Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center
Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, NW
Dear Ms. O'Dell:
In its meeting of 16 April, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center at Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street, and Bacon Drive, NW. While supporting the worthy purpose of the memorial center, the Commission reiterated its reservations about the impact of the facility on the sensitive context and requested further development of the design.
The Commission members expressed support for many of the proposed alterations to the general siting of the building—its slight elevation, rotation, and location further north on the site—as helping to mitigate its impact on the setting. However, they continued to advocate for minimizing the visibility of what is intended to be an underground facility and encouraged further program reductions to lessen its impact. They continued to express concern that the proposed entry sequence of a descending walkway along a tapered wall would be inappropriately reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself and should be modified.
The Commission members encouraged the conceptual treatment of the memorial center as a "landscape solution," which should guide all decisions about developing the design: simplifying and reducing the architectural presence of the building; increasing earthen berms to cover or replace vertical walls; and minimizing or eliminating the skylights, which they commented were a significant technical challenge and questionable given their intrusion into the landscape and marginal benefit for the interior. They suggested that the articulation of the entrance area, courtyard, guardrails, and internal bridge be restudied with the visibility of these elements minimized and simplified. In their discussion, the Commission members also suggested restudying the access walkways leading to the entrance, particularly in their relationship to the adjacent service kiosk and street frontage.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the thoughtfulness and clarity of the presentation. They requested a revised concept submission that addresses the issues noted above and requested that future submissions also address signage, lighting, and a more developed landscape design. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Margaret O'Dell, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Peter May, National Park Service
James Polshek, Polshek Partnership Architects