CFA 17/OCT/19-5


3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Zoological Park
Signs for wayfinding, visitor gates, and parking lots
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Monfort:

In its meeting of 17 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept proposal submitted by the Smithsonian Institution for signage and other modifications at several pedestrian entrances from parking lots within the National Zoological Park. The Commission did not take an action, providing comments for the development of the design.

The Commission members expressed support for the intent to enhance the entry experience at the National Zoo, commenting favorably on the use of animal imagery to improve wayfinding for visitors. However, they found that the cumulative effect of all the proposed elements—multiple large-scale photographs of animals, oversize signage panels, freestanding stone and metal piers, and painted metal silhouettes of animals—could overwhelm visitors at the relatively small entrances, and they suggested reducing the number and scale of these elements. They cited the silhouettes as graphically sophisticated, playful, and effective in supporting wayfinding, but they expressed concern that the numerous billboard-like animal photographs would appear out of place within the naturalistic, parkland setting of the zoo. They advised that fewer photographs be displayed, that the size of these images be reduced, or that they be eliminated altogether in favor of the silhouettes; simple wayfinding information could also be used in place of the photographs. To reduce the visual clutter at these frequently congested access points, they suggested eliminating or decreasing the number of the proposed piers, or better integrating them with the gate structures. They also advised creating a document to guide the implementation of the proposed kit-of-parts wayfinding program to address issues such as the appropriate combination of elements for specific locations and types of graphic information to be displayed.

The Commission looks forward to reviewing a new concept submission for this project. As always, the staff is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Steven Monfort, Director
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 511
Washington, DC 20013-7012

cc: Peter Baker, Ayers Saint Gross