Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial
Independence Avenue at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
At its last meeting of 20 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the concept design for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in West Potomac Park. In general, the Commission members commented that the proposed design could be very powerful and an appropriate landscape-oriented solution given its site on the Tidal Basin. However, they identified several issues that require further study before concept approval is given.
Most significantly, they noted that the relationship of the "Stone of Hope" to the "Mountain of Despair" is central to the memorial's design concept and is compromised by secondary elements in the proposed design. In addition, the memorial's design as proposed interferes with key sightlines within the broader context of its setting of the Tidal Basin, the Jefferson Memorial, and Independence Avenue. The Commission suggested modification of several design features in order to help clarify these key concepts: removing the bridge that disrupts the entry sequence views and reducing the height of the arc wall to preserve views from Independence Avenue toward the Jefferson Memorial. They also commented that pedestrian access along the top of the wall should be reconsidered, due to its potential for distraction from the inscriptions to be incorporated along the wall and dignity of the memorial itself. Finally, the members made note of the problematic inclusion of the building to the south of the memorial which is contrary to approved site guidelines; it is variously described as a ranger kiosk, visitor's center, and toilet facility and requires programmatic clarification.
The Commission agreed to visit to the site to inspect the potential impacts of the design on the landscape before the next review of the project, most likely to occur in conjunction with the next Commission meeting on the morning of 17 November. As always, the Commission staff is available should you require further guidance.
/s/Thomas Luebke, AIA
Lisa A. Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Regional Director
National Capital Region
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: John Parsons, NPS
Ed Jackson, Jr., Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project
Boris Dramov, ROMA Design