Washington was created to be and is our capital, the place where the functions of government take place at the highest level. In planning any part of Washington's monumental core, I believe we'd all agree that one highly desirable result would be winding up some new features or tools that would let us govern ourselves even a little bit better: Tools that would let the three branches of our government work together better; Tools that inspired us to be better citizens; New features that helped not only the coming generations of Americans understand how American democracy works but help people around the world as they try to create democracies in their countries.
The tool that I propose is The Center of Balance of American Democracy, or perhaps "The Center" or "The Fulcrum" or "Balance Point" for short.
It would function as the center, in a number of ways and on several levels.
- Center stage where Americans could gather and speak and listen about issues that concern them.
- Focal point for rallies, marches, demonstrations, marathons and group walks and parades (perhaps tens of millions of dollars of lost time could be saved each year if those civic activities of this type which now can shut down Pennsylvania, Constitution and Independence avenues were instead, re-positioned around the Focal Point/Center/Balance Point.
- Learning place for school children, tourists making a once in a lifetime visit, semester-in-Washington students, and students from newly emerging democracies around the world studying how to make their democracies at least as successful as ours;
- Perhaps even someday, we might inaugurate our Presidents there;
- And perhaps most importantly, the place to meet for leaders of the different branches of government when negotiations are needed at the highest level. There wouldn't always be a question about whose turf to meet on, or what neutral turf to travel to, the President and Congressional leaders could come to the Balance Point, or Center, or whatever we're calling it and try to find common ground and work out a balanced agreement. The Old Castle Building of the Smithsonian would be an excellent candidate for re-purposing for this function.
The Equilateral Triangle that Surrounds the Center Point
- Draw a line between the Capitol and White House, that serves as one side of an equilateral triangle;
- Draw a line between the White House and a place perhaps 200 feet southeast of where Buckeye Drive and the Southwest Freeway access road meet in East Potomac Park. In the attached map, http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=1342+4th+St+SW,+Washington+D.C.,+District+of+Columbia+20024&ll=38.886958,-77.025919&spn=0.034941,0.055189&z=14 it is located near the letter "a" in the word "East" -- that gives us the second side;
- And now draw a line between the Capitol and the same end point in East Potomac Park -- that gives us the third side of the equilateral triangle.
I'll try to post a more polished map later, though I'd certainly appreciate if if someone with more than my very limited drafting and mapping experience would join in and take it on.
Put a new Supreme Court Building at the East Potomac Park site. It places the headquarters of our three branches of government at the vertices of an equilateral, or balanced triangle reflecting the checks and balances and balance-of-power design of our government.
This is at least the fourth proposal in recent years to move the Court to a new building near the river. An NCPC plan discussed putting it near the foot of South Capitol Street. Arthur Cotton Moore offered a beautiful presentation in the Washingtonian Magazine http://nationalmall.net/pdf/0706-washtonian.pdf which proposed putting it on a new island south of the Jefferson Memorial. Milton Shinberg proposed extending the Mall to the West, and putting the Court on the far bank of the Potomac, west of the Lincoln Memorial. (Here's a link to an article about it. See page 42 at http://digital.turn-page.com/issue/22128/4) All of these proposals have merit and should be considered. I believe the particular strengths of the Equilateral Triangle & Center Point idea are its compactness and strength; the meaningfulness of the location of the Supreme Court; and in these less flush economic times it would be less costly than building a new large island in the river .
Geometry Refresher of the Day: the Center Point, or center of balance and center of gravity of an triangle is found by drawing three lines connecting each of the vertexes with the midpoint of the opposite side. The place where the lines meet for the Federal Equilateral Triangle is in the Haupt Garden just north of Independence Avenue at Tenth Street.
Thank you for your attention.