Landscape architecture is playing the central role in the repositioning of an entire city by transforming its public realm. Over the next several years, National Landing will emerge as one of the premier live-work neighborhoods in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) region, and Hoerr Schaudt’s comprehensive vision will provide the necessary guidance in how the programming and design of the park spaces and streetscape can coalesce holistically
across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., National Landing is a newly
defined district encompassing the existing neighborhoods of Crystal City,
Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard. The development comes at a time of enormous
growth for the region, driven in large part by its selection as Amazon’s new
HQ2 which will add 25,000 jobs and 6 million square feet of office space, and
thousands of new urban residential units to the district by 2035. This growing
tech and young professional community in the area presents a unique placemaking
opportunity for the development.
A relic of late mind-century, brutalist planning practices, Crystal City had become an unwelcoming and unfriendly place to be. Office buildings were old and tired, and vacancy rates were high due in large part to the Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) process – a massive decentralization of military staff and contractors that eviscerated the community. This was an auto-dominated environment devoid of any noticeable street life. Here, one would not come into Crystal City to stroll its streets and shop; one would drive in, park their car underground, migrate through a labyrinthine underground shopping mall, and then move into their respective office buildings.
As the development continues to take shape in anticipation of redevelopment, Hoerr Schaudt has provided guidance through the crafting of a comprehensive master plan for four miles of streetscape and fourteen park spaces within the area. The primary goal of these studies is to help drive the transformation of the community through improvements to the public realm, breathing new life into the district by providing a refreshed vision for its streets, plazas, and parks. By harnessing the power of horticulture to provide scale and working with community stakeholders to develop a menu and distribution plan for key program elements, we hope to humanize the public streetscape, turning National Landing into a pedestrian-friendly zone, restoring and rejuvenating the urban tree canopy, improving circulation, and ultimately creating a lush and verdant environment for everyone to enjoy.
Streets form the life blood of our urban environments and without them and the vitality they provide, a community is devoid of character. For years, Crystal City had suffered from this lack of vibrancy along its streets. A paucity of street level retail and activity had left most of its blocks windswept and desolate – areas that were unwelcoming to its inhabitants. The redevelopment of this district hinged upon reinvigorating the Crystal City streets through the introduction of new on-street retail, public plazas that would spill out from office towers and residential buildings, and verdant new park spaces providing a counterpoint to the surrounding urban density.
As a result of years of neglect, the district's streetscape had evolved in a highly piecemeal fashion. Little thought had been put into creating a sense of human comfort and scale along its corridors, and there was very little in the way of consistency in materiality of landscape to create a sense of cohesion and neighborhood.
Currently comprising approximately four miles of streets within the community, the steetscape environment of National Landing is substantial, and therefore must be engaging, consistent, and beautiful. Due in large part to our success in designing verdant, vibrant streetscapes across the country, Hoerr Schaudt was engaged to develop National Landing’s Streetscape Design Guidelines to achieve a sense of continuity, and to provide a comprehensive vision for the street network in the community.
The Streetscape Design Guidelines begin with a complete assessment of the condition and structure of the district’s street network. The study categorizes its collection of streets into four major typologies that would dictate the hierarchy, scale, function, and materiality of each street type. The guidelines are intended to serve as a toolkit for the numerous other design teams working within the district to craft streetscape designs that were consistent yet specific to each of their positions within National Landing. The guidelines make recommendations for the specific dimensions of the sidewalk environment, paving materiality, landscape treatments, and other features such as planter sizes, railings, and street furniture. The resulting document is a comprehensive guidebook that will serve to inform the multitude of development projects across the community while providing the much needed lift to the quality of its public realm.