Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers and PWP Landscape Architecture have announced that their redesign of Constitution Gardens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., co-designed by the two firms, received unanimous approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC).
Approval from both agencies is required for the design to move forward to the first phase of the project, which will focus on the northeast corner and northern edge of the site and will establish a visual presence of the renewed Constitution Gardens along Constitution Avenue. The client for the project is the National Park Service, in partnership with the Trust for the National Mall.
The design team won the project in 2012 through a national competition. The redesign of the 50-acre park, which is located on the National Mall between the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is slated for design and construction over the next several years, with Phase 1 of the project to be completed in 2016.
Dedicated in 1976 to celebrate the Bicentennial, Constitution Gardens is a rolling landscape around a small lake; its informal gardens and forests contrast with the memorials and monuments on the National Mall. Until the end of the 19th century, the parkland was below the Potomac River. Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and landscape architect Dan Kiley originally designed the Gardens.
The park will feature a 160-foot-long pavilion that provides an anchor for the park and creates a nexus of activity. This open structure frames views of the lake and the lush gardens that surround it. The pavilion is a simple splayed, cantilevered box that sits on a plaza 20 feet above the lake. It contains a glass-walled restaurant on the north side and, on the south side, a grand staircase that leads down to the lake. The pavilion is a triangulated structure that frames views of the landscape from all sides.
Dramatic topography and a sustainable ecology by PWP heighten the Gardens’ tranquil nature and enhance its natural beauty. The new design accommodates recreational activities for all seasons, including ice-skating, picnics on new tree-shaded lawns, and year-round special events on the pavilion’s plaza.
“Our design will energize the daily, seasonal, and yearly activities that already occur on the site through a variety of cultural and social uses,” says Robert M. Rogers, FAIA, Founding Partner of Rogers Partners. “Our goal is to create a high-performing, more robust, more accommodating public realm.”
The design adds an 18-inch retaining wall along Constitution Avenue to create a visual and physical separation from the city and a wetland along the lake’s perimeter. The historic lockkeeper’s house will be rehabilitated and relocated.
“We want to heighten the park’s potential as a retreat within a landscape of emotional iconography and national history, ” explained Rogers. “We will immerse visitors in nature, beauty, and contemplation, while amplifying the Gardens’ capacity to accommodate and adapt to the demands of the National Mall.”