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The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery

Project Details



Washington, D.C.

Client / Owner

USACE Norfolk District

Delivery Method


The Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) is a highly visible and sacred site in the United States that serves honorary, ceremonial, and operational functions. The amphitheater, dedicated in 1920, contains seating for about 5,000 people. In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknowns, RS&H provided field investigations and multi-discipline design services that detailed the areas throughout the Amphitheater, Reception Hall, and plaza that surrounds the Tomb of the Unknowns to identify areas that needed to be cleaned, repointed and preserved, and to incorporate accessibility improvements and accommodations.

RS&H collaborated with stakeholders to diagnose deficiencies

The design team investigated, assessed, and documented the conditions of the project that contained atmospheric soiling, biofilm and calcium carbonate, and masonry and mortar defects, and provided recommended actions for remediation. This project required close coordination with the USACE Norfolk District, ANC, and the National Park Service (NPS). The design team coordinated with each of the stakeholders when identifying how each component would be cleaned, repointed and preserved. The team provided details and mapped where, how, and what type of procedure would be used for remediation of each component and location based on the field assessment and testing.

Modern accessibility for a historic venue

A considerable challenge this project presented was the need to upgrade the accessibility accommodations of the 100-year-old facility without detracting from the stateliness of the Amphitheater’s historic beauty. To achieve this goal, RS&H’s approachably smart designers conducted field investigations and developed an ABA/ADA-compliant switch-back ramp incorporating materials approved by ANC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The concrete ramp and stainless-steel cable guardrails provide a dignified aesthetic that complements, rather than competes with, the historical construction.

The team designed and installed all ramped accessibility features in a way that can be removed in the future, maintains the other functions of the Amphitheater, and does not damage any of the existing structure or materials. The team also modified two of the colonnade-level seating boxes to provide wheelchair accessible box seating and reused original marble where possible.

RS&H’s expert oversight leads to success

In 2014, ANC was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as a historic district. Therefore, all work provided on this project was conducted under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and met the Secretary of the Interior’s Preservation Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Given the significant nature of this work, the team worked collaboratively with ANC and all stakeholders to make this a successful project. The design team facilitated detailed review meetings to coordinate the technical approach for the cleaning and restoration and gave several presentations to communicate the design and receive input from the end-users. Our team supported ANC with a variety of options and project data to provide ANC with an awardable project that would give the Amphitheater the look they wanted and meet the timeline for the 100th anniversary celebration.

Headshot of Richard Hammett.“Working for the Arlington National Cemetery is a challenge, since the cemetery has a unique mission as the nation’s premier resting place for our soldiers dating back to the Civil War,” said Richard Hammett, Aerospace and Defense vice president. “The work requires historic preservation as well as a high level of precision in the designs.”

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