Open Work builds upon the Tidal Basin's history as a amalgam of influences and voices over time, never the product of a single overriding design idea. It affirms to current and future generations that we are not a people who only look backward and resist change. We are a people who respond to the challenges of our time and who make it our responsibility to lay the groundwork for vital civic spaces of the future.
American democracy remains a work in progress. Our way of governance originates with a vision for how we should relate to one another and the land we share — with equality, freedom, and a sense of responsibility that is both personal and collective. When this vision finds form in our laws and landscapes, it comes to be valued in the daily lives of Americans and makes civic discourse possible. This people’s future for the Tidal Basin embodies these values within its narratives and its experiences. It shapes a landscape and a network of communities better able to engage with one another and therefore better prepared to meet the critical challenges of the twenty-first century.
The Senate Park Commission of 1902 envisioned Washington as a City of the Future. It reshaped the National Mall and proposed a metropolitan vision of connected public parks that provided the city’s many neighborhoods with new places for gathering and recreation. The Tidal Basin belongs to this legacy of a Washington in dialogue with natural and community resources.
The Capitol Overlook (top left) marks the intersection of the axis from the Capitol Dome down Maryland Avenue where it meets the Potomac’s edge. This is a place defined by cultural and environmental patterns that are deeply rooted. It is also an opportunity for future commemoration.
Independence Rise (bottom left) is a pedestrian promenade that draws the grid of the city into the more fluid forms of the park. Replacing the Kutz Memorial Bridge, this landscape embraces the overlap between human and natural systems. A curving ridge replaces the lagoon, provides upland for the Cherry Walk, and protects the Mall from flooding. And a broad set of steps brings visitors down to the water and registers the rise and fall of the tides.
This new Washington Common reasserts a continuous canopy of shade trees to create a space of cooling refuge against the increasing intensity of summer temperatures. A truly public space, this landscape meets the challenges of urban heat island effect while also shaping open spaces for gathering and events, enhancing Washington’s community resilience.
Tidal Basin is the critical link in Washington’s regional parklands. Reconnecting circulation, canopy, and habitat should take equal measure as we act to reinforce the Tidal Basin’s symbolic significance.
The Tidal Basin has been both a supporting player and a moment of distinction within the so called “Kite Plan” of Washington’s monumental core. This tension between order and dynamism, between unity and difference has long been the Tidal Basin’s power and its most important story — reaffirming that our relationship to one another and to the environment we share is a work in progress, like the Tidal Basin itself.
Open Work: A People’s Future for the Tidal Basin was created as part of the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust for the National Mall with guidance from SOM and presented by American Express. For more information about the IdeasLab process, the other design proposals, and to contribute your own voice, visit tidalbasinideaslab.org.
Gary Hilderbrand, Eric Kramer, Aaron Hernandez, Justin Jones, Scott Geiger, Anya Sheldon, Sophie Allen
Jesse M. Keenan, Ethan Carr, Richard Olsen
Visualization: Design Distill
Site Design and Development: OverUnder