Can Parks and Memorials Happily Co-Exist?

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Can Parks and Memorials Happily Co-Exist?
Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. Photo © Allen Russ
Can Parks and Memorials Happily Co-Exist?
Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. Photo © Allen Russ

The National Mall in Washington, DC is saturated with monuments and museums and, while there is little support for adding more to the Mall, there is support for continuing the tradition of building monuments in the city. While it is a fraught process that requires approvals from numerous agencies and advisory panels, including the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission, when well managed with clearly articulated goals, the results can be impressive.

Consider the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial located along the Tidal Basin — that commission was won by Lawrence Halprin in 1974 (though it would be another 23 years before the memorial opened), and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (also on the Tidal Basin), designed by the ROMA Design Group and chosen from more than 900 competitors. Perhaps the most notable example in the last 35 years is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, designed by Maya Lin and selected from more than 1,400 submissions. These Modernist insertions into Washington, DC’s monumental core were skillfully handled and demonstrated great site sensitivity.

The designs also established significant — and symbolically rich — visual and spatial relationships with adjacent memorials, thus creating a unique physical narrative of key points in the nation’s history. []

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