A Green RFK Campus for Washington

People / Places / April 22, 2016

Soon, the 190-acre RFK Campus in Washington, D.C. will begin a transition from parking lot to green space.

Two new concepts from OMA propose ways to provide connections to nearby neighborhoods, to the city and to a pair of islands in the Anacostia River. In essence, they seek to transform the nature of the area from passive to active use.

“The site is composed of RFK stadium and the armory and then a lot of pavement,” says John Boardman of Events DC, a quasi-governmental group that manages the property. “What we’re trying to do is get away from the pavement and add elements that make it part of the community and the city at large.”

That means providing flow, access and integration – and making it a site that works for the community rather than lying dormant. Much of the pavement could become park space and performance areas – with access to the islands. “You have an absolutely spectacular waterfront – you could have pedestrian walkways to the islands,” he says.

Each of the two plans – one called the “Stitch” and the other the “North/South Axis” contains three anchor tenant scenarios – for a 20,000-seat arena, an NFL stadium and no anchor.

“Each contains a variety of programmed elements, and the stadium is only one,” he says. “You might have a concept with a farmers market, a splash pool, a concert bowl, and a sports arena, with different stakeholders for those who would use them.

All of the scenarios reflect a phased approach for short-term elements to activate the site immediately, with uses that will serve the surrounding community.  “It’s safe to say we could start looking at a band shell or a community garden or a farmers market, while planning for larger program elements and their placement could continue,” he says. “There’s nothing to impede the short term elements while considering the bigger elements of the site.”

It’s a reversal of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” – turn a 53-year-old paved parking lot into a 21st-century paradise .

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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