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Washington Monument Opens New Visitor Center

Monday, December 2, 2019

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After concluding a three-year-long renovation, the Washington Monument has opened back up to the public and includes a new 1,000-square-foot Visitor Screening facility.

The official opening for the new security facility took place in mid-September.

The Project

Reportedly 10 years in the making, the new $10.7 million entrance was designed by architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (BBB)—a firm retained by the National Park Service in 2010.

According to Hany Hassan, a Partner with BBB who managed the Washington Monument addition’s design process, said that designing the new screening facility was “the most daunting design challenge” of his career, and attributes the project’s challenges to the fact that an addition fundamentally changed the monument visually and experientially.

However, the firm was able to settle on a plan that incorporated a geothermal heating and cooling system, allowing visitors to have a clear, full-height view of the 555.5-foot-tall Washington Monument through the structure’s glass roof.

The rest of the structure was built on a concrete foundation and used heavy steel. The new facility also features a custom glazed exterior envelope with ballistic and blast protections, in addition to a series of security-equipped interior partitions.

Washington D.C.-based general contractor Grunley Construction was responsible for demolishing the previous 450-square-foot screening center—which was located directly against the monument’s base—and constructing the new facility.

NPR reports that the Washington Monument also received renovations to its existing elevator system. Previously, the elevator was reported to have various chronic issues, often leading to service interruptions and visitor evacuations down the structure’s 897 steps.

Inside, the blast-proof building features X-ray machines and a magnetometer for security, and an “interlock room” where visitors wait can wait to board the new elevator system.

"There's no way that a coordinated effort could be made by a group of terrorists to come into the monument," said Sean Kennealy, chief of the professional services division for the Park Service's National Mall and Memorial Parks. "Through those [observation deck] windows, you have a huge vantage point to do harm."

The renovation was funded through the Park Service’s annual budget, although, $3 million for the elevator renovations was received as a donation from billionaire financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein of Bethesda, Maryland.

The Washington Monument receives roughly 800,000 visitors per year, and is now offering same-day ticket options.

Previous Renovations

In May 2014, the Washington Monument concluded a 33-month long, $15 million repair program to mend cracks and chips atop the structure.

The 130-year-old stone monument, which sustained the damage during the earthquake that rattled the eastern U.S. in 2011, reopened to visitors May 12, according to the National Park Service.

A few months later, in February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Geodetic Survey reported that the monument had lost about 10 inches in height, after using certification standards of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

The same 2011 earthquake was reported to be the reason to conduct the "base-to-tip" survey on the structure. With damages rendering the monument closed, repair scaffolding was placed in 2012, while the NOAA and the NPS worked together to update the position of the structure's peak and determine the architectural height of the building.

The 2013-14 survey determined the earthquake "had no discernible impact on the settlement of the Washington Monument."

During the same survey, NGS used multiple measurements taken since 1901 and found the structure settles at two-hundredths of an inch per year. Therefore, it has settled just under 2 1/4 inches since 1901, none of which is attributable to the earthquake, NOAA said.

   

Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Commercial / Architectural; Construction; Funding; Government; Government contracts; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; Monuments; NA; National Park Service; North America; Projects - Commercial

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