USDA People’s Garden

Washington, DC

The Annapolis Landscape Architects team joined OLBN to address the grounds of two of the largest and most historically significant buildings on the National Mall, the headquarters of the United States Department of Agriculture. The north side of the Whitten Building fronts the Mall (NPS property) and was developed under the watchful eye of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., including well documented historic landscape architecture from the 1930s, which informed the proposed design of the People's Garden. The scope of work includes revisiting the Olmsted Brothers' design and applying an approach that addresses contemporary issues relevant to the local and national contexts. Overarching objectives include promoting agriculture, education and sustainability.

The concept of celebrating and abstracting patterns of urban agriculture as expressed in the historic realm, reflecting the mission of USDA in a proud and legible manner, is the underlying principle which grounds the entire aesthetic arrangement of the proposed garden.

In this spirit the relatively young existing organic garden extensive seasonal and perennial plantings are proposed to increase the annual urban harvest.  The design of these edible plantings is fully integrated with the National Mall and adjacent federal properties.  The Market Commons will accommodate the public and vendors under a proposed shade structure which also serves as a water harvesting device.  Agricultural planting beds demonstrate annual plants in commercial production.  Edible plantings serve to reinforce the importance of USDA’s mission.  Rain gardens, bioretention and bog gardens exemplify constructed natural systems for rainwater and stormwater treatment as well as featuring native plants and pollinator plants.  Rainwater harvested and reused in fountains, which are prominent in the pedestrian circulation and double as perimeter security elements.  Additionally, parking courts are retrofitted to include permeable paving for stormwater management.  Perimeter security improvements are integrated with planting to provide minimal visual presence while updating security. 

The People's Garden and Perimeter Security project was approved by the Commission of Fine Arts in June 2014,

Client:  OLBN / USDA
Architect:  OLBN