Delta Urbanism Reflection

Living in Washington DC currently, I found this as the perfect opportunity to analyze one of the popular attractions on the national mall, the Tidal Basin. The map I drew displays three major waterways in DC, as well as the Lincoln memorial and our university’s campus. Created in the 1880’s, the basin was designed to function as a form of flushing the Washington channel, a harbor off of the Potomac river. Along with its key functionality, it was also meant to be a visually appealing. Water enters the basin during high tide from the Potomac river, while on the other side of the basin there is a closed gate which leads to the Washington channel. Once the tide begins to recede, the outflow of water closes the gates that divide the basin and the Potomac. Similarly, the gates that lead to the Washington channel are opened by the same means. Chapter 3 of the Delta Urbanism’s piece has a section titled “Polders In The Costal Landscape,” which describes similar technology that was used on a smaller scale in old Western Europe. Bobbink and Nijhuis describe a gated culvert with a hinging flap that closed from the high pressure of water. The tidal basin implements the same system: two gates which open and close based on the pressure of water from the change of the tides. This appeared in a section based on the costal landscape, and most harbor’s are built directly off the coastline. The Washington Channel being a harbor, this form of directing water is likely common in the construction and usage of harbors, and has successfully been implemented for hundreds of years. 

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3 thoughts on “Delta Urbanism Reflection

  1. Even though I have visited the Tidal basin multiple times, especially in the spring for the cherry blossoms, I never thought about this. It was interesting to understand the mechanism of the Tidal Basin from your reading. It is a fascinating similar mechanism was used in the Dutch. However, I didn’t understand the purpose of the Tidal Basin other than the esthetic reason from your reading. You said for ‘flushing’ and what do you mean by that? Is it to divide the water between the Washington Channel and Potomac? Maintain a certain level of water level? Or to prevent flooding?

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  2. It was always meant to be recreational, with the purpose of the gating system within the basin to feed the harbor directly below it. But given its proximity to the national mall, along with having the Jefferson memorial built next to it, I’m sure they had a decorative intent for the basin since its inception.

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  3. Detail on the tidal basin’s operation is helpful here–I’ve never really thought to learn about that. Was its particular form also meant to be recreational or memorial/decorative from the beginning?

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