[Editor's Note: Following the unveiling of proposals to redesign the National Mall, AN will be running a three-part series to display the proposals for each of the three segments of the Mall: Constitution Gardens, Union Square, and the Washington Monument Grounds.]
A 50-acre parcel of the National Mall, Constitution Gardens, lies just north of the Reflecting Pool and east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Grade changes keep it somewhat hidden from the main stretch of the Mall, and many tourists (and locals) visit the monuments and Smithsonian museums without coming across it. The gardens’ focal point is a small lake with an island that visitors can access by footbridge. The National Park Service has struggled with the site’s poor soil conditions—the ground was dredged from the Potomac River back in the late 19th century—and with upkeep of the paths and other features.
The National Mall Plan of 2010 calls for an “architecturally unique, multipurpose visitor facility, including food service, retail, and restrooms” to be developed at the east end of the lake, as well as a flexible performance space.