The National Park Service is proposing that the best windows over-looking the nation's capital -- the peep holes high atop the Washington Monument -- be nearly doubled in size so that handicapped people and children can get a better view.
As it is, Park Service officials told the federal Fine Arts Commission yesterday, thousands of short children must be lifted by their parents to see the spectacular view of the Mall below. Meanwhile, people confined to wheelchairs must be hoisted on a mechanical lift or use periscope-like devices to get a full view from the windows designed for the sightlines of adult men.
Even though the Park Service has already spent $22,000 studying the problem and has yet to make as estimate of the construction cost, the Fine Arts Commission was not entirely happy with the Park Service's solution.
The Park Service proposal called for lowering the sills of the eight windows in the pyamidal top of the monument so that each would be 3 feet, 3 inches square and the glass would be flat with the granite surface.
The windows already are 3 feet, 3 inches wide, but are only 1 foot, 8 inches high looking to the north, west and south and 2 feet, 2 inches high to the east, toward the Capitol. In addition, the windows have protruding frames around them that slightly mar the outside appearance of the top of the monument.
The commission, the official arbiter of good design on federl lands in Washington, voiced no objections to the size of the proposed windows. But commission chairman J. Carter Brown, who is also director of the National Gallery of Art, said he thinks that because of reflection off the glass, installing windows in the surface of the monument would leave the monument with eight glaring spotlights at the top on sunny days.
"They will look like shining objects," Brown told Park Service representatives and Robert S. Long Jr., an Alexandria architect hired to work on the project. "I don't think [the design] has gotten to an acceptable point yet."
Brown suggested that the Park Service recess the windows slightly and place some kind of grayish disphanous screen over the windows that would not obstruct the view for the 1.6 million tourists that annually visit the monument and at the same time give the impression from the ground that no windows exist at all.
The Park Service agreed to draw up a new proposal to the commission.
Park officials also want to eliminate the eight beady-eyed, red blinking lights at the top of the monument that serve to warn airplane pilots of the 555-foot height of the structure. The Fine Arts Commission, with an eye toward simple design, did not object to that suggestion.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it would want to study whether eliminating the lights would cause an air safety problem. However, an agency spokesman said "it appears there would be no trouble removing them," since the monument area is off limits to all planes except helicopters serving the White House.
In addition to debating the monument window issue, the commission yesterday essentially approved the design of a large new office and residential complex between 30th and Thomas Jefferson streets NW, near the Georgetown waterfront. However, the commission asked that a floor be eliminated from the six-story development so that the overall effect of construction in the area near the existing Foundry complex would not be so massive.