Louisiana Avenue at C and First Streets, NW
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its meeting of 18 June via videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept submission for the proposed commemorative work honoring the Peace Corps, to be located in the triangular park reservation bounded by Louisiana Avenue and First and C Streets, NW. Acknowledging the revisions intended to integrate the memorial’s various elements, the Commission did not take an action, providing the following comments to be addressed in the continued development of the design.
The Commission members agreed that the design goal for the project is to develop an intimate public space focused on the central world map and stone bench-hands, and that this could be achieved with or without the pergola. In their discussion, some members continued to recommend eliminating the pergola as an extraneous element that will be symbolically confusing, and to develop instead a design that defines the central oval plaza within a grove of trees that would create a living canopy for the commemorative space. Others commented that the revised design of the pergola as an open circular form, intended to be reminiscent of a dove’s wings, successfully integrates the elements of the central plaza, creating a recognizable connection to the organization’s mission and message of world peace. However, they raised concern that the supports for the pergola structure—currently proposed as a series of four paired metal columns—detract from the potentially meaningful gesture of flying implied by the similarity to bird wings; if the pergola is retained, they recommended that a more expressive form and structural system be designed, preferably with only two points of support, in order to emphasize the metaphor of dynamic, uplifting avian flight. As presented, they also found that the proposed lighting appears to overemphasize the pergola, and it should instead focus more on the sculptural bench-hands; they also suggested that the modelling of the bench-hands should extend further to strengthen their anthropomorphic quality. In general, they cautioned against placing too much emphasis on an axial relationship to the Capitol dome—a line of sight that may be obscured much of the year and difficult for visitors to perceive—as a geometric conceit that may be constraining the development of the design.
In conclusion, the Commission agreed that it could continue to consider the development of the design using the new circular pergola scheme—refined according to their comments as summarized above— and requested the presentation of an alternative design without the pergola, using a grove of trees to define the central commemorative space. The Commission looks forward to the review of new concept design alternatives that address these comments; as always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/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: Larry Kirkland
Michael Vergason, Michael Vergason Landscape Architects
Roger Lewis, Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation