The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Washington Post:
The Commission of Fine Arts this week considers whether to grant final design approval to a proposed World War II memorial on the Mall. The project has attracted opposition both to its design and to its prominent location astride the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln and Washington memorials: Opponents contend that the war memorial would mar one of the nation's great democratic vistas. We think they are wrong. The victory of democracy over totalitarianism in the last century deserves to be prominently remembered. The proposed memorial will do so while enhancing, not marring, the Mall.
Both the Fine Arts Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission have repeatedly endorsed the site. Indeed, it was the Fine Arts Commission that initially suggested that the proposed project be moved to a more-central location than the one originally envisioned, the Constitution Gardens parcel at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. And the design, which in initial drafts looked overbearing, has been revised to strike a balance between respecting the area's majestic sight lines and creating a significant and evocative space of its own. The improvement owes much to earlier critiques by the design commissions and to the architect's willingness to listen. The result: subtler dimensions, fewer architectural elements and a lighter, scaled-down scheme for the main plaza with its 56 circling pillars. The large plaza is now calculated to meld unobtrusively into the surrounding vistas until the viewer actually enters it; a large expanse of water, fountains and an emphasis on airy openness contribute to the intended effect of solemnity linked with democratic access.
That doesn't mean success is guaranteed, though, or that the commissioners' work is done. In weighing the final proposals, they still need to guard against excessive adornment. The designers envision multiple bas-reliefs, as yet undetermined inspirational inscriptions, a symbolic artwork denoting the victory of good over evil in the pool's center and two 70-foot flagpoles at the entrance. Too much such stuff will make a distracting muddle of a project that otherwise -- in contrast to what its critics insist -- can contribute an effective and appropriate memorial to a struggle that deserves the commemoration.
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