More than 30 icebergs — some up to 56 feet tall — sit and float in a 12,540-square-foot ocean in the National Building Museum. The latest exhibit will have you taking a different look at Washington's sultry summers.
December 5, 2023 | A chilling scene: Icebergs takeover the National Building Museum (WTOP's Rachel Nania)
WASHINGTON — Outside, temperatures are on the rise and the heat of summer is setting in. But inside the National Building Museum, things are pretty cool.
More than 30 icebergs — some up to 56 feet tall — sit and float in a 12,540-square-foot ocean in the F Street NW building’s great hall. Sure, the icebergs are made from polycarbonate paneling, and the ocean is actually just a blue net, but the effect is stunning, nonetheless.
The ICEBERGS exhibit, designed by landscape architect James Corner, is the latest addition to the museum’s annual Summer Block Party series. Last year’s ball pit BEACH instillation drew more than 180,000 visitors in its two-month run.
When the museum reached out to Corner, who is best known for his work on The High Line in New York, he admits he was initially intimidated and hesitant to try to replicate the success of the BEACH project.
“My response was, ‘It’s not a matter of competition,’” said Chase Rynd, executive director of the National Building Museum. “What we’re really interested in is a surprising experience in the great hall.”
Similar to BEACH, ICEBERGS is an interactive experience. Visitors can walk in and out of the prefabricated structures, lounge on beanbags designed to look like small blocks of ice, and even climb up the tallest iceberg to catch a view of the landscape from above the ocean’s surface.
There’s an iceberg slide, educational programming and a kiosk that sells Japanese shaved ice from local restaurant Daikaya.
Corner says he chose the iceberg theme for a number of reasons.
“First, we feel quite passionately about issues surrounding the environment and climate change at the moment. We thought it would be instructive to have an installation that spoke to issues of global warming, to ice melt, to what icebergs actually are, and to create a narrative around that,” he said.
The city’s uncomfortable summers also inspired his design.
“In July and August in Washington D.C., it’s super hot outside; it’s humid, it’s sweltering. Wouldn’t it be great to come into an environment that’s literally cool?”
Corner and his team constructed the iceberg’s triangular pieces off-site and have been installing them in them over the past two weeks. The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday, July 2 and will run through Sept. 5.
Similar to last year, the museum is planning weekly after-hours events in ICEBERGS, with live entertainment and food from local favorites such as Maketto, Hank’s Oyster Bar, The BBQ Joint and Port City Brewing Company.
Tickets to the exhibit are $16 for adults and $13 for youth, students and seniors, and includes admission to all of the museum’s exhibitions.