A Facelift for the Nation's Front Lawn

Kaid Benfield laments the capital's "blah"-inspiring National Mall, and discusses three design competitions underway that could give it a second life.

Amidst the grand, civic monumentality of Washington, D.C., Benfield opines, the stark plainness of the National Mall stands in sharp relief. "It's like being on your random, poorly maintained high school football field when there's no game going on (albeit with a major federal building or two in the distance)."

Surrounded on all sides by major national landmarks, perhaps its one saving grace is the way it looks from a distance: "from an airplane, maybe, or from the top of the Washington Monument or the steps of the Lincoln Memorial." But on the ground, the human-scale experience of the park can't hold a match to truly great urban parks, like those found in London.

Luckily for Benfield, the nonprofit Trust for the National Mall is holding three international design competitions, each for a different portion of the Mall: Constitution Gardens, the Sylvan Theatre, and Union Square. As discussed in The Dirt, "The competition is fierce because all the design proposals offer elegant, exciting, innovative ideas for solving sticky ecological, security, and public space design challenges. Each proposal may reflect a $100,000 or more of conceptual and design work."

But with an anticipated $700 million in public and private funds on the line, the transformation in store for the National Mall may well put its image back in line with the majestic character of the city.

Full Story: Can the National Mall be re-imagined as a place for people?

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