Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue, NW between 14th and 15th Streets
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its meeting of 18 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for the proposed commemorative elements and planting plan for the National World War I Memorial within Pershing Park, located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. The Commission expressed appreciation for the advancement of the design for these components of the memorial and provided the following comments for the project’s further development.
Consistent with their previous guidance to treat the central high-relief sculpture and its supporting wall as a single integrated element, the Commission members expressed a strong preference for the option in which the bronze sculpture rests on a stone shelf projecting above a recessed linear waterfall—paired with the monolithic option for the stone wall on the west side, which would provide a favorable counterpoint to the bronze figures. They cited the simplicity and lightness of this solution as superior to the other option featuring a more massive base, which they said may be reminiscent of a tomb; they recommended developing this quality of lightness to emphasize an ethereal character for the sculptural figures, such as by making the supporting stone shelf as thin as possible and further recessing the waterfall. For the stone of the sculpture wall, they expressed a general preference for the darker Dakota Mahogany granite, citing its relationship to the existing Pershing Memorial and its potential harmony with the new bronze sculpture, but they remained open to other options pending the refinement of the design.
Regarding the other presented memorial elements, the Commission members raised concern about the proposal to modify the stepped tree planters along the park’s northern frontage as locations for the display of quotations; they commented that too many secondary inscriptions may weaken the power of the most prominent inscription, proposed to be on the east-facing retaining wall of the terrace at the northwest corner of the site. However, they expressed a willingness to again consider modifying the planters if presented as an integral part of a developed program of quotations within the site concept’s established tripartite hierarchy of Pershing Memorial, overlook, and statuary wall. Likewise, for the proposed overlook at the location of the existing kiosk, they recommended that fewer panels would be best as part of the overall program of interpretation. Acknowledging the potential need for an access door to the utility area beneath the northwest terrace, they advised that this door should not be located on the inscription wall, but may possibly be incorporated into the terrace’s south-facing retaining wall with an unobtrusive flush door. More generally, they expressed strong support for the planting plan, which simplifies the landscape’s existing color palette and provides for the long-term viability of the trees within the park.
The Commission looks forward to further review of the refinement of the sculpture wall and other components of the National World War I Memorial as the final design is developed. Please consult with the staff for guidance on these future submissions.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Libby O’Connell, U.S. World War I Centennial Commission
David Rubin, Land Collective
Sabin Howard, Sabin Howard Sculpture