CFA 16/MAR/23-5


five museum sites on the National Mall
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Gardens Tree Fences
Design and installation of new tree box fencing
Review Type
Submitted Documents


Dear Mr. Cortez:

In its public meeting of 16 March conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a proposed design for new tree box fences to be installed at five of the Smithsonian’s museums on the National Mall, including a pilot project at the National Museum of Natural History along Constitution Avenue, NW. Recognizing the importance of this fencing and soil remediation to promote the long-term health of the street trees, the Commission approved the final design for the pilot project and approved the concept design for the overall plan with the following comments.

Describing the museum landscapes as part of the larger spatial continuum of the National Mall, the Commission members emphasized the need for a consistent design vocabulary for all the streetscape elements along the Mall, including tree fencing. They therefore expressed concern that a concept plan developed without adequate interagency coordination could result in a particular design that is used only by the Smithsonian, while other agencies may pursue their own unrelated designs within this larger context of the Mall and the city’s monumental core. Noting the role of the Monumental Core Interagency Working Group, which is composed of the many agencies with administrative or review authority over this area, they approved the overall concept design while strongly encouraging the Smithsonian to continue coordination with the other agencies as part of the Working Group’s efforts to ensure a consistent language for streetscape elements.

For the specific design of the new tree fencing, the Commission members expressed support for the design as proposed, and they therefore gave final approval for the pilot installation. They agreed that the pilot project would be useful in assessing the effectiveness of the tree fencing, which is intended to help discourage pedestrians from walking on the tree boxes and impacting soils, and it should inform the larger planning process for tree fencing at other locations along the Mall.

The Commission looks forward to the future review of this important initiative for the city’s monumental core. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Ronald Cortez
Undersecretary for Administration
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: Paul Josey, Wolf Josey Landscape Architects
Peter May, National Park Service
Mina Wright, General Services Administration
Susan Wertheim, National Gallery of Art
Marcel Acosta, National Capital Planning Commission