Tag Archives: national mall

USA 2019 – 16 National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington DC (2019-10-27) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 MAR 2021

There is such an incredible amount of things to see in Washington D.C. (even more so given my proclivity to all things historic, natural, and scientific) that it is near impossible to see everything unless you live there for at least a month. Thus, lists have to be made, and sights ordered in preference and importance, and this then is exactly what I had to sit down and do when first planning my three day stopover in the United States capital. As it stands, it is pretty easy to single out my biggest regret in terms of places NOT visited – the National Gallery of Art, one of the United States’ greatest art museums. That said, at least there is the small consolation prize of having walked through this institution’s playful Sculpture Garden – though I’m not sure if this makes me happy or just more sad at having missed out on visiting the real thing!

Sandwiched between the beautiful neoclassical West Building and the modern East Building of the National Gallery of Art complex, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is the most recent addition to the art museum, having opened its gates to the public in May 1999. It acts as an outdoor setting for exhibiting several pieces from the museum’s contemporary sculpture collection, and is anchored by a large central fountain which from December through to March is converted to an ice-skating rink.

Housing classic contemporary works like Roy Lichtenstein’s House I, Robert Indiana’s AMOR, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, the sculpture garden provides a small escape from the noise and the crowds plodding about the National Mall, where you can either amble through and discover work from names like Joan Miro, Tony Smith, Mark di Suvero, Barry Flanagan, and Roxy Paine (whose tall shiny Graft steals attention as you walk in), or simply sit down with a coffee and admire the view from a table at the artfully decorated outdoor Pavilion Cafe.

USA 2019 – 06 The World War II Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 DEC 2020

At the opposite end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, on the site where once stood the Rainbow Pool, now sits the World War II Memorial, a memorial of national significance that serves to honor Americans who served in the armed forces and who survived World War II. Opened by George W. Bush in 2004, this compact and open memorial sits in a relatively central space on the National Mall and offers yet another space for self-reflection and remembrance among all the surrounding tourist bustle.

The memorial consists of 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza, with each pillar inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are two large arches at either end of the plaza, the northern arch inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific”, with the plaza itself giving way to a fountain lined pool. The walls include many reliefs of war-related scenes, as well as numerous historical quotes taken from the period. (Interestingly, the memorial also includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings, acknowledging their symbolic role played among American troops).

On the west side of the plaza is the Freedom Wall, a block of granite set with 4084 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war, and with an inscription that reads “Here we mark the price of freedom”. Given its sunken level and central position, the memorial allows for views of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, whilst the ever moving water creates a space to sit down and quietly reflect on these terrible events that forever stained human history.

The World War II Memorial is by no means a grandiose memorial nor one that screams its ideals at you, but as with the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial it does the job of making you think about and to remember this period in the hopes that it never need be repeated.

USA 2019 – 05 The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 DEC 2020

Like the nearby Washington Monument, or the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Eiffel Tower, or even our beloved Table Mountain, the incredibly special Lincoln Memorial is one of those iconic landmark pieces that filmmakers are able to (and often do) use so that you immediately know just exactly where in the world this story is currently taking place. As such, the opportunity to experience such an incredibly important American landmark in person was enough to make me giddy with excitement!

Of course, the Lincoln Memorial is a lot more important to the fabric of American society than just a landmark. The memorial honors Abraham Lincoln, the 16th and perhaps greatest of US presidents, a statesman and lawyer that before his assassination in 1865 managed to lead the nation through the American Civil War, earmarked as one of the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crises, and in doing so, succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, bolstering the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy. In short, the memorial serves to symbolize his belief in the freedom and dignity of all people, and as such has featured prominently in almost all campaigns for equality (especially in terms of race relations) across the broad spectrum of people that call themselves American.

The architect commissioned for the job was Henry Bacon, who went on to draw inspiration from the great neoclassical temples, with the end result being this incredibly beautiful and stoic Greek Doric temple which contains an exquisite and large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers) flanked by excerpts from both his second inaugural address and his Gettysburg address. Clad in Yule marble quarried from Colorado, the structure is surrounded by 36 fluted columns, above which are inscribed the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.

Shuffled off to the side is a TINY little gift shop, while below the structure is a small underground museum, which delivers some history about Lincoln as well as the memorial itself, expanding on in particular its role as a race relations center. Stretching out in front of the memorial, all the way through to the World War II memorial, is the Lincoln Reflecting Pool, a massive canal of still water that completes the design and turns the whole affair into this really special space of self-reflection that has a certain air of tranquility about it – despite the overwhelming hordes of tourists that make the pilgrimage to see this very important piece of American history!

USA 2019 – 04 The Memorials and Museums of the National Mall in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 OCT 2020

If you are a history buff, enjoy grandiose memorials and monuments, or simply love absorbing knowledge wherever you go, then there is simply no finer American location for this than Washington D.C.’s incredible National Mall, the giant landscaped park area pinned by the famous Washington Monument in the middle, bounded on either side by the United States Capitol and the exquisite Lincoln Memorial, and flanked along its length by the grounds of the White House and countless Smithsonian museums (including the famous Smithsonian Institution Building aka The Castle) and other national arts and cultural institutions.

With long walkways and plenty of lawns stretching out all around you, this stretch of green is incredibly popular with the locals as an exercise and relaxation venue, though of course they have to contend with the never ending throngs of both domestic and international tourists picking their way through this smorgasbord of knowledge and culture. (So yes, this means a lot of busses, a lot of electric scooters, and a lot of foot traffic!)

And smorgasbord of things to take in it honestly is. The reality is you probably need more than a week to get a taste of everything on offer. For example, in terms of landmarks and museums contained in the National Mall proper, you have the National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, West Building of the National Gallery of Art, East Building of the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of the American Indian, National Air and Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Arts and Industries Building, Smithsonian Institution Building, Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, National Museum of African Art, and the exquisite National Museum of African American History and Culture. (And bear in mind, most of these are also paired with a garden or landscape to explore as well!).

The eastern end of the National Mall includes features like the imposing United States Capitol, Union Square and the United States Botanic Garden, while to the west lies the majority of monuments and memorials, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Constitution Gardens, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

And then there are all the nearby attractions which should all be included in the above lists but simply aren’t: for example, the White House, Library of Congress, United States Supreme Court Building, National Postal Museum, Union Station, Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

While I managed to at least catch a glimpse of every single item mentioned in the above list, my three days in Washington DC meant that I had to pick and choose between what I really wanted to get a taste of – and as you can see from all the items that I hyperlinked above, I only really managed to squeeze in about 12. Not a bad number, but man did my poor aching feet hate me so much! (In hindsight, maybe I should have tried my luck by precariously balancing on one of those electric rideshare scooter things!)

The museums were fascinating, the memorials somber, the beautiful stone architecture grandiose, and all this was paired with the start of Autumn’s magnificent foliage color change. An incredible experience and opportunity for sure.