Best Cityscape Improvement
The Mead Center for American Theater
The most handsome aspect of the Southwest D.C. skyline happened despite two of the least. When Arena Stage decamped temporarily to Crystal City and U Street NW three years ago, it couldn’t demolish its Kreeger Theater and Fichandler Stage. Built in the ’60s and ’70s, the two venues are hideous, Brutalist relics—one looks like a slide-projector carousel, the other a grounded UFO—but they’re also landmarks. Instead of abandoning the buildings, Arena boxed them in a gestural glass curtain that beckons toward the National Mall like a waving hand. The Bing Thom-designed Mead Center for American Theater, which opened last fall, has plenty of new goodies on the inside, like the weaved-wood Kogod Cradle, a black box theater. Of course, seeing the Kreeger and Fichandler inside Arena’s spacious atrium still feels a bit incongruous, but the Mead Center’s exterior is a total knockout. Finally, the District’s stiffest quadrant has a taste of the—oh, what’s the word?—dramatic.