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Urban planner Léon Krier's master plan replaced the green swath of the National Mall with a Venetian-like canal flanked by pyramids and other examples of ancient architecture. (Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY)

The Monuments That Were Never Built

In a new exhibit at the National Building Museum, imagine Washington D.C. as it could have been

Preliminary Proposal for the National Cultural Center (later Kennedy Center) by Edward Durrell Stone, 1959

Kennedy Center
(Edward Durell Stone Collection (MC 340), Box 104. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville)
The Kennedy Center, on the Potomac River near Georgetown, is actually a simpler, more affordable stand-in for the architect’s original design. Edward Durell Stone’s preliminary proposal in 1959—for which he was hired—put forth an elaborate venue with three performance halls attached to a round, domed rotunda. A terrace outside the rotunda’s glass periphery jutted out over the river, and the architect, channeling Venice, imagined guests and performers arriving by boat. Another view, sketched by Stone, shows the center’s glitzy interior. “You can see Zsa Zsa Gabor swooping through in a sequined dress,” says Moeller.

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