Dear Mr. Carlstrom:
During its meeting of 20 November, the Commission reviewed the proposal for the rehabilitation of the Lincoln Memorial Circle which included improvements to the roadways, sidewalks, and crosswalks, new perimeter security barriers, and new food service kiosks. While the members understand the need for the proposed improvements, they were concerned with several items in the submission that could benefit from additional study.
The first item of concern was the location of the bollards on the east side of the memorial circle. Several different locations were discussed, two of which merit additional study. If the rectangular plaza is restored on the eastern side of the circle, with the bollards in a straight line across the eastern edge of the plaza, as proposed, then the bollards should be retractable so that when threat levels are low or non existent, they can be lowered out of view and, conversely, raised only when threat levels are high. The other possible location for the line of bollards, which was suggested as an alternative particularly if non-moveable bollards.are to be used, is in a curved arc following the circle's existing outer curb line. This location has the advantage of moving the bollards slightly back away from the top of the lower stairs into a position that would be visually less intrusive when seen from the Reflecting Pool or the adjoining Elm Walks. If this configuration is employed, the bollards should be placed in a granite band to recall the historic curb as it crosses through the plaza. Locating the bollards at the foot of the stairs to the memorial, on the inner side of the circle, should not be considered, as it would be inappropriate and too intrusive on the memorial and its stairs. The bollards should be no higher than 36 inches, and as thin and far apart as possible.
As for the paving material of the plaza, it was felt that the surface of this important area should be made of a more appropriate material than asphalt or pressed concrete. Granite pavers, as suggested, would be ideal. Perhaps they could be quite large, such as those proposed for Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. The sections of unused roadway on either side of the plaza and east of the Bacon and French Drives should maintain the appearance of the roadway and be surfaced in the same material as that of the circle's traffic lanes.
The configuration of the granite barrier wall on the north, west, and south perimeter of the circle, was another item that could benefit from additional detailing. The members thought the wall, as proposed, to be too flat and lacking in detail. It was suggested that the profile of the wall's cap stone be curved and softened, and that a decorative molding be added to the base of the wall in a configuration to that found on the memorial. A good example of this decorative articulation can be found on the plinth walls of the Jefferson Memorial and the low walls surrounding the grounds of the Capitol. In addition, it was suggested that the walls at the backside of the west access gate should be studied further. If they were returned a few feet, fading into the ground, the ramp-way on the inside the circle would look less like a sunken depression. This should have a more finished appearance, better than just sloping the ground down to the sidewalk level, behind the wall.
Finally, the members discussed at length the proposed new food service kiosks, which they saw for the first time. Several issues were raised that warrant additional examination. While the style of the structures, based on that of the existing smaller kiosks east of the Washington Monument, was deemed acceptable, the members felt that for this portion of the park, the design should be different, and it was also recommended that the colors and signs be reconsidered. The light beige colors used on the existing structures are too assertive and should be changed to a grayish green color that will be less conspicuous. Signs should be toned down as well. Also, the members questioned the lack of restroom facilities, noting that an individual would have to cross several lanes of traffic and then either walk to the Lincoln Memorial or to the lake east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to find them. Perhaps the kiosks should incorporate restrooms as a convenient public amenity. Hopefully, in the future, a new and more contemporary design can be developed for facilities such as these for other areas of the city's monumental core.
Once again, let us state that we are greatly supportive of the Park Service's desire to update and improve the city's monuments, memorials and park lands, and we are aware that some of these recommendations may add to the cost of this project. Nevertheless, the bottom line should not be a factor when alterations and enhancements to one of the nation's greatest symbols are being considered. We look forward to the review of this important project as the designs continue to develop. As always, the staff is available should you or the design team require guidance.
Charles H. Atherton
Terry R. Carlstrom
National Capital Region
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, D.C. 20242
cc: John G. Parsons, NPS
Mary Oehrlein, FAlA