New Performance Landscape for The Mall



OLIN and co-lead WEISS/MANFREDI are pleased to announce that our competition entry for the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater has been selected by the Trust for the National Mall and the National Park Service as the winner of this national competition. The selection was announced in the Washington Post.



As our nation’s center stage, the National Mall is the site of some of the most important acts of communication and communion in the country. The Washington Monument, positioned at the heart of the Mall, is visible for miles and is the literal and philosophical compass for our nation. Extending from this central landmark is the Sylvan Theater and Sylvan Grove. OLIN & WEISS/MANFREDI’s approach for this performance landscape embodies the surprise and magic of the Shakespearean forest that inspired the name of the original theater nearly a century ago. The design team’s vision reinvigorates the Monument Grounds; clarifies visual connections between the White House, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial; provides new physical connections between the cultural landscape of the Mall and the Tidal Basin; and, most importantly, creates a transformed setting for the nation’s most visible stage.



“The design seamlessly integrates building and landform to serve as both a visitor gateway and destination and reconnects the southern Monument Grounds and Tidal Basin to the National Mall,” said Partner Skip Graffam.



The design of Sylvan Grove is oriented around a sequence of settings that together, imagine a new performance landscape. A new wooded canopy and terraced lawn define the amphitheater, where a wide range of performances and events are experienced against the backdrop of the Washington Monument. The ascending landform reorients the theater to views of the Mall, conceals traffic and lines of tour buses, and creates new pedestrian connections to the Tidal Basin. To solve the physical disconnect between the Tidal Basin and the Mall, the design includes a tree lined “balcony,” serving as a viewing terrace, which continues across the roadways and descends to the water’s edge to create a physical link between the Tidal Basin and the Mall.

Commenting on the scheme, Partner Hallie Boyce said, “Our team’s design sculpts the ground plane and amplifies the existing canopy to create a flexible and magical performance venue while infusing the site with critical visitor amenities.”



The Sylvan Pavilion—visible from the Mall, the Metro and 15th Street—is designed as an extension of Sylvan Grove. Serving as a multi-use destination, the Pavilion hosts impromptu performances and offers an all-weather café for visitors. The Pavilion bends along a pathway, south of Independence Avenue, where a new exhibition atrium frames an arrival plaza and drop-off area for tour buses. Inspired by filtered rays in a shaded forest, the roof of the Pavilion forms a cultural canopy of dappled light that illuminates activities below. The Pavilion offers panoramic views of the Mall and performances. The café terraces and theater stage accommodate a generous shaded setting for café tables, gatherings and events.

OLIN Design Team: Design Partners Skip Graffam and Hallie Boyce, Associate Greg Burrell, Senior Landscape Architect Benjamin Monette, Landscape Designers Jennifer Birkeland, Vivian Martinez and Laura Rennekamp, Visualizers Chris Landau and Henry Moll, and Intern Nick Mitchell.

  1. Joel Katz says:


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