I’m currently in Washington, DC, and was reading an article about the Cherry Blossoms, which reminded me of a really optimistic, peppy Herb Albert tune from 1967. You can watch it right here in this post – and you may need it after reading this.
Turns out, the Tidal Basin, one of Washington’s main tourist attractions, home to the just-blooming cherry blossoms, and surrounded with America’s most beloved Memorial monuments, is in big trouble, and not so far in the future, either.
From the April 2021 Washingtonian article by Daniella Byck, the timeline of events is scary:
Timeline (high tide figures shown):
- 2040: Jefferson Memorial will stand in four feet of water
- 2070: The MLK Memorial will stand in six feet of water
- 2100: the FDR Memorial will stand in nine feet of water
…if the area is left without any intervention and climate change continues at predicted pace
Already, the cherry blossoms are in danger, with the 3800 cherry tree roots in brackish water from the Potomac River twice a day at high tide. Sea-level rise is faster in Washington than anywhere else on the US East Coast, causing Washington to literally sink, predicted to sink half a foot by 2100.
What’s being done about it?
Well, aside from the overall effort to reduce climate change – a global effort of its own which seemed to fade into oblivion due to the onset of COVID-19 – there is a fascinating design challenge taking place amongst five architectural design firms, summarized in the article.
Have a look at this video which describes the backdrop of the challenge, called the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab:
As you watch, note how they discuss it in a project context – after all, these architectural design firms are projectized organizations.
Think of it as a pre-project design workshop. It is sponsored by the National Mall Trust
Below are some of the proposals – you can actually read the detailed proposals (in glorious PDF) here.
Entropy Solution: James Corner Field Operations
Multiple options including allowing the Basin to flood
Naturalist Approach: GGN
Incremental change over the next 70 years, including the creation of floodplain forests
Hush Harbor: Hood Design Studio
Scenarios based on the ‘hush harbors’ which enslaved people met to worship, new floodgates, an elevated track and others.
The Jetties: DLANDstudio
Create more land to absorb water and provide alternate pathways to the memorials, some of which are moved to elevated jetties.
The High Lines: Reed Hilderbrand
Create ‘adventure’ walkways for a variety of experiences for tourists, rebuild the seawall as a pathway with terraces.
So, there is some hope. And now, maybe you’re ready for that upbeat video. After all, once we get one of those excellent Project (actually probably a Program) Managers on it, it’ll be reality before you know it!