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Design Contest Set to Renovate Mall Sites

The National Mall could get a modern architectural twist as part of a project to upgrade and restore sites along the park.

The National Park Service is partnering with the Trust for the National Mall, a nonprofit organization that raises private funds, to renovate three sites: Union Square, which lies west of the Capitol and contains the Reflecting Pool and Ulysses S. Grant Memorial; Constitution Gardens, which is near Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Lincoln Memorial; and the Washington Monument grounds at the Sylvan Theater.

The first step in the plan is a design competition, which the trust launched today. The competition will span 36 weeks, with the winners being announced in May 2012.

The work will go beyond simple restoration. The trust and Don Stastny, architect and head manager of the competition, are looking for “an extraordinary solution, things that are beautiful that respect the historic context of the space but also function and support the fact that we have a large number of visitors and that their needs need to be met, as well.”

Modern concepts for the 220-year-old Mall will be welcomed. The competition is intended to integrate sustainable, modern designs that sync with the historic landscape and structures, said Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

The projects will not shut down the Mall. Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, said the projected date of completion for at least one of the sites is not until the year 2016, in time for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

The renovations of the three sites is expected to cost $700 million, with $350 million coming from the trust and $400 million from the park service, Cunningham said.

It will be only the fourth such restoration effort for the National Mall since its creation by architect Pierre L’Enfant, she said.

The competition is divided into three stages, with jurors presiding over each. Landscape architects and architects in lead design positions will be the only allowed competitors, and the finalists’ designs will be exhibited to the public before the winners are selected.

Functionality, sustainability, constructability and flexibility will be key criteria, and competitors are free to submit historic interpretations or develop a contemporary design approach.

“By their submissions, the jury will have the opportunity to look at a broad range of design solutions,” Stastny said. “Which might begin to point in a new direction for a new century.”

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