- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

Designing a Vietnam Memorial visitors’ center

As the architects selected by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to design a visitors center, we feel it is our duty to respond to several of the issues raised in the May 27 opinion piece by Deborah K. Dietsch (“Mall sprawl poses issue,” Arts). While we take no issue with her assessment of the need for a national military history museum, we believe her opposition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center is unfounded.

The proposed location of the center — across Henry Bacon Drive from the existing Vietnam Memorial — seems to be the principle cause of Ms. Dietsch’s apprehension. From her concern about the location are conjured unsubstantiated fears that the center will have a detrimental effect on the Mall and destroy the experience of nearby memorials. We share her belief that the Mall is precious territory, but as designers experienced in working in fragile historic precincts, we are confident that this below-ground visitors center can both enhance the experience of the memorial for future generations and fit harmoniously into its context.

Throughout our firm’s 40-year history, we have been entrusted with the protection of some of the nation’s most treasured landmarks. These include such notable buildings as Carnegie Hall, the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, and, most recently, a vital section of Pennsylvania Avenue on which the Newseum is rising. We also count among our most prized commissions the planning of institutional campus precincts at Yale, Harvard and Cornell universities and the New York Botanical Garden. Many of these projects involved additions to nationally recognized historic places, requiring extreme sensitivity to our client’s aspirations while maintaining respect for the memories of their communities.

Although the design of the center has not yet been finalized — primarily since approval of a site for this project has been delayed — we have already identified several strategies that address all of the practical concerns of an underground building as raised by Ms. Dietsch.

Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Memorial and a member of the committee that selected the architectural and interpretive design team, will continue to consult with us and the National Park Service to ensure that the center does not adversely affect its neighbors or the memorial.

At this early stage in the center’s design process, it is important to recall the journey — rife with controversy and opponents — that Miss Lin’s design for the memorial took from concept to realization. This singularly powerful work owes its creation to the clarity of her vision and her sensitivity to its setting on the Mall. We will follow her lead, but in a way that will be physically anonymous but experientially compelling.

JAMES STEWART POLSHEK

Polshek Partners

New York

Mr. Brown’s condescending comments

The United Nations will be hard-pressed to regain any meaningful relevance by having senior officials like Mark Malloch Brown throw out childish comments against U.S. citizens, particularly from the Midwest (“Mr. Brown’s stupid Americans,” Editorial, Friday).

Ironically, this bombastic (and apparently politically motivated) statement comes from a leader of the very organization with the charter to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security. Contrary to what Mr. Brown thinks, this “hick” from the Midwest does not need Rush Limbaugh or Fox News to tell me how incompetent and irrelevant the United Nations has become.

Just what has the United Nations done lately besides play dumb on the oil-for-food get-rich scheme, hammer and haw about the definition of terrorism and officially recognize the first female U.S. television president?

This world needs a respected and reformed United Nations, but attacking Mr. Limbaugh is not the way to regain that relevance.

JAY CARLSON

Arlington

Dean’s hypocrisy

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean protests that “attacks” on Al Gore are “vicious” (“Keep your chin up,” Inside the Beltway, Thursday). Mr. Dean chooses to ignore that he has said “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for” and has called Republicans “evil,” “corrupt” and “brain-dead.” At a time when hate poisons our political atmosphere, Mr. Dean’s wrath is pretty vicious.

I have addressed Mr. Dean’s extremist rhetoric in the past, and I hope I will be forgiven for doing so again because of his very recent outburst. As long as the media let Mr. Dean get away with his sanctimonious hypocrisy without calling him on it, and as long as the Democratic Party tolerates his viciousness by keeping him on as chairman of its national committee, a truth squad should keep pointing out: “This emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”

NATHAN DODELL

Rockville

A November nightmare

In response to “Murtha may seek majority leader job” (Page 1, Saturday): Squeamish Republican voters, whom some media pundits predict will stay home in droves in November, should remember — and be heartened by — the familiar admonishment: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Consider hawk-turned-dove Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania saying he would run for majority leader if the Democrats win back the House in November, coupled with the dire prospect of Rep. Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, pushing her California-tainted leftist agenda. Add in Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont, and Carl Levin, Michigan, itching to limit the National Security Agency’s attempts to identify terrorists by tracking phone calls from overseas. And top it off with Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan lining up his subpoenas in preparation to impeach President Bush.

Republican National Committee campaign coffers should soon be sated. The Democrats’ hopes to retake Congress appear to be more and more of a nightmare rather than a dream.

W.H. SMITH

Indian Wells, Calif.

A tribute to Truman

When I read the article titled “Memorial to Ike planned near Mall” (Metropolitan, Thursday), I could not help thinking about why there isn’t a memorial, or some other form of recognition, in the nation’s capital honoring Harry S. Truman.

History has proven that Mr. Truman was a great and principled president. Mr. Eisenhower has a theater named after him at the Kennedy Center, and there is even an Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria complete with his statue at the beginning of the avenue.

Mr. Truman is deserving of this honor, but I feel certain that if the modest former president were living he probably would say very little about the absence of a tribute to him.

H. ALAN YOUNG

Alexandria

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