The Master Plan for the Washington National Cathedral Close restores a significant American place and an important work of Frederick Law Olmsted. Located atop Mt. St. Alban, the Washington National Cathedral sits on one of the highest peaks surrounding the Potomac River basin and the monumental core of Washington, D.C. The original siting of the Cathedral and its grounds as conceived by Olmsted, marries an extraordinary site sensitivity with tradition-bound features of a cathedral close. Unfortunately, development since the turn of the century has done more to challenge than support many of Olmsted’s original intentions and a central challenge of the new master plan was to accommodate new development and modern-day requirements within Olmsted’s central precepts. The restoration of his original concepts, and the creation of new ones such as the vision of the rear of the cathedral as a small English village, were key.
The plan was designed in a series of on-site charrettes, which progressed from the programming of future needs to the development of specific building sites and envelopes. The charrette process was instrumental in building consensus for the master plan from within the twelve separate institutions and ancilliary organizations that sit within the Close. The final plan distills these formal exercises into a set of guidelines or General Recommendations that will guide development as the Cathedral enters its second century of service.