Dear Col. Austin:
In its public meeting of 15 October conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the final design submission for the Southern Expansion Project at Arlington National Cemetery. Commending the proposed landscape as an extraordinary addition to the cemetery, the Commission approved this component of the project, while requesting further study and presentation of the architectural components in response to the following comments.
The Commission members described the simplicity of the landscape design as enhancing the cemetery’s character of reverence; they noted that the sophisticated grading plan, developed at the concept phase and derived from the existing landscape, is critical in reinforcing the distinctive experiential quality of the cemetery. They expressed support for the adjustments to the design proposed at the entrance area between the existing Air Force Memorial and the new columbarium complex, which they said better emphasizes the progression of pedestrians through the site rather than the accommodation of vehicles.
The Commission members expressed general support for the restrained design of the architectural elements, which are intended to be subordinate to the wider landscape of the cemetery. They expressed appreciation for the simple, subtle detailing of the columbarium enclosures, particularly for the thoughtful incorporation of rills in the sides of the enclosures to manage the flow of rainwater; they observed that this registration of weathering can serve as a symbolic corollary to memory. In their discussion, they expressed concern about the documentation of some of the architectural elements, and they requested further presentation of elevations and details, as well as the precedents for these structures elsewhere within the cemetery. They observed that the committal shelter in particular may present the most compelling architectural experience at the cemetery, and they suggested further study of its details to heighten this significance—possibly considering the registration of the shelter’s form in the pattern of the pavement, the articulation and use of monolithic stone for the columns, the modeling of the profile at the oculus, and the tectonic expression of the roof structure.
The Commission is pleased to give its full support for the landscape design and looks forward to the presentation and resolution of the details of the architectural elements as described above to complete the final review. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Col. Thomas Austin, Director of Engineering
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211
cc: Greg Schwieterman, HNTB
Lee Becker, Hartman-Cox Architects
Elliot Rhodeside, Rhodeside & Harwell