Washington Common – Martin Luther King, Jr., Upended [M1]

While the 1902 Senate Park Commission set forth a vision for the National Mall and the Monumental Core that is known to the world, its far greater ambition projected a metropolitan scheme of parks connected by the region’s riverine and estuarine hydrology—the “Washington Common”—a networked system of waterfront passages, scenery, and recreation sites that could build a healthy public realm in a deeply segregated city. Today Washington retains lasting tensions between the Federal City and the District of Columbia. Both are threatened by two fundamental crises: climate risk and white domination of a 49% Black population. This studio asks designers to devise protections for the nation’s most significant memorial landscape so it can survive extreme heat and a projected ten feet of sea level rise. But the real opportunity in this dual crisis is to reorient the landscape and its memorials towards the underserved and unjustly excluded. This requires us to reexamine the symbols, meanings, and experiences of a national narrative that is fundamentally unstable and must evolve through concerted and imaginative design action.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, placed on axis between the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials in 2011, is regularly inundated with storm surges today. The memorial must be reinforced against flooding or moved entirely due to subsidence of the Tidal Basin sea wall and the impending rise of storm surges and daily tides in the Potomac.

Students will undertake two approaches: one that reinforces the existing memorial site to prevent flooding, and a proposed relocation strategy. From these, students will choose one course of action and develop potent argumentation and highly detailed design expression.

This is an intensive design studio. Students with design backgrounds in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design are welcomed. Students must be proficient with modeling software and design animation. Physical models will be optional. Studio generally meets on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, 2 PM. Alternate times for studio meetings will also be arranged.

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