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Design Concepts

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Presidents Park South

RECONNECT + PLACE
AND THE INTEGRATED DESIGN OF SECURITY

The concept integrates security design and landscape design to create a major new civic gathering space with spectacular views of the city’s landmarks on the visual axis from the White House to the Mall. This integrated approach to security design includes the transformation of E Street for pedestrians and bicycles as well as landscape updates and refinements to the Ellipse and surrounding areas. Resolving the contemporary requirements for security is an opportunity to reconnect President’s Park with the city and its history. These adjustments to the Park aim to achieve:

  • Continuity with the past
  • A significant new place for pedestrians
  • Appropriate decorum and scale
  • Artful design for security

The historic visual axis from the White House south is enhanced with a new civic plaza and gathering space where visitors mingle and assemble in the backdrop of the White House or the Washington Monument. A 150’ long granite bench along the south edge of the Plaza, elevated 3’ from the Ellipse, is part of the outer line of vehicular security south of the White House. It is minimal when viewed across the vast 1000’ long space of the Ellipse.

The central granite plaza is flanked by tree groves in triangular shaped spaces east and west of the Plaza where people sit and relax under the canopy of large Willow Oaks. Food and beverages are available from a kiosk in the West Triangle where movable tables and chairs can be oriented toward the Ellipse and Washington Monument. Planters with 3’ high walls, as security barriers, define the outer edges of the spaces.

E Street is designed for pedestrians and bicycles. Sally ports for inspecting cars entering the site are located away from pedestrians at State Place and West Executive Avenue on the west and Hamilton Place and East Executive Park on the east.

Adjustments and refinements to the Ellipse will enhance views from the Plaza south. Grading at the south end of the Ellipse is raised approximately 3’ to partially block views of parking on the Ellipse Drives and help screen views of Constitution Avenue from the Plaza, making an almost continuous greensward when viewed south to the higher ground at the Washington Monument. This subtle elevation of the topography makes the green space slightly more level that is better suited for recreational use, while still preserving views from Constitution Avenue to the White House. An inner row of Elm trees on the Ellipse provides additional shade and creates matched trees framing the space.

Initiatives to enhance the ecology of the Ellipse include bio-filtration at the lowest elevation of the site in low grassy areas in the southeast quadrant near Constitution Avenue. The edges of the site are enhanced with two zones of shade tolerant low-mow fescue grasses with Spring bulbs along 15th Street and 17th Street. The informal gardens on each side of the Ellipse include new tree planting to replace legacy trees as they are lost over time and to regenerate the groves of trees.