Questionable, Aesthetically

The train station in Rome assaults you with oppressive ugliness from every angle and in every way.

Fittingly, they have erected this statue of Blessed Pope John Paul II in front of the stazione:

Yes, our late Holy Father was a heavenly man.

(but one could question his aesthetic judgment)

Was Philip Kennicott* on the committee that chose this statue’s design for public installation in Rome?

The statue makes me think of the Hirshhorn Balloon Project.

…This morning my dear brother thoroughly covered the possibility of our “crashing full-speed into the federal debt ceiling.”

The idea of crashing full-speed into the limit conjured a memory from over a decade ago.

Anybody remember this movie with Jim Carrey and Ed Harris?

(WARNING: Bad word in this clip.)

This clip shows the end of the movie, when Truman has sailed ‘off the edge of the world’ after becoming dissatisfied with his circumscribed life as an unwitting reality-show star.

I think I will give a “Truman Show” homily on John 14 this weekend. Stay tuned…
* The most thoroughly documented Aesthetic Fool Ever. Tied with Michael Kahn.

Angelic Etching

St. Thomas in Sopra Minerva

I am a man of classical artistic tastes.

My favorite image of St. Thomas Aquinas is the fresco by Filippino Lippi in the Carafa Chapel in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minverva in Rome.

Nonetheless, I have a new second-favorite image of St. Thomas: The sweet etching by Adrien Mastrangelo, above.

It reminds me of my favorite statue in town: Ivan Mestrovic’s St. Jerome on Massachusetts Ave., N.W.

Statue of St. Jerome near Sheridan Circle in Washington, by Ivan Mestrovic

Roads that Don’t Have to be Plowed

On September 9, 1969, President Nixon’s transportation secretary ordered work on the Three Sisters Bridge to begin…

As construction began, near Foxhall and Canal Roads, just west of Georgetown, demonstrators lay down in front of bulldozers and tied themselves to trees that were slated to be chopped down. Opponents paddled a canoe out to the Three Sisters — the three boulders siting in mid-river — and hung a banner on the rocks that read: “Stop the Bridge.”

Arrests took place daily. But work was halted by a temporary restraining order issued that October. In August 1970, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court ordered work on the bridge halted.

His opinion said that proper planning procedures had not been followed and local voices had not been adequately heard. (Washington Post)

Not long ago, I promised to detail the Washington highways that might have been, but thankfully are not.

Our city was spared these depredations, thanks largely to ‘Washingtonian of the Year,’ 1972: Peter Craig.

Here is a brief outline of the city-choking asphalt that would have been laid:

A. I-66 would have crossed into Washington over the Three Sisters Bridge. Then it would have split into two freeways:

1. The Potomac Freeway would have channeled traffic from the Three Sisters Bridge along the Georgetown waterfront and onto a newly tunneled K Street. (It would have been eight lanes wide, double the size of the existing Whitehurst Freeway.) The K Street Freeway would have tunneled from Foggy Bottom to Seventh Street NW. (The approach lanes and exit ramps that now sit near the Kennedy Center would have been the western terminus of this freeway.)

2. The Palisades Parkway, four lanes wide, would have gone northwest from the Three Sisters Bridge to the Capital Beltway in Cabin John, along the Maryland side of the Potomac.

B. What is now the Metro Red Line from Union Station to Silver Spring would have been the ten-lane North Central Freeway. It would have met the Beltway just west of Georgia Avenue.

C. The Northeast Freeway would have allowed I-95 to continue through Prince George’s County and into the District, where it would have joined the North Central near what is now the Fort Totten Metro station. Ten lanes would have gone through Langley Park and Takoma Park.

D. The Industrial Freeway, would have run in six lanes from I-395 just north of the Capitol to Kenilworth Avenue in Maryland, along the New York Avenue corridor.

Glover Archbold Park
E. Most Appalling: There were to have been an “inner Beltway!” The South Leg of this ‘Inner Loop’ would have tunneled under the Mall, beginning beneath the Lincoln Memorial, running below the Tidal Basin and emerging between the 14th Street Bridge and the Jefferson Memorial (in one early rendering, it would have been trenched through the Mall, not tunneled).

Dear readers, I know that some of you are in far-flung places. It might be hard for you to visualize clearly the horror of what could have happened to the most splendid city on earth.

Suffice it to say that there ought to be a statue of Peter Craig in at least one of the beautiful, well-treed parks which he saved from the bulldozers.