Parallel History

Rendering looking out on the bridge.

by Hanh Nguyen (MArch II/ MLA I AP ’21)

The National Mall in Washington, DC, will be affected by sea-level rise and high tides into the future. By 2100, the predicted flood level will be 18 feet above the low tide level today. Without any intervention, most of the area—including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial—will be inundated by water.

Site plan of the MLK memorial and surrounding area. The map is light blue with contour lines drawn to describe the topography in the area. The design intervention is highlighted in green. It is a bridge connecting two sides of a bay. The bridge has callouts highlighting specific historic features that the project integrates into the site.

Fixing a physical, axial connection between the monuments to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thomas Jefferson protects the Monumental Core from flooding. It also brings the two men into juxtaposition and confrontation. They are part of a long journey through time and space. This journey has many stories, some linear, some cyclical, some elliptical. There is no single timeline. Progress is fleeting. There are tales, events, figures—living and fixed. We discover multiple histories, and troubled manifestations. We move forward and backward, we are diverted and redirected. We embrace uncertainty as we try to make sense of the world.