28 February 2013
Dear Ms. Trowbridge:
In its meeting of 21 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the proposal for a new access ramp and stairway on the north side of the National Museum of the American Indian at 3rd Street and Maryland Avenue, SW, on the National Mall. Expressing concern about the impact of the proposed changes to the museum's landscape setting, the Commission did not take an action and requested a revised concept submission.
The Commission members emphasized the strength of the original design intent of having the landscape function as an integral part of the visitor experience. They questioned the necessity for a new access route—a shortcut that was never intended through this symbolic landscape—and they expressed reluctance to see permanent changes made to such a fundamental design feature. The Commission strongly encouraged the Smithsonian Institution to explore other means for wayfinding and identification through less intrusive interventions such as signage. However, in consideration of the museum's perceived need, the Commission members commented that the addition of only a ramp may be acceptable, provided it is as minimal as possible and designed to enhance the visitor's experience and the interpretation of this landscape.
The Commission looks forward to review of a new design concept supported by a broader wayfinding program. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
cc: Kevin Gover, National Museum of the American Indian
Last Modified: March 1, 2013