National Building Museum in Washington Sets “Around the World in 80 Paper Models” Exhibition

The National Building Museum (NBM) in Washington has recently received a 4,500-piece collection of paper models and catalogs for buildings from all the 50 states of the US and 57 other countries. The collection was donated by local architect and life-long collector David Kemnitzer whose interest in paper models dates back to the 1940s, long before he decides on his career path. “Kemnitzer’s collection includes a wide variety of structures, exploring how states and countries are represented through these paper souvenirs,” states the NBM on their website. The collection includes models of hand-drawn castles, detailed cathedrals, water-colored gardens, and micro models, in addition to some imaginary buildings like forts, castles, skyscrapers, and entire villages.

Nuclear Power Plant in the Kemnitzer Paper Model Collection (courtesy of David A. Kemnitzer, architect; photo by National Building Museum staff)

Kemnitzer has been collecting paper models for decades, but the 4500 pieces which he donated to the museum, between 2013 and 2016, were never, actually, assembled. So, the museum staff, along with architecture students and volunteers, started working on the construction of a selection of these models using scissors, glue, and razor blades. Sourcing from that rich collection, the museum has set an “around the world”-themed exhibition, displaying 80 paper models which include miniatures of world-famous landmarks like the Dome of the Rock, Canterbury Cathedral, and Rietveld Schröder House. They, also, include models of other built elements like a folded fountain from Barcelona, in addition to model from 1950s which reveal “unfortunate stereotypes” of foreign cultures from back in the time.

The museum offers on its website downloadable PDFs of printable models, for the Internet audience to try at home. These printable models are for the National Building Museum, David Adjaye’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Suspension Bridge.

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