Chermayeff & Geismar

Practice Area


Reagan Building


Project Vision

This installation was created in four months with $87,000, which included all research, design, fabrication, and installation. Both the design and the fabrication of the exhibit reflect the client’s modest purpose. Although the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is not well understood in this country, millions around the world know the United States only from the bold shield emblazoned on a life-saving relief shipment tumbling from a truck. USAID’s earnest spirit was evident nowhere in the opulent new Reagan Building , of which USAID was the first major tenant. Therefore, the exhibit took on the appearance of a humanitarian shipment, and was built from the most battered old shipping crates that could be found in the fabricator’s warehouse. The five main modules take the form of large letters, together forming an acrostic. Each letter from the acronym USAID is assigned to head a new topic sentence (for example, “Understanding the History of USAID” or “Assistance Both Public and Private”).

Project Details
The design of this exhibition relies on found objects, graffiti, posters, freight stickers, and the lumber of old packing cases-the detritus of a wealthy, industrial nation-to demonstrate the merits of the USAID program. The display is carefully calibrated to contrast with the graphic systems in place in Washington's Reagan Building and to suggest, by its differences from the marble surfaces and solemn classical typography of that structure, the effectiveness of the modest, practical aid program directed by the client.
Juror 1
Design Team

Jonathan Alger (Principal in Charge), Nina Katchadourian

Design Firm

Chermayeff & Geismar

Project Budget