Play it Cool with ICEBERGS at the National Building Museum

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We’ve come to expect big things from the National Building Museum every summer. It began with indoor mini-golf two years in a row. Then it was the Big Maze. Last year, we got to play at the awesome BEACH. And one commonality among them: They were all really cool.

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This year’s installation fits right in with that – literally and figuratively. ICEBERGS, an immersive exhibit with an environmental narrative, transforms the museum’s Great Hall into a sea of icebergs that welcome visitors to explore.

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Blue mesh netting encompasses the exhibit to give it an otherworldly feel, and the “bergs” within are all different sizes presented at varying levels. Some hang from the ceiling as if they’re floating, while others start at floor level with the tip jutting out over the mesh top (like 25% of a real iceberg rising above the surface of the sea).

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You can walk through many of them, and the tallest, 56-foot “bergy bit,” houses scaffolding inside that you can climb to a lookout at the height of the second-story of the Museum, which is right sea level. It’s neat to get a view of both the exhibit and the Museum from that perspective, essentially right in the middle of the Great Hall. You can then exit the berg with a ride down one of two slides (careful, they go fast!).

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While there is an environmental aspect to the installation — an awareness of ice melt from global warming — it’s not overt (though ICEBERGS is built from re-usable construction materials, such as scaffolding and polycarbonate paneling, which is used in building greenhouses). The overall aesthetic is what captured my attention most — how it looked from different angles as the light moved through; the various levels below, at the surface, and above; and the way it was constructed within the Great Hall, with its grand, marble columns.

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White bean bags meant to resemble ice chunks are within for visitors to lounge. You can sit and enjoy your kakigori shaved ice treat from the stand set up by Daikaya. The strawberry and red bean cup I had was delicious!

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While you probably won’t stay and play for hours like you did at The BEACH last summer, ICEBERGS definitely is worth checking out. Plus, the admission fee gets you into all of the other NBM exhibits, too! And every Wednesday evening, you can chill after hours 6-10pm at ICEBERGS Late Nights, which are “all ages” every week. There will be special performances and programs, plus food and beverages available for purchase from special guest chefs.

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ICEBERGS will be at the National Building Museum July 2 – September 5. Hours are 10am – 5pm, with after hours Wednesdays 6-10pm. Admission is $5/youth member, $10/adult member and $13/youth non-member, $16/adult non-member. All ages can enjoy it, but little ones should probably be accompanied by adults when going down the slides and climbing up onto the balcony.


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