Dear Col. Peloquin:
In its meeting of 15 February, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear an information presentation on the proposed Southern Expansion Project for Arlington National Cemetery. Commending the project team for its thoughtful and rigorous analysis, the Commission expressed strong support for the overall planning and design approach as presented.
The Commission members endorsed the intention for the southern expansion to extend the iconic landscape character of Arlington National Cemetery—a distinctive rolling topography of lawns punctuated by trees as a setting for gravestones. They praised the design for its functional analysis and aesthetic minimalism used to establish a framework for the expansion that creates a poetic and therapeutic character in harmony with the existing cemetery. Acknowledging the modern use of preset burial crypts across the landscape and the resulting need to incorporate sustainable hydrology and horticultural soils, they requested further consideration of how the specimen trees amid this constructed terrain would be replaced over time. For the columbarium complex, they commented that the initial design appears to create a sensitive balance between enclosure and open views, sheltered by many understory trees; they advised careful selection of materials, such as stone and architectural concrete, in the development of these structures. They emphasized that the Pentagon should be the primary feature of southward views and should not be obstructed by the planned 9/11 Pentagon Memorial visitor center.
Citing the cemetery’s existing treatment of roads as landscape paths that also accommodate vehicles, the Commission members recommended reinforcing the experience of the pedestrian throughout the expansion area. They encouraged further coordination with the adjoining Air Force Memorial, emphasizing the primary importance of integrating the pedestrian circulation between this memorial site and the new landscape created by the cemetery expansion. They suggested restricting or eliminating bus circulation on the grounds of the memorial, possibly providing bus loading in conjunction with the redesign of Columbia Pike and the service area immediately to the south, and allowing the existing bus turnaround to be reconfigured as part of a new pedestrian entrance sequence into the cemetery.
The Commission looks forward to further information on this project. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the development of the design.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Col. Michael Peloquin, Chief of Engineering
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211-5003
cc: Martin Poirier, PWP Landscape Architecture
Gregg Schwieterman, HNTB Corporation