Various sites in Areas 1 and 2
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its meeting of 17 October, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear a presentation on potential sites for the planned National Emergency Medical Services Memorial, to be located on federal land in Washington, D.C. The Commission expressed general support for the four finalist sites presented, with particular emphasis in favor of Site U on the north plaza of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services) at 3rd Street and Independence Avenue, SW, and Site W within Reservation 113 at 7th Street and Maryland Avenue, SW, with the following comments to guide the memorial sponsor’s site selection process.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the informative description of the history of emergency medical services, and for the thoughtful analysis of the potential sites for commemorating this vital public service. They observed that this memorial, unlike a memorial to a specific war, honors a group whose service and sacrifice will extend indefinitely into the future; having the capacity to provide a suitable setting for those who grieve and honor their loved ones must be a primary consideration in the selection of the site. They noted that another priority for the memorial may be to increase public appreciation of emergency medical services, and that the prominence of the site also may be a decisive criterion in the selection process. In the weighing of these factors, they advised considering the future context of each alternative site, noting that some sites may eventually be affected by adjacent new development.
In their discussion of the four sites, they noted the visibility of the two traffic-island options, Site L at 2nd Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NW, and Site S at 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, but they commented that both of these may be compromised by busy traffic and less suitable for gatherings. Recognizing the need for a tranquil setting for the memorial, they suggested that Sites U and W would be preferable, although they observed that Site W may be too large, anonymous in character, and somewhat removed from the typical routes of visitors. They identified Site U as having perhaps the best combination of qualities for the memorial in its prominence, accessibility, and stable context. However, they commented that any design for this location would need to respond to the established Brutalist architectural character and minimalist Modern landscape design at the Humphrey Building, and they suggested flexibility in the possible location of the memorial on this plaza, less constricted than what was shown in the presentation. For whichever site is selected, they emphasized the importance of maintaining existing trees and providing shade for the comfort of visitors.
The Commission looks forward to further review of the site selection for this national memorial, and eventually its design, as the sponsoring foundation continues its important work. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Director
Region 1–National Capital Area
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Alan Harwood, AECOM
Katie Orsino, National EMS Memorial Foundation