Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
20 October 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 15 September 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 presented the scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings, and noted that the Commission had discussed the option of canceling the December meeting, due to the traditionally low number of submissions in that month and anticipated scheduling difficulties for mid-December. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission cancelled its December meeting, resulting in the following dates for upcoming meetings:
Mr. Luebke noted that he will submit the revised dates for publication in the Federal Register.
Report on the Inspection of Objects Proposed for Acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported on the previous day's visit by some Commissioners, along with staff, to inspect several recent and proposed acquisitions for the Freer Gallery. The objects included: a Vietnamese wine cup, 15th century, offered as a gift to the museum; a Japanese bronze statue of Buddha, 7th century, also offered as a gift; two drawings currently in the Freer's study collection, proposed for transfer to the permanent collection; and a painted bowl from Iraq, 9th century, recently purchased at auction, which was shown through photographs from the auction catalog. Mr. Powell noted that the Commission had previously authorized the auction purchase. At the conclusion of the inspection on 19 October, Mr. Powell approved the acquisitions on behalf of the Commission.
Report on the Previous Evening's Site Inspection. Mr. Luebke reported that some Commissioners, along with staff, had visited the site of the House of Sweden the previous evening to view several facade elements, including a mockup of alternative designs for the glass panels on the facade. The Commission deferred further discussion until the project's presentation later on the day's agenda.
Introduction of a New Staff Member. Mr. Luebke introduced Tony Simon, who has joined the Commission staff as an architect.
Submissions and Reviews
Appendix I. Mr. Luebke noted the two cases on the Consent Calendar, published as Appendix I. Without discussion, the Commission adopted the Consent Calendar, upon a motion by Ms. Nelson and second by Mr. Rybczynski.
CFA 20/OCT/05-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/APR/02-2) Mr. Luebke introduced the project, noting that the Commission had previously seen an information presentation on the competition-winning scheme in 2002. He summarized the Commission's desire for several design modifications at that time: removing the commemorative niches and the pedestrian bridge; reducing the height of the wall; adding additional entry/exit points at each end of the plaza; and modifying the plan of the wall's radius to improve the relationship to Independence Avenue and the “Stone of Hope.” Mr. Luebke noted that the current submission reduced the number of niches from 24 to 15, and included a new feature of a separate building for some type of visitor services and potentially a display acknowledging names of donors. He then introduced John Parsons of the National Park Service. Mr. Powell noted that most of the Commissioners had joined since the previous presentation in 2002, and requested that the design team provide a complete overview of the project.
Mr. Parsons explained the project's history, including its initial authorization in 1996, a complicated site selection process that resulted in approval of the Tidal Basin site in 1999, and a design competition in 1999-2000. He noted that the design was presented to the Commission in 2001 as well as in 2002, in information presentations. He also noted that NPS has been completing work on its environmental assessment, and would soon be formally presenting the design concept to NCPC.
Mr. Parsons then introduced Harry Johnson, president and CEO of the sponsoring foundation. Mr. Johnson gave a brief overview of the planned presentation, and then introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., the foundation's executive architect.
Dr. Jackson introduced a videotape presentation on the memorial. The videotape described the site, as well as the three main components of the proposed design: the "Mountain of Despair," the "Stone of Hope," and a wall with quotations and water. The videotape contained an animated fly-through of the proposed design. Dr. Jackson then introduced the design team, including Boris Dramov and Bonnie Fisher of the Roma Design Group, and Paul Devrouax of Devrouax and Purnell Architects-Planners.
Mr. Dramov discussed the site configuration and architectural design of the project, and presented boards and models for the Commission's inspection. He emphasized the project's relation to the Tidal Basin and the Mall, creating a new gathering place within a landscape setting. He noted the symbolic meanings intended in the memorial design, such as the memorial's combination of individual and group experiences, symbolically recalling the civil rights movement that Dr. King led. He described the varying auditory effect of the running sheet of water along the wall, relating it to the experience of hearing a speech by Dr. King, as well as helping to screen the noise of nearby traffic. Mr. Dramov also presented the design and siting of the additional building, characterized as a ranger station and visitor center, with a small space for information display and sales. He described the building's design as resembling a Japanese pavilion, with the roof floating above glass.
Mr. Dramov discussed the changes in the design since it had previously been presented. The number of niches along the wall had been reduced from 28 to 15, with greater distance between them. The site contouring had also been refined, and the wall location had been shifted away from Independence Avenue. The pedestrian route remained along the top of the wall, with a small bridge structure to allow pedestrians to cross between the two segments of the wall.
Ms. Balmori inquired about the memorial's materials, which Mr. Dramov said would primarily be several types of granite, but he said that the exact selection of materials and colors was not yet finalized.
Ms. Fisher then provided a more detailed presentation on the landscaping of the memorial site. She noted that 49 additional trees would be planted: cherry trees to augment the existing ones, to be preserved, along the Tidal Basin; crape myrtles nearby to provide a more extended period of blooming and more intense colors; oak trees, probably willow oaks, along the wall and away from the Tidal Basin; seven white pines near the entry to the memorial, providing year-round foliage; and a disease-resistant variety of American elms along the streets at the edge of the site. Other planted areas would include grass and another ground cover, still to be selected.
In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Dramov provided a more detailed discussion of the design's water elements, which he had developed in collaboration with fountain consultants. Along the sloping wall surface, special nozzles would provide a continuous flow of water, rather than the typical series of stepped basins. Beneath the sheet of water, the wall would contain quotations, using inlaid metallic lettering that would be flush with the wall's surface. At the base of the wall, the water would be gathered into a runnel and eventually channeled underground to be recirculated. The noise of the moving water would gradually increase along the length of the wall. In response to Mr. Powell, Mr. Dramov noted that the water system would be capable of operating year-round.
Mr. Belle inquired further on the relation of the water to the wall, particularly for pedestrians walking along its top. Mr. Dramov explained that those on top of the wall would not see the water except from limited viewpoints, but they would hear it and perhaps feel a minor spray. The upper walkway would be 12 feet wide, allowing people to pass each other and accommodating small groups. The niches along the walkway would be places for people to linger and contemplate the memorial's meaning. Mr. Dramov also noted that the elevated walkway would make it possible for visitors to see the nearby Lincoln Memorial, which otherwise would not be visible from the site, as well as providing elevated views toward the Jefferson Memorial. He explained that the lack of visual connection to the water from this walkway would allow visitors to focus on the outward views. Mr. Dramov then described these design features in the context of the range of likely sequential experiences of the memorial, which would involve visitors approaching from any of several directions—unlike more narrative memorials such as the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.
In response to Mr. Rybczynski, Mr. Dramov noted that the sectional design of the wall had been simplified since the original concept, due to the difficulty of achieving the intended auditory effects of the water. Ms. Balmori requested a view along a likely entry path—looking southeast through the gap in the wall, and under the pedestrian bridge. Mr. Dramov offered the model for a detailed representation of that view, but Ms. Balmori asked for a rendering that would delineate the important background element of the Jefferson Memorial, beyond the scope of the model. In response to Ms. Balmori and Mr. Luebke, Mr. Dramov tried to clarify the height of the wall and other design elements, noting that the ground plane was also sloping. He tentatively calculated that the wall's maximum perceived height would be 12 to 14 feet, with some elements rising to a 30-foot height above the adjacent ground.
Ms. Balmori inquired about access between the memorial and the walkway around the Tidal Basin, which is very heavily used during the cherry blossom period. Mr. Dramov pointed out several walkways connecting these areas, with some walkways added to the proposal since the original competition design. He again discussed the direction of approach to the memorial, noting that the linkages would encourage some visitors to arrive from the Tidal Basin side, although he anticipated that most would arrive from the northwest corner of the site, at West Basin Drive (which would be realigned) and Independence Avenue.
In response to Ms. Balmori's question, Mr. Dramov and Ms. Fisher clarified that the new crape myrtles would likely be located slightly inland, apart from the very popular cherry trees that exist along the edge of the Tidal Basin. This design intention had been clarified since the competition design; the exact placement and number of these trees had not yet been determined.
A member of the audience, Maria Pantin, asked if the design reflected Dr. King's Georgia background and if it expressed his revolutionary impact on the world. Mr. Dramov responded that Dr. King's speeches relied heavily on landscape metaphors, such as mountains and streams, and the design of the memorial incorporated metaphorical references to these features. Dr. Jackson provided a further response, noting that the sponsoring foundation has clarified the memorial's focus to include Dr. King's broader impact on issues of universal importance, extending beyond the civil rights movement within the United States. Dr. Jackson described the themes listed at the time of the design competition—justice, democracy, and hope—as well as the additional theme of love for mankind. He stated that the text excerpts would be chosen to emphasize these themes.
Mr. Powell asked Mr. Parsons to respond to two potential concerns of the Commission: the bridge which remained in the design, despite previous objections by the Commission; and the newly proposed building, which seemed inconsistent with National Park Service policy and previous site guidelines. Mr. Luebke also asked for clarification about the structural depth and material of the bridge, which could affect its impact on views through the opening that it spans; and about the relation of the water feature to the bridge.
Mr. Parsons responded that the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission have similarly been concerned about the bridge. It could potentially disrupt the relationship between the "Mountain of Despair," the "Stone of Hope," and the nearby Jefferson Memorial. These concerns might be addressed by different materials and a lighter design for the bridge. But the presence of the bridge also affected the overall height of the wall and the adjacent berm, which disrupt views from Independence Avenue. Mr. Parsons noted two other memorials that raised similar questions of pedestrian access at the upper edge of walls—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. In both cases, the decision was not to bring pedestrians to these upper edges. He characterized the question as a continuing design issue. Mr. Dramov later noted that this memorial's context and design encourage viewing in all directions, unlike the FDR Memorial which is more directional toward the Tidal Basin; the elevated walkway would therefore be a more desirable feature in this design. Mr. Dramov further emphasized the visitor's ability to comprehend views that are experienced as a sequence of multiple images, reducing any negative impacts of the bridge on views while allowing it to fulfill an important functional purpose.
Mr. Parsons then discussed the Park Service's views on the use of water. Winter freezing could ordinarily produce an interesting visual effect, as at the FDR Memorial, but in this design the water runs across the face of quotations that visitors will want to read, so the effect of freezing could be problematic. He suggested that the water might simply be turned off in cold weather, and noted that this design—unlike traditional fountain pools—would look good when the water is off.
Mr. Parsons then discussed the proposed visitor center. He confirmed that the original design parameters, developed jointly by the Park Service, NCPC, and CFA, did not permit a visitor center. But he said that the Park Service was willing to re-examine this decision, noting the presence of visitor centers—usually small kiosks—at the memorials for Korea, Vietnam, and World War II.
Ms. Zimmerman noted the memorial's emphasis on text and suggested the inclusion of languages other than English. Mr. Dramov responded that foreign translations could be provided through the visitor center, but the memorial's inscriptions would all be in English. He noted that the appropriate amount of text was still being studied, with consideration of comfortable viewing heights.
Ms. Nelson raised further questions on the presence of the pedestrian bridge, reiterating that it would reduce the effectiveness of the entry sequence for many visitors: starting from Independence Avenue, then moving through the gap within the wall, and finally emerging into the plaza and seeing the "Stone of Hope" along with the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial. Ms. Balmori concurred, suggesting that the bridge—as well as the height of the wall—suggest that the memorial has a back side toward the northwest, including Independence Avenue. Ms. Balmori raised further objections to the proposed new building, noting that it was incompatible with the Tidal Basin setting characterized by monuments. She also questioned the program for the building, noting that the proposal for staff-only restrooms was inappropriate for a public memorial.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Belle concurred with Ms. Nelson's concern that the pedestrian bridge would weaken the memorial's design concept and the visitor entry experience. Mr. Rybczynski also objected to the elevated walkway, noting that visitors viewing the wall's quotations would be distracted by the movement of people above the wall.
Ms. Zimmerman raised a concern that the sculptural treatment of the stones was inappropriately similar to one of her own well-publicized sculptural works which is located nearby at the plaza of the National Geographic Society headquarters in downtown Washington. With a comparable height of the stone sculptural element at more than ten feet, she noted the similar use of polished surfaces that suggested slicing pieces out of a large rough-surfaced stone. She suggested that a monument to commemorate the importance of Dr. King should have a more original sculptural concept that was not so clearly derivative. Ms. Balmori concurred that the proposal was reminiscent of the National Geographic sculpture.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's major concerns, calling for further study of the bridge, the height of the wall, and the proposed new building. Dr. Jackson noted that the new building had initially been suggested by the Park Service, along with most of its programmatic requirements, but that the memorial foundation had developed the design. He suggested that the design could be expanded to include public restrooms, if the Commission wanted this, but Mr. Powell said that this was not an important issue for the Commission.
Dr. Jackson also noted that the Jefferson Memorial would not be visible as a visitor approached the gap in the wall, so the proposed bridge was not actually obstructing such a view. Mr. Powell suggested a site visit in conjunction with a future submission, in order to understand these views more clearly; Ms. Nelson concurred. Mr. Powell raised a further concern that the design brings the water streams together in a hidden location, rather than making this part of the visitor experience.
Mr. Powell concluded by praising the overall concepts of the memorial and reiterating the desire for a future site visit. He suggested that no specific motion was needed from the Commission at this time. The Commission then took a brief recess.
CFA 20/OCT/05-2, National Museum of African American History and Culture. Evaluation of sites. Informational presentation. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/05-1) Mr. Luebke introduced the presentation, which will include a progress report on the Smithsonian's continuing analysis of the four sites that were presented to the Commission in April, followed by an opportunity for the Commissioners' comments. He reported that the Smithsonian Board of Regents is scheduled to make a final decision on the site selection early next year. He then introduced Harry Rombach of the Smithsonian Institution.
Mr. Rombach described the authorizing legislation for the museum, which calls for the Smithsonian to select one of several candidate sites, with the selected site then to be transferred to the Smithsonian's control. He noted that the legislation requires the Smithsonian to consult with the Commission's chairman on the site selection; this presentation would conclude the Smithsonian's role in this consultation, and Mr. Powell could then provide a letter with comments.
Mr. Rombach characterized the current level of site analysis as a study of the unique limitations, peculiarities, and build-out potential of each site, going beyond the common features and shared program that had previously been analyzed. The Smithsonian compared the sites to a model program of 350,000 square feet for the museum, a size that was suggested by an earlier study. The site analysis was developed to include massing diagrams for placing this program at each site.
Mr. Rombach presented further information on the components of the model program: exhibits, assembly, visitor services, public programs, office/administration, and building services. He also presented diagrams illustrating the desired adjacencies and entry points for these program components. He emphasized that the site and program information was not intended to suggest specific architectural solutions, and that the program and design would evolve as the project progressed, after the site selection decision. The more detailed pre-design and concept studies would be presented to the Commission in the future. He also noted that the Smithsonian would undertake more detailed environmental and historic preservation review after the site selection decision.
Mr. Rombach noted that the analysis of the Arts and Industries building included analysis of using the existing building as part of the project, and also an analysis of designing for a clear site with the existing building removed. He emphasized that the Smithsonian was not advocating demolition of the existing building, but was including this alternative in response to comments received during earlier phases of the process.
Mr. Rombach then introduced the Smithsonian's consultant, William Brown of PageSoutherlandPage, an architecture/engineering firm that is conducting the site evaluation study in conjunction with the engineering/infrastructure consulting firm Plexus Scientific Corporation.
Mr. Brown narrated a slide presentation that described the characteristics, constraints, and potential massing at each of the sites, including minimum and maximum build-out scenarios. He began by describing the Monument site, at 14th and 15th Streets, Constitution Avenue, and Madison Drive, as encompassing five acres, relatively flat, and near two Metro stations. He noted potential flooding issues that could be addressed through infrastructure improvements. He noted that Madison Drive would be most suitable for a main entrance facade, with a potential secondary entrance along Constitution Avenue. In response to Mr. Rybczynski, he noted that the analysis assumed a fifteen-foot clearance between floors, although exhibit floors might need additional height. He described the minimum scenario as a building of five stories plus basement, matching the 75-foot height of the adjacent National Museum of American History, and following the facade alignments of the Department of Commerce and the National Museum of American History. This would result in a building of 415,000 square feet. He then described the maximum scenario, extending the north and south limits to match the National Museum of Natural History several blocks to the east, and encompassing seven stories plus basement to match the 105-foot height of the Department of Commerce; this would give the potential for 804,000 square feet. Mr. Brown also noted that a building on this site would have a view of the White House, which could be an asset but was also a concern for the Secret Service. The need for architectural harmony with the nearby Washington Monument would also present a design challenge. He noted the potential opportunity to create an underground connection to the National Museum of American History.
Mr. Brown then presented the analysis of the Liberty Loan site, at 14th and 15th Streets and Maine Avenue SW. He summarized the site as 3.5 acres (listed as 2.5 acres in the slide), with portions under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and General Services Administration. The existing 1920s building, occupied by Treasury Department offices, would be removed. He noted that a building on the site would have views of the Tidal Basin and Washington Monument, and would be highly visible as a gateway into the city. He noted the high traffic levels along the edges of the site, and the presence of a highway ramp that crosses the site. He described a minimum scenario that would retain the highway ramp, resulting in a building of 475,000 square feet, with six stories plus basement. He noted that this scenario would not provide much room for landscaping or outdoor activities. He also noted that this scenario could be problematic due to security concerns and that most sites have been analyzed with the assumption of a fifty-foot horizontal setback from streets. He then presented a maximum scenario that would remove the highway ramp and provide eight floors plus basement, resulting in 560,000 square feet. However, this scenario would require further study of traffic patterns to address the removal of the highway ramp. The building's east and west faces would follow those of the buildings to the north, including the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Mr. Brown noted that this site was the closest to the site of the planned memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mr. Brown presented several scenarios for the Arts and Industries Building site: minimum and maximum scenarios that would incorporate the existing building, plus a scenario assuming removal of the building. He noted that the existing building is closer to the street than would normally be desirable for security setbacks. The minimum scenario would retain the interior as well as the exterior, with the addition of two below-grade stories, requiring costly underpinning of the foundation; this would result in a 375,000-square-foot facility, within the footprint of 102,000 square feet. The maximum scenario, which would extend underground toward the north and west, would allow for 509,000 square feet. Mr. Brown noted that the scenarios that retain the existing building would constrain the potential for architectural expression of the new museum. The third scenario involved clearing the site and constructing a new building to the height and setbacks of the adjacent Hirshhorn Museum, creating the desired setback along Independence Avenue; this scenario would allow for 731,000 square feet. The site area was approximated as 3.25 acres, depending on the extent of underground extensions.
The final site analysis was for the Banneker Overlook, encompassing 7.8 acres with significant grade variations and transportation constraints. Mr. Brown noted that the site's roadways were operated by the DC Department of Transportation, with the National Park Service controlling the remainder of the site. He pointed out the site's views of the waterfront, and its prominence as a gateway location. He noted a DC government proposal to create an intermodal transportation center on the site, which generated a minimum scenario of 490,000 square feet for a museum placed on top of the transportation center. He also noted the logistical difficulty of combining these programs, including the varying structural needs, timing of funding and construction, and shared jurisdictional considerations. The maximum alternative, without the transportation center, would allow for two million square feet, with a thirteen-story height that matched the existing buildings to the north. Both scenarios assumed that primary access would be from L'Enfant Plaza on the north, at a much higher grade than the waterfront level on the south. Mr. Brown noted that the site constraints included noise from adjacent Interstate 395, and odors from the nearby fish market.
Mr. Brown then concluded with a summary of the findings for each site, followed by comments from the Commissioners. Ms. Nelson asked whether the Smithsonian intended to pay for restoration of the Arts and Industries Building, regardless of whether this museum would occupy the building. Mr. Rombach responded that the restoration was included in the Smithsonian's Capital Plan, but the timing of the restoration might be later if the work were not part of the museum project. Mr. Rybczynski commented further that this building was already owned by the Smithsonian, and already in need of restoration, and these factors should be considered as cost savings when evaluating the feasibility of selecting this site. Mr. Rombach noted that reuse of the historic building also involved limitations, such as the difficulty of providing a modern museum environment. Mr. Rybczynski acknowledged this concern, but also noted that some older buildings have recently been converted into museums with great success.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested an option to retain the exterior of the Arts and Industries building, but completely reconstruct its interior; Mr. Powell concurred with this suggestion. Mr. Rombach said that the Smithsonian had studied this option, and noted that such interior alterations had occurred early in the building's history, such as through the addition of balconies. He explained that there was a range of scenarios for retaining all, some, or none of the interior architecture, but in any such scenario there would be additional underpinning and excavation needed to meet the anticipated program. He noted that the Smithsonian had undertaken such construction recently during the renovation of the Freer Gallery. Mr. Rybczynski commented further that the site analysis methods were more suitable for new construction, and less informative for adaptation of an existing building; Mr. Belle concurred with this comment. Mr. Brown responded that his team had carefully analyzed the building and its drawings to understand such issues as the mechanical, electrical, and structural systems, all of which would require updating. He and Mr. Rombach also noted the presence of environmental problems from some of the existing materials, such as asbestos in the pipe tunnels beneath the floor. Mr. Powell reiterated that the Smithsonian would need to address these problems anyway, regardless of whether the museum were to occupy the building. In response to a further question by Mr. Powell, Mr. Rombach said that an underground connection would be feasible between the Arts and Industries site and the National Museum of African Art, which has underground space that does not quite reach the Arts and Industries site due to an unsuccessful effort during construction to save an existing tree; the excavation of this area was included in the maximum scenario that was presented.
Ms. Nelson asked about the programming for outdoor activities, noting that the Liberty Loan site's strong relationship to nearby open-space areas might encourage museum visitors to experience these other areas, compensating for the lack of open space within the site. Mr. Rombach responded that a landscape design could potentially relate to African-American history and culture, in a manner similar to the strong landscape concepts at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Mr. Powell commented that the site near the Washington Monument had prominent faces on all four sides, resulting in potential design concerns. He also noted that selection of this site would result in the loss of green space from the Mall.
(The Commission then recessed for lunch, from 12:04 to 12:35 pm. Mr. Powell departed during the recess, and Ms. Nelson chaired the remainder of the meeting.)
District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 04-197, 901 30th Street, NW. House of Sweden. Exterior Materials. Final. (Previous: O.G. 04-197, 17 June 2004) Mr. Martinez introduced the presentation, noting that the agenda item concerned a site visit to inspect materials, which is the normal procedure for new buildings in Georgetown. The Commission had approved the project in 2004 but the applicant wished to change the materials significantly, so staff recommended a new presentation to the Commission. Mr. Martinez then introduced Peter Ohrstedt, a representative of Sweden's National Property Board which manages Swedish government properties around the world, including this project.
Mr. Ohrstedt noted that the National Property Board will occupy the building through a long-term lease, and in turn will lease the building to the Swedish foreign ministry. He then discussed the ongoing design study of the exterior materials, following the initial design competition. The current intention was to use a laminated glass with a veneer pattern, which would allow for back-lighting at night. The architect had proposed a bold overscaled wood pattern, and had convinced the National Property Board of the appropriateness of this design.
Mr. Ohrstedt then introduced the design team, including the original competition winners: Gert Wingardh and Tomas Hansen, of Wingardh Architects in Sweden. Mr. Wingardh presented a slide show illustrating the design changes and the proposed exterior materials, including photographs from the previous evening's on-site mock-up showing the appearance in daylight and night-lighting conditions. He summarized the primary materials as a white stone, related to the material of many Washington memorials; glass; and maple on the interior. Although he had intended to use maple veneer on the exterior, he concluded that the weather conditions made this unsuitable, so he presented a laminate system using fritted glass and an enlarged photo-reproduction of a wood-grain texture. The various alternatives for the fritted pattern would produce varying degrees of transparency for seeing the textured image. This system would be used along the balcony edges of the upper floors. Mr. Wingardh noted that the enlargement was necessary to convey the sense of wood grain when seen from a slight distance, such as from ground level along the waterfront. He noted that the panels would be lit from behind at night, giving a visual reference to several Swedish themes: the light cast by a wicker lamp, and the reddish glow of a long dawn and dusk. He also characterized the enlarged artificial wood grain as a reference to the Swedish tradition of imitation painting, such as painting wood or brick walls to look like stone.
Mr. Wingardh also described several other modifications to the exterior design. He noted the addition of semi-opaque glass dividers between the apartment balconies, for privacy. Most would not be highly visible from the street; the dividers on balconies facing the Potomac River would be more prominent, and these would be specially constructed with double layers of glass so that the steel frame would not be visible. He described the flooring material of white stone with black stripes, along with special lighting effects that would suggest the rag carpets commonly used in Sweden. He noted that white pre-cast concrete would be used for steps leading up to the building.
Mr. Wingardh then discussed the proposal to add lettering to identify the building as "House of Sweden," noting that the building's program included not only the embassy but also apartments that would be rented to Swedish companies, as well as a conference center. He proposed wood letters, approximately six feet high, set behind the first-floor windows at the building's northwest corner, visible to those approaching from K Street. He presented a computer simulation of the letters when seen from behind the glass.
Mr. Wingardh also proposed a sign on the north facade: an enameled Swedish medallion, identifying the building as part of the embassy. Finally, he described an increase in the height of a proposed flood barrier along Rock Creek.
Mr. Wingardh displayed the material samples illustrating several alternative materials for the wood-grain laminate panels, resulting in different intensities of color. He compared the computer simulations with the photographs of the on-site mock-up from the previous evening. He noted that six different wood-grain patterns would be used, also using different positions and rotations, but always with a vertical emphasis to the grain. Ms. Balmori asked whether the wood-grain image would be subject to fading; Mr. Wingardh said that the color should be durable for at least fifteen years.
Mr. Wingardh clarified that a sculptural plaza feature in the foreground of the photos, along the waterfront, was an existing feature that is not part of the House of Sweden site. In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Wingardh identified the black stone as a granite from Poland, similar to Swedish granite. He also noted that the building's plinth is at approximately the 100-year flood level; potential flooding of the lower areas would be addressed by raising the barrier wall along Rock Creek when needed, perhaps several times per year. In response to Ms. Balmori's inquiry about the stair tower rising above the roof on the north facade, Mr. Martinez clarified that the House of Sweden's mechanical equipment would be contained in an adjacent building to the north, linked by an underground parking garage; so rooftop features on the House of Sweden were related to architectural expression and a roof terrace. Mr. Wingardh and Mr. Martinez explained that the glass fritting pattern on the facade, as previously approved, would result in a transition from transparent below to opaque above, with the stair tower having a reversal of the pattern.
Ms. Balmori inquired further about the potential for the balcony dividers to distract from the horizontal emphasis of the balconies; Mr. Wingardh explained that the dividers were secondary elements and were being designed to minimize any distraction from the lines of the balconies. Ms. Nelson asked about the security needs of the building, with the unusual combination of embassy functions, public functions, and residential apartments. Mr. Wingardh explained that the different functional areas had separate entrances from the main lobby, which had bullet-proof glass and would be staffed around-the-clock. He noted that the design's security is comparable to that of other Swedish government buildings abroad. He also noted the intention to rent the apartments to Swedish firms.
In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Wingardh clarified that entire office floors would be lit or darkened, rather than individual offices, so that the facade would have a consistent pattern of lighting in horizontal bands. The building would also have special lighting in the railings, to emphasize the line of the balconies.
Ms. Nelson praised the project, particularly after having seen the on-site mock-up the previous evening. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, seconded by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the additions and modifications to the design, including approval of the architect's recommended alternative for the material of the laminated panels. In response to Mr. Martinez, Ms. Nelson clarified that the motion included the Commission's support for the scale of the facade lettering.
General Services Administration
CFA 20/OCT/05-3, Federal Office Building #8 (Food and Drug Administration), 2nd and C Streets, SW. Building modernization and renovation. Concept. Mr. Martinez introduced the project, noting that it had been postponed from the previous month's agenda. He noted the building's visual relationship to the U.S. Capitol, and its proximity to other projects on the meeting agenda. He then introduced Maria Pantin of the General Services Administration.
Ms. Pantin provided a brief overview of the project, being presented to the Commission for the first time, and described GSA's goal of making this building more modern than those in the vicinity. She then introduced Joe Boggs, of Boggs & Partners Architects, to present the design concepts.
Mr. Boggs provided the Commission with a slide presentation and model. He described the site in relation to the U.S. Capitol complex and other nearby buildings, and noted the building's visibility from Interstate 395 as well as its proximity to a Metro station. He characterized the immediate site context as an unwelcoming area, dominated by uninteresting office buildings. He described FOB #8 as a full-block 1960s structure, not considered historic, with a limestone facade and relatively few windows. It originally served as laboratories for the Food and Drug Administration and had contained extensive incinerator facilities; the building has been tested and cleaned of toxic substances. The architectural challenge was to remodel the building into modern desirable office space, taking advantage of views to the Capitol, and to make the building a catalyst for a more active street character in the area. The architectural guidance from GSA was to change the building's box-like appearance into something very different in order to make the building seem new and welcoming.
Mr. Boggs presented the proposed architectural solution, involving the creation of multiple intersecting volumes. The facade would be broken into a series of varied components, including curves and twisted features. The facade would include solar panels, serving as both a design feature and a signal of GSA's interest in sustainable design. The various solar panels, screens, and glass walls would extend slightly from the existing facade on the south, where less than a foot of expansion room is available. Limestone areas on the facade would be created by relocating the existing limestone cladding of the mechanical penthouse. A new entrance would be created at the southwest corner, toward the Metro station. The east and west elevations would similarly be broken into smaller pieces, while retaining existing emergency exit doors. A sequence of atria would be introduced to the building, and this would be expressed on the north facade. New corner offices would be created, taking advantage of the additional windows to be introduced along the building's perimeter.
Mr. Boggs described the materials as limestone and a clear green glass, possibly including some reflective glass. He characterized the materials as resembling those of the National Gallery of Art East Building, particularly the parts of that building that are predominantly glass. He noted that the extensive atrium windows on the north side would be designed with a clear iron-free glass to bring in as much daylight as possible.
In response to Ms. Zimmerman and Mr. Rybczynski, Mr. Boggs explained that some of the projecting panels would be related to solar energy, and some panels would continue this vocabulary and reflect light in various ways, helping to relate the atrium to other parts of the building. The solar panels would have translucent glass with small round solar collectors set within; he explained that this design component was not yet well illustrated. He described the intention to express the solar panels throughout the facade, rather than using them only as a rooftop element; this would symbolize GSA's broader commitment to solar awareness throughout the building design. He said the design of the solar cells was still in progress, and offered to respond in a later submission to Ms. Zimmerman's question about how much of the building's energy needs would be supplied by solar power. Mr. Boggs also concurred with her observation that the model and various sets of drawings were illustrating several different alternatives.
In response to Mr. Belle, Mr. Boggs explained that the new facade would be located approximately 1.5 feet in front of the existing facade plane. This would involve an expansion of the floor plate, to make up for existing floor area that would be lost due to creation of the atrium. He also distinguished between the solar screens and solar panels on the facade, as well as the non-functional fragment of a solar panel that would extend into an atrium as an architectural feature. In response to Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Belle's concern that the new angled exterior walls would create awkward spaces, Mr. Boggs explained that the office layout generally worked well despite the closely spaced existing columns, and some of the spaces that appeared awkward on the plans were actually the exterior face of an atrium, not office space.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that the extensive clear windows could become a visual problem with varying use of window blinds. She noted that in the predominantly glass facade areas of the National Gallery's East Building, which Mr. Boggs had cited as a design precedent, the offices do not have blinds in order to maintain the coherence of the exterior architecture. She expressed concern that at FOB #8, where GSA anticipates having multiple agencies as tenants, such design control would be difficult, and the extensive glass areas might result in the loss of coherence in the building's appearance. Mr. Boggs concurred that this issue needs further study, and noted that his firm continues to explore different glass colors that might address the problem.
Mr. Rybczynski, Ms. Balmori, and Ms. Nelson expressed surprise that some of the facade panels were only for visual effect, despite having the appearance of solar panels. Mr. Belle commented that the project seemed to be at an early stage—which Mr. Boggs confirmed—and suggested that it was not yet sufficiently developed to be approved. Ms. Nelson concurred that it would be more appropriate for the Commissioners to provide general feedback at this stage. Mr. Boggs pointed out that many of the concepts were well developed, including the strategy for bringing day light into the large floorplates. He presented additional details on the distance of floor areas from daylight, noting that 74% of the new floor plates would be within forty feet of windows, and ceiling heights would be nine feet, meeting the standards for Class A office space.
Mr. Boggs then introduced Dennis Carmichael of EDAW, the landsccape architecture firm for the project. Mr. Carmichael characterized the landscape design as an extension of the dynamic and asymmetrical concept of the proposed architecture. He noted that the landscape includes the large plaza area on the north side of the building, extending 90 feet from the building face to the C Street curb, as well as narrower areas along the east, west, and south sides.
Mr. Carmichael provided an overview of the plaza design. The existing surface parking lot would be removed but the below-grade parking garage would remain, along with its automobile entrance and exit ramps at the corners of the plaza and a small guardhouse at the entrance ramp. The center of the plaza, aligned with the building's new atrium, would be strongly expressed as an entrance area. Asymmetrical landscaped areas would be located toward the east and west of this central paved area. The landscaped areas would have trees, and would express the angularity of the proposed architecture through the paving pattern and the tilted design of raised planters. The planters would be necessary for growing trees, since the underground parking garage allowed only limited soil depth. Mr. Carmichael noted that the tilted lawn in the planters could serve as a place for workers to gather for meetings or lunch, and the planter edge would also serve to provide perimeter security for the building, as well as a seating edge. He suggested that the central plaza could include a sculpture that would be designed with sufficient hardening to serve as part of the perimeter security system. He also noted that the plaza would be used by pedestrians traveling between the Metro and the future Disabled Veterans Memorial, planned for a site just northeast of FOB #8. The sidewalks would be configured to channel pedestrians through the plaza, helping to animate that space. The planted areas would include evergreen hedges and possibly perennial flowers or ornamental grasses, using a contemporary design consistent with the architecture. In response to Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Carmichael said that he had not yet selected the paving material. It would be unit pavers, either pressed concrete or stone depending on the budget. In response to Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle, Mr. Carmichael clarified that the planters would be at least three feet high, and the plantings (excluding trees) would rise to a maximum combined height of six feet, in order to maintain general visibility across the area.
Mr. Carmichael presented the streetscape design for the building's other three sides. Utilities beneath the sidewalk, as well as the narrow dimensions, constrained the design in these areas. He proposed the use of planters and other site furniture to provide unobtrusive perimeter security, rather than install extensive rows of bollards. He said he would be consulting with the National Capital Planning Commission on this design feature. The paving material in these areas would be pressed concrete pavers, in keeping with District of Columbia streetscape standards. He proposed a more contemporary design for other site furnishings, such as benches, trash cans, and bicycle racks, but without the completely new aesthetic of the plaza on the north. He reported that he was coordinating with the DC government on whether to use standard Washington globe streetlights or a more contemporary design.
The Commissioners then discussed their overall reactions to the proposal. Mr. Rybczynski expressed concern that some of the facade panels weren't actually used to generate solar energy but merely to announce the intention to have a contemporary style, and as a result the design suffered from a lack of purpose and cohesion. He thought the effort to create variety, while successful, was perhaps taken too far, particularly in contrast to the clarity and order of the original building. Ms. Balmori concurred, praising the solidity and background quality of the existing building, despite its shortcomings. In creating a foreground building, Ms. Balmori emphasized the need for a clearer design vocabulary and better integration of the parts, which this design has not yet attained. Ms. Zimmerman also concurred, and observed that there were too many ideas in the design, with insufficient clarity. She suggested that if GSA were firm in its commitment to solar energy, then the design could be clarified to emphasize this approach, without resorting to panels that only gave the appearance of being solar-related. She supported the intent to break the building's facades into multiple pieces, but urged that the result be calmer. She also urged closer study of the facade materials, and careful detailing of the seat wall.
Mr. Belle offered the view that the architect needed the Commission's support for making a bold architectural statement with the renovation. He expressed his support for this general intent, but concurred with other Commissioners that the design was not yet clear. He urged a closer study of the original building's structure and rhythm, with more careful thought about adding and subtracting from the original volume. He noted that a more rational design would also be less likely to be altered by budgetary constraints.
Ms. Nelson praised the intent of the design proposals for the building and the plaza, and agreed that the design would succeed in creating an attractive gathering place for people in the area. She expressed concern about the large proportion of glass in the facades, in relation to the security of potential federal tenants as well as their operational needs, such as extensive file areas, that would not be appealing against a glass exterior wall. She also expressed concern that the plaza planters were too large to achieve the playful character intended by the architect. She urged that the design focus on creating a green building and demonstrating ecological leadership.
Mr. Boggs expressed his agreement with the Commissioners' comments. He noted that the design process began before September 2001, in a time of less stringent security concerns. He also said that the comments were similar to those he had received from GSA officials. However, he said that GSA's peer review process had provided slightly different direction, so he would need to incorporate all of these comments and prepare a follow-up presentation. The presentation concluded without a motion from the Commission.
Department of Defense / Department of the Army
CFA 20/OCT/05-4, Fort McNair. National Defense University, New building: Lincoln Hall. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/05-11) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the next two agenda items, both located at Fort McNair and being presented by the same architect. For the Lincoln Hall project, Mr. Lindstrom noted that the request is for some small changes from the design previously approved by the Commission. The changes included the addition of rooftop mechanical penthouses; the addition of a glass roof over the entrance; and the addition of emergency egress doors in some niches along the facade. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the architect, Rod Garrett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, to present the changes.
Mr. Garrett discussed the further work on architectural details and profiles, reporting that the design of the brickwork would achieve an appropriate amount of depth and shadow. He reminded the Commission of the overall design intent to create a bold entry feature and an additional gesture toward the adjacent building, Marshall Hall; he said that this intent remained clear, even with the addition of the mechanical penthouses. He discussed the massing, materials and detailing for the penthouse walls, with their height de-emphasized by using a double row of contrasting pre-cast bands instead of brick around the upper portions. He noted that the bands were wider than previously shown, to improve their visual effectiveness.
Mr. Garrett discussed the emergency egress doors, noting that their color and detailing were made more similar to the rest of the building, to avoid excessive emphasis on these limited-use doors. He also compared the design details to the material palette and detailing found elsewhere at Fort McNair, using a granite foot, then a limestone base, with red brick for the upper portion of the walls. In response to Ms. Zimmerman, he said that these materials would be co-planar, but the detailing would give the effect of a rusticated base. In response to the Commission's previous concern about matching the prevailing brick color at Fort McNair, Mr. Garrett explained that after further study, no single prevailing brick was apparent. He showed an adjustment to the brick color that would include darker bricks, and expressed confidence that the resulting pattern would be within the color range of existing brick facades in the fort. The Commissioners requested a close comparison with the brick colors used elsewhere, while acknowledging that it was not necessary to match them precisely. Mr. Garrett showed a sample brick from Marshall Hall, containing a coloration known as a "flash." He noted that existing buildings achieve their brick color through a varying combination of different brick colors that are blended together in the wall, and different colors within a single brick resulting from flashing. He chose a brick with sufficient flashing to achieve an overall varied color effect for the wall, as the Commission had requested.
Mr. Belle expressed concern that the brick was too dark, and the overall wall would appear more brown than was suggested by the orange color of the brick—an effect that would be made worse by the off-white mortar color. Ms. Balmori was concerned that the strip of limestone in the wall would undermine the sense of solidity. Mr. Garrett showed some further material samples and discussed the possibility of matching the mortar to the brick color. He favored the overall monochromatic effect, but had not yet studied the overall effect. He concurred with Ms. Zimmerman's suggestion of a large-scale mock-up. Mr. Belle supported the architect's intentions, noting that there may be various ways to achieve the desired color effect. He urged consideration of a lighter brick color, with an orange-red mortar.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, seconded by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the final design with the exception of the brickwork, which was delegated to staff for approval.
CFA 20/OCT/05-5, Fort McNair. New entrance security screening facility at 2nd and Q Streets, SW. Concept. Mr. Garrett of S.O.M. continued with a slide presentation of this second project at Fort McNair. The project was related to the relocation of the primary entrance to the east side of the fort, instead of the historic gate to the north along P Street, which would be used only for ceremonial purposes. The new location provided sufficient room for permanent facilities for the security screening that was now routinely conducted at the fort. Mr. Garrett noted that the project would involve the closing of a current temporary gate at the northeast corner of the fort.
Mr. Garrett described the overall program for access control, noting that the program requires a linear sequence of elements. The sequence begins with an access control gate. A limited area within the gate would be essentially public, where visitors could enter and park to request access badges at the visitor control center. Those granted access would then bring their cars to queue for security screening through a facility that would include guard booths, a vehicle search area, and a small structure for guards at the end called an "overwatch."
Mr. Garrett observed that the fort already has comparable small structures in the historic campus, built for purposes unrelated to security, but that a different vocabulary could be developed in this area since it was removed from the historic areas of the fort. He therefore proposed a design approach of treating these facilities as landscape elements rather than a new grouping of buildings. The design would tie the components together using a berm and plantings, and these landscape elements would also serve to channel people and vehicles without the need for further barrier systems and without obstructing views of the historic areas. Mr. Garrett noted that the landscaping and views would be particularly desirable because the proposed Anacostia Riverfront Walk, a major public recreational route, would be located along the eastern edge of the fort, passing by the new fencing along the screening facility. This fencing would primarily be open pickets, with some solid sections to provide security where needed such as in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle inspection area.
Mr. Garrett presented more detailed renderings and sections to illustrate the sequence of structures and landscape elements that visitors would experience when moving through the screening facility. He noted that the visitor control center would be located on the Q Street axis, and would be designed to take advantage of its high visibility by having one wall serve as an entry sign. He described the architectural materials as primarily pre-cast limestone bands with brick infill. Some structures would have glass and metal, with the metal finished in a dark bronze color. Mr. Garrett also noted the intention of an architectural feature to terminate the Potomac Avenue alignment, with the expectation that the avenue would eventually be reopened to extend up to the east side of the fort. The tentative proposal was to replicate a portion of the fort's historic fence, but more contemporary design alternatives were also under consideration.
Mr. Garrett then requested the Commissioners' comments, particularly on the design intent to use a modern landscape solution rather than refer to the fort's traditional features. Ms. Nelson supported this intent, noting that the program of multiple checkpoints was inherently modern. She asked about the purpose of the overwatch and any related security features that might be associated with this final security point, such as barriers rising from the pavement. Mr. Garrett explained that the sidewalk would have embedded restraining devices for pedestrians, and the berm would serve to restrain cars. The guard in the overwatch, as well as guards at other locations in the entry sequence, would be able to activate the restraining devices if necessary.
Ms. Balmori supported the design concept of the landscape, but expressed concern that the architectural elements were not yet well developed. She noted the variety of materials, the varying vocabulary of walls and booths, and the heavy details at the top. She commented that the architect's stated intent of designing them as landscape structures might not be achievable, due to the security-related requirements of their design. But she urged that the architectural components be simplified and treated in a more related way. She also urged simplification of the fence design, and elimination of the proposed change to a solid wall at the key axial point.
Ms. Zimmerman concurred in supporting the berm design, noting its relation to historic earthwork forts. She suggested enlarging the berm and reducing the size of the buildings, if possible. Mr. Belle, following up on inquiry by Ms. Zimmerman, suggested that the roofs be simplified on the smaller structures, since only the vehicle search area required an extensive roof. Mr. Garrett explained that some roof coverage was also needed at the guard booth since the guards need to talk to drivers and occasionally require them to step out of their vehicles. He also noted that this entrance is used by all entering trucks, resulting in the high clearance height for the roofs. He suggested that more careful detailing might be used to address the Commission's concerns.
In response to Mr. Rybczynski, Mr. Garrett noted that the berms are intended to channel vehicles toward the desired alignment, but do not need to be designed to prevent a vehicle from crossing them. At locations where vehicle ramming is more of a concern, such as at the guard booths, bollards would be used. Mr. Rybczynski concurred with Ms. Balmori that the design idea was strong, but more refinement was needed.
In response to Ms. Balmori, Mr. Garrett agreed to further study of the metal color, in order to reduce the visual complexity of the small buildings. Mr. Belle characterized the vehicle search facility as undesirably reminiscent of gas stations or toll booths; Mr. Garrett noted that such comparisons are difficult to avoid when designing a canopy across a vehicular area. Mr. Belle nonetheless suggested further study of different design and structural concepts. Ms. Balmori suggested that it was the excessive variety of materials that made the structure problematic, rather than the general configuration. Ms. Nelson suggested that the landscaping be used to soften the design, such as by placing a tree in the roadway island area, in keeping with the general intent of emphasizing landscape over architecture. She noted that a successful design solution could serve as a model for similar facilities at other military bases. Mr. Garrett thanked the Commissioners for their comments and noted that the military design guidelines for this type of facility are tailored to a much less constrained setting, making it difficult to apply the guidelines to this urban fort.
Ms. Zimmerman moved that the Commission approve the concept with the recommendation to explore the use of more landscaping instead of structure; Ms. Balmori added that the Commission was also recommending simplification of the architecture. The Commission unanimously adopted this motion.
Voice of America
CFA 20/OCT/05-6, Wilbur J. Cohen Federal Building, 330 Independence Avenue, SW. New signs and banners for the studio tour entrance. Final. Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, involving the placement of banners and signs on the exterior facade to mark the entrance point for public tours of the studio. The project was developed as a follow-up to a major renovation of the building's interior. Ms. Penhoet introduced Joe O'Connell from the Voice of America, and Jonathan Alger of C&G Partners (formerly Chermayeff & Geismar), VOA's graphic design consultant.
Mr. O'Connell gave a brief introduction, noting that the project involves the re-opening of the entrance at Independence Avenue near 4th Street, which had been closed for many years. The entrance would serve visitors as well as those taking the studio tour.
Mr. Alger then presented the project context and the design proposal. He noted that the project is relatively modest, since VOA is only one of several tenants in the building. He noted the highly visible location, with nearby visitor attractions including the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Air and Space Museum, and the U.S. Botanical Garden. He explained that VOA's purpose is broadcasting, and it does not seek to become a major visitor attraction. He said that the tours were limited to thirty people, and they are required to pre-register. He also noted that tours were currently offered a couple of times daily, although the frequency might increase. The banners were simply intended to identify the location for those seeking the tour, rather than encourage walk-in visits or create major public interest.
The proposal was for two banners and two temporary signs on tall removable stanchions, to be placed on the small plaza area located a few steps above the sidewalk. The graphic vocabulary would match the graphic design on the interior of the building. Mr. Alger noted that the stanchions could easily be relocated or removed if that became desirable in the future. There would also be poster-holders on the wall beside two of the three entry doors. Mr. Alger concurred that the proposal was quite small relative to the large facade of the building; he contrasted it with his firm's design for the more prominent banners at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. He noted that the signs would explain the pre-registration process to drop-by visitors.
The Commissioners noted that the advance materials and the presentation showed two different schemes; Mr. Alger clarified that version B was the correct proposal. Several Commissioners commented that the symmetrical configuration of the triple doorway suggested the need for symmetrical treatment of the graphics. Mr. Alger agreed to reconfigure the elements in pairs that would symmetrically flank the grouping of doorways. He noted that the stanchions were movable and their position might be determined by operational requirements based on visitor arrival points. In response to Ms. Nelson, Mr. Alger said that the jersey barriers near the entrance would have to remain for the foreseeable future, despite a shared desire to remove them. Ms. Balmori questioned the sideways positioning of the lettering on the banners, which might make it difficult to read; but Mr. Alger was confident that the text would be easily legible.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, with second by Ms. Zimmerman and clarification by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission gave final approval for two sets of signs and banners to frame the entrance doors symmetrically.
District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 20/OCT/05-7, The starburst intersection at H and 15th Streets, Maryland and Florida Avenues, and Bladensburg and Benning Roads, NE. Reconfiguration of traffic lanes and new pedestrian plaza. Concept. Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, identified as a "starburst" due to the many streets radiating from the intersection. She introduced two representatives of the DC Department of Transportation: Kathleen Penney, Deputy Chief Engineer; and Karina Ricks, program manager for the Great Streets Program.
Ms. Penney described the project's background. She noted that the project is outside the Monumental Core but is nonetheless a matter of great pride to the city as one of the many beautification projects undertaken in recent years. This intersection, as well as H Street and Benning Road that lead to it, are part of DC's Great Streets Program, which uses infrastructure improvements to encourage economic revitalization.
Ms. Ricks described the project and referred to the information packets that were distributed to the Commissioners. She noted that the intersection is at the edge of the L'Enfant Plan, with Maryland Avenue connecting the intersection to the U.S. Capitol, and H Street leading to the Union Station area. Other streets lead toward the National Arboretum and across the Anacostia River, resulting in an important crossroads point. She also noted that the area has had less investment and revitalization than other parts of the city, so the project had great potential for improving the neighborhood. Ms. Ricks described the transportation challenges, with multiple roadways and 110,000 vehicles per day using the intersection, along with 3,000 bus passengers who board or depart at this intersection each day. She described the adjacent buildings and land uses: medium-density housing, a senior citizens building, a pharmacy, and a large grocery store. She also noted the safety problems at the intersection, with an unusually high number of collisions.
Ms. Ricks described the proposed design response. Two of the radiating roadways carry low volumes and were one-way leading away from the intersection, serving only limited transportation needs. These road segments would be closed to traffic, in order to simplify the intersection and reduce the number of points of conflict, and would continue to be open to bicyclists and pedestrians. The closures would free up a half-acre site, which DC has designed based on guidance from the community and technical advisors, as well as consultation with the Commission staff. The consensus was to create a passive plaza that would celebrate the views along the many corridors leading from the site and provide a setting for a variety of future community activities. The proposed design concept was primarily a hardscape setting with plantings of trees. To the east, along the eight-foot grade increase leading to a shopping center, the proposal was to create a retaining wall with water flowing over it. This fountain would help to mask the noise of traffic, as well as provide a visual amenity. Ms. Ricks noted that maintenance was a concern, and the fountain would only become operational when an organization was identified that would ensure its continued maintenance. Ms. Ricks also said that DC was considering further opportunities for public art in conjunction with this wall.
In response to Ms. Balmori, Ms. Ricks described the stair and ramp near the retaining wall, improving on the existing steep sidewalk gradient and providing better access routes to the shopping center. In response to Ms. Nelson, Ms. Ricks concurred that the retaining wall would help to screen the shopping center's parking lot from the intersection and new plaza. Ms. Ricks noted that an earlier concept included a grand staircase from the plaza to the shopping center, but DC had concluded that the current design proposal was more appropriate for the site.
Ms. Ricks gave a brief overview of the landscaping concept. The design would include a variety of tree species, giving varied color and texture to the plaza at different times of year. In response to Ms. Nelson, Ms. Ricks confirmed that an earlier design had some small lawn areas, but these were dropped. Ms. Nelson also noted that the earlier proposal included flowers, relying on volunteers for maintenance. Ms. Ricks explained that the design had been simplified in order to minimize the maintenance requirements; some flower beds had been eliminated, but two areas would remain at the base of the fountain where they would conceal some mechanical and utility equipment. She suggested low-maintenance plantings such as native grasses, but offered the possibility that community groups could arrange to install and maintain other types of plantings.
In response to Ms. Nelson, Ms. Ricks said that the proposed public artwork would be funded in the near future with a $100,000 budget from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Five preliminary submissions had been received from artists, but a final choice had not yet been made. She said that the artwork was on a different timeline and would be submitted separately to the Commission.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the seating in the plaza would involve movable chairs. Ms. Ricks said that seating would be on fixed benches located beneath the trees, and a seating wall around the fountain. She also noted that a large existing tree would be retained at the plaza site, with a seating wall to be added around it.
In response to Mr. Rybczynski, Ms. Ricks offered a further description of the surface treatment. A variety of paving materials would be used; the exact materials, colors, and pattern had not been determined, despite the implied design suggested in the sketches. She noted that some paved areas would be designed to allow rain to reach the soil and tree roots below. A mulch bed would be provided around the existing tree, to help preserve it. Ms. Ricks also clarified that some nearby corner parcels that appeared in the drawings were part of the H Street streetscape improvement project that was already further along, and not part of the current submission.
Ms. Nelson concurred with Mr. Rybczynski in praising the design, particularly its simplicity. Several Commissioners emphasized that the project was being considered at the concept stage and would still need a further submission for final approval, which could be handled by the staff. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, seconded by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the concept, urged continued emphasis on design simplicity, and delegated the final approval to the staff.
District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (cont'd)
S.L. 06-003, L'Enfant Plaza, 10th Street Promenade, SW. Three new mixed-used buildings including the National Children's Museum. Revised landscape concept. (Previous: S.L. 05-079, seen CFA 21 July 2005)
(Ms. Balmori recused herself because of her association with this project.)
Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, noting that it had last been presented in July 2005. She said Fred Clarke from Cesar Pelli & Associates - Architects would begin the presentation, followed by landscape architect Dennis Carmichael of EDAW.
Mr. Clarke said they were now at the point of looking at the development and detailing of individual buildings, with the focus recently on what they were calling the north air rights Building. He pointed it out on a model, noting the two angular walls that had been introduced on the D Street side to provide a better relationship to the existing center building of the plaza complex. He said this would make the distance from the existing building 47 feet, and he thought a distance of about 50 feet between buildings would work well within the entire project.
Mr. Clarke then turned to a discussion of the possibility of using canopies throughout the development in all the significant entrances. In the case of the north air rights building, there could be a canopy running transverse through the building so it could be seen from both D Street and the promenade level of the plaza. He said it was in the earliest stage of development and might be a very floating plastic form, perhaps made of fiberglass or plaster; it would be a form that one would walk under when going into the Metro station. In answer to a question from Ms. Zimmerman, he said they envisioned it as a solid form, up-lit from adjacent walls so that it would glow at night. Mr. Rybczynski asked for more information on the D Street facade and was told that it was a very important one, since it was the address of the building itself and the way to get up to the promenade level and the Metro entrance. This was why they had introduced the angular walls, to give this side of the building a little more life.
Mr. Luebke pointed out to the members how close the building came to the signature ends of Marcel Breuer's HUD Building which, if the building envelope stayed as it was, would be cut off from view. Mr. Luebke said this had been brought up at the last meeting and was a significant issue for the staff. Mr. Clarke agreed that the two buildings were very close, around 20 to 26 feet apart, but thought the important view was of the curved wall, which would not be obscured. Ms. Nelson felt that the new buildings would squeeze the HUD building, and Mr. Clarke said he would try to address this.
Mr. Carmichael then discussed the changes in the landscape plan. He recalled that the Commission had asked him to give a little more animation to the paving in the central plaza area, and he said they had tried to create a richer palette of colors and a higher contrast to achieve this; he said he had brought the actual pavers so that the Commission could see them.
A second change occurred in the treatment of the arrival court to the hotel and office building; the ellipsoid form had been abandoned and the court had been pushed farther north so that the drop-off for the hotel would occur right at the front entrance; the office entry had also been revised and moved farther north. As the paving pattern remained the same for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, curbs had been established to distinguish between the two. Long narrow planting beds for crape myrtles had been placed in the center of the drive leading to the hotel and office buildings.
The last change concerned the trellis running along the north side in front of the retail space; Mr. Carmichael said they had simplified it and attached it more to the geometry of the existing north building than of the proposed buildings. Ms. Zimmerman questioned whether there would be enough light for the plants intended to grow over the trellises. Mr. Clarke said it would get reflected light and would be adequate for the right type of plant, but it would be a shady promenade under any circumstances. He noted that the trees in that area would be zelkovas which would grow well in shady conditions. Wisteria was planned for the trellises. Mr. Clarke then commented on the colors of the pressed concrete pavers, which were passed around, saying that he understood the Commission would have a site visit in November and would be able to see them in daylight at that time. Ms. Nelson asked about the street lighting and if it would be kept; she was told that they had not decided on the lighting yet. Mr. Belle was concerned about using the same paving pattern for both cars and people and said the two areas would have to be clearly delineated. After further discussion about the kinds of trees to be used, Ms. Nelson asked for a motion on the revised concept. Ms. Zimmerman moved that the revised landscape concept be accepted, with the final approval to come after the site visit. Her motion was seconded by Mr. Belle and carried unanimously.
(Note: Later in the meeting, Ms. Nelson returned to the L'Enfant Plaza project to amend the action. The subsequent discussion follows.) Ms. Nelson said she was worried about how close the new buildings would be to Breuer's HUD building, and she had expressed her feelings to the applicant. She said that, although the submission was for landscaping, they had also discussed the buildings, and she did not want the approval to be construed as approval for the buildings. She wanted it said in the letter that the Commission was concerned about how close they were to the HUD building, and asked to amend the motion so that it would include the request for further study of the way these buildings were sited. There were no objections; all the members supported Ms. Nelson's request.
S.L. 06-004, 401 3rd Street, SW, 12-story office building. Final. (Previous: S.L. 05-042, seen CFA 17 March 2005) Ms. Penhoet introduced architect Shalom Baranes to make the presentation for final approval of this project. Mr. Baranes said he would concentrate on the changes made since the concept approval in March. First he recalled that the building would be located at the corner of 3rd and E Streets, SW, with the primary facade being the one on E Street and the rear (south) facade overlooking the railroad tracks. He then showed the previous design for all the facades, comparing them with the revised versions. Beginning with the corner tower, he pointed out that the mullion pattern had been simplified and changed to emphasize verticality. The base of the building had been altered somewhat; it was divided into three sections, with three canopies on the 3rd Street side rather than one spanning the whole facade, as shown before. He said everything else involved refinement and further development with the exception of the north facade overlooking the railroad tracks, which was originally a glass curtain wall. After seeing how many trains went by, he decided to make it less transparent so as to control the noise; the new drawings showed a buff-colored precast wall with punched windows. Next to it, turning the corner of 3rd Street, would be a darker Canadian granite, with a lighter color Chinese granite used for the two primary facades; he showed samples.
Mr. Belle commented on the changes to the corner tower, saying that it seemed to him that rather than emphasizing the verticality it did just the opposite. Mr. Baranes explained his reasoning, saying that by removing the center window of the previous pattern, all the energy was shifted to the corner, wrapping around it instead of being broken on each side by a line of center windows from top to bottom; he said it was the wrapping that he was looking for. Ms. Balmori asked what the reasoning was for the overhang at the top. Mr. Baranes said the building did not have a strong top, as it was recessed and could not be seen from the street; the overhang established the top and could be seen even at close range.
A discussion followed, with Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori commenting on the various colors of granite and Ms. Balmori saying that she did not understand the reason for the darker piece of granite at the end of the 3rd Street facade (toward the tracks). Mr. Baranes reviewed his idea of expressing the diagonal line which could be drawn through the site and align almost perfectly with the dome of the Capitol; he noted that this line was expressed as the penthouse of the building, making the penthouse shape more than just a "shoebox" at the top, as most penthouses were. There was further discussion, and Ms. Penhoet reminded the Commission that the diagonal and its expression were part of the original approval. Ms. Nelson asked for a motion to approve the final design. Ms. Zimmerman made the motion, beginning by saying that she thought Mr. Baranes had responded well to the criticisms made previously; she thought the change in the facade facing the tracks was a good one and that the expression of the diagonal added interest Ms. Balmori said she would be willing to second Ms. Zimmerman's motion; even though she did not like the expression of the diagonal, she thought other things had improved. Ms. Nelson asked for a vote and the motion was carried unanimously.
Old Georgetown Act (continued) (The agenda order was changed, and the remaining items from the Old Georgetown Act, were discussed next.)
O.G. 05-301, 1521 32nd Street, NW. New single family dwelling. Concept. (Previous: O.G. 05-042) Mr. Martinez reviewed the background of this project, to be built on land originally belonging to the historic Bowie-Sevier house, and he made reference to the report of the Old Georgetown Board which had been sent to the members in draft form. The developers and the neighborhood residents had come to an agreement on a design which the board members said they would not oppose if a few minor changes were made. These included taller windows for the first floor, in the traditional manner, and a facing for the concrete garden walls. There was a discussion of these requests, and the recommendation was that there would be no objection provided that the windows were made taller by lowering the sills, and that the concrete wall be faced with brick as recommended by the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Belle made the motion, seconded by Mr. Rybczynski; it was carried unanimously.
Appendix III. Mr. Martinez said there were only two minor changes to the Old Georgetown Act appendix received earlier by the members. One was a change in a recommendation because of a technical reason; the other involved a request to create a second-story window in a historic party wall at 3141 P Street, NW. Mr. Martinez said openings had been cut into the first floor, but these were apparently done before the Old Georgetown Act was passed in 1950, as there was no record of a permit having been issued. Since that time, the Old Georgetown Board had refused twice to approve a second-story window request. The architect, Dale Overmyer, was then introduced to make his arguments for the window. He said there were only two members of the Board present when the window was denied, and he noted that the Historic Preservation Review Board had been in favor of this design. When asked why, he said there were many precedents for it—at different levels and different locations—in fact, only about 10 percent of such walls had remained blank. He commented that any time there was a chance to let more light into a row house it was usually taken. Mr. Overmyer added that the Board had approved both the additions that he had designed for this house. Asked what room this would provide light for, he said it was a bathroom with no window, and it offered a view out onto the gardens of the historic house.
Mr. Luebke noted that the basic issue was the protection of the historic party wall fabric as recommended by the Old Georgetown Board versus the desire of a private individual to gain an amenity for their property. In spite of Mr. Overmyer's arguments, the members supported the Board's recommendation unanimously.
Shipstead-Luce Act (continued)
Appendix II. Departing from the agenda, the Shipstead-Luce Act Appendix II, was discussed next. There were no objections to it, and it was unanimously approved.
S.L. 05-078, 600 19th Street, NW. World Bank. Perimeter security, revised concept. (Previously seen: CFA 21 July 2005). Architect Roger Courtenay of EDAW recalled the previous submission and the Commission's request for further study of the installation of bollards along the G Street frontage; at that time the bollards were shown as coming out of the soil in the planters. After a meeting with the staff and showing several proposals, the consensus was that the one showing the bollards coming out of the broad curb along G Street was the best one. Subsequent to the first presentation, Mr. Courtenay said they had discovered that the height of the curb could be used as part of the security solution, lowering everything about 6 inches. This was helpful, as it had seemed to him and to the Commission's staff, given the fact the curb was higher at one end than at the other, that it would be better to maintain a consistent datum line along the entire length of the installation, with the all the bollards being two-and-a-half feet high; this would also keep the fence panel between the bollards always the same. The Commission agreed with this solution. The bollards would be made of the same stone as the curb, but with a honed rather than a polished finish.
Marsha Lee from EDAW then showed a revised design for the bollards, which had been the Commission's second concern; the concern was that the series of reveals down the height of the bollards was too fussy. Ms. Lee agreed, and she showed a revised design with just one reveal at the cap which was thought to look much better.
There was no further discussion. Mr. Belle moved that the project be given final approval; his motion was seconded and carried unanimously.
S.L. 05-083, Knollwood, The Army Distaff Foundation, Inc., 6200 Oregon Avenue, NW. Revised landscape and retaining walls. Final. (Previous: S.L. 05-004, CFA 21 October 2004) Ms. Penhoet introduced this project, recalling the previous submission and saying that the applicant was now requesting final approval for Phase I, a parking lot which would include a significant retaining wall in view of Rock Creek Park. She noted that the information sent to the members in their pre-meeting packages included a 3-foot-high pipe railing on top of the wall, which had subsequently been removed from the proposal. She introduced John Martin, an engineer with Kiley-Horn & Associates, and landscape architect Mike Bello; she asked Mr. Martin to begin the presentation.
Mr. Martin showed drawings, pointing out the location of the parking lot, Oregon Avenue, and the Knollwood building, and Rock Creek Park. He said that after looking at the parking lot as it was sited before, they had decided to make some changes that would make it flatter, but this had ramifications because of the topography and necessitated some retaining walls. These would be faced with an artificial stone matching that seen on the Knollwood driveway. He showed perspective drawings to show what a person walking on the trail through the park would see of the wall. The highest part of the wall would be about four-and-a-half to five feet. Ms. Nelson pointed out a blind corner at the entrance which she thought could be dangerous, and there was a discussion about where it could be moved. There was no good solution to the problem, and as the number of parking spaces had been reduced from 86 to 66, and the traffic was very light, it was decided it could be left as shown.
Ms. Penhoet talked about the landscaping, saying there had been little change since the Commission had last seen it. There were no more questions, and the final design for Phase I was unanimously approved, with Mr. Rybczynski making the motion with a second by Ms. Zimmerman.
(At this point, Ms. Zimmerman left the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum.)
S.L. 06-002, 2800 McGill Terrrace/2815 Woodland Drive, NW. New single family dwelling. Concept. Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, saying that it was for a new single-family dwelling with a connection to an existing house. She asked Michael Marshall to make the presentation, noting that Mr. Marshall had contacted Adrienne Coleman, superintendent of Rock Creek Park, but had not yet received her comments on the project.
Using a model, Mr. Marshall pointed out the existing house, accessed from McGill Terrace, saying it had been designed in 1939 by Edward Durrell Stone for George Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins at the time, and subsequently owned by Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke. His client purchased the house and also the Tudor-style house next door and down the hill. In his plans the Tudor house would be demolished to make room for a new structure that would be the family quarters; the existing Edward Durell Stone house would be used for entertaining, which was its original purpose. The new and old construction would be connected by a glass-enclosed bridge at the third-floor level. He showed a site plan, pointing out the area where there would be an entrance to an underground parking garage, saying that there was already a large excavation of the site at that location because of the foundation walls from the house to be demolished. He noted that the new house would be splayed back around the corner of 28th Street and Woodland Drive to maintain the existing trees in this very wooded area. He also pointed out a steep existing berm along part of the Woodland Drive frontage, saying that the first floor of the new house would be 30 feet above the street level, and that there was a 50-foot drop from Woodland Drive and 28th Street to the bottom of Rock Creek Park. He showed various views, to give an idea of the heavily wooded character of the site, which he intended to maintain so that there would be only minimal visibility from the park.
Mr. Marshall then talked about the proposed materials. The house would be basically limestone, in a color similar to that of the Edward Durrell Stone house with areas of a rough-hewn stone, like that of the stone embankments in the park. There would also be large areas of glass. The roof would be metal, and in answer to Ms. Nelson's question, he said it would be made of metal panels with a stucco limestone-like finish.
Mr. Belle asked about the front yard dimension and was told that it would be about 28 feet, slightly more than the 25 feet required. Ms. Nelson asked if the main concern of the neighbors was about the large amount of glazing and the effect of the lights at night. Ms. Penhoet said the staff had some concern about the lantern effect of the lighting. Mr. Marshall said the ANC had no questions about that and had unanimously approved the design. The only concern from the neighbors had been from those next to the new structure, who wanted to be sure there would be some screening between the two properties.
There was unanimous agreement from the members present that would be pleased to approve the design. However, as there was no longer a quorum present, Ms. Nelson said they would recommend approval to the absent members, and the result would be confirmed at the November meeting.
S.L. 06-006, 1619 Longfellow Street, NW. New single-family dwelling. Concept. Ms. Penhoet said this property was currently vacant, and she introduced the owner, Hashim Hassan, who had asked to inform the members that he had dropped off a package for Adrienne Coleman, the superintendent of Rock Creek Park, and told her that he would be attending this Commission meeting. Ms. Penhoet said the staff would look forward to her comments and then continued her background information, noting that Mr. Hassan would be submitting two locations for the detached garage; one was on the side of the property nearest Rock Creek Park, and this had caused the staff some concern. She also noted that Mr. Hassan's neighbor, Brian McMaster, had asked to comment.
Mr. Rybzcynski had some questions about the garage relating to required setbacks, which Mr. Hassan answered, and then said that originally he had the garage on the east side of his property, but his neighbor asked if he would move it to the other side so that there would be some green space between the two properties; for this reason he was submitting both locations as possibilities. Ms. Penhoet said the staff would prefer to see it on the east side, as far away from the park as possible. She said the only other concern the staff had was about the quality of the exterior materials, specifically the artificial stucco proposed, which was not appropriate for this house and did not hold up well. She then turned the discussion over to Mr. Hassan.
Mr. Hassan then described the houses in his area, saying that there was no particular architectural style but that the majority were four-level houses with hipped roofs and dormers. He described his as being a three-level house–English basement with full first and second floors. It would have a hipped roof but no dormers. He said the footprint would fit in the flat area and there would not be many trees to be cut down; therefore there would be only a minor disturbance to the park. Also, the substantial tree cover would mean very little visibility from the park to his property. All the outdoor livable spaces, such as porches, would be on the park side so as not to cause any intrusion on his neighbor's enjoyment of his property.
Mr. Hassim's neighbor, Brian McMaster, asked to comment. He said his only concern about the house was that the long brick wall plus the garage would cut off his view of the park. There was considerable discussion about the garage. The first thought was that it would look better if it were brick and not stucco. Ms. Nelson thought the appearance would be even better if it were joined to the house by a continuation of the brick wall; in that case it could stay on the side closest to the park, and it would help Mr. McMaster with his problem. That was the consensus, but as there was no quorum, the voting was postponed until the next meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:13 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke
Last Modified: January 24, 2006