Local Developers Unite Over National Building Museum BIG Maze

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Rachel Rose Hartman

How likely are you to see some of the top, competing developers in Washington, D.C. come together and share resources?
If you're at the National Building Museum (401 F Street NW) this summer, an 18-foot-high example will be towering above you in plain sight.
In an unprecedented partnership, executives and employees from Clark Construction Group, LLC, James G. Davis Construction Corporation (DAVIS), Glass Construction, Grunley Construction Company, Inc., SIGAL Construction Corporation and GCS Inc. joined together to make the National Building Museum's BIG Maze a reality. By donating support and labor, local developers fueled a creative undertaking by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to create a lifesize maze in the museum's cavernous Great Hall.
Longtime museum supporter, the Home Depot Foundation, supplied the maple plywood used for the maze walls. Developers then pooled their resources to saw, nail and construct the 3600 square foot maze in the middle of the museum in less than three weeks.
Soon, 18 foot walls were erected, surrounding a complex, lifesize maze open to the public for the summer to build upon the museum's successful Summer Block Party series which in 2013 included a popular miniature golf exhibit. The unique maze experience is designed offer the public for a limited time a never-before-seen architectural adventure.
“The BIG Maze serves to reinvigorate the mission of the National Building Museum by inspiring the public about the built environment," said Chase W. Rynd, Executive Director of the museum. "The maze’s physical scale, the building materials, the complex pattern, and the collaboration required to build it all result in a huge wow factor for our youngest and oldest visitors alike.”
Developers said they were thrilled to join together to work on the project.
Gary Myers, general manager of Glass Construction said his company and Tom Glass, president and CEO, have been "longtime supporters of the museum" and were very pleased with the process and the outcome.
“Tom Glass is a trustee, and worked with the other companies to come up with the design which makes use of TimberStrand recycled lumber as well as other materials donated by Home Depot," Myers said. "It was a great collaboration and we are very happy with how it turned out. We enjoyed lending our support to such a fun project!”
DAVIS CEO Jim Davis, also a member of the museum's board of trustees, said "we are SO excited about this project, and SO proud to part of the team that delivered such an exciting first for D.C."
He added, "to us, the BIG Maze is such a clear demonstration of how innovation, technology and passion converge to create a meaningful community connection. The National Building Museum continues to champion the built environment, which is why after almost 20 years, our continued partnership with the museum is important to us all at DAVIS. Providing our expertise to translate this complex design into a reality is both inspiring and hugely gratifying on every level.”
Clark Construction Group's Susan Williamson Ross, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said Clark was "delighted to help the National Building Museum realize its dream of erecting a maze in the Great Hall.”
“The BIG Maze has brought such positive and deserved attention to the Museum's important mission and work. We were thrilled to work in partnership with other local contractors to bring this exciting initiative to fruition."
Visitors approach the maze and present their entry tickets, then are permitted to disappear into the twists and turns of the structure. Much like a hedge maze, visitors at first cannot see over the high walls, which means guests may often find themselves pursuing a dead end. But as a visitor makes progress, the walls become shorter, encouraging one's pursuit and offering glimpses of a potential way forward. 
Brett Rodgers, the museum's director of marketing and communications, explained during a recent tour that the maze is an updated version of a labyrinth, corn or hedge maze, designed to entertain and delight visitors young and old. 
But the goal of this maze is reaching the middle. 
“In the center, there’s a grand reveal,” Rodgers said.
Once a guest reaches the center, they will stand at the maze’s lowest point and for the first time and will have a complete 360 degree view of the entire upward sloping maze. Standing in the center, visitors’ eyes are also drawn up, where they will find an impressive view of the museum’s own historic Great Hall: the 75 foot high Corinthian columns, the vast, vertical space, the upper floors of the building and ceiling. The exhibit prompts the guest to see the museum in a new way as well.
Several thousand visitors showed up on July 4th weekend when the maze first opened, and interest has remained high ever since. But since navigating the maze can take a relatively short amount of time, the exhibit rarely experiences a wait time of more than 5-10 minutes, even at peak hours of the day, and offers visitors an indoor-air-conditioned experience in the heat of summer. 
The exhibit is open from July 4-Sept. 1 and costs $16 for adults and $13 for youth, students or seniors. Discounts apply for museum members.
For more information on the BIG Maze and ticketing, click here.