Exhibition

  • Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project
    G. Martin Moeller, Jr.
    Curator
    National Building Museum, Washington
    Mar 24, 2018 to Jan 21, 2019
  • GRANTEE
    National Building Museum
    GRANT YEAR
    2016

The city of Oak Ridge remained under direct federal control for roughly fourteen years after the end of World War II. During that time, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill continued to receive commissions for civic, commercial, and residential buildings within the city. The multifamily housing complex shown here, like many of the firm’s postwar projects in Oak Ridge, was strikingly modern, with flat roofs, ribbon windows, and projecting upper levels supported on slender pilotis. Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Architects. Image copyright: Torkel Korling.

Between 1942 and 1945, the US Army Corps of Engineers built three entirely new cities from scratch: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Hanford/Richland, Washington. Although these communities ultimately housed a total of more than 125,000 people, they appeared on no maps; officially, they did not exist. These were the "Secret Cities" of the Manhattan Project, the code name for the US effort to develop an atomic bomb before the Axis Powers could do so. Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project will explore the cutting-edge ideas about town planning, mass housing, and modular construction reflected in these quickly, though thoughtfully, crafted cities. It will trace their precedents in the Bauhaus and other early modernist schools of thought, and will examine how these cities became important proving grounds for the large-scale suburban development that would dramatically alter the post-war American landscape.

G. Martin Moeller, Jr. is senior curator at the National Building Museum, as well as an independent curator, writer, and editor. He has served as lead curator for several of the museum's most popular and critically acclaimed exhibitions, including Unbuilt Washington; Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete; and Reinventing the Globe: A Shakespearean Theater for the Twenty-First Century. He has also coordinated the museum's presentation of such major exhibitions as Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. Working independently, Moeller wrote the fourth and fifth editions of the AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, DC. He holds BArch and MArch degrees from Tulane University, and was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome in 2010. He is an associate member of the American Institute of Architects and a member of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Cathy Crane Frankel, vice-president of exhibitions and collections, leads the curatorial team to develop the museum's exhibition program and coordinates the production of the museum's shows. Among those that she has directed during her tenure are the acclaimed House and Home; a series of ambitious exhibitions focusing on sustainability and the built environment; and history-based exhibitions, including House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage and Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. Frankel holds an MAT from the George Washington University and a BA from Dickinson College.

Pure+Applied is a multidisciplinary design studio specializing in exhibitions, exhibition graphics, interiors, way-finding, publications, and web design. The firm's inventive installations, such as The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter at the New York Public Library, combine two- and three-dimensional elements to create rich experiences. Pure+Applied has worked with the National Building Museum on a number of exhibitions, including Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete. For Secret Cities, the firm will develop design strategies and establish a graphic identity for the related marketing campaign.

Established by an act of Congress in 1980, and opened in 1985, the National Building Museum is a private, nonprofit museum with a mission to advance the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives.