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Visit Reed Hilderbrand's website to learn more about the National Mall Tidal Basin Ideas Lab.

A People’s Future

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.

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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

Project Leadership:
Gary Hilderbrand, Eric Kramer, Aaron Hernandez, Justin Jones, Scott Geiger, Anya Sheldon, Sophie Allen

Special Thanks:
Jesse M. Keenan, Ethan Carr, Richard Olsen

Visualization: Design Distill

Site Design and Development: OverUnder

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