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Currying Favor

Currier Museum of Art acquires a second Frank Lloyd Wright home
New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings.  The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public.  “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.”  The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit.  Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically.  Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable.  While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique.  The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance.  Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
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Pop-Up Pop Art

Camille Walala rejuvenates an Arkansas gas station from eyesore to icon
French artist Camille Walala descended on Fort Smith, Arkansas, to flip a disused 1950s gas station into an unexpectedly bright piece of public art. Nestled on a sharp corner joining two boulevards, Walala and the women-led creative house Justkids saw an opportunity for a low-budget but high-impact project and needed little more than cans of colorful paints. “I love this canvas,” said Walala, “it was exciting to do something really bold, that stands out on a bigger scale.” Using joyful geometric designs rendered in contrasting primary colors, Walala exercised her signature hybrid style over the space by using a mix of tribal-inspired bold patterning and Pop Art color palettes. The result is a social hub for the town that also serves as a visual landmark, and its success is a reminder that urban regeneration doesn’t necessarily need to be built from the ground up. This unique approach to urban planning is at the core of Justkid’s mission, aligning with their goals to “propel place-making by delivering art experiences that create a unique sense of community.” Since the house’s founding in 2014, Justkids has completed over a dozen projects around the world, emphasizing color and playfulness in each collaboration. The gas station was reimagined thanks to the help of many local volunteers, many of them teenagers, as well as a collaboration with local artist Nate Meyers. The curator of Justkids, Charlotte Dutoit, commented on the transformation saying, “After five years of curating diverse visual projects in Fort Smith, I learned that a big part of good place-making is creating community and a sense of re-discovery of the beauty that is there, in the city, all along, and Camille’s work does just that.”  This spirit of architectural preservation and the re-presentation of history is not only socially impactful but also sustainable, offering a second chance for forgotten or unloved architecture across the country. This collaboration with a visual artist to actively rejuvenate a space, and not only stamp landmark protections on preservation documents, incited real change for the community and sets a precedent for future projects worldwide. In just one week, Walala was able to synthesize inspirations from the Memphis movement to the women of the Southern Ndebele tribe and make a lasting impression, with only a formerly placeless intersection as her canvas. 
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Fiery Debate

General in charge of Notre Dame restoration spars with chief architect
The drama surrounding the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Europe’s most visited monument, continues to build as the French government debates the fate of the cathedral's befallen spire. The National Assembly’s cultural commission was convening last week to discuss the renovation when General Jean-Louis Georgelin, appointed to spearhead the project by French President Emmanuel Macron, suggested chief architect Philippe Villeneuve should “just shut his big mouth.”  The animosity is due to disagreement over the direction of the $1 billion restoration project. The devastating fire in April, whose cause is still under investigation, completely destroyed the mid-19th-century timber-and-lead spire and the majority of the medieval wooden roof, and President Macron announced an international design competition for a contemporary replacement soon after. Despite the passage of a bill in May ruling that the Notre Dame restoration must maintain the original design, the fate of its spire still appears up in the air. Chief architect Villeneuve, meanwhile, has made his opposition to anything short of an identical reconstruction clear. “I will restore it identically and it will be me, or they will build a modern spire and it won't be me,” said Villeneuve in an interview with the French radio station RTL last month. He invoked the 1964 Venice Charter, which requires restorations of historic buildings to retain their original architectural and historic value.  General Georgelin was unequivocal when questioned by members of parliament, only confirming the President’s ambitious plan to complete the project by 2024, the same year the city will host the Summer Olympics. He promised to "move ahead in wisdom so that we can serenely make the best choice for Notre Dame, for Paris, for the world," reported The Art Newspaper. Nevertheless, construction on the roof and spire and cosmetic changes cannot begin until the cathedral's structure is fully stabilized. The building’s burnt scaffolding, which was erected for renovation work prior to the April fire, has yet to be dismantled for reconstruction to begin. France’s Cultural Minister, Franck Riester, announced last month that the scaffolding removal would begin imminently. However, this process alone could take four months according to Christophe-Charles Rousselot, head of the Notre Dame Foundation.   
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Latter-day Paints

Salt Lake Temple’s four-year renovation set to begin this year
“To some extent, buildings are like people,” said Russell M. Nelson, the 17th and current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). “Not only is the aging process inevitable, but it can [also] be unkind.” Nelson offered the metaphor in his speech at the 186th General Conference Session in April 2019 to announce that Salt Lake Temple, the largest LDS temple in the world, and the 10-acre Temple Square that surrounds it, will be closed to the public starting December 29, 2019, to undergo a four-year restoration. That series of upgrades that will make the site more accessible to the 3-to-5 million visitors the site receives annually. “This project will enhance, refresh, and beautify the temple and its surrounding grounds,” said Nelson. “Obsolete systems within the building will be replaced. Safety and seismic concerns will be addressed. Accessibility will be enhanced so that members with limited mobility can be better accommodated.” Members of the church called upon FFKR Architects, the largest architecture firm in Utah, to not only provide solutions to the temple’s structural issues, but to envision a combination of preservation, restoration, renovation, demolition, and new construction to be contracted by local company Jacobsen Construction. The formal temple entry point, for instance, will be improved with the addition of skylights that will provide sweeping views of the temple’s spires from the interior, and a new tunnel will be built underground to connect the Conference Center parking area with the temple’s grand hall. Though smaller existing buildings on the site will be demolished to make way for several features new to the grounds—including multiple temple entry pavilions, two visitor centers, and updated hardscaping and landscaping—the church has stated that all of the changes will be made with only the square’s original purposes in mind. “Efforts will be made to preserve the unique historicity of each temple wherever possible, preserving the inspiring beauty and unique craftsmanship of generations long-since passed,” said Nelson. “We will strive to preserve its reverent setting and character as originally directed by President Brigham Young.” To achieve a high level of fidelity in its preservation efforts, members of the local Church History Department were employed to perform research on the characteristics of the temple when it was first completed, including paintwork, murals, millwork, and furniture. Plans for the renovation began modestly when it was recently discovered that the 253,000-square-foot temple, first completed in 1893 by Thomas O. Angell, sits on earthquake-prone land and is in dire need of seismic and structural renovations. The last renovation, which took place between 1962-1963, included demolition of the original annex (due to its structural instability), the installation of all-new mechanical systems, plumbing, wiring, carpeting and light fixtures, and the redecoration of the entire building (Temple Square was officially designated a National Historic Landmark shortly after in 1964). It was determined that the upcoming renovation should include the replacement of the temple’s aging mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in their entirety while also implementing a significant seismic upgrade using a base isolation system that will take approximately a year to install alone. According to Brent Roberts, the church’s director of special projects, this will require placing hundreds of shock absorbers between the ground and the building’s footings and foundations. "It actually will now be the foundation of the temple, so when the earth moves, the base isolation system takes all that movement," Roberts explained. Base isolators have proven to be an effective safeguarding system for historic buildings and have even been employed in other historic buildings in the area, including The Salt Lake City-County Building, completed in 1894. “The base isolators take a lot of the energy out of a 7.3 magnitude earthquake,” said David Hart, the former executive director of the Capitol Preservation Board. “It's a really, really efficient way of reducing the force elements that are predicted to hit the building in a major earthquake.” As an extra precaution in the event of natural disasters, the temple’s iconic stone spires and walls will be strengthened while maintaining their original aesthetic character. Though Salt Lake Temple won’t open its doors again to the public until 2024, far-reaching efforts were made to make sure the construction process will not interrupt the regular functions of surrounding facilities and events. the church will ensure that there will be no street closures or impediments to pedestrian and vehicle traffic during construction, while the North Visitor’s Center and Salt Lake Tabernacle, a historic meeting hall on the western edge of Temple Square, will remain open for events.
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Acqua Alta

Venice is slammed with floods as architectural treasures are submerged
Over the last 24 hours, the city of Venice, Italy, has experienced record-breaking flooding—the highest its been in over 50 years. According to city officials, 85 percent of Venice was underwater by yesterday evening with peak water heights reaching just over six feet.  Mayor Luigi Brugnaro called for a state of emergency, citing the flooding as more than just a city-wide problem, but a global issue and a result of climate change. The “Acqua Alta” as it’s officially called, was caused this week by high tides and a strong, low-pressure storm system in the north Adriatic Sea, reported The Washington Post. Hotel lobbies, churches, and even plazas like St. Mark’s Square, which through photos you can see was swimmable at one point, have been submerged and are now barely walkable.   Reports are also coming in that the 925-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica has been severely damaged by the event. It’s the second time the architectural icon has flooded in the last two years but could turn out to be the worst. The basilica has only flooded six times throughout its entire history.  Venice has been more strategically striving to stop such catastrophic flooding from happening in the last several decades. Its MOSE project was established in the late 1980s and construction began in 2003 in an attempt to protect the city and the Venetian Lagoon by building an underwater floodgate system to seal off the city’s inlets during acqua alta. Due to cost overruns, construction delays, and corruption within the Italian government, the build-out of all 78 gates essentially halted for five years and missed its target deadline of last year. With the goal of protecting Venice from flooding of up to 10 feet, work on MOSE is expected to be completed by 2022, although that could change thanks to this week’s devastation.  The Conversation US reported last September that without intervention like the completed MOSE project, Venice could be totally underwater by the year 2100. The publication conducted a research study with the National Research Center of Venice and found that such disastrous flooding could occur with nearly every high tide in 50 years. 
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Preservation Promises

Another modernist New Canaan icon gains full historic protections
A 72-year-old modernist icon in New Canaan, Connecticut, will live on with its original look. Last month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation signed off on a preservation and conservation easement that will protect the Landis and Pamela Gores House from demolition or subdivision forever.  The residence, burrowed in the hilly landscape of southwestern Connecticut, is the work of architect Landis Gores (1919-1991), one of the “Harvard Five” group of New Canaan architects. Currently owned by the Gores family, the easement requires them and future owners to gain the approval of the National Trust for any planned changes to the house, additional constructions, or alterations to the surrounding landscape.  Ainslie Gores Gillian, the daughter of Gores, said she considered her family home more satisfying than other houses she visited as a child. “It was as solid as a monument yet it had freedom and grace,” she said in a statement.
"The giant glass walls of the living room felt suspended in space; I could sit warm by the fireplace and watch a snowstorm outside. Out or in, I had expanses for play. And when my sister wed, the house was entertainment space—scores of guests dined on the terrace as I ran to greet Philip Johnson, striding across the meadow, an Andy Warhol array of Marylin Monres dangling under his arm.” 
The picturesque vision of the Gores House still exists today, largely thanks to the family’s commitment to its preservation. In 2002, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But it was long-deemed an architectural marvel well before that—in 1964, the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave Gores an Award of Merit for the project. Even though it was “planned and built more than a decade ago,” they said, “this house has become a classic example of the Wright tradition adapted to the environment of New England.” 
 
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The Gores House may resemble a landlocked version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, which was built over 10 years earlier, but many have come to see it as a perfect combination of the international-style work done by Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Marcel Breuer. A single-story home with wood framing, the building stretches 130 feet long on a 4-acre landscape. It features a flat roof, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and a stone base in places. In some ways, the Gores House even mimics the Glass House, which Gores worked on with Johnson, and was built around the same time in the late 1940s.  This isn’t the first time this year that the National Trust has granted a conservation easement to a modernist New Canaan residence. In June, the “design intent” of Noyes II by Eliot Noyes was put under protection by the preservation organization. 
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Gambling With History

California's historic Gamble House is changing hands after more than five decades
After more than five decades of stewardship, it was announced on October 7 that the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California’s (USC) will no longer be managing Pasadena’s Gamble House, the exemplary Craftsman-style home designed by Greene & Greene in 1909 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Terry Tornek, the mayor of Pasadena, announced that the Pasadena City Council approved a transfer from USC to the Gamble House Conservancy, a group recently formed by the city. The university began management of the Gamble House when it was given to Pasadena in 1966, as the school had the means and resources to operate and preserve the home at the time. Though the recent announcement means that the university fell 33 years short of its commitment to manage the home for 99 years, the change of hands was made amicably. As a report from the staff of the Pasadena City Council states, there is finally “a significant endowment in place that allows the Gamble House to be self-supporting.” Additionally, the Docent Council of the Gamble House and the Friends of the Gamble House have together demonstrated the ability to manage the necessary fundraising and daily operations of the home without the aid of the university. “The USC School of Architecture believes this decision is in the best interest of the Gamble House,” the university announced in a statement, “and will help secure its status as an educational institution of benefit to the public.” Many aspects of how the Gamble House operates will remain unchanged after the transition is made official. The home will still be available for public tours, and the university will continue its resident scholar program, which allows two students per year to live temporarily within the home, while also having regular access to its meeting rooms and private facilities.
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Get a Handle On It

Ohio’s Big Basket building may become a luxury hotel
Ohio’s “Big Basket building” may be turned into a luxury hotel, under a new plan for preserving the vacant, seven-story structure. Ohio developer and the building's current co-owner, Steve Coon, announced on October 21 that the former Longaberger Basket Company headquarters in Newark, Ohio—shaped like a giant picnic basket and covered with fake basketweave siding—will be converted to a luxury hotel and that its exterior will remain intact, if his development team can secure historic tax credits to help finance the project. Coon made the announcement during the Ohio Heritage Conference, one day after his team held an open house that drew thousands of visitors, including former employees and preservationists. "We looked at everything," Coon said, according to a report in The Newark Advocate. "But the best value was a hotel." The building’s two “handles,” each reportedly weighing 75 tons, “that's what makes this building special and unique," said Coon. "This will stay a basket. It's going to be a basket forever. It's got the draw. This is a destination." The owners have hired Cleveland's Sandvick Architects to design a hotel that will include a restaurant and indoor pool, as well as about 150 upper-level guest rooms. In a posting on its website after the open house, the Sandvick team said its plans “will be sure to keep the unique basket shape and will honor the history of this iconic building.” Originally constructed at a cost of $30 million, from 1997 to 2016 the building served as headquarters for the titular basket company. Founder Dave Longaberger had the original architect, NBBJ, design the structure as an exact replica of the company’s best-selling product, the Medium Market Basket, only 160 times larger. The building sits on a 21-acre parcel on the east side of Newark and is easy for drivers traveling along Route 16 to spot. It has been vacant since employees were consolidated three years ago with Longaberger’s manufacturing facility near Frayzeysburg, Ohio, as a cost-savings measure. The founder died in 1999 and the company eventually shuttered for good in 2018. Coon, who heads Coon Restoration and Sealants in Louisville, Ohio, and business partner Bobby George of Cleveland, bought the building in 2017 for $1.2 million and have renovated it over the past year, with Sandvick as the architect. They then put it back on the market earlier this year, saying it could have a variety of uses. At that same preservation conference, Coon revealed another team member is David Crisafi of Ceres Enterprises in Westlake, Ohio, a development company that owns and operates hotels. The team did not say what brand the hotel would be or disclose a budget for the conversion. They said they hope to learn about the tax credits by mid-2020, and that construction would take about 18 months after that.
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Brutal But Not Forgotten

Seattle’s Brutalist Freeway Park is reviewed for National Register and approved for renovation

The gorgeously staggered concrete elements of Jim Ellis Freeway Park, one of the most significant architectural spaces in Seattle, are scattered across a thickly forested hill atop an intersection of Interstate 5 between the neighborhoods of Downtown Seattle and First Hill. Completed in 1976 by American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and Bulgarian architect Angela Danadjieva, the 5.2-acre Freeway Park is one of only a small handful of Brutalist-designed parks in the world and is a commendable example of how parkland can be used to bridge communities that were previously divided by highway infrastructure.

Given its significance to the field of landscape architecture and the urban history of Seattle, Freeway Park was recently nominated for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The nomination was submitted shortly after a $10 million capital improvement project was announced to restore Freeway Park as part of an agreement made with the expansion of the nearby Convention Center. A total of $9,250,000 of the funds will be used for much-needed repairs and restoration, while the remaining $750,000 will go towards the further activation of the park as part of its management by the Freeway Park Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to advocate and host events in the park.

A portion of the funds may go towards reintroducing the water feature to the park, which was discontinued in 1992 following an issue with water loss that was present since its construction. The renovation process is expected to begin next summer and be completed by December 2021.

The nomination was reviewed on October 25 by the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and it was subsequently placed on the Washington Heritage Register in a unanimous vote. Its placement on the NRHP is still yet to be announced.

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Getty Protection

The Getty Center survives nearby fires while Ellwood-designed home goes down in flames
Last Sunday, a wildfire spread to the approximately 656 acres surrounding the Getty Center in the hills of Brentwood, California. Named by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) as “The Getty Fire,” the blaze was reportedly caused by an errant tree branch that landed in nearby power lines amid powerful wind conditions. Miraculously, the Richard Meier-designed Getty Center, which contains museum space, research institutes, and a vast collection of priceless artworks, was virtually unscathed by the fire. Given its siting in an area commonly threatened by wildfires, the 24-acre complex was designed to be both fire and smoke-proof when it was completed in 1997. Its material palette of travertine, concrete, and steel make the entire property nonflammable, while each gallery space is a self-contained module, providing additional insulation and ventilation in the event that disaster should somehow strike. Additionally, the Getty Center’s maintenance crew is instructed to rigorously clear brush on a regular basis in its outdoor areas, which are also designed to be relatively fire-retardant. This isn't the first time the complex has fended off encroaching flames, as a similar situation (and protective response) unfolded at the end of 2017 when the center faced down the Skirball Fire. While the Getty Center remains unfazed by the fires, the LAFD has placed 7,091 residences within the Mandatory Evacuation Zone and has determined that 12 residences have been destroyed so far while another five have significant damage. One of the 12 structures lost to the wildfires was the Zach House, an exemplary mid-century home designed by Case Study House architect Craig Ellwood, built in the Crestwood Hills area of Brentwood in 1952. Its wooden construction and delicate structural frame made the home especially prone to natural disasters. “It was an early Ellwood design, but it demonstrated all his distinctive and influential ways of interpreting modernism,” said Southern Californian architectural historian Alan Hess. “Though it remains in photographs, the loss of the actual building to experience makes us poorer.”
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Bye Bye Brutalism

Massachusetts puts the Paul Rudolph-designed Hurley Building on the market
A piece of Boston’s brutalist Government Center has reached the end of the road. The Charles F. Hurley Building, designed between 1962 and 1966 by Paul Rudolph, has been placed on the market by the State of Massachusetts. Citing the building’s challenging layout—the top floor lacks windows on three sides, for starters, according to the Boston Globe’s report—as well as an outdated surrounding urban landscape, Governor Charlie Baker’s office plans to offer up the site for total redevelopment rather than adaptive reuse. The Hurley Building occupies a 3.25-acre site in downtown Boston, near North Station and the MBTA transit lines, and the move to open the site for development is expected to rake in tens of millions of dollars for the state. In pursuing a public-private partnership, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance plans to solicit an official redevelopment partner by mid-2020. The complex will accommodate new uses while retaining office space for some of the several state agencies currently housed in the building. Approximately 675 government employees work in the Hurley Building at the time of writing. News of the redevelopment quickly sparked a movement to save the building, which some consider among Boston’s brutalist treasures. The nearby Boston City Hall, built in 1968, has long been an icon of brutalism, even if it achieved that status through sheer controversy. Many architecture aficionados and critics have praised the Hurley Building's unabashed modernism, while a number of locals consider it nothing more than an eyesore. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation published a blog post titled “S.O.S: - Save Rudolph’s Boston Government Center,” describing the Hurley Building as “one of Rudolph’s most interesting commissions, and a serious work of urban design.” In a call to action, the blog post encourages readers to leave comments on the Boston Globe article voicing their concerns with the project. Construction on the site is expected to begin within the next few years once the property finds a buyer. For now, the state is formulating plans to relocate its agencies to alternative sites.
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A Monumental Makeover

Five top landscape firms join forces to save the National Mall Tidal Basin
As the National Mall Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. weathers the impact of tourism and climate change, teamwork may be the best way to save it. The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and the Trust for The National Mall have announced a partnership of five landscape architecture firms tasked with shaping the Tidal Basin’s future. “The National Mall Tidal Basin embodies freedom, perseverance, and democratic values, and it is a place where people come together from around the country and around the world to celebrate these ideals," said Katherine Malone-France, NTHP's chief preservation officer, in a statement. "That is why we must bring our best innovation and ingenuity to meet the challenges it is facing. DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood Design Studio, James Corner Field Operations, and Reed Hilderbrand are slated to join forces in order to maximize the Tidal Basin’s potential as a public space. The coalition exists within the National Mall Tidal Basin Ideas Lab, a forum for innovation and collaboration with regard to the future of the landscape. Surrounded by the iconic memorials of Washington, the Tidal Basin has played an important role in the city’s landscape throughout history. The heavily-trafficked Tidal Basin Loop Trail offers unmatched views of the National Mall and its surrounding monuments, but a crumbling sea wall has led to regular flooding that impedes sidewalk access and threatens the world-famous cherry trees around the basin. The Ideas Lab hopes to compile a broad range of perspectives from the firms in order to combat the many challenges faced by the Tidal Basin such as infrastructure issues, an overwhelming visitor experience, the need for intensive land conservation, and more. “Our goal, as a lead partner of the National Park Service, is to bring innovation and partnerships to expedite the fulfillment of the Master Plan for the National Mall,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO of the Trust for the National Mall. “These five visionary teams are a prime example of how collaboration between distinguished experts in fields aligned with our project needs will create solutions to help overcome the complex preservation issues affecting the treasured Tidal Basin.” The proposals will be presented in an Ideas Lab exhibition slated to run next summer through fall 2020, during which the public will have the opportunity to inform the design process before concepts are finalized.