PREFACE Since 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy has been running the Solar Decathlon to promote innovation in sustainable building technologies. The program places twenty collegiate teams from around the world in competition to produce prototype homes capable of producing more energy than they consume and powered exclusively by the sun. This year, the teams received the surprise news that their “sites” have been changed from the Mall to an as yet undecided alternate location. Even though one of the conditions of participation in the contest is to provide for the replacement of damaged lawn areas, the Department of the Interior and the National Parks Service are worried about the grass. Judging from the current state of the lawn, it would probably be in better shape after the Decathlon teams have removed their houses and fixed it. Here is a link to a heart-wrenching video produced by the SCI-arc/Cal Tech Team. They ask you to contact members of Congress and The White House. Please support the Decathletes by calling, emailing, tweeting, facebooking, and writing. More after the break.
*** Dear Washington Mall Grass, I understand your boss, Kenneth Salazar, is worried about the Solar Decathlon teams plopping their bulky structures down on top of you. He doesn’t want you to get flat and pock-marked with yellow patches. It seems he is concerned that it will be akin to twenty giants stepping all over you. It’s as if it isn’t enough that you have to endure dogs shitting and urinating on you. Not to mention all those politicians and their assistants jogging on you at all hours of the day. One wonders whether or not they actually work. And then there are the tourists, trampling all over you. Yes, it is true that you have suffered innumerable indignities since you were first sown. Wait a minute. What was that about millions of tourists criss-crossing over you every day of the year? And snow blanketing you, especially this year, for weeks, even months on end? I wonder if you are thinking what I am thinking. What is the big deal with twenty small prototype houses when you have weather, millions of tourists and hundreds of joggers to contend with every day of the year? I thought that it might actually be something enervating and edifying for some of those joggers and tourists to see what budding architects can do with two years of research, brainstorming, and several surely ruthless critiques in the face of the mood everyone has been in (especially in the architecture field) with the economy.
It might actually be enlightening to see what some fresh minds have to present, given the economic crisis over the past two years, as it manifests in architecture. What are the new approaches? New ideas? Including what they can do about all that grass on the mall—I mean, given the economic crisis as its affected landscaping (think of the water bill), surely your gatekeepers (so to speak) can come up with something better than simply two miles of grass. And come to that, I distinctly noticed conspicuous and large bald patches throughout the length of your “grassy” expanse the last time I visited you, which was a year ago. That would be in the areas where those pesky politicians and their assistants insist on running over you. So here is my thought. How about a little open-mindedness. A little adventurousness. Especially now. Especially when we can all use a different perspective. *** VISUAL POSTSCRIPT Consisting of some other well-known events that have taken place on the Mall.