Originally constructed in the late 1800s to house the United States Pension Bureau, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., is deceptively hollow—most of the first floor contains a full-height Great Hall. (President Donald Trump has described the Great Hall as "a hell of a big room.") For the last three summers, the museum has commissioned design firms to create a large-scale, interactive space-within-a-space, and today details dropped on Chicago firm Studio Gang's take for the Great Hall. Following Bjarke Ingels Group's maze, Snarkitecture's ball pit, and James Corner Field Operations' underwater iceberg landscape, Studio Gang has designed "Hive," a trio of "domed chambers" composed of over 2,700 wound paper tubes, for the museum's 2017 Summer Block Party installation.
"When you enter the Great Hall you almost feel like you’re in an outside space because of the distance sound travels before it is reflected back and made audible,” said the firm's founding principal, Jeanne Gang, FAIA, in a press release. "We’ve designed a series of chambers shaped by sound that are ideally suited for intimate conversations and gatherings as well as performances and acoustic experimentation. Using wound paper tubes, a common building material with unique sonic properties, and interlocking them to form a catenary dome, we create a hive for these activities, bringing people together to explore and engage the senses."
This year's installation will focus on sound: two of the domes will contain instruments to foster interaction between the chamber and sound. The main chamber, topping out at 60 feet tall, will feature an oculus roughly 10 feet wide.
This isn't the first Studio Gang project in D.C., or even at this museum. In 2003, the firm installed a tensioned marble curtain as part of the Masonry Variations exhibition.
"Hive" will be open at the National Building Museum from July 4 through Sept. 4, 2017.