AECOM is one of the world’s largest and most recognisable infrastructure consultation firms. It is one of the few infrastructure companies that is also a Fortune 500 company. They deal with a wide variety of projects across several different scales and infrastructure disciplines. These include architecture, urban design, landscape design, asset advisory, construction management, interior architecture, and many more that have set a standard in terms of what can be achieved in the field of architecture and construction. Having close to fifty thousand employees across many different countries, their projects often differ in architectural style and language. This often leads to several projects needing a defined identity to AECOM but also gives a solid platform for architects and engineers to explore different ideas. 

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An overview of the proposal. _©

AECOM’s architectural language and intent across most projects are often eccentric and push boundaries by incorporating different efficient technologies into their design. However, there is a project that has gone under the radar regarding its significance and the impact it could have had on a city. This is the Washington Monumental Core Framework Plan. 

The inception of the design and the necessity for a new framework

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The framework plan proposal by AECOM. _©

Washington’s National Mall is a place filled with rich symbolic history that honors the heroes and the cultural heritage of the United States. This proposal aimed to ensure that it enhanced the existing assets of the National Mall to preserve its historical aspects that are now overused and commercialised. In doing this, the design also had to facilitate and accommodate the city’s broader needs in the 21st century, allowing museums and federal offices to also be a part of this framework. The design had to mix and integrate with the undervalued assets of Washington, such as waterfronts, the historical buildings that are present, and even the parks. The goal of AECOM was to create a holistic framework that does not necessarily create a new identity for Washington but rather a facilitated and enhanced version of its formal self. Protecting the National Mall from overuse, creating better connections with the city, allowing the stagnant spaces around to facilitate the Mall, and creating an “eco-district” were the ultimate outcomes of the proposal. 

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Enhancing the streets. _©(Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall Monumental Core Framework Plan, no date)

The process of developing the framework plan

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Planning development 1. _©(Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall Monumental Core Framework Plan, no date)

AECOM’s first stage of design development here was given to the streets and understanding its role in creating efficient connections and new destinations for the city. Potential new hotspots in underutilised zones were identified across the major axes going through the National Mall. These, in turn, were connected through enhanced liminal spaces either physically or symbolically. 

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Identifying barriers. _©

One of the project’s goals is to integrate federal buildings and museums into the proposal’s framework. To execute this, a critical understanding of perceived and literal physical barriers between the National Museum and the federal buildings was done, along with the disconnect with the rest of the city. Unrealised public corridors were identified to re-knit the urban fabric, with the National Mall bringing back connection and relevance. 

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Efficient usage of spaces and connectivity. _©

Creating new connections and spaces for activities in a sensitive historical framework is challenging and a core aspect of design that the architects in AECOM tackled efficiently. Connecting with the waterfront was essential, emphasising the space around the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial. This area transforms into a distinguished and pedestrian-friendly zone with several controlled cohesive activities. 10th Street, in particular, becomes a highly efficient mixed-use corridor between the National Mall and the Waterfront. 

The four precincts around the National Mall were designed and connected sensitively to ensure that the historical significance of the framework is not affected but rather enhanced and celebrated through efficient urban planning

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The outcome of the analysis. _©

The framework plan was thus developed through a culmination of these various systems, considering the sensitive nature of the project. The plan sits on the nation’s capital, having symbolic relationships between the streets, existing destinations, new destinations, mixed-use zones, the city of Washington, and the people that visit the Mall. The idea of creating and utilising the waterfront was done efficiently by AECOM’s architects, which creates subtle connections to the National Mall and utilises the dead zones around it. Improved intersections and the addition of bicycle lanes adjacent to the pedestrian zones further helped connect the rest of the city and the waterfront. The framework has also identified infill opportunities, reuse opportunities, and development opportunities. The existing major axes that run through the National Mall are retained and have been further enhanced, exaggerating their significance in defining the framework plan. 

AECOM’s design proposal through the lens of the user

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Proposed waterfront mixed-use development. _©

The framework plan was developed considering all the key Urban Design Principles.  The design was always viewed from the user’s perspective and potential new visitors to one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. Legibility and layering were done by developing new destinations and enhancing existing ones. Bringing life back to the streets through pedestrianisation, building pedestrian bridges, dredging canals, and further developing existing freeways helps extend the influence of The National Mall to the waterfront and the rest of the city. 

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Enhanced pedestrian pathways. _©
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Re-envisioning existing spaces. _©

AECOM also looked at redeveloping the Forrestal building complex with increased pedestrianisation and tree cover to reduce the heat island effect and increase the value of the liminal spaces present. Creating a walkable public realm was the goal of the framework plan. The architects also looked to re-establish Maryland Avenue over an existing railway forming a part of the many unrealised habitable corridors. 

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Re-envisioning the highways around the National Mall. _ ©
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Re-shaping the shoreline sensitively. _©

The highway ramps coming into the National Mall have been reimagined as a mixed-use transit hub and a highly sociable space. Attention to detail across various scales proposes to stand out, and this attention to detail makes the project very sensitive. The dead spaces along the shorelines have also been dealt with efficiently, creating various landscapes, walkways, and bridges that spread out into different parts of the city. 

In conclusion

The proposed Potomac Park. _©

The Washington Monumental Core Framework proposal by AECOM is a project that often goes under the radar among the company’s vast portfolio of works. The project proposal is grounded and sensitive and celebrates the connections the city has with its inhabitants across various scales. The framework respects the sensitivities of the place and looks to enhance different zones by emphasising the liminal spaces that connect it. The framework is a good example of an efficient urban design, where a like-minded team methodically approaches every layer of the design through the lens of the users. 


Monumental core framework plan Washington, D.C. (no date) ASLA 2011 Professional Awards | Monumental Core Framework Plan: Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall. Available at: (Accessed: April 20, 2023).

 2011 ASLA Professional Awards {11} planning and design honor award: Washington Monumental Core Framework Plan, USA / AECOM (no date) 谷德设计网. Available at: (Accessed: April 20, 2023).

(no date) Planning history. Available at: (Accessed: April 20, 2023). 

Happy 20th legacy! (no date) National Capital Planning Commission. Available at: (Accessed: April 19, 2023). 

(Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall Monumental Core Framework Plan, no date)

(Koster and Herbig, 2010)


Naveen Raju is an assiduous Master of Architecture student at the University of Sydney. He is a curious individual who questions stringent ideologies and believes architecture is a positive facilitator for the communities it caters to. His main interests lie in understanding climate change, organic settlements and playing his piano!