West Potomac Park, 17th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its public meeting of 21 January conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for alterations to the existing Circle of Remembrance at the World War II Memorial to include a new plaque inscribed with the prayer delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt by radio on D-Day. Expressing concern about deficiencies in the design regarding the appropriate presentation of the prayer, the Commission did not take an action on the submission and instead provided the following comments to guide the development of the concept design.
In general, the Commission members emphasized that President Roosevelt’s prayer, delivered to the nation on a momentous day in American history, requires a setting and presentation that is as solemn and dignified as possible, with a clear relationship to the larger composition of the World War II Memorial. They expressed concern that the plaque—narrower than what had been shown previously, and seemingly constrained between two pathways—is not large enough to convey the importance of the text, and that viewing it may be disrupted by visitors entering and leaving the Circle of Remembrance. They advised that the setting of the plaque should allow for the calm, contemplative experience of reading the prayer, and that the plaque should be larger in scale to reinforce its significance.
To address these issues, the Commission members recommended the development of two concept alternatives. One alternative should address the issues they identified in the presented design: specifically, they recommended a substantial increase in the size of the plaque and its lettering as the circle’s primary element, with enough space around it to allow for a more dignified engagement with the text by visitors. They recommended that the architectural enframement and support of the plaque be made more solid and substantial, and less subordinate to the piers flanking the entrance paths, and that these paths be moved farther apart. For the plaque itself, they recommended laying out the text in a pattern that reflects the gently curving geometry of the circle, and using a larger size of letters, possibly in a mix of incised and raised lettering; they also recommended further study of the typeface. The second alternative should explore a different location for the prayer text, away from the entrance, possibly in the geometric center of the Circle of Remembrance, which is otherwise vacant. For the development of either alternative, they suggested that the perimeter—currently proposed to be defined by high stone benches—could be less architecturally articulated, relying instead on the nearby presence of canopy tree trunks to create a more contemplative space. Finally, they recommended studying how to emphasize the relationship of the plaque and circle to the central area of the World War II Memorial, whether by a more direct and understandable visual connection or by a physical one, such as a path.
The Commission appreciates the effort to provide a suitable setting for the D-Day Prayer plaque at this national war memorial and looks forward to reviewing the development of revised concept design alternatives that respond to these comments. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Director
Region 1–National Capital Area
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Lisa Delplace, Oehme, van Sweden
Holly Rotondi, Friends of the National World War II Memorial