National Building Museum announces Aileen Fuchs as new Executive Director

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National Building Museum announces Aileen Fuchs as new Executive Director
Aileen Fuchs. Photo: Michael McWeeney.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The National Building Museum announced that Aileen Fuchs has been selected by the Board of Trustees as its new President and Executive Director. Currently the President and CEO of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Fuchs will be the fifth director of the Museum, which last year celebrated the 40th anniversary of its creation by Congress. Her appointment comes at an opportune time in the institution’s history, as it reopens this spring with powerful exhibitions, a new Visitor Center, and plans for an exciting program of summer installations.

Fuchs has led the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, on Staten Island, New York, since July 2017. Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Exhibits & Programs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, and the associate curator and content manager at the American History Workshop. She will replace Dr. Brent Glass, who has served as Interim Executive Director since July 2020.

“The Board is ecstatic to have Aileen lead the National Building Museum as we begin our next four decades,” said Anthony Greenberg, Chair of the Board of Trustees and Executive Vice President at JBG SMITH. “We are thankful that Russell Reynolds Associates was able to elevate so many incredible candidates for this position. In the end, we were compelled by Aileen’s unique combination of energy, thought leadership, and experience, as well as her rare ability to toggle effortlessly between vision and action. We could not be more excited about this appointment!”

“As our nation reopens and recovers, Americans are looking to create more just, safe, healthy, and resilient environments for their lives,” said Fuchs. “This is precisely the mission and the role of the National Building Museum—sparking curiosity about the built environment in order to create a better world—and this mission has never been more relevant. I look forward to working with the talented staff and Board to deepen the Museum’s impact as it enters this next chapter.”

At Snug Harbor, Fuchs oversees 26 buildings, 14 botanical gardens, 10 acres of wetlands and a 2-acre farm, the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, and the New York Chinese Scholars Garden. Fuchs has led the organization to unprecedented financial and programmatic growth, with major cultural events, such as the NYC Winter Lantern Festival, boasted record-breaking attendance in the region. Working with the city agencies and architecture and design professionals, Fuchs oversaw the development of a comprehensive master plan for the 83-acre campus that now serves as a road map for capital investment for the next two decades.

At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Fuchs established and ran the manufacturing hub’s Museum & Visitor Center, BLDG 92, the first public facing building of the now-thriving development. She spearheaded programs, curated gallery exhibitions, designed immersive experiences, and established public art initiatives that celebrated the past, present, future of the former naval shipbuilding facility that has become a national model of modern urban industrial development.

The National Building Museum’s fourth Executive Director, Chase W. Rynd, Hon. ASLA, retired in June 2020 and was named Director Emeritus by the Board in appreciation of his 17 years of leadership. Dr. Glass, Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, has served as Interim Executive Director since then and will remain with the Museum as a senior adviser through the end of June after Fuchs begins her new role on May 5.

The appointment of Fuchs comes at an important moment for the nation’s only cultural institution dedicated to the built environment. The Museum has been closed to the public since December 2019, at first for required construction work, and then because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will reopen this spring. New exhibitions include a showcase of MASS Design Group, an industry-leading nonprofit architectural firm focused on public health, personal well-being, and social justice; the D.C. debut of the Gun Violence Memorial Project, an architectural space of remembrance and healing; the work of master architectural photographer Alan Karchmer; and a new Visitor Center that will help visitors understand the Museum’s mission and scope. In lieu of a massive Summer Block Party installation in the Great Hall this year, the Museum is planning on several smaller installations that can be experienced in a more intimate manner and are better suited to smaller groups of visitors.

“I am excited to join a Museum with such a bright future, and am honored to have the opportunity to lead this beloved cultural institution,” said Fuchs. “I can’t wait to get started.”

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