A Fresh Perspective on D.C.’s Iconic Sites
The American Society of Landscape Architects’ new Landscape Architect’s Guide to Washington D.C. presents a dramatic departure from typical travel manuals for the nation’s capital. Partners Hallie Boyce and Skip Graffam were among 20 landscape architects invited to provide expert commentary for the free and mobile-friendly website, which offers insight on 75 historic and contemporary landscapes throughout the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. Hallie and Skip each covered two sites in the guide: the Enid Haupt Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden and Grounds, and the National Museum of the American Indian.
The Enid Haupt Garden sits on the grounds of the venerable Smithsonian Institution, behind the building affectionately referred to as the “Castle.” Hallie explains the myriad ways in which the site honors Ms. Haupt’s legacy as an advocate of public gardens, including an array of exotic plant specimens labeled with their botanical names and various garden rooms that reference distinct world cultures. Hallie also writes about the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, which OLIN redesigned in 1999. The Sculpture Garden was designed as a series of shaded, outdoor spaces to showcase art while also enabling a variety of public programming, from weekly summer jazz concerts to winter ice skating in the garden’s fountain.
“A quiet and beautiful landscape retreat,” is how Skip introduces the sculpture garden and grounds of the Hirshorn Museum, home to the Smithsonian’s contemporary art collection. Crisp lawns containing an eclectic variety of sculptures are demarcated into rooms by a lush planting palette designed to balance the museum building’s minimalist architecture. The entire site is also sunken below the grade of the rest of the mall, creating a welcome respite from surrounding activities. Another institution within the Smithsonian family, the National Museum of the American Indian, includes a landscape that extends the museum’s collection of cultural artifacts from the Western Hemisphere’s diversity of indigenous peoples. Skip describes how the plantings form a series of distinct ecosystems that would have been commonplace in America prior to European settlement.
The Landscape Architect’s Guide to Washington, D.C. has risen quickly in popularity among visitors and locals alike. “The guide… [provides] a fresh perspective on both iconic and brand-new landscapes within the nation’s capital,” says Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of ASLA. “D.C.’s vibrant public realm didn’t just magically appear but was carefully designed over the years, and is continually evolving, through interactions among elected leaders, communities and landscape architects.”