Man owns the straight line. Mother Nature owns everything else. 

I first understood this truth during my architectural history class in college. We were comparing the sculpted symmetry of Versailles gardens versus the more natural English country gardens. For all of the other ways King Louis XIII demonstrably showed his power, I would argue that none is more impressive than his conquering of nature with axis after axis and nearly unlimited vistas.

That's why I love Washington, D.C. A Frenchman, Pierre l'Enfant planned our capital city. He understood the power of the axis and the strict geometric relationships between spaces and objects. It makes for a magnificent walking experience. The destinations are clearly visible, yet not easily attainable.

I was initially dumbfounded that the National Mall is overseen by the National Park Service. No more.

It's America's clearest example of using man's command of the straight line to harness the power of nature. Mother Nature can claim the rest of our wonderful national parks.


 

Andrew Barnard, AIA, LEED AP is president of Denver-based architecture and design firm Sink Combs Dethlefs.