Independence Avenue at 6th Street, SW
Dear General Dailey:
In its meeting of 19 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for a new visitor screening pavilion and alterations to the terraces surrounding the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum on the Mall, part of a larger project to renovate the museum’s exterior. The Commission approved the concept submission and provided the following comments for the development of the design.
Acknowledging the compromises necessary to reduce the scope and cost of the project, the Commission members expressed support for most of the proposed revisions to the previously approved concept design. In their support for the proposal, which would retain much more of the existing stepped site and associated terrace walls, they expressed regret that the previously proposed open corners of the site would be left more constrained; the open corners would have created broad thresholds and welcome areas of respite amid the busy pedestrian activity on the Mall. They commented favorably on the proposed entry pavilion at the north entrance facing the Mall, supporting the intention to juxtapose an entrance expressing flight against the rectilinear museum building, but they cautioned that the pavilion’s curving elements may be excessively organic in form, resembling a tree canopy; they suggested refining the design to emphasize the metaphor of flight and documenting how the structure connects to the existing building. They also supported the elimination of the previously proposed south entrance canopy at Independence Avenue. They expressed general support for the proposal for extensive herbaceous plantings, which they said would animate the design of the ground plane, although they questioned whether the level of maintenance needed would be sustainable.
For the site’s monumental sculptures, the Commission members did not support the revised design as proposed. For Continuum, located at the south entrance, they recommended maintaining its current asymmetrical placement. For Delta Solar, they continued to support its relocation to the southwest corner of the site, but they expressed regret at the loss of its intended artistic setting on a base of water. They commented that the proposed new setting of this kinetic sculpture on a high, polished stone plinth would be inappropriate and would create a hot microclimate in an otherwise inviting landscape, and they recommended the reconsideration of this element of the site design. They advised that in the process of weighing alternatives for reducing the project’s scope and cost, the water setting for Delta Solar should be considered as more important to include than large areas of stone pavement or complex herbaceous plantings that may incur high long-term costs of operation and maintenance.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing revisions to the design in a final submission. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Gen. John Dailey, Director
National Air and Space Museum
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
cc: Roger Courtenay, AECOM
Larry Barr, Quinn Evans Architects