Rather than vote yes, no or maybe on an embattled design for a Korean War Veterans Memorial, the National Capital Planning Commission yesterday opted to visit the site next week with members of its fellow federal review board, the Commission of Fine Arts, so that a "more informed decision" can be made.
The unusual joint gathering of the two commissions is scheduled to take place Thursday in Ash Woods, the memorial site between Independence Avenue SW and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. There, the Army Corps of Engineers will stake out the configuration and vertical dimensions of the proposed memorial, using a balloon to indicate the height of its tallest element, a flagpole.
There are two competing designs for the $15 million memorial, the "official" one propounded by the firm of Cooper-Lecky Architects and supported by the chief client, the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board, and the original design forwarded by the winners of a 1989 national design competition for the memorial.
As they have done at previous hearings, both groups presented designs at yesterday's meeting. However, because the prize-winning design lacks official backing, it remains unclear whether it too will be staked out at next week's outdoor meeting. The resolution adopted by the planning commission was ambiguous on the point, although Executive Director Reginald Griffith commented that "several people on both commissions hope that there will be some indication of both designs."
Although the Cooper-Lecky design maintains part of the original concept -- a column of 38 American service personnel proceeding toward a plaza containing the flag -- it differs from the original in orientation, planting, length and configuration. The authors of the competition-winning scheme have attacked the "substitute design" for embodying ideas that "glamorize and romanticize the act of war."
This group, composed of four architects affiliated with Pennsylvania State University, last month filed a suit in federal court seeking more than $500,000 in damages and requesting an injunction to stop work on the Cooper-Lecky design. Defendants in the suit, including Cooper-Lecky, the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board, the American Battle Memorials Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, have up to 60 days to respond.