National Mall Winning Design Proposal for Union Square / Gustafson Guthrie Nichol + Davis Brody Bond

View from US Capitol Speaker’s Balcony - Courtesy of GGN, © Methanoia

Seattle-based landscape architects Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) and New York-based architects Davis Brody Bond (DBB) were recently selected as the winners of the National Mall Design Competition for Union Square. Organized by the Trust for the National Mall, a jury of eight esteemed professionals selected a design team for each of the three re-design sites of the National Mall through a three-stage process. The winning design was judged on flexibility, sustainability, and creativity of their design and how well it reflects the established vision and design influences of this historic setting. More images and architects’ description after the break.

View from The Grant Memorial - Courtesy of GGN, © Methanoia

The National Mall is the country’s most visited park and attracts more than 25 million visitors annually. Union Square, located at the base of the Capitol, is the site of major historic events from presidential inaugurations to public gatherings and demonstrations.

View from The Grant Memorial - Courtesy of GGN, © Methanoia

“The National Mall is an extraordinary monumental landscape. Remarkable for its sheer scale, its powerful presence serves the country as both a public park and place of gathering and discourse. The goal of our design is to create a sustainable, durable and flexible plaza that is yet inviting and also active when it is not occupied for national events,” said Kathryn Gustafson, Director of GGN.

The project team, led by Kathryn Gustafson and Rodrigo Abela of GGN, and Carl Krebs and Peter Cook of Davis Brody Bond, sees the site as a setting for some of the nation’s most powerful shared memories. They created a design that would recognize Union Square both as a place of iconic reverence, as well as an active square of public life. The new design engages visitors with an impressive monumental scale, but it also provides comfortable places for a range of activities and voices.

“Union Square represents an opportunity to fulfill the Mall’s promise as a national place of assembly that is adaptable and easily maintained. For example, the design dramatically rethinks the use of water—operating with just 10% of the water of the current fountain—and creates a series of plazas which can handle the heavy traffic of special events, and in turn reduces the wear and tear on the National Mall’s lawns and gardens,” said Carl Krebs, Partner of Davis Brody Bond.

Architects: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (Lead Landscape Architects) + Davis Brody Bond (Lead Architects)
Location: Washington, D.C.,
Civil Engineers: Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Historical Resources Management: Robinson & Associates
Pedestrian Movement Consultants: Space Syntax
Lighting Designers: Tillotson Design Associates
Fountain Consultants: CMS Collaborative
MEP and Sustainability: WSP Flack + Kurtz
Structural Engineers: Robert Silman Associates
Geotechnical Engineers: Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers
Environmental Graphics: Poulin + Morris
Traffic Consultants: Gorove/Slade Associates
Cost Estimators: Faithful+Gould

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "National Mall Winning Design Proposal for Union Square / Gustafson Guthrie Nichol + Davis Brody Bond" 07 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>