Best Unintentional Art Installation

The Washington Monument in Scaffolding
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
For the better part of last year, the most stunning artwork on the National Mall wasn’t in the sculpture gardens of the National Gallery or Hirshhorn—it was the brick-patterned, lit-up obelisk that had somehow taken the place of our boring ol’ Washington Monument. The scaffolding that workers used to repair damage from the August 2011 earthquake added heft and architectural interest to the structure in the daytime—and gave locals a new reason to brave the crowds on the Mall—while at night it was a glowing, geometric beacon. It was a rare case of transcendent beauty in a public maintenance project, and it leaves at least one legacy: These days, the now-unadorned national phallus seems duller than ever.