The Transparency of Democracy: A Lefebvrean Analysis of Washington's Nationals Park

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In 2008, the Washington Nationals began play in their new stadium, Nationals Park, which has been subsidized with $611 million of public money from the city of Washington, D.C. According to lead architect Joseph Spear of HOK Sport, "the transparency of democracy" (as qtd. in Nakamura, 2005a, p. B1) is one of the stadium's primary design themes, as Spear was inspired by the city's global image and role in American political life. Using faux-limestone made from precast concrete to look similar to Washington's myriad of federal buildings and glass to provide transparency, designers claim that Nationals Park is an inclusive space, which promotes civic cohesion and economic growth along the Anacostia River. However, similar to the way that the practice of democracy diverges from Washington's democratic image as the city's 586,000 residents are denied political representation in the United States Congress, Nationals Park is actually an exclusionary space as high prices and highly segregated spaces belie the designers' stated intentions.

This dissertation examines the contradictions between National Park's image and practice through exploring the spatial politics expressed in and through the process approving the stadium, the various economic redevelopment initiatives of Mayor Anthony Williams' administration, the stadium's architecture, and the elimination of the site's previous use as a sexually-oriented space catering to Washington's LGBT community. To do so, this dissertation utilizes the theories and methods of Henri Lefebvre, who examined space as being constitutive and reflective of dominant social relations towards changing those relations to create a more democratic society in which people could create their own lives free from exploitation and alienation. As such, this dissertation investigates Nationals Park not for its own sake, but as a lens through which to examine the ideologies and practices that define the relationships between governments and citizens, communities and individuals, and people with one another within the contemporary moment.