Correction to This Article
This piece incorrectly stated the Web address of the National Ideas Competition competition in print. The url below is correct.

One monumental design opportunity

By James P. Clark
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ask my teenage son why he is hounding me to allow him to participate in the National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds, and he will say: "I want my idea to be part of history!"

The purpose of this competition is to encourage Americans to develop innovative and creative ideas for making the monument grounds more welcoming, educational and effectively used by the public. It is an appeal to designers and thinkers of all ages.

It's an intriguing space, to say the least. The Washington Monument grounds are huge -- equivalent to more than 28 football fields. Some believe that the grounds remain a big empty canvas filled with design potential, while others feel that the simplicity of the monument on the great green expanse is perfect as it is.

I have organized many design competitions, including the Interschool Design Competition held annually for more than a decade at the National Building Museum. What I enjoy most about them is the way they teach and allow people to share diverse viewpoints. This competition is designed to do that and more, spurring interest in American history, art, planning, landscape architecture and more. It will join the monument's legacy to its future, historical context and contemporary thinking.

On this page appear ideas that others have developed for this site during our nation's history. Each reflects the values and aspirations of Americans at a particular time. The National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds gives us the chance to ask what current values and aspirations our generation would see expressed on this site.

Have a look, and then reimagine the grounds for yourself. Anyone can do this. Register by Oct. 31 at and make your submission by mid-December. The first stage simply requires you to submit two 8½-by-11-inch pages of writing and/or graphics explaining your idea.

The competition is sponsored by universities, schools, individuals and design associations. It will be judged by an elite jury consisting of a futurist, an urban designer, an artist, a writer, a landscape architect and historians.

Participate, learn and be part of history!

The writer is chairman of the steering committee for the National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds.

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