As the wealthiest country on the planet, the United States is naturally home to an assortment of architectural wonders. And although architectural museums may be more elusive than traditional art museums, the U.S. is home to some of the most heralded architectural museums in the world. These museums stretch from the East Coast to the West, and each offer markedly unique experiences. In addition to housing the history of countless cities’ architectural development and subsequent urban sprawl, they feature innovative and especially interesting exhibits as well. For anyone visiting the U.S., especially any general contractor, commercial construction company, or anyone else interested in building things for that matter, the following museums are must-visits.
Chicago has one of the richest architectural histories in America. From the Willis tower to the Frank Lloyd Wright homes, this city is brimming with sights. One of the most famous architectural museums is the Chicago Athenaeum. This international museum is located on the city’s north side. In addition to the huge museum, there is a satellite facility in Schaumburg, which is roughly 30 miles to the northwest of Chicago. The Chicago Athenaeum is also home to some of the most prestigious design and sustainability awards contests around the world. Chicago is often referred to as the birthplace of American modern architecture and design, so any architecture enthusiast is sure to enjoy what the museum has to offer.
Although it’s not technically a museum, the city of Chicago offers a guided architecture boat tour on the Chicago River that is widely enjoyed. The tour is hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and is a popular attraction for tourists. You don’t have to be an architecture and design expert to have an enjoyable time on the tour — plus, there’s a bar!
Some may consider Chicago the epicenter of modern design, however Los Angeles is also a close contender: hosting one of the best and most-visited architectural museums in the country. The Architecture and Design Museum is located in the heart of LA, and it boasts the mission to make innovative and progressive architecture from around the world accessible to the public. In addition to housing exhibits from across the nation, the museum also serves as a forum for discussion about urban planning, water sourcing, and other issues that large cities face.
New York City
In New York City, the Skyscraper Museum focuses on the history and technological innovations that have led to the iconic skyline. The museum is located in Manhattan and is friendly for all ages. The museum itself is an aesthetically appealing architectural wonder with an interesting history. The museum’s previous site was so close to the 9/11 tragedy that it was used as an emergency center. In 2004, the museum moved to its permanent home. The current exhibit focuses on the history and development of Times Square.
The Museum of Modern Art, located in NYC, also has an architecture and design department that is worth seeing when you’re in the city. Their view is that art and design go hand in hand. The department opened in 1932 and features over 28,000 architectural pieces of all shapes and sizes.
Also on the East Coast is the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. This museum features “stories of architecture, engineering and design”. Located just four blocks from the National Mall, this museum is an architectural feat in and of itself. The building is massive and features 75-foot tall columns and an enormous Great Hall. This museum is unique because it caters to all age groups. There are programs designed for youth, teens and adults and the museum has an outreach program for local schools as well. This summer, there is a “Designing for Disaster” exhibit as well as a “Building Zone” interactive exhibit for young children.
America is rich with beautiful architectural advancements throughout the country. Although the most notable museums dedicated to architecture and design are only located in big cities; it’s worth the trip. Whether you’re an architectural enthusiast, general contractor, or just dipping your toe into this country’s construction and design history, you’re bound to have a good time.
Written by Kent Murdock, owner of Randy Adams Construction in Columbia, MO. Randy Adams Construction is one of the best commercial construction companies Columbia, MO has to offer.