Mcmillan Sand Filtration Plant
I have posted once before about the Mcmillan Reservoir Sand Filtration Plant here, but I had to take all my photos from behind the outer fence. Last weekend I had the opportunity to gain access to the site and to explore the amazing industrial ruins. The place has an incredible scale, stretching across several blocks of the city. There is nowhere else but the National Mall where one can experience such a large swath of unbuilt land within the District. Built in 1905, this vast machine acted as the city’s water filtration system until 1986 when it was replaced by the nearby chemical treatment plant. The DC government purchased the site from the Federal government in 1987 for $9.3 million with the intention of developing it, but it has sat dormant ever since and the lack of maintenance is sorely showing. The city finally seems ready to act and they have hired a design team whose schematic concepts for the site can be seen here: Envision Mcmillan. There is also a great deal of resistance to these plans from local community groups including Friends of Mcmillan and Our Mcmillan. These groups say that the current plan favors high-rise construction over green space and that the design does not respect the historical character of the site. I would argue that new construction on the site in general is a positive thing. Currently it is only enjoyed by squirrels and birds and the lack of maintenance is destroying the historically significant and aesthetically pleasing buildings. On the other hand, it would be a great tragedy to simply demolish all existing conditions and erect new buildings with no memory. It would also be a shame to lose the expansive character of the current green space, and I would hope that as much of the open field could be as undisturbed as possible. The structures themselves are proportionally pleasing cylindrical forms that were originally built for a utilitarian engineering purposes, and because of that, they appear to be “modern” in a way that other buildings of that time period appear dated. These buildings should be re-purposed and incorporated into a contemporary design scheme, which would be sustainable since less new construction would be needed.