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THE BIG MAZE in the Nation's Capital!

“Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all its MAZES and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route.” (-Charles Colton)


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The BIG MAZE at the National Building Museum has been on our "bucket list" this summer, so we wandered this weekend to Washington, DC, to check it out! (

"The Museum, in partnership with BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, has created a never-before-seen large-scale maze for the Museum's historic home. Soaring approximately 18 feet high and measuring 60 feet by 60 feet, the maple plywood structure will boast a series of twists and turns for visitors to weave through and explore. The "BIG Maze" will be open July 4 to September 1, 2014. Inspired by ancient labyrinths, garden and hedge mazes of 17th and 18th-century Europe, and modern American corn mazes, this contemporary maze is located in the West Court of the Museum's historic Great Hall.

Bjarke Ingels said of his design: 'The concept is simple: as you travel deeper into a maze, your path typically becomes more convoluted. What if we invert this scenario and create a maze that brings clarity and visual understanding upon reaching the heart of the labyrinth?' From outside, the maze's cube-like form hides the final reveal behind its 18-foot-tall walls. On the inside, the walls slowly descend towards the center which concludes with a grand reveal—a 360 degree understanding of your path in and how to get out." (Source: The National Building Museum)

I gotta say, we thought the maze was pretty cool! And given our family's architecture and engineering ties, we found the National Building Museum fascinating! The Building Museum, designed by Montgomery Meigs, was constructed in 1882-1887, and the 75 foot corinthium columns in the Great Hall are amongst the tallest in the world. Even cooler, Mr. Meigs proposed using some of these columns to store information "of interest to historians or antiquarians of the age when ruins of this building are opened to the curious." A collection of maps, reports, records, newspapers and a copper facsimile of the Declaration of Independance were among the documents enclosed in 20 columns in 1883. So the columns are time capsules!

Along with The Big Maze, current exhibits include:

--"Designing for Disaster" (which showcases some of the innovative new ways that building design can reduce our risk and increase our resiliency to the most destructive forces of nature (floods, fire, hurricanes and earthquakes). My kids really enjoyed building small house replicas and putting them in the wind tunnel to see if their design could withstand category 5 storm winds.

--"House and Home" which takes visitors on a tour of houses, objects and models of American domestic life and residential architecture from the last 3 centuries.

--"Play, Work, Build": a hands-on exhibit where kids and adults alike are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild and build with large scale blocks. Here you can create tall towers, houses, and even your own castle! This exhibit also features a selection of architectural and construction toys from the museum's collection.

Looking for more cool things to do in DC?

After a morning at the Building Museum, we spent the afternoon exploring the International Spy Museum, and their newer "Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of James Bond Villans" exhibit --a must for my James Bond-obsessed husband! This museum was fun and very well-done, but expensive and packed full. Expect HUGE crowds in the Summer. (See photo at end of blog)

We also headed over to the National Portrait Gallery at 8th and F Street NW.

(For you architecture buffs, the National Portrait Gallery is one of the nation's finest examples of Greek Revival architecture, and the building has undergone an extensive renovation that showcases its most dramatic architectural features, including skylights, a curving double staircase, porticos, and vaulted galleries illuminated by natural light. It is STUNNING!) The second floor of the museum has an impressive American Modern Art collection (our fav!). Be sure to also check out a "very cool" current exhibit entitled "American Cool."

About the "American Cool" exhibit:

"Cool is an original American sensibility and remains a global obsession. Cool became a password in bohemian life connoting a balanced state of mind, a dynamic mode of performance, and a certain stylish stoicism. A cool person has a situation under control, and with a signature style. Cool has been embodied in jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and Billie Holiday, in actors such as Robert Mitchum, Faye Dunaway, and Johnny Depp, and in singers such as Elvis Presley, Patti Smith, and Jay-Z. “American Cool” is a photography and cultural studies exhibition featuring portraits of such iconic figures, each of whom has contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a particular historical moment. They emerged from a variety of fields: art, music, film, sports, comedy, literature, and political activism."

All in all, a fabulous weekend of wandering!

Want to go?

-The National Building Museum

401 F Street NW Washington, D.C. 20001 202.272.2448

-The International Spy Museum

800 F Street, NW, Washington, DC, 2004

-The National Portrait Gallery

Eighth and F Streets NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

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