CFA 15/SEP/05-4


Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Center, West Potomac Park
United States

National Park Service
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, West Potomac Park
Site selection for new underground visitor education center and proposed design guidelines. Concept


Dear Mr. Lawler:

At its last meeting of 15 September 2005, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the site selection and design guidelines for the proposed Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center. In general, the Commission members expressed great concern about what they see as problems inherent in the only site presented for approval (Site A) due to its proximity to the Lincoln Memorial. They said that they were being asked to make a leap of faith to accept the findings of the site selection study and asked that further consideration of the Interior South Building be pursued.

Given their reservations, the Commission acted to continue consideration of the proposed project on this site conditional on further architectural development of the building and its program that demonstrate how the complex difficulties of Site A can be addressed in a satisfactory way.

The Commission members mentioned several issues that must be resolved for the project to progress. Specifically, they noted that the concept of entering a subterranean interpretive center by long ramps is inappropriately similar to and detracts from the experience of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself. They noted further that it was important to understand that an underground facility is not the same as one that has merely been bermed and covered with soil; that a half-buried structure mounded with earth would have an impact on the Lincoln Memorial and its grounds; and that the technical requirements of underground buildings always require vertical penetrations and appurtenances above the ground plane to allow for light, ventilation, egress, deliveries, etc.

Given the excessively long ramps that would be required to provide access to a fully subterranean structure, the Commission suggested that a better solution might be to create a small entry pavilion to provide access to the facility from the existing grade.

Again, the Commission encourages the Park Service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation to reconsider other sites, in particular the Interior South Building, that may be less problematic. The members give only a conditional approval for Site A pending the presentation of a convincing solution that detracts from neither the setting for the Lincoln Memorial nor the experience of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Commission looks forward to seeing further development of these aspects of the site study and as always, the Commission staff is available should you require further guidance.


/s/Thomas Luebke, AIA

Joseph M. Lawler, Regional Director
National Capital Region
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242

cc: John Parsons, NPS
Sally Blumenthal, NPS
Vicki Keys, NPS
Stephen Lorenzetti, NPS