The National Mall and the Politics of Public Space
November 10, 2015
The National Mall is a national treasure that plays a central role in the life of the D.C. community and the nation. While the historic 1791 L’Enfant Plan and later enhancements of the 1902 McMillan Plan established a visionary program for developing this public space for the nation’s capital, subsequent fragmented government oversight and piecemeal planning continues to undermine the development of a coherent and environmentally sustainable program.
This panel of activists, policy makers, architects, and urban designers discussed the challenges today in rising above jurisdictional interests and creating a discerning plan for the Mall that advances an effective creative vision for the 21st century.
Lisa Benton-Short, PhD, Professor, George Washington University
Dr. Benton-Short is a urban geographer with an interest in the dynamics of the urban environment from many angles, including: urban sustainability, planning and public space, monuments and memorials, urban national parks, globalization, and immigration.
Dr. Benton-Short has written extensively on the urban environment. She has authored several books, including: The Presidio: from Army Post to National Park (1998); Environmental Discourse and Practice (1999) and Environmental Discourse and Practice: a Reader (2000) , Cities and Nature (2007 and second edition in 2013) and Cities of North America: contemporary challenges in US and Canadian cities (editor, 2014). She is currently writing a book that explores national memory, national identity and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Since 2010, Dr. Benton-Short has been Academic Program Director for Sustainability at GW. She led the development of the pan-university sustainability minor for undergraduates, and she also organizes and directs the Frontiers in Sustainability speaker series, part of the University Seminar Series at GW. In addition to teaching Sustainability 1001, she also teaches the graduate seminar in Urban Sustainability.
A native of California, she received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in 1986 and her Ph.D. in geography from Syracuse University in 1997.
Judy Scott Feldman, PhD, Chair, National Mall Coalition
Judy Scott Feldman is an art historian and founder of the National Mall Coalition (formerly National Coalition to Save Our Mall), a nonprofit organization that educates the public and Congress on National Mall history and is actively involved in promoting visionary planning for the Mall for the 21st century. The Coalition is recognized as a source of information, opinion, and historical background on Mall matters. As chair of the Coalition she has testified before Congress, and is frequently quoted by national and international media including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CBS Sunday Morning (twice), and the Voice of America. She has been a guest on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show and the Kojo Nnamdi Show. The Coalition’s ideas advocating a new visionary plan for the “3rd Century Mall” have gained support from The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous planners and art and architecture critics.
A native Washingtonian, Feldman received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history from Pennsylvania State University and her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. Feldman formerly taught at American University in Washington and is a frequent lecturer for the Smithsonian Institution and other educational institutions on Mall matters as well as medieval art, the subject of her doctorate. She is author of “Turning Point: The Problematics of Change on the Mall Today” in The National Mall: Rethinking Washington’s Monumental Core (John Hopkins University Press, 2008). For her work with the Coalition, Feldman received the Committee of 100 on the Federal City Vision Award in May 2002, the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations Award in 2005, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for 10 years of Mall advocacy from the Committee of 100 in June 2011.
Wendy Grossman, PhD, NYU Washington, DC Faculty; Curatorial Associate, The Phillips Collection
Wendy Grossman, PhD is a Curatorial Associate at The Phillips Collection. She has over fifteen years of teaching and curatorial experience and currently teaches in the art history department at the University of Maryland. Dr. Grossman has lectured internationally, taught in the University of Maryland overseas program in Vienna, Austria, and was a visiting professor at Middlebury College, Middlebury Vermont. Her articles and essays have been widely published in international journals, edited volumes, and exhibition catalogues. The catalogue she wrote in conjunction with the traveling exhibition she curated, Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens, was awarded the 2010 Prix international du livre d’art tribal. Her most recent exhibition, Man Ray / Human Equations, is currently on the third leg of its international tour and the accompanying catalogue has been nominated for several awards.
Victoria Kiechel, NYU Washington, DC Faculty; Architect
Victoria Kiechel has 20 years of professional experience in architecture, education, and sustainable design. A practicing architect, she works for the Cadmus Group, Inc., an environmental consultancy, and is an adjunct faculty member of the Global Environmental Politics Program, the School of International Service, American University (AU), in Washington, DC. In 2010, she was the inaugural recipient of AU’s Most Innovative Green Teacher of the Year award. At Cadmus, Vicky has worked for the US Green Building Council to develop and support the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating Systems; advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR commercial and industrial branch; leads consulting and review teams for buildings seeking LEED certification; and manages sustainability initiatives for clients as diverse as the Smithsonian Institution and state and local governments. She is project manager and technical lead for the 2012 redevelopment of ENERGY STAR for Buildings training resources. Her Cadmus research work includes her roles as primary author of Planning and Financing Energy Efficient Infrastructure in Appalachia, for the Appalachian Regional Commission (released March, 2012), and co-Principal Investigator of Cadmus’ Water Management and Green Building Rating Systems 2009-2010 study for the Electric Power Research Institute. Her architectural design work focuses on small-to-medium scale residential and institutional projects. For the Washington, DC Capitol Hill School Libraries Project, she designed the library for Maury Elementary School. Victoria Kiechel, AIA and LEED AP ND, BD+C, O+M, ID+C, Homes
Roger K. Lewis, FAIA, Professor, University of Maryland
Professor Roger K. Lewis, FAIA helped start and subsequently nurture the University of Maryland's School of Architecture, established by the University in 1967. During the School's early years, in addition to teaching design, he initiated and taught two seminal courses: Introduction to the Built Environment (ARCH 170), a wide-ranging survey of architecture and urban design fundamentals for freshmen and sophomores; and "Economic Determinants in Architecture," an elective for advanced architectural students focused on the real estate development process.
During the summer of 1971, accompanying the late Charles Moore, distinguished visiting Kea Professor, and Dean John Hill, he led 17 students--the School's first graduating class--on a five-week study tour of Western Europe, Turkey and Tunisia, the School's first summer study abroad program. In 1996, in collaboration with Professor Marie Howland, Director of the Urban Studies program, and Professor Matthew Bell, Professor Lewis directed a group of American architecture and urban planning students, along with Russian architecture students, engaged in the School's first-ever program in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Professor Lewis has always combined teaching and practice, believing that one informs and energizes the other. His experience as a practitioner began in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, where he was an architect for the Ministry of Public Works and was responsible for designing more than 30 government-financed projects, over half of which were built. These included municipal auditoriums, shopping facilities, schools, a boy scout camp, a movie theater, a hotel, a historic mosque renovation, and public gardens.
Immediately after he began teaching, he established his architecture and planning firm based in Washington, DC. Since 1969, he has designed award-winning private residences, low-income and elderly housing as well as market-rate housing, community buildings, public and private recreational facilities, art centers, commercial structures and schools. His firm has prepared master plans and design guidelines for new communities or for the expansion of existing communities, both in the eastern United States and abroad.
In 1984, Professor Lewis made a proposal to The Washington Post to write and illustrate a series of essays about the history of Washington, DC, and its architecture. The 1984 essay series proved very successful, and since then, he has been a regular Washington Post columnist writing thematic articles and drawing accompanying cartoons. His columns cover architectural design, planning, land use regulation, "smart growth," housing, transportation and infrastructure, historic preservation, landscape architecture, sustainability and public policy affecting the built environment. In 1987, the AIA Press compiled a number of Shaping the City articles and cartoons and published a book of the same name.
The MIT Press published his first book, Architect? A Candid Guide to the Profession, in 1985, which became an MIT Press best-seller. A revised edition was published in 1998. Used as an introductory text for would-be architects at universities throughout North America, the book has been translated into Japanese, Korean and Spanish.
Thomas Luebke, FAIA, Secretary, U.S. Commission on Fine Arts
Thomas Luebke has served since 2005 as the Secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the federal design review agency for the nation’s capital. As the executive director of the agency, he produced the 2013 book, Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and he initiated and guided the Monumental Core Framework Plan, 2009, a major federal planning effort to extend the commemorative core of the National Mall, in cooperation with the National Capital Planning Commission. In addition to overseeing the Commission’s review of almost 700 cases per year, he represents the Commission of Fine Arts as a member of the National Capital Memorials Advisory Commission and the National Council of the Arts and Humanities.
An architect with experience in planning and historic preservation in both public and private sectors, Luebke served previously as the City Architect for Alexandria, Virginia, where he was responsible for design review of all new public and large-scale private development projects in the city, including the Potomac Yard and Carlyle districts. In the private sector, Mr. Luebke’s professional focus was as a designer on institutional, commercial, and high-rise projects for such firms as SOM, Hartman-Cox, and Leo A Daly, where he led the design for the 45-story First National Tower in Omaha, Nebraska, completed in 2002 and winner of an AIA honor award for design in 2004. He served previously as executive director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, an urban design forum sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.
In addition to his work on Civic Art, Luebke is a frequent speaker and panelist on topics such as the design of Washington, DC; the history of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts; and the design of commemorative works, for such institutions as the National Building Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Society of Landscape Architects, Harvard University, Princeton University, and the International Fulbright Committee. In cooperation with the National Building Museum, he has initiated and participated in numerous symposiums and exhibits, including Monuments and Memory (2001), Framing A Capital City (2007), and Power, Architecture, and Politics: The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Design of Washington (2010).
Luebke is a Phi Beta Kappa and honors graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and he graduated with a master in architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he was a teaching fellow in architectural history. He was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome in 2010 and a 2014 recipient of the Likhachev Foundation Cultural Fellowship in St. Petersburg, Russia. He served as president of the board of the Washington Architectural Foundation, a non-profit organization of architects serving the Washington, DC community, where he led the transformation of the institution’s mission as the District Architecture Center. He was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2011, and was honored with the Institute's Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2015.