Ideas sought for monument grounds

GW is one of the sponsors for a new national design competition seeking ways to improve the area around the Washington Monument.

The National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds, or WAMO, began Sept. 1 and is asking participants to submit ideas on how to enhance the 60-acre grounds surrounding the Washington Monument, WAMO Executive Director Ellen Goldstein said.

Adele Ashkar, a member of the WAMO steering committee and a GW professor in the College of Professional Studies, said the competition is open to people ages 12 and up, and submissions from GW students are welcomed.

“Several departments at GW are planning to use this project in their coursework for this semester,” Ashkar said.

Ashkar added that the committee does not have a preference for what the designs should look like.

“We are very interested in stimulating a national conversation about the civic value of this important landscape, and to get many different minds thinking about its symbolism for now and for the future,” Ashkar said.

She said WAMO is also reaching out to adults and professionals, hoping to gain a wide variety of ideas.

The competition has garnered mixed reactions from District residents, including residents of Foggy Bottom.

Thomas Bower, president of the Foggy Bottom Historic District Conservancy, said he disagrees completely with the goal of the competition.

Bower learned about the competition through a Washington Post article and published a letter to the editor with his concerns. He says he strongly opposes enhancing the monument because it mars the monument’s historic qualities.

“I cannot imagine what could be added that could not detract from the current monument. We seem to think that there cannot be a monument without a stand for tourists to buy tchotchkes and have lunch,” Bower said.

Years ago, Bower’s group wrote a letter against GW’s hope to place a bronze statue of George Washington’s head – like the one outside Lisner Auditorium – in Washington Circle.

The group argued that it was inappropriate and would interfere with the Clark Mills sculpture. The request was approved, and the members plan to bring up a similar argument against WAMO’s competition.

Entries for WAMO’s competition can be submitted through wamocompetition.org.

Applicants have until Oct. 31 to register and Dec. 18 to submit ideas to the competition. The jury will pick 25 semifinalists in January. The field will then be narrowed to five finalists, who will make public presentations on their ideas to be voted on in summer 2011.

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