The National Park Service announced plans today for a new visitors’ center at the Washington Monument.
In a press conference this morning, officials unveiled the final design for the long-delayed project. The new addition — in the shape of two large spheres attached to the monument's base — hopes to increase revenue generation from the historic site.
The structure will house exhibits on President George Washington’s life, a security screening area, and a gift shop. It will cost an estimated $20 million to build and is expected to be completed in 2019.
“The idea for a visitors center has been floated around for several years,” says Park Service spokesperson Chuck Wilson. “With thousands of tourists a year, it has become necessary for us to add additional amenities to the site.
“For years we were stuck on the design. We met with hundreds of different architects. But when a local firm proposed this gorgeous dual-sphere structure, we knew immediately we had to build it. It blends perfectly with the surroundings.”
The Washington Monument was completed in 1884 after 36 years of construction. The 555-foot obelisk was briefly the tallest building in the world, before being overtaken by the Eiffel Tower five years later.
The original design called for a large circular colonnade to cover the lower reaches of the tower, but the Civil War and budgetary constraints forced those plans to be scaled back. The resulting stiff, spartan structure has often been cited as an example of phallic architecture.
“The Washington Monument Visitors’ Center will be the first major project in the capital region to be certified LEED platinum,” explains Wilson. “This means it will follow the strictest of environmental building standards in the world.”
Some local Washington residents, however, are more concerned about the project’s aesthetics than its environmental impact. Specifically, many believe the new spheres will enhance the monument’s notoriously erect reputation.
“I know this sounds kinda crazy. But with this new addition, doesn't the Washington Monument kinda look like a penis and balls?” says John Anderson, a lawyer who takes his morning jog along the National Mall.
“Am I the only one noticing this? I don’t want to seem like a pervert or anything. But I feel like I shouldn’t be the only one noticing this.”