A course in the National Building Museum echoes architects' visions for our nation's capital.

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.

Photo credit: Alison Dunn Photography (left); SoM | The Al Hamra Firdous Tower © Pawel Sulima (right)

ASLA

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.

Photo credit: Alison Dunn Photography
Photo credit: ZGF Architects LLP

OLIN

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.  

Photo credit: National Building Museum
Courtesy of the Canal Park Development Association, Inc.

INSCAPE STUDIO

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.

Photo credit: Inscape Studio (left); Inscape Studio (right)

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.

Photo credit: Wiencek + Associates (left); Wiencek + Associates Edgewood Terrace, renovation of a HUD mixed-use residential project in D.C. (right)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Police line up outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as protests against the killing of George Floyd continue.
    Perspective

    America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress

    Architects and planners have an obligation to protect health, safety and welfare through the spaces we design. As the George Floyd protests reveal, we’ve failed.

  2. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  3. Equity

    What Happened to Crime in Camden?

    Often ranked as one of the deadliest cities in America, Camden, New Jersey, ended 2017 with its lowest homicide rate since the 1980s.

  4. A participant holding a Defund Police sign at the protest in Brooklyn.
    Equity

    The Movement Behind LA's Decision to Cut Its Police Budget

    As national protesters call for defunding police, a movement for anti-racist “people’s budgets” is spreading from LA to Nashville to Grand Rapids.

  5. photo: Police in riot gear march down Plymouth Avenue during riots in North Minneapolis on July 21, 1967.
    Equity

    Why This Started in Minneapolis

    Conditions that led to George Floyd’s death are not unique to Minneapolis and St. Paul. But there’s a reason why the Twin Cities triggered a national uprising.

×