National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.

On View
July 4, 2017 - September 4, 2017


Presented as part of the National Building Museum’s 2017 Summer Block Party, Hive creates an exciting, interactive space buzzing with activity and sound.

Each chamber features an oculus that filters natural light from the Museum’s clerestories. Photo: Timothy Schenck.

Soaring above the Museum’s Great Hall, Hive is built entirely of wound paper tubes, a construction material that is lightweight, recyclable, and renewable. The tubes are stacked and interlocked to create three interconnected domed chambers. Each chamber balances structural forces and supports its own weight, while attaining a height that enables a unique acoustic signature. The tubes feature a luminous silver exterior and vivid magenta interior, offering a visual contrast with the Museum’s historic nineteenth-century interior and colossal Corinthian columns.

Hive’s catenary form recalls other built and natural structures such as Saarinen’s Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Brunelleschi’s Dome at the Florence Cathedral in Italy, and vernacular Musgum mud huts in Cameroon.

Plan of Hive Exhibition, designed by Studio Gang

Within the chambers, visitors are invited to explore how a structure can modify and reflect sound. The whole structure acts acoustically like a clearing in a forest—some sounds are reflected back while others pass through the tubes, creating an intimate space within the large field of the Great Hall. Various interactive experiences including opportunities to play with tubular instruments, created by acoustic engineer John Tewksbury and percussionist Steve Bloom, amplify the installation’s specific acoustic properties. Together the installation, activities, and instruments activate the space, bringing people together to engage in a dynamic sonic environment.

A Daybreaker dance party inside Hive.

Consultant Team

Carleton Laboratory, Columbia University Engineering, compression testing

Morlights (as Lightswitch), lighting consultant

Nussli, contractor

Thornton Tomasetti, structural engineer

Threshold Acoustics, acoustics consultant