WEISS, OLIN win National Mall Competition for Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater

Thu. 3 May

Firms headed by PennDesign faculty members have been selected to re-envision the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater in Washington, D.C.


Firms headed by faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design have been selected to re-envision the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater in Washington, D.C. 

WEISS/MANFREDI + OLIN co-led the design for the project, which reinvigorates the Monument Grounds with new landscapes of performance, clarifies the visual connections between the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial, provides new physical connections between the cultural landscape of the Mall and the Tidal Basin, and most importantly, creates a transformed setting for the nation's most visible center stage.

"Our vision for the Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument Grounds elevates the performing arts, literally and figuratively, with a new amphitheater land form shaded by a canopy of trees that affirms this site as our nation's center stage. We turn the audience's sights to both the obelisk and the arts and restore lost connections between the Mall and Tidal Basin with a sinuous land bridge," said Marion Weiss, Graham Professor of Architecture.

Extending from the heart of the National Mall, a rejuvenated Sylvan Theater and Sylvan Grove will restore the tree canopy that inspired the name of the original theater nearly a century ago.

The Sylvan Theater amphitheater, on the grassy slope around the Washington Monument, will be framed by trees that OLIN partner Hallie Boyce, who lecturers in the Landscape Architecture program, called a "magical setting for performance." 

The uppermost viewing terrace, a tree lined "balcony", continues across the roadway as a pedestrian bridge that crosses traffic and descends to the water's edge, linking the Mall to the Tidal Basin. An integral part of the grove is the Sylvan Pavilion, visible from the Mall, the Metro, and 15th Street. The Pavilion provides an all-weather café, bookstore, and multi-use destination for residents and visitors to the Mall. A new Ranger Station and information / exhibition center on Independence Avenue frame an arrival plaza for tour groups.

WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism is a multidisciplinary design practice based in New York City. Founded by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, the firm is known for the dynamic integration of architecture, art, infrastructure, and landscape design. The firm's projects, including the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, the Barnard College Diana Center, and the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, exemplify the potential of architecture to transform public space.

OLIN is a landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm named for Laurie Olin, Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture, with studios in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Known for creating iconic and vibrant landscapes, the firm's recent projects include Simon and Helen Director Park in Portland and the Central Delaware Riverfront Master Plan led by Lucinda Sanders, Adjunct Professor of Landscape Architecture. OLIN Partners Hallie Boyce, who lectures in the Landscape Architecture program, and Skip Graffam are leading the firm's participation in the National Mall Design Competition.

For further information, view the competition website.