As we announced earlier, the Trust for the National Mall has selected the New York-based Rogers Marvel Architects and California based-PWP Landscape Architecture to re-envision Constitution Gardens in Washington DC. This team was one of three winning teams selected to redesign three neglected sites on the National Mall. The winning design for the Constitution Gardens proposes to bring renewed identity to this often overlooked part of the National Mall by building on the legacy of the original 1970s plan and creating a lush landscape of rolling hills, gardens and forests with a pavilion overlooking the lake. Continue reading for more images, video and the architects’ press release.
“Our partner Pete Walker expressed our design intent very clearly to the jury: we are the team that likes Constitution Gardens,” said Robert M. Rogers FAIA, the partner who led the work for this national design competition at Rogers Marvel. “We really did. We liked the curves of the lake and its clear edge, the meandering paths and the promontory on the East end. We appreciated the clarity and optimism of this modernist plan. To us it was the perfect canvas for the integration of landscape and building to create a new experience in the grand flatness of the Mall yet respectful of the importance of this place. The only option we felt was to extend this legacy, building up the landscape experience and designing a pavilion that is of the Gardens.”
The pavilion is a simple splayed, cantilevered box sitting on a plaza 20 feet above the lake. A glass-walled restaurant on the north side will occupy half the building. Grand stairs on the other half will descend to the lake engaging visitors in a slow discovery of the landscape beyond, the island, the boat/ice rink basin, the hills. The proposed building envelope is a structural diagrid that allows the landscape to be seen from all sides and reflects light in a diaphanous glow at night.
As in the original SOM plan, the pavilion is sited on axis with the buildings that line the northern side of the Mall. It is slid forward to the west however to enable a path that leads to the World War II Memorial, creating a generous plaza in front of the building for gatherings of more than 1500 people.
The simplicity and rectilinear geometry of the pavilion stands in contrast with the soft curves of the lush landscape proposed. PWP Landscape Architecture, who redesigned the Gardens as co-leaders in this competition, proposed an ecological overhaul and a heightened experience of the landscape that is so much of the essence of Constitution Gardens. To create a sense of enclosure, of entering a special place, the edges of the park are framed with a low wall and hills 10 to 12 feet higher than the existing topography. The hills will be built of new, healthier soils on which new trees will be planted and old ones transplanted to create a forested border. Inside the Gardens, visitors will discover broad lawns for sunning and picnicking, seasonal flower gardens, an informal amphitheater and the existing island re-envisioned with magnolias and a new path to access the 56 Signers Memorial. While aquatic plants will line the lake’s edge, its stone border will remain the visible marker that makes this lake so memorable.
The team also designed infrastructure in the lake that can transform an area into an ice skating rink in winter, a boat basin with a circular boardwalk in the summer and diminish to a think glistening ring when desired to return the lake to its pure, reflective beauty. Additional design features include moving the historic Lockkeepers House inside the Gardens. Sitting on the edge of one of Washington’s former canals, it will be restored to include exhibits about the National Mall’s water-based history. The Gardens will also get new paths, benches and lights along the lake, and a proposed connection to the Washington Monument grounds. According to the Trust for the National Mall, groundbreaking will occur by 2014 with ribbon cutting in 2016.
Architect: Rogers Marvel Architects Landscape Architect: PWP Landscape Architecture Client: Trust for the National Mall Landscape Preservation: Heritage Landscapes LLC Pond Restoration: Great Ecology Open Space Management: Biederman Redevelopment Sustainable Infrastructure: Buro Happold Soil Engineering: Pine & Swallow Environmental Acoustic Engineering: Jaffe Holden Soil Management: F2 Environmental Design Preservation Management: EHT Traceries Arborist: Paul Cowie & Associates Signage and Wayfinding: C&G Partners Security: DVS Security Cost Estimating: Faithful & Gould Lighting: Fisher Marantz Stone Environmental Engineering: Froehling & Robertson Interpretive Media: Local Projects Paving Engineering: Mark Smallridge Associates Irrigation: Northern Designs Traffic: Sam Schwartz Engineering Civil Engineering: Weidlinger Associates Environmental Engineering: Froehling & Robertson