National Mall

Photo by Sam Kittner/National Trust for Historic Preservation

Five landscape architecture firms that will work to shape the future of the endangered National Mall Tidal Basin were recently announced by National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for the National Mall, in partnership with the National Park Service.

The 107 acre Tidal Basin was first built in the 1800s and is part of West Potomac Park in Washington, DC. The location most associated with Washington’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival, the Tidal Basin also comprises five memorials, including the Jefferson Memorial.

National Mall

Photo by Sam Kittner/National Trust for Historic Preservation

Unfortunately, the Tidal Basin is threatened by rising sea levels, unstable sea walls, and outdated infrastructure. It’s estimated that as much as $500 million is needed to upgrade and maintain America’s most visited national park. This year, it was added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

As a result, the National Mall Tidal Basin Ideas Lab was launched. This 18-month initiative, presented by American Express, calls on architectural and structural engineering firms, a wide range of stakeholder groups, and the public at large to contribute to the development of a vision to preserve the Tidal Basin for the next 150 years.

National Mall

Photo by Sam Kittner/National Trust for Historic Preservation

The landscape architecture firms: DLANDstudio; GGN; Hood Design Studio; James Corner Field Operations: and Reed Hilderbrand, will join the Ideas Lab to propose solutions to major challenges specific to the Tidal Basin site. These include security, circulation, civic stage, cultural landscape, connectivity, conservation, resilience, infrastructure, and visitor experience. The Tidal Basin faces immediate threats including daily flooding that swamps sidewalks and threatens the roots of cherry trees. Architecture and planning firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is serving as civic partner to the initiative.

“The National Mall Tidal Basin embodies freedom, perseverance, and democratic values, and it is a place where people come together from around the country and around the world to celebrate these ideals. That is why we must bring our best innovation and ingenuity to meet the challenges it is facing,” said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “It is with great excitement that we can today announce the world-class talent coming together to protect and re-imagine this iconic landmark for future generations.”

“Our goal, as a lead partner of the National Park Service, is to bring innovation and partnerships to expedite the fulfillment of the Master Plan for the National Mall,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO of the Trust for the National Mall. “These five visionary teams are a prime example of how collaboration between distinguished experts in fields aligned with our project needs, will create solutions to help overcome the complex preservation issues affecting the treasured Tidal Basin.”

The Ideas Lab exhibition will continue through the fall of 2020 at which point the public will be given the opportunity to engage with the final design concepts generated by the landscape architecture firms. This work will inform the National Park Service’s mandated environmental review, master planning, and detailed design processes that will follow.