ASLA Blue Ribbon Panel Lends Vision to National Mall Crisis

Design Experts Call National Mall International Embarrassment, Offer Recommendations to Restore Symbolic Space


Washington, D.C., April 14, 2009 — With the National Mall in a state of crisis that has reached an internationally embarrassing level, a panel of leading design professionals convened by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) today offered a vision for building a sustainable future for this American treasure. The panel addressed imperative repairs needed -- including Tidal Basin seawall reconstruction, replacement of the Capitol Reflecting Pool and revitalization of severely compacted lawn areas -- while at the same time emphasizing the opportunities that exist at this crossroads for "America's Front Yard."

During an event at the Newseum and walking tour of Union Square, panelists emphasized the need to implement a plan for the National Mall that not only addressees crisis areas but also lays the groundwork for an integrated and environmentally healthy national park.
"The National Mall should stand solidly among the world's foremost public spaces, yet the crisis of maintenance has created a deplorable situation," said ASLA President Angela Dye, FASLA. "Moving forward, the Park Service should create a comprehensive design effort that goes beyond immediate needs to address a larger vision for this historic and symbolic space. Along with these recommendations, the panel calls on Congress and the Administration to help bring the National Mall back to life, to ensure its position as a symbol of the nation and one of the great landscapes of the world."

In a findings report shared today, the six-member panel, facilitated by Dye, outlines specific feedback to the National Park Service's (NPS) preliminary preferred alternative for the National Mall, and provides guidance to the larger planning group which includes the National Capital Planning Commission. Among some specific recommendations:

-- The panel strongly supports the standing ban on any new memorials or museums not already in planning stages. 

-- The panel endorses the Park Service’s call for a redesign of Union Square/Capitol Reflecting Pool but feels such an initiative needs to include the areas between Constitution and Independence Avenues as well as Capitol Hill to be truly successful. The panel proposes an international design competition or forum of the best and brightest international design professionals to help shape Union Square’s future. 

-- The panel calls for an end to additional centers of interpretation for monuments and memorials. They propose centralizing these needs in a National Mall orientation center. Renovation and remediation of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, now empty yet near a key Metro stop, could serve this purpose. 

-- The panel insists, in agreement with the National Park Service, that any future design and remediation must integrate sustainable design practices to position the National Mall as a model for urban ecology.

Throughout remarks given by Dye, ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville and panelist Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA, NPS was praised for its tireless efforts to maintain the National Mall, one of our nation's most-visited national parks with more than 25 million guests per year. The panelists emphasized that the Mall's current state of crisis is a result of structural and ecological issues which have developed over 200 years, not of any lack of care or daily maintenance.

"The National Mall is a place where history is made and history is celebrated," said National Park Service Acting Director Dan Wenk. "Over the last three years we have been speaking with the public and soliciting feedback on our long-term vision for the National Mall. And I am very happy to be here today to recognize the work of ASLA in organizing this Blue Ribbon panel of architects, planners and landscape architects providing their professional views as part of the public comment to the National Mall Plan."

A full copy of the findings report as well as executive summary and video clip of the panelists' working session can be found at The panel which met on March 19 and 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C. included leading professionals representing ASLA, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Planning Association (APA).



Karen T. Grajales
Manager, Public Relations 
tel: 1-202-216-2371