various sites within the District of Columbia
Dear Ms. Hall:
In its public meeting of 20 April conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a site selection study for the planned Fallen Journalists Memorial, authorized to be located within Area 1 as defined in the Commemorative Works Act. Commending the thorough and thoughtful site selection process, the Commission approved Site O, a triangle park bounded by Maryland and Independence Avenues and 3rd Street, SW, adjacent to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), and provided the following comments.
Of the three finalist sites in the study, the Commission members expressed support for the sponsoring foundation’s preference for Site O—selected for its strong visual relationship with the U.S. Capitol dome, which may symbolize and inform an understanding of the relationship between a free press and Congress. They noted that the alternative site at Edward R. Murrow Park lacks a strong visual connection with the Capitol dome, and they cited the symbolic purposes and features that already exist at Freedom Plaza. However, they observed that the preferred site presents several design challenges: a limited footprint, the proximity to the strong architecture of the NMAI, and the presence of mature canopy trees that may partially obscure the view of the Capitol and should be protected. In general, they expressed strong support for the intent to use a landscape approach for the design of the planned memorial, and they emphasized the importance of defining the type of experience the memorial should provide.
In their discussion, the Commission members questioned the appropriateness of using Site O to commemorate fallen journalists given the site’s proximity to NMAI, potentially displacing the commemoration of themes and narratives more directly related to that institution. They raised concerns that the site selection process for memorials and museums is currently ad hoc and opportunistic; therefore, they urged the National Park Service to develop a broader and more comprehensive public process for the planning of memorial sites that will consider thematic and contextual proximities so that the selection of these increasingly rare prominent sites will be carefully evaluated to better anticipate future commemoration.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing a concept design for this memorial, which will become a permanent part of the city’s commemorative landscape. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Kym A. Hall, Area Director
Region 1 – National Capital Area
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Claire Sale, AECOM
Barbara Cochran, Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation
Marcel Acosta, National Capital Planning Commission