Washington, D.C.: The First Example of Urban Planning

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Washington, D.C. was the first capital in the world to be strategically chosen, designed and built. It was established by President George Washington. Washington was given this power to select a permanent capital under the terms of the Constitution (1787) and the Residence Act of 1790, which authorized him to pick an exact location for the country’s new, permanent capital city as well as to choose commissioners to plan and build it within ten years . The process of designing Washington is considered an example of what historic preservationists have defined as urban planning today.
President Washington along with several commissioners carefully surveyed the land to identify particular locations to use and was aware of selecting and designating areas for residential, governmental, public and commercial areas. Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the main designer and one of Washington’s commissioners, developed a network of public spaces of great variety to be used for civic, social and national places that were all linked together by broad, diagonal avenues . The commissioners also created regulations on where to place buildings, structures, objects, monuments and roads to develop a functioning city that provided a location for the new government structure as well as could grow and mature in the future.
The first obstacle in the planning process was deciding where to place the capital city geographically. Washington had been inaugurated in New York City and Congress had been meeting in Philadelphia but there was a push to find a new location . This process took place soon after the American civil war and the newly formed Continental Congress had both Southern and Northern members who were advising on the location of the capital city. ...

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...of government” .

Relationship between Washington and L’Enfant break down – why this happened – what happened One version of his plan was published in 1796 and was said to have been the finest city plan prepared before the nineteenth century, however the plan was soon drastically changed without L’Enfant’s .

- how his design has influenced the plans that were developed and how he has influenced DC today.
“It is probably fortunate that as much of the original plan remains intact, as can be seen in the city today, for printed transcriptions of L’Enfant’s reports, sometimes made without his consultation, were altered in an effort to interpret his poor English” .
“Thus today we have four sections, NW, NE, SW & SE, as well as the rectangular plan combined with radiating plan, giving the city conditions of stability as well as outwards growth ”.

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