How many Americans know that the Eisenhower Memorial will be the largest presidential memorial in Washington, D.C.? Or that it will be using untested, experimental elements for the first time? Or that it will cost nearly as much to build as the neighboring memorials to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson combined? These basic facts are still not widely known because the current design has emerged from a planning process that limited rather than encouraged public participation. It has also led directly to a controversy that has stalled the project in regulatory and political limbo and left its supporters and critics without common ground. We need public input to find the consensus that this and every memorial needs. At least one federal agency is already working toward that outcome. Recently the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which reviews all major physical changes to the District of Columbia, called for more public feedback before it will decide whether to approve the current design. In September, it refused to hear the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s (unannounced) request for preliminary design approval and published its application online. This was the first full public disclosure regarding the Eisenhower Memorial, and it reveals practical as well as principled reasons for the NCPC’s delay. These include unresolved technical questions about the design’s main feature, a set of suspended steel “tapestries” eight stories tall, and a record of official doubts about their size and placement. The Commission of Fine Arts has even suggested eliminating them altogether. The current design is neither as feasible nor as popular as the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has represented it to be. It won’t be cheap, either. The cost of the Eisenhower Memorial is $142 million, a huge increase over its original budget of $55 to $75 million, which was comparable to those of previous presidential memorials. The skyrocketing cost follows a familiar pattern with architect Frank Gehry, the memorial’s designer. The final cost of many of his buildings exceeds their original budgets, sometimes several times over. Typically, asthese buildings are private, wealthy donors and institutions pick up the additional cost. But the Eisenhower Memorial is public, which means we, the taxpayers,will be paying for it. Do we realize we are being asked to commit an open-ended budget to an experimental design? Public debate has been forestalled as well as squelched. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission rejected established practice to choose its architect through a process that excluded public participation. It considered only registered architects to design the memorial, whom it alerted on one government website. The Commission evaluated these architects on the basis of their reputations and experience, criteria that whittled away all but established contenders. The drawbacks of this closed process, moreover, are well known. The only other time it was tried, for the World War II Memorial, it had to be abandoned after a public outcry over its exclusive and undemocratic character. The Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s decision to revive this discredited process was so unusual that it is the subject of a Congressional investigation by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. A public memorial conceived in this closed and secretive fashion is unlikely to become a unifying national symbol. We should return to the established democratic tradition rejected by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Our national memorials are typically designed through open public competitions, which consider anonymous designs from anyone who wants to submit one. This process echoes and reinforces our democratic political process, which helps explain why we keep using it, from the White House and the U.S. Capitol to four of the last five memorials built on the National Mall and all three of the national September 11th memorials. The current impasse over this memorial shows what happens in a democratic culture of competing ideas when consensus is hoped for at the end rather than planned for from the beginning. No one debates, however, that such consensus is necessary, and we should find paths to it wherever we can. The NCPC has now provided one. The public has the opportunity and the responsibility to make its opinion known. Sam Roche is a writer and a lecturer at the University of Miami School of Architecture. He is the spokesman for Right by Ike: Project for a New Eisenhower Memorial.
Posts tagged with "Washington D.C.":
The Freelon Group showed off renderings for their renovation of Mies van der Rohe’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington, D.C. Presented to the library’s Board of Directors as part of a long-running discussion over what to do with the central library, the scheme includes a four-story atrium, two additional floors for new tenants, a landscaped public roof garden, and a new ground-level café. According to developer Jair Lynch, the project would cost $175 to $200 million.
The National Building Museum's latest exhibit presents a new way to beat the summer heat—12 holes of mini-golf designed by prominent local architects, landscape architects, and developers. But if it’s windmills and castles you’re after, tee off elsewhere. While the course is a challenge, it offers an intriguing (and very engaging) look at Washington’s architectural history and future. The first hole, Take Back the Streets!, is presented by the American Society of Landscape Architects and was designed by students of the Virginia Tech Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. The team built a segment of streetscape with dedicated transit and bike lanes, and players must aim through pedestrians and stormwater management swales that function as traps. OLIN and STUDIOS Architecture created a hole based on their Canal Park project, set to open this fall near the Washington Navy Yard. Putters can aim up a ramp and through suspended cubes that mimic the development's pavilions, and if that proves too difficult, around PVC pipes representing trees to a separate hole. Ball on the Mall by E/L Studio forces players to navigate the iconic cartography of the National Mall. The design team used a CNC mill to map streets and cut grooves through which the golf ball travels. (You can blame l'Enfant for not making par on this one.) Slightly more abstract is Grizform Design's Hole in 1s and 0s, a representation of a smart phone's inner workings. Walls of the very three-dimensional hole are covered with lights and wires and ramps running down either side. Each forking ramp is made up of laminated laser-cut wood. Choose the right ramp and it's an easy hole-in-one, choose the other and you may spend some time chasing after your ball. (Or take a mulligan; we won't tell!) Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, biggest name of the lot, presents a pixelated topography of the Potomac and Anacostia basins titled Confluence. The team overlayed an image of Pierre l'Enfant's masterplan for Washington with a recent satellite image, extruding the pixels according to the density of development. Feel up to the challenge of navigating Washington with a golf club? Visit the National Building Museum anytime from now through September 3. A round of mini-golf is $5 per person, $3 with Museum ticket or membership. And don't forget to vote for your favorite design!
In the perennial battle of rads versus trads, Penn professor and former Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski often sides with the trads. So it was a bit of a surprise to see Rybczynski take to the op-ed page of the New York Times in defense of Frank Genry's design for the Eisenhower memorial. Genry's design has numerous critics including two of Eisenhower's granddaughters, as well as the usual suspects who think classicism is the only appropriate approach to everything really, especially if it involves patriotism, presidents, or Washington D.C. Rybczynski calls Gehry "our finest living architect" and worries that a design-by-committee approach will undermine the quality of the memorial. Or as Eisenhower might have said, beware of the classicist/reactionary complex.
National Geographic's Washington D.C. headquarters will be getting a facelift. New York-based Weiss/Manfredi has been selected to renovate and expand the society's collection of buildings built over the past century. The firm has been tasked with creating a "dynamic new expression" for National Geographic to facilitate its museum, research activities, media, and international programs. Weiss/Manfredi was selected over Diller Scofidio+Renfro, Diamond Schmitt Architects, and Steven Holl Architects.
Part of this year's Digital Capital Week, the project turns games into donations for a charitable cause.When Washington, D.C.-area designers Hiroshi Jacobs, Jonathan Grinham, and Kash Bennett were asked to create an installation for Digital Capital Week’s 24-Hour City Project, which seeks to improve urban environments with creative technology, they knew it had to be more than just something to look at. The team created Play It Forward, an interactive, motion-sensing display that donates a small amount of money to charity each time someone plays with it. Unveiled at the technology festival’s closing party at Arena Stage and now part of an exhibit at D.C.’s Project 4 Gallery, the installation demonstrates how advanced parametric design and digital fabrication methods can work together to encourage interaction and promote social change in the process. Once the design trio won 24-Hour's $1,000 grant to design their project, they had only a month to create it. Budget and time aside, the project's main challenge was modeling the entire interactive system by hand. “We had to integrate a number of systems into the fabrication,” said Jacobs. “It's the surface itself, the connections between units, and also the connections from the individual units to the structure. It's a little different from a project where you have one material and one connection system.” The piece was fabricated with the help of fabrication equipment and students from the School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America. Its exterior of white polyethylene was chosen for cost, and the project's units were sized so that two could be CNC-cut from a single 11-by-17-inch sheet. But the installation's exterior, a white, wavelike form that lights up in red, belies its complicated innards: 432 hardware connections, 72 photoelectric sensors, 288 LEDs, and more than 1,000 feet of electrical wiring, all assembled to create a new form of social interaction. Sensors located across the piece allow installation visitors to play a simple game in which LEDs provide visual feedback. For the initial presentation, each game resulted in between $1 and $4 being donated to KaBOOM!, a charity that builds playgrounds in needy neighborhoods. The piece generates a digital readout of how much money has been donated, while players are prompted to share their experience via social networks. This physical-digital interaction is made possible with an Arduino microcontroller working in conjunction with the sensors and LEDs. The designers describe the system in a project statement:
As the game is played, the microcontroller transmits game data via processing to an internet data hosting website called Pachube, which in turn is accessed by a custom-developed website that displayed statistics about the most-recent game. Players access the website on their smart phones by scanning an individualized QR code that is displayed on an Apple iPad near the installation.For the next two weeks, the piece will be installed at Project 4 as part of an exhibition related to digital fabrication that will also include some of Catholic University's work for the Solar Decathlon. The designers see Play It Forward as part of a larger goal to influence architecture. “The most interesting thing to us is not any one of those individual technologies, but using them together,” said Jacobs. “I think this could happen on a bigger scale in a more permanent way.”
The Trust for the National Mall has announced the finalists for the first round of its National Mall Design Competition. The 700-acres of parkland have been worn down over the years thanks hoards of visitors (25 million a year), marches, and certain bi-annual decathalons. The scope of the competition includes three distinct areas of the mall: Union Square, the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater, and Constitution Gardens. Finalists were selected for each area, and will move on to stage two of the competition (team interviews), and then—finally—a selected few will be asked to envision a design for one of the three designated area. From over 1,200 entrants, here are the firms who made the first round cut: Union Square Diller Scofidio Renfro & Hood Design Gustafson Guthrie Nichol & AEDAS Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects & Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect Reed Hilderbrand & Chan Krieger NBBJ Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker Snohetta & AECOM Washington Monument Grounds Balmori Associates & Work Architect Company Diller Scofidio Renfro & Hood Design Handel Architects & W Architecture and Landscape Architecture Michael Maltzan Architecture & Tom Leader Studio OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi Ten Arquitectos & Andrea Cochran Landscape Architects Constitution Gardens Adropogon & Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Lee and Associates & Arthur Cotton Moore/Associates McKissack & McKissack & Oehme Van Sweden Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architect & Paul Murdoch Architects OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker and Partners
Empty Spaces. Searching for a place to exhibit her work as an art student in 2003, an artist from the rural mining town Malmberget, Sweden, organized a program titled Tomma Rum (Empty Spaces) that converts empty lots into artist studios and gallery spaces. As described in an interview with Polis, the program has morphed into a traveling summer artist-in-residence, where global artists have displayed their pieces on fences to streets in various towns. Town and Country. Is city life or country life better for your health? The Wall Street Journal reports on the ongoing debate between the quality of life in urban versus rural areas. Each have their benefits and drawbacks. Studies indicate that in urban areas, there are less obese children but also higher crime rates. In the country, there are larger numbers of fatal driving accidents but lower incidences of allergies. Big Box Redux. In Seattle, empty malls are attracting new tenants. A fitness center owner is converting empty mall space into a new climbing gym, while grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes, and sporting goods stores such as Sports Authority are taking over retail vacancies, The Seattle Times reports. Taxing Gas. A study conducted by the multi-partisan Leadership Initiative on Transportation Solvency, part of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, may have found a better way to increase funds for transportation infrastructure through a more effective gas tax system. In their report, DC Streets Blog highlights, that taxing gas when the price lowers and a more efficient program with a focus on design with economic performance are key.
Today, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) announced that Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA) has won a design competition to revamp President's Park in Washington, DC. The New York-based architects bested a distinguished list of landscape designers, including Hood Design Studio of Oakland California, Michael Van Valkenburgh of Brooklyn, and Reed Hildebrand Associates and SASAKI, both of Watertown, Massachusetts. After September 11th, 2001, security design in major public spaces took on a new significance, and President's Park South—a large ellipse forming a public extension of the White House's front lawn—this meant concrete jersey barriers and fences along E Street. Soon, though, the park could become one of the most pedestrian-friendly—and secure—in the capital, thanks to RMA's subtle combination of landscape architecture and security design. RMA is no stranger to blending security design seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. In New York, they created a secure streetscape for Battery Park City near the World Financial Center, complete with anti-ram walls, public amenities, and landscaping. Nearby, they designed a secure streetscape along Wall and Broad streets guarding the New York Stock Exchange, where sculptural bollards and a mechanical turntable flush with the street both create a distinct pedestrian environment and permit service vehicle access. Officials at the NCPC said today that a design competition was held to garner ideas about making a world-class public park, one where security is key but does not dominate the space. NCPC chairman L. Preston Bryant, Jr. praised RMA's design as a bold statement about security and landscape design that offers a model for keeping our public spaces open and inviting. At the heart of RMA's Washington D.C. design is the strategic layering of security perimeters, which form a flexible boundary accommodating a variety of security scenarios. To accomplish this, the architects raised the central ellipse and placed an anti-ram wall that doubles as a bench around its perimeter; the bench seating faces the ellipse and helps define the iconic space. According to RMA, this elevational tilting formally "presents" the ellipse lawn to the White House while also screening nearby parking spaces from the view of park goers. Punctuating the new perimeter wall are distinct pedestrian entrances with sculptured bollards to help guide pedestrian flow. This new boundary allows for the pedestrianization of E Street facing the White House. RMA vastly expanded the public space forming a large plaza—the E Street Terrace—flanked by leafy groves containing concession and maintenance structures. "The Ellipse is subtly reinvented to address recreation, public promenading, environmental responsibility, and security. We envision a President’s Park South that will physically and conceptually connect the President and the people," said Robert M. Rogers, principal at Rogers Marvel Architects, in a statement. "Around the formal ellipse, RMA calls for a less formal rain garden with natural vegetation designed to handle rainwater runoff from a perimeter parking lot." Officials at the NCPC said at today's announcement that elements of all five short-listed proposals could be incorporated into the final plan. Next, the National Parks Service and the United States Secret Service will review RMA's design before it heads to federal, local, and public review.
Solar Butterflies. Engadget spotted Dutch designer Jeroen Verhoeven's chandelier made of 500 butterflies cut from photovoltaic cells. Called the "Virtue of Blue," the light glows softly at night. (Via Psfk.) Capitol Green. New York isn't the only city replacing asphalt with greener, more pedestrian friendly streetscapes. According to DC Mud, a block of C Street in Washington, D.C. between two federal office buildings is set for a makeover. Plans call for creating a park on what's currently a large parking lot. Killer Commutes. Slate writer Annie Lowrey tells us what we already know: commuting isn't fun. She goes on to explain the consequences of many-an-American's daily burden: "Long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia." Nearly NeoCon. Haworth Partners announced that they have partnered with Crate & Barrel. The table and two chairs will be available beginning in July and August. More at otto.
La Vie Gigapixel. It's Paris like you've never seen it -- even if you have been there. A super-high-def 26-gigapixel photo of the city of lights (yep, that's 26 billion pixels) was stitched together by a team of photographers and a software company in France. Go ahead, pull up the full screen view and wander away the afternoon. We won't tell. (Via Notcot.) Metro Music. When Jason Mendelson moved from Tampa to Washington, D.C., the city's subway literally moved him to song. NRDC Switchboard says that he's creating a tune for every Metro stop across the system, each stylistically indicative of the station itself. Listen to his completed songs over here. Biosphere 2 at 20. Not often do we design entire mini-worlds, but then, Biosphere 2 was always unique. Now two decades old, the three-acre terrarium-in-a-desert is still helping scientists figure out life's little lessons. The AP/Yahoo News has the story. Scraps, Glass, and Stone. Curbed found a new book by Steven Guarnaccia transforming the classic Three Little Pigs story into three little starchitect pigs where Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright each build houses and the big bad wolf huffs and puffs (and critiques?) the walls down. (Guarnaccia also reimagined Goldilocks into a tale filled with chairs by Aalto, Eames, and Noguchi!)
Towering Ambition. An amazing exhibition that recreates some of the world's most iconic buildings in miniature is ongoing at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C through September 5th. Design Quarterly has more info on the Lego structures by Adam Reed Tucker (via Notcot) and the NBM has an interview. (There's also a lecture on architectural toys planned this Thursday.) High Hopes. The Atlantic features an Ed Glaeser article on the benefits of building up, detailing the benefits of the skyscraper and acknowledging the "misplaced fear" that planners and preservationists harbor toward the tower. Loop the Loop. In St. Louis, a proposed streetcar line connecting Forest Park with the Delmar Loop is right on track. With an Environmental Impact Study expected any day now, the St. Louis Business Journal says $3 million of a $25 million federal grant will push the project forward. Rich Zip. New York's bronze-clad Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe has long been a symbol of wealth, but now the Wall Street Journal reports that the 38-story tower, with its own zip code (10152 if you were wondering), is also home to the wealthiest per capita income in the U.S. at $13.9 mil. The General Motors building came in second with an average income of $9.9M.