by paul killmer, director of public programs

D.C. Builds is an ongoing program series that explores design, planning, and development issues in the capital and surrounding region. The series supports the Museum’s mission by providing a forum for local residents to discuss how developments in D.C.’s built environment affect their lives. Past programs have covered a range of topics, such as the availability of affordable live/work space for local artists, creating infrastructure to increase bicycling, and plans to transform Tysons Corner Virginia—a notoriously car-dominated office center—into a walkable urban community.

During FY13 the Museum hosted two D.C. Builds programs. The first, Along the Waterfronts, featured panelists from D.C., Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia in a discussion of various redevelopment projects along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

These projects include new public green space such as the Georgetown Waterfront Park and The Yards Park in Southwest as well as mixed-use developments like Forest City Southwest and the Alexandria Waterfront. All the panelists were in agreement that the days of neglecting local waterfronts are a thing of the past and there should be active reengagement and redevelopment in these areas.

The second program, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial LibraryA Central Branch, examined the ongoing efforts to redevelop and revitalize D.C.’s central public library. It is the only existing building in the District designed by legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe but has been plagued by issues brought on by years of deferred maintenance. The program featured a discussion between Philip G. Freelon, FAIA, LEED AP, president of The Freelon Group, chief librarian Ginnie Cooper, and Mary Fitch, AICP, Hon. AIA, executive director of AIA|DC.

Freelon presented his firm’s ideas for redesigning the library, which included creating an opening in the roof to increase natural light, new public performance spaces and strategies for revitalizing the building’s neglected streetscape.

Washington, D.C. is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. It is estimated that the city is receiving almost 1,000 new residents each month. According to the D.C. Office of Planning the city had the fastest population growth among states and equivalents by percent (5.1%) between April, 2010 and July 1, 2012. Construction cranes dot the skyline and new developments are under way or in the planning stages in all four wards, revitalizing many neighborhoods. The close-in suburbs in Maryland and Virginia are experiencing changes as well. D.C. Builds will continue to examine the effects of this dynamic transformation in FY14 and beyond.


Learn more about the series and find video of past talks on nbm.org.