Arthur Cotton Moore is a sixth-generation Washingtonian with an intense
love for the city, as well as an intense awareness of its faults. Since
becoming an architect in 1965, he has followed two separate career paths: one,
carrying out jobs for
including a major renovation of the Library of Congress; the other, proposing
bold civic improvements. The latter preoccupation, Moore writes in his new
Nation’s Capital: Pro Bono Publico Ideas (International Arts and
Artists, 2017), compiled largely by his wife Patricia Moore, was carried out
with “no clients, no compensation by money or favor, and no pursuit of architectural
commissions.” In other words, nothing to rein in his
Some of the ideas seem impractical (he proposed moving the Supreme Court
to an extension of the National Mall, in recognition of its importance to the
tripartite system of government). Others would be ruinously expensive.
But a few of Moore’s ideas were prescient: In 1982, he proposed building
a broad stairway to connect the Kennedy Center to the Potomac River, from which
it was entirely disconnected. A stairway is part of the Steven Holl-designed
renovation of the Center currently under construction. (Moore also proposed
covering the Center’s flat roof in solar panels; that hasn’t happened.)
Some of Moore’s ideas are sensible and ought to be considered, or at
least admired for their audacity. Here are a few:
Model of the Nation’s Capital
Moore proposed creating a model of Washington, DC, similar to the Panorama of
New York City at the Queens Museum (but diamond-shaped, liked the capital). His
model, a tourist attraction that would also help city planners, would be housed
in a pavilion near the National Building Museum.
To find room for more memorials on the National Mall (and make crossing
major avenues safe for pedestrians), Moore proposed building bridges laden with
monuments, comparable to the bust-festooned Charles Bridge in Prague.
Near WWII Memorial
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial under construction on Maryland Avenue is overblown,
isolated, and confusing. Moore proposed a smaller memorial that, sensibly, would
have a visual connection to the World War II Memorial already on the National Mall.
Roof Over I.M. Pei & Partners-designed Church
The 1971 Brutalist Third
Church of Christ, Scientist, designed by I.M. Pei & Partners’ Araldo
A. Cossutta, was demolished in 2014. It could have been saved (and a new
public plaza created) if developers had followed Moore’s plan to construct an
office building above the church.
A Train That Never Stops
Rail travel on the busy Northeast Corridor would be more efficient if
Amtrak adopted Moore’s idea: A monorail at each station would sidle up to
passing trains. Departing passengers would move from the monorail to the train,
while arriving passengers would move from the train to the monorail; the train
itself would continue moving at full speed.
Fred A. Bernstein has degrees in
architecture (from Princeton University) and law (from NYU) and writes about
Also by Bernstein:
Being Frank Gehry
In "Building Art: The Life and Work of
Frank Gehry," Paul Goldberger's account of the architect's rise is also a
tale of things not going Gehry's way.
Op-Ed: Top of the Heap
Since 1931, the Empire State Building has been New York City's GPS, but with spate of supertalls obscuring the building, it
could become hard to tell Manhattan from Kowloon or Pudong or Shinjuku or Canary Wharf.
Preservation Alert: P.S. 199, by Edward Durell Stone
The public school on Manhattan's Upper West Side
could be facing demolition if developer takes up New York City's offer to sell
Move the Farnsworth House
Mies built the Farnsworth in spitting distance
of the mighty Fox River, and the house is paying price for his hubris.
An Open Letter to Susan Szenasy re: Frank Gehry
Hudson World Bridge: A proposal by architect Eytan
Kaufman to span the Hudson River would be a gathering place like no other.
Second Look: Pavilion and Colonnade Apartments by Mies
van der Rohe, 1960Newark, NJ: Current news about
"starchitects" designing high-rise housing in New York is at an
all-time high, but Mies did it across the Hudson River 46 years ago.
Second Look: Tracey Towers by Paul Rudolph, 1972
How did Rudolph,
restless and challenging architectural mind, end up doing subsidized housing in
Op-Ed: The 2012 New York Olympics is lost. Long live
the 2014 New York World's Fair.
Second Look: New York Hall of Science by Wallace K.
Harrison/Harrison and Abramovitz, 1964; Polshek Partnership Architects, 2004
Queens, NY: Its power undiminished after 40 years, a 20th
century cathedral to science is about to be rediscovered as a luminous addition
debuts this week.
Beauty in Garbage: Naka Incineration Plant by Yoshio
Hiroshima: An incineration plant is devised as real-time
science museum and tourist destination (complete with waterfront park).
Second Look: George Washington Bridge Bus Station /
Pier Luigi Nervi, 1963
One of Nervi's few completed projects outside Italy is superb example of the poetry he wrought from ferro-concrete.
INSIGHT: The Might-Have-Been Memorial