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Posted at 6:53 PM ET, 04/ 6/2010

A lack of vision on the Mall

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Judy Scott Feldman
Rockville

Columnist John Kelly’s April Fools’ satire, “A fool’s monumental errand, in more ways than one,” revealed a sad truth: Our monument to George Washington has never received its intended landscape setting.

The vast grounds are a void at the center of the Mall’s cross axis. The McMillan Commission of 1902 planned for the monument grounds to be “the gem of the Mall system” with lush gardens and water features to furnish a welcoming destination for visitors and a fitting setting for the obelisk “so great and so simple that it seems to be almost a work of nature.”

Yet in the 1930s, Congress abandoned the 9McMillan concept out of concern that construction could undermine the monument’s foundation. In 2004, security walls added a completely new design feature. Meanwhile, at the original intended symbolic location for the monument stands a simple granite block unnoticed by the Mall’s 25.million annual visitors.

The Mall desperately needs a vision for the monument grounds that responds to the modern needs of our country and capital city but also gives expression, at long last, to the great legacy of the historic visions. Next time you’re down there, take a hard look.

The writer is chair of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | April 6, 2010; 6:53 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic  | Tags:  John kelly April fool's day, Judy Scott Feldman, National Coalition to Save Our Mall, The Mall, Washington Monument  
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Comments

Visit the monument grounds any pleasant weekend and you will see hundreds of people picnicing, flying kites, tossing frisbees, etc. I would say the grounds, as they are, are responding to the modern needs of our city quite nicely. Perhaps these activities aren't quite dignified, but somehow I don't think President Washington would mind.

What the mall doesn't need is another elaborate, expensive to build and maintain waterpark like the dreadful WWII memorial. The mall is in danger, but it is from ever more space consuming and complicated memorials and monuments.

Posted by: odaydaniel | April 7, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

American's tend to think improvement is always for the best. While I agree, improving the reflection pool is a first priority, lets not get too hasty.

Open space around the Washington Monument gives visitors a place to enjoy, well, an open space, sometimes missing in cities.

The idea for an "inflatable" building, to me, is ludicrous, unfathomable and just plain "silly!"

What's next, an inflatable "ball crawl, giant slide, circus midway!!"

I am surprised some "well intentioned, forward thinker" has not suggested paving it and charge for parking.

Why not invite "Six Flags" to build a gargantuan amusement park, complete with, (are you ready) the "Slide For Life" from the top of the Washington Monument.

Please, all those looking for their fifteen minutes of fame by making outlandish suggestions in how to "modernize' the Mall, take a step back, count to ten and forget about it.

The Mall is just fine the way it is.

Posted by: bgrass2 | April 7, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

In New York, at a number of subway stations underground are some very small tile mosaics of drawings done by local schools children. They are remarkable, some of them having been done by elementary school children. The scenes depict buildings and things in the local neighborhood-- and what a source of pride this is.
Give the project to some of the schools where DC's inner city poor go to school. Let them decide what the monument should be and have a competition and let kids compete to have their own works of art integrated into the monument. Kids have such a unique perspective and will come up with the most memorable ideas.
Just an idea...

Posted by: TERI48 | April 8, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

What the mall doesn't need is another elaborate, expensive to build and maintain waterpark like the dreadful WWII memorial. The mall is in danger, but it is from ever more space consuming and complicated memorials and monuments....odaydaniel

I find your description of the WWII Memorial offensive.
There was a group of vets who were flown out to that site yesterday to see how this country has chosen to honor them. Think how they would feel if they happened to read your remark. I was visiting the memorials recently as well....very emotional...perhaps you should look at them from a different angle.
Flying kites is one thing...showing respect where it is due....I think Washington would prefer.

Posted by: bertzel | April 9, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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