Coalition Letter in The Washington Post: ‘Moore worked on the vision of D.C. until the end’

Architect transformed the aesthetic of the District,” the Sept. 9 obituary for architect Arthur Cotton Moore, who died Sept. 4 at age 87, captured Moore’s admirable urban design vision — “preserving the city’s urban landscape even as he pushed it to evolve.” D.C. planners and architects will speak respectfully of the historic 1791 L’Enfant Plan that laid out our nation’s capital and of the 1901-1902 McMillan Plan that renewed L’Enfant’s vision after a century of haphazard growth. Moore internalized that humanistic vision.

Though the obituary suggested Moore’s design work was mostly in the past, until his last days, as vice chair of the National Mall Coalition, he was actively exploring and promoting ideas to turn obstacles into opportunities. He thought brilliantly and innovatively about how urban design advances democracy, social justice and sustainability.

Learning that the Smithsonian was looking for sites “on the Mall” for the Women’s History and American Latino museums, Moore identified two potential sites. He believed, and we agree, that the location near the Tidal Basin both builds on L’Enfant’s layout of the city as a symbol of founding principles and extends the historic idea to include chapters of our ever-evolving history.

And speaking of evolving, Moore knew the demand for more museums and memorials would continue. So he envisioned a “3rd Century Mall” whose expanded boundaries would incorporate underused federal land along the Potomac River — inspired by the McMillan commission plan that expanded the Mall in 1902 to include the Lincoln Memorial.

His design for the National Mall Underground project began as a beneath-the-Mall parking garage and floodwater cistern to improve visitor access as well as protect our national treasures from storm water flooding. Then he added a field of geothermal rods to provide renewable clean energy. In essence, Moore made the Underground a facility that promotes both historic preservation and forward-looking solutions to ensure the vitality of the Mall long into the future.

Moore never met an urban design obstacle he thought couldn’t be solved. Though, sadly, many of his ideas did not reach fruition in his lifetime, Moore had a way of elevating the architectural conversation. Where there was change, there was Moore, with both history and imagination in equal measure, to promote a deep respect for the L’Enfant vision that was and is the inspiration for our beautiful capital city.

The District of Columbia, the D.C. community and the entire country have lost a champion, a visionary and a good friend.

Judy Scott Feldman, Washington

• The writer is a founder and the chair of the National Mall Coalition.

Read the letter in The Post by scrolling down through the series of Opinion letters here.


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