How Would You Spruce Up the Washington Monument Grounds?

The nation’s most famous obelisk may hold the disappointingly abstract key to (spoiler alert!) Dan Brown‘s latest conspiracy caper, but it’s always been lacking in the landscaping department. Although the Washington Monument is the defining feature of the D.C. skyline and the centerpiece of the National Mall, at ground level its vast open space remains unfinished and underutilized. Not to worry, monument fans! It’s nothing that a good old-fashioned National Ideas Competition can’t solve. Channel your waning Election Day patriotism into developing an innovative and creative idea for making the Washington Monument grounds more welcoming, educational, and effectively used by the public. That’s the challenge offered by the National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds, which is accepting entries through December 18 (register here by November 30 to participate). Anything goes, so think big—elaborate use of native plants, bold architectural statements, a mime-staffed kiosk that distributes free puppies and ice cream. A jury of historians, architects, and critics (including the monumentally astute Sara Hart) will select 25 semifinalists to translate their ideas into preliminary proposals suitable for public exhibition and then further trim the field to five finalists that will present to the competition’s steering committee. The winner will be determined next summer by a public vote.