Davis A. Buckley, President of Davis Buckley Architects and Planners (DBA), and Thomas J. Striegel, Vice President of the firm, recently spoke with us about the design of the National Law Enforcement Museum and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Although the Memorial was completed in 1991, the Museum, which is a LEED project, has just finished going through the design stage and will begin construction in 2009.
In 1988, DBA was hired to complete the site selection and design of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, a national memorial authorized by public law in our Nation's Capital to honor all law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty throughout the history of our country, as well as those who have honorably served and those who presently serve. After securing the Memorial site at Judiciary Square - one of the most prominent sites in L'Enfants plan for the City of Washington - DBA proceeded with designing the Memorial and obtaining required design approvals from the United States Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and the DC State Historic Preservation Office.
Construction of the Memorial was completed and dedicated by President George H.W. Bush in October of 1991. The Memorial design features the names of all officers who died in the line of duty engraved in mirror image, curving, low marble walls. Among those honored are the 72 New York City Police Officers who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Each May the names of the officers who died in the line of duty the previous year are added to the walls. The Memorial, which is visited by over 300,000 visitors annually, has been honored with 12 awards for design and construction craftsmanship.
In 1998, encouraged by the popularity and success of the Memorial, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was looking to expand their mission in the form of a national museum dedicated to all branches of law enforcement. They again asked DBA to complete the site selection process and serve as the designer of the National Law Enforcement Museum, which is an extension of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
After a detailed site selection process, by 2001 DBA was able to secure a site immediately adjacent to the Memorial, across E Street, NW, which was then occupied by a parking lot. The Public Law which granted the Memorial Fund the right to build the Museum on this parcel of Federal land was very restrictive. It limited the above grade portion of the Museum to two entry pavilions and the remainder of the Museum to be constructed underground, including a substantial portion under E Street. This resulted in the entry pavilions being designed as highly transparent glass structures that allow a maximum of natural light to the public spaces below, with a solid internal core that conceals the mechanical systems, elevators and egress functions within.
The 95,000 square foot museum structure will extend 50' underground and will feature a large public atrium, 25,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 135 seat theater, Hall of Remembrance, and changing exhibit gallery, museum support space and the administrative offices for both the Memorial and the Museum.
In an unusual approval process, Davis Buckley Architects obtained initial design approval from the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) in March 2003. However, about a year later the DC Courts, who were proposing renovations and a large addition to the Courthouse immediately behind the Museum, came forward with a proposed design that would have left the south end of Judiciary Square quite congested. The CFA, now faced with the full development of the south end of the square asked both the DC Courts and the Museum to come back with revised designs that reduced the size of their projects.
Davis Buckley Architects was now faced with an approval process where multiple agencies were not only judging the merits of the Museum's design, but were also evaluating it in the context of the evolving design of its neighbor. Following significant redesign it took until late-2007 for CFA, NCPC, NPS, and the DC SHPO to all approve the museum's design.
Because the Museum is being built substantially under E Street, the first phase of construction will be a 15-month period required to relocate the utilities that currently exist under the street. This utility relocation work is scheduled to start in July 2008, to be followed by construction of the Museum building starting in late-2009. The Museum is scheduled to open to the public in mid-2011.
A wide variety of materials were chosen, each for their long term performance in their specific application as well as their sustainable properties. The glass pavilions were selected for maximum transmission of natural light. The steel structure that supports the pavilions will have a high content of recycled steel. The main below grade structure will be reinforced concrete using fly ash and reinforcing steel including recycled content. Terrazzo flooring will be used throughout the public spaces and wood will be Forest Stewardship Council certified. All coatings, paints and adhesives will have low VOC's.
The project is a LEED project and the firm is targeting a Silver Level Certification. Davis Buckley Architects and Planners (DBA) believe that sustainable design is the most responsible approach to design. It best serves the building's owner, occupants and the general public, while not sacrificing any aesthetic considerations. All of DBA's projects these days incorporate sustainable design to some extent. In addition to the Museum, there are currently four other projects in various states of design and construction registered with the USGBC for LEED certification, including two office buildings, a hotel, and a twelve-story residential building.
When asked about the challenges faced in the design of the National Law Enforcement Museum, DBA architects responded, "A public museum is a more challenging project. You know that you are designing a structure that is meant to be around for a hundred years or more, so its place in the urban context is very important, particularly in such a public historic setting. All the approval agencies certainly make sure that you address all the issues that they can raise. Looking at historic precedents and similar projects is very important."
There were other challenges as well. "In addition to the approval process and being required to build below grade, just 16' off the north east corner of the Museum is the Judiciary Square Metro. This requires us to address the constant noise and vibrations from the subway trains. The water table is located approximately 55' below grade which also limits how deep we can build. This additional restriction in depth results in the roof of the building immediately under the surface of the roadway, creating additional noise and vibration issues that need to be addressed. We also had to incorporate a freight elevator large enough to bring police vehicles down to the exhibit level into the design of the small entry pavilions."
Thomas Striegel is the project manager for Davis Buckley Architects and the E&G Group is the owner's overall project manager. At any given time, a team of between three to six people has worked on the design at Davis Buckley Architects as well as an additional 13 engineering and specialty consultant firms.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) is a non-profit organization, so all funds for design and construction (over $80 million) are being raised from private and corporate donations. This is a start up Museum that had no existing collection when the design process began, but since then they have acquired over 6,000 artifacts.
"We work on a diverse variety of design project types. While the memorials are a very special area of interest, there are so few memorials built that the amount of memorial-related work is somewhat limited. In a way, the memorials are exterior public architecture and aspects of their designs apply to our building projects as well, such as educational, healthcare, and historic preservation projects, including three buildings that are approximately 200 years old."
"The most rewarding aspect of designing a public memorial has to be when you finally see the group that you designed a particular memorial for, actually in the space. Witnessing these people as they experience a place of honor that has been constructed for all time in our Nation's Capital for them and their loved ones is very powerful and very rewarding."