CFA 21/FEB/19-1


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
Information presentation


Dear Mr. Gover:

In its meeting of 21 February, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear an information presentation on the proposed National Native American Veterans Memorial, to be located at Maryland Avenue and 3rd Street, SW, at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. Expressing strong support for the proposed location for the memorial at the eastern side of the museum’s grounds, the Commission provided the following comments for further development of the design.

The Commission members expressed appreciation for the thoughtfulness of the basic design scheme, a central meeting space featuring a vertical sculpture that can be approached from all four cardinal directions. They commented that the scale and proportion of the memorial’s elements—in relation to each other and to the existing features of the museum and its grounds—will be critical to the memorial’s success as a place of commemoration, ceremony, remembrance, and interpretation. Accordingly, they raised concern that the many elements of the design—the plaza, the perimeter walls, the benches, and the approach walks—are potentially overcrowded and too complex for the poetic simplicity of the memorial. They therefore recommended studying further the intended purposes of the space, whether contemplative or celebratory, in order to achieve a balance between space and function; refinements might include widening walkways, eliminating the inner walls, incorporating the benches into the outer walls, or further articulating the sense of threshold into the central circle. Care should be taken to create a sense of spatial enclosure for the memorial precinct—such as by raising the height of the bench walls—while maintaining a visual connection to the wetland features of the museum grounds. They also suggested that the accommodation of visitors using wheelchairs and mobility devices should be incorporated into the design of the memorial and its disposition of seating to provide a dignified experience for all visitors.

The Commission looks forward to the review of a concept design submission for this memorial; as always, the staff is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Kevin Gover, Director
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