Things to Do

Huge Kaleidoscopes and Shimmering Mirrors: This Year’s National Building Museum Summer Block Party

Expect events like guided meditations and design lectures, too.

A rendering of the National Building Museum's summer installation, "Look Here." Rendering courtesy of Reddymade and the National Building Museum.

The National Building Museum; 401 F St NW

Mirrors shaped like origami fortune tellers, nine-foot-tall kaleidoscopes, and images of historic activist marches will comprise the National Building Museum’s seventh annual Summer Block Party installation. “Look Here” is slated to open on July 1 and will stick around through September 4. The project is spearheaded by artist and architect Suchi Reddy, who is the first woman of color to create a block party project for the museum. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Summer Block Party series, here’s a refresher: Each year (minus a brief hiatus during Covid), the National Building Museum transforms its 3,054-square-foot great hall into a massive, interactive installation celebrating architecture and art. Adding to the fun are free daytime and evening events that correspond with each year’s theme.

The museum’s 2019 installation, “The Lawn.” Photograph courtesy of Timothy Schenck/National Building Museum.

Past crowd-drawers have included a Shakespearean stage as part of “The Playhouse” installation; a bookish maze at “Inside Out”; and a ginormous spread of faux-grass and hammocks during “The Lawn.” 

This year, “Look Here” will deliver a shimmering, Hall of Mirrors-style space that’s basically like a deconstructed disco ball. A large oval ramp inside its center court will lead visitors beneath oversized mirrors shaped like origami fortune-tellers. At the peak of the ramp will be a seating area where visitors can recline underneath kaleidoscopes that will reflect the light and the interior of the building. Meanwhile, interspersed throughout all of these elements will be photos from activist gatherings in DC, such as the 1963 March on Washington.

A rendering of the National Building Museum’s summer installation, “Look Here.” Rendering courtesy of Reddymade/National Building Museum.

Known for doing large-scale projects, Reddy is the same artist behind last year’s art installation inside the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, as well as other popular installations in Times Square and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

Visitors can check out the installation Thursdays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As part of the “Look Here” run, there will also free classes and events at the museum:

  • July 3: An afternoon meditation and sound bath session
  • July 7: A bright-and-early morning dance event with Daybreaker
  • July 13, July 27, August 10, and August 24: A series of “Late Nights,” featuring music, food, and drink
  • July 17: A “spotlight on design” lecture with Suchi Reddy
  • July 22 and August 26: Kaleidoscope-building workshops

Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor