West Potomac Park, 17th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its public meeting of 15 April conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a second revised concept submission for alterations to the existing Circle of Remembrance at the World War II Memorial, to include a new plaque inscribed with the prayer delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt by radio on D-Day. Expressing appreciation for the responsiveness to its previous advice, the Commission approved the submission with the following comments to guide the development of the final design.
In their consideration of the design options presented, the Commission members endorsed the applicant’s preferred location for the new plaque at the southeastern side of the Circle of Remembrance, with a clear view to the central area of the World War II Memorial. They noted the strength of the site’s circular form—with its unity of space, continuity of built elements, and panoramic views to the surrounding landscape—and they recommended that the design reinforce this essential character. For the design of the landscape, they suggested simplifying the plantings to be large trees and lawn only, eliminating the more decorative groundcover, shrubs, and understory flowering trees, in order to unify the site with the larger landscape of the war memorial; the natural context of large trees would further heighten a contrast with the pure geometry and crisp detailing of the circle, recalling the spatial effect of a chapel.
Regarding the built elements of the Circle of Remembrance, the Commission members recommended that the design of the perimeter benches be less blocky in character, perhaps more carefully related to the benches within the central area of the memorial. For the plaque, they recommended emphasizing the continuity of the outer circle of stone by reducing the height of the flanking piers to align with the backs of the benches; this would allow the bronze plaque to visually float above a consistent stone base. For the graphic design of the inscriptions, they endorsed the preferred typeface, Perpetua, for the body of the text, to be laid out in raised lettering at the larger size of one-half inch; they also suggested combining the title and date of the prayer as a single line across the top of the plaque to simplify the layout. They questioned the proposed inscription at the outer wall facing the site path—“Circle of Remembrance / World War II Memorial”—as superfluous labeling for a space that visitors can readily discover on their own; they suggested instead using a simpler inscription, such as “June 6, 1944” or graphic symbols such as stars, to indicate the theme of the circle and the display of the prayer within it.
In their discussion, the Commission members agreed in their support for the addition of a large, circular motif within the pavement at the center of the circle. However, they raised concerns about the proposed reinterpretation of the World War II Victory Medal bas-relief bronze medallions located within the Atlantic and Pacific arches of the memorial, particularly at an enlarged scale and as bronze linework inlaid into a background of stone. They suggested considering a cast bronze bas-relief medallion no larger than those in the memorial, or developing a different design that employs abstracted nautical imagery evocative of the D-Day setting, or using a non-directional motif such as a laurel wreath consistent with the non-axial configuration of the Circle of Remembrance. They cautioned that any feature proposed for the center of the pavement should not compete with the prayer plaque itself, which should convey the primary honorific meaning of the circle.
The Commission looks forward to the resolution of these design details in a final design submission for this important addition to the World War II Memorial. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Director
Region 1–National Capital Area
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Lisa Delplace, Oehme, van Sweden
Holly Rotondi, Friends of the National World War II Memorial