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

Adaptation and Improvisation

The renewal of the Tidal Basin is envisioned not as a singular mega-project but as a series of interventions and improvements. Change will come as a process of adaptation and structured improvisation. Like twelve-bar blues, an underlying framework supports the inclusion and movement of multiple voices coming together to form a layered, dynamic, and coherent vision.

The following chronology envisions one of many possible approaches to the work. Some work must happen now to save what we treasure about the Tidal Basin. How and when other components of the proposal will be implemented will be up to future generations, who will be expressing the values and identity of their time as they make their mark on the Tidal Basin. To secure such opportunity, though, we need to begin.

Today's Tidal Basin
Access is limited by busy roadways. The car is ever-present. Pedestrians overflow from the single narrow path at the water's edge.

Open Space
Shifting Independence Avenue, removing the Kutz Bridge, and submerging adjacent highways expands the reach of the Tidal Basin and enhances connectivity. These actions allow for the construction of a protective landform we identify as Independence Rise.

Tidal Marsh
Breaking down the rigid sea wall in targeted areas creates new habitat and experiences while offering added protection against storm surge and flooding.

Upland Ridges
Filling the lagoon and building a series of earthen ridges protects the Mall from flooding and creates upland where the cherries can thrive once again.

A marsh path enhances the experience of the water's edge.

Memorial Path
Another path links the memorials.

Upland Path
And a third occupies the upland, becoming an armature for replanting the cherry trees.

Braided Experience
The three primary paths connect as a braided network, which diversifies experiences, creates moments of overlap and serendipity, disperses visitors, and improves resilience to flooding and sea level rise.

Reinforced Memorials
The key memorials retain their locations and relationships, protected from regular flooding by earthworks, but accepting periodic flooding as sea levels rise.

Migrating Cherries
The iconic ring of cherries migrates to protected upland where it has improved growing conditions and can be experienced in the round, enhancing views both within and outside the basin itself.

Cooling Canopy
Evergreen plantings reinforce a sense of enclosure. A substantial plantation of canopy trees creates a shaded parkland connecting from East Potomac park to the Rock Creek Park ravines to the north.

Resilient System
Taken together these adaptations enhance the most significant character defining features of the Tidal Basin while protecting the Mall from projected future flooding.

2120 – Low Tide

2120 – High Tide

2120 – Annual Flood