Brett Rodgers, a spokesman for the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., freely admits that the architecture of mini golf usually offers "kooky structures" more at home in the suburbs than standing up to the architectural pageantry of our nation’s capital.
"There’s not a lot of mini golf in D.C.," he says. "I think there’s one course at a bar." (It’s true.)
Still, the museum has corralled a collection of international and local firms to host a high-concept indoor mini golf course for the summer. "It was our chance to straddle the line," Rodgers says.
Big names like Chicago skyscraper designers Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (responsible for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the new One World Trade Center) and landscape architects OLIN (who redesigned New York’s Bryant Park) helped create kid-sized holes for the course. Many of the designers couldn’t resist embedding references to the design process itself by making the mini golf holes into living maps of real places and projects, and using big-scale techniques for the mini golfers to navigate.
SKIDMORE, OWINGS & MERRILL
Skyscraper builders Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, took their design down to ground level by building a hole that doubled as a topography map of famously height-restricted Washington, D.C. The ball follows the path traced through the city by the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Designers used the same digital software they use in their larger-scale projects. The texture echoes the façade of their building in Al Hamra Firdous Tower in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
The American Society of Landscape Architects sponsored a hole designed by students at Virginia Tech called "Take Back the Streets!," all about reducing the amount of street dedicated to cars. Stormwater management systems and bikers trap the ball. The design was inspired in part by the street redesign below in Portland, Oregon.
Philadelphia-based landscape architects OLIN have been working on Canal Park in D.C.’s southeast quadrant. The final design will feature glowing cubes like the ones looming over the hole.
Local D.C. firm Inscape Studio was sponsored by a developer with a major residential project going up on D.C.’s newest nightlife corridor, H Street NE (home of that same bar with the mini golf course.) Inscape abstracted the street grid in the neighborhood to create their hole. Players start the ball on the orange bridge representing the overpass from Union Station on one end of the corridor and make a turnaround at the purple circle standing for the intersection of two diagonal roads.
WIENCEK + ASSOCIATES
By tilting the floor, sidewalls and translucent roof in toward a vanishing point, D.C. architects Wiencek + Associates used the technique of forced perspective to give golfers the feeling of looking down the National Mall.
Wiencek used perspective as a design tool in the courtyard of Edgewood Terrace, a Northeast D.C. HUD residential project. The angles and intersections in the plaza make the formerly high-crime development more welcoming to the public, but not too welcoming - the wiggly lines discourage loitering. The pattern provides a bold view for high-rise residents looking down.