Skip Navigation

Art exhibitions, architectural details, and local street art often go unnoticed in the epicenter of national and international political affairs. However, as a Washington, D.C. native and an aspiring designer, I have created a “Designer’s Guide to the District,” so that you too can be inspired by the quirky and talented art community here in our nation’s capitol.

1. Key Areas of Inspiration:

Nature’s Gift to DC:

Nature is the ultimate source of inspiration for artists, musicians, actors, writers, photographers… etc. With the help of landscape designers we can experience nature in a fascinating and creative way. Some outdoor gems that often go unnoticed are:
Meridian Hill Park
The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
The National ArboretumMore Aboretums

Meridian Hill Park — Photo: Rachel Newman

Streets of DC:

NOMA: There is an abundance of street art scattered through this area of DC. Powwow DC reserves spaces for street artists to express themselves freely and paint the city. Union Market is also located in the NOMA area and is home of some Instagram-worthy street art and signage.

Union Market — Photo: Rachel Newman
Powwow DC — Artists: Madsteez and MUR0 — Photo: Rachel Newman

Eastern Market: is home of several local artisans and The Fridge, an art gallery known for hosting emerging and established artists, as well as hosting musicians, from hip-hop to jazz and folk.

The Fridge — Photo: Rachel Newman

2. Architectural Designers and Row Houses:

World-renowned architectural work can be found throughout D.C., if one knows how to spot such spectacular work!

The Little Things:

transitions (stairwells, hallways)


framing of views outside the buildings

Big Name Architectural Designers:

Mies Van De Rhoe, The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
I.M. Pei, The National Gallery of Art – East Wing
David Adjaye, The National Museum of African American History and Culture
Gordon Bunshaft, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Norman Foster, The National Portrait Gallery

View: The National Museum of African American History & Culture — Photo: Rachel Newman

Row Houses:

Have you seen the original row houses scattered throughout the city? (e.g Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Petworth, Logan Circle, Shaw… etc) It saddens me that many apartment complexes are going up, leaving the original D.C. charm and character behind. Take the time to explore these neighborhoods of traditional D.C. architecture. Snap a few photos of the vibrant color palette these homes have to offer.

Row Houses in Logan Circle — Photo: Rachel Newman

I hope this guide helps you embrace D.C.’s growing artistic community, and approach this city from a creative perspective. D.C. is not only home to immense political history, but is also several influential and incredible artists.

Rachel Newman