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If Walls Could Talk

By Linda Tancs

We often ponder what might be learned if walls could talk. Well, there’s no need to wonder. At Washington, D.C.’s National Building Museum, the walls do plenty of talking. In fact, the site is the leading cultural institution devoted to interpreting the history and impact of the built environment. Telling the stories of architecture, engineering and design, its exhibitions run the gamut from “please-touch” walls made out of different materials used in residential construction over time to advances in sustainable architecture. The museum building itself is a conversation piece. Located just blocks from the National Mall, its exterior was modeled after the Palazzo Farnese in Rome and boasts a 1,200-foot-long frieze wrapping the building and depicting a parade of Civil War military units. Inside, the soaring Great Hall is set off by colossal 75-foot-tall Corinthian columns. Free docent-led historic building tours are available daily.

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