Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

Where is the National Mall?

October 9, 2008 |  1:03 pm


The graphic above is an aerial view of Washington, D.C., focused on the National Mall. (That's the Washington Monument in the center, right where the orange line swerves.) The only question is: Which National Mall? The one inside the green lines? Or inside the magenta lines? Or the yellow lines? Or the ... well, you get the idea. The boundaries of the National Mall depend on which government agency or source you are consulting.

And that tangle of contradictions pretty much explains why the place is such a mess -- and has been for decades. It would take a Dick Cheney to maneuver the bureaucracy. (OK, bad example.) It might well get worse too.

There's effectively a ban on new additions to the Mall's central area. But, on Oct. 20 the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission meets to consider yet more bad ideas, including two new memorials for the already cluttered and poorly maintained zone.

The aerial graphic was produced by the indispensable citizens' watchdog group, the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, founded in 2000 in a desperate effort to bring some coherence and public input to politically vulnerable Mall planning. (Its website is a terrific resource.) The Mall design is the greatest artistic monument to American democratic principles, which is why the issue matters -- perhaps now more than ever.

The coalition has also made a handy diagram showing who's responsible for what on the Mall. Grab an aspirin and take a look at it after the jump. 


Don't miss the public's current role, all the way at the bottom. (A bigger version is here.) The advisory commission's agenda explains how public comments can be made at or before the Oct. 20 meeting. 

--Christopher Knight

Photos: National Coalition to Save Our Mall