The meeting was convened by videoconference at 9:01 a.m.
Hon. Billie Tsien, Chair
Hon. Hazel Ruth Edwards, Vice Chair
Hon. Peter Cook
Hon. Lisa Delplace
Hon. James McCrery
Hon. Justin Garrett Moore
Hon. Duncan Stroik
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Sarah Batcheler, Assistant Secretary
Mary Catherine Bogard
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 February meeting. Secretary Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said the minutes will be posted on the Commission’s website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Secretary Luebke presented the dates for upcoming Commission meetings, as previously published: 20 April, 18 May, and 15 June 2023.
C. Report on the 2023 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program. Secretary Luebke noted that this annual program, managed by the Commission, provides federal grants to support medium- to large-size arts institutions in Washington. He reported that 26 organizations have applied to participate in this year’s program, including all 24 of the grant recipients from last year’s program. One of this year’s applicants has not previously been approved for the program, and one applicant had previously participated but was not part of the 2022 program. The authorizing legislation requires the convening of a panel to determine the eligibility of these new applicants; the panel includes the chairs of the Commission of Fine Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, or their designees. He noted that the appropriated funding for the current year is $5 million, the same amount as in recent years; the grants will be distributed among the eligible institutions using an established formula.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Secretary Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Government Submissions Consent Calendar: Mr. Fox reported that only minor wording changes have been made to the draft consent calendar, which has eight projects. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the revised Government Submissions Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler said that one case listed on the draft appendix has been removed and is being held open for consideration in a future month (case number SL 23-080). Other changes to the draft appendix are limited to minor wording changes and the notation of dates for the receipt of supplemental materials. The recommendations for seven projects are subject to further coordination with the applicants, and she requested authorization to finalize these recommendations when the outstanding issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Bogard reported that no changes have been made to the draft appendix, which has 34 projects. All of the supplemental drawings, submitted in response to the Old Georgetown Board’s meeting on the first Thursday of the month, were received prior to distributing the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Dr. Edwards, the Commission approved the Old Georgetown Act Appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/MAR/23-1, First Division Monument, 17th Street and State Place, NW. Alterations and additions to existing monument. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/NOV/21-2) Secretary Luebke introduced the proposal for modifications to the First Division Monument, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the Society of the First Infantry Division (SFID). The original monument, designed by Cass Gilbert with sculpture by Daniel Chester French, was built in 1924 as a memorial to members of the division who died in World War I; the monument was subsequently expanded several times to incorporate the names of those who died in later wars. The proposed modifications were authorized by legislation in January 2021 to honor those of the First Division who died in several military conflicts of recent decades, and the design anticipates the placement of future commemoration. The proposed design, approved by the Commission in 2021 at the concept stage, would add three new stone plinths containing bronze plaques bearing the names of the fallen soldiers. The proposed siting is on the north side of the monument’s east terrace; additional plinths without plaques would be similarly placed alongside the west terrace to accommodate future needs. He noted the Commission’s previous concern that the plinths would interrupt the continuity of the north hedges, potentially resulting in an awkward appearance when the monument is seen from the north, with the backs of the plinths exposed to view. He said this design remains the project team’s preferred choice, but the current submission also includes two alternatives for configuring the north hedges.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May, associate regional director for lands and planning for the National Capital area of the NPS, to begin the presentation. Mr. May said the NPS agrees with the SFID in supporting the interrupted hedge as the preferred design, but the alternatives would also be acceptable. He introduced planner Suzette Goldstein of HOK to present the design.
Ms. Goldstein said the design issues include the appearance of the plantings and plinths from the north; the potential for asymmetry if plinths are added to only one side of the monument; and the design of plantings at the corners and ends of the terraces. She said the previous submission had identified the planned location for future plinths on the north side of the west terrace, to be symmetrical with the current project’s installation of plinths with plaques on the north side of the east terrace. The project team now proposes to acquire and install all of these plinths, with those on the west to remain blank until the need arises for future plaques. She said a major advantage of this decision is that the specified stone is scarce, and it may not be possible in future decades to acquire granite for the western plinths that will match the current project’s granite for the eastern plinths. The installation of all the plinths would also provide near-term architectural symmetry for the monument, which would be particularly noticeable when the monument is seen from the north. An additional concern is the logistical challenge and security constraints of arranging for construction at this sensitive location on the White House grounds; to avoid future problems, the more practical solution is to install all of the plinths as part of the currently planned construction project.
Ms. Goldstein presented the options for designing the hedges at the north side of the terraces. She indicated the berm and tree wells immediately south of the terraces, resulting in a constricted space along the edge that can accommodate only a single row of hedge plantings. The proposal is to place a similar single row of hedges on the north side of the terraces. As the Commission previously noted, the north hedges in this design would be interrupted by the proposed granite plinths, with the backs of the plinths exposed to the north; she described this result as unobtrusive and elegant. She emphasized that the previous concern with a near-term asymmetrical appearance from the north has now been resolved by the revised proposal to install new plinths along both the east and west terraces, and the comparable interruption of these hedges when seen from the south is necessary to allow the plinths to front directly on the terraces.
While this single-row configuration is strongly preferred by the project team, she also presented two alternatives that would address the Commission’s previous concern. Alternative 1 would jog the alignment of the north hedges in a single row around the backs of the plinths, screening them continuously from the north side. Alternative 2 would provide a double row of hedges across the entire north side, reduced to a single row passing behind the plinths; the appearance from the north would be a simple, continuous hedge line. She noted several concerns with Alternative 2: the maintenance and integrity of the double-row hedges could be problematic; the double-row hedges would be wider than the single-row hedges on the south side of the terraces; grading at the corners would be more difficult with the wider hedges; and underground utilities such as irrigation lines would have to be relocated to accommodate the wider hedges. For either of the two alternatives, she questioned the desirability of concealing views of the plinths from the north; she said the granite is something to be proud of, and its appearance represents the project well.
Ms. Goldstein concluded by indicating the differing conditions for the east and west ends of the monument, which would continue to have hedges configured in a looser, more informal character. She noted that the commemorative stone slab at one end has engraved text that faces outward from the monument, while the other end has blank stone. Each edge of the monument therefore has its own design considerations, with the broader purpose of defining elegant outdoor rooms within the monument and generally providing a sense of symmetry.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Stroik asked if the perimeter hedges are interrupted by the existing stone slabs at the monument’s east and west ends, comparable to the proposed relationship between the proposed plinths and the north hedges. Ms. Goldstein indicated photographs of the more informal hedges at the east and west ends of the monument, planted along the base of the added stone markers of varying heights that commemorate those who died in World War II and the Vietnam War; she contrasted this landscape treatment with the more uniformly shaped boxwood hedges that are proposed on the north.
Ms. Delplace commented on the importance of the symmetry and simplicity of the design, including the placement of the new plinths. She acknowledged that the proposed granite is a noble material, but she said exposing the rear of the plinths would change the perception of the monument when approaching it from the direction of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the north. She observed that continuous hedge lines on the north would help to focus attention on the entrance to the monument at the center of the composition, which she said would be strongly preferable; she noted the compelling color contrast between the green hedges and the monument’s white stone. She acknowledged the practical difficulties of maintaining a double-row configuration of boxwoods, including the reduced sunlight toward the center of the hedge, but she emphasized the importance of framing the memorial’s central area with continuous hedge lines to provide the proper focus from the north. She clarified her preference for the continuous northern edge of Alternative 2 as more consistent with the monument’s elegant and simple design character, if healthy plant growth can be achieved; the jogged alignment of the hedge in Alternative 1 would be less preferable. Ms. Goldstein agreed but reiterated the concern that the National Park Service will have difficulty preventing a dead zone from forming within the double row of boxwoods.
Mr. McCrery supported Ms. Delplace’s comments as well as the proposal to install the plinths on both the eastern and western terraces. He emphasized the monument’s focus on the establishment of a special precinct, which is largely defined through a combination of the elevated grade and continuous hedges. He observed that the existing design, potentially strengthened by the proposed modifications, gives emphasis to the principal commemorative object at the center, with supporting commemorative elements along the perimeter that never actually interrupt it. He said both the central space and the entirety of the precinct are sacrosanct, but the project team’s preferred configuration would interrupt the beautiful perimeter hedges on the north; he contrasted this discontinuity to the straight line of hedges on the south, which would result in a lack of symmetry. He criticized the interruption as inappropriate; he said that continuous hedges on the north would be more consistent with the southern hedges, resulting in all of the hedges contributing to the principal responsibility of defining the precinct. He said that he strongly prefers the straight, double-row configuration of Alternative 2 rather than the meandering configuration of Alternative 1, but he deferred to Ms. Delplace on the viability of growing a double hedge, and he urged adequate maintenance and horticultural care to address this concern.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to support Alternative 2, providing a continuous green edge on the north; but she expressed concern about recommending a design that would not work horticulturally and would eventually be unsuccessful. Ms. Delplace emphasized the prominence of the location and the importance of providing a simple, straight edge on the north, and she therefore recommended that the Commission support Alternative 2, with special attention to be provided as needed for the maintenance of the plantings.
Secretary Luebke noted that the entire project is submitted as a final design, with alternatives provided for the hedge configuration. Chair Tsien confirmed the Commission’s support for the double-row hedge of Alternative 2 for the north side, acknowledging that the south side of the terraces would have only single-row hedges because of the topographical constraints. Mr. Luebke noted the National Park Service’s willingness to support any of the hedge options; Mr. May confirmed that Alternative 2 would be acceptable. Upon a motion by Mr. Stroik with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission approved the final design for modifications to the monument, with Alternative 2 for the configuration of the northern hedges. Mr. Luebke and Chair Tsien acknowledged the careful work and research in developing the final design submission.
2. CFA 16/MAR/23-2, Global War on Terrorism Memorial, various sites within the Reserve. Site selection for new memorial. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the site selection study for a new memorial commemorating the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the GWOT Memorial Foundation. He noted the unusual legislative requirement that this memorial be located in the Reserve, an area at the heart of the monumental core; this area was designated two decades ago as being unavailable for the location of new memorials. The site selection study began with a wider scope of potential sites, but all of the sites outside the Reserve have now been removed from consideration, and the presentation will focus on three finalist sites. He added that the site selection study was reviewed earlier this year by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC), as required by the Commemorative Works Act. He asked Peter May, associate regional director for lands and planning for the National Capital area of the NPS, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May clarified that the recent review by NCMAC did not result in a vote for a preferred site, but the discussion included some favorable comments on the site at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenues. He said that NCMAC’s role includes assuring that the decision-making agencies—including the Commission of Fine Arts—are being provided with acceptable sites for their consideration. He added that the legislative requirement to locate this memorial within the Reserve is unusual, but the NPS is required to comply with the legislation. He introduced Michael Rodriguez, president and CEO of the GWOT Memorial Foundation, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Rodriguez said he is an artist as well as a veteran. In 2017, his foundation was authorized by federal law to create the GWOT Memorial; with additional siting authorization in 2021, as well as ongoing fundraising, the project is now ready to move forward. He emphasized the bipartisan Congressional support for this memorial. (Videotaped testimony was submitted from Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa in support of the memorial; due to technical difficulties, the video could not be presented during the meeting.)
Mr. Rodriguez said the GWOT encompasses all of the U.S. anti-terrorism operations subsequent to the 2001 authorization for the use of military force immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which provided the legal authority for pursuing terrorists and their allies. He presented a timeline of GWOT operations, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. The effort is ongoing, with activities continuing in several countries around the world; recent U.S. raids have occurred in Syria and Somalia. The U.S. casualties have included more than 7,000 service members dead, 53,000 wounded, and 3,400 deaths of non-military Americans; he said that many non-military workers continue to perform combat-related missions that would once have been conducted by uniformed military personnel. He noted that the GWOT includes several separately named operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom; he said these are appropriately grouped together as part of the GWOT, just as separately named campaigns such as Operation Overlord—the D-Day invasion—is considered as part of World War II. However, he said the GWOT is unique in its duration, currently nearing 22 years; some veterans of the GWOT have seen their children grow up to fight in the same war. In his own family history, several past generations served in the military during different wars; but now he and his wife—both GWOT veterans—have sent their son to continue the GWOT in Afghanistan.
Mr. Rodriguez summarized that this memorial will honor the multiple generations of service members and civilians who have served and sacrificed during the GWOT, which has profoundly changed our country. The memorial will provide a place where people can go to honor our heroes, heal, be empowered, and unite. It is intended to be an inclusive memorial that tells the entire wide-ranging story of our nation’s longest war, to be seen by the nation and the entire world. It is also intended to be a timeless piece of public art that enhances the Reserve as a sacred space within the capital. He introduced Michael Winstanley of Winstanley Architects & Planners to present an overview of the vision for the site selection and memorial design.
Mr. Winstanley said his firm has serving been serving for the past four years as the executive architect for the GWOT Memorial Foundation. The work has included two years of interviews with people who have been affected by the GWOT, leading to the development of a lengthy programming document for the project. Four key tenets of the memorial’s program are to honor, heal, empower, and unite. The desired size for the site is approximately a quarter-acre core area of the memorial; the features of the memorial are envisioned as generally rising to approximately eye level, with some sculptures or other artwork being potentially taller but not long. Recognizing the sensitive context of the Reserve, the memorial would respect existing memorials and sightlines. An additional goal is that the memorial should positively contribute to the environment through landscape and other means.
Mr. Winstanley presented size comparisons of several existing memorials, illustrating a quarter-acre circle set within a one-acre circle that would encompass a landscape buffer around the central part of the memorial; the comparisons include the National Japanese American Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the World War II Memorial. The generally human-scale heights of the intended design features would allow for views across the memorial, providing a sense of security and respecting the context. He acknowledged that the potential inclusion of an interpretive center has created complications for other memorials; he said the GWOT Memorial Foundation is committed to providing interpretation through digital means, with the memorial serving to encourage people to find additional information through the internet.
Alan Harwood, an urban planner with AECOM, presented the details of the site selection process. The major criteria include a location in the Reserve, as specified by legislation; the availability of the site, without the conflict of competing uses; and any thematic ties that suggest the appropriateness of this memorial for a particular site. The more wide-ranging initial study was narrowed to sixteen sites within the Reserve; these have a wide range of settings and characteristics, including waterfront locations, wooded areas, and open spaces. After closer consideration of the selection criteria, ten sites were eliminated and two were combined, resulting in a short list of five sites. One site, on the east side of the Tidal Basin, was discouraged during the NCMAC review, and another site near the Ellipse within President’s Park was determined to be problematic because of the potential frequency of security-related closures. The remaining three sites—labeled as Site A, Site B, and Site J—have been studied in greater detail, including their context, constraints, and potential design opportunities, with two illustrative layouts developed for each site to serve as planning studies. He noted that Site J is a riverfront location, and the other sites have been studied for the inclusion of a water feature; he said that water can be perceived as soothing and healing, and it can also be a symbol of vastness that conveys the spatial and temporal extent of the GWOT.
Mr. Harwood presented the studies for Site A, a roughly triangular parcel located between Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street, and Henry Bacon Drive, NW. He described the site as prominent, highly visible, and somewhat exposed, with a lawn panel bordered by streets and street trees; the grade slopes gently up toward the south, and he indicated the existing visitor services kiosk near the south end of the site. He noted the comments from NCMAC members that encouraged consideration of this site.
Mr. Harwood described key elements of the context for Site A. The Lincoln Memorial is located to the southwest; the site of the planned Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial is to the west, across 23rd Street; the U.S. Institute of Peace is diagonally to the northwest; the State Department headquarters building is visible a block to the north; and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is to the east. The site also has a distant view across the Potomac River toward Arlington National Cemetery, including the area of the cemetery that is set aside for GWOT veterans. He noted that the entire triangular parcel is within the Reserve. To the west, across 23rd Street, the Reserve’s boundary is formed by a 750-foot-radius arc around the Lincoln Memorial; he indicated the analytic drawing’s eastward extension of this arc, noting that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial are all situated just beyond this radius. The illustrative layouts therefore respect the 750-foot radius, which would result in siting the memorial on the northern half of the triangular site. He noted that this area is not located with the 500-year floodplain. The street trees would be restored, and they would serve as a vegetative buffer that provides visual separation from the surrounding roadways.
Mr. Harwood said the memorial’s core area could be centered on the line connecting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial; however, this siting would inappropriately interrupt the thematic and generational link between those conflicts. The two siting studies therefore place the memorial’s core area slightly to the north or south of this line. He presented the potential layouts, each including a quarter-acre or less for the core and a one-acre landscape setting. He indicated the approach routes to the site from the northwest, northeast, and southwest; he said the approach from the southwest is already a popular pedestrian crossing area because of the visitor services kiosk. Noting this site’s lack of any direct relationship to a body of water, which is a desired feature for the new memorial, he said the siting studies include bodies of water that could frame or encircle the core of the memorial. In the first study, the approaches to the memorial could be configured as curving paths, in counterpoint to the “left hook” circulation pattern of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial; the approaches would lead to footbridges across the water feature, symbolizing the crossing of an ocean and the global nature of the GWOT. In the second study, the memorial’s core area would be farther north and more compact, with the water feature on three sides while not fully surrounding the core. This configuration is illustrated with two approach routes, one crossing the water feature and one entirely on land.
Mr. Harwood presented the studies for Site B, located in a quiet area adjoining the west end of the pond at Constitution Gardens. The site has a mix of lawn and trees, with the character of an urban oasis; it is located to the east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and slightly south of that memorial’s important sightline eastward to the Washington Monument. The site is within the 500-year floodplain; he indicated the location of the nearby east–west levee. The primary approach routes are from the north, west, and east; he noted the westward connection to the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, potentially relating well to the large number of women who are fighting in the GWOT. To the east, Constitution Gardens includes the Memorial to the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, potentially relating to the issues of individual liberties and collective security that arose after the 9/11 attacks. He noted the NPS intent to undertake a master plan for Constitution Gardens, which would need to be coordinated with the selection of Site B.
Mr. Harwood presented two potential configurations for placing the memorial at Site B, relating the memorial to the existing trees and additional plantings. One of the studies would orient the memorial to face northeast toward the existing pond. An existing visitor services kiosk could be relocated slightly to the south or west if necessary to enhance the memorial’s entrance, and the approach paths could be adjusted to work with the memorial’s configuration. He indicated the potential for establishing strong visual connections with the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Washington Monument.
Mr. Harwood presented the studies for site J, located along the Potomac River shoreline southeast of the Lincoln Memorial at the intersection of Ohio Drive and West Basin Drive. He said this is the largest of the three sites, and its riverfront location is highly visible, with the opportunity for viewing the memorial from boats and arriving nearby via water taxi. The site is characterized by an open lawn and trees; it is somewhat noisy due to the airport flight path over the river. The location is southwest of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and west of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial; the thematic connections are more distant views to features across the Potomac River. The site is within the 100-year floodplain; he noted the NPS project for improvements to the historic seawall, which would need to be coordinated with the selection of Site J.
Mr. Harwood indicated the roadway configuration that could allow for three approach routes converging on Site J; to create an adequate site area with a prominent presence, Ohio Drive is illustrated as being deflected slightly away from the river. The memorial could be configured to frame views toward Arlington National Cemetery and the Air Force Memorial; the design could include features to provide some shielding from noise, such as acoustic screens or decorative canopies that would also serve to define the site and provide areas of solitude. He indicated the potential relocation of the water taxi stop so that it is not immediately adjacent to the memorial. He indicated the potential configuration of extending the memorial site slightly outward above the river.
Mr. Harwood concluded with a comparative grouping of the siting studies, emphasizing the comparative scales and interesting opportunities for the memorial. Mr. Rodriguez added that the preference of the GWOT Memorial Foundation would be Site A.
Secretary Luebke summarized two comment letters that have been sent to the Commission. The first letter is co-signed by 15 members of Congress, acknowledging the Commission’s review role and encouraging the thoughtful and expeditious construction of this memorial. The letter states that prominently featuring this memorial on the National Mall will help generations of Americans learn about the nation’s longest war. He noted that this letter does not address the memorial’s design or the selection of any specific site.
Mr. Luebke said the second letter is from Scott Stump, the president and CEO of the National Desert Storm Memorial Association. The letter notes that Site A is immediately east of the location for the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial, which is anticipated for completion in 2025. The association acknowledges that Site A will not necessarily remain as open space forever, but their hope has been that Site A would not be developed until at least two years after the opening of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial, in order to avoid the interference of nearby construction activities during the critical early years when the new memorial has the best potential for strong visitor interest. Aside from issues of timing, Mr. Stump’s letter requests that a memorial at Site A should be sited and designed to avoid interfering with the essential reciprocal visual relationship that is intended between the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, relating to the themes of generational leadership and battle lessons learned. Mr. Stump’s letter also suggests designing Site A to place a memorial at the northern end of the parcel, while retaining open space for recreational activities on the southern and middle areas; this configuration would provide some consistency with the several panels of parkland around the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Luebke noted that an additional speaker wishes to address the Commission. Chair Tsien requested that the outside comments focus on the site selection, which is the issue before the Commission. She acknowledged the passion of those who are advocating for the memorial, but she emphasized that the Commission is not addressing whether or not the memorial should be built, nor how it should be designed. Mr. Luebke said the speaker is now available, and he introduced Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas to address the Commission.
Rep. Gonzales expressed appreciation for the hard work of many people in moving forward with the memorial project; he acknowledged that sometimes such projects can take decades. He noted his twenty years of service in the Navy, including five years in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a longstanding and continuing conflict. He said he looks forward to having a GWOT Memorial where he can bring family members in the future. He emphasized the importance of bringing this memorial to completion as an expression of the debt owed by the nation to the GWOT veterans and their families. He said that he supports this memorial through his work on the House Appropriations Committee, and the effort should be more than just talk; he affirmed his commitment to helping provide any necessary resources to help in achieving the construction of the memorial. He also noted his role as co-chair of the bipartisan For Country Caucus, which includes veterans from various conflicts and every military service branch. He said this caucus is unified in making the GWOT Memorial a priority, and he offered continued assistance. He concluded by expressing enthusiasm for the proposed location, which he said would be very powerful in honoring the people fighting the GWOT.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members. Mr. Stroik expressed appreciation for the presented context analysis. He asked for clarification of the approved siting and design of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial on the block west of Site A; Mr. Luebke indicated the location and the spiraling configuration of its design. Mr. McCrery asked if the project team has already identified a preferred site; Mr. Luebke said the Commission can consider all three of the presented sites, and Mr. Rodriguez confirmed the GWOT Memorial Foundation’s strong preference for Site A.
Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the presentation and for the consideration of multiple sites. Noting the inclusion of design ideas in the presentation, he emphasized that the Commission is not yet at the stage of supporting any particular design approach, such as a centralized core or a water feature. He observed that the western part of the Reserve already includes the Tidal Basin, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and the Constitution Gardens pond; he said that introducing another body of water within this commemorative landscape would be an important issue that needs careful consideration, which is not timely at this early stage of the project.
Mr. Moore offered support for Site A, which he said is the most appropriate of the presented alternatives; he cited the location’s thematic relationship to other nearby war memorials as well as to the U.S. Institute of Peace, which may foster a dialogue with the GWOT Memorial. He said this thematic connection is distinct from the character of other commemorative areas such as the Tidal Basin, a space that provides a different type of experience for the nation’s commemoration. He summarized his preference for Site A, while emphasizing that the memorial’s design will need to be considered at a later stage, including the presented ideas about site planning, height of walls or other elements, and bodies of water. For development of a design, he encouraged the GWOT Memorial Foundation to have an open and inclusive approach for thinking about commemoration in an innovative way. He noted the proximity of Site A to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is a very powerful space that sets a high standard for memorial design.
Ms. Delplace agreed that Site A is probably the most appropriate location for this memorial. She said that the development of a design for this site will need to include further analysis of issues such as the landscape’s topography, the prominence of the elevated Lincoln Memorial, and the range of precedents within the Mall landscape. She said that each memorial on the Mall should have a commitment to how it relates to its neighbors and the overall context; she cited the Romantic design atmosphere of Constitution Gardens, including its large pond. She summarized that an understanding of the context will be critical for any selected site, and she reiterated her support for Site A.
Mr. McCrery said the Commission can help with the site selection process by rejecting some sites as well as by supporting others. He provided several reasons for rejecting Site J: this site’s Potomac River setting is already a beautiful natural landscape; creating a memorial at this location would require substantial alterations beyond the memorial itself, such as relocating roadways and possibly realigning the seawall; and Site J is within a precinct of the Reserve that is not devoted to war memorials.
Mr. McCrery offered support for Site A, and he expressed agreement with the comments of the other Commission members. He acknowledged the near-term concern from Mr. Stump about the timing of this memorial’s construction in relation to the opening of the nearby Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial. However, he observed that the two memorials will coexist permanently into the future, and the Commission should provide advice for the long term; he said the near-term timing issue is much less important and should not outweigh the advantages of Site A. Noting the presented intent to create a low memorial with modest visual impact, he said one subtle advantage of Site A is that its location requires a low-scale, diminutive design which allows the Lincoln Memorial to have breathing room and a larger area of visual influence; the site therefore seems to be compatible with the GWOT Memorial. He expressed appreciation for the identification of the 750-foot-radius arc from the Lincoln Memorial as it passes through Site A; he recommended that all components of the GWOT Memorial should be beyond this arc, and perhaps it could be established with a slightly larger radius, such as 800 feet.
Mr. McCrery said the intergenerational associations of Site A are an advantage for this location, helping to relate the GWOT with other conflicts, such as the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. He noted that Mr. Rodriguez had described the significance of generational relationships among the wars; Mr. McCrery emphasized his support for this theme as an advantage for Site A, consistent with the introduction by Mr. Rodriguez.
Mr. McCrery expressed agreement with the presented discussion of the advantages of water as part of the memorial’s design, potentially establishing a peaceful and natural character; he said that the positive associations of water have been part of human sentiments for millennia. But he observed that the water features illustrated in the diagrams for Site A may be overly influenced by the context of Site B, which adjoins the kidney-shaped pond at Constitution Gardens. He said the design team should not be considering this configuration of a water feature as appropriate for Site A nor for this memorial. He emphasized his agreement with Mr. Moore that the Commission’s support for Site A should not be construed as approval of any of the design analysis that has been presented.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to support Site A. She noted that the members have provided some comments about the memorial’s design in response to the preliminary thoughts that were presented, but the Commission’s action today would only concern the site selection. She offered her own observation on the two presented siting studies for Site A, expressing a preference for Study B, which would place the core of the memorial farther north, closer to Constitution Avenue. She observed that this siting would allow for a conversation among the GWOT Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial, treating these memorials as a family. She commented that Study A would place the GWOT Memorial more directly on the axis connecting the other two memorials, suggesting a cancellation or competition in the relationship among the memorials. She encouraged creating a sense of collective sacrifice through generations, with the new memorial acknowledging the sacrifice of the other conflicts instead of trying to assert primary importance for the GWOT.
Chair Tsien suggested an action to approve Site A; Mr. McCrery added a clarification that Site A is the only site being supported by the Commission. Upon a motion by Mr. McCrery with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action.
On behalf of the NPS, Mr. May expressed appreciation for the Commission’s consideration and thoughts about the site selection, including the clarity of supporting a single site; he recalled that site selection reviews for other memorials have sometimes resulted in continued consideration of multiple sites. He also clarified that the presented location studies were intended to help understand the sites, not to jump prematurely to the design phase. He said the NPS anticipates a robust review process for the design, which will benefit from the comments provided today; he cited the discussion of respecting a 750- or 800-foot radius around the Lincoln Memorial, and of locating the memorial toward the northern edge of Site A to foster a conversation among the grouping of memorials in this area. He described the design process as currently having a blank slate, leading to consideration of the Commission’s design guidance at the next stage. He noted that the next step in the site selection process will be to seek a site approval from the National Capital Planning Commission.
Mr. McCrery asked if the NPS has received any objections from softball advocates about the selection of Site A, observing that each site approval tends to reduce the availability of softball fields. Mr. May acknowledged the challenge for the NPS of providing recreation as well as commemorative opportunities; he said the NPS will continue to work with all of the stakeholders as the GWOT Memorial project moves forward.
C. U.S. General Services Administration
CFA 16/MAR/23-3, St. Elizabeths West Campus, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Center Building south landscape plan (Resilience Plaza). Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/22-2) Secretary Luebke introduced a case submitted by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a concept design for the landscape south of the historic Center Building on the St. Elizabeths West Campus. The site, to be known as Resilience Plaza, will display artifacts from the 9/11 attacks; it is a loosely oval 1.6-acre area known historically as the Hemlock Circle, referring to this area’s former role within the late-nineteenth-century organization of the campus as an arboretum. The site is adjacent to the iconic Center Building of St. Elizabeths, which now houses the headquarters of the DHS. A plaza at the northern part of the site would feature the trident-shaped and N-shaped steel fragments from the World Trade Center, and a plaza at the south would display building stones salvaged from the Pentagon. In addition to these relics, the landscape elements include trees, walks, lighting, and a plaza for events.
Mr. Luebke said this submission is the second concept proposal; in the first review in June 2022, the Commission generally supported the display of these relics but concluded that the overall design seemed unresolved. At that review, the Commission took no action, instead providing comments about the random quality of the artifacts’ placement and a lack of context, expressing concern about the path layout, and suggesting consultation with an artist to develop an interpretation program for these powerful relics that would sensitively engage with the historic landscape design of the campus. He said the project team has returned with a design showing various adjustments: removing several of the previously proposed walks and widening of the remaining walks; relocating the survivor sapling tree to a more prominent location at the north; reducing the scale of the trident’s base; and providing visibility of the Pentagon stones from both sides. He asked Mina Wright, director of the Office of Planning and Design Quality for the GSA’s National Capital Region, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright said the GSA is pleased to return with an improved design that responds to the Commission’s previous comments. She noted that an artist has not been engaged for the interpretive signage because of the decision that Resilience Plaza should be interpreted in accordance with the existing interpretive signage program for the campus, which seeks to express the forward-looking mission of the DHS. She introduced Tom Chaleki, chief readiness support officer for the DHS, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Chaleki described the historic and current significance of the space that will become Resilience Plaza. He noted that the DHS has 260,000 employees; its agencies include the Secret Service, FEMA, Coast Guard, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The intent is that the DHS mission of national service will be reflected in the design of Resilience Plaza, which will acknowledge the origins of the DHS through the display of artifacts from the 9/11 attacks; more importantly, the plaza design will represent the resolve, resilience, and optimism of the DHS. He acknowledged the impressive existing memorials and museums in New York City and elsewhere that capture the somber meaning of the 9/11 attacks; the design for Resilience Plaza is instead intended to focus on expressing the identity of the DHS and celebrating its future, which should become central to the experience of every employee and visitor. The location of Resilience Plaza—near the office of the Secretary of Homeland Security—will be visible, accessible, and welcoming to all.
Mr. Chaleki noted that the DHS was established 20 years ago and is uniting its loose confederation of 22 separate agencies into a single department on this campus; Resilience Plaza will be the capstone for this unification, functioning as the centerpiece of a vibrant headquarters that will instill pride in the department’s mission. He described the plaza as a sort of “college quad” for the campus—a place where employees can take a break, have lunch, bring their families, and assemble for important ceremonies. He said the 9/11 artifacts, while not the only component of the plaza design, will provide a critical balance between remembrance of the department’s history and a celebration of what it has become and will continue to be.
For the presentation of the design, Mr. Chaleki introduced Paul Kempton of ZGF Architects and landscape architect Hallie Boyce of OLIN. Mr. Kempton said the project team has worked closely with stakeholders from the DHS, the GSA Office of Planning and Design Quality, and other consulting parties, along with addressing the Commission’s previous comments.
Ms. Boyce described the site’s broader regional context. The St. Elizabeths campus is situated on a high, flat plateau within the Anacostia Hills, which form part of the topographic bowl surrounding central Washington. Historically, the campus was managed as an arboretum, with slopes on the north and west sides managed as meadows and woodlands, typologies that have provided inspiration for this project. She indicated the site of Resilience Plaza, a central location near the pedestrian gates, the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters, and the future headquarters building of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; the site is immediately south of the Center Building, a National Historic Landmark. Because of the site’s position between the Center Building and the dining hall, many pedestrians pass through this area every day, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation routes connect the site to the rest of the campus.
Ms. Boyce presented a historic plan of the area from 1899 to illustrate that circulation was intended to extend in four directions across this greensward. Currently, pedestrian paths are located around the site to the north, east, and south. Two paths run through the middle of the site but do not connect with circulation on the east. People commonly walk down the middle of the adjacent street, which has little vehicular traffic; however, she noted that traffic will likely increase with further campus development. Existing trees will provide a background for the display of the artifacts; the proposal preserves as many mature shade trees as possible while providing new plantings to establish a long-term canopy. The proposed seating areas throughout the greensward are positioned to maintain and benefit from the views across and beyond the site.
Ms. Boyce described the challenges presented by the site. A shuttle bus regularly circulates around the area; parallel parking is located along the site’s east and west sides; and an existing steam vault and tunnel system must be maintained in place. Some existing areas of pavement will be replaced. She said the intent is to keep many of the existing trees in the southern part of site, but most trees in the northern part would be removed to create a strong visual connection with the Center Building. Most of the pedestrian circulation would be located in the southern part of the site, beneath the canopy of the existing trees. Plantings would be added around the site’s perimeter to mediate between Resilience Plaza and the parked cars and vehicular traffic that surround it.
Ms. Boyce presented the proposed display in Resilience Plaza of artifacts from the 9/11 attacks: two steel structures from the World Trade Center site, along with a tree grown from a tree that survived this attack, and several stones from the facade of the Pentagon. These varied elements would be displayed in groups on two separate granite-paved plazas, with the elements from New York placed in the northern part of the site and the stones from the Pentagon to the south. The three-pronged steel structure resembling a trident would have a vertical orientation, and the deformed steel beam—now distorted into N-shape—would be displayed horizontally; these two elements, with the survivor tree, will symbolize the strength and resiliency of both the DHS and the nation.
Ms. Boyce said the northern plaza area has been designed to accommodate events. She presented a plan illustrating moveable furniture arranged for an event, with a podium at the north facing individual seats to accommodate an audience of 110 people. In response to the Commission’s previous comments, the design proposes two alternative paths connecting the Center Building and the dining hall—a sidewalk along the east side of the site, and a meandering path within the greensward; trees would frame key views and a visual dialogue between the two plaza areas. Signs would be added at the four key entrances to the park, and paths would be paved in exposed-aggregate concrete, the standard used on the DHS campus. New granite benches are proposed at both of the plaza areas, and existing park benches would remain at four locations.
Mr. Kempton then described the proposed architectural elements. He presented a section drawing of the vertical installation for the trident, and he indicated the horizontal installation of the steel beam artifact that would be raised slightly above the surface of the plaza. He said this composition would have a more meaningful and powerful expression than the previous proposal, and it would be more appropriate for the historic campus while aligning with the project goals. The design of the trident’s base has been modified to comprise a flush metal grating with integrated architectural lighting, which will obscure the structural connections while enhancing its powerful appearance. To minimize the risk of staining the finish materials of the plaza, the grading would incorporate a drainage system to capture the stormwater runoff. He said the project team is researching techniques to preserve and maintain these surfaces, such as a wax coating and different concealed treatments, to control stormwater drainage.
Mr. Kempton illustrated additional details of the proposed design for displaying the distressed N-shaped steel beam, which had been specifically selected to provide a strongly contrasting horizontal element to the trident and as a vivid example of the devastating results of the 9/11 attack. The beam would be elevated six to eight inches above the plaza, supported by stainless steel struts that would be carefully welded to the beam; the delicate design of the struts is influenced by the inherent strength of the artifact. The area directly below would be paved, with integrated lighting. The concealed, below-grade concrete foundation is designed to accommodate the differential loads at the support points as well as the lateral loads that could be caused by strong winds.
Mr. Kempton said the display of the Pentagon stones would correspond to their original location on the facade of the Pentagon. One of the stones, a limestone pilaster, would be displayed vertically, and the other five would be displayed horizontally to suggest the running bond of the facade. The stones would be positioned to have the same solar orientation as their former location on the Pentagon. A stainless-steel structure would support the stones; most of the existing curved-cut anchor connections on the stones can be reused, and only one of the stone elements would be drilled through to receive this support structure. He said the display would allow unobstructed views of the stones from all directions. The base would be a honed stone plinth with integrated architectural lighting.
Ms. Boyce said the proposed planting plan includes native plants that would provide habitat for birds and pollinators. In keeping with requirements for tree replacement, 27 new trees would be added, including sweetgums, black gums, red maples, and flowering dogwoods for year-round interest. Flowering shrubs selected for their color and texture would be planted on the east and west sides of the site to obscure the rows of parked cars; perennials and groundcovers would also be planted in these areas.
Chair Tsien invited questions and comments from the Commission members, particularly on how well the revised design responds to the Commission’s previous comments.
Referring to the drawing of a possible seating arrangement for events in the larger plaza area to the north, Ms. Delplace commented that this arrangement would make pedestrian circulation through the plaza very difficult for anyone arriving late to find a seat or wanting to walk through the site along the path that crosses this space. She observed that the site’s overall configuration does not allow many other options for traversing the greensward other than through this plaza. She suggested that the plaza area could be slightly expanded to allow circulation around its outer edge instead of through the middle. In addition, noting Washington’s intense summer and fall heat, she recommended providing more shade for this northern plaza area; while acknowledging that the proposed flowering trees would be an important and beautiful addition, she emphasized the necessity of providing enough shade so people can enjoy sitting outside. She also observed that the addition of one or more canopy trees could provide an extraordinary backdrop to the space. Otherwise, she said she is pleased with the proposed revisions to the previous concept submission.
Mr. Cook asked about the large circular feature on the historic plan, and whether this feature has influenced the proposed location of the northern plaza area. Ms. Boyce said this had been a circular pond with an island, and it inspired the project team to begin with a circular form, which was then modified in response to the larger form of the greensward and to comments from consulting parties.
Mr. Cook noted that the Commission had recommended engaging an artist, but that Ms. Wright said the interpretive signage would follow the standards established for the DHS campus; he asked for clarification. Ms. Wright responded that a campus-wide interpretive program has been established, including interpretive signage. Although developing a unique signage system for this small area was considered, she said the decision is that it should fall within the standard program. Although the park itself will be a unique area, she said it would not necessarily benefit from having a different interpretive approach; instead, the story of the DHS presence and mission will be treated as part of the larger ongoing history of the campus. Chair Tsien said that although this interpretive approach differs from the Commission’s previous suggestion, the idea of tying the campus together as a whole—so that this park will be perceived as part of the fabric of the campus instead of as a special area—makes sense. She suggested a motion to approve the concept design with the two recommendations of reconsidering the circulation through the northern part of the site and adding shade trees for this area.
Regarding the request for additional shade, Ms. Wright responded that the project team has been careful to preserve sightlines and also thematic connections between the Pentagon stones and the World Trade Center artifacts, and she asked for further suggestions on the types of tree that could provide shade while preserving these views. Ms. Delplace said she recommends adding a large canopy tree or trees south of this plaza, strategically placed to respect the important heritage trees, in order to create a larger shade canopy in years to come; she emphasized that this should be considered an investment in the future. She added that the design team is fortunate to have a highly skilled landscape architect in Ms. Boyce, who can recommend appropriate tree species.
Chair Tsien summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept design for the proposal to display the DHS artifacts from 9/11 in a new landscape, with the recommendations to reconsider the circulation through the northern part of the site and to add one or more shade trees for this area. Upon a motion by Mr. Cook with second by Mr. Moore, the Commission adopted this action.
D. American Battle Monuments Commission
CFA 16/MAR/23-4, Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Modifications for barrier-free access. Concept. Secretary Luebke introduced the concept proposal for modifications to provide barrier-free access at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France. The cemetery was established in 1944 on the site of a temporary battlefield cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. It contains the graves of 9,386 service members, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landing and the ensuing operations. The cemetery is organized as a Latin cross in plan, with the main entrance and memorial at the eastern end and a circular chapel at the center. The memorial consists of a semi-circular colonnade with loggias at each end that display large maps and narratives of the relevant military operations; at the center is a freestanding bronze statue by Donald De Lue entitled The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves. Also associated with the memorial are the Walls of the Missing, configured in semi-circles and inscribed with 1,557 names. He said the memorial and chapel are only accessible via steps and ramps that do not comply with current accessibility standards. The American Battle Monuments Commission is giving priority to providing barrier-free access at this site, which is one of the most visited of the ABMC’s cemeteries, with well over one million visitors per year. He noted that the proposed interventions are relatively small in comparison to the scale of the property, but there are some concerns regarding the visual prominence of the railings proposed at the memorial; at the chapel, the proposal for ramping and railings appears well resolved. He asked Mary Kay Lanzillotta of Hartman-Cox Architects, which serves as the executive architect for the ABMC, to present the design.
Ms. Lanzillotta said yearly cemetery visitorship is close to 1.6 million people, many of whom are at an age where mobility is a challenge; while a few WWII veterans still visit each year, she noted that the 80th anniversary of D-Day is in 2024. The cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach and the English Channel. She presented images of the existing conditions, indicating the cross-shaped plan, the chapel, the memorial and its reflecting pool, and the Walls of the Missing and associated gardens. She described the symmetrical arrangement of the memorial, with the battle maps in open loggias on either side of the center pavilion. The gentle rise of 30 inches from the reflecting pool to the memorial is taken up by five stair steps; the stairs do not have handrails, adding to the accessibility concerns. She indicated the existing ramp, which is too steep and narrow to meet access needs.
Ms. Lanzillotta said the proposal at the memorial is intended to be a respectful and modest intervention, symmetrical in plan, with new access ramps on each side of the staircase. She said many options were considered for the configuration of the site circulation; the proposed design would extend the pathways within the allées and connect them to the raised memorial with barrier-free ramps. Handrails would be placed on each side of the new ramps and would also be added to the existing stairs. Proposed materials include new stone that is similar to the existing, with two options for the handrails: either a simple bronze rail with intermittent vertical bronze supports, or glass balustrade panels supporting a stainless-steel handrail; the bronze option is preferred by the ABMC. She indicated the modestly sized cheek walls that would be added to support the ramping. The existing allées of formally shaped trees would remain, maintaining the symmetry of the landscape design. She said other ramp configurations, such as an L-shape connecting directly to the main plaza, appeared to be too visually dominant and were not carried forward. There was also consideration of using larger stone cheek walls in front of the battle map areas to conceal the handrails, but these appeared obtrusive and discontinuous with the rest of the architecture.
Ms. Lanzillotta then presented the proposed modifications to the chapel, which is a small, cylindrical building sited in the center of the cemetery at the convergence of the primary north–south and east–west walkways. The main level of the chapel is approximately eighteen inches above grade. An existing ramp is located at the rear of the chapel, on the opposite side from the main entrance; however, similar to the conditions at the memorial, the ramp is too steep and narrow to meet current accessibility codes. People using the ramp can also be seen through a window at the rear, which is distracting to those inside the chapel. The proposal is to create two new barrier-free granite ramps curving along the sides of the chapel to reach the main entrance, allowing people using the stairs or the ramps to enter the chapel at the same point. The granite would be the same material used for the floor of the chapel. She said the new ramps would require handrails, which would be bronze; glass is not proposed as an alternative at this location. A low boxwood hedgerow would be planted at the base of the chapel to screen the walls of the new ramps.
Secretary Luebke noted that the staff had requested the study of an option for access to the memorial with ramping that would begin closer to the main walk and end farther away from the center of the raised memorial plaza, with the goal of decreasing the intrusion of the handrails into the broad frontal view of the memorial. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that this configuration would be challenging on the northern side, where this ramp configuration would be in conflict with access to the lower-level storage area beneath the battle maps; the result would be an asymmetrical design for the pair of ramps, which she said is not desirable.
Mr. McCrery observed that landings between the ramp segments are located more frequently than would be common in the United States, with an approximately five-foot length of ramp alternating with a five-foot-long landing; he asked if this configuration is a result of European accessibility codes. Ms. Lanzillotta confirmed that the project is designed in accordance with French standards, which allow for a one-in-ten slope on the ramps, steeper than the U.S. limit of a one-in-twelve slope; the greater steepness requires more frequent landings but results in a shorter overall length of the ramping system.
Mr. Cook commented that the proposal for the chapel is an elegant design. He observed that railings are only shown on one side of the new ramps at the chapel, and he questioned whether handrails would need to be installed on both the inboard and outboard sides of the new ramps. Ms. Lanzillotta said she believes the railings would need to be on both sides, and she offered to confirm this requirement.
Mr. Stroik congratulated the project team for the addition of the boxwood hedgerow at the base of the chapel, which he said would be an improvement over the existing conditions; he also expressed support for the design of the new ramps. For the memorial, he said glass should not be used as part of the railing system.
Ms. Delplace noted that designers must often balance provisions for barrier-free access with historic preservation considerations, but she struggles with the resulting relegation of access to the sides rather than providing front-and-center access. She expressed support for the alternative of an L-shaped ramp configuration that was illustrated in the presentation, which appeared to provide access to the main part of the memorial’s terrace from the front rather than the sides; she asked if this alternative had been considered, and she also suggested reducing the slope of the ramps to make them easier for people to use. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that reducing the slope would require making the ramps longer; in the presented configuration, this would result in the ramps conflicting with the tree allées on either side of the memorial, and she emphasized the importance of the allées in the overall site design. She said the L-shaped alternative would also intrude visually on the open niches and large stone urns at either side of the raised memorial plaza, and people using the ramps would be clearly visible from within the memorial’s map galleries. Ms. Delplace expressed appreciation for the explanation.
Chair Tsien commented that the memorial is beautiful and elegant, and she finds the two proposed interventions to be quite elegant and minimal as well, within the constraints of the project. She agreed with the observation of a conflict between historic preservation concerns and the desire to provide accessibility; however, in this case, the memorial has a sense of nobility that would be successfully preserved while still providing access. She said she likes the quiet, minimal line of the bronze handrails, which will not be visually intrusive; she expressed appreciation that the design does not include more complex features, such as integrated lighting and additional rails. She concluded that the proposed minimal interventions are in keeping with the simplicity of the memorial and chapel, and they would be successful additions to this important and much-visited site.
Mr. Stroik agreed with the comments regarding the balance between providing access and respecting the monumentality and purpose of the memorial. He said the proposal for the chapel is excellent, and he asked if there are any lessons from the chapel solution that could be applied to the memorial—for instance, using a more compact pair of switchback ramps located at the sides of the memorial. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that this configuration was studied for access to the memorial, but the necessary width of the ramp structure would require the removal of two trees from the allées on each side, which are important elements; Mr. Stroik agreed with the undesirability of removing trees. Ms. Lanzillotta added that at least a dozen ramp configurations were studied, with the goal of having the least visual impact. She confirmed for Mr. Stroik that the trees are approximately ten feet from the memorial, which is not far enough away to avoid impacting them if switchback ramps were constructed in these areas. Chair Tsien concluded that the trees are as much a part of the memorial as the building; Ms. Lanzillotta agreed, noting that the ABMC considers the landscape and the building to be a complete commemorative work.
Noting that the proposed interventions are fairly minor, Secretary Luebke suggested that a concept approval action could include delegation of the final design review to the staff, which would work to ensure the interventions to the historic property are as minimal and light as possible. Chair Tsien suggested a consensus to approve the concept design with the recommendations and observations provided, and with further review delegated to the staff; Mr. Cook clarified that the Commission’s preference is the option for bronze railings at the memorial. Upon a motion by Mr. Moore with second by Mr. Cook, the Commission adopted this action.
At this point, Mr. Stroik departed for the remainder of the meeting.
E. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 16/MAR/23-5, Smithsonian Gardens Tree Fences, five museum sites on the National Mall. Design and installation of new tree box fencing. Concept/Final. Secretary Luebke introduced the Smithsonian’s combined submission of a concept proposal that includes a general plan for the installation of new tree box fencing at five museum sites on the National Mall, and a proposed final design for a pilot project for this fencing at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). He said heavy pedestrian use of the sidewalks adjacent to the Mall museums has resulted in the trampling of vegetation, compacted soils, and low soil volumes. The pilot project, scheduled for the fall of 2023, would install new fencing around the tree boxes along the Constitution Avenue frontage of the NMNH; while this pilot project is funded by a grant, the installation of tree fencing at other museum sites is dependent on future appropriations. New understory plants inside the tree boxes would help to protect and improve the soil. He said design considerations for the new fencing include plant health, protection of plants and roots, visibility, durability, avoidance of sharp points, and easy access for maintenance. After the study of several options, the project team’s proposal is a design using a series of intersecting pointed arches with curved sides, based on the forms of the American elm tree and the ribbed vaulting within the Smithsonian Castle. Each segment of fencing would be 18 to 24 inches tall and approximately 16 inches long, constructed of galvanized steel bars. He asked Ann Trowbridge, associate director for planning at the Smithsonian, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said she is pleased to present a project that will enable Smithsonian Gardens to better protect the vitality of the street trees while creating a more inviting streetscape for visitors. She noted that the project would implement guidance for the incorporation of street tree fencing within the update to the Monumental Core Streetscape Design Guidelines and Construction Manual, currently being revised by an interagency working group; this group includes staff from the Commission, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Smithsonian, the National Park Service (NPS), the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (DC-HPO), and other stakeholders. She added that the DC-HPO has concurred with the Smithsonian’s historic preservation officer that the pilot project will have no adverse effect on historic resources.
Ms. Trowbridge said the Smithsonian’s trees are part of their living collections, and the pilot project would be funded by a grant from the Smithsonian’s National Collections Program. The larger project would extend the tree fences to four other museums; the installation details for these museums will be submitted for final review in the future as funding becomes available. She introduced the project designer, Paul Josey of Wolf Josey Landscape Architects, to present the proposal.
Mr. Josey said the goal of the general plan is to help in the preservation of the living collections of Smithsonian Gardens. He illustrated the areas under consideration for the new tree fences: along Constitution and Independence Avenues, Jefferson Drive, and portions of 3rd, 4th, 7th, 12th, and 14th Streets. He noted that currently no room is available for tree fencing in the zone proposed along Independence Avenue, but the possible future removal of a drive lane may someday make installation possible in this area. The pilot project would be installed along Constitution Avenue between the 9th and 12th Street expressways. He added that certain types of planting beds have not been included in the general plan: small or narrow planting beds with limited soil volume; beds with extensive tree root systems that leave no room for new plantings; and custom planters that do not have the capacity for tree fencing. However, areas with continuous planting beds can accommodate the installation of tree fencing, and this will help unify the overall Smithsonian landscape.
Mr. Josey said that healthy soils contain open pores, where air and water as well as tree roots can easily move and thrive. Compacted soils have lost this pore space, which leads to shortened life spans for trees and difficulty in establishing other plants; he indicated planters where heavy soil compaction impedes growth. He said surface roots appear in compacted soils because they are seeking oxygen, and such roots cause heaving of curbs and sidewalks.
Mr. Josey said the appearance of these tree boxes is a critical issue because they are part of the iconic landscapes for Smithsonian Gardens and are also important to the adjacent cultural landscapes. Critical design considerations for the project include not only promoting plant health but also providing clearances along curbs for food trucks, snow removal, and vehicle movement. Visibility into the planters is important, so the new fence design must be open instead of dense. He noted that areas along Constitution Avenue are highly active; many events on the avenue, such as parades, draw large crowds. Safety considerations are therefore important, such as designing the fencing to be durable, difficult to climb, and tall enough and visible enough to not create a tripping hazard. Long-term maintenance is also an issue, so the fencing should be modular, easy to paint, and repairable in place.
Mr. Josey said the process of designing the new fencing began with looking for pattern languages in the elements of Smithsonian buildings: the project team identified arcs, floral motifs, and repeated geometric patterns, along with the ribbed ceiling vaults of the Smithsonian Castle, and also the form of the Capitol dome. Distinctive landscape forms include the vase shape of the American elm trees lining the Mall. Eventually, the shapes of the Castle vaults and the elm branches led to the proposed fencing design, which is a series of repeated overlapping arcs within a repeated segment that will be 5 feet 3 inches long and 18 inches high. He said this design will not compete with the architectural language of any of the museum buildings. He noted that other designs were considered, including the use of other motifs or more orthogonal patterns, but the concern was that these might be easy to climb or would compete with rather than complement the existing architecture.
Mr. Josey said each panel of the fencing would be constructed with a surrounding frame of painted galvanized steel. A mockup has been built and photographed at each museum; he presented several of these photographs to show the general height and visual porosity of the fencing. He noted that some of the images include views of the arching branch forms of the nearby American elms. At the National Museum of the American Indian, the new fencing would be used only for street planters so that it will not be seen in proximity to the museum’s unique cultural landscape design.
Mr. Josey said the project would not have an impact on permanent vending locations, where space for clear circulation and queueing lines would remain. The proposal includes adding cut-throughs in planters that are particularly long to facilitate people moving between street parking and the sidewalk. Where planting beds are directly adjacent to drive lanes, the proposal is to omit fencing along the street side to accommodate vehicle doors, snow removal, and mid-block crossings. He said the design can also be adapted for locations with onsite utilities or other special conditions, such as curves, and the fences may be omitted in some areas, such as where vehicles may cut corners.
Mr. Josey said the design of the planting beds is being developed by the landscape architects and horticulturalists of Smithsonian Gardens. The proposal is to only use plants native to the Mid-Atlantic region. A mix of sedges and ferns—plants that will maintain their form and structure throughout the year—will create the matrix for the beds, combined with plants chosen as seasonal accents: spring bulbs, summer flowers, fall flowers and colors, winter seed heads and evergreen leaves. The plants are proposed to grow to a height of approximately 18 inches.
Chair Tsien thanked Mr. Josey for his clear and thorough presentation, and she invited questions and comments from the Commission members.
Mr. McCrery said it is his understanding that street trees in Washington are part of the DDOT right-of-way, but they are being discussed as part of the Smithsonian’s collection; he asked for clarification of who owns or has responsibility for the street trees. Ms. Trowbridge responded that the question is complicated; the Smithsonian’s general counsel has documentation indicating the trees are under Smithsonian jurisdiction, while the NPS and DDOT may have documentation showing that they have jurisdiction. However, she said these agencies have agreed to inform each other and to obtain the necessary permits for the work. For example, she said that if a tree planter is located in a sidewalk where both the NPS and the Smithsonian claim jurisdiction—such as along Jefferson Drive in front of the National Air and Space Museum—the Smithsonian would obtain permits from the NPS. She emphasized that the responsibility is shared but that maintenance is mostly performed by the Smithsonian, which cares for the streetscape zone adjacent to its properties, providing maintenance to the trees and pavements, and jointly polices the sidewalk with the NPS and the D.C. Police. She added that the Smithsonian has shared the proposed design for the tree planters with the other agencies.
Mr. McCrery observed that the final slide in the presentation illustrates a robust planted border along the west side of the NMNH; he asked if this character would remain. Mr. Josey responded that existing planting beds would not be removed but would have the approved new tree fencing installed during the winter dormancy period, when the work would not damage existing plantings. Mr. McCrery expressed support for this decision, commenting that successful planting beds, such as those shown in this photograph, should be allowed to remain.
Mr. McCrery said the Commission members are concerned that the National Gallery of Art (NGA) and DDOT do not seem to be involved in this project, and he asked whether they might develop their own design for tree fencing. Ms. Trowbridge responded that the Smithsonian has reached out to the NGA to provide information about this project; she noted that the NGA is part of the interagency task force for the Monumental Core Streetscape Design Guidelines, along with the Smithsonian and Smithsonian Gardens. She said the NGA has not yet indicated any decision on whether to use the Smithsonian’s design. She added that the Smithsonian design could be used in similar conditions, such as at the Whitten Building, the headquarters building of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is located on the Mall. She said representatives of DDOT were included in an agency staff meeting to consider this project before today’s Commission review; she added that the Smithsonian will be going to DDOT for a public space permit following review of the project by the NCPC at its April meeting.
Mr. McCrery reiterated his concern that another agency, such as the NGA, could develop a design of its own that is radically different from the Smithsonian proposal. He advised that the Smithsonian should not merely notify other institutions of its intent but should make a sincere effort to develop a coordinated design.
Ms. Delplace expressed support for Mr. McCrery’s comments. She observed that the landscapes along Constitution Avenue and Jefferson Drive are seen as a continuum of public space rather than as the property of different institutions. She noted that Washington has many places where the NPS uses its own design for benches and other features, while in other areas DDOT uses its own design, with the result that the city may already have several different types of tree fences. While agreeing that the fencing will be crucial for the health of the street trees, she expressed concern that the result will be an ad hoc branding of who owns the street instead of the development of a cohesive design that will convey to visitors that the Mall can be recognized by a consistent design vocabulary. She agreed with Mr. McCrery that simply notifying other institutions with responsibility for street trees and related street furniture may not be enough, and that instead this project should be an initiative where all affected agencies confirm the adoption of a consistent approach.
Secretary Luebke noted that Ms. Trowbridge has referred to the coordinating body that is led by the NCPC; he said it has operated under various names, such as the Mall Roads Group, and it includes the participation of all the relevant organizations. He observed that the extent of the project’s coordination within this group is not clear, and he recommended that the project team explain it further. Ms. Trowbridge responded that the plan was shared in a meeting of the group; representatives of Smithsonian Gardens, along with the Smithsonian’s senior facilities master planner, regularly participate in these meetings. She said the Smithsonian had also invited some members of the group to a meeting with CFA and NCPC staff, among others. While the Smithsonian was given comments, she said the response has not been to abandon this design in favor of one of those developed by DDOT; she said she believes DDOT has a standard design vocabulary, including tree fencing, that will be reviewed by the NCPC at its April meeting, and perhaps also by the Commission of Fine Arts, although a specific design will not be designated.
Marisa Scalera, a landscape architect with Smithsonian Gardens, said that she participates in the interagency working group that has been involved with developing the Monumental Core streetscape standards. She said this working group was asked to develop a design for a street tree fence that would be unique to the Monumental Core and distinctly different from DDOT’s own tree fence designs. She said today’s proposal is a direct response to the interagency working group's direction to create this unique street tree fence design.
Mr. Moore expressed appreciation for the efforts to coordinate, notify, and possibly identify a distinct treatment for tree fencing within the Monumental Core. However, he said the question is whether the proposed treatment for the Smithsonian sites can also be used as a standard for sites that are not under the Smithsonian’s jurisdiction. He noted the Commission’s concern with having more continuity within the monumental core district instead of differing designs that identify individual institutions.
Chair Tsien expressed appreciation for the pilot project, commenting that the design is very well done. She said she assumes that if other agencies prepare their own designs for tree fencing these will be submitted to the Commission for review, and the proposed design provides an excellent model to emulate. She suggested the Commission’s recommendation could be that the members strongly believe that other agencies need to coordinate with the Smithsonian in order to create a design language that may not be precisely the same throughout the Monumental Core but that must be visually coordinated with the language that has been developed by the Smithsonian. Secretary Luebke confirmed that the Commission will also have purview over any other street tree fencing design that is developed by other agencies.
Chair Tsien noted that coordination with all the federal and D.C. agencies will be a long and continuing task. In order to move forward, she suggested that the Commission strongly recommend that other agencies coordinate on this effort, and that the Commission will expect future proposals for tree fencing to have a very strong visual connection to the Smithsonian’s currently proposed design. She also suggested that the Commission approve the final design for the pilot tree fencing project as presented.
Mr. McCrery said he respectfully dissents from this opinion. While agreeing on the value of a pilot project, he said the Commission cannot obligate other agencies to use the Smithsonian’s design, which he thinks is implied by Chair Tsien’s suggestion. He said the Commission can instead require that the Smithsonian meet with and develop a coordinated design with representatives from each of these different interest groups—including any entity with frontage on the Mall, Independence Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Madison Drive, or Jefferson Drive—and that all these institutions should indicate in writing that they control their frontage and agree on this coordination, with the understanding that a better, more beautiful design may arise from this genuine collaboration.
Chair Tsien asked for other opinions. She said she believes that making approval contingent upon the agreement of all these agencies to coordinate with each other and the Smithsonian will result in nothing happening; meanwhile, the health of the street trees will continue to decline because of their current substandard protection. She said the proposed design would at least provide a model. She reiterated her support for a strong recommendation that any agency coming before the Commission with a design for a tree fence will first need to have coordinated with the Smithsonian on a common design language.
Secretary Luebke suggested that these two positions may not actually be that different. He said the policies of the working group on Mall streetscapes are being formulated through the NCPC. Ms. Trowbridge confirmed that the tree fencing plan and pilot project will be reviewed by the NCPC in April. Mr. Luebke noted the established review process that more deliberately measures this kind of proposal against the Mall streetscape guidelines, which the Commission reviewed in 2022. He said the NCPC, with input from other stakeholder agencies, will consider whether the tree fencing plan and pilot project are reasonable, without being too prescriptive about what any future designs would be. Chair Tsien asked if the suggestion is for the Commission to defer providing recommendations on this submission until after the NCPC meeting. Mr. Luebke said he is not suggesting a deferral; he observed that the Commission seems to be supporting the pilot project and the concept for the wider plan, with the request that the project be coordinated among the different stakeholders.
Mr. Moore expressed support for final approval of the pilot project for the Constitution Avenue segment at the NMNH, commenting that the design and its specifications need to be constructed and tested before a conclusion is reached by the wider group of agencies. However, he advised making it very clear that any final approval from the Commission for additional installations will depend on further coordination and participation among the different agencies. The eventual outcome could be a presentation or some kind of agreement on at least a shared design language, if not on a single standard design, and any future final design approvals would be contingent on this coordination. Chair Tsien noted the skillful wording of Mr. Moore’s summary.
Ms. Trowbridge said the NCPC review process includes review by a coordinating committee, which meets before the commission meeting; this committee includes staff representing CFA, DDOT, DC HPO, and others. She said the Smithsonian will be receiving comments soon from the NCPC review process, and also from the DDOT review for a public space permit within the next few months.
Chair Tsien suggested considering Mr. Moore’s comments as a motion. Upon a second by Mr. McCrery, the Commission approved the final design for the pilot installation of tree fencing, and approved the concept for an overall tree fencing plan contingent upon coordination with other agencies having jurisdiction over buildings on the Mall.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA