We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
As your plane takes off from Reagan National Airport, you’re treated to a miniature tour of D.C. Out the window, you see iconic spots like the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the Washington Monument, and Capitol Dome, as well as lesser known (though equally impressive) spots like the National Cathedral and the old stone buildings of Georgetown University. Before you even leave the ground, however, there’s another architecturally significant structure to consider: the César Pelli and Associates–designed air traffic control erected in 1997. The National Air and Space Museum highlights 50 similar feats of engineering and their important functions in its latest exhibit, “Art of the Airport Tower.” While many towers are simple slabs of concrete that match Brutalist airports built in the ’60s and ’70s, newer constructions look and function much better than their predecessors. The tower at Edinburgh’s airport features a double helix design that almost resembles a Christmas ornament but also works as a drainage channel, while Birmingham, England’s airport features heated windows that help to increase visibility. There’s no way to decrease the noise of a working airport but a crash course at this exhibit might make visitors more sympathetic. The exhibition is on view daily 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the National Air and Space Museum, Independence Avenue and 6th Street SW. Free. (202) 633-2214. airandspace.si.edu.