Archives, Arlington Cemetery, Judiciary Square, Smithsonian, and U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial Metro stations
Dear Mr. Wiedefeld:
In its meeting of 21 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission of design alternatives for placing canopies above the escalator portals at five Metrorail stations that were previously excluded from the system-wide program of canopies installed from 2003 onward. The Commission approved concept designs for four of the five locations, providing the following general comments and site-specific recommendations.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the close consultation between WMATA and the National Park Service, whose park reservations provide the setting for each of the submitted locations. They acknowledged the sensitive design issues that arise from the installation of these canopies, including visual compatibility with the context as well as preservation of important viewsheds. As a general design principle, they supported maintaining consistency with the established system-wide program of canopies, commenting that the canopies relate well to the distinctive coffered vaults of many station interiors and have themselves become an iconic feature of the Metrorail system. They expressed appreciation for the thoughtful winnowing of many alternatives to result in the presented set of modest variations on the prototypical canopy design, rather than trying to develop a different design approach for each station. In selecting among these variations, they emphasized the importance of relating the scale of the canopy to the scale of the context. They also observed that substantially lowering the height and reducing the overhang of the prototypical canopy would result in an undesirably heavy appearance due to the exposure of the side beams. Their specific recommendations were as follows:
Archives / Navy Memorial / Penn Quarter station. For this entrance adjacent to the Navy Memorial plaza, the Commission members approved alternative #1, commenting that its greater height is appropriate within the broad spatial context of Pennsylvania Avenue and would allow for continuity of horizontal views.
Arlington Cemetery station (both entrances). For this pair of entrances flanking Memorial Avenue on the ceremonial axis between the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, the Commission members approved alternative #2. They commented that the expansive context does not require the lowest alternative, while the tallest alternative may be too disruptive to the views along this important corridor. They also observed that alternative #2 relates best to the general horizontal character of the setting and to the height of the adjacent hedges.
Judiciary Square station (north entrance). For this entrance adjacent to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Commission members did not take an action and requested further documentation of the canopy alternatives in the context of the memorial, as well as consultation with the memorial’s architect and sponsoring organization concerning potential alterations to the memorial in the near future. They noted that the two curving trellises within the memorial’s plaza have a form that is similar to the proposed canopy design; they requested further consideration of this relationship and additional perspective views of the canopy alternatives that include these existing trellises. They asked that current planning for increasing the height of the memorial’s curved walls should also be considered and documented. In order to clarify the impact of the three proposed alternatives, they requested a further concept submission for this location.
Smithsonian station (north entrance). For this entrance adjacent to the main axis of the National Mall, the Commission members approved alternative #1, commenting that its greater height is commensurate with the vast scale of the Mall’s open space. They likened the canopy’s visual presence to other secondary features on the Mall, such as the nearby carousel and service kiosks.
U Street / African-American Civil War Memorial / Cardozo station (east entrance). For this entrance adjacent to the African-American Civil War Memorial, the Commission members approved both alternatives #1 and #2, commenting that these configurations would be high enough to allow for continuity of horizontal views across the surrounding plaza toward the memorial.
The Commission appreciates the careful attention to the design strength of the Metrorail system and consideration of the sensitive visual context of these station entrances. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Paul Wiedefeld, General Manager
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
600 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
cc: Jon Lourie, Lourie Architects
Peter May, National Park Service
Lori Sharpe Day, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund