WASHINGTON DC USA
Re-Think RETERRITORIALIZE Dupont Circle
The Dupont Circle neighborhood is a vibrant historic district with a busy calendar of activities. Representing new powers, each of these activities is an ingredient enriching the reterritorialization of the area. Gradually transformed into one of the most iconic neighborhoods in the city, it hosts many cultural expressions, celebratory events, and performances. Adrenaline-high events such as demonstrations, marches, the Snowball Fight, or the High Heel Race bring together a diversity of people to protest or have fun. The neighborhood also provides space for relaxing activities such as museum visits and gallery walking tours, shop hopping, Sunday Farmers’ Market stroll, or a casual chat at a peaceful café. The character of the area is the result of the juxtaposition of these activities, an assemblage collected by the desire and free-will of the diversity of its citizens, energized by dozens of think tanks, research centers, and non-profit organizations, in addition to the more than seventy embassies and international organizations aiding to its unique cultural pollination.
Devised for a different time and transit speed, the round traffic node built after the Civil War hinged on L’Enfant’s baroque planning that idealized squares and traffic circles as parks. The District of Columbia is no foreign to the planning struggle of the ideal American city with the evolution of more efficient modes of transportation, each bringing a dose of spatial conflict and subsequent chaos to the space-in-between buildings. Streets planned for carriages gave way to the tramway, the trolley, the automobile, buses, the entrances to the subway system, bicycle lanes, scooters.
Each replacement or additional means of transportation squeezed the available right-of-way through a space negotiation where nothing is ideal, but everything is just a compromise. Efficiency to traverse the city has caused the deterritorialization and fragmentation of the pedestrian continuity around Dupont Circle, a place where, according to research, ranks among the most dangerous areas for pedestrians in D.C. due to a large number of car-on-person collisions. The once envisioned easy-to-reach Dupont Park turned into a traffic island that precludes its best use. Photographic records show that meandering paths within the circle had a recreational nature, one that is opposite to the current diametrical and more utilitarian pedestrian connectors addressing the axial orientation of the major thoroughfares.
Without limiting the traffic capacity, the proposal considers adjusting the turning radiuses of all corners to reclaim pedestrian areas in favor of shorter and safer crosswalks. It is the first step leading to a sequence of interventions that facilitate the relationship between the different contextual elements. It is a rebalancing of urban space, a reterritorialization of the walkable realm, not the beginning, neither the end, only a fine-tuning process. Outdoor terraces, designated bicycle parking spaces, and more greenery are some benefits of reclaiming sidewalk space. Stairs implemented in the reterritorialized space help bridge the circle without using the pedestrian crosswalks at grade, reducing the risks of car-on-person collisions. The locations of the stairs connecting the bridges are next to most of the Dupont Underground entrances. The bridges connect to an elevated ring that follows the circular pedestrian path below. The ring provides a stroll among tree canopies, an alternative experience of the park for the pleasure of nature-depleted urbanites, birdwatchers, or for people who can’t wait for the traffic signal to change. Requiring considerable length, the circle provides enough space for ADA-compliant ramps.