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For Immediate Release: October 20, 2011
Media Contact: Marketing and Communication Department

Unbuilt Washington

Historic Drawings on Display in Exhibition that Reveals the Capital City That Could Have Been

The National Building Museum’s upcoming exhibition Unbuilt Washington explores the many serious—and sometimes not-so-serious—proposals that would have dramatically altered the architectural character of Washington, D.C. Included in the exhibition are rare original drawings by America’s most influential early architects, including Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Robert Mills, and even Thomas Jefferson, as well as digital renderings of innovative projects by contemporary architects.

Unbuilt Washington will reveal the Washington that could have been—or rather, the myriad versions of Washington that could have been—by presenting architectural and urban design projects that were proposed but, for widely varied reasons, never executed. Such projects often exercised a profound influence on what was built and may offer lessons that inform ongoing debates about the design and development of Washington and other cities. What were the motives, assumptions, and cultural trends underlying such proposals? Why were these designs never realized? What was their impact on projects that were completed? 

The physical character of Washington, D.C., that we take for granted today is the unique result of countless decisions, debates, successes, failures, reconsiderations, missed opportunities, and lucky breaks. To tourists and residents alike, the city’s greatest landmarks may seem so appropriate—so correct—it is hard to imagine that they could have turned out completely differently. But nothing in the built environment of Washington (or in any other city, for that matter) is predestined.

PRESS PREVIEW: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 / 5:30 pm
RSVP: Stacy Adamson, sadamson@nbm.org, 202.272.2448, ext. 3458

G. Martin Moeller, Jr., senior vice president and curator
November 19, 2011 to May 28, 2012

National Building Museum
401 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
(Judiciary Square Metro, Red Line)

The Museum provides high-resolution (300 dpi) images from exhibitions and programs upon request. Contact Emma Filar, marketing & communications associate, efilar@nbm.org or 202.272.2448, ext. 3458, for access to these files or questions about use of images.

The Museum is collaborating with the American Institute of Architects (AIA), AIA Legacy, ARCHITECT Magazine, Hanley Wood, the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|DC), and the Washington Architectural Foundation to organize two complementary exhibitions in conjunction with Unbuilt Washington. One of these will trace the history of the Progressive Architecture Awards for unbuilt work, and will be presented at the AIA National Headquarters, opening in conjunction with the 2012 AIA National Convention, to be held in Washington. The other exhibition will present winners in the Unbuilt Awards program sponsored by AIA|DC and will open in May 2012 at the new District Architecture Center.

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit www.nbm.org. Connect with us on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

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