26 March 2009

Washington DC

Starting last saturday (21st March) I will be spending 10 days in the US visiting friends - some as old as my memory and some I have yet to meet - and checking out a lot of Architecture.

I am just back in New York (my base during this trip) from the first excursion from here - Washington DC. I had first seen this city almost 20 years ago with my parents and as expected nothing seemed to fit the images in my head, everything in reality was a lot smaller and closer than what stayed stored in my head all these years!

I was here mainly to meet two friends - Mohan and Arasu - 2 guys who I have know since I was 4 years old. Our little get together on my first day there was awesome - we managed to drive around the city, catch up a bit and also click a snap with Lincoln : )

The next day was down to business - some serious Architecture watching. I had made a quick list of building that I wanted to see while I was in Dubai itself, so I did have to waste any time figuring out what's in the city. 

Top of my list was 'The National Gallery of Art - East Extension' designed by I M Pei (fresh with my memories of a great new museum designed by Pei in Doha - The Museum of Islamic Arts - blogged here a few months ago). Like the museum in Doha this is an extremely impressive, crisp building.

It razor sharp corners, great detailing and shear confidence in an extremely contested and symbolic setting makes this the most impressive of all the Smithsonian museums on the Mall. 

And don't be fooled into thinking that this building is only impressive from the outside! If anything, this is one of those rare buildings which have been thought through so thoroughly that it has some great, very specific and elegantly constructed details which make a journey to this city only to see one of those fine moments in its architecture completely worthwhile!

The few other modern buildings of note that I saw while running around the city were:

*the Martin Luther King Junior memorial library designed by none other than the Master Modernist - Mies Van Der Rohe

*the Hirshhorn museum and sculpture garden - a dignified brutalist building - designed by Gordon Bunshaft (of SOM)

This was another great museum with a very good collection of modern art. The room below had some very exciting sculptures by Constantin Brancusi

*the new covered courtyard of the National Portrait gallery designed by Norman Foster (although very similar to the roof inside the British Museum in London no one can complain about lack of originality when its this damn good!)

*the latest museum of the mall - The Museum of the American Indian - has an interesting collection of artifacts and interesting displays but the building leaves a lot to be desired.

One of my final stops on my way out of DC was the National building Museum which has a nice room explaining the growth of Washington DC both as an idea and as built form. 

All in all a great two days in the Capital!

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