Mall Design Competition Finalists Announced

Posted October 26, 2011 at 3:27pm

Finalists for the first part of the National Mall Design competition were announced Wednesday.

Fifteen design teams from 30 firms around the country and the world were selected to advance to the second stage of the contest, which is being held by the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service.

The end of the contest in May 2012 is far off, but the reward is worth it for the participants: the chance to restore one of three areas on the National Mall. The areas are Union Square, which includes the Reflecting Pool south of the Capitol and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial; the Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument; and Constitution Gardens, between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Restoration of the Mall will start after that, though no completion date has been set. The project is expected to cost about $700 million, with funds coming from the trust and NPS. Trust President Caroline Cunningham has said that the construction will not shut down the Mall.

More than 1,200 people from 30 states and 10 countries submitted applications for the contest. The finalists were selected by a panel of judges made up of architects, professors and others in the architecture community.

“Entrants were evaluated on past design performance, philosophy, design intent, thoughtfulness, creativity and overall resume,” a release from the Trust of the National Mall stated.

During the second stage, the lead architect and landscape architect will fill out their teams with engineers and designers. The teams will then be brought in for interviews with the trust and NPS.

The last stage of the competition will involve the finalists creating plans for the restoration. The plans will be available to the public before winners are selected.

Rodrigo Abela is the principal for Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, one of the finalists from the first round. If selected, Abela’s Seattle-based landscape architecture firm will work with Aedas, an international architecture firm, to restore Union Square, just south of the Capitol.

The firms chose this site because of the potential they saw for drawing on the culture and history of the area, Abela said.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol is working on another project on the Mall, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and is used to working with urban sites to create more of a cultural effect.

The site is central to the city but feels disconnected, he added.

“It’s very unwelcoming,” Abela said. “The site needs to be a place where expression can happen, if you want to protest or celebrate something. It should be like Freedom Plaza or Lafayette Square in that sense.”