National Mall

Washington, DC

Submitted by: Shin-pei Tsay

A civic space of immense significance, the National Mall lacks the strong management necessary to coordinate events, partner with neighboring institutions, and add amenities that draw people in.

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Why It Doesn't Work

Our National Mall should be a symbol to the entire world of how public space is essential to a democratic society. By virtue of its proximity to the nation's most prestigious cultural institutions, including the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, and National Gallery of Art, the Mall is a part of most people's visits to the capitol. But each of these institutions is self-contained with very little presence on the Mall. And the Mall itself is sorely lacking in basic amenities, such as benches or other places to sit, that would encourage tourists, government workers, and residents to spend time in a place that ought to be enjoyed as a national treasure. So while millions of people see the Mall each year, it is experienced mostly as a space to move through in between destinations, without a strong civic identity of its own.

The unparalleled collection of cultural resources nearby should have a much stronger presence on the Mall, with outdoor exhibits, festivals, and performances in constant rotation. And the 2.5-mile-long expanse could become home to numerous landmarks and focal points. For inspiration, look to Paris's Jardin des Tuileries, another linear park in a world capital. The Tuileries, which connect the Place de la Concorde to the Louvre (along the same axis as the Arc de Triomphe), are anchored by two large fountains where children can sail toy boats. The wildly popular fountains are complemented by other amenities, including public art along all walkways (not confined to a "sculpture garden") and a series of small cafés that expand and contract using awnings, umbrellas, heat lamps, and movable chairs to accommodate seasonal use. With the proper management, the National Mall could support an even greater spectrum of public use, fulfilling its role as a symbol of our democracy.

Contact Info:

National Park Service, The National Mall, 900 Ohio Drive, SW, Washington, DC 20024
Visitor Information: (202) 426-6841
Headquarters: (202) 485-9880

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