Marabar Moving

John Hill
4. January 2022
Photo: Elyn Zimmerman Studio/Wikimedia Commons

MARABAR, Elyn Zimmerman's site-specific installation in Washington, DC, that was saved from demolition last year, has found a new home: the campus of American University, just four miles northwest of the monumental artwork's original location.

When we last reported on the fate of MARABAR, in March 2021, the site of the installation's relocation was unknown. For sure it would not end up in Washington Canal Park, a spot first proposed by the National Geographic Society (NGS), the steward of MARABAR since its installation on their campus in 1984; that public site was opposed by the artist and the Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), which successfully advocated to save the artwork, starting its efforts in March 2020. So the lingering question after last year's good news was if MARABAR — a site-specific artwork consisting of a handful of large boulders totaling one million pounds astride a linear pool — would find a home with qualities similar to those at NGS, where it served as an entry plaza to two mid-rise buildings. 

The grass oval at American University where MARABAR will be moved, reconfigured, and given a new name. (Photo: Google Maps)

A report at the New York Times on December 28 reveals that MARABAR will be moved to a site on the campus of American University that is "currently a grassy oval rimmed by crepe myrtles and park benches, across the street from the university’s Katzen Art Center." Although less intimate than the NGS setting, the artwork will be highly visible due to its siting just steps from the heavily used Ward Circle roundabout (just east of the above aerial). The relocation has prompted Zimmerman, now 76, to modify her original layout of boulders and water: "Rather than one long rectangular faux-stream, the fountain will be crescent shaped," per the Times, which has a plan of the installation on the oval lawn.

The removal of MARABAR started at NGS in December, with plans to install it at American University in the summer of 2022. The original's name was taken from the fictional caves in A Passage to India, the 1924 novel by E. M. Forster, but that will change once it's relocated. "It’s not going to be 'Marabar' anymore," Zimmerman told the Times. "It will be something new."

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