Mall designs look to hardscape to stem wear and tear from 25 million annual visitors and create sustainability.


Before a sell-out 1,200-person crowd seated in a tent on the National Mall on Thursday May 3, three winning plans were announced as part of a competition to redesign areas of the expansive space commonly called “America’s Front Lawn.” In remarks before Thursday’s luncheon, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that the National Mall’s turf takes a beating from tourists and special events — some that can include military equipment — and that he’s trying to find a way to “hardscape” part of the Mall to better accommodate the wear and tear. The use of stone paving such as Porphyry is apparent in the designs.

The Trust for the National Mall has named the winning teams in its competition to redesign three long-neglected landscapes between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Winners

Constitution Gardens resized 600

The winning design for Constitution Gardens, put together by Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker and Partners, features a new restaurant and pavilion, a grass amphitheatre and other gathering spaces along Constitution Gardens’ pond, part of which can be used as an ice skating rink in the winter. Rogers Marvel was also selected recently to renovate the nearby Presidents Park at the White House.

Washington Monument Grounds resized 600 

The winning design for the Washington Monument grounds and Sylvan Theater, put together by OLIN + Weiss/Manfredi, reorients the current theater space to face the monument — using a restructured terraced lawn and wooded canopy — and creates a new all-weather café and indoor gathering space at the southeast corner of the site.

Union Square resized 600

The winning design for Union Square, by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol & Davis Brody Bond reorients the reflecting pool at the foot of Capitol Hill while creating north and south terraces that can be used for public events or refuges for tourists. The winning design will be forwarded to the Architect of the Capitol since Union Square now falls under congressional jurisdiction.

The Process

A jury of eight landscape architects, academics, architects, critics and historians selected the winners. They narrowed a field of 58 entries to four for each project, then placed these finalists on display for public comment April 9.

The winners also faced the challenge of balancing the tricky equation of easy access and heightened security, an inherent dichotomy for a free society living in a time of terrorism.

Now that the three designs are in place, fundraising begins. Work to complete the Washington Monument grounds and Constitution Gardens, to be overseen by the Trust, is estimated to cost around $700 million, covering construction and future maintenance. The first groundbreaking could happen as early as 2014. The Architect of the Capitol will oversee changes to Union Square. While the other two sites can be realized through private funds raised by the trust, Union Square’s renovation hinges on what the Architect of the Capitol and other stakeholders on Capitol Hill think — and whether there are resources available to turn the blueprint into reality. As a Congress-owned space, it cannot benefit from nonpublic money.

Photo Credits National Mall Design Competition

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Porphyry’s composition determines its high compression strength, resistance to stains, slip resistance, and high freeze/thaw ratings.  The stone is the most popular paver in Europe, and is favored for its flexibility in design, beauty, durability and low maintenance requirements. ADA Compliant Porphyry pavers are also adaptable to a permeable paving set. The stone is by far one of the most durable pavers in the world.  These materials are available from Milestone Imports.   –