The Education Plaza That Could Have Been
With all the grumbling surrounding Frank Gehry's designs for the Eisenhower Memorial, it seemed timely to dig out a concept that once emerged as an alternative for the barren space in front of the Department of Education Building: A park devoted to, well, education. Back in 2001, the Project for Public Spaces–which has since inaugurated the existing plaza into its Hall of Shame–worked with the General Services Administration's newly created Good Neighbors Urban Design program to craft a place that would show how parks can be used to teach everything from biology to history and art. PPS Vice President Cynthia Nikitin helped work up a plan.
"The overall concept for this place–generated via meetings with stakeholders, other area institutions, staff and tenants–was to create and Education Plaza with ongoing changing, permanent and temporary programs and activities, opening up the cafeteria to the plaza, and capturing the millions of schoolkids pouring into the Air and Space Museum across the street who never set foot on or had a reason to go to the Dept of Education," she writes in an email. "How to bring their target audience across Independence Avenue and provide enticing edu-tainment events and destinations was a key goal."
Instead, in 2005 the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission designated the space for a memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower, and the dream of an education plaza–which I imagine as something like the grounds outside the U.S. Botanic Garden–was dashed. And the resulting commemorative space will probably be deader for it.
A full presentation illustrating the concept after the jump.