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

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

Credit: Wanda Lau

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.

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

Credit: Wanda Lau

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.

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

Credit: Wanda Lau

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.

Construction activity on the East battlefield of the NBM atrium.

Credit: Wanda Lau

Construction activity at the West battlefield of the NBM atrium.

Construction activity at the West battlefield of the NBM atrium.

Credit: Wanda Lau


Team identity was imperative to teams on the West battlefield.

Team identity was imperative to teams on the West battlefield.

Credit: Wanda Lau


Teams valued personal armor on the East battlefield.

Teams valued personal armor on the East battlefield.

Credit: Wanda Lau


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

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

Credit: Wanda Lau


Some teams used humans to support their forts.

Some teams used humans to support their forts.

Credit: Wanda Lau


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

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

Credit: Wanda Lau


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

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

Credit: Wanda Lau


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

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

Credit: Wanda Lau