The National Mall Wins with These Designs

The Trust for the National Mall announced the winners of the national design competition for three distinct sites on the National Mall today. While the competition was stiff, the jury went with Rogers Marvel Architects & landscape architecture firm Peter Walker and Partners for Constitution Gardens, landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and architecture firm Davis Brody Bond for Union Square, and landscape architecture firm OLIN and architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi for the Sylvan Theatre at the Washington Monument Grounds. Each team is a collaboration between a landscape architecture and architecture firm, a joint 50-50 effort.

A number of winners have already done beautiful work in D.C. OLIN redesigned the Washington Monument grounds, a project defined by its subtle and elegant approach to security, and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, one of D.C.’s most beloved spaces. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, which won the National Design Award for landscape design last year, recently broke ground on the new landscape design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, expected to open on the Mall in 2015. They also created one of the most unique public spaces in the city: the Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, Honor Chair of the Campaign for the National Mall (and lead fundraiser for the new landscapes and buildings, which are expected to cost hundreds of millions), said: “The design competition produced beautiful, thoughtful solutions to improve this iconic space.” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Hon. ASLA, added: “The National Mall Design Competition concepts are grand, respectful, sustainable, and beautiful; in short, they are worthy to be a part of this important and iconic space.” Caroline Cunningham, President of the Trust for the National Mall, sees these projects as not only best practices in urban park design but also “models of sustainability.”

Indeed, the mall needs some models of sustainability. It has taken a long time for sustainable landscape design to come to the nation’s capital, but Susan Spain, ASLA, project executive for the National Mall at the National Park Service, has publicly committed to using Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) guidelines to revitalize the landscapes in the federal zone. In fact, right now, much of the National Mall is being dug up and restructured with highly sustainable soils, grasses, and water management systems that will not only better cope with the 25 million visitors and thousands of events that occur there each year, but also provide the foundation for a more ecological system. We hope the three winning design teams will also use SITES best practices in these high-profile projects.

The next step: raise the money. Half of the $700 million will need to come from the private sector. For this big job, the Trust for the National Mall will continue to host fundraisers, which all philanthropists interested in the built environment and the shape of the capital should attend. The Trust will then starting working with the designers and the National Park Service to implement the designs for Constitution Gardens and the Sylvan Theatre at the Washington Monument Grounds. We can only assume that the Architect of the Capitol is also moving forward with the Union Square redesign as there have been no public announcements taking that piece out of contention.  

Explore the winning designs by OLIN + Weiss/Manfredi, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol + David Brody Bond, and Rogers Marvel Architects + PWP Landscape Architecture

Other news for landscape architects: Boston-based Stoss Landscape Urbanism, led by Chris Reed, ASLA, won the National Design Award in landscape design this year. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum said: “Stoss has distinguished itself for a hybridized approach rooted in infrastructure, functionality, and ecology.” Stoss’ projects include the CityDeck in Green Bay, WI; Erie Street Plaza in Milwaukee, WI; The Plaza at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; and Bass River Park on Cape Cod. Also worth noting: Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, and co-founder of the Biomimicry Guild, won the “design mind” award.  

Image credits: (1) OLIN + Weiss / Manfredi, (2) Gustafson Guthrie Nichol + Davis Brody Bond, (3) Rogers Marvel Architects + Peter Walker and Partners

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