Metro Weekly

Day at the Beach

This summer at the National Building Museum, you can play at the Beach without having to knock sand out of your shoes

The Beach - Photo: Noah Kalina

The Beach – Photo: Noah Kalina

Beaches come in all shapes, sizes, and textures. Some are rocky, or covered in shells. Some have crystal clear water. Some are lined with palm trees. And some are in the middle of Chinatown and comprised of a million white, plastic balls. Yes, in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum you can have your own day at the Beach. You won’t have to bring sunscreen, but you might want to bring hand sanitizer.

“We’ve been experimenting with large scale interactive things for the past few years,” says Brett Rodgers of the National Building Museum. “Last year we had a beautifully designed maze, the year before that we had a mini golf installation. This year, we wanted to do something big to use our space, to activate it.” Enter Snarkitecture, a Brooklyn based firm that “investigates the unknown within architecture,” and “operates in the territories between art and architecture.”

It’s this make-believe that makes the Beach so much fun. Just check out the Building Museum’s Instagram and you’ll find smiling faces lying on the astroturf beach, heads bobbing up out the spherical water, and people munching on snacks provided by Union Kitchen. “People are really buying into it,” says Rodgers.

The Beach - Photo: Noah Kalina

The Beach – Photo: Noah Kalina

You might want to visit the hand sanitizer stations after you dive in, however. It’s no secret that ball pits can retain germs, especially from children. According to the Washington City Paper, visitors to the Beach may catch more than just waves. The day after her visit, Piper Grosswendt noticed slight swelling and redness in her eye. She was diagnosed with pinkeye. Another visitor who took a dip when the exhibit opened contracted a serious cold that caused her to miss two days of work.

Snarkitecture, however, claims that the balls are clean, made from GermBlock, an antimicrobial polythene. Further, the pit is cleaned every morning. To further combat illness, Rodgers and his team plan on installing more hand sanitizer stations throughout the exhibit.

So, germ factory, or harmless fun? You decide. Unlike other beaches, however, the exhibit at the National Building Museum has an expiration date. It’s set to dry up before labor day.

The Beach runs through September 7th at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW. Hours are Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets range from $5 to $16. Visit

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