The Mall: Microcosm of a Nation In Disrepair

The Internationalist was scheduled to speak with a partner from the landscape firm of Gustafson, Guthrie, Nichol. Unfortunately, project deadlines prevented our questions on The National Mall from being answered. We felt it would be prudent to extract some quotes from an interview with Kathryn Gustafson, conducted with the American Society of Landscape Architechts (ASLA).

On the role of urban parks:

“The minute you think you have to sell something to your policy makers then you’re again entering into an economic realm. What is important about urban parks is that they are the only way to stop urban sprawl. Urban sprawl is linked with the energy crisis. Sustainability means trying to live in harmony with the planet. This isn’t possible if we don’t densify our cities to stop urban sprawl. The only way to densify a city is to have urban space.”

On G.G.N’s vision for the National African-American History Museum:

“We will engage with the essence of the site to tell the story of the museum. In addition to the symbolic power of the location and adjacencies, there are historic elements, like the evolution of the site from a marshland to its current state, which will find expression in our design and be put in service of telling the story of African-American History and Culture.”

One question I would have posed to Kathryn Gustafson: What does it say when America can’t afford to maintain it’s front yard? According to the National Park Service, the grand space has $350 million in deferred maintenance.  When money was set aside in the stimulus bill, the project became a partisan issue. Republican lawmakers declared that tax payers did not need to cough up the money to maintain the lawns of our nation’s capital. But facts are facts. The wall around the Jefferson Memorial is sinking. Check. The water in the reflecting pool is polluted. Check. And the grounds are in a pitiful condition. Check. The creation of the National parks was one of America’s best ideas. Ken Burns documented the idea of everyday folk enjoying the splendor of our nation’s resources. European countries have long emphasized the importance of gardens and the positive impact they project on society. Let’s hope our lawmakers start thinking that way again before it’s too late.

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