Washington DC Architecture


Hello everyone,

At the end of this month I'll be going to Washington DC for 2 days.  This will be the first trip I take by myself (no school, no parents) and so its basically the first trip I get to pick what I want to do on.  I'm really interested in how DC was planned.  Does anyone recommend a good book (mostly pictures!) that I could read before going there so I know what to look for? Also, if any of you could list your top 5 things to see that would be really helpful.  Thanks!

Jun 29, 13 7:16 pm

#1 Vietnam Memorial.

#2 National Gallery, West Building for classical art. They've got the Hammer Collection on exhibit and a bunch of Vermeers on display. There is also a first rate lunch available in their cafe. Pass on Pei's East Building.

#3 Travel by train to Union Station.

#4 Arlington National Cemetery. Guard changes every hour.

#5 Air and Space Museum, if you're into that kind of thing.

Jun 29, 13 7:46 pm

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

The Capitol and the tour

Walking the Washington Mall, which means walking through a few memorials anyway

Georgetown for the house at which "The Exorcist" was filmed, and the adjacent flight of steps

Coin toss between (a) The Watergate Complex, (b) the Jefferson Memorial, and (c) the National Basilica, for which interest may hinge on your religious affiliation

Jun 29, 13 8:05 pm

thanks guys.  any books on urban planning?

Jun 29, 13 8:29 pm
1. The Jefferson Memorial is gorgeous this time of year
2. The National Gallery of Art (east and west)
3. The National Basilica is incredible (although I'm partial to it because it's on my campus)
4. Georgetown
5. Portrait Gallery or National Building Museum (they have a special indoor mini golf exhibit showcasing nearby architecture firms)...both are in Chinatown

The National Mall is a must. And if you want to experience some heavier moments check out the Holocaust's not far from Jefferson.

Have fun!
Jul 1, 13 12:25 am

Washington DC is one of the coolest cities to visit in the whole world. A trip to this place would certainly be cherished throughout the life, so enjoy your trip to the maximum. 

Jul 1, 13 3:33 am

Look for books on the L'Enfant and McMillan Plan.  I quickly found a book on public spaces of DC.

1. Check out Embassy Row either down Mass from Wisconsin to Dupont Circle or down Wisconsin to Georgetown.  I really like the Finish and Italian Embassy.   

2. The Mall's pretty much the default place to visit.  I prefer the Hirshhorn when it comes to Smithsonians.  The Holocaust Museum is a really well done but a morbid one.   

3. 300 New Jersey Ave by Richard Rogers is a cool modern building worth a peek at and is close to Union Station

4.  Not in DC proper but the Pentagon Memorial is really nice and while you're in that area you can go to Arlington cemetery and get a great view of DC (Climb the hill behind Kennedy's Grave which leads to the Pierre Charles L'Enfant grave site)

5.  Theodore Roosevelt Island is a neat place where you can walk around a nature filled Island and view out to NoVa and Georgetown.   

PS I live in DC so let me know if you have any questions

Jul 2, 13 8:44 am

In addition to Jonathan's recs, I recommend you pick up the book "AIA guide to the architecture of Washington, DC." Also look for books on Olmsted's contributions to park planning and design in DC. He designed the Capitol grounds and the National Zoo, both very beautiful public spaces. The Zoo like all Smithsonian attractions is free, and it is essentially a huge park in the middle of the city. Olmsted's vision for DC also led to the creation of Rock Creek Park, in which the zoo sits. Some of the city's most impressive bridge traverse the creek valley. The Taft bridge was one of the first cast concrete bridges built in the US and is one of the largest (or perhaps the largest) unreinforced concrete structures in the world. The Buffalo Bridge and Ellington bridges are also very impressive.

Neighborhoods to visit which will give you a good sense of how the city's urban form contributes to its character include the 14th Street corridor north of Mass Ave to U Street; Dupont Circle; Capitol Hill and Eastern Market; Georgetown; Cleveland Park; Old Town Alexandria (just south of DC); Logan Circle and Bloomingdale (lots of old Victorian row houses); and downtown.

Downtown, there are some old impressive buildings like the Willard Hotel as well as new mega-developments like City Center DC designed by Sir Norman Foster. Foster also designed the impressive, undulating, glass canopy in the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery. On a sunny day the shadows it creates the are stunning. It reminds me of his glass canopy at the Museum of London. 

On the Mall, I recommend the Hirshhorn Museum (designed by Gordon Bunshaft) and the East and West Wings of the National Gallery of Art. (Pei designed the East wing and Pope was the architect for the original west building.) The Library of Congress has one of the most beautiful interiors of any building in the city, so plan to visit. Also consider a Capitol tour. The Bing Thom designed Arena Stage might be worth a visit, especially if there's a good show. David Adjaye is putting his mark on DC: the African American History museum is not yet complete, but he designed a couple of beautiful, small public libraries in the city's poorest neighborhoods. 

If there's time the National Cathedral might be worth a visit. There are beautiful views of the city from that vantage point. 

You can walk/ take transit/ or bike to most all of these places. The Metro (the name for the city's subway) is another one of the city's impressive public spaces. The vaulted stations were designed by Harry Weese in the 1960s. 

Jul 4, 13 1:15 pm

Here's a top 5 list

1) Library of Congress/US Capitol

2) Hirshhorn Museum

3) National Gallery of Art

4) Dupont Circle/Logan Circle/14th Street neighborhood

5) Metro (the subway)

Jul 4, 13 1:26 pm

Two days is tight.  Consider also the National Building Museum:  It's a fantastic place not only for us architects, but for our patrons and clients.

Jul 4, 13 2:47 pm

Definitely take a look at the National Building Museum.  There's mini golf courses which has holes designed by local architects, cost $5.  If you end up playing, make sure to vote for hole 9 :P. 

Jul 4, 13 4:24 pm

Extend your stay!

Jul 5, 13 9:48 pm

I also live and work in downtown DC, here are my spots:


The Fish Market in DC is a must

The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial

The Newseum

The National gallary - both wings

Eastern Market

Union Market

Hirshorn Museum - try standing in the middle and looking up - pretty magnificent.

U-street corridor to northern part of 14th street.

Ledroit Park Neighborhood and have a cup of coffee at the Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale

Jul 9, 13 10:36 am

National Gallery of Art - East Wing ... just my 2 cents but this is the best building in the city

(for rebuttles please see videos indicated below yeah i'm fully aware there are hidden satanic symbols at the end of the lay lines used.  of course I don't care because The Federal Reserve really isn't Federal, why should anything else vary from 'normal')


Native American Museum

visit as many other buildings on "The Mall" as you can.  2 days is not much time for anything else. 


For a little mainstream media obfuscation reporting YouTube this: "Mysteries of the Masons in Washington, DC"  ... it barely hints at the masonic design behind the layout of DC.  Clicking on enough YouTube videos after that will eventually lead you far enough down the rabbit hole showing you how evil propagates from DC and a few other cities in the world so readily.  The 33rd degree mason they interview at the "Scottish Temple" does a pretty good job of "nothing to see here" for the report.  It's not remotely real journalism at all, but most mainstream media these days isn't.  Welcome to Hell, enjoy.

Jul 10, 13 4:00 pm

Hi there!
There are so many architectural designs that you can check in Washington DC. You may want to visit the following:

AVALON THEATER- This is the oldest cinematic entertainment in washington DC. It has a great and unique exterior design that you will surely appreciate.

EMBASSY OF FINLAND- If you want to see a glass house of greenery and natural light then you must check this out.

HIRSHHORN MUSEUM and SCULPTURE - A doughnut shaped building that is visually entertaining.

EISENHOWER "Old" Executive Office Building - This is not open to public but if you want to see its unique exterior design then you should come and visit this.

UNION STATION - This should be your last stop as its an ultimate location for appreciating grand Architecture in the district. 

Enjoy your stay!

Jan 3, 17 4:18 pm

The Federal Reserve building always looked to me like something Albert Speer would come up with.

Jan 3, 17 4:25 pm

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