In 2009, nearly two million people gathered on the National Mall to witness the inauguration of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama. Almost fifty years ago on the same grounds, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. "America's Front Lawn," the National Mall was not only designed for large political and social gatherings but also to collect and showcase America's culture. Located in the heart of Washington D.C., the Mall is an historic yet evolving example of urban design.
Visited annually by approximately thirty million people, the Mall is also a victim of its own success as its grounds and monuments have been steadily eroded by overcrowding in addition to budgetary and administrative pressures.
In response to this decline, the newly-formed Trust for the National Mall recently sponsored a competition to redesign key areas of the National Mall. A number of other significant projects are also underway on or near the Mall including the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Education Center at the Wall, the Eisenhower Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, the Hirshhorn Museum Bloomberg Balloon, and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool renovation.
In an election year when America is debating and deciding its trajectory, it's time to critically discuss the space that perhaps more than any other reflects what the nation was, is, and wants to be - the National Mall.