Washington, D.C.: Capital Design

Over the past few years, Washington, D.C., has become an epicentre of cultural change. From the reopening of the contemporary Hirshhorn museum to the genesis of the high-speed tunnel between New York and D.C., the capital has always been prolific in its cultural contributions. Design projects here have stood the test of time, evoking the mandate to elegantly (if not ironically) focus on a dialogue that transcends mere politics while serving as a rallying point for all of America, in its many splendid colours.

Established in the decades after the American Revolution, Washington has a rich history of bucking design trends, based on a master plan inspired by the splendour of Versailles. With an eye toward the neo-classical regality of Continental Europe, it rejected the colonial English elements that dominated more prominent towns such as Boston and Philadelphia.

Today D.C.’s architecture offers a low-rise respite from the endless towers that rule over Manhattan. Within this almost village-like feel lies a cosmopolitan metropolis teem- ing with vibrancy, diversity and creativity. Nothing evokes that sensibility better than the city’s notable cultural additions.

Stay

The Line Hotel
1770 Euclid St. NW; thelinehotel.com/dc

Set in a mammoth former church that dates back to 1912, the Line beautifully conforms to Washington’s dominant neoclassical aesthetic, thanks to a soaring domed ceiling and imposing Ionic columns. The location, in the central yet hip Adams Morgan district, establishes its multiculti bona fides, while the 220 guest rooms boast a spacious 300 square feet or more for serious comfort. Don’t miss the in-house Full Service Radio, which broadcasts local podcasts and programming with a focus on D.C.’s indie food, culture and arts.

Photo cred: Anna Meyer

Sip

Top of the Gate
2650 Virginia Ave. NW; thewatergatehotel.com

Much has changed since the infamous break-in at the Watergate Hotel marked the beginning of the end for Richard Nixon’s presidency over 40 years ago. Today the sprawling complex includes one of British Israeli designer Ron Arad’s most striking stateside developments, a new hotel. Decked out with comfy couches and tables, Top of the Gate is a must-visit. This rooftop watering hole heaves with Arad’s telltale curves and lines, and it features stunning 360-degree views of Georgetown, the Kennedy Center, the Potomac River and historical Arlington, Va.

Photo cred: Adrian Gaut

Eat

Reverie
3201 Cherry Hill Ln.; reveriedc.com

Johnny Spero, the star of Netflix’s The Final Table, has made a name for himself with his Georgetown restaurant. Set in a former office space on an atmospheric cobblestone alley, the 64-seat spot is the handiwork of local design shop Streetsense. The menu references Spero’s global background, at Noma in Copenhagen and Mugaritz in northern Spain. His fried chicken sandwich, for instance, is garnished with foie gras and fennel, while a rib-eye for two wows with pungent lovage and morsels of beef tongue. Best of all, although the restaurant is pricey Spero saves two tables each night for guests who (yes!) may pay what they wish.

Do

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
1400 Constitution Ave. NW, nmaahc.si.edu

This square, tri-tiered structure occupies one of the last open sites on the National Mall. It’s clad in intricately designed bronze plates, which boast filigree patterns that reflect traditional African American craftsmanship. Designed by British architect David Adjaye, the exterior shades an inner glass facade that leads to galleries and theatres. The column-free space inside is drenched in light to showcase exhibits that chronicle centuries of the African American experience, including the civil rights movement and a history of black service in the U.S. military.

Photo cred: Iwan Baan

Glenstone
12100 Glen Rd., Potomac; glenstone.org

This private art museum in the posh suburb of Potomac reopened last October, after a massive overhaul that added more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space. Designed by New York architect Thomas Phifer, the renovation features 11 rooms crafted from stacked concrete blocks, positioned around a soothing water court and connected by a glass passageway. Set over 90 hectares (220 acres) of trails, streams, meadows and forests, it’s fit for a monumental collection that includes seminal pieces by Brice Marden and Mark Rothko, as well as landscape sculptures by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, and Jeff Koons (whose piece Split Rocker features 24,000 blooms with a dedicated horticulturist on site).

Photo cred: Iwan Baan

Read more about Washington in re:porter Issue 70, on flights now. Find flights and book now.