West Potomac Park Levee Project
17th Street, south of Constitution Avenue, NW
Dear Ms. O'Dell:
In its meeting of 20 November, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed and approved the two proposed alternative design concepts for the extension of the Potomac Park levee system across 17th Street. The Commission's consideration of the project followed an inspection of mockups of the alternatives at the project site earlier that morning.
The Commission members expressed concern that the intention to construct the project in phases with uncertain funding could have the long-term result of an unfinished concrete barrier in the historic landscape of the National Mall. Acknowledging the urgency of the project, they advised the National Park Service to complete all phases quickly. In their discussion, the Commission members noted the advantages of the proposed wall system on the west side of 17th Street while expressing concern about the impact of the walls on the landscape of the Washington Monument grounds. For alternative #4, they expressed support for relating the levee elements to the other structures historically associated with the control of water, while noting the sensitivity to the setting required in placing a curving wall in the open landscape of the Washington Monument grounds. For alternative #5, they supported support for the opportunity to create a stronger visual connection to the grand axis of the Mall and recommended that the large retaining wall terminating the end of the levee earthwork be minimized along 17th Street.
In conclusion, the Commission approved both concepts and encouraged further consultation in developing a preferred alternative. The Commission looks forward to further review of the project and expressed its appreciation for the complex design process involving cooperation among the National Park Service, the District of Columbia government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal review agencies. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Peggy O'Dell, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242