He hopes the book can give everyone – from visiting politicians to new residents and long-time locals – a deeper understanding of our iconic city.
WASHINGTON — Dhiru Thadani lived in the District for 50 years now – but his love affair with the city was, at first, a slow burn.
Born in Mumbai, India, Thadani made his brave journey across the ocean to study architecture in DC when he was just 17 in 1972 at the Catholic University of America. As the city suffered from the backlash of the 1960s riots, the lack of a metro, and his memories of poor bus service, his introduction to the city got off to a rocky start.
Everything changed with the help of a few passionate teachers and talented professionals who helped him see the beauty designed deep within the walls of the district.
Since the 70s, Thadani has flourished as an award-winning architect, author and urban planner, spending every day writing and continuing to admire and educate about the city he loves.
“It is, in my mind, the greatest city in America for multiple reasons,” he said he discovered over the years. “One of the things that makes Washington unique is the very beautiful plan made by [Pierre] The Child. And second, the height limit, which is very unique for an American city.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when her chaotic life of work and travel seemed to slow down, Thadani knew it was the perfect time to get to work on another project. In July, he was ready to present his latest work; “Washington Drawings: Abe to Zoo” is a kind of love letter to some of Thadani’s favorite moments and history lessons in the city’s most beautiful, iconic and unique spaces.
Readers will find that each drawing is organized alphabetically – one for each letter of the alphabet with text providing the context and history of the subject represented by the illustration. In total, the book presents 26 pen and ink drawings.
He hopes the book can give everyone – from visiting politicians to new residents and longtime locals – a deeper understanding of our iconic city and a more intimate view of what they will see as they explore.
“I was able to introduce a lot of notions of diversity, equity,” he said of key perspectives he could add to descriptions. “Beyond the design architecture; the mistakes that were made [in urban design]errors that have been corrected.”
Thadani fondly remembers the creation of the many illustrations and their descriptions. He used to sit in the car at night and let his pen do the work, adding the reasoning behind why half of the drawings in the book depict a moonlit setting.
After the book’s release, locals had another opportunity to see the intricate designs up close: at a special display at a location of the district’s independent bookstore, Politics and Prose. However, Thadani feels most gratified by the education on DC’s cityscape that he is able to share through his work and their projections, all thanks to the city’s meticulous urban design laid out in The Child Plan.
“The plan, it has longevity,” he said. “So when you create something that people understand even 200 years, 300 years later, it’s still alive…you can still learn from it. And, you know, learn some really important lessons about public space. “
Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your journey. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, which will provide you with the latest news and a summary of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.