CFA 16/MAY/19-1


Maryland Avenue at 3rd Street, SW, on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Native American Veterans Memorial
New memorial
Review Type


Dear Mr. Gover:

In its meeting of 16 May, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for the National Native American Veterans Memorial, to be constructed on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian at Maryland Avenue and 3rd Street, SW. The Commission approved the design with the following recommendations.

The Commission members expressed appreciation for the beauty and layered symbolism of the proposed memorial. They observed that the designed landscape of the museum grounds has matured into a complex ecosystem supporting a variety of animal and plant life, and they emphasized the importance of continuing to support this rich biodiversity, in part by augmenting the plantings in conjunction with the new memorial. They agreed that the memorial should be secluded to enhance its contemplative character, commenting that the overgrown view of the memorial site from the Welcome Circle should be modestly pruned while retaining the character of the view as being partially veiled by vegetation. Noting the proximity of the site to the intersection of Jefferson Drive and 3rd Street, they recommended increasing the massed vegetation to provide a sense of privacy and to obscure adjacent traffic. Concerning the approach path to the memorial, they commented that the proposed railing along the inside edge would appear too dominant; they recommended simplifying its design and installing denser buffers of vegetation along the path. Commenting that the path appears too wide and regular, they advised varying its width with a minimum of less than six feet, creating a delicate and biomorphic quality for this pathway through the landscape.

The Commission members expressed enthusiasm for many of the memorial’s proposed details, and they made several suggestions for further study. They recommended slightly increasing the sloping line of the backs of the circular array of benches to better define the memorial precinct. Noting that the memorial is intended to symbolize the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, they suggested indicating earth more clearly, perhaps through the use of rougher textures on some of the bench surfaces. For the central memorial element, they suggested studying the choice of metal for the large vertical ring and the level of abstraction appropriate for its supporting drum in relation to the other features of the memorial.

The Commission looks forward to further review of this project. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Kevin Gover, Director
National Museum of the American Indian
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: Harvey Pratt, Harvey Phillip Pratt Art
Hans Butzer, Butzer Architects and Urbanism
Elliot Rhodeside, Rhodeside & Harwell