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Exhibit envisions America's capital for the 21st century

By Melissa Norris

Capitol dome
The Capitol dome provides a stunning backdrop for night life on the new South Capitol Street. With the Southeast/Southwest Freeway removed, South Capitol Street can become a new gateway to the city.

Better public transportation -- maybe even water taxis on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers -- as well as new bridges and roads, all aimed at opening up Washington and lessening automobile traffic, are possibilities in the long-range plans for the capital. U.Va. and local residents can view these ideas in paintings and maps at the University's Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library. The exhibition, "Extending the Legacy: Planning America's Capital for the 21st Century," is on loan to the library from the National Capital Planning Commission.

In "Extending the Legacy," the commission presents its ideas for the future look and functions of the capital, including the Mall and surrounding areas, 50 to 100 years from now. The exhibition displays these plans in magnificent detail mounted on birch veneer panels and hung around the circular third level mezzanine floor of the Fine Arts Library.

Illustrations of "Extending the Legacy" Plan Courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission
Washington's revived waterfront will sparkle with cafes, boating, including water taxis, and street life. Here, Anacostia waterfront at Massachusetts Avenue S.E., shows a water taxi and the proposed aquarium on Kingman Island.

The exhibit also includes past visions of the capital, including the first plans of the city commissioned by George Washington and done by Pierre Charles L'Enfant in 1791 and the McMillan Commission plans of 1901. Together, these two plans outline the Washington of today.

The latest plan builds upon the earlier ideas and addresses the concerns of a growing city. With more than 20 million tourists visiting the capital each year, a number expected to double over the next 50 years, the risk of over-crowding and over-use remains high. The "Extending the Legacy" plan moves beyond the Mall and memorials to the areas, waterfronts, and neighborhoods outside the Mall in the hope of making the capital an open, accessible, and attractive place in which to live and travel.

Included in the plans are revitalized waterfronts along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, new memorial sites, open and public spaces. New transportation options, such as the removal of inefficient roadways and bridges that dissect the city, the use of water taxis, expanded rail service, and longer and more frequent Metrorail trains, would aim to lessen automobile traffic.

"I wanted to bring this exhibit to U.Va. not only because of its architectural and urban planning significance, but also because of its significance to us all as a plan for our national capital," said Jack Robertson, director of the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library. Robertson contacted the commission and secured the loan of the exhibit for five years.

The exhibit, as originally shown in Washington at the National Building Museum in 1998, included five video players that played video documents. Copies of these videos are available for viewing or check out in the Fine Arts Library.

The National Capital Planning Commission, whose 12 members are appointed by the president and the mayor of the District of Columbia, annually reviews all federal public works projects in the region, as well as $5 to $8 billion in federal construction investment for the national capital region, which includes Washington and the surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia.

Established in 1924, the commission sets long-range policies and goals for future federal development and plays an important role in the historic preservation, environmental protection and economic development of the national capital.

For information about "Extending the Legacy," visit the web site, http://www.ncpc.gov/lgcyrder.html.

The exhibition is free and open to the public and may be viewed during the fine arts library's operating hours of 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and noon to midnight on Sunday. Funding to bring the exhibit to U.Va. was provided in part by Sarah F. Dupont and by the School of Architecture. For information, contact Heather Burns at 924-6607 or hab3f@virginia.edu.


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