Dolphin America and Unbuilt Washington

I saved the most entertaining highlight of my DC trip for last.

Feast your eyes on Dolphin America:

Designed by Doug Michels Architecture in collaboration with Jim Allegro, AIA, 1989.
It was a proposal for a hotel and conference center that would let visitors unwind by interacting with dolphins. The plans also included labs for dolphin-related research.

Relaxing with dolphins after a long day of sightseeing or business meetings sounds kind of amazing, but Dolphin America is just one of the many ideas that were never built in our nation's capital.

The National Building Museum has a really great section about the planning and history of Washington, DC, and on my visit I also saw LEGO reproductions of skyscrapers and exhibits about homes and building materials. But I thought the most interesting part of the museum was Unbuilt Washington.

That exhibit gives visitors a glimpse of the city as it might have been if things had worked out differently. It includes monuments and buildings that never came about as well as alternate designs for familiar landmarks. The museum has created an interactive map that you can use to browse through some of the designs, be sure not to miss the step pyramid Lincoln Memorial or the gothic proposal for the Library of Congress.

As someone who's building up a fictional city to use as a book setting, the Building Museum was a really thought-provoking place. I'd recommend it to other writers, alt-history fans, and anyone who's interested in the way that cities (and our ideas about them) change over time.

Image credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-31434

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