No Sunscreen Required for the BEACH at the National Building Museum This Summer

national building museum the beachFor the next several months, D.C. residents and tourists can visit a rather unusual city landscape. Spanning across the Great Hall of the National Building Museum, the BEACH, created in partnership with Snarkitecture, covers 10,000 square feet and includes an “ocean” of nearly one million recyclable translucent plastic balls.

The BEACH exhibit, which opened on July 4, is an interactive architectural installation that brings the quintessential summer experience of going to the beach to downtown Washington, D.C. The museum commissioned Snarkitecture to design the unique landscape out of construction materials like scaffolding, wooden panels, and perforated mesh. Everything is stark white, including the monochromatic beach chairs and umbrellas sprinkling the 50-foot wide “shoreline.”


national building museum the beachnational building museum the beachnational building museum the beachVisitors can “swim” in the “ocean,” which culminates in a mirrored wall that creates a seemingly infinite reflected expanse, or spend the afternoon at the “shore’s” edge with a book and refreshing drink from the snack bar, dangle their feet in the ocean off the pier, or even play beach-themed activities like paddleball. The museum’s concession stand inside the BEACH is operated by the local food incubator Union Kitchen.

“This exclusive transformation of the Museum’s historic Great Hall will inspire a sense of wonder and imagination,” says Chase W. Rynd, executive director of the National Building Museum. “Although it is bound to be an entertaining retreat from the summer heat for our visitors, it also turns our understanding of the natural environment on its head and offers us the opportunity to question our own expectations of the built environment and see where pushing the boundaries can take us.”

national building museum the beachnational building museum the beachnational building museum the beachPhotos by Noah Kalina courtesy of the National Building Museum

Part of the National Building Museum’s annual “Summer Block Party,” the BEACH is Snarkitecture’s largest public installation yet, and follows the success of the museum’s BIG Maze exhibit last summer, which was designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. The museum is even offering season passes for the BEACH starting at $30 for an individual adult, $15 for youth, and $75 for a family (good for up to 6 admittances per visit), in lieu of tickets. People of all ages are invited to dive in to the exhibit through Labor Day, September 7.

Read more Eco Monday features here.

What do you think of the National Building Museum’s summer exhibit?

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