The “pool” at the National Building Museum's “Fun House” exhibition. (Taylor Telford/The Washington Post)

From a distance, it is familiar: a stark and stately home, tucked behind a picket fence. A courtyard. A swimming pool. But with “Fun House,” the new summer exhibition at the National Building Museum, the ordinary is a facade that quickly reveals itself to be unusual.

Rows of sneakers are suspended on an angle from the ceiling. Candles have miniature skyscrapers for wicks. One cavernous corner is mottled and carved into a Styrofoam igloo. A maze of hanging streamers obscure the study and dictate your path through it. Exterior swatches look curdled and crumbled, as though devoured by termites; parts of the empty frame are stuffed with gigantic, hot-dog-like inflatables.

The exhibition comes from Snarkitecture, a New York-based design collaborative. The group plays with the boundaries of art and architecture, and much of its work hinges on repurposing everyday objects and environments and turning them into something foreign. “Fun House” combines and adapts a number of projects from Snarkitecture’s 10-year history into an interactive experience, including a swimming pool that is a revamp of the popular colossal ball pit from the 2015 installation, “The Beach.”

“We went back to the idea of the classic American prefab house as a way to reproduce the unfamiliar in a familiar venue,” said Maria Cristina Didero, who curated the exhibit. “We tried to respect the traditional division of the house. Everything seems to be as it should, but it’s not.”


The “Fun House” summer exhibition at the National Building Museum. (Taylor Telford/The Washington Post)

The installation is expansive, taking up the entirety of the museum’s Great Hall. Every piece is totally white, and the blankness makes the strange seem even stranger.

It is a paradise for kids: There is a city of pipes to feed marbles through, a pyramid of cushions to clamber on and multiple ball pits to leap into. The collision of weirdness and wonder also makes it imminently Instagrammable, fitting the trend of museums catering to visitors who want to document their visits on social media.

“Fun House” opens July 4 and runs until early September. The museum will host special events along with the exhibit, including an early morning dance movement on July 6 and late nights with food, tours and pop-up talks on Wednesday evenings, starting July 11.

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