Adjacent to the National Mall, the Tidal Basin comprises the beloved blossoming cherry trees and monuments to leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. Its beauty is matched by the complexity of its many meanings, as experienced by diverse audiences. Yet, despite its storied place in the national imagination, the Tidal Basin is very much at risk. The instability of the land underneath, daily flooding, and crumbling infrastructure threaten its future.
Flooding is caused by climate risk and by urbanization—in the form of buildings, roads, and parking lots—that prevents the ground from absorbing water.
Security measures are temporary and obtrusive.
Maintenance of the original floodgates has been long deferred.
To rescue and transform the nation’s most iconic memorial landscape, we must balance preservation with the realities of climatic, geological, and social changes. So profound are the effects of these forces that conventional responses—rebuilding infrastructure or adding safeguards such as seawalls—will only delay, but not prevent, the submersion of the Tidal Basin and its monuments. The challenges are undeniably steep, but they are not insurmountable. We have imagined bold moves and charted courses of action to be realized over the coming century.
Yet, our work is not merely reactive to current and projected conditions, nor is it only a search for solutions to specific problems. It is an opportunity to posit new ways of thinking about ecology, social space, narratives, and experiences, pushing forward our understanding of what memorials and public landscapes can be. The time to begin this process is now. — DLANDstudio — GGN — Hood Design Studio — James Corner Field Operations — Reed Hilderbrand
Unlike a conventional design competition, which selects one winner, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab brings together five leading American landscape architecture firms, each with a distinctive proposal. The Lab’s purpose is to promote an exchange of ideas and to get the public directly involved in the process. The Lab presents concepts to inform and inspire future discussions about the Tidal Basin when the National Park Service initiates a Master Plan, which will include environmental reviews and developing detailed designs.
The National Mall Tidal Basin is threatened by rising sea levels and as much as $500 million in repairs and upgrades. Join our campaign to ensure this 107-acre landscape is preserved for future generations.