‘Loved to Death’, National Mall Design Competition Launches

Hot off the heels of the insanely fast redesign competition for the President’s Park South and the opening of the forever controversial Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the move to spruce up Washington DC’s most visited areas continue at a healthy clip. Just before the weekend, the Trust for the National Mall launched the National Mall Design Competition. Writing that the Mall “has been loved to death” and is struggling to keep up appearances since its last major preservation effort nearly 40 years ago, the competition has put a call out for redesign plans for three sites in particular: Union Square, the Washington Monument grounds at Sylvan Theater and Constitution Gardens. Unlike the aforementioned President’s Park South competition, which seemed as though it was started and finished in around an hour and a half, the Mall project will be taking its time (pdf), blocked out in a series of stages, with potentially eight teams picked between now and December, renderings out in April of next year, and winners named in May of 2012. The budget for the restoration is currently estimated at $700 million, with half coming from donations and the other from matching federal funds. Former First Lady Laura Bush, now no stranger to landscape-centric capital campaigns after overseeing her husband’s presidential library in Texas, has signed on as the Honorary Chair to help raise the money. Here’s a list of the problems that propelled the Trust into action:

  • The National Mall has been loved to death.
  • With more than 25 million annual visitors and 3,000 annual permitted events, the National Mall is the most visited park in the NPS system.
  • Pierre L’Enfant, who designed the National Mall in 1791, could not have anticipated this magnitude of use. The National Mall is not equipped to withstand this level of use or engage so many visitors.
  • The National Mall now requires more than $400 million for critical deferred maintenance and an estimated $300 million for restoration and improvement projects.
  • The last time the National Mall received adequate resources was for the Bicentennial celebration in 1976. These decades of neglect have left the National Mall in need of repair.

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