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Unbuilt Washington

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The Architect’s Newspaper, Dec. 20, 2011

More and more, the National Mall is living up to its moniker “America’s front yard”: patchy turf, puddles, and cracked sidewalks give it an air of foreclosure. The National Mall Design Competition, now under way, will surely produce ambitious proposals to mend the Mall, but getting them approved and funded could take years and is far from guaranteed.

Now on display through May at the National Building Museum, “Unbuilt Washington,” reminds us that the Washington Monument was a half-finished stump for decades, until money could be found to complete it. And even then it was not done according to the original design. And that Eliel and Eero Saarinen’s daring 1939 scheme for a Smithsonian art gallery—selected out of 400 entries—fell victim to politics, like so much else in our capital.

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