The creativity use of cardboard was one of the criteria that NBM staff members considered in their jury process.
Wanda Lau The creativity use of cardboard was one of the criteria that NBM staff members considered in their jury process.

At the National Building Museum’s sold-out Ultimate Megafort event on Jan. 16, a background in architecture or engineering was optional, but creativity and a collaborative spirit were a must. (A good throwing arm and a love for music from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings didn’t hurt either.) The evening program, which was presented by the Keystone Society, the Museum’s membership program for emerging professionals, brought people from all backgrounds together in Washington, D.C., for a night of fort building, battle, and beer.

A member of team Hermit Kingdom inspects the fort's construction quality, a task that would ultimately pay off.
Wanda Lau A member of team Hermit Kingdom inspects the fort's construction quality, a task that would ultimately pay off.

The rules were straightforward, says Sally Otis, family programs manager at NBM. Sixteen teams of 10 people each had to defend a 15-foot-square territory from foam balls by building a cardboard fort. The fort not only had to defend the territory from the foam balls but also allow team members to “launch attacks.” Each team squared off with the team directly across from them, about six feet away. As teams constructed their forts in the one-hour construction period, NBM staff members walked the floor to look for “creative uses of cardboard, how things are built, interesting features, and creative ways of defending the territory or of launching attacks,” Otis says. A winner from the East and West battlefields, at each end of NBM’s expansive atrium, would be declared at the end of the event.

Along with boxes and tape, teams were given plastic make-do pieces, which work like nuts and bolts.
Wanda Lau Along with boxes and tape, teams were given plastic make-do pieces, which work like nuts and bolts.

Though the program appeared to let D.C. workers and residents share laughs with new friends and let out steam, Otis says that the Museum wanted to encourage people to think about new ways to use materials, design multifunctional structures, and get hands-on with construction. “It’s about engaging with the museum in a really fun way and getting to meet other like-minded people at a fun event,” she says.

Construction activity on the East battlefield of the NBM atrium.
Wanda Lau Construction activity on the East battlefield of the NBM atrium.

Construction activity at the West battlefield of the NBM atrium.
Wanda Lau Construction activity at the West battlefield of the NBM atrium.


Team identity was imperative to teams on the West battlefield.
Wanda Lau Team identity was imperative to teams on the West battlefield.


Teams valued personal armor on the East battlefield.
Wanda Lau Teams valued personal armor on the East battlefield.


Plastic plates pilfered from the refreshment tables provided decoration, but not protection.
Wanda Lau Plastic plates pilfered from the refreshment tables provided decoration, but not protection.


Some teams used humans to support their forts.
Wanda Lau Some teams used humans to support their forts.


The dragon mascot for Team Who Does #2 Work For? looks over the battlefield.
Wanda Lau The dragon mascot for Team Who Does #2 Work For? looks over the battlefield.


Team Fort Yellowtail was declared the winner of the West battlefield.
Wanda Lau Team Fort Yellowtail was declared the winner of the West battlefield.


Team Hermit Kingdom was crowned as the winner of the East battlefield.
Wanda Lau Team Hermit Kingdom was crowned as the winner of the East battlefield.