CFA launches new website and blog

  • Posted by Thomas Luebke, FAIA
CFA seal
The terra cotta study for the Commission of Fine Arts seal was designed by sculptor Lee Lawrie for the fortieth anniversary of the agency in 1950. Featuring the Washington Monument as the primary symbol of Washington as the national capital city, the seal is still used as the Commission’s logo.

Welcome to the new website and blog of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the federal agency dedicated to design review in Washington, D.C. 

The city of Washington is unique and remarkable for its physical form, and it looks the way it does because it has been designed to emphasize collective values and public space. This tradition was established in the 1790s, when L’Enfant’s ingenious plan put forth the concept of the city’s form as the manifestation of the nation’s political aspirations.

The Commission of Fine Arts has been deeply involved in the process of designing this city since its establishment in 1910. In its core mission, the Commission of Fine Arts is an advocate within the federal government for public values at the broadest level of symbolism and physical design. Its members—seven presidentially appointed subject-matter experts—are focused on the importance of design and its social effect for the residents, workers, and visitors in the national capital city. The Commission reviews around 700 projects every year, bringing to its review the professional judgment of its members in aesthetics and best practices. In addition to the underlying concern with national symbolism, many of the issues raised in the design review process involve urban and landscape design, sustainability, physical security protection, and historic preservation. 

To increase public awareness about the work of the Commission of Fine Arts, we have undertaken a complete redesign of our website.  Our goals have been to create clearer presentation of meeting dates and requirements, to improve search function for agency records, to provide introductory information on the history of the Commission and the design of Washington, D.C., and to enable the engagement of a wider community through social media. With this blog, we hope to raise issues of design in Washington as a forum for discourse on public architecture, both locally and nationally.