Maryland and Independence Avenues, SW
Dear Mr. Vogel:
In its meeting of 19 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for proposed lighting and inscriptions for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial, to be located at Maryland and Independence Avenues, SW. Noting that this submission is part of a series of presentations on specific topics in accordance with the revised concept approval of October 2014, the Commission provided the following comments for development of the design.
The Commission members expressed general support for the intent of the lighting design but raised several issues with its representation and implementation, particularly regarding the insertion of new elements—such as poles to support the lights—that may be intrusive in the landscape. They noted that the poles are not depicted in the daytime views, when they would be most visible, nor indicated on the plans. They also questioned the proposed uplighting of the understory tree canopy as potentially competing with the primary view toward the U.S. Capitol. While they supported the consistent uplighting of the large tapestry from a channel along its base, they observed that the presented rendering suggests an uneven effect with hot spots; they suggested careful modelling to ensure that the intended evenness of lighting is achieved. They also observed that the distracting prominence of the support columns behind the tapestry—an issue previously raised by the Commission—is even more pronounced in the newly presented nighttime views. While acknowledging the intention to resolve lighting issues through adjustment after installation, they urged that these issues be considered as much as possible during the design phase.
For the proposed inscriptions, the Commission members expressed support for the design of the proposed typeface, as well as for the selection of historical sources of the quotations. However, they emphasized that the quotations—carved in stone—will be an enduring historical legacy of Eisenhower and must be presented with integrity; they urged great care in conveying the full meaning and context of his remarks while selecting passages that would be most significant for future generations. They cautioned against the tendency to combine extracted quotations, creating the impression of an authentic text; they therefore recommended that the omission of material and jumping to different portions of a source text be minimized. They commented that brief omissions within the source text may have different significance than longer omissions, and this distinction should be reflected in the layout of the text by the use of spaces, ellipses, or other graphic symbols. They also suggested that the attribution line following each quotation should provide further context, such as identifying the D-Day message as a radio address, and identifying the Guildhall's location as London. They questioned whether the presented full-justification format of the lengthy inscriptions would be more difficult to read than a varying edge, suggesting further exploration of the format, which currently presents excerpts from three speeches completely filling four seemingly identical panels. They recommended further consideration of the legibility of the lettering under daytime and night-lighting conditions as seen by a visitor at ground level; ideally, the inscriptions would be legible without reliance on infill of the letters, which may be less elegant and more difficult to maintain.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing additional submissions on the lighting and inscriptions and other components of the project, with the goal of achieving a unified memorial design that is a worthy commemoration of Eisenhower and a major new symbolic feature of the national capital. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Robert Vogel, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Carl Reddel, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission
Craig Webb, Gehry Partners
Nicholas Benson, The John Stevens Shop