Monday, February 02, 2009

Building Peace on the National Mall

Construction of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), is well under way at Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, NW – the so-called "war and peace corner" of the National Mall. Once a simply a surface parking lot for the neighboring Naval Potomac Annex, the site is due to be reborn as $185 million, LEED- certified testament to the United States' "commitment to building peace around the world."

The new 5-story white glass edifice will serve as the new headquarters for the USIP – a congressionally funded think tank dedicated to resolving international conflicts and increasing “peacebuilding capacity, tools, and intellectual capital worldwide” – in addition to serving a bevy educational purposes for the public at the large. The latter will be served by a 20,000 square foot Public Education Center for visitors that will count a “Peace Lab” and theatre sponsored by the Chevron Corporation among its publicly accessible features. These will be joined by a conference center that is planned to include a 230 seat auditorium, a 45 seat amphitheater and 8 meeting rooms, as well as a public plaza and garden in the Institute’s inner courtyard. The USIP’s three uppermost floors will house office space for the Institute’s 200 or so employees and rotating roster of visiting researchers.

Moshe Safdie and Associates was selected as architects, following a nationwide design competition. Composed of “three distinct sections linked together by atriums covered by large-span undulating roofs,” the new USIP will be clearly visible from the nearby Lincoln Memorial, as well the adjacent Korean War and Vietnam Veterans Memorials (the latter of which has too been singled out by Congress for a significant expansion).

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the new facility took place this past June, with both then President George W. Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in attendance. The project boasted bipartisan support in Congress as well - the body that allowed now disgraced former Alaska Senator and then-Senate Appropriations Chairman, Ted Stevens, to allot $100 million in funds for the development. USIP is currently in the midst of seeking approximately $6 million more in private donations – a quarter of which was met in September by the BP America Foundation.

USIP has been represented throughout the development process by local developer John Stranix, who is also currently spearheading efforts to redevelop the District’s Parkside Additions public housing project. Clark Construction is serving as general contractor on the project (a webcam of their progress at the site is available here). The project is expected to open in the fall of 2010.


Christian on Feb 3, 2009, 10:52:00 AM said...

I am glad to see this once barren cement lot turned into what the Mall has needed, an edifice dedicated to peace in an area dominated by monuments dedicated to war. That this will also beautify a major entry into DC is also significant. It makes great use of the site and the form is impressive. However, if find some irony in the fact that two of the major financial backers are Chevron (well-known for human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, see Bowoto v Chevron, and Ecaudor by subsidiary Texaco) and BP (see Prudoe Bay spill, sponsorship of Global Climate Coalition, investment in PetroChina Tibet operation).

Anonymous said...


Oh please. Now we can all sleep at night, knowing the Institute for Peace is here to help. Sure, the U.N. couldn't do the job, but this will do it. Fine, its a noble goal, but don't make too much of the distinction between this and the monuments "dedicated to war" - those are to remember those who fought and died, also a noble goal, and have achieved their aims. This? Not likely.

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