Dezeen Magazine

A central table with illuminated skylines

Studio Joseph highlights construction's climate impacts at DC exhibition

New York-based architecture practice Studio Joseph has created a series of galleries for the National Building Museum in Washington, DC that aim to explain the building industry to the public.

The Welcome Center functions as a lobby and ticketing area for the National Building Museum while introducing visitors to the effects of climate change in the construction industry, as well as sustainable design processes.

A wall with arched bookcase
Studio Joseph has created three galleries for the National Building Museum in Washington, DC

"The exhibition focuses on the impact humans have on the earth," said Studio Joseph. "We foster community understanding of buildings, constructed landscapes, and infrastructure that affect nature and the resulting issues of climate change."

The project includes three gallery spaces located at the entrance to the museum that function as a "friendly front door" for the public.

A central table with illuminated skylines
The project aims to inform the public about the building industries and climate change

"Although the National Building Museum has a stellar reputation in the design world, the complicated truth is that the public, especially the local communities, did not feel welcome," said the studio.

"They did not understand the importance of the built environment in their lives, from the more intimate aspects of their daily lives to the resonance of global issues related to natural resources and climate."

A central table with illuminated skylines
The spaces act as a ticketing space and welcome centre for visitors

The first gallery features a large shelving system with arched cases protected by flush glass that was populated with architectural elements from historic facades, toys, tools, drawings and models from the museum's collections.

The diverse array serves as a reminder that "we are all creators; we have an innate sense of making".

City skylines displayed on a table
Architectural objects are on display in the first gallery, while urbanism is explored through illuminated skylines in another

Visitors walk through a central, arched passageway into the second gallery, which contains a large table outfitted with an illuminated display of cut-outs of US city skylines.

The display explores transportation, housing, population density, ecology and resiliency in urban centres with changing graphics and light displays.

An arched doorway leads through museum galleries
A third gallery explores materials

The third gallery explores building materials with panels of varying sustainable materials installed along the walls.

Through visual and audio displays throughout the space, designers share the reasoning behind choosing specific materials for projects.

A wall of different textures
Visitors access the spaces through a central corridor

"Gallery three allows visitors to experience full-scale building elements while listening to designers discuss how they select materials based on culture, context, and environmental conditions," said the studio.

At the gallery's centre, a table displays tactile samples of sustainable materials that were made using plant fibre and other repurposed materials.

The panels were all coated in a protective layer of grey Zolatone paint, while bright orange and red cushions were provided for seating.

"The problem at the NBM is that issues of the built environment can be technical, not visual or experiential," said the studio.

A wall of different textures
The galleries use audio, visual and tactile displays to inform the public about the building industries

"Therefore, we had to find ways to involve the public in the problem without overwhelming people with facts about the many ways we build on earth. The entire experience is one of discovery."

In keeping with sustainable design practices, the studio used LED lighting and sustainable wood flooring.

The Welcome Center at the National Building Museum has been shortlisted for the Dezeen Awards 2023 in the exhibition design category.

Other recent exhibition design projects include Objects Of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today by Alexander Boxill in London and Flow in Milan by Daisuke Yamamoto Design.

The photography is by Yassine El Mansouri.

Project Credits:

Architecture: Studio Joseph
Principal: Wendy Evans Joseph
Director of design: Monica Coghlan
Project manager: Jose Luis Vidalon
Designer: Shuo Yang
Designer: Shriya Sanil
Graphic designer: David Genco
Graphic designer: Cassandra Gerardo
Fabricators: Southside Builders, New Project
Architects of record: Studios
Media production for table interactive: Bluecadet
Media integration: Diversified, Maelstrom Media
Lighting design: MCLA

More images

National Building Museum Orientation Gallery by Studio Joseph plan
National Building Museum Orientation Gallery by Studio Joseph plan
National Building Museum Orientation Gallery by Studio Joseph section