Pershing Park, Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its meeting of 21 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for several components—including the lighting, furnishings, and finishes—of the National World War I Memorial within Pershing Park, located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. The Commission provided the following comments for the further development of the project.
The Commission members expressed continued support for what they characterized as good progress on the overall design. In their review of the proposed lighting, they commented that the presentation focused on details rather than laying out an overall conceptual strategy. They observed that the historic Pershing Park design had used lighting primarily to delineate circulation and to frame the central space of the park rather than to highlight features; they raised concern about the lack of a conceptual approach to the reuse of the park’s original lighting fixtures, which are character-defining features of the existing landscape. They recommended clarifying the current plan’s intent to define features or frame spaces, to explore how these goals are balanced with technical requirements for access and safety, and to provide more technical information such as illumination levels, color temperature, and the effect on the surrounding monumental and commercial buildings. They also requested further exploration of how lighting for aesthetic emphasis would be differentiated from security or spatial lighting, and they advised finding unobtrusive locations for the tall light poles proposed to illuminate the central sculpture wall.
For the design of the site furnishings, the Commission members supported the proposal to provide horizontal identity signs inscribed on low walls at the entrances, a treatment that would be easily legible and would accommodate different grades and conditions. However, they questioned the proposed use of several stone finishes on the sculpture wall, suggesting that a single finish would impart the sense of the sculpture being firmly seated within a monolithic stone wall. In general, they expressed support for the proposal to use the same dark stone for both the bridge and the central plaza, saying it would be simpler and more recessive, although they noted that the darker color may increase heat gain. While commending the detailing proposed for the plaza and the bridge, they observed that the historic design of the Modernist park emphasizes balance rather than formal, axial symmetry; they therefore concluded that shifting the bridge southward would reinforce the aesthetic of the existing landscape design, improve circulation by favoring an approach to the left side of the chronologically narrative sculpture, and strengthen the visual connection between the new sculpture wall and the rehabilitated Pershing Memorial.
In their support of the project’s design development, the Commission members strongly reiterated their continuing concern that the relationship among the elements of the sculpture wall and the surrounding water and plaza must be better integrated; they emphasized the importance of resolving these design details as the vital next step in the design process. The Commission looks forward to further review of the project, including additional section drawings showing the proposed lighting, studies of the circulation sequence, and details of the sculpture wall and its base. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Libby O’Connell, U.S. World War I Centennial Commission
David Rubin, Land Collective
Sabin Howard, Sabin Howard Sculpture