James Corner Is Turning The National Building Museum Into An Iceberg Wonderland

The 19th-century museum will play host to ICEBERGS this summer.

James Corner Is Turning The National Building Museum Into An Iceberg Wonderland
Renderings: James Corner Field Operations/Courtesy National Building Museum

Tripling down on its reputation as the least boring architecture museum in the world, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., has tapped James Corner Field Operations–the firm behind New York’s High Line–to transform its 19th-century Great Hall into a crystal wonderland, stylized in all-caps: ICEBERGS.

It’s all-caps for a reason. ICEBERGS is all about trying to simulate the intimidating majesty of walking amongst cracking mountains of ice as they smash together in rough Arctic seas. Although they’ll be made of scaffolding and polycarbonate paneling instead of millennia-old ice, the largest iceberg will be over 56 feet tall, reaching the Great Hall’s third-story balcony.

You won’t just walk among icebergs, though. You’ll also swim under them. The first story of the Great Hall will be “below” sea level view, allowing visitors to stare up at the icebergs floating above them, and they’ll be surrounded by caves and grottoes and even an undersea bridge. A platform above the hall, meanwhile, will let visitors see the icebergs from above while they snack on snow cones (natch).

ICEBERGS invokes the surreal underwater-world of glacial ice fields,” said James Corner, founder and director of James Corner Field Operations, in a statement. “Such a world is both beautiful and ominous given our current epoch of climate change, ice-melt, and rising seas. The installation creates an ambient field of texture, movement, and interaction, as in an unfolding landscape of multiples, distinct from a static, single object.”

This is hardly the first time the National Building Museum has gone weird and wonderful with its summer exhibitions. Last year, they unveiled The Beach, in which Brooklyn-based architecture studio Snarkitecture turned the inside of the museum into indoor beach using astroturf and 1 million translucent, recyclable plastic balls that mimic what it’s like to swim in the ocean. And before that, the Bjarke Ingels Group made the museum a labyrinth any minotaur could be proud of.

ICEBERGS will open at the National Building Museum on July 2, and continue until September 5, 2016. Just in time to beat some truly awful summer heat.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.



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