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Pierluigi Colombo dwelling takes center stage at National Building Museum exhibit
Dec 15, 2017
Melissa Studach

The Open House, a 1,000-square-foot home designed by Italian architect Pierluigi Colombo, is on display at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The model residence is the foundation surrounding the “Making Room: Housing for a Changing America” exhibit, meant to showcase the housing market’s nonconformative dwellings.

Making Room at the National Building Museum
‘Making Room: Housing for a Changing America’ is now on display at the National Building Museum; photo by Yassine el Mansouri

Dubbed “a rallying cry for a wider menu of housing options,” the exhibit highlights the innovative design solutions for society’s evolving and diverse housing needs. While nuclear families and their suburban household desires drove market demand in the mid-20th century, the category only accounts for 20 percent of households today. Demographic and lifestyle shifts have redefined the way society wants to live, causing building standards like zoning restrictions to become outdated. How design’s stakeholders have responded to the demand—from micro-units to accessory apartments—plays a starring role in the exhibition.

“Households in the United States are changing, but housing supply and policy is not changing at the same pace,” says Chase W. Rynd, president and executive director of the National Building Museum. “‘Making Room’ offers the opportunity to explore innovative design solutions to meet evolving lifestyle needs in today’s society, both through case studies and with the full-scale Open House that we are constructing in our galleries.”

Making Room by Pierluigi Colombo
The exhibit is split into models designed for living situations like roommates, extended family and empty nesters.

Movable walls, multifunctional furniture and a hyper-efficient layout are a few of the key features detailed in The Open House, on display through September 2018. The model is split into three corresponding units, each skewed toward a modern living arrangement (see: roommates, extended family and empty nesters).

The Open House
The Pierluigi Colombo–designed Open House is central to the exhibition; photo by Carl Cox, courtesy Resource Furniture.

Alongside the exhibition, the museum is hosting a special educational programming series. Each session will highlight an example of how industry shakers are innovating the housing market. From tiny-house villages for the homeless to accessory dwelling units that fit in the backyard, the modern home is in no way cookie-cutter. Education programs run through Summer 2018.

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