Washington DC Facts and History

The population of the city, included in the District of Columbia, continues to steadily decrease (712,000 in 1975, 606,900 in 1990); the increase in the agglomeration instead (3,015,000 inhabitants in 1975, 3,923,574 inhabitants in 1990), according to a trend that has already manifested itself since the 1950s.

The city benefits from a special statute, attributed to the District of Columbia by a 1961 constitutional amendment. This statute gives residents the right to vote in presidential elections, as well as the right to elect their own advisory delegate to the House of Representatives. Since 1967, the date of the appointment of its first mayor, the federal capital has been administered by the latter and by a council of nine members, all designated by the president of the United States.

Washington DCpresents itself with a particular physiognomy: it is not, in fact, the metropolis with numerous and varied activities, but the city of offices and large organizations, and a city with a distinctly residential character. The new housing units and administrative offices have found a natural space for growth beyond the boundaries of the federal district, in the south, in Virginia (Arlington), and in the north, in Maryland (Silver Spring, Bethesda). The majority of the active population finds employment in the administrative, commercial and financial sectors. In the context of economic activities, industry has always had little weight: recently some advanced technology industries (defense, telecommunications, biotechnologies) have emerged, induced by the presence of the Pentagon and important medical research institutes; these plants are located between Washington and Foster Dulles Airport, along the highway running northeast to Baltimore. The river port of Washington has only local importance. On the contrary, the capital has become a hub of rapid rail, highway and air relations.

The cultural function is also relevant: Washington hosts, in fact, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the Catholic University of America, the National Academy of Sciences, numerous research institutes, libraries, archives and museums. Washington is home to NASA, the American aerospace agency.

Architecture and urban planning. – The city is the center of a metropolitan area extended for about 200 km from north to south and 150 km from east to west, cut by the Potomac River, which includes 5 counties of the state of Maryland (Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George, Charles, Calvert) and 4 counties of the state of Virginia (London, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford). The metropolitan area thus defined borders to the east with those of Baltimore and Annapolis, to which it is closely connected by the large Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Abbreviated as DC on abbreviationfinder.org, Washington DC represents a unique case in the urban land use of the United States, due to the coexistence of two restrictive conditions in the history of its development: precise height limits in the construction (from 90 to 130 feet, with maximum peaks up to 160), established by the Height of Building Act (1910), and progressive containment of the settled population. Obviously this phenomenon finds its reason in the clear identification of the city as a monumental center to be preserved, and in the consequent establishment of various control commissions (from the Commission of Fine Arts of 1910, up to the current Joint Committee of Landmarks, which has identified 45 districts and about 400 places or buildings of historical interest); a further explanation can be found in the remarkable population growth that has occurred in the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland.

The infrastructural relations between Washington and its metropolitan area are very close: the cities of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and Vienna in Virginia, and those of Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma, Canrel, College Park, Hyattsville, New Carrolton in Maryland, they are connected by the subway, while interstates 95 and 495 form a ring road around the city of about 30 km in diameter, which allows quick connections. The current trend sees a prevalence of residential settlements in the areas of Maryland, in the East-Northeast, and of massive tertiary settlements in Virginia. New office buildings, for rent or lease, headquarters of large corporations, and even some ” clean ” manufacturing industries are now the backdrop to the great axes of the historic city from Alexandria to Arlington, Falls Church and Vienna, in the direction of Dulles International Airport.

For a first overall evaluation of the characteristics of the current city, it should be remembered that the rigid tracing of the northern and southwestern borders is mostly contradicted and enriched by hilly trends. As a result, only a few of the axes of the historic city have long views in their perspective, from west to east: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, 16 th Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue. Closed by residential systems typical of the upper-middle class suburb in the North-Northeast and faced by the Virginia centers in the South-Southwest, the street grid of the historic city is saturated with a relatively homogeneous and monotonous building fabric, with an average height of 10 floors, to which only occasional altimetric variations give some urban quality. For these reasons, Washington is ultimately the city in the United States in which the similarities are greater with the European city of the nineteenth century, of which it ends up imitating the residential block, converting it into offices.

With the renovation projects of the 1950s, slums and old town-houses in the south-west waterfront area were eliminated and by Foggy Bottom, replaced by new settlements, respectively medium (Tiber Island) and luxury (Watergate). A sort of civic center of the city was completed with the restoration of Union Station (Harry Weese urban and retail, Benjamin Thompson and Ass., La Salle partners and Williams, 1988) in a rhomboidal area between the streets of New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Hospitality and commercial facilities are concentrated in the triangle that has Lafayette Square (immediately behind the White House), Du Pont and Thomas Circle as its vertices; in the same area, attempts are still underway to renovate, in analogy to what has already been started for some time in the old Georgetown, which maintain the character of the existing city.

In the seventies in some northern areas of the city, and particularly in Adams-Morgan, a process of appropriation of housing by a young white middle class took place: thus a process of gentrification began similar to what already happened in New York and many other cities in the United States. Only two black residential areas remain in the present city: Old Anacosta and Le Droit Park.

In the last forty years, in addition to the classicist completion of the Capitol, the architecture has progressively acquired modern characteristics, inserting itself both in the historical areas and along the Potomac or in the various lots of the urban grid, but in general undergoing some influence from the monumental system consolidated. In the area called The Mall they have been built from scratch o new museum institutions completed in the 1970s, some of which are of great importance: Highhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (SOM and Gordon Bunshaft, 1974); National Air and Space Museum (Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, 1976); East Building of the National Gallery of Art (IM Pei and Partners, 1978) and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Maya Ying Lin, 1982). Along the banks of the Potomac are the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Center, set too much in a classical climate (E. Durrel Stone, 1971), the Watergate Complex (L. Moretti, 1965) and the Washington Harbor (A. Cotton Moore, 1981).) which, in the opposite excess, attempt a difficult disengagement from the classical language. The masters of the Modern Movement are present with late works such as the TAC by Washington Gropius for the headquarters of the AIA (1973) and L.

In general, the connection between the urban grid and the building regulation tends to determine a qualitative flattening in a city that suffers a serious lack of participation precisely because it is only in a small residential part. The Metrorail subway, begun in 1976 and completed in essential lines with efficient and eloquent design (Harry Weese), constitutes a valid counterpoint to this lack of quality, both in the rolling stock and in the building and furnishing parts of urban and suburban stations.

Phenomena of some interest, even if not of architectural significance, are recorded around the city: in the residential field, with Reston, Virginia, 62,000 inhabitants; or with Columbia, Maryland, 70,000 inhabitants, both the triumph of the developpers. In the tertiary sector, on the other hand, there is a trend towards building low-rise office buildings, as on interstate 270, Maryland, or in Leesbury, Virginia (Xerox International Center for training and management development, Vincent C. Kling & Partnership, 1974): experiences which constitute typological novelties in the territorial field.

Washington DC Facts and History

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