Visions of the city: I is for Ice
Amid the recent oppressive heat wave, it may be hard to imagine when warmth feels good. But there comes a time when people put on hats and gloves and scarves and engage in outdoor activities to generate body heat, and the contrast with the cold is invigorating. The drawing above, by architect and urbanist Dhiru Thadani, is the ice skating rink on the National Mall in DC. It is part of Thadani’s new self-published book, Washington Drawings, Abe to Zoo, which I plan to review as a remarkable portrait of a city.
The book has 26 full-page drawings with text for every letter of the alphabet, and this vision of ice skating in DC stands for the capital letter I. The National Portrait Gallery, centered in the drawing, makes for an impressive backdrop. Thadani is one of the most knowledgeable people anywhere on the physical environment of Washington DC, and it shows in the first two paragraphs of text that go with the drawing.
“The Ice Rink and Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art is located west of the art museum between 7th and 8th streets NW. Ice Skating on the Mall is one of Washington’s most beloved winter traditions from mid-November to March. Skating enthusiasts can glide across the open-air rink surrounded by sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein and Louise Bourgeois. It is a delightful environment, beautiful in the evening with lights strung all around. Alongside the rink is the National Gallery’s Pavilion Café, offering hot cider, mulled wine, and pumpkin spice lattes to warm the skaters.
“The Smithsonian Museums define the National Mall along Washington, DC’s primary east-west cultural axis. The Ice Rink sits astride the 8th Street NW cultural cross-axis. Starting from the north, the 8th Street cross-axis is centered on the former Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square, now adaptively reused as an Apple store. Further south, the axis passes through the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, formerly the Patent Office. And once again, to the south, the axis is further marked by the center of the National Archives, whose south elevation fronts the Ice Rink. The axis continues south to bisect the circular Hirshhorn Museum on the south side of the National Mall.”