The lighted scrim on the Washington Monument.
Ian Livingston/Courtesy of Barron Lighting Group The lighted scrim on the Washington Monument.

Washington, D.C.'s monuments take another form during the evening hours, when the impressive scale of the stone icons are transformed by carefully crafted electric lighting. For the first time in more than a decade, the Washington Monument, undergoing repairs following damage from the 2011 5.8-magnitude earthquake, has been encased in scaffolding and a blue-grey scrim, creating a dramatically different icon from the one on postcards.This temporary shroud may look familiar to locals; the scrim is based on the one architect Michael Graves designed for the 555-foot, 5-inch monument's extensive restoration that took place from 1998 to around 2000. "We know that visitors are disappointed that they can't get in to the Washington Monument,” says National Park Service spokesperson Carol Johnson. "So we wanted to make it a work of art while work was being done."

Until the monument reopens in spring 2014, visitors can admire the exaggerated brickwork pattern created from 1.4 acres of polyester fabric coated in flexible PVC, illuminated by 488 70W metal halide floodlights provided by Barron Lighting Group. "This is part of our heritage and it's important to preserve that for future generations," said Barron president and owner Alan Tracy, in a press release. "We were truly honored to be able to participate in this project." (Check out the repairs on the online EarthCam.) To put it another way, the monument gleams with approximately 30,000W of glowing power—not that much more than the wattage used to light the monument normally.