East Basin Drive, SW
Dear Ms. O'Dell:
In its meeting of 15 April, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed concept alternatives for the proposed perimeter security barrier at the Jefferson Memorial following its site inspection with a mockup of the alternative alignments. Concluding that the question of the barrier's alignment cannot be separated from issues of its character, material, and relationship to topography, the Commission did not take an action and requested that the National Park Service submit a revised concept with further development of the design alternatives.
The Commission members observed that the setting of this prominent national memorial in its naturalistic landscape should retain the qualities of openness and accessibility. Due to the compromised integrity and condition of the historic landscape, the project presents an opportunity to clarify the relationship of the memorial to its setting and to better respond to current conditions. Noting the parkway character of East Basin Drive adjacent to the memorial, the Commission advised that views into the site from the perimeter are a critical aspect of the design and should be carefully considered.
In their discussion of the alternative alignments, the Commission members noted their impressions from the site visit, commenting on the length of the barrier and the potential impact on existing trees in all of the proposals. Some Commission members observed that a wall along the roadway—despite its great length and impact on mature street trees— may be the simplest solution, allowing the barrier to be perceived as part of the adjacent infrastructure; however, they cautioned against creating the appearance of a fortified enclosure. Others supported the alternative of the circular wall alignment which may be more effectively integrated with the architectural spirit of the memorial itself but which, like alternative #2, would create a new element in the landscape and impact some non-historic cherry trees. They emphasized that the design concept for any barrier element located within the landscape must be sufficiently developed to address its relationship to the changing topography of the site.
For the further development of the alternative alignments, the Commission members recommended the inclusion of several features. They emphasized the necessity of separating bicycle and pedestrian traffic along the southeastern portion of the grounds, accommodating bicycles near the road and placing the pedestrian path within the landscape; they discouraged the alternative of a wider shared-use path as having an excessive impact on the landscape. They expressed concern about elevating the edge of the formal lawn south of the memorial against a barrier wall, suggesting that the barrier in this area could be composed of bollards to retain an open character near the street frontage. Finally, they strongly supported the proposal to move the food service pavilion westward along East Basin Drive away from the south lawn.
The Commission appreciated the opportunity to view the mockup of alternative alignments at the site and looks forward to reviewing a more detailed concept submission of alternatives, including additional information on the materials and treatment of the barrier as well as section drawings through the site.
As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Margaret O'Dell, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Peter May, National Park Service
Ignacio Bunster, Wallace Roberts & Todd