Dear Mr. Berry:
The Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to welcome you as the new director of the National Zoo in their last meeting of 16 February, when they reviewed the concept submission for Phase II of the Asia Trail, including the Elephant House. The Commission appreciated hearing your presentation of the "Renew the Zoo" program to improve experience for visitors to the Zoo and its animal residents. The Elephant House and the Asia Trail are important features of this program and, as such, require the best architectural and landscape solutions possible.
During the review of the project, the Commission members commented on the conceptual ambiguity of the proposed design for the addition to the Elephant House. They recommended that the new construction should either respond more directly to the character of the historic 1930s original structure, or take an architectural approach reflecting modern building technology and animal husbandry. The members encouraged the design team to be bolder in the design of the addition, emphasizing that the design approach should be consistent throughout the scope of the project.
The Commission was not able to comment on the overall plan for Phase II due to the lack of information on the existing topography and the proposed changes to the contours and existing vegetation. It is important to have this information provided for the next review since so much of the visitor experience involves the trail and the vistas from one exhibit to the next. The Commission members requested the opportunity for a site visit to the Asia Trail at the National Zoo, if possible in conjunction with the Commission's next meeting scheduled for 16 March 2006.
We look forward to continued collaboration with the National Zoo in the development of the Asia Trail and the Renew the Zoo program. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
Director, National Zoological Park
3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
cc: Harry Rombach, Smithsonian Institution
Gretchen K. Pfaehler, Ewing Cole