President’s Park South Designs Unveiled

President's Park South - Design
Aerial View President's Park South - ©Reed Hilderbrand Associates

Today, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) unveiled the designs for President’s Park South in Washington D.C.. The five architecture and landscape architecture firms including Hood Design Studio, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Reed Hilderbrand Associates, Rogers Marvel Architects, and SASAKI were invited to develop concepts to beautify the security components and improve the visitor experience at President’s Park South.

President’s Park South is one of the most visited locations in the nation’s capital, and represents a unique design challenge that requires sensitive integration of security requirements into a landscape of extraordinary cultural and historic significance. The area includes Sherman Park, the First Division Monument, the Ellipse and its side panels, as well as the associated roadways in the area, including E Street, NW, which has been closed to unauthorized vehicular traffic for the past decade.

On Tuesday, June 28 NCPC will host a public showcase where representatives from the five design firms will present their concepts for President’s Park South. All public opinions will be shared with NCPC’s Interagency Security Task Force, which will rank the finalists and announce the competition winner on June 30, 2011.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) invited five talented architecture and landscape design firms to develop concepts to beautify the security components and improve the visitor experience at President’s Park South. This popular destination is located between the White House Grounds and Constitution Avenue, NW. Beginning Tuesday, June 21 and running through Monday, June 27, the public is invited to view the project teams’ designs online and at the White House Visitor Center (1450 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC). The center is open daily from 7:30 am – 4:00 pm. The public will be able to share their opinions online and at the visitor center.

IMAGES: Courtesy of National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)

The five architecture and landscape architecture firms designs can be seen by

Hood Design Studios – Democracy’s Front Porch
The conceptual approach to the E street design and Presidents Park South builds on ideas of hybridity; how to create effective security for the White House and grounds while creating a dynamic landscape for the people of America. How can landscape space balance both, through the integration of formal concepts and site architecture? One of the characteristics that mark a great society is its ability to embrace its past while moving forward. The landscape can bear testament through the juxtaposition of the new and old. The new design emanates from the sampling of AJ Downing’s formal circuitry of pathways. The lacy and meandering formal structures are rotated overlapped and scaled to  t within the White House and Mall context. E Street and adjacent pedestrian paths are enmeshed in the larger scale movement and  ow of the Capital plan, creating a continuous  eld of experience.

Americas Front Porch is a place for the practice of our First Amendment Rights, a place for visitors to view the ellipse, White House and its garden landscape in an open, aesthetically pleasing environment. The new landscape is composed of two materials that metaphorically speak to this epoch, stone and glass. Stone is the material of Washington DC, and in particular suggest the timeless nature of our government and contemporarily relates to safety and protection. Glass on the other hand suggests optimism; care, fragility and wonder…the two together are emblematic of this time period.

President's Park South - Design
Plan - ©Hood Design Studio
President's Park South - Design
Front Porch - ©Hood Design Studio
President's Park South - Design
©Hood Design Studio

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
Although the Ellipse is used well for seasonal events, day-to-day visitor likely find the 52-acre unwelcoming. Envisioned by L’Enfant as an important link between the White House and the monumental core, today President’s Park South lacks an appropriate human scale. This scheme reinvigorates the Ellipse frame by drawing inspiration from Andrew Jackson Downing’s 1851 vision of a “large circular open space surrounded by an avenue of elms, a carriage drive, and a series of footpaths winding through shady groves.” The park’s edges surround the free-flowing openness of the Ellipse with complimentary moments of garden-scaled intimacy. Alluring entrances at all four corners of the Ellipse lead into a new path system that works in concert with increased tree cover, low shrubs, plentiful benches, and other landscape improvements to subtly reinforce the importance of the Ellipse and bridge the distance between the White House and the National Monument.

President's Park South - Design
Plan - ©Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
President's Park South - Design
View from E Street & 15th Ave looking Southwest- ©Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
President's Park South - Design
Weekend View of the Gardens framing the Ellipse - ©Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Reed Hilderbrand Associates
President’s Park South Promenade and the renewal of the Ellipse unify two fundamental goals that have in recent years emerged in conflict: on one hand, the provision of unfailing, redundant security for the active center of 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, resulting in a direct expression of the people’s freedom and dignity. The South Promenade clarifies and makes permanent the most effective and proven security strategies while creating a dignified pedestrian experience that is open, orderly, flexible managed and spatially unique. In this way, the Promenade unites and joins together two of the nation’s most significant cultural landscapes: first, the South Lawn of the White House, variously shaped and occupied by every American President in residence since John Adams and notably refined by preeminent landscape architect and planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.; and second, the Ellipse, which embodies an evolving 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 South - Design
Plan - ©Reed Hilderbrand Associates
President's Park South - Design
Aerial Looking Southwest - ©Reed Hilderbrand Associates
President's Park South - Design
Perspective Looking West - ©Reed Hilderbrand Associates

Rogers Marvel Architects
President’s Park South is a destination for Washingtonians and visitors, both national and international. As the platform to petition the President, it is the perfect place to demonstrate the security of an open society. Our proposed plan for E Street and the Ellipse collectively and comprehensively act in the service of security and as amenities to further public use of public space. In recent years, necessary security measures have isolated the White House grounds from the surrounding public spaces. President’s Park is experienced as a series of disconnected outdoor areas. The Ellipse is segregated from the White House grounds. E Street is closed to traffic yet not available as public space. New designs must draw from existing resources such as the landscape and dimensions of the Ellipse, the public qualities of a continuous E Street, and weave present needs with the underlying intent of the Park’s original plan in order to restore the visual grandeur and freedom of this cultural landscape.

President's Park South - Design
Plan - ©Rogers Marvel Architects
President's Park South - Design
The Ellipse - ©Rogers Marvel Architects
President's Park South - Design
Ellipse Grove - ©Rogers Marvel Architects
President's Park South - Design
E Street & 15th Ave - ©Rogers Marvel Architects

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 refi nements 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 signifi cant new place for pedestrians
• Appropriate decorum and scale
• Artful design for security

President's Park South - Design
Plan - ©SASAKI
President's Park South - Design
View South from Cafe at West Grove - ©SASAKI
President's Park South - Design
View North West towards Plaza - ©SASAKI
President's Park South - Design
View South from the Plaza to the Ellipse - ©SASAKI
About Damian Holmes 3297 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at