CFA 19/MAY/22-1


Section 45, Intersection of Sheridan and Weeks Drives
Arlington, VA
United States

U.S. Department of the Army
Arlington National Cemetery, President John F. Kennedy Gravesite
Accessibility improvements to existing memorial
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Col. Austin:

In its public meeting of 19 May conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for accessibility improvements to the President John F. Kennedy Gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. While expressing strong support for the goal to provide universal access at the gravesite, the Commission raised concerns about the proposed design for the replacement of a previously existing walkway and took no action, providing the following comments for the development of the project.

The Commission members cited the importance of the presidential gravesite as well as the larger context of the cemetery, which is characterized by curving landforms, roadways, and walks within extensive arrays of grave markers. Noting the strong arcing forms of the Kennedy Gravesite approach walks, they observed that the configuration of the previous flagstone path—which bypassed the oval plaza terrace in an awkward, right-angled alignment—provided an undignified approach to the upper grave terrace, conflicting with the gravesite’s beautiful curving character. While they expressed appreciation for the careful study of materials and details proposed to be derived from the gravesite for the new barrier-free path, they found that the proposed solution to reuse the existing configuration would continue to provide an undignified and subordinate approach to the grave. Instead, they recommended developing a comprehensive and elegant design, likely with the expertise of a landscape architect, that will provide all visitors to the Kennedy gravesite with a dignified experience.

In support of providing continuing access for all visitors to the gravesite that bypasses the existing steps, the Commission members suggested installing a temporary path while a more appropriate permanent solution that is more sympathetic to the design spirit of the gravesite and the wider cemetery landscape is developed. They also recommended removing any trash receptacles from the upper terraces to reinforce the dignified and solemn character of the site.

The Commission looks forward to further review of this project in a new concept submission that addresses these concerns. Please consult with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Col. Thomas E. Austin, Director of Engineering
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, VA 22211