President’s Park South Promenade
Uniting the President's House with the People's Ellipse and the Nation's Front Yard
President's Park South Promenade and the renewal of the Ellipse unify two goals that have in recent years emerged in conflict: on the one hand, the provision of unfailing security for the Executive branch of government; and on the other, an inspired visitor experience of the President's historic home and office. Our proposal integrates these dual aspirations. The South Promenade clarifies and makes permanent the most effective security strategies while creating a dignified pedestrian experience that is open, orderly, flexibly managed, and spatially unique. The Promenade unites two of the nation’s most significant cultural landscapes: the White House South Lawn, variously shaped and occupied by every American President in residence since John Adams and notably refined by preeminent landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.; and the Ellipse, which embodies a continuum of design shaped by some of America’s most important landscape visionaries: George Washington, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson Downing, and Olmsted, Jr.
President’s Park is Protected and Free
All Americans—and fellow global citizens—anticipate that a visit to the White House and President’s Park would impart a personal connection with the special dignity, power, and grace of the American Presidency. The President's Park South Promenade achieves this connection through a clear spatial order that is highly legible and flexibly managed. We do this not by inventing new devices or imposing further restrictions. We call upon the urban tradition of the promenade—specifically invoked by L’Enfant and Downing—and interpret it for our own time.
President’s Park’s Ecological Structure Sustains the People’s Ellipse
The living landscape components of the South Promenade and the Ellipse are consistent with the natural, cultural, scenic, and ecological values currently pursued within the Monumental Core. We propose to showcase these values and to lead by example. Our strategies include the reorganization of site hydrology to achieve net-zero water use; the provision of high-performance soils that sustain active root-zone biology and support intensive use turf grasses; continued protection and amplification of the American elm plantation on the Ellipse; a diverse and robust planting palette for the larger park landscape; and organic management regimes that improve growth, longevity, and performance in the urban tree canopy.
The Legacies of the President and the People are United and Extended
The South Promenade and Ellipse unites some of the most powerful, groundbreaking forces in American landscape architecture heritage. Our proposal expands the park’s continuum of use, feeling, composition, materials, and association, while reuniting two essential parts of Washington’s and L’Enfant’s original Reservation No. 1. As proposed, the park promotes the continuation of a vastly differentiated program of use. Whether official visitors calling on the President, travelers photographing family and friends before one of the signal icons of world leadership, citizens passionately defending First Amendment rights, locals bicycling across the District, neighbors joining a pick-up soccer game, revelers lighting the National Christmas Tree, children rolling eggs, NPS rangers interpreting cultural history—all are joined in a restorative, sustainable, and democratic work of design.