Washington — The design for a World War II memorial planned for a prominent spot on the National Mall won approval Thursday from the U.S. Fine Arts Commission, unswayed by arguments it would mar the vista and offered an unclear message.
The commission, by a 6-0 vote, approved the design by architect Friedrich St. Florian for the 7.4-acre site between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
The project faces a second design vote, by Aug. 3, from the National Capital Planning Committee, which represents Congress and government agencies. Approval also is needed for inscriptions and the model for a central sculpture.
The memorial would sit at the head of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, with 56 pillars, each 17 feet high, and two large rainbow-shaped pools surrounding a sunken plaza. Visitors would enter through two 41-foot-tall arches.
Two fountains would send jets of water twice as high as the pillars. Wind sensors able to reduce the flow would protect visitors from the spray. Still, St. Florian said, trees and lawn would occupy two-thirds of the site.
A wall of gold stars would represent veterans killed in the war.
President Clinton dedicated the site five years ago, but no ground has been broken. About $92 million had been raised, mostly from private sources, of the estimated $100 million necessary to complete the memorial. Former Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas is helping lead the fund raising.
Some witnesses at Thursday's hearing contended the memorial would spoil the sight line between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The design was faulted for failing to convey a clear message.
J. Carter Brown, the commission chairman, compared the criticism to that leveled early on against the Vietnam War Memorial. "My reply was just wait until you go and see it," Brown said before the vote.
The design received support from Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., a Vietnam War veteran who had criticized an earlier version.
"The design, from the granite pillars to the freedom wall, to the field of gold stars to the fountains, waterfalls and landscaping, are breathtaking and yet respectful of the existing vistas," he wrote the commission.
The chief opponent was Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress. She favored a site in Constitution Gardens alongside the Mall.
"It should not cross our collective minds to interrupt the glorious and near-sacred space between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial with any man-made object," Norton said at a news conference before the commission's meeting.
- On the Net: National World War II Memorial site: www.wwiimemorial.com/.
American Battle Monuments Commission: www.abmc.gov.
Save the Mall site: www.savethemall.com