West Potomac Park at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Dear Ms. Hall:
In its public meeting of 21 October conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept submission for the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial, to be located near the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. The Commission approved the revised concept proposal and provided the following comments for the refinement of the design.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the project team’s positive responsiveness to their prior advice, which included eliminating the freestanding figural sculptures; they commented that the resulting composition of artistic elements, while varied in character, is now successfully balanced within the memorial precinct. They cited as a unifying concept the cinematic experience envisioned for the Storm Wall, created by the bas-relief depicting the conflict and extended to the two metal sculptures of raptors symbolizing the outcome of the historical narrative. They again endorsed the overall configuration of the memorial, comprising dune-like berm walls curving around a central plaza and fountain, which they said will create a restful space for visitors to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those involved in the conflict and an oasis for others passing by.
For the development of the design, the Commission members agreed that the landscape plan should evoke the image of the memorial as a desert oasis, and they anticipated future details of the planting plan and palette. For the central fountain, they advised adding tactile paving around the perimeter of the basin as a safety measure; they also suggested modifying the inner slope of the basin’s curving rim to prevent water from collecting and staining the perimeter stone. They commended the forming of the topography around the memorial to incorporate the storm levee and, noting the heavy volume of traffic at the adjacent intersection of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, suggested continued consideration of ways to reduce its visual and auditory effects on the memorial experience.
In order to advance the project through design development toward final approval, the Commission members requested the opportunity to review the various components of the memorial design in clusters of related topics, as is typical for commemorative works of this prominence and complexity. These submissions should address the refinement of such elements as the sculptures, inscriptions, and fountain; the selection of stone and other materials; landscape plans and specifications; and systems of signage and lighting.
As a more general issue for the National Park Service in its efforts to plan for future commemorative works, the Commission members noted that West Potomac Park and the National Mall are being used increasingly as a location for war memorials; they recommended a broad, comprehensive consideration of what subjects of national commemoration should be more strongly represented within this highly symbolic civic landscape.
The Commission looks forward to continuing its review of this new addition to the National Mall. Please consult with the Commission staff for guidance on future submissions for the continued review of the memorial design.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Kym A. Hall, Director
Region 1–National Capital Area
National Park Service
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Skip Graffam, The Olin Studio
Scott Stump, National Desert Storm War Memorial Association
Marcel Acosta, National Capital Planning Commission