Harvard Graduate School of Design, Fall 2017

Option Studio, Instructor: Emanuel Christ & Christoph Gantenbein

Site: Washington DC, USA

Monument for Kathrine Switzer
– The First Women to Officially Run Boston Marathon

One of the biggest stories from the 2017 Boston Marathon on April 17th was how Kathrine Switzer – the first women to complete the race as a registered entrant in 1967 – competed in the race again, 50 years after her historic first run.

In 1967, Switzer, then 20 years old, used her initials to sign up for the race, and officials assumed she was a man. During her run, race official Jock Semple attempted to stop Switzer and grab her official bib; however, he was shoved to the ground by Switzer’s boyfriend, who was running with her, and she completed the race. “I wasn’t trying to break any barriers,” as Switzer reflected on the incident at the age of 70, “It wasn’t until a race official attacked me during the run did I become determined to finish and speak out on behalf of all women.”1 It was not until 1972 that women were allowed to run the Boston Marathon officially, and not until the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were women allowed to participate in the Olympic Marathon.

The monument for Kathrine Switzer is the one that refers to the linear architectural typology, and should be an occupiable gathering space for the public. One major category of reference is sports arena/stadium in Ancient Greece and the Sambadrome in Brazil. Other reference include linear monuments that follows the topography and landscape, while also have a powerful expression due to their incredible length.

This project is a 42-kilometer trajectory that originates from the woods near the Potomac River outside of the Washington D.C., meanders through the landscape, hits right into one of the major masculine monuments – the Lincoln Memorial, and then continues its way through the city, extending into the nature again. In contrast with the rigid super-imposed neoclassical McMillan plan and the monuments dedicated to male figures, the plan of the Monument to Kathrin Switzer is organic and free, following the natural topography and the shape of the riverside. Instead of posing a distinctive object, this monument is one that involves the experience of time, and emphasizes on the process of encounter, producing a journey that has ups and downs on its way, rather than building up a ritual that culminates at the end.

 © 2019 by Meng Jiang.

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