Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House

Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House

Washington, DC, USA

CLIENT National Competition for Government Services Administration / STATUS Competition 2002 / DESIGN TEAM Balmori Associates

The National Capital Planning Commission initiated a competition to create a plan for a safe and beautiful civic space on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. Currently blocked with jersey barriers and police cars, the avenue has not been open to vehicular traffic since President Clinton ordered it closed in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing.  In light of increased national security, the competition sought innovative solutions to integrate security with urban landscape design.

Balmori Associates proposal reinstates Pennsylvania Avenue’s civic prominence.  The plan uses subtle grading shifts to visually elevate the White House and provide security at the intersections of 15th and 17th Streets.  The expanse of the former six lane road is transformed into a dignified pedestrian boulevard through a rhythmic placing of trees, urban furniture and atmospheric lighting. Directly in front of the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue is lowered slightly to reveal three steps. This inflection creates a platform and frames a view of the White House.  The elegant bowing of the grade smoothly reverses itself by rising at the ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to provide the required security barrier in the form of a civic entry staircase.  This promenade is easily converted from a pedestrian plaza to a parade route for inaugurations and other events and guard posts are integrated into a separate security and future trolley circulator on the Lafayette Park side of Pennsylvania Avenue.