CFA 17/OCT/19-4


Maryland Avenue at 3rd Street, SW, on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Native American Veterans Memorial
New memorial
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Gover:

In its meeting of 17 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the final design submission for the National Native American Veterans Memorial, to be constructed on the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian at Maryland Avenue and 3rd Street, SW. The Commission approved the final submission, conditional upon the resolution of the designs for the guardrail and paving.

In their review, the Commission members commended the project team for its responsiveness to their previous comments and for sensitively integrating the new memorial into the existing wetland landscape. However, they commented that the railing proposed along the path bordering the water appears dark, heavy, and reminiscent of a cage—potentially imposing a sense of separation instead of connection between visitors and the lush, elegant landscape. While they recognized the need for a safety barrier along the water’s edge, they recommended making the railing appear lighter and more transparent, perhaps through reducing the number and thickness of its components, or even lowering or eliminating it at locations as allowable by safety regulations. They supported the overall hierarchy of metal materials proposed, including the use of CorTen steel for the railing in contrast to the stainless steel of the memorial’s honorific elements such as the central sculpture, the Warriors’ Circle of Honor. In general, they requested a more recessive and open treatment for this barrier, whether by reducing its scope and extent, minimizing its apparent density, or adding lighting to the background vegetation. They characterized the design of the paving as elegant throughout the length of the winding walkway and within the memorial circle, but awkwardly unresolved at the location where these two treatments meet; they recommended refining this detail, possibly using paving stones of varying widths so that the walk appears to feather into the circle. Finally, they suggested considering the effects of climate change in the specification of plant materials and the long-term viability of particular species.

The Commission looks forward to the completion of this new memorial on the National Mall. In its conditional action, the Commission delegated the approval of the designs for the guardrail and paving to the staff which, as always, is available to assist you in completing this final review.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Kevin Gover, Director
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: Harvey Pratt, Harvey Phillip Pratt Art
Hans Butzer, Butzer Architects and Urbanism
Elliot Rhodeside, Rhodeside & Harwell