The purpose of our competition
We welcome the story by Samantha Stone in your Sept. 16, 2010 edition, (“Ideas Sought for Monument Grounds”) discussing our National Ideas Competition. However, I wanted to help address Thomas Bower, president of the Foggy Bottom Historic District Conservancy, who is quoted in the article stating his strong disagreement with the competition’s purpose.
I want to underscore that the purpose of the competition is educational, and that the resulting submissions are intended to stimulate a national conversation about the civic value of this important landscape. The Competition Steering Committee members have studied the many plans for the Mall and elements near and around it over time, realized or not, folly and genius. Indeed, we have two distinguished Mall historians involved with the competition – one on the Steering Committee, and one who is a juror. We cannot imagine why Mr. Bower would oppose having people of all ages engaged in thinking about how it might be further enhanced for the enjoyment of all.
The results of the competition may either confirm that the status quo is our best solution or it may also offer some better alternatives. More importantly, the competition will keep us from taking this great historic place for granted. It is an ideas competition, so it is not limited to only design considerations. We welcome Mr. Bower to submit his idea of leaving the Monument area just as it is and let our diverse and distinguished jury consider it! As anyone can see from our website (www.wamocompetition.org), enthusiasm for the competition is widespread. We encourage the reporter to seek out other voices in the community about this topic, especially as the Washington Monument is not at all a part of Mr. Bower’s neighborhood or jurisdiction. Open space is to be valued on such a large, public area that is the front yard of our nation’s democracy. It does not have to be vacant to remain open, and become more meaningful and welcoming to all visitors.
Ellen L. Goldstein is the executive director of the Washington Monument Competition