Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 May 2005
The meeting was convened at 10:20 a.m. in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, after a tour of the Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Institution.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
Before beginning the Administration items as printed on the agenda, the Chairman brought up the matter of election of officers, which he thought should be done in a more formalized way than it had been previously. He recalled the death of the Commission's long-time Chairman, the late J. Carter Brown, and how pleased he was to have been asked to fill out his term, and then later to have been elected Chairman. He commented that in his time as Chairman the Commission had evolved into an especially strong one and now had a new Secretary who looked very promising; he thought the time period of 2-3 years was a good one to establish as the cycle for election of a Chairman. He noted that there were a number of important projects due to come before the Commission, and given the amount of time he now realized had to be devoted to Commission business as Chairman, especially since he was not living in Washington, and with the pressing consideration of his own firm's business at this time, he felt he could no longer continue to carry out the Chairman's responsibilities.
Mr. Childs then said that in the great tradition of there being a close association between the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Art, particularly in regard to the election of the same person to be Director of the Gallery and Chairman of the Commission, he would like to nominate Mr. Powell to be the next Commission Chairman, if this was considered appropriate by the other members.
Mr. Powell said he would be honored to be Chairman, and he added that he would like to thank Mr. Childs, in the form of a formal resolution, for his incredible dedication to the Commission. He said he, too, had great respect for the Commission and the great part it had played in helping to maintain the capital's historic and aesthetic traditions, and he hoped he could continue Mr. Childs's good work.
Mr. Childs thanked him and asked if there was a second to the nomination. Ms. Zimmerman seconded it and it was enthusiastically endorsed by the other members. Mr. Powell then said the next motion should be for a new Vice-Chairman, and he then nominated Mrs. Nelson. Mr. Childs commented on her long-standing membership, her helpful criticism, and untiring devotion to the Commission. There was unanimous agreement with Mr. Childs's comments, and Mrs. Nelson was unanimously confirmed as Vice-Chairman.
Approval of the minutes of the 21 April meeting. The minutes were approved without objection.
Dates of next meetings, approved as:
The Commission's 95th year, established 17 May 1910; and the Shipstead-Luce Act's 75th year, approved 16 May 1930. Mr. Luebke noted the customary marking of these May anniversaries and noted that the Commission was coming close to its centennial. He said he was looking forward to working with the new Chairman on an appropriate way in which to commemorate it. Mr. Childs asked Ms. Kohler if there would be a new edition of the Commission's Brief History coming out at that time, and she said she hoped to have one covering the period from 1995 to 2005, and then a centennial edition in 2010.
Report on the 2005 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program. The Assistant Secretary said the acceptance letters were beginning to come in from the twenty-one applicants-the same as last year- and it looked as though Congress was going to accept the $7 million in grants as proposed. The maximum grant would be $400,000 rather than the half million currently in the program, which would have the effect of pushing more of the funding down to the smaller organizations, which would remove some of the objections to the program that had been raised in the past. On the whole, he said, the program was in very good shape.
Report on the position announcement for the hiring of a new staff architect. He said it would be advertised for about four weeks. Soon after, there would be another announcement for a second staff historian, making this the largest single expansion of the Commission's staff in its history.
Report on the tour of the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building. The Secretary noted that this building was designed by prominent Washington architect Adolf Cluss from 1879 to 1881 and was one of the four sites under consideration for the proposed National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Mr. Childs added that he was pleased that Secretary Small had decided to bring the project to the full Commission rather than just to the Chairman, which was all the law required. He noted that the A&I Building was presently in poor condition but was to be stabilized and have a new roof. Mrs. Nelson added that the Commission had also seen the Waterfront site and so was able to see the relationship between the two sites.
For the record the Secretary added that the project would be coming before the Commission in September and the final determination would be made by the Smithsonian's regents in January.
Submissions and Reviews
National Park Service
CFA 19/MAY/05-1, Lincoln Memorial Circle. Perimeter security barriers on east side. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/05-3).
The Secretary introduced the first project, a revised concept for the perimeter security on the east side of the Lincoln Memorial. There was a site visit and a review in March, during which several bollard location options between the circular road to the east of the Memorial and the Reflecting Pool were discussed. The Commission invited John Parsons, of the National Park Service, to continue that discussion.
Mr. Parsons made a brief presentation describing the recent history of the project in which he reviewed the various schemes for bollard placement that had been presented previously. These schemes included bollard placements that would have created a square plaza directly to the east, in line with Reflecting Pool and a radial layout that would have created a more curved area with bollards extending further to the north and south, to enclose the handicapped accessible ramps. He then presented a scheme in the bollard line would extend from the two inner piers flanking the lower steps of the Memorial to the roadway, directly in front of the sidewalk. The flanking handicapped accessible ramps would each contain a single bollard. These bollards would be located behind the outer piers to lessen their visibility.
The Commission stated that their first preference was to do nothing in terms of perimeter security for the Lincoln Memorial, since any security installation would be detrimental. Since that preference was not an option, the Commission indicated that they would support the creation of square plaza, if the bollards in the line parallel to the Memorial could be placed in such a way as to preserve the eastern view. This could be achieved with retractable bollards installed on one of the lower landings of the steps to the Reflecting Pool. Ms. Balmori made a motion that the Commission accept the square plaza scheme with the understanding that the Park Service would study the possibility of retractable bollards located on the Reflecting Pool steps. Mr. Childs seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.
CFA 19/MAY/05-2, Georgetown Waterfront Park, bounded by the Potomac River and Water Street, from the Francis Scott Key Bridge to terminus of 31st Street. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 17/FEB/05-3, Overlook structures).
Staff member Jose Martinez said that when the Commission last reviewed designs for the overlook structures proposed for Georgetown Waterfront Park, there were concerns about the mast and a request to see images of what the mast and overlook shade structures would look like at night. He introduced John Parsons, from the National Park Service, landscape architect Ignacio Bunster-Ossa and sculptor Jody Pinto to make the presentation.
Mr. Parsons asked Mr. Bunster-Ossa to brief the Commission on the progress made on the overall design of the park before showing an animated simulation of the overlook structures in daytime and nighttime conditions. Mr. Bunster-Ossa showed a plan with recent design refinements of both the overlook areas and also of the remainder of the park which would be shown to the Commission at the their June 2005 meeting. He noted that the paving in the overlook areas would use the same material as the walkway. The paving pattern would be rectangular instead of hexagonal, in order to more closely resemble the deck of a ship. After Mr. Bunster-Ossa concluded his remarks, the animation was shown.
The masts would project from the overlook areas. The height preference for the masts was 75 feet, but the Park Service would consider reducing them to 65 or 55 feet. They would be fiberglass and uniformly illuminated from a light source in the base. Ms. Pinto said that the translucent nature of the fiberglass would have a "disappearing" quality by day. The shade structures would be comprised of a stainless steel grid with GKD material for the surface. They would be illuminated from below with in-ground up-lights. The light sources would be visible, but textured glass could be used to avoid a blinding effect when looking down on them. At their lowest points, the shade structures would be 10 feet above the seating and 14 feet above at the highest points. The seating would be fiberglass with a stainless steel base. The seats would be illuminated with fluorescent lighting housed on the base.
The changes proposed to the paving pattern and the development of the sculptural elements were well received. However, the members expressed their concerns that the fiberglass would not stand up well to ultraviolet light. Ms. Pinto said that the choice of color would be important since some colors were more susceptible to U.V. deterioration than others. She said that she would like a milky white and a slight lemon color, but that further consultation with the fabricator would be necessary. The 75-feet height of the masts was also of concern and the members asked to see the various options under study.
Georgetown resident Stephen Kurzman said that he felt that the concerns raised at the February meeting had not been addressed. He briefly reiterated the comments he had made, on behalf of himself and other Georgetown residents. They continued to have reservations about the scale of the overlook structures. They felt that the structures would detract from the view. He also noted that in his experience, fiberglass was very difficult to maintain and make impervious to ultraviolet light.
The Chairman said that no action would be taken as this was an informational presentation. The Commission would seek more information, including technical information on the fiberglass, as the project progressed.
Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 19/MAY/05-3, Benjamin Franklin Commemorative Silver Dollars. Designs for two coins. Final.
Staff member Sue Kohler introduced this project, noting that it was unusual in that the two coins would both have portrait obverses, and one would show Franklin as a young man and the other Franklin as a mature man. She noted the presence of Barbara Bradford, Ann Bailey, and Michael White from the Mint, and asked Ms. Bradford to make the presentation.
Ms. Bradford began with the portrait obverses of the young Franklin, noting that designs Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8 were based on a portrait by Robert Feck, and No. 7 was based on a statue standing at the University of Pennsylvania by R. Tate McKenzie. However, the favorite of the sponsoring organization, the Franklin Institute for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary Commission, was design No. 9, an informal full length depiction of Franklin performing his experiment with electricity with a kite and a key. The inscription was "Benjamin Franklin Inventor". This was also the design preferred by the Commission with the comment that the proportions needed to be studied again, as the legs seemed too large in proportion to the head. A comment was also made that the initials of the engraver needed to be reduced somewhat as they were slightly distracting, and lastly, it was thought that if there were some way to indicate that the experiment was conducted during a storm, that would make the portrayal more accurate.
Ms. Bradford then showed several designs for the reverse, which depicted Franklin's role as a statesman. The choice of the members was design No. 14, which featured a sunburst design, taken from a detail on a chair George Washington sat in when he signed the Constitution. Below the sunburst was the inscription, "The Rising Sun of a Young Nation" and Franklin's signature. This was the second choice of the sponsoring organization, their first choice being design No. 6, which showed a snake broken in pieces, representing the colonies, with the words "Join or Die", a design based on a political cartoon used by Franklin.
For the second coin, the Commission's preference for the obverse was No. 12, showing Franklin wearing his small, round glasses and showing his signature and birth and death dates. The reverse designs all had the same theme: Franklin's contributions to coin and currency designs. Of these, the Commission preferred No. 1, a reproduction of Franklin's Continental Dollar.
(Ms. Balmori left the meeting at this point.)
Department of Defense
CFA 19/MAY/05-4, Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. Pentagon Reservation master plan. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/SEP/91-6).
Mr. Lindstrom commented that work on this master plan had been started before the events of 9/11, and they had since been occupied with other tasks but were now back on track with completing the plan. He added that the Commission would be reviewing individual projects as they were ready, commenting on their design as well as how they would fit into the general plan. He introduced Charlotte Kosmela from the SmithGroup to make the presentation.
Ms. Kosmela noted first that the objectives of the master plan changed somewhat after 9/11, with the foremost objective being the security of the Pentagon, defining the security perimeter and establishing the necessary stand-off distances. They would also be looking at significant circulation strategies, first in relation to security issues but also just to resolve some circulation problems not involving security. She said the master plan would be based on no-growth: the population would remain stable at around 23,000 and the parking ratio remaining at 1:3. Sustainability would also be a key objective. She commented on the huge amount of surface parking at the Pentagon, its undesirable visual appearance and the major problem of runoff, not only locally but in terms of its relationship to the Chesapeake Bay. Secondary objectives of the plan would be to find new permanent locations for certain uses, such as the heliport, which at this point, would be placed at the east side of the Pentagon. She commented on the recently established Public Transit Center and said that would continue to be developed to improve transit facilities, with the secondary objective being to keep the parking ratio as low as possible.
Turning to the parking situation, she said the policy was to consolidate the surface parking into parking structures so that out of the 8,000 existing surface parking spaces, 7,000 would be placed in parking structures dispersed throughout the reservation. These would have two stories, one below ground and one above. They would be sited so that they would be below the Pentagon and its plinth as well as the Mall terrace and would have green roofs with gardens. The north parking lot would be reclaimed as natural parkland with perhaps some athletic fields. She said the amount of green, pervious open space would be doubled, adding to the sustainability and environmental concerns, as well as increasing the stand-off distance. Efforts to increase the stand-off distance between the Pentagon and the public roadways would continue, and she noted the walls and other changes that had already been effected along Route 27 and Route 110 and the new truck inspection system. In addition to vehicle barriers, which would be permanent, there would be pedestrian barriers that were retractable and in place only during periods of high security alerts, as well as landscape barriers.
A question was asked about the status of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial. Phyllis Kaplan from the Pentagon, who was present at the meeting, answered this by saying that funds were still being gathered, and she was hoping that in about two years they would be ready to break ground. She said the Pentagon would be providing the utilities and they were already proceeding with that. A comment was made that there was a great opportunity in this master plan for significant landscape design and the engagement of the best landscape architect they could find. Also, there was an opportunity for art, and for the weaving together of art and architecture that was so popular at the time the Pentagon was built. Ms. Kaplan said their intent was to turn the Pentagon into a more friendly place and to get away from the fortress appearance; to do this they would definitely be seeking out expert help in the fields of landscaping and the visual arts.
The Chairman thanked Ms. Kosmela and Ms. Kaplan for their presentation; no action was required at this time.
Department of the Air Force
CFA 19/MAY/05-5, Bolling Air Force Base, Giovannoli Street and McGuire Avenue, SW. New one-story building for a U.S. Coast Guard Station. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/05-8).
Ms. Penhoet introduced Michael Schmitt to discuss revisions that had been made to the design in response to the Commission's comments in April.
Mr. Schmitt showed drawings, pointing out that he had separated the boat maintenance facility from the rest of the building, as had been requested, enabling him to lower the roof line of the main building and improve the proportions of the windows in relation to the facade. He said he would also try to replicate operable shutters as far as their ability to cover the window area was concerned and might even go to operable ones, given the proximity of the facility to the coast. Another request was to reduce the amount of brick on the lower part of the building. At the request of the Air Force Base he had brought it up to the window sill, but he had now reduced it, showing it only up to the foundation line. The third request was to simplify the portico, and he showed two alternatives; the members preferred the wider one. Lastly, he said he had lowered the fence surrounding the property from 8 to 6 feet. All things considered, it was agreed that the project could be approved. Mr. Childs made a motion to that effect which was seconded by Mrs. Nelson and carried unanimously.
CFA 19/MAY/05-6, National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE. Signs. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/05-3).
Ms. Penhoet said Harry Rombach from the Smithsonian was returning with a revised concept much reduced from the one submitted the previous month. She asked Mr. Rombach to discuss it with the members.
Mr. Rombach recalled the Smithsonian's three kinds of signs: (1) Information signs; (2) Program signs; and (3) Building identification signs. He said they had worked very well for the Smithsonian museums, but for this museum, and considering the Commission's comments that there were just too many signs for this location, he had reduced the number so that only the program type would be used, and there would be two of them bracketing the entrance. No information signs telling about other Smithsonian museums were needed for this off-the-Mall location, and there were some existing building information signs that would suffice for that function.
Mr. Rombach was questioned as to why two signs were needed, and he replied that it was for symmetry, since they were in front of a Beaux-Arts building. The Commission did not think that was necessary; it was agreed that only one was needed, and it would be best to keep the one nearest Union Station. The motion was made by Mr. Rybczynski, seconded by Mr. Childs, and carried unanimously.
(The meeting was recessed for lunch at 12:32 p.m. and reconvened at 1:15 p.m.)
General Services Administration
CFA 19/MAY/05-7, National Capital Region First Impressions Sign Program. Demonstration installations of the new building/agency identification sign program.
This submission was postponed.
CFA 19/MAY/05-8, Internal Revenue Service, 111 Constitution Avenue, NW. ADA ramp and railing at 12th Street north hemicycle entry. Concept and final.
CFA 19/MAY/05-9, Internal Revenue Service, 111 Constitution Avenue, NW. Replacement of temporary guard booth at the 12th Street service courtyard. Concept and final.
Mr. Martinez introduced these two projects, noting that the first project ramp was to be essentially the design approved by the Commission in 1999. The guard booth would be a replacement for an existing temporary structure. He introduced Mike McGill from GSA to introduce his consultants.
Mr. McGill said the same architect had been hired to design both projects, and so they would be discussed together. He introduced Marty Shore from Swanke Hayden Connell.
Mr. Shore began with the ADA ramp, noting that there was an existing non-compliant ramp at the northwest portion of the building, at the hemicycle just south of the Old Post Office, which would be replaced with a new one more in keeping with the style of the building and its materials. He said there was a precedent for this ramp at the Ariel Rios Building, and he observed that the proposed location was a good one as it was the closest entrance to the ADA Metro elevator.
As the ramp would match the other, previously approved one at Ariel Rios, Mr. Childs moved that it be approved. Mrs. Nelson seconded the motion, and it was carried unanimously.
Mr. Shore then discussed the guard booth replacement, which would be on 12th Street, at the main service entrance into the courtyard of the IRS building. He showed drawings, saying that the replacement booth would be larger than the existing as it had to accommodate two officers, two guard dogs and a trainer. It would be free-standing, set 4 feet away from the building and would not touch the architecture. As a temporary, utilitarian structure, it would not look like it was part of the IRS building. The Commission was not pleased with the design, and Mr. Shore was asked why he was designing another temporary booth when one was always going to be needed in that spot. Mr. Shore said he thought it was because a temporary design could get through the review process faster. The Commission members suspected he was right, but they thought this was an opportunity to do something that was attractive and suitable for the location.
Jack Chester from the IRS asked if there were some guidelines for a permanent structure so that they could get started. Ms. Penhoet noted that NCPC had requested that there be a study done to come up with a design for guard booths that could be used throughout the Federal Triangle; she thought the time frame for that to happen was probably the reason the IRS was requesting a temporary booth. Mr. Chester agreed, citing the terrible condition of the existing booth and its inadequate size. The Chairman suggested that in that case, Mr. Shore should work with the CFA staff and coordinate with NCPC and the Historic Preservation Review Board to get something acceptable built. That solution was acceptable to everyone.
Before moving on to the next project, Mr. McGill asked to comment on NCPC's Urban Design and Security Plan and its relevancy to these projects. He noted that one of this plan's basic concepts was that there were precincts in the city, such as the Federal Triangle, that were characterized by a grouping of buildings of similar architecture. In such situations, it seemed advisable to require that the security elements introduced into these precincts should not vary from building to building but should have the same architectural character. The trouble with this was that these buildings often faced on streets that each had its own requirements for consistent treatment, and so it was a chicken-and-egg problem that was making design decisions difficult and time-consuming, as well as expensive. He said that, fortunately, GSA had not yet done much in the way of permanent security installations in the Federal Triangle, but a major renovation of the Department of Commerce was coming up soon, including perimeter security, and perhaps that could establish a precedent for the Triangle.
CFA 19/MAY/05-10, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street, SW. Alterations and additions for a new child care center. Concept.
Mr. McGill commented that this building, designed by Marcel Breuer, currently had a daycare center in the basement that violated the current national standard for daycare centers, which were required to be at ground level with egress onto play areas. He noted that the design of the HUD building created an open first floor, and he said that HUD had agreed to move some unattractive parking from the southwest end of this floor to make room for the daycare center. He introduced Michael Foster from MTFA Architects to present his proposal.
Mr. Foster used a PowerPoint presentation, first showing views of the open first floor and noting that when areas had been enclosed with glass, such as the cafeteria, the glass had been set back from the pilotis that formed the structural base. He said they would follow the same setback and use the same height horizontal mullion for their glass enclosure. Then he showed a plan, noting that the daycare center would be in the least public corner of the building. A new outdoor play area for infants would be added at the rear, with the older children continuing to use the existing play area. There were no objections to the concept design, except for the treatment of the entrance, which seemed out of character with the architecture. Mr. Foster was asked to take another look at that, but otherwise the concept was unanimously approved, with Ms. Zimmerman making the motion for approval, seconded by Mr. Rybczynski.
(The agenda order was changed and the Shipstead-Luce and Old Georgetown Appendices were discussed next.)
District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Ms. Penhoet said there had been no changes in the Appendix, and it was approved without objection.
Old Georgetown Act
Mr. Martinez said there had been no changes in the Appendix, and it was approved without objection.
(The Commission returned to item H.1.a., under the Shipstead-Luce Act, the last item on the agenda.)
S.L. 05-061, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Newseum. Streetscape plan and perimeter security barriers. Revised concept. (Previous: S.L.05-055, 21 April 2005).
Peter Pritchard, president of the Newseum, introduced this project, saying first that they had made some adjustments to the design after the April meeting, and then introduced architect James Stewart Polshek, who, he noted, had just been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Mr. Polshek said first that they had changed the paving on Pennsylvania Avenue, removing the black granite which represented the outline of the overhang above and going back to the traditional red brick pavers, although the overhang was still outlined with a brick soldier course. He said he regretted this change, because the black granite was used inside as well as out, and had become "in a sense, part of our building because it is the undercover entrance..." He had liked the idea of uniting interior and exterior, separated only by a glass wall, and said he still wanted to think about it.
The second item Mr. Polshek had been asked to look at was the turning of the corner at 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where a wall and a triangular planter had been removed. The third item was a concern about the density of the benches, bollards, and planters along Pennsylvania Avenue. He said they had looked at many different examples of street furniture and planters on the avenue and did not think theirs was any more dense than the others. He repeated what Mr. Pritchard had said in April, and that was that their security consultant was adamant there be at least some semblance of security along the Pennsylvania Avenue frontage. He showed examples of other installations. He was asked if the Canadian Embassy was agreeable to following their streetsacpe pattern, and he said they would be open to it, that they had been very cooperative in every way.
The Commission thought Mr. Polshek had responded very well to the requests that had been made; the corner at 6th and Pennsylvania was considered much improved by its simplification. Mrs. Nelson moved that the revised concept be approved; Mr. Childs seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
District of Columbia Office on Aging
CFA 19/MAY/05-11, Ward One Senior Wellness Center, corner of Georgia Avenue and Newton Street NW. New building retaining the existing facades of four row houses. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 25/JAN/05-17).
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the final project, a revised concept for the Ward One Senior Wellness Center. When last reviewed in January, the Commission asked that several aspects of the design be considered. The first was the retention of the corner of the existing townhouse, the next was a setback on the upper story and a reconsideration of materials for that story and finally, a different entrance sequence. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Louis Fry III, of Lance Bailey Architects, to present the project.
Mr. Fry began with the entrance, which would be located on the west facade near the corner. Two of the existing row house entrances would be recessed, creating alcoves. One entrance would have steps and the other would have an accessible ramp. The ramp would run behind a wall with decorative grillwork. This grill pattern would also be carried over to gated structures which would enclosed the alcoves when the Center is closed.
The third story addition would be setback with an inclined wall. It would be clad with metal, rather than brick, and the setback would create a more significant cornice. The roof would be a flat-seam roof, though it would give the impression of being a mansard roof.
The Commission felt that the revised concept was much improved, and suggested further refinements. The third floor addition should have slanted walls, as presented, and the window configuration should be reconfigured to relate more to the rhythm of the windows on the existing facades. Mr. Childs made a motion to approve the concept and the motion was carried unanimously. Final approval for this project was delegated to the Commission staff.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:21 p.m.
Last Modified: June 16, 2005