CFA 16/APR/15-3


3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Zoological Park - Bird House
Building renovation, alterations, and additions
Review Type


Dear Mr. Kelly:

In its meeting of 16 April, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for renovations, alterations, and additions to the Bird House and the associated landscape within the National Zoological Park. The Commission approved the general concept and requested further development of the design with the following comments.

The Commission members expressed strong support for the scope and planning of the project to rehabilitate the historic Beaux-Arts building and to improve the connection to the adjacent flight cage, an exuberant mid-1960s Modern structure, through a spiraling procession of exhibits through the building. While supporting the strategy to reuse the historic building, they observed that the proposed entrance addition appears flat, insubstantial, and postmodern in spirit against the robustness of the Bird House, and they suggested a more dynamic design for the entrance and orienting rooms at the front of the building. They commented that the renovation presents the opportunity to create an expressive design that draws upon the characteristics of birds in its scale and materials—either through lightness and delicacy or through bold gesture as displayed in the soaring design of the flight cage.

For the site, the Commission members endorsed the general design of the approach sequence; they suggested emphasizing the successive unfolding axes of bridge, clearing, and building by creating an area for visitors to pause to view the Bird House across the clearing. They said that this clearing should not resemble a plaza, recommending careful development of its boundaries as successional forest edges, and they advised close collaboration between architect and landscape architect.

The Commission looks forward to further review of this project as a revised concept submission. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Dennis W. Kelly, Director
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 5508
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: Ann Trowbridge, Smithsonian Institution
Alyson Steele, Quinn Evans Architects