In 1791, French-born architect Pierre L’Enfant was commissioned by Georges Washington to imagine and design the layout of the US capital city. The plans developed by L’Enfant transformed Washington D.C. into a modern city with broad avenues and monumental public buildings. Washington is different from other American cities because it was primarily designed to symbolize and encapsulate the ideals of American democracy through its built environment. As the city evolved, it was confronted to common modern urban issues such as population growth, housing, and crime. Today Washington is at the start of a new chapter in which it is trying to reconcile two profiles: one as the national symbol and capital city, the other as a modern 21st century city that hopes to fulfill the needs of its residents.
Washington D.C. is the city of monuments and memorials. Sculptures, buildings, walls, fountains and countless other objects and spaces are scattered around the city as reminders of past events, historic figures or fallen soldiers. The design style and aesthetics of those monuments, that stretch from baroque to post-modernism, left us wondering about the obscure field of monument design.
Washington is the seat of government but also a city with best practice models for sustainability and preservation. One example is the Metrorail, a local landmark and a masterpiece of brutalist architecture that ranks as one of the best public works of the 20th century. It was designed in the late sixties by Chicago architect Harry Weese who studied at MIT under Alvaar Aalto. and was later influenced by his contemporaries Charles and Ray Eames. To innovate its existing transit system, the city recently introduced a new generation of bike stations that can house 130 bicycles in its 1600 sq. ft. of free standing glass and steel design.