CFA 21/JUL/16-6


3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
United States

Smithsonian Institution
National Zoological Park--Bird House
Building renovation, alterations, and additions
Review Type
Revised concept
Previous Review


Dear Mr. Kelly:

In its meeting of 21 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for the renovation of and additions to the Bird House and its associated landscape within the National Zoological Park. The Commission approved the design with the following comments and delegated review of the final design to the staff.

The Commission members expressed appreciation for the thorough presentation and the responsiveness of the revised design to their guidance from the previous review. For the architectural design, they commented that the proposed entrance pavilion would create a beautiful addition to the historic building. They suggested eliminating the roof’s projecting rafter extensions, commenting that they would be an inauthentic detail in an otherwise elegant design. They endorsed the idea of plumage as the inspiration for the cladding of the entrance pavilion, emphasizing the need for appropriate detailing and a subtle variety of colors and shapes for the proposed metal panels to ensure the full realization of this concept. They also encouraged a more abstract rather than representational treatment of the proposed bird-related sculptures.

While generally supporting the landscape proposal, the Commission members observed that several components of its design would work against the intended character of a woodland clearing. They suggested configuring the plantings that frame the oval in undulating drifts to soften its edges, and interspersing trees within the paved areas; this would extend the woodland setting and provide shade for visitor comfort. They questioned the inward curve of the bench on the northern edge of the oval, observing that this configuration complicates pedestrian circulation and weakens the oval’s formal strength; they suggested reversing the curve of the bench to continue the oval shape. They also suggested that the path within the oval be of a material more consistent with a woodland character, such as stabilized gravel.

The Commission looks forward to the completion of this important project at the National Zoo. Please coordinate with the staff for submission of a final design that addresses the Commission's recommendations.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Dennis W. Kelly, Director
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 5508
Washington, DC  20013-7012

cc: Alyson Steele, Quinn Evans Architects
Dennis Meyer, The Portico Group