Dear Dr. Spelman:
During its meeting of 15 January, the Commission approved the proposed design for Phase I and the proposed concept for Phase II of the new Asia Trail. The need to regrade the trail to provide appropriate access is understood and the blending of native and Asian landscapes creates habitats which are adaptive to the animals without compromising existing ecologies. The use of realistic rock is encouraged wherever possible.
More importantly, there is a grave concern about the sculptural representations of captive animals. One commissioner stated:
"The Zoo is to teach and we are using the animals sacrificially to teach ...a legacy of each generation to protect the environment. Children playing on animal (sculptures) is not teaching respect for animals. It's more like. an amusement park and you want a much different experience at a zoo than you do in an amusement park. ..When you have sculptures of animals that are photo opportunities or to play on, it's giving a message to children that animals are to be amusing for us, that we don't have total respect for them. Adding more amusements is the wrong direction to go."
This opinion was unanimously supported by all the members present at the meeting. Therefore, the Commission recommends the removal or relocation of all animal sculptures.
After the meeting, the commissioner representing landscape architecture expressed some additional concerns. Specifically, more attention should be given to the future structures for the animals. Although working drawings were submitted for staff review, more specific drawings and views of the landscaped spaces should be part of future public presentations.
The presenters are to be praised for providing the large model on which to see the trail and its context. However, it is regrettable that the project did not begin presentations to the Commission earlier in the design process, when substantive changes were a possibility. The Commission looks forward to continued review of the National Zoo for Phase II of the Asia Trail and other upcoming projects, earlier in the design process.
As always, the staff is available should you or the design team have questions or need guidance.
Charles H. Atherton Secretary
Dr. Lucy Spellman, Director
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-2598
cc: Harry Rombach, Smithsonian Institution
Leon Chatelain, Chatelain Architects, P.C.
Warren Byrd, Nelson-Byrd Landscape Architects