Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center
Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, NW
Dear Mr. Lawler:
In its meeting of 18 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the concept design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center (VVMC) at Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street, and Bacon Drive, NW. The Commission reluctantly approved the concept, commenting that the subterranean design is successful within the unusual constraints imposed by the authorizing legislation, the difficult site, and the program.
The Commission expressed concern about the inherent contradiction of relating the VVMC’s design to that of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the subsequent risk of subverting the power and meaning of the original memorial. The Commission members reiterated that care must be taken to minimize the project’s negative impacts on the visual setting of the Lincoln Memorial and views outward from it and on the overall appearance of West Potomac Park as the design is developed. They suggested that the program be reduced in size—in contrast to the apparent expansion that has occurred since the last presentation—in order to limit the project’s impact. The Commission recommended further study of the materials, finishes, and site issues such as orientation, setbacks, and the relation of the building and walkways to the surrounding streets and crosswalks.
The Commission members also noted that the renderings of the project made it clear that the recently constructed food-service kiosk near the Lincoln Memorial is poorly sited in relation to the new VVMC proposal. The Commission would welcome a rethinking of the overall plan for this site, particularly as it affects the setting of the Lincoln Memorial; consideration should be given to improving the relationship of the VVMC to the kiosk, or removing the kiosk entirely.
The Commission noted the unusual legislative requirement that approval of the project is mandated. In closing, the Commission stressed that the entire Mall is sacrosanct and should be treated respectfully as a completed work of civic art; it should be protected from further intrusions.
As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Joseph M. Lawler, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: John Parsons, National Park Service
James Polshek, Polshek Partnership Architects