The Washington that Would Have Been

Ever wonder what Washington would be like if politics (and Politics) hadn’t given us the pretty city we have today? Unbuilt Washington, a new exhibit at the National Building Museum (opening November 19th) tells how the Capital City we take for granted might have looked had designs been different… and it can be a bit disorienting!

The exhibit is a collection of could-have-beens that would have drastically changed the architectural character of the capital, featuring original and replicated renderings of unused plans for most of DC’s best loved landmarks.

What if… the Capitol dome was instead a clucking chicken?  The White House were replaced by a palatial mansion on Meridian Hill? A statue of Washington sat atop the first stump of the obelisk when his monument was halted about halfway through (in 1856)? Memorial Bridge looked more like London Bridge? Or DC had a National Sofa?

These and other unrealized designs from 1791 to the present challenge common assumptions about the appearance of the city and some of its most prominent buildings, and they highlight the complex decisions and debates that actually built Washington… and makes Unbuilt Washington seem so unfathomable.

Related Programming: Tours start (December 19th) showcasing some of the most unusual of the proposed city plans that thankfully did not determine the shape of DC on December 19th.  The City Unimagined (an Unbuilt Washington Film Festival) kicks off Feb. 22, 2012 at the AFI Silver Theatre, and a lecture with exhibit curator G. Martin Moeller, Jr. takes place Feb. 15, 6:30 – 8:30.

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