A New Vision for the National Mall: Part 2
Yesterday, we brought you part one of the innovative plan to reinvigorate Washington D.C.'s National Mall. Today, we talk a bit more about the three winning designs.
Union Square by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol & Davis Brody Bond
At Union Square, the winning design by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol & Davis Brody Bond succeeds nobly at marrying accessibility with security. It removes the current reflecting pond that lies parallel to the Capitol across Third Street SW, and adds a new pond at the nearest grass panel on the Mall. The new pond is actually five basins, with two to three inches of water that are easily accessible to pedestrians. “You can walk across it if you choose to,” Kathryn Gustafson, landscape architect on the project, said. “There are walkways – it’s totally useable.”
The gesture is a symbolic salute to the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool at the other end of the Mall. But it also introduces a new layer of security to what exists there already. “The water feature is lifted up, so it increases the security with a second barrier, rather than decreasing it,” Gustafson said.
As the designers worked through their research and their solution, they sensed a disconnect between the Mall and the Capitol. “What we found [to be] strong were the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and its Reflecting Pool,” she said. “That was a bookend, and so we looked for symmetry here.” They delved deeply into the name of their project as well, seeking meaning and inspiration. “After the Civil War, the word union meant one thing, but today, in an extraordinarily diverse society, it’s come to mean something else,” she said. “It’s about one voice – a mosaic of one people.”
Their fountain in the new reflecting pool is to be made different pieces, like that mosaic of people. And there will be one unified voice. “The reflecting pool is a statement about that,” Gustafson said of the winning design.
Sylvan Theater by OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi
At the Sylvan Theater, OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi wanted to re-orient the performance space back to the Washington Monument. They also wanted to provide a pedestrian path and visual link to the nearby Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial.
The new design reconnects the three points via a new bridge and cleared vista. “We’ve re-engaged the lost southern monument grounds,” said OLIN partner Hallie Boyce or the Sylvan Theater area. “Now you can walk to it along a sinuous curve of a bridge through a canopy of trees.” The landscape calls for double plantings of native trees – at the theater itself, of tulip poplars, sweet gums and honey locust, each turning a seasonal gold in the fall. They’ll be complemented by tall native grasses in the growing plain, akin to Hyde Park in London. “We’ll use durable materials for the areas with large crowds, and plantings for less used areas,” she said. “It will be a framed and clear plaza that’s a gateway to the Mall.”