Parisian designer Armand Albert Rateau fabricated the room's beamed Renaissance-style ceiling, which was inspired by a sixteenth-century ceiling in the Salle des Gardes at the Château de Cheverny near Paris.”

District Architecture Center

421 7th Street NW , Washington, DC 20004,

National Building Museum

401 F Street Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 272-2448 Visit Website