National Building Museum Summer Block Party—Lawn

Practice Area


The National Building Museum


Project Vision

Every summer, The National Building Museum in Washington D.C. hosts an open competition to outfit the museum’s great hall with an immersive installation, which aims to create an experience encapsulating themes of summer. For the 2019 season, LAB at Rockwell Group created ‘Lawn,’ a concept celebrating the many identities of a lawn as an iconic communal space. A vast installation of a large sloping green space was built within the National Building Museum’s Great Hall, conceived to unite strangers through collective quintessential memories and rituals of summer.

Arriving at the base of the Lawn, guests are met with the green expanse, set on a graceful incline and dotted with clusters of communal lounging areas. Theater and design are intertwined in many ways, and this relationship drives the key aspects of Lawn. Interactive hammocks suspended from the ceiling contain hidden speakers programmed with pre-recorded audio from prominent American storytellers, sharing summertime memories. In fact, the entire lawn is bathed in soundscapes of distilled audio elements that evoke time spent outdoors on a warm summer day: crickets chirping, bees buzzing, a lawnmower whirring in the distance. An array of activities includes a selection of lawn games, a lemonade stand, and a popsicle stand. The lawn itself hosted programs and activations throughout the day, including movie nights, yoga, meditation, and a series of dance performances. Additionally, an Augmented Reality game for kids and adults was developed to enable visitors to chase and collect fireflies throughout the lawn.

Upon opening Lawn to the public, visitors were seen enjoying the space in unexpected ways. Children rolled down the sloped lawn as if they were outdoors on summer break. Young couples spent their afternoons in the suspended hammocks taking in the Great Hall and watching families play corn hole together – there was even a marriage proposal! The installation served as a safe haven to escape the summer heat. Lawn popped up on many lists of top activities to beat the heat in DC in 2019.

Project Details
Design Team

Rockwell Group Team: David Rockwell, FAIA (lead designer), Donna Pallotta (creative director), Laura Rankin (graphic designer), Harold Gainer (senior visualizer/designer), Ecem Castro, Michelle Sugeng, Tiffany Wu (staff)LAB at Rockwell Group Team: Melissa Hoffman (lead designer), Daniel Marino, Wayne Fung (designer), David Tracy (technologist), Kyle Greenberg (producer)National Building Museum Team: Chris Maclay (master carpenter), Cathy Frankel (project director)

Project Area

29,000 sq ft


ZGF Architects (architect of record), SynLawn Company (donated/install surface material), SenovvA Company (sound system installation), Yessian Company (sound consultant (produced the soundscape and lawn stories)), Shaw Contract (donated custom tile carpet lawn entry/ticketing area), Design Within Reach and Loll Designs (donated lawn seating by Loll Designs), Chemetal Company (mylar panel near fountain), Focus Lighting (lighting), Gouda Design (manufactured picnic blankets)


John Tessitore, Jordan Sanders, Marcus Collins, Patrick Lipscomb, James Matthews (carpentry and installation), Patuxent Engineering Group Scoffold Resource (engineering and scaffolding)