Dear Col. Peloquin:
In its meeting of 17 October, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for the Southern Expansion Project at Arlington National Cemetery. Consistent with its previous strong support for the planning and design approach proposed for the expansion project, the Commission approved the concept with the following comments.
The Commission members commended the development of the project since the initial presentation, particularly the integration of the existing Air Force Memorial within the seventy-acre expansion of the cemetery landscape, which will include gravesites, a columbarium, and support features such as roadways, a parking garage, and a service complex. They commented that visitors driving to the site may find the vehicular route to the garage difficult; while acknowledging the challenges of coordinating with the transportation project to realign Columbia Pike and South Joyce Street, they recommended further effort to make this route less confusing through signage or other means. However, they found the pedestrian entrance sequence—from the garage on the south side of Columbia Pike through a new visitor entrance pavilion on the north side—to be a thoughtful and clear threshold into the site, with a new space created between the memorial and the columbarium.
For the design of this new arrival space, the Commission members observed that this area could be designed to provide a calm and welcoming place for visitors; however, they identified an awkward lack of spatial clarity in the area immediately north of the entrance pavilion, where visitors will choose their route to the cemetery or the memorial. They noted the many layers proposed between the columbarium complex and the memorial—the cemetery circulation road, a lawn bisected by a path, a tall hedge set into a raised planter of stone retaining walls, a tree-lined ceremonial allée—and they recommended reconsideration of the position and treatment of these landscape elements to shape the visitor experience. For example, they suggested eliminating the planter walls on the cemetery side of the hedge, possibly sloping the lawn gently up to it as a more informal waiting space between the two destinations. Within the memorial precinct, they suggested studying the best place for relocating the Air Force founders’ quotation wall in order to avoid truncating the diagonal approachway to the curving spires of the memorial; they also recommended that this quotation wall be reconstructed by using the existing inscribed stones rather than replicating it with new ones. Finally, they observed that the former vehicle turnaround is being reconceived as a programmable space with impressive vistas into the cemetery, and it should be designed as a gracious and attractive place for visitors; they recommended close attention to how the service needs of the memorial are managed in and around the pavilion at the eastern end of this area.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this important project. As always, the staff is available to assist you. Sincerely,
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Col. Michael Peloquin, Chief of Engineering
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211-5003
cc: Martin Poirier, Attention!! Landscape Architecture
Gregg Schwieterman, HNTB Corporation