CFA 15/JUN/23-2


Columbia Pike between South Joyce Street and South Washington Boulevard
Arlington, VA
United States

U.S. Department of the Army
Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Visitor Education Center
New visitor education and conference center
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Col. Austin:

In its public meeting of 15 June conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center, to be located along a reconfigured segment of Columbia Pike at South Joyce Street in Arlington, Virginia, on a parcel within the jurisdiction of Arlington National Cemetery. The Commission expressed appreciation for the thoroughness of the presentation and the responsiveness to its previous advice but did not take an action, raising concerns about the proposed building design and providing the following comments.

The Commission members endorsed the revision of the site plan to locate the new visitor education center toward the eastern side of the parcel, which lowers its elevation and places it significantly closer to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, allowing for the progression of visitors from their vehicles through the building and to the memorial itself. They observed that the lower elevation and reduced height will significantly lessen the visual impact of this visitor and conference facility on the honorific landscape of Arlington National Cemetery.

Regarding the architectural design, the Commission members expressed concern that the hierarchy, proportions, and materials of the proposed building convey a commercial or industrial character inappropriate for the dignified context of the cemetery, the memorial, and the Pentagon. They questioned the use of the profile of the memorial’s benches as a primary rationale for the facade design, which has resulted in unnecessary complexity; they also discouraged the graphic expression of the digits of Flight 77 as a generating motif for the elevations and roof. In addition, they raised concerns about the articulation of the entrances, which they said are ambiguous in their relation to the other bays and awkward in their design. In conclusion, they recommended elevating the building’s architectural character by simplifying the design generally, with less reliance on graphic motifs; using higher-quality, more durable materials; strengthening the progression of pedestrian passage through the building and its architectural articulation; and refining the site design, including the integration of security and parking into the landscape design, in order to contribute to the visitor experience.

The Commission members look forward to further review of this important project within the commemorative landscape of the national capital. For the development of the design, please continue to consult with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Col. Thomas E. Austin, Director of Engineering
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA  22211

cc: Steve White, Fentress Architects
Chris Sutterfield, Confluence
Jim Laychak, Pentagon Memorial Fund