The Washington Post has a review of "Unbuilt Washington", the National Building Museum's retrospective of plans for monuments, public spaces and buildings in the national capitol that never came to fruition. The photo gallery is especially interesting. My favorite is the National Sofa
This kind of history fascinates me because it provides a glimpse of how people have viewed and interacted with their environment. Many years ago, I purchased Bridges and the City of Washington because I am also fascinated and delighted by bridge design. The book provided a history of the District's bridges in photographs and plans, including many bridges not constructed which intrigued me as much as the ones actually built. So, too, does "Unbuilt Washington"; it tells me what influenced how a city that is part of my personal and national history came to be.
The reviewer also comments on the architecture of public spaces and how it relates to a city that is both a local community and national capitol. He explores the ideas and imagery that the various built and unbuilt buildings and monuments create or attempted to create. In the process he states that sometimes only the lack of funding has prevented construction of some architectural blunder:
Several projects...which would have radically altered our sense of Washington, were thwarted only by economic downturns or wars that shifted attention away from building projects. The only hope that we won’t be saddled with the badly designed and ill-considered Vietnam Veterans Memorial visitors center, which will eat up public land near Maya Lin’s entirely self-sufficient memorial, now rests on the vagaries of fundraising.
About that visitor center, I could not agree more. Maya Lin's memorial as originally designed--without statue--is fully self-sufficient. The simple listing of names recognizes the absolute equality of death in that war. There are no privates, no officers, no infantrymen, clerks or pilots--only Americans who gave their lives. The memorial leaves interpretation to the viewer. It needs no explanation.