Sunday, March 28, 2010

Arts and Industries

The Smithsonian Arts and Industries building, my favorite structure along the Washington D.C. Mall, has been closed for some time, undergoing repairs. But on a nice day, I love to sit on a wrought iron bench and look at it. Opened in 1881, it is oh so Victorian in style. Circular medallions perch between the rows of arched windows. Enameled bands of ochre, blue and black set off the dark red bricks. The Victorians were not minimalists. Embellishment and the whole range of decorative arts were an essential part of Victorian architecture. To me, this building represents the bold, almost brash optimism of its age. In a city of tasteful glass, concrete and white marble, it's a reminder that color and richly detailed surfaces had their place at one time. I'm glad that some of them still stand, dressing up the landscape.