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St. Louis Arch-US Capital Removal-Untapped CitiesImage via Wikimedia Commons

While nowadays it seems a foregone conclusion that the United States capital city is Washington DC, for the first 100 years of the country’s existence it was hardly so defined. The location, 10 square miles straddling the Potomac River with portions in both Maryland and Virginia, was established in 1790 with the Permanent Seat of Government Act (recently dramatized by the song “The Room Where It Happens” from the musical Hamilton). But this didn’t satisfy all Americans. Over the course of the young country’s first century, the idea of moving the capital would come up three more times.

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US Capitol Hill Subway System-Underground-Senate-Russell Senate Office Building-Wicker Seat Car-5

On a recent visit to Washington D.C., we had the opportunity to extensively check out the United States Capitol Subway System, one of the most unique in the world. The exclusive transit system is not exactly open to the public unless you’re a member of Congress or a staffer on Capitol Hill. It’s also one of the world’s shortest – the portion between the Senate to the Russell Senate Office Building is about 1000 feet and takes less than a minute. Riding US Capitol Subway system is mundane operating procedure for Capitol Hill employees, but a fascinating find for the lay people. 

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5x5 Project-Five by Five-Washington D.C.-Commission on the Arts and Humanities-Lance FungGlenn Kaino, Bridge at DC Navy Yard

There’s an uneasy tension in Washington D.C. that you can feel palpably on the streets. More than just new buildings going up and cranes dotting the skyline, architecture (or perhaps the uniformity of it) has been a strong signal of the type of change that is en route. As gentrification begins to reach neighborhoods that were thought beyond the reaches of such socioeconomic change, residents are getting nervous.

In many ways, the 5×5 Project in Washington D.C., a 3 1/2 month temporary public art project, highlights this tension and explores it. 5 curators each worked with 5 artists to produce site-specific work in all eight wards of Washington D.C. While the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities sponsored the project, the artists selected their own sites. As such, the locations are ones that the artists themselves responded to in their immersion into Washington D.C., and some of the works clearly reflect the psyche of what is currently happening in D.C. Washington D.C. has clearly supported large-scale public works art part of their ongoing heritage, enabling the artists to install creative works nearly anywhere, including a kinetic sculpture of a hat blowing in the wind that happens just every Wednesday at noon on a street near Federal Center.

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Commissioner's Plan 1811-NYC-Library of Congress-003

We all know the famous 1811 Commissioner’s Plan for New York City that laid out the grid system of Manhattan (fairly close to how it is today). There are various scanned versions online and different evolutions of the plan over time, but the original map of 1807 that was submitted to Congress in 1811 is still on file at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. In honor of the 350th Anniversary of New York City on Monday, we spent the city’s birthday in the Library of Congress examining the original map. First thing to note: that map is HUGE! Here were some of our fun map finds: (more…)

top-urban-deisgn-and-planning-projects-in-the-us-now-that-you-should-care-about-nyc-chicago-dc-minneapolis-las-vegas-untappedcities-nick-reale-7Image Source: Regional Plan Association’s Second Regional Plan

With public consciousness of cities at an all-time high, planning and design projects have been commanding the imaginations of urbanities in ways unforeseen. On the positive end, more governing bodies and planning agencies are placing higher value on public awareness, information dissemination, and “ground-up” development. There’s certainly a long way to go, even in cities like New York City, but below are 10 of some of the more innovative and impactful projects going on across the United States right now. Though some have captured the imagination and support of masses while others hang in limbo, all will affect the lives of many in their wake.

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US Capitol Hill Subway System-Underground-Senate-Russell Senate Office Building-Wicker Seat Car-11

It’s obvious that urbanists have a fascination with the subterranean, whether of the macabre nature like the catacombs of the world, or of the abandoned, or simply being able to eat and drink below the city surface. Sometimes though, we fail to think of underground fascinations of the more mundane kind.

While the freemasons certainly played a role in the construction of Washington D.C., the persisting rumor that the street grid and other buildings are embedded with masonic code is likely myth. Nonetheless, it doesn’t feel surprising that networks of underground tunnels (and even a subway just for those on Capitol Hill) were built beneath the city. More unique than the existence of the tunnels is how they’re programmed. In Washington D.C., they’re like underground cities, with all the things you would need from the outside world, moved indoors. Hallways become streets, marked by the newspaper boxes you would normally find at your corner.

Here’s a roundup of some of the notable underground corridors beneath Capitol Hill:

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