The Landscape Architect’s Guide to

Washington, D.C.

The National Mall & Memorial Parks

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Your Guide
Susan Spain, ASLA

One of four presidential memorials on the National Mall, the FDR memorial, which is comprised of landscape rooms with water and sculpture, is tucked into a garden like environment on the west bank of the Tidal Basin. The memorial was groundbreaking – it demonstrated that visitors could encounter and understand complex stories through an orchestrated landscape experience and that they would enjoy numerous inscriptions. Roosevelt and important 20th century stories are portrayed at a human scale. The sound of water mitigates the disadvantage of being in the flight landing path of Reagan National Airport.


A memorial to honor the 32nd President in West Potomac Park was approved in 1959. (Note: A desk-sized stone memorial to FDR is located north of the National Archives Building on Pennsylvania Avenue.)

In 1974, Lawrence Halprin won a design competition for the memorial. But, due to a failure by Congress to secure funds, Halprin’s design was not realized for over 20 years.

The memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997.

In 2001, a sculpture of FDR in a wheelchair and a related quotation about what he had gained from his disability were added to the prologue room. 


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Amy Christiansen RN November 5, 2012 3:14 AM
Ive been to DC several times, but only last year discovered this incredible memorial. GO SEE THIS. A must see is right!!!
Barbara Strain September 23, 2012 8:53 AM
Our family has been going to Washington, DC for more than 25 years and discovered this gem of a memorial this summer. What a refreshing delight along the Potomac basin. A must see recommendation.
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