Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 October 2006
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:10 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
(Due to the absence of the Chairman and Secretary, the Vice-Chairman chaired the meeting and the Assistant Secretary represented the staff.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 September meeting. Mr. Lindstrom reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the members in advance. Ms. Balmori requested a revision to the concluding paragraph on the Eisenhower Memorial site selection to summarize the Commission's decision not to endorse the proposed design guidelines. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the minutes subject to this revision.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Lindstrom presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: November 16, January 18, and February 15, with no meeting scheduled for December. There were no objections.
C. Report on the Inspection of Objects Proposed for Acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Ms. Nelson reported on the inspection which occurred at the conclusion of the last Commission meeting on 21 September. The Commission members inspected and approved the four items proposed for acquisition: an 18th-Century watercolor from India titled "Guru and Disciple" and a related drawing; a Chinese porcelain dish; and a folio from a 16th-Century Iranian book.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the two appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commissioners in advance of the meeting. Mr. Lindstrom noted that there was no consent calendar of direct submissions and relatively few submissions from federal agencies this month, perhaps due to the continuing resolution for the federal budget in the new fiscal year.
Appendix I – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported the changes to the draft appendix: for a proposed rear deck along Colorado Avenue, the recommendation was changed to be favorable based on supplemental drawings; and a new project was added for the temporary installation of banners and rooftop embellishments at the Folger Shakespeare Library in honor of the library's 75th anniversary in 2007. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Zimmerman asked for further details on the Folger project. Mr. Lindstrom explained that the banners would be fabric; the rooftop embellishments of back-lit portraits of Shakespeare would be placed above the parapet at each end of the main facade. These features would be attached with clamps to avoid any permanent alteration to the building. The installation would remain for six to twelve months. Ms. Zimmerman questioned the aesthetics of the proposed rooftop embellishments; Ms. Balmori suggested that the Commission see the submission materials before approving the project. The Commission then adopted the remainder of the Shipstead-Luce Appendix.
Appendix II – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. One project with a negative recommendation was postponed at the applicant's request. One project was added in order to formalize the Commission's response that the project is located outside the jurisdiction of the Old Georgetown Act.
Mr. Martínez noted that the applicant for one project, O.G. 06-269, was present and had requested the opportunity to address the Commission. He summarized the proposal for a curb cut, driveway, gate, parking court, garage, and roof terrace for a house at 1601 28th Street, N.W. He noted that the Commission had last considered the project in July 2006 and referred the project back to the Old Georgetown Board. The Board subsequently approved the gate, garage, and roof terrace but, in keeping with its precedent, restated its objection to the curb cut and suggested that the D.C. government make a decision on this component of the proposal. Mr. Martínez said that the proposed curb cut would soon be reviewed by the D.C. Department of Transportation. He explained that the appendix was now revised to eliminate a reference to the Historic Preservation Review Board that had appeared in the earlier draft.
Gary MacDonald, the co-owner of the home, addressed the Commission. He asked the Commission to clarify the wording of the recommendation concerning the proposed curb cut because it did not distinguish between the Board's recommendation and the Commission's. He noted that the Commission's recommendation in July had stated "no objection" to the concept of a curb cut, and he asked that the Commission reiterate this viewpoint while also conveying the Board's concern.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the recommendation remain as shown in the appendix, which appropriately summarized the Board's objection to the curb cut. She reiterated the request that the applicant submit the curb-cut request to the D.C. government; Mr. MacDonald confirmed his intention to do this. Mr. Rybczynski supported the Board's position as expressed in the appendix; Mr. McKinnell concurred. Ms. Zimmerman supported the curb cut; she questioned the Commission's rationale for recommending in favor of the proposed garage while not supporting the curb cut that allows vehicular access to it. She recalled the applicant's presentation in July that provided ample justification for the curb cut. Nonetheless she concluded that the recommendation was acceptable as shown in the appendix.
Mr. MacDonald agreed to seek D.C. government approval using the Commission's recommendation as shown, which he would submit in conjunction with the Commission's more favorable recommendation from July. Ms. Zimmerman asked how the Commission has handled previous cases involving disagreement with the Board. Mr. Lindstrom said that the Board advises the Commission, and the Commission has the final authority to formulate a recommendation to the D.C. government; he said it would be appropriate for the Commission's recommendation to reflect the Board's opposition to the curb cut. Mr. McKinnell reiterated his support for the wording of the proposed recommendation, including the acknowledgment of the Board's position and the Commission's conclusion to refer the curb cut proposal to the D.C. government.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised appendix without change.
B. National Park Service
CFA 19/OCT/06-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W., at the Tidal Basin. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/06-1.) Ms. Nelson noted that Ms. Zimmerman had recused herself from this project and had left the room. Mr. Lindstrom introduced John Parsons of the National Park Service.
Mr. Parsons explained that the Park Service was continuing to work with the sponsoring foundation on the design of the central area of the memorial. In response to the Commission's unfavorable review of a previously proposed revision to add a large water feature, the current proposal would add a more delicate water element which is supported by the Park Service. He introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., executive architect of the foundation.
Dr. Jackson explained that the currently approved concept, seen by the Commission in March, does not include water. He said that the Commission had consistently emphasized the importance of the memorial's key features, the "Mountain of Despair" and the "Stone of Hope," along with the curved inscription walls. One of the proposed revisions would reposition the Mountain of Despair stones so that the inscription walls would meet the midpoints of the stones; this would avoid the overlap of the walls and stones when viewed from the main plaza to the southeast. Additionally, the Stone of Hope would be repositioned to be closer to the Mountain of Despair, strengthening the relationship between them. The third proposed revision would be the introduction of two small waterfalls facing the plaza between the inscription walls and the Mountain of Despair stones. The waterfalls would be four to six feet wide; the backdrop would be a rough stone surface.
Ms. Nelson asked if the stone backdrop of the waterfall would contrast with the nearby stone; Dr. Jackson said there would be a contrast, possibly by using the same stone with different surface treatments. He said the overall selection of stone for the memorial was not yet finalized, but some variety of color and texture would be proposed. In response to Ms. Nelson, Dr. Jackson explained that the proposal for inscriptions and their placement had not yet been finalized, but not all of the panels shown on the drawings would have inscriptions.
Ms. Nelson reiterated the Commission's previous concern about the fabrication of the large stone elements and asked about the choice of a sculptor for Dr. King's image on the Stone of Hope. Dr. Jackson said the design team was working on the fabrication issue and would provide detailed information in a future submission. He said the sponsoring foundation was still in the process of selecting a sculptor.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the repositioning of the major elements would strengthen the design. He reiterated his previous objection to the introduction of a water feature, commenting that it would merely detract from the importance of the adjacent Tidal Basin. He acknowledged that the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial uses water alongside the Tidal Basin but characterized that memorial as a more inward-looking design, while the proposed King Memorial is more outward-looking. He emphasized the importance and difficulty of the connection between the Mountain of Despair and the inscription walls and said that the waterfall solution was not satisfactory and would distract from the primary elements of the memorial; he urged further study of this area. Ms. Balmori agreed, commenting that the repositioning of the Mountain of Despair would improve the design by visually separating it from the inscription walls, but that the proposed water feature was not a satisfactory treatment of this joint.
Ms. Nelson asked how visitors would identify the meaning of the different components of the memorial. Dr. Jackson said that the memorial would be explained through literature provided to visitors or narration by park rangers, rather than by labels placed on the memorial's components; Ms. Nelson concurred with this approach. She asked how the repositioning of the Stone of Hope would relate to the nearby entry paths that had been aligned with the Stone and its profile of Dr. King. Dr. Jackson explained that these entry routes included a sequence of several segments that would bring visitors to the plaza and the Stone of Hope, so the precise alignment of the initial portions was not a critical feature.
Ms. Nelson said that the memorial design was getting stronger and more focused, commenting that most of the proposed revisions would improve the design but that the waterfalls would need further study; she questioned their small size and the appearance of this feature when the water was not in use. She suggested that this transition area could be handled with another material such as glass or metal. She also suggested further study of the lighting for the memorial.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the repositioning of the design elements and requested further study of the transition between the inscription walls and the Mountain of Despair, with options for this area to be resubmitted to the Commission. Mr. Jackson expressed his appreciation for the Commission's continuing guidance and observed that the design was becoming stronger as a result of the review process.
At this point, Ms. Zimmerman returned to the meeting.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 19/OCT/06-2, 2008 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for the second set of four coins: Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson, and Van Buren. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/MAR/06-8.) Ms. Kohler introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the designs.
Ms. Budow explained that four of the presidential one-dollar coins would be issued each year, in addition to continuing production of the Sacagawea one-dollar coins. As previously reviewed by the Commission, the reverse of all the presidential coins would be the same, with an image of the Statue of Liberty. The obverse would have a likeness of each president in the order of his service along with text; Ms. Budow confirmed that each obverse would follow the format approved by the Commission in its previous review. She also explained that the Mint asks several artists to prepare the alternatives for each coin. She showed the Commission a set of historic presidential portraits provided to the artists as a basis for the coin designs.
Ms. Budow presented the eleven alternative designs for James Monroe's image. Ms. Balmori said that she preferred a profile for coins rather than a three-quarters or frontal view but she was not satisfied with the two profiles shown, JM-05 and JM-09. She said that his distinctive forehead was his most recognizable feature and should be shown more clearly in the coin design. Mr. Rybczynski recommended design JM-03 as having the best facial expression. Ms. Nelson commented on how different he appeared in the various alternative portraits. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved alternative JM-03.
Ms. Budow then presented the eight alternatives for John Quincy Adams. Several Commission members supported designs JQA-03 and JQA-08. After comparing the designs to the historic portraits, the Commission approved alternative JQA-08 upon a motion by Ms. Balmori.
Ms. Budow presented ten alternatives for Andrew Jackson. Ms. Nelson commented on the prominence of his hair in all of the alternatives. Ms. Balmori said that design AJ-08 best shows Jackson's features; the Commission members also supported design AJ-09. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved alternative AJ-09.
Ms. Budow concluded with ten alternative designs for Martin Van Buren. The Commission members commented that design MVB-10 would work best at the small scale of the coin. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman, with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved alternative MVB-10.
D. National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
CFA 19/OCT/06-3, National Law Enforcement Museum, Judiciary Square, E Street north of Old City Hall. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/05-2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Craig Floyd, chairman of the Memorial Fund.
Mr. Floyd summarized the Commission's previous approval of the concept for glass pavers in the plaza area and the concept revisions to be presented: additional details on the glass pavers; modifications to the entry pavilions; exterior signage; emergency and utility access; and barrier-free circulation on the site. He then introduced the project architect, Davis Buckley of Davis Buckley Architects and Planners.
Mr. Buckley provided an overview of the project, beginning with its relation to the nearby National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on the north side of E Street and to the adjacent Old City Hall that is being renovated to serve as the courthouse for the D.C. Court of Appeals. He showed the D.C. Courts' interim plan for the courthouse entry plaza in relation to the final plaza design proposed as part of the museum's construction, incorporating the Courts' proposed location for entry stairs and ramps. The lower portion of the ramps, positioned within the museum's construction area, would have a shallow slope of five percent that would be easy to traverse and would not require handrails. Glass pavers would be included on these portions of the ramps in locations that correspond to the paving pattern shown on the Courts' interim plan.
Mr. Buckley showed the revised proposal for a 20-foot-wide driveway on the west side of the site, providing emergency vehicles with supplemental access to the courthouse and utility vehicles with access to the Courts' utility vault; the width was chosen through consultation with the D.C. Fire Department. A 12-foot-wide access road on the east side of the site would provide service access to the museum's east entrance pavilion and would allow room for landscaping along the areaway of an adjacent small court building. Mr. Buckley said that the differing widths, although apparent in plan, would not be significantly noticeable to people walking through the area. He showed the plans for the two entry pavilions, one serving the general public and one for tour groups including schoolchildren. He also showed the plans for the underground levels and explained their relation to the entry pavilions and skylights. He presented the sections and elevations, noting a revision to reduce the height of the exterior glass walls to relate better to the adjacent historic buildings; this revision was suggested during the historic preservation review process. The exterior walls were also simplified by using larger pieces of glass and fewer structural connections.
Mr. Buckley provided samples of the glass pavers and the acrylic blocks that would admit light to the museum through the roofing system. Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the depth of the skylight assembly; Tom Striegel of Mr. Buckley's firm explained that the glass would be approximately six inches thick and the acrylic block would extend approximately three feet, passing through the plaza structural support and the museum's ceiling system. The details of the glass pavers were being refined to provide sufficient strength to support a vehicle on the plaza. Mr. Striegel clarified that the surface dimensions of the skylights along the ramp would be approximately six inches by forty inches, corresponding to the D.C. Courts' existing interim paving plan; on the remainder of the plaza, the skylights would be eighteen by forty-eight inches.
Mr. Buckley presented the proposed signage, which would be limited to the east entry pavilion; the fritted glass letters would be set within the glass wall facing E Street. The Commission members then inspected a model showing the project and its context. Mr. Buckley explained the vehicular drop-off proposal that includes two small bays along E Street for use by the museum and the D.C. Courts; these would be designed to continue the material, texture, and pattern of the adjacent sidewalk area and to relate to the paving of the memorial across E Street. A bus drop-off area for groups visiting the museum would be nearby on Fifth Street, located to provide a visual connection to the museum entrance.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission consider the issue of perimeter security elements, which were not included in the revised concept, in addition to the design revisions that were shown. Mr. Lindstrom explained that the perimeter security was needed by the D.C. Courts, not the museum, and might result in security elements that would be located within the museum's construction area. He said that the staff had requested a submission that addressed this issue, but the D.C. Courts had not provided the museum's design team with sufficiently specific information on the Courts' security needs. He noted that the Courts' interim plan for the plaza shows a line of perimeter security extending across the plaza.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission reiterate its request for further coordination of this issue and the need to integrate the design of perimeter security with the overall design of the plaza. Mr. Buckley said that this coordination would be feasible if the Courts provide sufficient information in the coming months, but otherwise the museum design would have to move forward due to the schedule limitation imposed by the authorizing legislation. Mr. McKinnell acknowledged the sensitive design of the museum project and emphasized the importance of addressing the perimeter security issue at the earliest possible stage in the design process. Mr. Buckley encouraged the Commission's assistance in asking the Courts to provide further information.
Mr. Lindstrom clarified that the renovation of court buildings in the area was currently underway with the future museum site being used as a construction staging area; at a later phase of the renovation project, the Courts would install perimeter security in accordance with their interim plan for the plaza. Ms. Zimmerman asked if this interim plan included sufficient information on perimeter security to guide the museum's design team; Mr. Lindstrom said that the design details would depend on the security standards being used, which would not be readily apparent from the information shown on the interim plan. He suggested that the museum project could move forward while staff continues to encourage the Courts to provide further information. Mr. Lindstrom noted that the Courts might end up submitting their own permanent plan for interim security, which would be subject to Commission review; the Commission could disapprove the design if it is not satisfactory.
Mr. Buckley expressed confidence that he could integrate perimeter security unobtrusively into the design of the plaza if he receives further information on the Courts' security standards. Tom Gallagher, the project manager for the museum, suggested that the Courts could provide perimeter security elements on the property under their control, without involving the museum site; this solution could be used to avoid further delay to the museum project if the Courts continue not to provide sufficient security information to the museum's designers. He reiterated the offer to accommodate the Courts' perimeter security needs within the museum site if the Courts provide timely information. Mr. McKinnell objected to the possibility of future perimeter security being constructed by the Courts without adequate coordination with the museum and plaza design; he observed that the perimeter security would be perceived as related to the plaza design, regardless of the specific jurisdictional boundaries around the site. He emphasized the importance of addressing security issues as part of the design process rather than afterward. Ms. Zimmerman concurred but asked how the Commission could achieve this if the Courts do not cooperate. Mr. Buckley said this issue had already caused a four-month delay for the museum at an estimated cost of $400,000 per month. He urged the Commission to allow the museum project to move forward without waiting for further resolution of the security issue. Ms. Zimmerman agreed and expressed support for the proposed design revisions.
Mr. Lindstrom said that the Commission had just received a letter by facsimile from Chief Judge Eric Washington of the D.C. Courts concerning the museum project. Mr. Lindstrom distributed copies of the letter to the Commission members and the applicant. Ms. Nelson emphasized the need for cooperation and objected to the Commission having to mediate between the Courts and the museum. Ms. Zimmerman agreed, suggesting that the Commission work with the museum's design team which was participating constructively in the design process, rather than delay the project due to the lack of cooperation from the Courts; she urged approval of the revised concept for the museum. Several members agreed that the Commission should focus on the design revisions that were presented. Ms. Nelson suggested that the additional issue of security design coordination could be addressed in the action letter.
Ms. Balmori questioned the two proposed vehicular drop-off areas along E Street, commenting that they constricted the sidewalk space even as the sidewalk would be widened in nearby areas. Mr. Buckley explained that these would be small drop-off areas, sized for cars rather than buses, to provide for easier handicapped access to the museum and courthouse. He agreed with the Courts' past request not to accommodate buses in front of the plaza, resulting in the siting of the bus drop-off area on 5th Street. Mr. Rybczynski questioned whether these alterations in the curb line were appropriate in the urban context. Mr. McKinnell expressed concern that bollards would inevitably be installed that would follow the uneven curb line and emphasize the shape of the drop-off areas, undermining the design intent of continuing the sidewalk pattern across the drop-off areas. Mr. Striegel explained that E Street would be narrowed to a single lane in each direction, plus narrow bicycle lanes but without parking lanes; so any stopped vehicle would obstruct the flow of traffic. The drop-off areas are proposed to avoid this problem. Mr. Buckley added that his design goal for the entire area, including the memorial and museum, was an environment that would welcome pedestrians with minimal intrusion of security barriers.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised concept with the exception of the vehicular drop-off areas along E Street.
E. Anacostia Waterfront Corporation
CFA 19/OCT/06-4, Washington Canal Park, 2nd Street, S.E., between I and M Streets. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/NOV/04- 11, design competition informational presentation.) Mr. Simon introduced Uwe Brandes, vice president for capital projects and planning at the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation (AWC). Mr. Brandes said that this presentation would be AWC's first formal submission of a project for review.
Mr. Brandes described the context for the new park: an emerging dynamic neighborhood of mixed uses and mixed incomes, approximately eight blocks south of the U.S. Capitol and immediately north of the future headquarters of the U.S. Department of Transportation (US-DOT), currently nearing completion. The new baseball stadium is being constructed several blocks to the southwest. Although the Canal Park would be several blocks from the Anacostia River, it would provide a linkage between the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the north and the public open spaces being created along the waterfront to the south, so AWC is considering the project to be part of the waterfront park system.
The park would extend from I to M Streets along 2nd Street, S.E., occupying three narrow blocks that were formerly part of Washington's canal system. The blocks immediately surrounding the site include a hotel/residential complex and an office building, both recently completed; a mixed-income redevelopment of public housing, currently under construction; a former newspaper printing plant, now vacant; and sites for future buildings. Another recently reconstructed public housing site, the Ellen Wilson Homes, is several blocks to the northeast. One entrance to the Navy Yard Metro station is a half-block west of the site along M Street. The Capitol South station, several blocks to the north, would likely be used by some baseball game attendees who could walk alongside the park to reach the stadium. Garfield Park is two blocks north of the site, on the opposite side of the Southeast Freeway.
Mr. Brandes described the environmental concerns of the Anacostia waterfront area, particularly the management of stormwater to reduce the discharge of combined sewer overflow into the river. AWC is trying to accomplish multiple goals with its investments in new infrastructure; the park would be an example of infrastructure that would address the stormwater issue, provide a recreational and aesthetic amenity, and promote economic development. AWC received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to design the park as a demonstration project for multi-purpose municipal infrastructure.
Mr. Brandes noted that the project was previously presented to the Commission a year ago when AWC was considering the entries to a design competition. The landscape architecture firm of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. was chosen; he introduced Rodrigo Abela of that firm to present the design.
Mr. Abela emphasized that the design came from a collaboration of landscape architecture and civil engineering; the movement of water through the park was an important design consideration. He described how the design responds to the overall site and context, with passive recreation toward the north to serve residents and a more active mixed-use program toward the south to correspond to office buildings and the commercial character of M Street. As the area is built out, the park will be framed by eight- to nine-story buildings. The park design will emphasize that frame in the north-south direction and de-emphasize the east-west streets that divide the site, increasing the sense of the park's length and unity. The western edge would be further emphasized with a boardwalk and a triple-row of trees along all three blocks to mark the connection along 2nd Street toward the Capitol and waterfront. This boardwalk area would be designed with a variety of seating and places for pedestrians to stop. The boardwalk would suggest a waterfront setting even though the river is not visible from the park; its wood construction would also refer to the wood components of the historic canal system. The area under the boardwalk would be part of the project's stormwater treatment system. The overall site area has a modest one-percent slope that totals nine feet along the nine-hundred-foot length of the park.
Mr. Abela then described the design for each of the three blocks that comprise the park. The overall theme of "Collective Waters" would be expressed in a special way on each block—"Convey" on the north, "Celebrate" in the middle, and "Collect" on the south. The northern block would have a large lawn for passive recreation; it would be configured as a tilted plane rising from the sidewalk level on the east to a retaining wall on the west with a maximum height of four feet. The lawn would therefore be separated from the 2nd Street traffic and would not be used as a shortcut for pedestrians. The view over the lawn would extend down the length of the park, providing a dramatic experience for those approaching the site from the northwest. Several Commission members asked how the top of this retaining wall would be treated. Mr. Abela said its height would vary to follow the tilted lawn plane; the top of the wall would be flush with the lawn so a guardrail might be included in the design. In some areas the retaining wall would serve as the back of a bench. The park's water would originate in this northern block, toward the high end of the site. The water would emerge from horizontal jets across low wedges to form a series of overlapping scrims that people could walk through.
The middle block would have an aquatic garden, a reference to the site's history as a marshy area. The wetland-type plantings in this area would also serve to clean the water as it recirculates through the park. A bioswale on the east would also help to clean stormwater collected from the adjacent street for use in the park's water system. At the northeast corner of the block, a raised pool of water would be activated with a field of jets to create the effect of dancing drops.
The southern block, slightly longer than the others, would include an amphitheatre with a gently sloping lawn where people could sit to watch performances—possibly by the Marine Corps band which is housed in the vicinity. There would be an agricultural garden which would refer to the agricultural history of the site; it would be elevated to contrast with the sunken aquatic garden in the middle block. Community residents might become involved in the maintenance of this garden. A hardscape plaza would be placed along the M Street sidewalk. A cistern would be located below the plaza as part of the project's water storage and recirculation system. Artwork or a water feature would be included above, perhaps relating to the cistern and emphasizing the theme of "Collect" for the block as well as providing a visible feature along M Street. Trees would be chosen to provide adequate shade to the plaza during the summer.
Mr. Abela concluded by summarizing the project's features, including the extensive seating areas and the relationship among the various water features. He emphasized that the materials for the water features would be designed to be interesting when the water is not operating. Mr. Brandes noted that the project is a public-private partnership, with funding from the federal and local governments and the owners of the surrounding land. AWC would be responsible for maintenance of the park, through outside contracting or possibly through an agreement with the Business Improvement District that is being formed for the neighborhood.
Ms. Nelson commented on the need to provide sufficient maintenance for the park. Ms. Balmori questioned whether the proposed community gardening at the agricultural park would require fencing to protect the garden plots; she said that community members tend to abandon such gardens if there is not sufficient protection. She expressed support for the variety of settings in the park, particularly the boardwalk and water features. However, she said that the concept for the plaza along M Street seemed less clear than other parts of the design. She suggested further consideration of maintenance needs and the cost of operating the water circulation system.
Ms. Zimmerman commented on the visual interest and variety in the design such as the staggered placement of trees along the boardwalk. Ms. Nelson said the park would be very helpful to the neighborhood as it goes through rapid redevelopment.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the design seemed like a beautiful garden that would be supported by a large wealthy corporation; he suggested that the design would be more practical if it were more like an urban park rather than a garden. He questioned the appropriateness and practicality of placing a boardwalk in the middle of a city rather than on a shore, and in an eastern city that is not strongly related to forests. He noted the lack of precedent for this usage and suggested that durability and maintenance might be problems. Mr. Abela said that the purpose of the boardwalk was to provide a raised porous surface. Mr. Brandes said that AWC had considered the durability issue and had noted the precedent of successful wood sidewalks along several blocks in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Rybczynski replied that this design might be consistent with the forested character of Portland's setting but might not be appropriate in Washington. Mr. Brandes said that AWC had requested that the design relate to the history of the site, and the boardwalk proposal has been well received. He concurred that the durability and maintenance issues were important and said that AWC was continuing to study them.
Mr. McKinnell concurred with Mr. Rybczynski's concerns, commenting that there may be a contradiction between the delicacy of the proposed design features and the need for robustness in an urban park. He offered the example of the tilted plane of grass which he described as a beautiful idea that might become much less beautiful when a substantial railing is placed around the edge. He said that such concerns were critical in evaluating the appropriateness of the minimalist approach that is proposed for the design. Mr. McKinnell said he had no objection to the use of wood for the boardwalks but questioned how the elevated character of a typical boardwalk could be reconciled with the need to make the walkway accessible from the adjacent sidewalk. He observed that these problems would be easier to resolve with a generous patron than with a publicly funded project.
Mr. Abela replied that his firm had recently placed a boardwalk in a Chicago park, so the designers have experience in resolving these concerns. He added that the Chicago boardwalk marked the historic location of the lake shore and was intentionally jarring in its modern context.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the explanation of the design was labored and unnecessary; he urged that the design features be allowed to speak for themselves. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson concurred. Mr. McKinnell commented that the story had already served its purpose in generating the design concept.
Ms. Nelson asked for further information on the design intent for the plaza. Mr. Abela said that it would relate to M Street and the nearby US-DOT headquarters to the south as well as to the amphitheatre on the north. He noted that the US-DOT would have wide sidewalks containing an outdoor exhibition area that schoolchildren might visit; the plaza could therefore become a location for school groups to have lunch. The grass at the amphitheatre would be engineered to support intense uses such as band performances.
Ms. Zimmerman asked about materials for the paved areas. Mr. Abela said this was still being decided; the sidewalks are tentatively shown with brick pavers that would be darker than the typical brick sidewalks in downtown areas. Crushed gravel would be used for other walkways, subject to resolution of accessibility issues. The site walls would be clad in stone if feasible. He said the design purpose of these materials, in conjunction with the boardwalk, is to suggest a waterfront character. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that Brooklyn's canal areas could provide examples of appropriate materials to use. She suggested that the next submission include a careful selection of materials as well as consideration of details such as joints and railings. Mr. McKinnell concurred, commenting that historic canals typically use very durable materials such as large granite blocks and large metal components. He suggested that this project would be improved by incorporating such materials. Ms. Nelson offered the canal in Georgetown as another example. Ms. Balmori said that the concept should be developed with an emphasis on toughness; Ms. Zimmerman and Ms. Nelson concurred. Ms. Balmori noted that a fragile design in this urban location would require extensive and costly maintenance, creating an undesirable image for the project. Ms. Zimmerman noted the large size of the blocks, comparable to football fields, and the large scale of individual features such as the lawn; she emphasized the need for a strong maintenance program. Ms. Balmori emphasized the need for durable construction while supporting the simplicity and large scale of the public spaces.
Mr. McKinnell asked Mr. Abela if any important features of the design had been dropped since his firm won the initial competition. Mr. Abela said that the design had improved.
Ms. Nelson suggested a motion to approve the concept. Mr. McKinnell asked if a motion for approval could include an expression of the Commission's enthusiastic support; Ms. Nelson said that such wording could be included. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission enthusiastically approved the concept and recommended that the material selection and details be developed to provide the robustness and durability needed for an urban park.
F. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 19/OCT/06-5, Alice Deal Middle School, 3815 Fort Drive, N.W. Renovation and additions. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JAN/04-14.) Mr. Martínez introduced Robert Mills from the D.C. Public Schools. Mr. Mills noted that the Commission had approved the concept in renovation and additions in 2004; the project is now scheduled in the capital improvements program.
Mr. Martínez then introduced architect Jeffrey Luker from Quinn Evans Architects. Mr. Luker said that the final design is consistent with the approved concept. The design intent is to preserve and enhance the best of the Alice Deal Middle School building and to modernize it. The front facade from the 1930s would remain with a small change to extend the front entrance stair landing and add an accessibility ramp along the face of the building. Most of the work would be on the back of the building, where an oversized boiler room and an awkwardly designed 1960s addition would be removed. A cafeteria would be constructed in this area with a new rear facade that would face a new student plaza and the school's playing field. Upper-level corridors in this new wing would improve the circulation pattern within the school. The auditorium in the center of the building would be renovated, including a new mechanical system and asbestos removal. Existing lightwells alongside the auditorium would be covered with skylights over new grand staircases. The windows were recently replaced and would be retained; a recent roofing project would be continued.
Mr. Luker explained that a new gymnasium wing would be constructed to the northeast of the school, and the existing gymnasiums on the top floors of the school's historic side wings would be converted into classroom space. A new entrance pavilion would be built between the new gymnasium and the existing school, allowing for weekend use of the gymnasium which could serve as a community park facility. One side of the gym would face Howard Road, a dead-end road running alongside the site; Mr. Luker said the design included a proposal to realign this street but it wasn't yet certain if this would be done. The other side of this wing, containing locker rooms and fitness rooms, would face the playing fields. The school is located adjacent to Fort Reno Park, and the D.C. Public Schools are negotiating with the National Park Service to adjust the boundary line between the park and school property so that the entire playing field would be part of the school site.
Mr. Luker concluded by noting that materials would be harmonious with the existing school building to the extent possible, subject to budget constraints. He provided samples of the proposed brown concrete blocks, although the color selection had not been finalized; other materials would include colored metal for the roofs and downspouts. Ms. Nelson asked for a sample of the metal but none was available. She emphasized the importance of reviewing materials for the final submission, particularly since the choice of materials would need to be further evaluated due to budgetary constraints. Mr. Luker said that the design includes several alternates of work that could be eliminated or postponed if necessary rather than having to substitute lower-cost finish materials.
Ms. Balmori asked for further details on the windows. Mr. Luker explained that the larger new windows would have a greenish tint and extruded aluminum frames. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the openings shown on the elevations of the new gymnasium wing; Mr. Luker explained that these would be decorative recesses rather than windows. The central panel facing the road could become the setting for a sign. On the side facing the playing field, the ground floor would have locker rooms so there would only be decorative panels; two offices in the center of the ground floor would have windows. On the upper floor, there would be windows for a dance studio and weight room, and the center area would have a mechanical room with louvered grilles. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that these false windows, although not objectionable, could be eliminated from the design if budget constraints become a concern. Ms. Balmori said that the recessed panels give the undesirable impression that the building is boarded up. Ms. Zimmerman concurred and suggested a simpler treatment such as a lintel or decoration that would not suggest a window shape. Mr. Luker offered to study this further.
Ms. Nelson said that, if the Commission approves the final design, further consultation would be needed with the staff and possibly with the Commission if design changes are made due to budget constraints. Mr. Luker agreed and said that further information would be available initially in November and then during contractor pricing in January or February. He explained that the final choice of colors was also dependent on further pricing information.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the final design.
G. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 19/OCT/06-6, Eastgate Senior Residence, Anacostia Road, B Street, and Ridge Road, S.E. Sculpture installation: "Celebration" by Esther Wertheimer. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Rachel Dickerson of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Ms. Dickerson explained the site context in the Fort Dupont neighborhood. The setting would be a new apartment building for senior citizens, providing affordable-cost independent living units. The Commission on the Arts and Humanities is coordinating the sculpture with the D.C. Housing Authority and A&R Development, which is constructing the building. The proposed sculpture by artist Esther Wertheimer, titled "Celebration," depicts people of a variety of ages, suggesting the children who will be visiting the older residents of the building. She then introduced Ms. Wertheimer to explain the project.
Ms. Wertheimer noted that her proposal was selected from a competition with over 100 entries. The sculpture celebrates life by showing people playing together and staying together. The small child is jumping; the mother is watching her, joined by the father and grandmother. The sculpture would be bronze to be permanent in accordance with ancient traditions. The casting would use a lost-wax process; the coloring would be achieved with various acids. The child's dress would be in red at the request of a community committee. Ms. Nelson asked for further information on this committee; Ms. Dickerson explained that the community representatives were part of the selection committee of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
Ms. Wertheimer showed a maquette of the sculpture to the Commission. She explained that she revised the colors, faces, and hairstyles in response to the community committee. The celebratory ribbon was also added as her re-interpretation of the community's request to add a hair ribbon; this ribbon would be a polished light bronze with a light brown finish that would protect it from gradual discoloration.
Ms. Nelson asked for further information on the design of the pedestal. Ms. Wertheimer explained that the sculpture would be in a courtyard where people would not be able to come close to it, so there would not be seating on the pedestal. She had originally proposed a round base, but the committee recommended a triangular pedestal because the community is known as Stoddard Triangle. The pedestal would be twenty inches high with sides of five to six feet; the entire sculpture would be ten feet tall. She provided a sample of the green stone that is proposed for cladding the pedestal. Ms. Zimmerman recommended that Ms. Wertheimer investigate this material further. Ms. Dickerson added that the Commission on the Arts and Humanities would ensure that the sculpture and landscaping are maintained; the building might have a resident staffperson who would be responsible for this. Ms. Wertheimer noted that the surface of the sculpture would need to be waxed monthly to preserve the patina and prevent oxidation.
Mr. Rybczynski asked Ms. Dickerson who had judged the competition. Ms. Dickerson explained that the committee included representatives from the neighborhood, the developer, and the D.C. Housing Authority. The artists were also invited to a Marshall Heights community meeting to discuss the project with residents before submitting their competition entries. The semi-finalists were given further background information and met with future residents of the building.
Ms. Zimmerman asked where the sculpture would be fabricated. Ms. Wertheimer said she was working with several foundries in the U.S. and abroad; she will choose one based on its success in handling digital enlargements and corrections.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that this initial submission of the project was being presented as a final design, so the Commission did not have the opportunity to provide input during the preliminary stages of the design process. She urged that Ms. Dickerson's agency consult further with the staff to discuss improved opportunities for Commission involvement in public art projects and competitions. She said it would be difficult to offer comments since the project is at a final stage. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori concurred. Ms. Dickerson agreed to discuss the process further.
Mr. Rybczynski commented on the process for creating public art, observing that the public was not necessarily the best judge of art but that it is difficult for a review agency to suggest changes to an art project after the public has become involved in the design process. He acknowledged that the proposed sculpture would appeal to the public but questioned whether the Commission would have supported the concept if it had been submitted at an earlier stage. Now that the community has become involved in shaping the design, it would be difficult for the Commission to fulfill its role of offering advice. Ms. Nelson concurred.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the round base, as originally conceived by Ms. Wertheimer, would be preferable to the triangular base that was submitted. Mr. McKinnell concurred. Ms. Wertheimer reiterated that the change was made in response to the community; Mr. Rybczynski responded that the art belongs to the general public rather than the particular community, so the design should not be determined by the local group. Ms. Nelson added that the artist's initial color choice had also been altered in response to the community. Ms. Wertheimer said that it may be difficult to execute the round pedestal using granite; Ms. Zimmerman and Mr. McKinnell replied that this shouldn't be a problem with modern stone-cutting technology.
Mr. McKinnell commented that he did not like the design as a piece of public sculpture, but he concurred that the project was beyond the point where the Commission could address this concern. He strongly supported a circular shape for the pedestal and suggested that the Commission recommend this change as part of any approval or formal action. Ms. Dickerson agreed that the pedestal shape could be changed. Ms. Wertheimer said that she would include a circle of stones around a circular pedestal, in keeping with her original concept.
Ms. Balmori suggested that the Commission officially note that it had looked at the project but not formally approve it; Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission's comments could be conveyed in a letter without a formal vote. Ms. Dickerson said that approval was not necessary but that some letter from the Commission would be needed in order to obtain building permits. Ms. Nelson said that the Commission's comments would include its desire for some involvement in the selection of jurors for public art competitions, perhaps involving the process rather than the nomination of specific people. Ms. Wertheimer said that further involvement by the Commission would be helpful in supporting future projects and could reduce the number of changes made during the design process, which can be time-consuming for the artist. She said that it was difficult for her as an artist to state a disagreement with the community committee. Ms. Nelson concurred that an artistic vision needs to be maintained despite the advice of committees.
The discussion concluded without a formal motion; Ms. Nelson said that the Commission's comments would be conveyed in a letter.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:40 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke
Last Modified: December 8, 2006