Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation


Washington National Cathedral Visitor Gateway

Washington, DC

173,000 GSF, 16,072 M2

Architecture, Interior Architecture, Lighting Design, Programming

Award of Excellence -- Institutional Architecture, Award of Merit, District of Columbia Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation -- Design and Construction

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“The Visitor Gateway structure is "a massive act of hospitality."”

—Samuel T Lloyd III, Dean, Ntnl Cathedral


A renowned destination for religious pilgrimages and tourism alike, this landmark suffered from vehicle bottlenecks and a haphazard visitor experience before engaging SmithGroupJJR to create a new arrival sequence. The client group saw both a serious logistical concern affecting safety, security and aesthetics, as well as a threat to cherished neighbor relations.

To properly welcome hundreds of thousands of guests annually, the firm worked out longstanding conflicts between city traffic, area residents, and high tourist volume. Of equal importance was the integrity of the century-old cathedral and its 59-acre grounds, “the Close," designed by Frederick L. Olmsted, Jr. -- both listed in the National Register.

A surprisingly elegant solution resolves the divergent goals of preservation and accessibility: Underground parking for 415 cars and 18 buses, with little visible change to the revered landscape. The innovation actually comprises two concealed structures -- one for cars, one for buses -- eliminating congestion and adding site amenities and lighting. The processional quality of arrival and its gesture of hospitality have garnered critical acclaim.

Related Content

Arch Daily Features the Visitor Gateway
Check out renderings and photos of the project.

Washington National Cathedral
The Cathedral is a national treasure and an architectural feat. Read more about it.