If you’re lucky enough to visit Washington, D.C., on a clear, sunny day and find yourself on the green of the National Mall, you can once again visit the top of the Washington Monument for sweeping views of the capital—that is, after you pass through security.
After closing for renovations over three years ago, today the Washington Monument reopens to the public, along with a new $10.7 million visitor screening center designed by Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB). The firm was tasked by the National Park Service (NPS) with creating a durable annex that enhances the safety of the popular tourist site while optimizing the flow of foot traffic through the obelisk. Some one million visitors are expected to pass through the new screening center this year.
To accommodate the heightened security measures that followed 9/11, a temporary station was installed at the base of the 555-foot-tall monument, but the NPS recognized that it was only a quick fix. BBB’s design for the small-but-formidable glass-and-steel visitor entrance defers to and quietly complements the soaring stone structure from 1888. The new building can hold up to 20 people in a line and also has a staff restroom and additional security office.
In New York, FXCollaborative, which completed the Statue of Liberty Museum earlier this year, has also unveiled a new visitor screening center for the monument. The 4,000-square-foot building of precast concrete is nestled next to the base of the Richard Morris Hunt–designed statue on Liberty Island, replacing a security tent that consistently needed repairs from weather damage.
Now, 18 years after the terrorist attacks, it’s unlikely the public will ever again tour a piece of American history in the laissez-faire manner of decades past. Precautionary barriers to entry are here to stay, and architects are responding by designing permanent spaces to make those extra minutes spent in security purgatory more enjoyable—or at least, inoffensive.