I recently did a quick day trip to Washington DC after finding some real cheap Megabus tickets months earlier out of Philly. My main goal for the day was to celebrate the March for Science event happening that weekend as well as getting to see the tail end of the cherry blossoms that decorate the capital and signify a lasting friendship with nation of Japan. As the date was approaching, it soon became clear that the cherry blossoms arrived early this year and peaked a few weeks sooner. Strike one. On the day before the trip, the forecast called for partly cloudy with some chances of rain throughout the day. Unfortunately, that forecast never held up, as much of the morning and into the afternoon was a washout. These conditions caused us, like many others, to abandon most of the March for Science activities for other drier things. Strike two. However, we wouldn’t let the rain completely destroy the whole day. I had my plastic, Walgreens-bought .99 cent poncho on and was determined to explore. We managed to check out a good variety of sites such as the Renwick Gallery, most of the memorials [WW2; FDR; MLK]; the National Museum of the American Indian, U.S. Botanic Garden, Smithsonian Gardens, and the U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument for the demonstrations.
Here’s my highlights and observations:
- The Smithsonian Gardens had great examples of bee and insect hotels, which are vertical structures that providing various types of hollow openings for creatures to nest and inhabit. I’ve seen a lot of smaller ones around for residential applications, but this one was a great scale and beautifully crafted with found objects. A major problem in urban and suburban areas is our propensity for blowing away, raking up, and bagging, or all the leaf debris accumulating in the garden beds in the fall. This not only denies the bed of future compost and nutrients, but also robs insects of overwintering habitats.
- The Hirshhorn Museum is simply a cool building! The less is more, function over fashion structure was designed by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-1990), a Pritzker Prize-winning architect and longtime partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The Hirshhorn can be interpreted as “a large piece of functional sculpture” among the shrine-like structures of the National Mall. The elevated cylinder with hollowed out center creates curbed galleries and floats above the four acre sculpture park. Great place to picnic.
- The National Museum of the American Indian is much less successful architecturally than the Hirshhorn due to the distracting, interruptions of seams in the building’s Kasota limestone facade [which also has a lot of moisture issues, so I’m told], but the use of materials and plant matter is highly sensitive to celebrating Native American cultures. I highly recommend visiting this free museum to simply remind yourself how connected these cultures are to the landscape both in a spiritual sense but also in a practical, ethical and sustainable way of life. Interpretation and exhibit design was imaginative and fresh, but I had trouble getting excited about the artifacts themselves.
- At the U.S. Botanic Garden, I loved seeing a bonsai-inspired highbush blueberry [Vaccinium corymbosum]. The regional garden areas also used a product underneath their gravel pathways to help with soil stabilization and compaction. It was very attractive and seemed to be quite effective so far. There’s a lot of eco-friendly and even recycled products on the market now. If you like viburnums, might I suggest Viburnum nudum? It has true year-round interest, with the best time of year being when new white flowers emerge against the previous year’s blue berries.
With that said, this day trip certainly was not a strike out. Plenty to do at the capital, and much more enjoyable in less rainy conditions.