Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, DC
Dear Col. Bowling:
In its public meeting of 16 February conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed two related submissions: a master plan for Joint Base Myer– Henderson Hall and Fort McNair, and a concept design for a new barracks facility at Fort Myer. In general, the Commission found the presentation of the master plan to be inadequate because of the amount of dense detail shown at an inappropriate scale without conveying a conceptual vision. Accordingly, the Commission did not take an action on the master plan and requested that it be resubmitted with more clarity; the Commission approved the general concept for the barracks project at Fort Myer, which is also a component of the master plan.
In general, the Commission members emphasized the importance of preserving historic buildings and viewsheds on these nationally significant military installations. They raised a fundamental concern that these historic forts, with their highly prominent locations and symbolic role in the national capital, should reestablish the longstanding tradition of excellent military architecture; they therefore recommended that the Army engage the consulting services of specialized architectural and planning firms to achieve this intended high quality of design.
Fort McNair. In their review of the Fort McNair portion of the master plan, the Commission members observed that the historic campus, redesigned by the highly acclaimed design firm of McKim, Mead & White in the early 1900s, is a resource of tremendous quality and importance. They noted that the extant features of this historic plan include a formal entrance along P Street, SW; two distinctive and intact rows of officers’ houses framing a central parade ground; and, at its southern end, the iconic Roosevelt Hall, a National Historic Landmark. In order to protect views of Roosevelt Hall at the end of the peninsula, they recommended considering only the northern option for siting a proposed new building labeled “AD” in the master plan. Although it was not included as a component of the master plan, the Commission members expressed dismay at the requirement to demolish three of the fifteen historic officers’ houses along the Washington Channel—architecturally exemplary, currently occupied, and without any apparent proposal for the redevelopment of their sites— that was included in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in 2022.
Fort Myer. For the proposed new barracks at Fort Myer, the Commission members approved the overall planning, siting, orientation, and massing of two U-shaped buildings as appropriate within the larger planning goals for the campus, including the concentration of enlisted personnel quarters near existing support facilities between Sheridan Avenue and McNair Road. However, the Commission members raised fundamental concerns about the architectural design of the buildings, which they found was not of a quality commensurate with the historic heritage of the Fort Myer campus. Specifically, they cited such issues as the lack of a consistent architectural expression; the proportions and details of building elements including porches, roofs, and dormers; the inadequate scale of the windows, both for the comfort of the residents and the composition of the facades; the need for high-quality materials instead of polymeric substitutes; and the undeveloped landscape design. In their approval of the general concept, the Commission members requested that the project team develop the design to address these comments and resubmit the proposal as a revised concept.
The Commission looks forward to further review of both the Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall master plan and the proposed barracks at Fort Myer. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Col. David Bowling, Garrison Commander
Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall
204 Lee Avenue
Fort Myer, VA 22211-1199
cc: Kelly Whitton, U.S. Army
Alan Eidsmore, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Marcel Acosta, National Capital Planning Commission