Looking to the Future

Posted April 10, 2007 at 5:08pm

While Washington, D.C., has become internationally revered as a city filled with captivating monuments and memorials, a symposium being held today will aim to facilitate discussion on future placement of such fixtures in the city.

“Framing a Capital City,” a collaborative effort of the National Capital Planning Commission, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Building Museum, will be held from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. free of charge at the museum and will feature a number of experts on municipal planning.

Panelists including Judy Scott Feldman, chairwoman of the National Coalition to Save our Mall; Dan Tangherlini, city administrator and deputy mayor of Washington, D.C.; and Lawrence Vale, professor of urban studies and planning at MIT, will discuss issues such as symbolism and memorial planning, quality use of public space and the collaboration between local and federal authorities when planning future memorial space.

With the establishment of H.R. 1442, The Commemorative Works Clarification and Revision Act of 2003, the 108th Congress placed a limit on new memorials on the National Mall. Since that time, Thomas Luebke, secretary for the CFA, said Members of Congress have taken a special interest in the future of memorials located in the District.

Luebke noted that when planning the symposium, “a lot of this effort has grown out of interest of Congress itself. We think this is a wonderful opportunity to work with the Congress. … It can’t happen without the understanding of the legislative branch.”

Lisa MacSpadden, director of public affairs for the NCPC, believes the results of the symposium also may provide insight to those on Capitol Hill because “it’s also helpful for Members of Congress to know what other options and alternatives there are when memorial sponsors come to see them and approach them about locating future commemorative works.”

MacSpadden also noted the importance of developing other areas of the city, including the Banneker Overlook, Federal Triangle and Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium sites, which would make them more attractive venues for future memorials. “If you don’t have attractive and viable locations to offer memorial sponsors, they clearly just automatically request and desire the National Mall, perhaps for the simple reason that they don’t know what other great, attractive places might be available,” MacSpadden said.

Aside from today’s symposium, the NCPC and the CFA also have created the Framework Plan. Launched in May, the Framework Plan looks at the way many view the capital city as being centered on the National Mall. According to MacSpadden, “the Framework Plan really is designed to broaden that image, to expand it and really make the whole city attractive to residents and visitors.”

MacSpadden feels today’s panel discussions will benefit the Framework Plan. “Part of this symposium really is focused on a lot of critical issues that will guide federal planning in Washington throughout the century,” she noted, “but also [will] really to help shape the Framework Plan.”

According to Elizabeth Miller, project manager for the Framework Plan and the symposium, there has been a large amount of interest in the symposium, with more than 200 attendees already pre-registered for each of today’s panels. Miller also believes that today’s events will continue the dialogue set out by the Framework Plan and that “there may be some things that come out of the symposium that deserve a more in-depth look, and that could be the subject of another event in and of itself.”

For the time being, however, “Framing a Capital City” coordinators are excited to simply hear the dialogue regarding future planning of the city and to provide attendees the same opportunity. As MacSpadden noted, “People will really have an opportunity to engage, to learn, not just about the history of the capital city, but also what efforts they may want to get interested in helping in terms of shaping its future.”

A full schedule of the symposium’s events can be accessed at www.nbm.org.