The Landscape Architect’s Guide to

Washington, D.C.

Penn Quarter / Chinatown / NoMa

Constitution Square

Constitution Square is a prime example of transit-oriented design in downtown Washington. The project includes office, residential, hotel, and retail uses, embraced by a streetscape that expresses the idea of sustainability with style.

The streetscapes along 1st Street NE and M Street exhibit the value of urban design guidelines, but also demonstrate how guidelines can be interpreted in an artful way. The sidewalks on the M Street side generally follow the guidelines, with concrete walks and generous tree pits at curbside. The sidewalk is interrupted at key building entries with rich, bluestone welcome mats of paving.

The sidewalk on 1st Street, which was designed by Parker Rodriguez, bends the guidelines with the insertion of a series of gently curving bioretention filters. The interplay of their form creates a sinuous walk, breaking up the relentless orthogonal geometries of adjacent blocks. That these bioretention planters also provide improvements to neighborhood water quality makes them even more of a benefit to the city, as the plants soak up the rain and cleanse it before releasing it into the watershed. The banded pattern of the plants – grasses, shrubs , and trees – create a regular rhythm to the walking experience in counterpoint to the lyrical lines of the bioretention planters themselves.

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