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Tidal Basin Ideas Lab:
History Secured


National Mall, Washington, D.C.


Research and Planning
Cultural and Institutional
Parks and Infrastructure

client and sponsers

National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Trust for the National Mall, and Presented by American Express with support from SOM


As part of an urgent call to action, DLANDstudio was one of five leading landscape architecture firms invited to create new, sustainable plans that reimagine the future of Washington D.C.’s iconic National Mall Tidal Basin. This work is presented in the online Tidal Basin Ideas Lab Exhibition, inviting public feedback on the plans.

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.
DLANDstudio adopted three interrelated strategies to address the area’s most pressing issues: connect, absorb, and secure.

(Above) Existing conditions at the National Mall Tidal Basin
Photos courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Sam Kittner

(Above) The proposed Jetty is a bold extension of the Lincoln Memorial/Washington Monument axis westward, into the Potomac River. Proposed as a new, prominent home for a relocated Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Jetty is ambitious and aspirational, providing not only new literal and cultural ground for memorial, growth, reflection, and discourse, but also for new hydrological patterns, areas for Potomac sedimentation, and easing of Tidal Basin loads.
New visual and physical connections include a land bridge, forming an axis between the Jefferson Memorial and the White House. A jetty in the Potomac River off the Lincoln Memorial houses the relocated memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., connecting national struggles for civil rights over time.

The creation of new wetlands and a green wall will, like a sponge, absorb rising waters. Sedimentation will create tidal flats reducing runoff, storm surge, and flooding. These new features offer soft and dynamic edges as a salve to the Basin’s rigid perimeter. Changes will protect both natural and man-made features from the effects of flooding to secure their futures.

(Above) The land bridge is, simultaneously, a proposal to improve pedestrian connections between existing memorials, a proposal to improve the environmental, ecological, and hydrological functioning of the Tidal Basin, and a proposal to generate new space for those places and monuments currently threatened by flooding and sea-level rise. It is an intervention that draws from the ethos and historic design language of the National Mall to envision a new, environmentally-responsive future.

The proposed design radically re-imagines the land of the Tidal Basin area in form and function, as a phased response to the sweeping, inevitable wave of climate change-driven transformation. The proposed interventions seek to improve security of people and landscapes.


Architectural Record
Fast Company

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