Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
16 June 2005
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:08 a.m., after a site inspection of the ongoing renovation of the Old Patent Office Building.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
Advisory Council for Historic Preservation staff present:
Approval of minutes of 19 May meeting: The minutes were approved without objection.
Dates of next meetings, approved as:
Proposed year 2006 meeting schedules and submission deadlines for the Old Georgetown Board and the Commission. The 2006 meeting schedules and submission deadlines were approved as submitted.
Report on the Chairman's testimony before the National Capital Planning Commission regarding the Smithsonian Institution's projects at the Old Patent Office Building (National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum). The Secretary reported that the Chairman had given his testimony at the 2 June meeting of NCPC, summarizing the Commission's position in regard to both the proposed canopy over the courtyard and the reconstruction of the 1873 south stairs.
Report on the Commission's site visit to the Old Patent Office Building. The Chairman commented on how much the Commission had appreciated the opportunity to tour the building and hear Director Betsy Broun's comments. Mr. Belle said he thought the quality and character of the work were very good.
Submissions and Reviews
Department of Agriculture
CFA 16/JUN/05-1, U.S. National Arboretum, New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, NE. Classical Chinese Garden. Concept.
The Assistant Secretary introduced the director of the Arboretum, Dr. Thomas Elias, to make the presentation. Dr. Elias said the Chinese garden would be a joint project between the Department of Agriculture and the Chinese Academy of Forestry. He went on, using a PowerPoint presentation, to describe the character of the classical Chinese garden, which endeavored to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility and achieve a perfect blend of nature and man-made construction. He said there were five elements needed to make a Chinese garden-structures, rocks and rockeries, water, plants, and arts-and also noted that there were different types of gardens in China. He said the Arboretum's garden would be based on those in Shuzhou, China. Dr. Elias showed photographs of each of the five elements, noting especially the importance of stones and of large areas of water with bridges over them. The arts category would include furniture, paintings, stone sculpture, ikebana, etc.
Dr. Elias then turned to a site plan of the garden proposed for the Arboretum. He pointed out the location of the three main components: the first one, nearest the entrance, would include a small pond and traditional Chinese buildings, furnished with traditional Chinese furniture, calligraphy, and scroll paintings. Adjacent to it would be a boat house on a 1.3-acre lake. Further down the path winding through the garden would be the second component, which would include a two-story teahouse and an exhibit hall where demonstrations of various kinds of artwork would be held; there would also be the opportunity for tea-tasting. Another feature would be an exhibition of rockeries, each representing one of the four seasons. A bridge and long corridor would then take the visitor over the lake and into the third and largest of the components, where a series of pavilions would highlight the natural beauty of the garden and provide magnificent views. A traditional white Chinese pagoda would be a special feature of this part of the garden.
Questions were asked about the prospects of providing "peace and tranquility," given the presence of buildings right at the entrance to the park, and Dr. Elias said they were cognizant of this problem. Along the same line of thought, he said there would be no signs; hand-held computers would give visitors their information. Ms. Balmori urged Dr. Elias to choose the American team involved in the project carefully, to be sure they had some knowledge of Chinese gardens; he was also asked to pay special attention to the public approach to the main entrance, and to the detailing of the structures, so that contemporary mechanical, electrical, and safety systems would be as unobtrusive as possible. He was asked how much money had to be raised for the garden and said it would be $6 to 7 million.
The Commission agreed that this would be a magnificent addition to the Arboretum, and the concept was unanimously approved, with Ms. Balmori making the motion for approval, seconded by Ms. Zimmerman.
CFA 16/JUN/05-2, U.S. National Arboretum, New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, NE. Administration Building. Renovation and alterations. Final (Previous: CFA 21/APR/05-5).
Mr. Lindstrom began by saying that the Arboretum had informed him that it would not be possible to remove the "T"-shaped central mullion added for support in the new windows, as the Commission had requested, the reason being that it was necessary to meet code requirements for both wind and size of the glazing. Mr. Serag Wahba, representing the Department of Agriculture, said they would like to keep the exterior design of the building just as it was when seen in April. There were no objections to this, but Mr. Wahba was asked to be sure when specifying the new glazing that it match the existing single-glazed windows in transparency and color. Ms. Zimmerman moved that the final design be approved, subject to this caveat; her motion was seconded by Mr. Rybczynski and carried unanimously.
National Park Service
CFA 16/JUN/05-3, Georgetown Waterfront Park, bounded by the Potomac River and Water Street, from the Francis Scott Key Bridge to the terminus of 31st Street, NW. Revised concept for overlook structures and Wisconsin Avenue terminus plaza, and final design for the balance of the park. (Previous: CFA 17/FEB/05-3 and an information presentation, CFA 19/MAY/05-2).
Mr. Martinez introduced the project and summarized the recommendations of the Old Georgetown Board, who had last reviewed it at their 2 June 2005. At that meeting, the Board received a presentation for the final design at the west end of the park from Wisconsin Avenue to 34th Street and a revised concept for the Wisconsin Avenue Terminus Plaza. The Board had no objection to the contemporary and industrial character for the park's design, though they continued to suggest that the design be simplified further. They suggested that the availability of open space be increased, even if it would mean planting fewer trees. They suggested that the twin-twenty lights proposed for K Street be eliminated and that the remaining lamp posts be no more than 12 feet high. The revised design for the fountain on the Wisconsin Avenue Plaza was well received by the Board. Since the fountain would have no pool and would be turned off in the winter months, they felt that it would be an attractive space the year around.
As to the sculptural elements proposed for three overlooks along the water's edge, the Board strongly suggested that the Park Service consider eliminating them as part of an overall design simplification. The size and scale were a concern as were prospective maintenance of the fiberglass elements and the potential for light pollution from the masts and benches.
John Parsons, from the National Park Service, sculptor Jody Pinto and Kent Sundberg, landscape architect with Wallace, Roberts and Todd LLC made the presentation. The presentation consisted of proposals for the Wisconsin Avenue Terminus, the western portion of the park from Wisconsin Avenue to 34th Street and the three sculptural overlook elements.
The major elements of the Terminus would be a fountain, promenade, stepped bulkhead to the water and a pergola. The fountain would be asymmetrically rectangular in shape with a green granite surface. Low arching water jets would project from the granite edge. The fountain was designed to be walked through, and would have no pooling water. It would be flanked by seating under canopy trees. The promenade circling the bulkhead would have asphalt unit pavers. The edge of the promenade in this area would be defined by a short row of bollards and a planter. The bulkhead material would be concrete flanked by bioengineered edges. The pergola would stand parallel to the bulkhead. It would have a slightly wavy form and would stand on leaning support poles. A curved formation of benches would stand under the pergola.
Like the Wisconsin Avenue Terminus Plaza, the other sections or "rooms" in the western portion of the park would have curved paths leading from K Street to the water and canopies of flowering and shade trees. The paving for the curved paths would be asphalt and these paths would be primarily lined with flowering trees. Rain gardens would be located at the westernmost points on the curving paths. Directly to the west of 33rd Street would be a labyrinth, paved in two colors of concrete.
The sculptural elements would be located at the three overlooks at the river's edge. The locations would be immediately east of Potomac Street at the terminus of 33rd Street and roughly centered between 33rd and 34th Streets. The sculptural elements would be a fiberglass mast that would jut out diagonally over the water; curved seating, also made of fiberglass; and an undulating canopy piece consisting of a lattice-work frame and leaning pole supports. Three versions of the mast were shown at heights of 55, 65 and 75 feet. The preference was for the tallest mast, but the two others were presented to address concerns from the community about height. Both the mast and the seating would be illuminated from within.
The Commission approved the Wisconsin Avenue Terminus Plaza and the western portion of the park with the following recommendations: The westward curving paths should be paved with the same concrete pavers used elsewhere in the park, rather than with asphalt for more durability and less maintenance. The trees in these areas should also have a higher canopy to facilitate better views of the river from K Street. Fewer flowering trees should be used along the curved paths, also to allow for better views of the river. The members agreed that the revised design for the fountain was greatly improved.
Several members of the community spoke either in opposition to or support of the sculptural elements. They included Stephen Kurzman, Barbara Zartman, chairman of the Historic Preservation Committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, architect Outerbridge Horsey, architect Frank Schlesinger, Mel Bass, chairman of the original Georgetown Waterfront Commission's design committee, Roger Stone, a longtime Georgetown resident and fund raiser for the park, Victoria Rixey, president of CAG, Jonda McFarlane, former chairman of the Georgetown ANC and a founding member of the Georgetown Waterfront Commission, Ronald Lewis, a longtime Georgetown resident, and city planner Ann Satterthwaite.
After a lengthy discussion, the members determined that the sculptural elements would not be appropriate. They continued to be concerned about the scale, height and illumination as well as the quality and long-term durability of the materials. The Commission suggested that the sculptural elements be eliminated or that the applicants return with a new design.
A motion to approve the proposed designs, with aforementioned caveats, for the Wisconsin Avenue Terminus Plaza and the western portion of the park, and to disapprove the overlook sculptures was made and carried, with Ms. Zimmerman abstaining.
(The meeting was adjourned for lunch at 12:52 p.m. and reconvened at 1:30 pm.)
CFA 16/JUN/05-4, Lincoln Memorial Circle. Perimeter security barriers on east side. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/MAY/05-1).
Staff member Kristina Penhoet introduced John Parsons to present the revised concept for the Lincoln Memorial Circle perimeter security barriers. She also said that David Maloney, of the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and Nancy Witherell, of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), would also be making statements.
Mr. Parsons gave a brief history of the project, including efforts to integrate the three-foot wall currently under construction with the perimeter security elements in the front of the monument. The preferred method, as understood by the Park Service from previous Commission meetings, was for a curvilinear tapering of the retaining wall up the accessible ramp where the ramp meets grade. A single bollard would also be placed on the ramp itself.
Three options were presented. The first was a square plaza with the bollard line running from the outer piers flanking the memorial steps to the end of the sidewalk. The bollard line would resume on the landing of the first set of steps from the roadway to the Reflecting Pool. A single bollard would be placed on each handicapped accessible ramp, behind the outer piers, in this scheme. Mr. Parsons said this option would be the most minimal, in terms of the number of bollards.
The second option was the radial scheme, in which the bollard line would extend from the outer edge of the accessible ramps in a diagonal line and continue to the outer edge of the roadway, terminating to the end of the sidewalk further north than the bollard line in the square plaza option. The bollard line then would resume on the landing of the first set of steps from the roadway to the Reflecting Pool. Mr. Parsons said that this options would allow for a greater vista, but would require a greater number of bollards.
A third option was developed after discussions with the Commission of Fine Arts staff as well as the staffs of NCPC and the Historic Preservation Review Board. It was a variation on the square plaza scheme of option one, except that the bollard line would resume at the foot of the steps closest to the Reflecting Pool rather than on the landing one flight below the roadway. The two narrower sets of steps flanking the steps to the Reflecting Pool also each had a short row of bollards. With a series of bollards at the base of the stairs, a wall would be required which would otherwise be a greensward going up to the memorial. A series of bollards proposed for that slope would not be a good fit aesthetically. The proposed solution, then, was to use a yew hedge, like the hedge on the upper terrace of the memorial, on the lower landings to encase a cable, rather than a bollard, system.
David Maloney of the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office spoke next. He referred to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from 2003 in which the SHPO was charged with ensuring that, in the course adding security elements to the Lincoln Memorial, there would be no change to the fabric of the memorial and that the vista would be preserved. The SHPO had taken the position that the vista would best be preserved with the radial scheme of bollard placement. In light of subsequent recommendations of NCPC and CFA which did not necessarily follow the MOU, the SHPO reviewed the bollard line, made further site visits and gave further consideration to the recommendations of NCPC and CFA. Upon this re-examination, the SHPO concluded that their position was more aligned with dissenting views expressed at CFA's March 2005 meeting.
Mr. Maloney summarized the five reasons why the SHPO came to that conclusion. The first was the mandate to avoid alteration to the fabric of the memorial. The second reason was the necessity to preserve the flow of the steps unimpeded. Both the upper and lower steps were integral to the memorial and there was no wish to interrupt the flow of the steps with a bollard line. The third reason was the desire to maintain a balance between the length of the security line and the distance from the memorial. A bollard line on the upper landing would be too close to the heart of the memorial. The fourth reason was the recognition of opportunities to improve or restore the grounds generally. For example, rows of trees on the south side of the circle tended to be trampled by tourists and the introduction of carefully placed bollards might help preserve the trees. There might also be an opportunity to implement a careful design of the plaza at the base of the steps, directly west of the Reflecting Pool, integrating the bollard security line. The bluestone plaza had been removed in the 1970s, and the hope was that a carefully designed new plaza at base of the steps could be better integrated with the paths along the Reflecting Pool. The fifth reason was that there might be an opportunity to seek reasonable leeway in the application of security standards. Alternative ways to use hedges, for example, could perhaps shield the view of the bollard line. The SHPO's preference would be for the Park Service to take as minimalist an approach as possible, perhaps with bollards along the circle that would leave the center open and use temporary planters or modified jersey barriers in the center until a better solution could be developed. Mr. Maloney concluded by thanking the Park Service for being responsive and sensitive in their attempts to resolve this difficult security situation.
Nancy Witherell, from NCPC, spoke next. She said that NCPC would be discussing this project at their 7 July meeting and that the staff was in midst of forming their opinion at present. NCPC staff shared many of the concerns noted by Mr. Maloney, especially about preserving the fabric of the memorial and avoiding making irreversible mistakes in the name of security. NCPC would be looking at a line at the bottom of the lower stairs, and perhaps a cable and hedge system or some manner of fence in order to retain the integrity of the memorial. She also thanked the Park Service for their flexibility and efforts.
After a lengthy discussion and series of votes on the different options, the Commission made the following recommendations. They would support the placement of a security line at the base of the lower steps, west of the reflecting pool, and would encourage a redesign of this area to better incorporate the security elements, such as retaining walls, bollards and passage for emergency vehicles. The security perimeter from the base of the stairs to the memorial circle should contain a cable system hidden within a hedge of evergreens, located parallel to the outer steps.
The Commission requested a review of two possible options for the barrier crossing the roadway. One option should include the placement of security barriers along the new curb lines at Bacon and French drives adjacent to the memorial circle which would then continue along the outer perimeter of the circle using elements that may include reinforced street furniture, hedge and cable systems, low walls or bollards. The other option should include the placement of security barriers at the north and south edges of the central rectangular plaza, extending from the outer edges of the plinth blocks flanking the steps to the edges to the edges of the lower steps. There should also be a plan for vehicular control from Bacon and French drives. In both options, the wall surrounding the west side of the memorial should extend to meet the walls of the accessible ramps. The paving pattern of the roadway could be determined at a later date once a location for perimeter security was selected.
The Commission appreciated the continuing efforts of the Park Service and encouraged them to engage an expert landscape architect as they continued to develop security solutions for the memorial.
General Services Administration
CFA 16/JUN/05-5, National Capital Region First Impressions Sign Program. Demonstration installations of the new building/agency identification sign program at the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in the Federal Triangle and the Veterans Administration Building, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW. Installation mockups-concept. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/05-11. Submission was postponed from CFA 19/MAY/05).
Ms. Penhoet recalled that the Commission had viewed mockups of both 6-foot and 9-foot versions of these signs in front of the Veterans Administration building as part of their pre-meeting site inspections. It was noted that the taller version had space at the top for a Congressionally-appointed name. Mr. Belle observed that there was a danger that the lettering and background could be too similar in color. The Vice-Chairman asked if the letters would be incised or raised; she was told that they would be incised if the bronze version was selected, and painted on if another metal was used; no raised version was offered because of the likelihood of staining coming from underneath the letters and running down the face of the bronze. Mrs. Nelson also commented that she had felt that the 9-foot version was slightly too tall and the 6-foot version slightly too short, and that perhaps the Commission should see something in-between. It was decided that there should be another mock-up, with the taller height reduced by one foot, and the contrast between lettering and background increased. One version should be shown with the agency name at the top and the other with the address at the top. The Commission expressed its preference that the bronze with incised lettering be used rather than the alternatives.
District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority
CFA 16/JUN/05-6, Potomac Interceptor Line, near Fletcher's Boathouse along the C&O Canal. New odor control facility and public restrooms. Final.
Ms. Penhoet introduced Barry Lucas from WASA to begin the presentation of this project. Mr. Lucas said the interceptor line had been completed in stages from 1963 to 1969, and varied in diameter from 54 to 72 inches. It was also exceptionally long, running from Dulles Airport to Blue Plains. He said there were six structures along the way, and the one at Fletcher's Boathouse would be the only one in the District; it would be erected on Park Service land. He introduced architect Victor Wilburn to discuss his design.
Mr. Wilburn showed simulated photographs of the proposed red brick, gable-roof structure, roughly two stories in height. Attached was a lower shed roof structure containing the restroom facilities. There was general agreement that the two structures should be articulated in some way, or divided into two separate buildings, but as there was no site plan, building plans or elevations, sample materials or any other relevant information, the members did not feel they could make any further comments. Mr. Wilburn was asked to come back with adequate information.
(The Chairman left the meeting after this presentation and turned the gavel over to the Vice-Chairman.)
District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 05-070, 3700 O Street, NW. Georgetown University. New five-story building for the McDonough School of Business. Concept development. (Previous: O.G. 04-187, seen 17 June 2004).
Staff member Jose Martinez recalled the Commission's previous review of the concept design for this building, and said that at this point in the Old Georgetown Board's review, they were requesting only further study of the south entrance-especially the arches, columns and windows-in regard to their scale and composition. He recalled that the building would occupy an internal site within the campus near the Leavey Center and then introduced the architect, Ben Carlson from Goody-Clancy Architects.
Mr. Carlson noted that there were big grade changes on the site which had to be taken into consideration in the design, as did the relationship with other buildings, existing and proposed, in that part of the campus. He recalled that they had been asked during the previous review for further study of the transparency of the glass section of the east facade so that the atrium would be better integrated with the adjoining courtyard and perhaps even open into it. He noted changes in the glazing and in the plan itself, which showed a more public use for the ground floor spaces opening out to the courtyard. They had also been asked to take another look at the loading dock entrance on the west side to see if it could be made less noticeable; it had actually been relocated adjacent to the parking ramp. Services entrances and stairs on that side had also been removed as had the louvers for the air handling equipment. The louvers had been relocated to the east side in the form of a frieze under the edge of the roof. He showed drawings in each case to show the changes that had been made. Further development of the south entrance, as requested by the Georgetown Board, was still under consideration.
Mr. Carlson then turned to the landscape design, which he said would remain in an intermediate stage until the adjacent science center was built; he showed drawings of the proposal.
The members were satisfied with the changes made, and Mr. Carlson was asked to continue working on the refinements requested by the Georgetown Board. Ms. Zimmerman made a motion that the concept design be approved; it was seconded by Ms. Balmori and approved unanimously, with Mr. Belle abstaining.
O.G. 05-185, 1611 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. New two-story commercial building for Commerce Bank. Final. (Previous: O.G. 05-099 seen 17 March 2005.
Mr. Martinez introduced Jim Clarke from MTFA Architects to show the changes that had been made to the design in response the Commission's and the Georgetown Board's requests. The telecommunications antennae were now in the form of two 12-foot-high, 12-inch-diameter flagpoles on the roof, the cornice projection on the front had been deepened, the sidewalk in front enlarged, and the lights in the parking lot had been lowered from 16 to 12 feet in height, and spaced farther apart. The signs were now black, not too large and mounted on the brick. Samples were shown of the dark red brick, nearly-clear glass, and the stainless steel for the trellises. The changes and materials were given final approval, but Mr. Clarke was asked to give further thought to the sign.
The Appendix was approved without objection.
Ms. Penhoet said the applicants for S.L. 05-066, 2601 Woodley Place, NW, were appealing the Commission's disapproval of a window replacement in an apartment building. She said it was a non-contributing building in the Woodley Park Historic District in which the windows had been replaced, without a permit, with a design not compatible with the style and date of the building (1954). Although the Historic Preservation Review Board had not been concerned, the Commission's staff had been and wanted the windows to be restored and remain in place, or be replaced with new windows that had the same or similar glazing pattern. She said the windows gave the building its only distinction.
Christopher Cole, representing the owner of the building explained the situation, saying that he had not fully explored the review process requirements for replacing the windows and wanted to apologize for not having done so. The owner's historic preservation consultant, Emily Eig, said she did not really like the new windows either, but the District's Historic Preservation Review had not objected to them, and she was unclear just how the Shipstead-Luce Act was involved in this. Ms. Penhoet said that under the Shipstead Act it made no difference if the building was contributing or non-contributing to the historic district; what mattered was its impact on the adjacent Rock Creek Park and she noted also that the Commission's jurisdiction applied to the whole building, even if many of the windows did not face the park.
The Vice-Chairman commented that the Commission's charge was to see that the buildings facing the park were as attractive as they could be, and she suggested further meetings between the applicant and the staff to work this out and arrive at a window design that would duplicate the original windows as closely as possible.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:07 p.m.
After the meeting was adjourned the members left for the Freer Gallery of Art, where they examined two objects proposed for acquisition and approved them.
Thomas E. Luebke
Last Modified: July 21, 2005