Washington Monument grounds
15th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Dear Ms. O'Dell:
The Commission of Fine Arts thanks the National Park Service for the opportunity to hear the information presentation at its meeting of 15 July on the initiative to improve visitor security screening at the Washington Monument, and offered the following general comments.
The Commission unequivocally supported the removal of the existing temporary screening facility which compromises both the design of the Monument and the experience of the visitor. As in their last review of a proposal for a visitor screening facility in 2002, the Commission members emphasized the primary importance of the Washington Monument as a national symbol, and said that the entrance sequence for the relatively small number of visitors to its interior should be considered secondary. They encouraged the National Park Service to develop options for visitor screening that would minimize any change or visual impact to the iconic Monument structure or the purity and dignity of its setting in the surrounding plaza and landscape.
In their discussion of the alternatives, several Commission members expressed support for Alternatives A and D, which do not incorporate a frontal axial approach to the base of the Monument as shown in Alternatives B and C; they noted the conceptual ambiguity between the existing curvilinear approach to the Monument set within its plaza and the addition of a direct path to a secondary entrance below the plaza. The Commission members also commented on the potential visual impact of the large base and ramps at the edge of the plaza in Alternatives A and B—which would create an obtrusive landscape element and a large opening that visually undermines the Monument—and the undesirable presence of railings on the plaza in several alternatives. The Commission members did not support the pavilion scheme presented as Alternative E. They supported the National Park Service's intention to limit the programming of this facility to screening only and acknowledged that the best solution would be one that can successfully avoid both physical and visual impacts to this cultural resource without compromising the symbolic aspects of the visitor experience.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the careful analysis undertaken to develop the alternatives and complimented the designer for the beautifully rendered drawings. They look forward to the formal review of the security screening project with the goal of protecting and enhancing this most prominent of all monuments in the national capital. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Margaret O'Dell, Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Peter May, National Park Service
Hany Hassan, Beyer Blinder Belle