CFA 16/JUN/16-6


10th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Natural History
Access ramps at south entrance (Madison Drive)
Review Type


Dear Dr. Johnson:

In its meeting of 16 June, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for modifications to the Mall entrance of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History on Madison Drive, NW. The Commission approved the general concept, providing the following comments for the development of the design.

The Commission members expressed support for the Smithsonian’s proposal to improve accessibility for this heavily used entrance, while acknowledging that the general location and configuration of the two proposed ramps is likely the most reasonable solution considering the constraints of this historic property. However, they expressed concern regarding the operational logic for visitor access and queuing, and they questioned whether both ramps are necessary, particularly if building two ramps affects the quality and execution of the design. They observed that the design character of the ramps themselves—whether abstracted classicism or more contemporary—is unresolved and would benefit from more clarification. They also commented that many elements, such as the piers and stanchions, are heavy and coarse in appearance and should be lighter and more refined.

The Commission looks forward to reviewing a revised submission that addresses these issues of aesthetic character and refinement of details, as well as further investigation of the intended management of visitors at this entrance. As always, the staff is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Dr. Kirk Johnson, Director
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
MRC 106, P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: Claire Bedat, AECOM
Alyson Steele, Quinn Evans Architects