Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

The National Mall Tidal Basin — also known as “America’s
front yard” — is home to some of the nation’s most iconic
landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King,
Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. But the
beloved Washington, D.C. public space is under threat from daily
flooding and is in urgent need of critical repairs and
improvements. In a bid to save the celebrated landscape, five
prestigious landscape architecture firms — DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood
Design Studio, James Corner Field Operations and Reed Hilderbrand
— have been tapped to reimagine the future of the Tidal Basin and
National Mall. Keep reading for a preview of all the designs.

aerial rendering of parks surrounding white house

In 2019, the National Trust for Historic Preservation banded
together with the Trust for the National Mall, the National Parks
Service, Skidmore Owings & Merrill
and American Express to launch the Tidal Basin Ideas
, an initiative seeking proposals to save the 107-acre Tidal
Basin site in Washington, D.C. After months of preparation, the
Tidal Basin Ideas Lab recently unveiled visionary proposals from
five award-winning landscape architecture firms including New York
City-based DLANDstudio, Seattle-based GGN, Oakland-based Hood
Design Studio, New York City-based James Corner Field Operations
and Cambridge-based Reed Hilderbrand.

Each proposal not only responds to the pressing issues plaguing
the area’s infrastructure but also examines ways to heighten the
visitor experience through improved environmental and cultural
considerations. Due to the pandemic, the proposals are presented in
an online-only, museum-quality exhibition co-curated by New York
City curator of design Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, an
architectural historian and independent curator. The public is
invited to learn about the Tidal Basin’s history, which was
completed in 1887 as a major hydrological feat as well as the
ongoing challenges and comprehensive proposals. The public will
also be able to give feedback and offer ideas on saving the Tidal

“As part of ‘America’s front yard’, the Tidal Basin is
home to some of the most iconic landmarks and traditions in the
nation’s capital,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief
Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic
Preservation. “Yet current conditions do not do justice to a
landscape of such significance. With this new digital exhibition,
we are excited to share and engage the public with creative
thinking from five of the best landscape
firms in the world. These ideas explore ways to
sustain this cultural landscape and its richly layered meanings for
generations to come. This isn’t preservation as usual: this is
preservation as innovation.”

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True to its name, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab will be focused on
cultivating bold ideas and promoting dialogue between designers,
stakeholders and the public rather than choosing a single winner as
is typical in design competitions. The exhibition will supplement
the National Park Service’s mandated
environmental review of the Tidal Basin as well as master planning
and detailed design, which have not yet been completed but are
integral to securing funding for construction and

All five creative concepts, revealed late last month, celebrate
and raise awareness of the Tidal Basin’s long history and have
reimagined the cultural landscape to better meet modern safety and
accessibility needs while addressing critical infrastructure
repairs and improvements.

aerial rendering of national monuments near white house in Washington, D.C.

DLANDstudio’s proposal makes bold steps of introducing
extensions to the landscape in both the Tidal Basin and the Potomac
River to reorient circulation. A long land bridge would connect the
Jefferson Memorial and the White House, while a new jetty to the
west would branch off of the Lincoln Memorial to house the
relocated memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. Flooding would be
mitigated with sponge park wetlands, a reflective weir
and a green security wall.

rendering of people walking on path shaded by cherry blossom trees

GGN’s vision is an adaptive plan phased across three stages to
conclude in 2090. The design uses ecological solutions to protect
the landscape from forecasted sea level changes and also the
potential adaptation and relocation of existing monuments.

rendering of cherry blossom tree in foreground with national monuments in background

James Corner Field Operations has proposed three ideas for
combating rising sea levels:
Protect & Preserve, a scheme to keep the existing landscape
intact with improved maintenance and engineering; Island
Archipelago, in which flooding would be accepted as an inevitable
reality and monuments would be elevated and treated as islands
within the Tidal Basin; and Curate Entropy, another design where
the site is allowed to flood and a careful balance is maintained
between the Tidal Basin’s existing layout and the new

diagram of people looking at national monuments

Hood Design Studio focuses on reshaping the Tidal Basin with
underrepresented narratives, from the stories of how wetlands were
valued by Indigenous and enslaved peoples to promoting dialogue on
rebuilding urban ecologies.

rendering of people on bridge above a park

Reed Hilderbrand’s design draws on the 1902 McMillan Plan, a
comprehensive planning document that strongly influenced the urban
planning and design of Washington, D.C., particularly with its
proposal for a “Washington Commons,” a diverse and connected
regional park system. The plan also encourages new interactions
with the landscape with an uplands Cherry Walk, a Memorial Walk, a
Marsh Walk and a new landform called Independence Rise that would
accommodate rising water levels and connect back to the city with a

+ Tidal
Basin Ideas Lab

Images via Tidal Basin Ideas Lab

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News 2
Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the
Tidal Basin