National Building Museum

401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001


Museum Website

The Museum occupies an awesome building at the center of which is a soaring Great Hall with jetting fountain, colossal 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns, and on the exterior a decorative 1,200-foot terra cotta frieze. 

The Museum is "devoted to interpreting the history and impact of the built environment." By concentrating on architecture, engineering, and design, the permanent collection illuminates the building process and documents changing architectural styles and construction techniques. 

The current collections hold approximately 75,000 photographic images, 68,000 architectural prints and drawings, 100 linear feet of documents, and 10,000 objects, including material samples, architectural fragments, and building toys.

Whether you go or not,  National Building Museum: Art Spaces reveals the architectural and engineering ingenuity of the National Historic Landmark, known as one of Washington's most spectacular structures and celebrated as 'the most astonishing space in America' by the late architect Philip Johnson. It traces the building's history, from the 1880s to its present state as a museum dedicated to architecture, design, engineering, urban planning and constructio. Designed in 1881, and built with more than 15 million bricks, the building was home to varying government agencies as well as the United States Pension Bureau before a 1980 Congressional Charter transformed it into a museum dedicated to the building arts. The building, with its famous Great Hall, is an amazing architectural example and a marvel of engineering. The grand exterior is modelled on the elegant Palazzo Farnesse in Rome. 

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Exhibitions & Dates

  • Animals, Collected

    Apr 20 2019 - Spring 2020

    Architectural objects depicting animals—both real and mythological—as decorative elements