LAR 8010: Catalytic Insertion
The catalytic insertion of the National Nursery into the National Mall restores the health, maintenance regime, and urban life of this national landscape. Through the creasing and folding of the ground, soil is aerated and amended for improved growing conditions. The Nursery creates urban forestry jobs, supplies the city with a viable tree stock for stated goals of increased urban canopy cover, and provides a diverse body-scale landscape experience within the vast, unified monumental corridor.
The National Mall today represents a singular vision, a result of a complete clear-cutting of the site in the 1930s. The Macmillan Plan emphasized the monumental axis to the exclusion of historic visions and iterations of the Mall as an economic engine, a display of diverse flora and a functioning ecosystem. Today’s compacted soils, tired lawns and dying elms provide a passive and sterile backdrop for our National collections and icons. The National Nursery reinvigorates the Mall with new ecological, social and economic life.
By creasing the ground into a series of performative micro ridges and valleys, spaces are shaped to support varying program, ecosystems and hydraulic functions. In order to densify and diversify the bosques, the smallest elms are culled out and the existing 50 foot grid is interplanted at 25 foot intervals. Wood is harvested from these small elms and used for the furnishings and pavements of the Mall. The productive nursery is slipped, in varying thicknesses, into the inner creases of the bosques. This amplified canopy enriches the city’s larger urban forest and creates cooler microclimates within the Mall. A series of threshold squares connects the Mall to the greater city at each street crossing. These squares provide a setting for a collective public realm where tourists and residents sit, eat, enter the Mall and are exposed to diversity of one another.
By creasing the ground and cultivating seedlings, the urban forests of the Mall and the greater city become dynamic and self-renewing. This relationship engenders a public engagement with the city and the mall as vibrant ecosystems.