For frequent visitors to the museum, the construction outside may seem as though it has been going on forever! Well, in a way, it has.
After September 11, 2001, the National Mall—and Washington, D.C., in general—saw a plethora of “jersey” barriers erupt around the city. These concrete barriers (yes, named after New Jersey where they were invented for use on highways) were on every corner, at every building-placed for the most part haphazardly and hurriedly. Not to mention bollards, which also appeared daily around the city. Although the need for security was real, it became evident that there was also a need for security that could work and yet not detract from the beauty of Washington and the Mall.
The Smithsonian Institution’s “Mall Perimeter Security Project” was initiated shortly after September 11 to prevent damage from potential car bombs and threats to the Smithsonian buildings. The goal was to provide the setbacks required by the Office of Protection Services while at the same time providing an open, inviting, and safe environment for visitors and staff, with minimal impact to the Mall. This was not even easier said than done and, at the outset, those of us involved in this project thought: “How on earth could we ever do this?”