From Const. and 16th St NW
The 65-acre expanse surrounding the Washington Monument was intended to be, according to the 1902 McMillan Plan, an oasis of trees and water elements but that concept was never realized. Instead, this area separating the Lincoln Memorial on the west and the museum-lined eastern Mall feels like a desert in summer and a tundra in winter, a forbidding span that could benefit from new ideas to make it truly the Mall centerpiece it was intended to be.  That observation was the basis of the National Ideas Competition.  Photo courtesy David Luria

The National Coalition to Save Our Mall originated the idea for the National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds in our 2009 “Renewing American Democracy on the 3rd Century Mall” report.  Our purpose was to encourage the American public to learn about Mall history and propose creative ideas for re-imagining the unfinished 65-acre open space around the great obelisk as the Mall centerpiece it was intended to be.

Over a two year period, from 2010 to 2012, we participated as a sponsor, along with the George Washington University and other universities and educational institutions in the Ideas Competition. More than 500 people from all across the country and around the world participated, some as young as 12 years old. From a field of twenty-four semifinalists, a distinguished jury chose six top ideas. The public chose the top two People’s Choice winners.

To learn more about the sponsors, juries, and open competition process, and to view all the submissions and winners, please visit the website

WAMO cross axis Highsmith w red
One challenge for contestants was to find a way to mark the Mall’s symbolic cross axis — the original intended location for the Washington Monument where a line west from the Capitol intersects a line south from the White House — where Mall visitors can experience the full power of the Mall’s symbolic design, but which today is mostly unknown and ignored. Photo courtesy Carol Highsmith

The Competition two-jury process and the semi-finalist and winning designs were displayed in two public exhibitions, one titled “Someday in the Park with George” and curated by students in the Museum Studies program at George Washington University for the Virginia Center for Architecture in Richmond, and the other curated by the Competition Steering Committee for the AIA/DC offices in Washington.  A brochure contained essays on various aspects of the Competition.


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