Created by Studio Gang, Hive is a towering sculpture made up of 2,700 cylinders reaching 60 feet into the air. From a distance, the pieces appear metallic and suggest a heavy, powerful fortress. In reality, the cylinders are made of thick cardboard painted gray. Notches are cut into each piece to facilitate interlocking and allow them to reach soaring heights.
Each tube is painted bright fuchsia inside — a sharp contrast to the gun-metal gray exteriors. As you approach the sculpture, you begin to feel the rosy glow emanating from each tube before you can even see it. While the structure emanates strength and solidity, the warmth exuded by the interiors makes visitors feel safe and welcome.
Hive features three interconnected sculptures of varying sizes, each of which visitors can enter and view from the inside to immerse themselves in the full experience.
Each dome is open at the top, allowing natural light to enter the space, which is critical to creating just the right atmosphere — like you’re in a cathedral instead of a cave.
Many Washington landmark buildings have unusual acoustics, allowing visitors to hear voices on the other side of the room better than those next to them. The National Building Museum’s Great Hall is similar, and the Hive exhibit allows visitors experiment with sound inside the sculptures.
Several groupings of wind chimes hang from above, made with copper piping, saw blades and wrenches. In another area, soft paddles are provided to strike empty sections of PV piping and corrugated plastic tubes.
Outside the sculptures, children can play with sturdy, cardboard versions of Build It! Discs to learn more about building and strength.
If you visit with kids, be sure to stop at the museum’s Building Zone, where children 2 to 6 can play with construction toys such as trucks and Lego blocks, look at children’s books about architecture or play in the playhouse. Also visit Play, Work, Build, an area where children can build with blocks as small as a domino or as big as themselves (these are safely constructed of foam).
If you go without kids, check out House & Home, a fun exhibit about homes in America that includes relics such as an old Monopoly game board, a Crock-Pot and a pink, plastic lawn flamingo. Also on exhibit are Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017 (the arguably infamous local psychiatric facility), Wright on the Walls (a tribute to renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright), Timber City (all about the suitability of wood for building) and Around the World in 80 Paper Models (an exhibit of architectural paper models).
Through Sept. 4; Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5p.m. Sunday; Tickets: $16 adult, $13 youth/student/senior, $5 Blue Stars, members free.