On the lawn outside the National Building Museum, it’s a balmy 90 degrees. The area is busy with people rushing to work, and the air is filled with humidity and bus exhaust.
On the lawn inside the museum’s Great Hall, however, it’s a different scene. People relax on blankets and in hammocks, which are scattered throughout 30,000 square feet of sloping green “grass.” Sounds of lawn mowers, sprinklers and crickets echo from nearby speakers. And, in the more comfortable 72 degrees, children play cornhole and croquet.
The National Building Museum’s annual Summer Block Party installation is back, and this year’s interactive exhibit celebrates a classic summer pastime: hanging out on a lawn.
“I thought the space really asked for one big gesture that invited people but didn’t try to predict what their experience would be, so it’s a very open-ended experience,” said David Rockwell, founder of Rockwell Group, the design firm behind the interactive installation.
In addition to the blankets, hammocks and yard games, “Lawn” features refreshment carts — even an augmented reality game for visitors to chase, collect and release fireflies.
There are also hidden speakers in the hammocks that share stories of summertime memories from a number of celebrities, including Bette Midler, Venus Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.
National Building Museum Executive Director Chase Rynd said the installation, which he described as a “familiar setting in an unfamiliar space,” is meant to be fun and entertaining. But, it’s also designed to “inspire people to think more about the built environment.”
“It’s a really great dichotomy, if you will, because underneath the lawn, you can see a lot of the construction material that’s been used to create a natural environment,” he said.
Similar to past Summer Block Party installations (“Hive,” “Icebergs,” “Beach”), “Lawn” features special programming throughout its nearly nine-week run, including movie nights, late nights and weekend yoga classes.
“We really want to make sure people feel like this is part of their whole summer experience, not just like a single, one-off experience, but kind of like their own backyard,” Rynd said.
“Lawn” at the National Building Museum is open July 4 through Sept. 2; admission is $16 for adults, $13 for youth/students/seniors and $10 for Blue Star military/AARP members.