The National Building Museum turned 40 last year, but rather than slowing down, the Washington, D.C., institution has kicked into high gear as it reopens with a new executive director and a stronger emphasis on critical issues facing the construction industry today.

Aileen Fuchs has been named NBM’s president and executive director, replacing Brent Glass, director emeritus of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, who guided the NBM on an interim basis through the difficult pandemic times since last summer.

Scott Blair

Currently the president and CEO of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden on Staten Island, New York, Fuchs will start her new role at NBM in May. Prior work includes serving at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp.

Both the daughter and granddaughter of civil engineers, Fuchs says from a young age she had a “level of awareness and attraction to how communities are built.”

She enters at a critical stage for the museum, which will reopen this spring after being shut down since December 2019—initially for construction and then remaining closed during the pandemic. “Relevance and engagement are going to be the tip-of-the-tongue words” in her leadership philosophy, Fuchs says, in addition to a focus on issues such as social justice, equity and public health. “In a post-COVID world, what could be [possible] when people literally want to design and build a better world? The NBM is poised to really uncover that in a lot of relevant ways.” 

While the NBM “already acts as a real convener for cross conversations” across all the building professions, Fuchs says there’s room to grow its relevance as “the center of gravity for these types of conversations” and to connect the thought leadership of the construction industry to the general public. 

ENR has also returned to a leadership role at the museum. In October, I was named to a two-year term on the Board of Trustees, where I will serve alongside a diverse group of people from across the industry. 

The museum reopens with a new visitor’s center and exhibits including the Gun Violence Memorial Project, a showcase of the MASS Design Group, the works of architectural photographer Alan Karchmer and Great Hall installations.