Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 November 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 9:41 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
Approval of the minutes of the 20 October meeting. The October minutes had been circulated to the members in advance of the meeting. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Ms. Nelson and second by Ms. Zimmerman.
Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had decided to cancel the December meeting. He presented the scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings in 2006: January 19, February 16, and March 16.
Report on the Morning's Site Inspections. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's visit to three sites earlier that morning:
Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial site, at Independence Avenue SW. (This project was not on the day's agenda but had been reviewed by the Commission in October.)
Mr. Powell suggested discussing the site visits as the projects are presented during the meeting. He also noted that the absence of a December meeting might result in a lengthy agenda for January, making a site visit difficult on the day of the Commission meeting. Mr. Luebke agreed to consider this concern as the January agenda is drafted.
Announcement of Commission Appointment. Mr. Luebke reported that the President had appointed Michael McKinnell to replace David Childs, who had previously announced his resignation from the Commission due to other professional commitments. Mr. Luebke noted Mr. McKinnell's work with the Boston firm of Kallman McKinnell & Wood Architects, and said that Mr. McKinnell would likely join the Commission at the January meeting. He also conveyed Mr. Childs' good wishes to the Commission and his regret at missing this final meeting.
Confirmation of Last Two Recommendations. Mr. Luebke noted that the final two items at the October meeting were presented after the loss of a quorum and suggested that the full Commission ratify the recommendations for these projects. The projects were both residential proposals submitted under the Shipstead-Luce Act. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the October recommendations:
Approval of the proposal for 2815 Woodland Drive NW.
Submissions and Reviews
Consent Calendars. Mr. Luebke noted a change in the traditional agenda sequence, with the various consent calendars now grouped together at the start of the meeting's submissions and reviews. All three listings had been circulated to the Commissioners in advance of the meeting, as appendices to the agenda.
Appendix I Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix II Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Penhoet noted that the appendix included two negative recommendations, both concerning minor sign projects. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix III Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez noted several changes to the draft appendix that had been distributed in advance of the meeting. Staff had received supplemental drawings for two projects, showing conformance with the Old Georgetown Board's recommendations; as a result, the negative recommendations had been revised to be favorable. He noted that the submission for the Hardy Middle School was in conformance with the plans that were approved in October 2003. He also noted that he was continuing to work with the applicant for 1419 33rd Street to ensure conformance with the Board's recommendations, and he asked the Commission to delegate final approval to the staff. The Commission approved the appendix with these recommendations, upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman and second by Mr. Rybczynski.
United States Institute of Peace
CFA 17/NOV/05-1, United States Institute of Peace. 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. New headquarters building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/02-2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project. Ms. Balmori has been engaged as the landscape architect for the design team and therefore recused herself from the project, leaving the meeting for the remainder of the discussion of this agenda item.
The architect, Moshe Safdie, presented the project, including an overview for the benefit of new Commission members and discussion of the revisions since the project was last seen by the Commission in November 2002. He noted that the program had several broad categories: a working research and conference center and a public education center with a 20,000-square-foot exhibit area. This public outreach component had expanded in scope since the previous presentation.
Mr. Safdie explained that the design had been revised to include two entrances: one on 23rd Street for the building's operational programs, and a public visitor entrance on the southwest near Constitution Avenue. Due to the sloping site, the 23rd Street entrance would be two stories higher than the public entrance and would include a driveway drop-off area that could be used as a VIP entrance for major events in the building. The public entry sequence had also been revised. The previous presentation had anticipated that the public would enter directly into the large atrium or igreat hallī that would serve as a focal point for visitors and a setting for special events. However, the logistics of the public entryincluding security screeningnow suggested the need for a separate smaller entrance room, with visitors then proceeding into the great hall. The entry room would be located on the southwest side of the building, reached through a garden and terrace area extending northwest from the intersection of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. An adjacent higher terrace, bordered by a retaining wall, would extend outward from the great hall to provide a secured outdoor space for special events held in the building.
Mr. Safdie discussed the changes in the building's massing and program since the previous review. He recalled that the Commission had urged a reduction in the building's height and mass, but meanwhile the program had increased by 20,000 square feet. The additional space was accommodated below grade, and the overall building height was reduced by several feet. He noted that both the office wing and the great hall roof were slightly lower in height than the recently approved addition to the American Pharmaceutical Association building on the east side of 23rd Street. As a result of the additional below-grade program space, the underground parking garageserving both the Institute and the adjacent Department of the Navy facilitieswas extended out under some of the adjacent garden areas.
Mr. Safdie described the visitor experience in more detail. The general public, including visitors arriving on tour buses, would enter a plaza at the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, across from the Mall. The visitors would ascend a path toward the entrance, alongside a channel of flowing water. Additional gardens would extend west beyond the building entrance, helping to screen the building and plaza from the highway ramp to the southwest. The retaining wall, forming the base of the elevated terrace, would contain inscriptions introducing visitors to the themes of the building's exhibits. There would be a visual link, not yet designed, between the entry plaza and the below-grade exhibit area. Upon entering the building, visitors could reach public facilities such as a cafe and classrooms, or descend escalators and elevators into the exhibit area. The exhibits would address topics such as conflict resolution and a timeline of human conflicts. After viewing the exhibits, visitors would ascend into the great hall, which would provide a view back toward the Mall and Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Safdie later clarified that the great hall would not contain permanent exhibits, since it needed to be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of special events; but it might contain artwork or inscriptions to conclude the visitor experience.
Mr. Safdie also described the other areas of the building, including an auditorium, conference center, library, and offices. Above one office wing would be a roof terrace overlooking the Mall. In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Safdie later clarified that this roof terrace would not normally be open to the general public, but it would have special events with invited guests and would also be accessible from an employee dining area.
Mr. Safdie noted that many of the technical details of the design had been developed further since the last presentation, due to further funding of the project. One example was the translucent material of the atrium's curved roof, as well as the glass wall of the atrium. The engineering team was studying the light emission from these features, trying to balance the need for sufficient transparency to provide interior daylight with the desire that the building's night-time glow not overpower the lighting of nearby national memorials. Mr. Safdie said that construction could begin in six to eight months.
Ms. Zimmerman inquired further about the building's illumination. Mr. Safdie clarified that there would be no exterior lighting of the building; the aesthetic concern would be the amount of interior light that would be visible through the glass walls and translucent roof. There would be some night-time interior light under routine conditions, and additional interior light during evening special events, which he estimated would be a very frequent occurrence.
Ms. Zimmerman praised the form of the curved roof, and inquired about the relation of the design to solar energy and solar protection. Mr. Safdie explained that the building was designed to bring daylight to all working spaces, using the two sunlit atria to overcome the building's deep floorplan. He estimated that 25% translucency for the atrium roof material would provide good daylight for the work areas of the building. The curved roof area extending to the south provided some protection from excessive sunlight, particularly from afternoon light. The use of the curved translucent roof was an alternative to the typical design of a glass-roofed atrium with shading devices to protect against excessive summer sunlight. He noted that additional building details, such as the recessing of windows, provided further solar benefits. He said that the atrium's vertical walls would be clear glass, and he did not intend to use any fritting or tinting, but the team was still studying the possibility of using vertical fins to provide further solar protection.
In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Safdie provided further details on the primary exterior building material, which would be acid-etched precast concrete. He noted that the mix used for the surface included mica, with a final appearance resembling limestone; regular concrete would be poured behind this special surface mixture. He had used this material on several other projects, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms building currently under construction in Washington. The color would be slightly lighter than Indiana limestone, and similar to the color being used at the ATF building. Mr. Powell requested that material samples be provided in future submissions, as the project moves beyond the concept stage.
Ms. Nelson praised the building design, with particular praise for the handling of security concerns through such features as water and changes in elevation, reducing the need for bollards. She also praised the separation of the entrance area from the great hall. She asked if the building's design was intended to suggest a dove, but Mr. Safdie said the design was abstract.
Ms. Nelson inquired about the potential safety hazard of the large glass wall along the great hall if there were an outdoor explosion. Mr. Safdie explained that there were various ways to address this concern, depending on the risk level of the building and setting; his previous work included sensitive projects such as the ATF building and airport terminals. The design included a clear film that would provide shatter resistance. An additional option would be to add very thin cables across the glass to limit the effect of a blast on people in the great hall. He compared the building's security level to that of the Smithsonian museums, but said that the desired security level was still under study.
Mr. Rybczynski noted the challenge of designing a modern building facing the classical space of the Mall. He described this project as appearing to combine two buildings, one more classical and one less so, and praised this approach to dealing with the inherent tension of the setting. He noted that the entrance is rather modest for such a big building, but recognized that the entire plaza area would serve to define the entrance. He suggested some further refinement of the plaza design that would serve to define the entry experience more strongly, creating a sense of arrival while visitors were still in the plaza area. Mr. Safdie agreed to study this further.
Mr. Luebke noted that the roadway adjacent to the entry plaza is a ramp leading to the Roosevelt Bridge; he suggested the need for further buffering to screen the plaza from the sight and noise of the traffic.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, and second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised concept, after noting the desire to see further details in future submissions.
National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund
CFA 17/NOV/05-2, National Law Enforcement Museum. Judiciary Square. Revised concept for central plaza skylight. (Previous: CFA 17/FEB/05-5.) Ms. Penhoet introduced the presentation, which had last been seen by the Commission in February 2005, and had been postponed from the July agenda. She introduced Davis Buckley, architect for the National Law Enforcement Museum, to be constructed beneath the plaza. She noted the presence of Craig Floyd from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation, which will operate the museum, and Judge Eric Washington from the D.C. Courts, which will be using much of the above-ground space of the plaza in conjunction with the adjacent courthouse.
Mr. Buckley presented the skylight in conjunction with the lighting consultant, Claude Engle. The proposal was to disperse clear paver blocks across part of the plaza, following a surface pattern that had been shown on the D.C. Courts' previous design plan for the plaza. The clear blocks would extend down to the ceiling of the museum below, bringing daylight to the underground space. The blocks would substitute for the white stone pavers that had been indicated on the Courts' plan. Mr. Buckley noted that this proposal would bring light to the desired locationthe central atrium area of the museumwhile respecting the Courts' surface design concept and avoiding any patterning that would compete with the design of the memorial on the other side of E Street.
Mr. Engle provided further technical details about the proposal. The shaft of the block would be acrylic, which would transmit light through its length with greater efficiency than traditional glass blocks. The top surface on the plaza would be a layer of glass, for better durability; a similar surface layer could be included at the bottom as well. The exact composition of the plaza surface layer was still to be determined, but it would be chosen for high transparency and slip resistance, possibly achieved through an etched surface pattern. Mr. Engel demonstrated the concept with a mock-up of the acrylic block and glass surface layer. He noted that the proposal would be successful even with the potentially thick slab at this location: the amount of light transmitted would not vary significantly regardless of the depth of the paver, and a person looking up from below would not be able to perceive any depth to the structure above. He explained that the quality of the light could be controlled through the design of the pavers, possibly including a variety of paver details to produce different lighting qualities.
Mr. Engle confirmed that the upper surface of the paver assembly would be flush with the plaza surface. Mr. Buckley further noted that the surface would be in compliance with accessibility requirements, and would be able to bear heavy loads such as the weight of vehicles. He explained that such pavers have been used in several other prominent projects. Mr. Powell noted that glass tends to transmit a green color, but Mr. Engle said that a low-iron glass could provide clear transmission of light. He confirmed that despite the high transmission level of the acrylic, the glass surface would result in a small reduction in the lighting level. He estimated that the Courts' paving pattern would result in about seven percent of the ceiling providing light transmission, and he had done other projects with daylight across six percent of the surface area and was comfortable that a slight reduction in light transmission would still result in a successful lighting level for the interior space. Mr. Buckley further clarified that the pavers would be approximately six inches wide and would range from three to over four feet in length, in accordance with the Courts' proposed plaza pattern. The depth could be whatever was desired, with the possibility of using different depths as part of a varied ceiling plane that would add architectural interest to the room below.
Mr. Powell noted that a comment letter was submitted by Judge Washington and invited him to speak to the Commission. He introduced himself as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration for the D.C. Courts and noted that his predecessor in that role, Judge Annice Wagner, was also present. Judge Washington reiterated the Courts' support for the museum project and noted that it was related to the restoration of the adjacent historic courthouse and the overall restoration of the D.C. courthouses in Judiciary Square. He referred to the authorizing legislation for the museum, which limits the area where the museum could develop above-ground elements. He objected that the current proposal violated the law's limitations, and continues a pattern of past design proposals by the museum's architect that affect the D.C. Courts' plaza area. He urged the Commission not to review a plaza-related project submitted by the museum, but instead suggested that the D.C. Courts' architects consider incorporating this proposal into the Courts' forthcoming plaza design. He noted that the plaza design must accommodate the Courts' needs for security, public and employee access, emergency access, utilities, and general visitor usage of the Judiciary Square area, as well as meet the needs of the museum and the adjacent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Services.
Mr. Powell commented that the museum's proposed paver system was described as being flush with the surface of the plaza, and therefore not truly an above-grade structure that would conflict with the authorizing legislation. Judge Washington referred to the wording of the legislation, which limits the museum to being iundergroundī in this area, which he interpreted as not permitting the museum to design the surface at grade. Ms. Zimmerman rejected this argument, commenting that the proposed pavers would constitute part of the plaza paving, which should not be construed as conflicting with the legislation's restriction on a museum building.
At Judge Washington's request, Judge Wagner offered further comments. She noted that she was present at the drafting of the legislation, and its precise definition of the museum's allowable construction area should be interpreted to allow the D.C. Courts to design the remaining area, including the plaza space. She reiterated the Courts' desire to cooperate with the museum, despite their differing interests. She also urged that the design discussion focus on the overall coordination of the museum and court buildings, rather than the relatively small issue of the skylights. Mr. Powell responded that the Commission would comment on the design, but would not get involved in the issue of jurisdiction. Judge Wagner noted the Courts' need to state its jurisdictional objection, since silence might imply consent to the museum's efforts to design this area. Mr. Powell offered that coordination between the two projects would be necessary for some design issues, such as emergency access and building code requirements.
In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Buckley clarified the source of the Courts' proposed paving pattern that he used in his design. He referred to a drawing by the Courts' architects, dated 20 May 2005, which was submitted to the Commission in July and provided to him on 25 October. He reiterated that he was not proposing any change to the paving pattern shown in the drawing, other than using clear paving blocks where the lighter color was shown. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Luebke clarified that the museum design also included two triangular skylights near the entry pavilions, as previously discussed with the Courts and approved by the Commission. These skylights would be set within a six-inch curb.
Mr. Powell reiterated that the Commission's review was limited to the proposed pavers in the plaza area, and praised the design solution. Ms. Nelson also praised the proposal, expressing regret at the project's ongoing procedural disagreements, but noted that the friction had resulted in an excellent design. Judge Washington said that there was not friction between the Courts and the museum, but Mr. Rybczynski pointed out that the friction was obvious from the comments made to the Commission. Judge Washington clarified that the disagreement was not necessarily over any aesthetic issues, but over which group should be preparing and presenting the design. He reiterated that the Courts would submit a comprehensive plan for the entire plaza area, possibly incorporating some of the features being proposed by the museum.
Ms. Nelson noted that the Courts' architect is the firm of a Commission member, Mr. John Belle (not present at the meeting). Ms. Balmori suggested that the Commission ask the two parties to work together on the overall plan for the plaza and Mr. Powell noted that the Commission had made this request repeatedly in past years. These efforts had resulted in some success but the Commission's present topic was limited to the daylight proposal. Mr. Powell encouraged the Courts to follow through in submitting an overall plan. Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Nelson, moved that the Commission approve the concept for the clear pavers. In response to Judge Washington, Mr. Powell clarified that the Commission would still require review of a final design, and the Commission understood that the design development would evolve from cooperation between the two sets of architects. Ms. Zimmerman clarified that the concept approval should be understood to mean that the amount of light-transmitting area shown in the proposal be maintained during further refinement of the design. Judge Washington expressed support for this clarification.
Craig Floyd, from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, requested further clarification of the Fund's role in finalizing the design for the surface area above the museum. He cited a 2003 letter to the Commission from Senator Campbell, sponsor of the authorizing legislation, stating that the Fund had sole responsibility for designing the museum. Mr. Floyd interpreted this to include the design of the plaza surface above the museum's underground area and objected to the Commission authorizing the Courts to prepare a final design for this plaza. Mr. Powell reiterated that Mr. Rybczinski's motion concerned only the aesthetics of the proposed clear paving in the central portion of the plaza. Both parties offered to incorporate this concept into further design work. The Commission then approved the motion for approval of the concept.
National Park Service
CFA 17/NOV/05-3, Lincoln Memorial Circle. Perimeter security barriers on east side. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/05-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the project, which involved the relationship of proposed bollards and paving patterns to the Lincoln Memorial's steps, plaza, the surrounding circular roadway, and the radial streets to the northeast and southeast. He reminded the Commission of its July recommendation that the design be revised to emphasize the linear relationship of the plaza to the Mall axis and the Lincoln statue. He noted that the revised version was approved by the National Capital Planning Commission in early October, and that the submission included the overall site concept for the location of the security perimeter, and also the concept for such details as the shape, material, and color of the bollards. Mr. Powell suggested that the presentation be separated into two portions, one concerning the site concept and the other concerning the bollard design.
John Parsons of the National Park Service then presented the site concept, with reference to the booklets provided to the Commissioners and to a Powerpoint presentation. He remarked that the project, although relatively small, had extended over three years and involved a number of issues. He noted that the Commission had already approved much of the barrier alignment, including the placement of some barrier segments within hedge plantings. The remaining issue was whether bollards should cross the circular roadway in an east-west line near the steps or in a radial pattern further away. The east-west alignment would help to define a rectangular plaza at the foot of the memorial, which was otherwise defined only through the paving and curb pattern. NCPC had concluded that the bollards would give too much emphasis to such a rectangular shape, and recommended the radial alignment. This would treat the bollards as part of the street and landscape pattern, rather than as part of a major spatial definition at the foot of the memorial. Similarly, there were alternative locations for the wall segments that formed part of the perimeter security, and NCPC had approved the alignment that stayed further away from the steps. Mr. Parsons reported that the proposed barriers within the hedges would now be bollards, rather than the original proposal for cables, due to engineering problems with the anchoring system required for cables.
Mr. Parsons then discussed the proposed design of the bollards, with a tapered profile and rounded top. He presented the option of having the shaft fluted or plain. He noted the Commission's previous comment to consider a simpler bollard near the Reflecting Pool, but instead proposed that chains be used between the bollards in this area.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commissioners first discuss the overall site plan. Ms. Balmori commented that the memorial's design had a strong east-west linear emphasis, and urged that this be emphasized by using the east-west alignment of bollards. She felt that that the radial alignment gave excessive emphasis to the curvature of the circular roadway. She noted that bollards were routinely perceived as giving only modest spatial definition, so their placement along the perimeter of the paved rectangular area would not overwhelm the general open character of the space, but would just provide a slight visual reinforcement to the paving pattern. She noted that the rectangular plaza served as a transition between the memorial and its wider axial setting. She also noted that the circular roadway had been widened since it was first built, so it would not be historically meaningful to add further emphasis to the roadway nor align the bollards with its current edge. In response to Mr. Parsons, Ms. Balmori clarified that she supported the proposed paving pattern that defined the rectangular plaza, but urged that the bollards provide further reinforcement of this edge. Ms. Balmori also reluctantly supported the incorporation of some bollards into the hedges, agreeing that hiding this portion of the perimeter security was the best solution available.
Ms. Nelson agreed with the proposed paving pattern, but supported the radial alignment of the bollards in order to keep them further away from the memorial steps. She suggested that the angles of the radial pattern looked awkward in the drawings but would not be an aesthetic problem when built. She also noted that the radial location would place the bollards away from the most popular areas for tourist gatherings and photographs. She and Mr. Parsons concurred in regretting the need to create the perimeter security and recognizing that no solution was ideal.
Mr. Rybczynski supported Ms. Balmori's observations but disagreed with her conclusion, commenting that the rectangular plaza should not be given any further emphasis beyond the change in paving materials. He suggested treating the bollards as minor landscape elements and treating the rectangular edges as minor lines rather than a major spatial zone. He concurred with Ms. Nelson that the radial alignment kept the bollards away from the most sensitive visual area, even though the result would be a greater overall number of bollards.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that the large number of bollards appeared to be a more significant problem on paper than it would be at the actual site. She therefore supported the radial alignment, despite the greater number of bollards that would be required.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised concept for the radial alignment, with the understanding that the paving pattern would delineate the rectangular area and that the project would be submitted at a more detailed stage that would include a review of materials. Ms. Balmori voted against the motion; she commented that the plaza area had an awkward relationship to the memorial, and the radial alignment worsened the problem by suggesting an expanded spatial definition of the plaza area. She noted that American public spaces have generally not been successful in their scale and design and she regretted that this problem would be evident at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Commission then discussed the design of the bollards themselves. Ms. Zimmerman estimated that there would be 200 bollards. Mr. Powell urged a simple design. Mr. Parsons noted that a masonry design had been considered, but the masonry would need to encase a steel pipe that would provide the security protection, and the resulting width was considered too bulky for the setting. Mr. Parsons therefore proposed a painted steel bollard with a tapered profile and domed top; the color had not yet been determined. He presented options with and without fluting. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Zimmerman supported the design that did not have fluting. Mr. Parsons and the Commissioners agreed that the fluting would relate to the memorial's columns, but the vast difference in scale made such a relationship unnecessary. The Commissioners supported the tapered profile that was presented. Mr. Parsons offered to arrange an on-site mock-up of a single bollard that would show details such as a proposed color.
Mr. Rybczynski urged further consideration of the chain that would be part of some bollard groupings, suggesting that the design of the chain be coordinated with that of the bollards. Ms. Balmori suggested that the chains be eliminated, while Mr. Rybczynski preferred retaining the chains to add some variety to the design. Mr. Parsons confirmed that the chains were primarily decorative and were not needed for vehicle control purposes; but he noted that the chains would also serve to discourage pedestrians from walking on the grass areas. Mr. Parsons and Mr. Rybczynski praised the visual effect of the large-scale chains used in Amsterdam. The discussion of the bollards and chains concluded without a motion.
CFA 17/NOV/05-4, National Museum of Natural History, Constitution Avenue at 10th Street, NW. Perimeter security barriers. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/04-7 (National Air and Space Museum) and CFA 15/JAN/04-6 (SI Mall museums security plan).) Mr. Luebke introduced the project, noting that it was a follow-up to the Smithsonian's Mall-wide perimeter security concept that the Commission had approved in January 2004. He described the museum's prominent location and varying perimeter conditions, with a context ranging from the Mall's open space to the classical buildings of the Federal Triangle. He then introduced Harry Rombach of the Smithsonian, who said that the presentation would emphasize changes since the Commission's previous review of the Mall-wide proposals. Mr. Rombach then introduced the Smithsonian's architect, Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle.
Mr. Hassan presented boards and models showing the project design, beginning with a description of the varying landscape conditions and slopes along the site perimeter. He emphasized the goal of minimizing the visibility of the perimeter security elements, resulting in some of the design modifications being presented. The previous proposal had placed the security wall along the street curb. The revised concept design would take advantage of the existing sunken parking area that provided an areaway on the south side, and partially toward the east and west, by moving the security wall to be contiguous with the parking area's retaining wall. A bird garden would be created along the southwest sidewalk edges facing Madison Drive and 12th Street; the shallow grade along Madison Drive would allow for more plantings, and the steep grade along 12th Street would result in a much more limited range of landscaping. Along 9th Street, the existing road tunnel would provide a vehicle barrier for much of the frontage, so no alterations would be needed at the existing butterfly garden in this area. Mr. Hassan later described that the north and south corners along 9th Street would be secured using geological specimens that would be placed as uneven lines of boulders, avoiding the root area of existing trees. In response to Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson's questions about the large tree at 9th Street and Constitution Avenue, he explained that the design was intended to preserve the tree; if it were to die, the perimeter security components would provide an appropriate setting for a sculpture or possibly a new large tree in that location.
Mr. Hassan then described the proposed design along Constitution Avenue. The long street frontage was relatively flat, with a 10-inch variation in grade. The design would provide a low wall with its top maintained at a single horizontal datum, resulting in the wall's height ranging from 32 to 42 inches above the sidewalk. The wall would be made of large stacked stones, without mortar, and would be internally reinforced with bollards at approximately five-foot intervals. The saw-cut finish would suggest natural stone cliffs, and the stone color would relate to the various types of stone in the existing building facade. Piers and gaps in the wall would relate to the existing pattern of trees along Constitution Avenue. Many openings in the stone wall would have metal fencing made of cast stainless steel. Guard booths would be included at the service driveways to the northeast and northwest, using a simple asymmetrical design with a stone base and flat roof.
Mr. Hassan then provided further details on the design at the building's two main pedestrian entrances along Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive. Bollards would be used at these locations. The proposed design was a polished metal cylinder with a concave top and a vertical channel for draining water from the top. The bollard line would reach out to the curb along Madison Drive, emphasizing the building's central axis that relates to the Smithsonian Castle on the south side of the Mall. A further suggestion, subject to budgetary constraints and coordination with the National Park Service, was to elevate Madison Drive slightly along the building entrance to create a plaza area at the level of the sidewalk. This would allow the elimination of curbs and curb cuts in this narrow sidewalk area, helping to offset the impact of adding bollards to the already congested pedestrian conditions. At the Constitution Avenue entrance, the perimeter security line would continue the alignment of the security wall along the inner sidewalk edge. Retractable bollards would be used along the entrances to the circular driveway. Along the center of the entrance area would be a row of sculptural metal boxes arranged to avoid a large existing tree. The resulting asymmetry of the boxes would be carried into the paving pattern.
In response to Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori, Mr. Hassan provided further details on the sculptural metal boxes. They would be approximately three feet tall, constructed of cast stainless steel with angled tops and varying heights. The boxes would be highlighted with metal strips to suggest the image of veins in leaves. The metal surfaces between the boxes would be polished; the other surfaces would have a rough texture. Mr. Rybczinski expressed discomfort that these sculptural elements were being designed by the architect, and suggested that a sculptor should develop the design. Several other Commissioners suggested that the sculptural elements could also be derived more directly from the museum's subject matter, such as by making use of geological specimens. Mr. Hassan asked for the Commission's support of the more general concept of material selection, with metallic elements near the entrance and a mix of metal and stone elements along the remainder of the Constitution Avenue frontage. Mr. Rybczynski later amplified his view that the boxes were too intrusive and awkward, suggesting that a simple fence could be used at this location.
Mr. Powell asked Mr. Luebke for further comments about the design along Constitution Avenue. Mr. Luebke pointed out that long walls are articulated in response to existing trees, resulting in an asymmetrical pattern that may not be meaningful when the trees are no longer there. Ms. Zimmerman suggested adding trees to the site, although they would be smaller than the existing trees. Mr. Hassan noted that some trees to the east of the entrance had previously been replaced. The past intent had been to place the trees at equal intervals but the result was uneven, and the proposed design of the wall would respond to this. Ms. Balmori objected to this asymmetrical treatment since the building has a very centralized design; she suggested that the wall design be symmetrical and that trees and other plantings be replaced when needed.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the bollard design, questioning the proposal for a concave top rather than the customary convex configuration that more easily drains water. Mr. Hassan said that the general intent was for a flat surface, but some variation was needed for drainage and a slight convex profile would create an unwanted conical appearance. In response to Mr. Powell, Mr. Hassan clarified that many of the bollards would be retractable, so the operational requirements suggested the need for a cylindrical rather than tapered profile and a relatively flat top.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's recommendation that the designers reconsider the Constitution Avenue proposals for sculptural boxes and an asymmetrically configured wall. Mr. Rybczynski moved for approval of the concept subject to this recommendation, with second by Ms. Balmori. The Commission supported the approval, with Mr. Powell praising the overall Smithsonian perimeter security project and Ms. Nelson praising the proposed bird garden.
District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
S.L. 06-026, L'Enfant Plaza, 10th Street Promenade, SW. Revised landscape concept. (Previous: S.L. 05-003, 20 October 2005.) Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, which includes three mixed-use buildings and the National Children's Museum. She introduced the project's landscape architect, Jon Pearson of EDAW, to present the project and respond to questions raised by the Commissioners during their site visit that morning.
Mr. Pearson initially noted that a green roof might be incorporated into one building, but this would not be visible from the ground or windows. He then presented the revised plaza plan, with most of the revisions relating to the drop-off area. He described the curved granite curbs that would be used to distinguish between the pedestrian area and the vehicular driveway; he agreed with a Commissioner's suggestion at the site visit that the project could re-use existing granite in the plaza. He noted that planters would give additional definition to the driveway, providing greater spatial clarity than was suggested in the drawings. To the north, another row of planters would include seats to suggest a more animated retail area in conjunction with other street furnishings and trellises. He described the plaza surface banding that would relate to the existing building facade features and would also relate to the planter seating. The planting beds would extend down to the structural slab to maximize the soil depth. He proposed honey locust trees near the main entrance and zelkova trees in other areas, located to allow emergency vehicles to reach the buildings. Additional plantings would include gingkos, dogwoods, lindens, and crape myrtles. The layout would avoid tall plantings in front of retail storefronts.
Mr. Pearson then described the street lighting of fixtures placed at 20-foot intervals to concentrate light into an oval area. Two different types of fixtures would be used: a simple box unit and a more decorative type for the more active sidewalk areas.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the development of the landscape design, based on the presentation and the site visit. She reiterated a previous concern about the proximity of the proposed southeastern building to the adjacent headquarters of the Department of Housing and Urban Development by Marcel Breuer. She suggested removing some of the apartment balconies in this area or stepping the profile of the proposed building. Mr. Powell asked for a vote on the landscape proposal before considering this architectural question. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised landscape concept.
Mark Shoemaker of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects then responded to the Commission's questions about the project's relationship to the HUD headquarters. He clarified that the site plan showed plaza-level terraces that were larger than the balconies on the upper stories. Wood dividers would define four private terraces for the individual apartments that faced the HUD building, with a similar treatment on the west side of the building. Ms. Zimmerman commented that the whole arrangement seemed uncomfortably close to the HUD building, based on the morning's site visit. She recommended adjusting the building profile so that it would be similar to the configuration of the proposed northeast building. Mr. Shoemaker noted that the HUD building and the residential building would typically be used at differing hours, reducing the concern about the lack of privacy, but he offered to study the issue further.
S.L. 06-027, 51 Louisiana Avenue, NW. New office building. Revised concept. (Previous: S.L. 05-043, 17 March 2005.) Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, which the Commission had previously seen in March 2005 as a proposal for a 12-story building. After objections from the Architect of the Capitol concerning the proposed building height in relation to the Capitol grounds, resulting in complex legislative issues, the applicant prepared an alternative 10-story proposal. The applicant later clarified that they had withdrawn the 12-story alternative (S.L. 06-028) and were now submitting only the 10-story option (S.L. 06-027).
Ms. Penhoet introduced Richard Nettler of the JBG Companies to present the project. Mr. Nettler noted that the 10-story proposal would be a matter-of-right project within a 110-foot height limit, in contrast to the 12-story proposal that had required zoning action to allow a 130-foot height. The revised design had now been resolved within this new height constraint and also responded to the Commission's concerns from the March review. He introduced the architect, Ivan Harbour of the Richard Rogers Partnership, to present the design.
Mr. Harbour explained that the major design changes involved the proposed northern building wing along D Street. The plan of the central atrium space, linking the northern building to the two existing building wings, would remain as previously designed. The new wing would have a glass facade in contrast to the predominantly stone facades of the older buildings. He described the revised massing as having more delicate proportions than the original 12-story configuration. He provided more details on the atrium space, including the intention to introduce a strong color that would add a sense of vibrancy. The atrium would be a major circulation space and would be the setting for cafeterias. He clarified that it would not be open to the general public, only to employees or those with business in the building. Nonetheless, the interior and exterior of the atrium would be visible from the public sidewalks. He noted a tentative plan to include some public space on the ground floor along New Jersey Avenue.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Zimmerman asked for further information about the proposed color. Mr. Harbour showed an image of his firm's work at the Madrid airport, where a long terminal building was enlivened with multiple colors. He explained that the roof support system within the atrium would be tree-like, minimizing the impact on the existing buildings, and this provided the opportunity to use a special color to identify the main components of the metal structural system. He mentioned that the design of the atrium roof had been clarified since the initial review, and the roof would change from glass to louvers as it extended beyond the atrium walls. The height and extent of the roof had been reduced, so that the top floor of the new building would rise above it.
In response to Mr. Rybczynski, Mr. Harbour clarified that the atrium's glass walls would be suspended outward from the new building wing, with the cantilevers anchored by tubes and wires. There would be transoms at each floor, but no mullions.
Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the entrance points to the building. Mr. Harbour said that the main entrance would lead directly into the atrium from New Jersey Avenue. An existing entrance on First Street, now routinely used by the staff, would no longer be used. The building would primarily house one law firm, but there would also be additional tenants, so the main entrance would include a public zone leading to two reception areas. There would be complex shifts in the floor heights in the vicinity of this public entry area, including a ramp and lounge area.
Several Commissioners commented that the 10-story proposal was an improvement on the previous submission. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept for the 10-story building and requested that the next submission show materials and colors for the project.
S.L. 06-029, 3910 Shoemaker Street, NW. Republic of Hungary. Renovation and re-cladding of existing embassy and a new residential and chancery office building. Concept. Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, reporting that the architects had already responded to many of the staff's concerns. She introduced architect Bill Geier and landscape architect Bob Good to present the project.
Mr. Geier noted that he and Mr. Good were the local architects of record, working in support of the design architecture firm of A&D Studio of Budapest, the winner of the Hungarian government's design competition held in 2004. He described the site context, just south of Tilden Street along Rock Creek Park, as being generally residential in character, with embassy buildings of various other countries in the immediate vicinity. He noted that Hungary's existing embassy building was mostly hidden from Tilden Street by the topography and trees, with only moderately more visibility in winter. The existing building was also only minimally visible from the nearby bike path in Rock Creek Park, due to foliage and a public parking lot.
Mr. Geier pointed out a small frame structure on the property, apparently from the 1960s, that would be demolished to provide the site for the proposed new structure. The larger existing building, completed in 1977, would be retained but re-clad. He described the existing building's horizontal character, with bright white spandrels and vertical panels of beige ribbed concrete, encompassing parking for 23 cars with two occupied stories above. The rooftop mechanical equipment, now in three groupings with screening, would be consolidated into a single grouping that would be treated as a design feature. Visible at-grade equipment would be relocated within the building.
Mr. Geier described the new cladding, which would consist of ceramic tile panels and pre-patinated copper. The tiles would be in two shades of gray. The copper would retain its initial color, but it wasn't yet clear whether the color would result from a natural patina or an applied coating. He noted that the material was specified by the Hungarian design architect, and he was still researching the availability of comparable products in the U.S. and the varying aesthetics of the different manufacturing processes. He noted that the tiling system was a more familiar product, popular in Europe and used in several projects in the Baltimore-Washington area. He said that the new facade would be hung in front of the existing building, using a system called a ventilated rain screen. Most of the existing facade panels would remain under the new cladding but some portions would be removed to accommodate a few new window locations. The system would protect the building well from summer heat gain. The hanging clips would be slightly visible but would be painted to match the tile colors rather than treating them as a special design feature.
Mr. Powell praised the project and suggested that it could be eligible for the consent calendar when submitted at a later stage. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the concept submission.
Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 05-283, Wormley School, 3325 Prospect Street, NW. Alterations for condominiums in historic school building and six new single-family townhouses in school yard. Concept. Mr. Martinez introduced the project, which would involve the private redevelopment of a former D.C. school site with nine condominiums proposed for the historic school building and six new townhouses on the former playground and parking area. He reported that the Old Georgetown Board had reviewed the project twice and had visited the site. He later noted that the Board's chairman, Mary Oehrlein, had recused herself from the case due to her involvement with the preservation aspects of the project. He also noted that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission had decided to support the project with some conditions. He then introduced Christopher Morrison of Cunningham Quill Architects to present the project.
Mr. Morrison introduced several other members of the project team, including architect Ralph Cunningham and representatives of Encore Development. He described the site and context, with the prominent late-19th-century school building set back from the other buildings on the block. The D.C. school system had initially converted the building to administrative use and then sold it to Georgetown University, which did not find a further use for the property; the university sold it to the private developer in early 2005. The architect was now proposing to restore the historic building, converting it into condominiums and constructing new rowhouses on the site. He noted that the project had involved extensive coordination with neighbors and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and Office of Planning.
Mr. Morrison described the proposed siting of the rowhouses, which would follow the line of other buildings along Prospect Street. The height of the new houses would match that of the existing historic three-story rowhouses nearby. The design details would be developed to be consistent with the traditional detailing of the immediate context and of Georgetown generally. For the interior of the block, Mr. Morrison acknowledged the neighbors' desire to protect the privacy of adjacent homes as well as the open space character that exists on the site. As a result, the area behind the rowhouses would include a landscaped terrace on top of a parking garage. The single-level garage, serving the entire complex, was designed to fit within the existing site topography and minimize the need for excavation. The rowhouses would be built partially above the parking garage, and the terrace would have sufficient irrigation and soil depth to sustain mature trees. Along the alley, an existing concrete retaining wall and historic stone wall would be retained.
In response to Ms. Balmori, Mr. Morrison clarified that the rowhouse street facades would be sited to allow for sloped landscaping of varying width along the sidewalk. The design would maintain the historic effect of the school building being noticeably set back from the prevailing street wall of the neighborhood.
In response to Mr. Powell, Mr. Morrison explained that the terrace area would include a common green area as well as private rear yards for the townhouses. He also noted that an existing chain-link fence along the alley, set on top of the retaining wall, would likely be replaced with a wood and masonry fence. Mr. Cunningham commented further that the character of the block's interior was very important to the neighbors, and the site would be improved by the creation of the landscaped terrace instead of the existing asphalt. He emphasized that the grade level would not change.
Mr. Martinez reported that the Old Georgetown Board supported the project and had expressed concern that a substantial tree canopy be provided on the interior of the block. The Board had also expressed concern about the design details of the school building restoration. He asked for the Commission's response to the overall conceptual proposal so that the designers could proceed with design development.
Mr. Rybczynski praised the project but noted that the terrace's large soil depth, approximately six feet, was unusual. Mr. Cunningham explained that this depth was provided so that the terrace could accommodate large trees, which was seen as a necessary feature despite the high cost.
In response to Ms. Nelson, Mr. Morrison described the access to the parking garage: rather than provide access from the very narrow alley, the garage would be reached by slightly relocating an existing curb cut along Prospect Street. A second existing curb cut would be eliminated. The garage would provide more than two spaces per unit, exceeding the zoning requirement and accommodating visitors and deliveries.
Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept proposal.
General Services Administration
CFA 17/NOV/05-5, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW. Temporary perimeter security planters. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/01-8.) Mr. Martinez introduced the proposal for circular and rectangular planters around the IRS headquarters. He introduced Mike McGill from GSA to present the project.
Mr. McGill said that the Commission had previously approved similar planters around the building entrance, and the new proposal was to extend them along the inside edge of the Constitution Avenue sidewalk to meet the existing lines of planters along the side streets. He noted that the same type of planters were in place at the Reagan and Ariel Rios buildings, and they were part of a temporary general design concept for the Federal Triangle while a more unified design concept was being developed.
Mr. Powell inquired about the status of the unified design concept. Mr. McGill reported that there were problems, partly budgetary and partly technical, about the impact on existing trees from the construction of below-grade footings for security elements. The construction would also involve removal of the existing paving and street furniture which were part of a carefully designed streetscape along Pennsylvania Avenue; there was still discussion of whether these features should be re-installed or whether the streetscape should be redesigned. Since there was no funding for such a detailed design study, GSA was currently relying on temporary solutions. He noted that these temporary measures could easily be removed if the security threat were reduced.
Ms. Nelson commented that the variety of planter types and plantings in the area was creating an undesirable clutter of elements, although repetition of identical elements was also problematic. Dave Gowin of the Internal Revenue Service responded that the initial proposal to NCPC included only rectangular planters to match the existing planters on the site, noting that round planters were substituted at the corners to facilitate pedestrian movement on the sidewalks. Ms. Balmori suggested using only round planters, but Mr. Gowin noted that rectangular planters were already installed along the other street frontages of the building.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the approval be limited to a certain time period, such as three years. Mr. McGill noted that NCPC typically includes such a restriction, and he agreed that three years was a reasonable time period to allow development of a permanent design. Mr. Rybczynski asked what would happen at the end of that time period. Mr. Powell suggested that the applicant would likely just return for an extended approval, and Mr. Rybczynski questioned the value of the time limit. Mr. McGill noted that the solution within three years might be the creation of an area-wide security arrangement, such as that used for central London, that would eliminate the need for on-site perimeter security.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the proposal as a temporary solution with a three-year limit and urged that the design be made as consistent as possible with existing features.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke
Last Modified: January 24, 2006