Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 April 2007
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 10:02 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman chaired the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: May 17, June 21, and July 19; no meeting is scheduled in August. There were no objections.
C. Report on the Charles H. Atherton Memorial Lecture and the "Framing a Capital City" symposium. Mr. Luebke reported the success of the lecture and symposium the previous week. The memorial lecture, honoring the Commission's former secretary, was given by former Commission chairman David Childs to an audience of approximately 300 people. The next day's symposium was co-sponsored by the Commission, the National Building Museum, and the National Capital Planning Commission. Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Belle and Mr. Powell attended, and he said that a summary of the presentations would be prepared. Issues that emerged from the symposium included the challenges of security and the form of future memorials in comparison to the recent emphasis on horizontal landscape designs. Mr. Belle commented that Mr. Childs's lecture was a "masterful summary" of Washington's historical development and suggested that the content of the presentation be made available to the Commission members. Mr. Luebke said that the lecture will be transcribed and made available.
D. Introduction of new staff member. Mr. Luebke introduced Kathleen Gillespie, who has joined the staff as the administrative officer. He summarized her experience as the administrative officer for the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta and the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commissioners in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I — Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Luebke confirmed that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Penhoet reported two revisions to the draft appendix: cases S.L. 07-052 and 07-055 were both revised to favorable recommendations based on additional information that was submitted. Mr. Luebke noted that three additional Shipstead-Luce cases would be presented later on the day's agenda. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported the revisions to the draft appendix. Several cases were withdrawn by the applicants to allow further discussion at the May meeting of the Old Georgetown Board. Several other cases are listed with tentatively favorable recommendations subject to the receipt of supplemental drawings; he suggested that the Commission authorize the staff to finalize these recommendations after confirming the anticipated submission materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix with this authorization.
B. Arlington National Cemetery
CFA 19/APR/07-1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Land Development 90. Details of boundary wall. Revised design – Final. (Previous: CFA 15/MAR/07-3) Mr. Lindstrom said that the submission was a revision of the design presented to the Commission the previous month and he complimented the design team for their quick response to the Commission's comments. He introduced Jack Metzler, superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Metzler thanked the Commission for its previous comments and expressed his enthusiasm for the revised design. He introduced Allison Kern of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to present the project. Ms. Kern explained the various types of existing boundary walls around the cemetery, including a red Seneca stone wall to the north and northwest and a gray fieldstone wall to the south and southwest; portions of the fieldstone wall have fencing on top. The proposed wall would extend the fieldstone wall along the east side of the cemetery, terminating at a maintenance gate near the visitor parking garage. She explained that the material for the new wall would match the gray fieldstone and would be selected in consultation with the Commission staff. She noted that the design team had studied the existing walls more closely in response to the Commission's comments and had observed that the walls typically have piers spaced at approximately 25-foot intervals.
Ms. Kern described the revised section of the proposed wall. The niches would now rise from approximately 18 inches above grade, varying slightly with the topography. The overall wall height would be approximately six feet on the inner face toward the cemetery and seven feet on the outer face toward the adjacent highways. The coping on top of the wall would be stepped where necessary to accommodate adjustments in the wall height to follow the topography.
Ms. Balmori asked whether the coping configuration would provide evenly spaced adjustments to the wall height. Ms. Kern said that the configuration of height adjustments would vary depending on the topography; however, the niches along the inner face would be configured in consistent 50-foot-wide groupings separated by areas of fieldstone. Ms. Nelson asked about the material for the capstone. Ms. Kern said that it would be a stone chosen in consultation with the staff, similar to the shale coping of the existing fieldstone wall and with a color matching the gray fieldstone. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori expressed support for the change to natural stone, and Ms. Nelson supported the choice of a gray color.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the proposed wall would include piers on the outer face. Ms. Kern said that the original proposal included piers but these were eliminated in response to the Commission's comments; they could be included on the outer face if desired. Mr. McKinnell supported the inclusion of piers on the outer face, and he suggested that their design and spacing be determined in consultation with the staff based on a comparison with the design of the existing wall. Mr. Rybczynski agreed; he observed that the existing piers appear to have been included to provide human scale and liveliness rather than structural support, and this rhythm would be desirable on the outer face of the wall. Mr. McKinnell clarified that the Commission's previous advice to remove the piers had been intended for the inner face of the wall, where the pattern of niches will provide sufficient articulation and scale. He suggested that the spacing of the outer piers should continue the closely spaced rhythm of the existing wall's piers and would not need to correspond to the 50-foot groupings of niches on the inner face.
In response to Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson, Ms. Kern confirmed that samples of the stone, mortar, and coping would be provided to the staff. Mr. Luebke asked if approval of these final details would be delegated to the staff. Ms. Nelson said that the Commission members are interested in the resolution of the details. Ms. Kern said that a further formal submission would cause a delay for the project, so Ms. Nelson suggested that the approval of further changes be delegated to the staff and that information about such changes be circulated to the Commission members. With this provision, the Commission approved the final design upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. Rybczynski.
C. Department of the Army / Institute of Heraldry
CFA 19/APR/07-2, United States Air Force Combat Action Medal. Obverse, reverse, ribbon, and lapel pin designs. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Charles Mugno, director of the Army Institute of Heraldry. Mr. Mugno said that the production schedule for this medal allowed the unusual opportunity to show a full-scale prototype to the Commission; he circulated the prototype and noted that it shows an earlier design but conveys the proportions of the final proposal. He explained that the Combat Action Medal would be similar in purpose to the combat badges or ribbons used in the other branches of the military. The medal would be awarded to airmen at a wide range of grades who are actively involved in combat operations; eligibility would be retroactive to September 11, 2001.
Mr. Mugno explained that the design of the medal is derived from the fuselage insignia of Billy Mitchell, a key person in the early development of U.S. military aviation. The medal would be pierced to separate the stylized eagle from the circular base. The configuration of arrows and olive branches in the eagle's talons would indicate the combat purpose of the medal. Mr. Mugno said the proposed design for the reverse was carefully studied in response to previous Commission comments concerning another medal; he showed how the reverse design for the current proposal was developed to clarify the expression of the eagle and the circle. He explained that the ribbon would include diagonal striping, a rarely used pattern that was chosen to relate to a United Kingdom flying cross designed during World War I.
Mr. Mugno concluded by circulating two medals that were reviewed by the Commission in the past year so that the Commission members could see the result of the designs. Ms. Nelson expressed appreciation for the opportunity to see the final products.
Ms. Nelson asked how many people would receive this medal. Mr. Mugno explained that most of the military members who currently experience combat action are in the Army and Marine Corps; these branches would award hundreds of thousands of such awards. The numbers for the Navy and Air Force would be smaller, and he estimated approximately 10,000 of the Air Force medals would be issued.
Ms. Balmori asked about the proposed material. Mr. Mugno said that the ribbon would be rayon; the medal would be red brass with a silver oxidized finish and polished reliefs. Ms. Balmori said that the medal material seems inexpensive and dull, and she suggested a more refined appearance, such as a brass finish. Mr. Mugno explained that the prototype that he circulated is thinner than the actual medal will be and the silver oxidized finish is typical for Air Force medals, in contrast to the polished brass or gold color typically used for army medals. Ms. Balmori suggested fabricating the medal in silver. Mr. Mugno said that this was considered but the shininess of silver, or of a higher polish for the proposed oxidized finish, would be a glaring contrast to the other Air Force medals that people would typically wear with this one.
Mr. Belle asked about the technical feasibility of using two metals. Mr. Mugno said this could be done by constructing the medal out of two separate pieces. Mr. Belle suggested that this would be desirable in order to give emphasis to the small star toward the top of the medal, which appears indistinct in the proposed design. Mr. Luebke asked if a higher polish for the star could be used to achieve a similar effect.
Mr. Mugno noted that the two final medals being circulated illustrate two finishes: gold with polished highlights on the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Medal, and red brass with an oxidized finish on the Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service Medal. He said that the lapel pin and presentation case for these medals were also typical of how the final product is presented to recipients. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson suggested that the new medal have a bright finish such as that of the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Medal. Mr. Mugno said that this Public Service Medal is a very high-level award—only one has been given out—and its finish is appropriately brighter than that of a more widely distributed award such as the proposed Combat Action Medal.
Ms. Nelson asked if the medal could include the recipient's name. Mr. Mugno explained that the historical precedent is that a name is included on personal decorations awarded for performance or valor, but it is not included on a more general award such as this one that is based on a broad category of eligibility.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the design but reiterated her dissatisfaction with the medal's finish. Mr. Rybczynski supported the medal as presented. Mr. Luebke asked for further comment on the suggestion to provide a polished finish on the star. Mr. Mugno explained that the production schedule makes it difficult to incorporate such a change at this time, a recurring problem with submitting the design of medals. He said that the Commission's comments might influence the design of future medals, just as the comments on the reverse design of the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Medal were incorporated into the current proposal even though the Public Service Medal design could not be revised.
Due to the difficulty of revising the design, Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission members could choose to approve the design as presented or abstain or vote against it; meanwhile, the discussion and the inspection of the prototype and past medals were worthwhile. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the design as presented. Mr. Mugno added that he would be working with the staff to update the display cases of military awards in the lobby of the Commission office.
D. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 19/APR/07-3, Old Convention Center Site Redevelopment. Area bounded by New York Avenue and 9th, H, and 11th Streets, N.W. Revised schematic design. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/06-6, information presentation) Mr. Luebke summarized the past presentation on the master plan for this large redevelopment site; today's information presentation would show the progress of the schematic design including refinements to the site planning and massing of buildings, street sections and streetscapes, and the character of the building skins. He noted that a park in the northwest corner of the site is currently a federal reservation; the concept for its landscape design, being developed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd., will be submitted next month for formal review. He introduced representatives of the two firms collaborating on the master plan: Armstrong Yakubu of Foster and Partners, and Robert Sponseller of Shalom Baranes Associates.
Mr. Yakubu reviewed the design principles that were previously presented: energized streets, great shopping, an enjoyable pedestrian experience, easy access through the site, connections to surrounding neighborhoods, and the highest quality of architecture and urban design. Urban public spaces will be located within the large site to draw people into the development. One goal of the project is to influence the future of the area around it rather than become an island within the city. 10th and I Streets would be re-established through the site, and additional mid-block streets would be designed with reference to great historic streets around the world and would have a slightly different scale than typical Washington streets. These mid-block streets would converge on a central plaza that would serve as the "living room" of the development and the neighborhood. He showed an 1888 map of the site showing named alleys within the blocks that comprise the site and the variety of building types that existed. The new proposal includes condominium and rental apartments, office buildings, possibly a hotel or public library, and retail.
Mr. Armstrong showed the master plan for 10th and I Streets, with an emphasis on landscaping such as trees embedded in hedges along I Street. The mid-block streets, called alleys, would be lively places that could serve as settings for events. He said that the landscape design for the park reservation and the central plaza would be presented in more detail the following month but provided an overview. The central plaza design includes careful use of hedges and other plantings to define restaurant areas and public event space; other features would include water and timber benches. The park reservation would have a larger water feature relating to the scale of New York Avenue leading to the White House, with a more intimate scale as one gets closer. The park could accommodate an ice-skating rink in winter. Seating areas would relate to the different adjacent uses—restaurants along I Street and possibly a new library across 10th Street. Mr. Armstrong clarified that I Street would be constructed as a street that is open to traffic between 9th and 10th Streets but is pedestrianized from 10th to 11th Streets, with access only for emergency vehicles; this would allow the park reservation to feel larger and more directly connected to the development while maintaining the view corridor along I Street. He confirmed that the limited access would likely be achieved through a barrier such as removable bollards.
Mr. Armstrong described the proposed buildings between H and I Streets: a condominium building complex on the east and an office building complex on the west, both designed by Foster and Partners; and a rental apartment complex in the center, designed by Shalom Baranes Associates. Retail would be provided in the base of all the buildings.
Ms. Nelson asked about the width of the mid-block street. Mr. Yakubu said that it would be 24 feet wide at the ground level and would widen with the setbacks of the upper stories to allow sufficient sunlight to reach the lower area. Mr. McKinnell noted that the 24-foot width continues up through the first five stories of the surrounding buildings. Mr. Yakubu said that the environmental issues were carefully studied, including sunlight, heat gain, shading, snow, and ice. The facades include a combination of exterior and interior elements to address these issues, including some moveable features that could be adjusted by residents. The emphasis would be on shading toward the upper part of the buildings and maximizing light for the lower part. He explained that the facades are designed to break down the scale of the buildings and include extensive terraces. He also noted that the project is designed to recapture all groundwater so that there would be no water runoff.
Mr. Sponseller described his firm's design for the rental apartment complex, consisting of two buildings. He noted the frontage on streets of very different scales: the narrow mid-block streets and the generous L'Enfant Plan width of H, I, and 10th Streets. The design therefore treats the buildings as "an aggregate of discrete volumes" with larger-scaled volumes toward the major streets and smaller volumes toward the narrower streets. To differentiate the volumes and modulate the scale of the complex, the building skin would alternate between translucent and transparent areas. Different types of glass and fritting patterns would be used in the two areas. The translucent facades would include wood-veneer panels extending a full floor height. The facades would include bays and balconies that would further contribute to the solar screening.
Ms. Nelson asked if the wood veneer panels would resemble those used at the House of Sweden recently completed on the Georgetown waterfront. Mr. Sponseller and Mr. Luebke explained that the House of Sweden has glass panels containing an artistic representation of an enlarged wood-grain pattern. Mr. Sponseller added that the current submission uses actual wood as the veneer of the panels, which would be treated for durability and rain protection. Ms. Nelson asked if this type of panel has been in use for a long time; Mr. Sponseller said that it has long been used in Europe but may be new to Washington. Ms. Nelson commented that the wood panels add a warmth to the facades.
Mr. Yakubu described the office building complex on the west portion of the site. He explained that the typically large floor areas of office buildings result in a monumental scale; the design for this project is intended to break down the scale and bring daylight to much of the office space. The proposed design includes "light slots" to bring daylight deeper into the office areas. Except on the north, the glass facades would be shaded by overhangs that increase in depth toward the upper floors, creating visual interest on the exterior while providing the appropriate balance between daylight and heat gain for the interior. The east and west facades would have additional emphasis on vertical shading elements. The facades would have two layers: an outer skin of stone that provides the shading, and an inner skin that would likely be wood for environmental friendliness and compatibility with the office interiors.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the material and location of the external sun screens. Mr. Yakubu said they would be tinted glass panels that would be placed four feet forward of the glass rain screen. He clarified that the size and tinting would vary across the facade, with greater reflectivity toward the top stories and more transparency toward the ground; he described the lighting effects that would result in day and night conditions.
Ms. Balmori asked for more information on the heating and cooling systems. Mr. Yakubu said that the facade design is intended to reduce the cooling requirements in comparison to a typical glass-walled office building. Mr. Belle suggested that an exterior wall section be provided since the facade configuration is an important part of the design. Mr. Yakubu added that the light slots would be configured as atriums containing fresh air without heating or cooling, and the offices facing these atriums would have balconies and terraces for the tenants. Additional concepts were being developed for staircases and artwork within the atriums.
Mr. Yakubu showed the mid-block street that would run between the office buildings; the width would be 24 feet at the ground-level retail and 50 feet above the building setbacks. He concluded by emphasizing that the design provides a local response to global issues such as energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr. Belle asked for further information on the scale and density of the project, which he said were important issues for the Commission to consider in reviewing the design. Mr. Yakubu said that each office building would be 200,000 square feet for a total of 400,000 square feet. The condominium complex would have 220 units, and the rental complex would have approximately 450 units. Underground parking would accommodate 1,700 cars. The street and plaza areas would encompass 1.5 to 2 acres. Mr. Belle asked about vehicle and service access. Mr. Yakubu and Mr. Sponseller showed the entry points and explained that all truck service would be provided below grade; as a result, nearly all of the ground level would be available for retail and the mid-block streets would be pedestrian areas. Mr. Luebke noted that the staff had requested site sections and access diagrams that were apparently omitted from the presentation but had been proposed as part of the master plan; Mr. Belle said that these additional drawings would be helpful for future presentations.
Mr. Belle asked for further information on how the design would reduce groundwater runoff. Mr. Yakubu said that porous paving would be used throughout the site, and water would be collected from the ground level and roofs for recycling within the project. Ms. Balmori commented that the extensive atrium areas result in relatively little roof surface. Mr. Yakubu explained that there would be additional terraces at intermediate floors of the buildings; their landscaping would be designed to collect additional rainwater.
Mr. Belle asked what the total daily population of the site would be. The project team estimated that 2,000 people would work in the office buildings, plus the residents of the nearly 700 apartments and other customers and visitors; Mr. Yakubu acknowledged that the density would be quite high. Mr. McKinnell emphasized the importance of the density issue. He observed that the mid-block street system would double the amount of retail frontage that would normally be present on these city blocks; he questioned whether this retail density would be viable in Washington and whether the amount of retail would harm the viability of retail space in nearby parts of the city.
Howard Riker, the project manager with the developer, Hines /Archstone Smith, responded that these questions have been studied closely by the development team. He said that a successful retail area needs a critical mass so that customers can visit multiple types of stores or choose from similar competing shops such as restaurants. Washington typically does not have the continuity of retail frontage to provide this critical mass; this project is designed to overcome this problem. The retail areas are designed to provide a diversity of spaces and uses that will increase the likelihood of an interesting retail experience and a successful project. Larger stores would be located along H Street, drawing pedestrians from H and 9th Streets; these retail spaces could include below-grade or second-floor space in addition to the street-level frontage. The retail uses on I street would emphasize fashion, cafes, and restaurants. Retail spaces on the mid-block streets would be approximately 1,500 square feet to accommodate small specialty stores. Mr. Riker said the project team had made a commitment to the D.C. government that one-third of the retail space would have "unique retailers" that have fewer than six stores within the United States; this might include independent local shops in the smaller mid-block spaces. He added that the project is not intended to be an "island" of retail; its success would depend on the success of the larger downtown area. He said that the project team has been encouraged by the emergence of successful retail and entertainment areas along 7th and F Streets. He said that this project could serve as a bridge between the pedestrian densities that exist around Metro Center and at H and 7th Streets, benefiting from the movement of pedestrians between these areas.
Ms. Nelson asked about the expected usage of the park along New York Avenue and the central plaza. Mr. Yakubu said these areas would be programmed with arts-related cultural events; the details were still being studied with the assistance of a consultant. Mr. Riker said the project team is coordinating the programming with the D.C. Government and the Downtown Business Improvement District so that these activities will fit in the context of other downtown events. He said the initial concept was to provide a setting for events that have traditionally been located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The more recent discussions have considered the opportunities for varied programming in different parts of downtown, such as the seasonal farmers market and holiday market. The resulting vision includes three types of events: small-scale "ambient events" such as jugglers and vendors; programmed events for approximately 500 people that could occur on the central plaza, such as a farmers market or craft show; and larger events for 1,000 to 2,000 people that would be located in the park along New York Avenue.
Ms. Balmori commented that downtown Washington is known for being busy during the day but deserted in the evening; she said that the residential population in the project would be critical for sustaining pedestrian activity and animating the public spaces during the later hours. She suggested that the project might be more successful if it included additional residential space instead of the large office component that would likely not be populated in the evenings. Mr. Riker responded that the nearby hotels and convention center would provide an additional source of pedestrians late in the day, and the downtown entertainment and theater uses already attract an evening population from the region. He said that the project's 1,700 parking spaces would be used during the evenings to support the substantial demand from throughout the downtown area, adding to the pedestrian usage of the project.
Mr. Belle asked where entertainment uses would be located in this project. Mr. Riker said that the entertainment-related uses are intended to complement the existing downtown activities. For instance, a multi-screen cinema and large concert venue are nearby and would not be replicated in this project; instead, the emphasis would be on specialty stores and a variety of food and beverage outlets, along with associated entertainment such as a jazz club.
Ms. Balmori asked about cultural space within the project. Mr. Riker said that the D.C. government has reserved a parcel north of I Street for civic and cultural uses—possibly a new public library, but this has not yet been determined. Additionally, the design of the buildings and public spaces will include public art; the selection of specific sites and artists is being coordinated with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He clarified that the art could be exterior or in appropriate locations within the office and residential buildings or the retail space. Mr. Riker said that an advisory committee for the project had encouraged the inclusion of cultural uses in the retail space. Ms. Nelson supported this suggestion. Ms. Balmori offered the example of a New York shoe store that recently had an opening event that was arranged by an artist; Ms. Nelson agreed that such events would be interesting and would attract people.
Ms. Nelson asked if the project has a name. Mr. Riker said that the project team is considering this carefully and has not yet chosen a "brand"—this will be determined after further decisions about the intended character of the project. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed with this strategy. Mr. Riker added that specific buildings or public spaces may be branded separately rather than promote a single identity for the entire project. This approach would allow the brands to more closely match the character of particular areas and to fit in with the overall context of downtown Washington. Ms. Nelson commented that this variety of character would help to reduce the sense of the entire large-scale project having been built at once.
Mr. Rybczynski agreed and supported the project team's strategy of breaking the large site into smaller areas through massing, architecture, open space, and branding. He said that the project's strength is that it is designed to become part of the city and generally has architecture appropriate to downtown Washington, rather than unusual megastructures that could be placed on such a large site. He commented that the use of wood panels seems inappropriate for urban facades, particularly facing the major streets; he said that the mid-block streets have a more intimate scale where wood facades could be appropriate. He added that wood is rarely seen as an urban facade material, with the possible exception of shutters such as those in Madrid. Ms. Balmori added that the heat and humidity of Washington might cause problems for the exterior wood. Mr. Sponseller responded that the wood panels would be fabricated with modern methods that solve the issues of heat and humidity; the design advantage is that the wood adds variety and breaks down the scale within the project.
Mr. McKinnell concurred in supporting the overall intention and spirit of the project, and he noted that the developer, along with the designers, is responsible for this success. He commented that the concern about introducing wood panels results from the overall issue of how far the design should go in breaking down the scale of the project. He said that the varied massing of the site is a successful proposal that breaks down the scale in an important way, while the varied facade treatments are excessive and appear to be merely applied rather than authentic. He suggested slightly less variety in the facade treatments and more authentic character throughout the project.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the width of the mid-block streets seems too narrow when carried to a height of five stories before widening at the building setbacks; he characterized the proposed street section as a "chasm" and suggested comparison with other comparable urban streets. Mr. Yakubu said that careful studies have been done and offered to show the results at the next presentation.
Mr. Belle supported the intention to introduce lively streets and pedestrian activity to the site. He cautioned that the success of this intention would depend on solving the vehicular access and egress for parking and service to avoid conflicts with pedestrians. He commented that cities typically have a mix of major and minor streets, and buildings have front and back sides, in order to provide an appropriate balance between pedestrian activity and service needs; he suggested that this be studied carefully before the project design progresses further.
Ms. Balmori concurred in supporting the varied massing and architecture of the project. She added that the modulation of the public space is well designed and said that the central plaza works well. She commented that the park along New York Avenue appears less successful; its location and unusual shape will make it difficult to attract people, and the decision not to allow traffic on the adjacent segment of I Street could actually worsen the problem of isolation. She acknowledged that some of these difficulties were inherent in the L'Enfant Plan boundaries of the reservation. Mr. Yakubu responded that the project team considered the treatment of I and 10th Streets with and without traffic. Introducing traffic on both streets would turn the park into an island. Pedestrianizing 10th Street would link the park to the potential library site but would interfere with the desired vehicular circulation; so the conclusion was to pedestrianize only the segment of I Street. Mr. McKinnell commented that such parks are always going to feel like islands, regardless of the street pattern. Ms. Balmori said that the presence of the library, or a similar large-scale cultural use, would help to make the park more successful.
Ms. Nelson conveyed the Commission's appreciation for the information presentation and acknowledged the importance of the project and its likely impact on the city. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. Department of Defense
CFA 19/APR/07-4, Fort McNair. New entrance security screening facility at 2nd and Q Streets, S.W. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/05-5) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project which would replace the temporary screening facility currently located at the northwest corner of Ft. McNair. He said that the final design responds to the Commission's comments on the concept, such as the recommendation to lighten the appearance of the buildings. He noted the thoroughness of the submission materials and introduced architect Rod Garrett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to present the project.
Mr. Garrett explained that the existing controlled entrance on the northeast will be removed; the site will initially be converted to parking, and the long-term use has not yet been determined. The existing ceremonial entrance along P Street will remain, and it will be available for employee usage during daytime hours. Service access and most employee access will shift to the proposed new entrance at Q Street, which will be open at all times. The new entrance will have a linear path leading through several facilities which were described in the previous submission. The initial facility will be a visitor control center, sited on the axis of Q Street which provides the opportunity for signage announcing the fort's entrance. Visitors would park and enter this building before proceeding into the fort. The next building would be a guard booth and vehicle identification checkpoint, then a structure containing the vehicle search area for those vehicles that need inspection. At the end of the entrance drive would be a small "overwatch" structure to provide a final control point for vehicles. He said the design team had worked to contain the project within the smallest possible area due to the relatively small size of the fort; the result is about half the size that would typically be found on a large installation. A new fence made of brick and iron is proposed along the east boundary of the fort, replacing the existing segment of chain-link fence and connecting to the non-historic boundary walls toward the fort's eastern side.
Mr. Garrett described the vehicular circulation pattern. Most entering vehicles would belong to employees who would have identification decals and could bypass the visitor control center and vehicle search area, stopping only at the identification checkpoint. Visitors and delivery vehicles would use all of these facilities. The exit drive would parallel the entry sequence. Several short driveways would allow for exiting of vehicles that are denied access at various stages in the entry sequence. Mr. Garrett noted that the loading docks for the fort's two largest structures are located near the proposed entrance, so most delivery vehicles would not need to circulate through the center of the fort. He said that traffic patterns along adjacent streets are being coordinated with the D.C. Department of Transportation, including the extent of two-way traffic on 2nd Street and the possible re-opening of the adjacent segment of Potomac Avenue which would connect to the new baseball stadium and the Frederick Douglass Bridge.
Mr. Garrett showed the elevations along 2nd Street and the berms that would serve as vehicle barriers without requiring bollards or low walls. The design generally includes open fences and landscape features, with solid walls and bollards used only where necessary for security reasons. Ms. Balmori asked if large vehicles could go over the berms; Mr. Garrett said the vehicle paths had been studied closely and the barriers had been reduced as much as possible.
Mr. Belle and Ms. Balmori asked about pedestrian accessibility. Mr. Garrett explained that pedestrians could enter from the 2nd Street sidewalk; visitors would then enter the visitor control center. After passing the identification checkpoint, pedestrians could enter directly into the fort without walking along the remainder of the entrance road. He clarified that employees could enter as pedestrians at this gate and at the ceremonial entrance on P Street, which would be the more convenient entrance for those arriving by Metro.
Mr. Garrett explained the design revisions to the structures. The overall intention is to create a contemporary series of pavilions that are distinct from the fort's historic area. The scale has been reduced, and the brick walls are set within aluminum-clad frames. The end wall of the visitor control center is treated as a large entrance sign for the fort. The roofs of the subsequent structures are now designed with a combination of light gray and bronze-colored planes to emphasize a thinner, lighter-weight appearance; the actual depth of the canopy structures could not be reduced further due to the long spans. Ceiling heights have been reduced where possible. The overwatch booth has been simplified to a glass and bronze-colored metal structure. Additional signage in the project would be simple bronze panels to be coordinated with the way-finding system throughout the fort.
Mr. Belle asked if the size of the entrance sign could be reduced to a more modest scale. Mr. Garrett said that this would be possible if coordinated with the size of the visitor control center behind the signage wall; he explained that the large size was intended to respond to the urban scale of its location at the terminus of Q Street. Mr. Belle asked about the location of flagpoles. Mr. Garrett explained that flagpoles at this entrance would only be attached to buildings; the fort's freestanding flagpoles would be at the ceremonial entrance. Ms. Balmori commented that the hierarchy of signage and entrance features seems confusing. She said the landscape design is insufficient at the visitor control center wall serving as an entry sign: just a small triangular lawn and a small planter with shrubs. She suggested that this area be paved to emphasize the signage; Mr. McKinnell agreed. Ms. Nelson suggested that the lettering could be made larger to improve the legibility from across the street. Mr. Garrett responded that simplification of the project has been a successful strategy and offered to pursue these suggestions.
Mr. Belle asked if the purpose of the signage was to hide the visitor control center; Mr. Garrett said that his was not a concern, and the signage is intended to encourage visitors to enter at this gate and reach the building. Mr. Belle asked the proportion of people who would approach the entrance along Q Street, on axis with the large sign, compared to those approaching along 2nd Street. Mr. Garrett estimated that most, perhaps 80 percent, would arrive along 2nd Street. Mr. Belle commented that the large sign is not appropriately sited for the actual arrival patterns. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson said that the location is nevertheless appropriate in relation to the street pattern and for directing visitors to the first building, and those arriving along 2nd Street would see the sign as they turned into the entrance gate; Mr. Belle said that this would be too late to be useful. Ms. Balmori commented that additional signage outside the fort would be useful in directing people to the entrance gate.
Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle asked for details about the brick proposed for site walls and fencing. Mr. Garrett explained that two types of brick would be used—a monochromatic orange brick for the fence piers to continue the non-historic fence line along 2nd Street; and elsewhere, a brick with iron spots that matches the historic buildings and walls of the fort. The brick walls of the new structures would use a stacked bond that is clearly modern.
Mr. Belle asked if the canopies could become green roofs. Mr. Garrett said this would be impractical due to the long spans and the lack of occupied space below, which precludes the insulation benefit of green roofs. The additional depth needed for green roofs would be contrary to the effort to lighten the appearance of the structures. He noted that the area covered by the canopies and roofs is not very extensive.
Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson asked for further information on the overwatch booth. Mr. Garrett said that its simplified design would relate to other minor bronze-colored fixtures throughout the fort. The booth would likely be occupied by a guard only during periods of heightened security. It was designed with some bulletproofing but did not need to meet full blastproofing requirements. The air-conditioning unit within the booth would be connected to louvers on the side facade. Mr. Belle described the resulting design as an exhibition case with a person inside it.
Mr. Garrett added further details on the proposed fence. The design was generally developed to be as light and transparent as possible. Where opaque fencing is needed, a brick wall with piers would be used. The fence would be recessed by two feet in the segment marking the potential termination of Potomac Avenue, if the roadway is extended to 2nd Street. He noted that a large sign at this location was proposed in the concept design, but this was dropped since the future treatment of the avenue has not been determined. The fence would also contain a low wall at this location and at other points where streets terminate, due to security requirements; the remainder of the fence would just include brick piers and iron pickets.
Ms. Balmori asked the purpose of setting back the fence at Potomac Avenue. Mr. Garrett said that it would allow for future signage or other special treatment; the setback is not a security requirement. Mr. Luebke noted that this is an unusual location where a diagonal avenue terminates, so something more than an unmarked portion of a continuous fence might be appropriate. Mr. Garrett clarified that the L'Enfant plan shows the avenue's termination at this point; the avenue never extended into the site of the fort. Mr. Belle commented that the gesture of the setback and low wall is so minor that it appears accidental. Mr. Garrett said that some relief along the long wall seems desirable, and the low wall is necessary at certain points for security. Ms. Balmori acknowledged the intermittent need for the low wall but suggested that the setback is unnecessary while a continuous fence alignment would provide an appropriate urban edge. Mr. Garrett showed how the low wall ties into double piers that frame the segment of fencing that is set back; he said that this combination would prevent the intermittent low wall from being distracting along the length of the fence.
Mr. Garrett showed additional views along 2nd Street to illustrate the generally open character of the fence. He showed how the entrance gate would appear when closed, which he said would rarely happen. He clarified that the gate would slide behind the adjacent fence when open. He explained the coordination with the D.C. government for locating the future Anacostia Riverwalk Trail along the 2nd Street sidewalk adjacent to the fence. Sufficient sidewalk space is provided for the trail, benches, and landscaping; a bike lane would also be established in the street.
Ms. Nelson expressed appreciation for the thoroughness of the presentation, the responsiveness to the Commission's previous comments, the reduction in scale, the use of berms, and the careful response to an uncertain surrounding street pattern. She suggested that this project could serve as a model for entrance screening facilities at other installations. She summarized the Commission's concern with the wall-sized sign and landscaping at the visitor control center. Mr. Garrett offered to study the size of the sign and said that its height could easily be reduced since it is now shown extending slightly higher than the building.
Mr. McKinnell questioned the treatment of the aluminum framing and canopies, including the mixture of gray and bronze-colored aluminum and the continuation of aluminum to the ground where it could easily be marred by impacts or dirt. Mr. Garrett offered to study the inclusion of a masonry watercourse between the aluminum and the ground to address this functional concern, even though such a traditional design gesture would not necessarily be part of the vocabulary of these modern-looking structures. Mr. McKinnell commented that the traditional masonry watercourse serves a useful purpose.
Mr. Belle commented that the clean simplicity of the design is generally the most appealing feature, making the security screening facility appear non-threatening; he added that the entrance sign is not consistent with this aesthetic and described it as "pretentious." Ms. Balmori said that this important fort deserves a significant entrance sign. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the problem with the entrance sign may be that it is framed on all sides, while several other structures in the project have an L-shaped design motif. He suggested that an L-shaped framing of the entrance sign could help to direct visitors to the entrance of the first building. Mr. Garrett offered to study this concept, as well as the possibility of removing all framing from the sign; he reiterated that simplification of the design has generally resulted in improvement. Ms. Balmori agreed that further study of the sign's frame would be helpful, without the need to reduce the sign's overall scale. Ms. Nelson supported the concept of having just the brick sign panel with no frame; Ms. Balmori suggested that the adjacent plaza could then be a continuation using the same brick.
Mr. Belle suggested that a revised design of the entrance signage area could be reviewed by the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the final design subject to further review, delegated to the staff, of the entrance sign and adjacent site design.
F. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/APR/07-5, D.C. Anacostia Streetcar Demonstration Project (Anacostia Streetcar Initial Line Segment). 1.3-mile segment with four stops between the Anacostia Metro Station and the main gate to Bolling Air Force Base on South Capitol Street. Designs for platforms, signs, and support structures. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Freddy Fuller, acting director of the D.C. Mass Transit Administration. Mr. Fuller described the project timeline, with this demonstration project scheduled to begin operation toward the end of 2008, to be followed by additional phases extending to other parts of the city. He showed a map illustrating the long-range vision for new transit in the city and into the region. The demonstration project is part of the planned system of "premium transit corridors." An additional map illustrated the short-term implementation plan, including this project as the first segment of the streetcar system.
Mr. Fuller summarized the guiding principles of the streetcar system: enhanced connectivity within and between neighborhoods, support for community revitalization and economic development, and an enhancement to the city's public space. He said the system is intended to be simple, reliable, frequent, and convenient.
Mr. Fuller described the proposal: a 1.3-mile segment with stops at the Anacostia Metro station, Barry Farms, an entrance gate to the Navy Annex, and a proposed pedestrian entrance gate of Bolling Air Force Base. A small maintenance facility and storage yard would be located along the segment between the Bolling and Navy Annex stops, along with two power substations. He noted that the project team has coordinated the proposal with the various federal agencies that are affected and with the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA). The stops at the military bases would serve employees and reduce the reliance on shuttle buses.
Mr. Fuller showed photos of the existing streetcar system in Portland, Oregon, which is similar to the design proposed for Washington. The tracks would be flush with the street pavement. A raised waiting platform would allow boarding at the level of the streetcar's interior; the platforms would be reached by ramps at each end and would include a leaning rail, a shelter with display panels, a trash receptacle, and an identification pylon. The streetcars would be painted with a red and gray scheme similar to the graphics of the Circulator buses that have recently been introduced. Each streetcar would consist of three segments; the outer segments would have wheels with passenger seating above; the center segment, where boarding occurs, would have no wheels and would be slightly lower. Power would be supplied through an overhead wire.
Mr. Fuller showed detailed plans for each stop. The Bolling stop would use a single platform; the other stops would each have a pair of platforms. Metro bus stops would be coordinated with the streetcar stops at the Navy Annex and the Anacostia Metro station. The platforms at Barry Farm along Firth Sterling Avenue would be configured to allow an existing cross-street to be extended with a signalized intersection in the future. The stop at the Anacostia Metro station could be reconfigured as part of future redevelopment of the station's bus plaza, possibly including the relocated headquarters of WMATA.
Mr. Fuller showed further illustrations of the shelter that would be located on each platform. The graphics would include a solid center panel for advertising and a glass panel on each side, where transit information and a map could be placed; a display panel would also provide real-time information on streetcar arrivals. Mr. Fuller explained that the shelters are designed in accordance with a D.C. government program to generate revenue from advertising. Ms. Nelson commented that the revenues from four shelters would likely be minor and suggested that the center panels be reserved for artwork. Mr. Fuller agreed to consider artwork for either the center panel or one of the side panels. Ms. Nelson suggested that the artwork not be placed alongside advertising; she emphasized that the art could provide a unique identity to each stop.
Mr. Fuller showed drawings of several alternative designs for the pylons, with comparisons to the existing pylons in Portland and at D.C.-area Metro stations and bus stops. The pylons would help to create an identity for the streetcar system and would be designed as a distinctive variation of the Metro pylons. The pylon would be ten feet tall and two feet wide, with the station name, a system logo, transit information, and lighting—possibly solar-powered. The color scheme would be gray and red to relate to the streetcar graphics. He showed the four alternative designs that were discussed with the staff and described the preferred alternative of a "fin" design. Another alternative would more closely resemble the profile of the existing Metro pylons.
Mr. Fuller said that the trash receptacles are shown with a simple design, but security considerations would be studied further and might lead to a revised design. He showed the design for the overhead wire suspension system and the varying configurations of supporting poles that could also incorporate streetlights. He said the project team has coordinated with the National Park Service and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office on the usage of overhead wires for the demonstration project. Mr. Fuller concluded by showing the landscaping of trees, shrubs, and ground cover that would be included along the tracks and around the maintenance yard and the two substations.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the relationship between the tracks, the curb, and any parking lanes on the streets. Mr. Fuller, along with designer Otto Condon of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, explained that the streetcars would typically operate alongside the curb and there would be no vehicle parking nor travel lanes along this edge; pedestrians would walk directly from the sidewalk to the platform without crossing traffic.
Ms. Nelson said that additional shade would be desirable on the platforms and she suggested further study of the proposed tree locations. She reiterated the suggestion to incorporate art into the shelter design.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the introduction of streetcars and for the overall project design, particularly the design of the streetcars. She commented that the existing Metro pylons are a good design so she supports a related pylon design for the streetcar system; however, she suggested that the sideways lettering has become a dated technique of graphic design and she recommended a different configuration of the text. Ms. Nelson added that the design decisions for this project will affect the entire system that is planned.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the raised platforms in Denver's streetcar system are intrusive in the streetscape. Mr. Fuller confirmed that the raised platforms are necessary to provide barrier-free access to the streetcars. Mr. Condon clarified that Denver's streetcars have a higher car floor and therefore higher boarding platforms than proposed for D.C.; the resulting ramps in Denver require handrails which will not be necessary in the D.C. system.
Mr. McKinnell said that he does not support the graphic design of the streetcars; Ms. Balmori agreed and clarified that her support for the streetcar design did not include the graphics. Mr. McKinnell said that the streetcars would be a substantial part of the urban environment, much like buildings except mobile. He said the graphic design is "unnecessarily aggressive" and the curved lines give the impression that the streetcar is sagging in the middle. He suggested a more modest graphic design that would be less intrusive when moving along the city streets. Ms. Nelson agreed and suggested that, if red is the desired color for the system, the cars could be painted entirely in red; she emphasized the need for a dignified design in the nation's capital. Mr. Rybczynski agreed and commented that buses are often painted with bright graphics to overcome people's reluctance to ride buses; but streetcars are inherently enjoyable to ride, so the graphic design does not need to perform the same role.
Ms. Nelson noted that overhead wires are not permitted in some parts of the city and asked for further explanation of how future extensions of the streetcar system would be powered in such areas. Mr. Fuller said that the project team is considering alternative technologies that would not involve overhead wires; the research is ongoing. Two alternatives would be self-propelled vehicles and a power source in the tracks or street.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the design with the recommendation to revise the graphics of the streetcars and consider art for the shelters. Ms. Nelson asked if Ms. Balmori's comments on the pylon graphics should be included in the motion; Ms. Balmori suggested that the design team consider this issue but acknowledged that a revised design might not be feasible.
G. General Services Administration
CFA 19/APR/07-6, J. Edgar Hoover Building (Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Headquarters), 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Building modifications to ventilation intakes. Revised design. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/05-7 & CFA/NOV/05-c) Mr. Martinez introduced the proposal to create security screening walls around the two ventilation intakes along E Street for the building's underground parking garage. The concept was reviewed in 2005 and a final design was approved later that year; but a revised design is now proposed, using a configuration that was rejected during the initial concept review. He introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA). Mr. McGill emphasized the difficult design challenge of relocating or protecting a ground-level air intake, and he introduced Mike Farge, GSA's project director, to present the proposal.
Mr. Farge explained that the project's purpose is to provide security against an intentional poisoning of the ventilation system. The FBI has decided not to pursue the approved scheme, which provided an elevated sloped surface for the air intakes, due to the risk that somebody standing on the adjacent low wall could climb up to reach the edge of the intakes. The FBI was also concerned that the visible diagonal face of the air intake grills would publicize their purpose and invite tampering; a more concealed design is desirable. The new proposal is to raise the walls around the air intakes to a consistent height matching the peak of the previous sloped proposal. The air intakes would be located on rear vertical faces that are not readily visible from the street or sidewalk.
Mr. Farge said the new proposal would satisfy the FBI's security requirements; Ms. Nelson commented that it might not satisfy the aesthetic requirements. Ms. Balmori observed that the air intakes would be at least partially visible. Mr. Belle questioned the logic of the design revision, since someone with malicious intent and knowledge of ventilation systems would readily be able to understand the location of the air intakes. Mr. Farge said the design was intended to suggest a large shed or cooling tower and would not necessarily be perceived as an air intake enclosure; he acknowledged that a sliver of the air intakes would be visible which Mr. Belle said would be sufficient for someone seeking to do harm.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the approved design be altered slightly by raising the lowest edge beyond the range of someone trying to climb onto it. Mr. Farge said the FBI's requirement is that the lowest roof edge be 18 feet above the sidewalk. He clarified that there is a 20-foot-wide sunken areaway around the building, but the security distance would be measured from the sidewalk. The existing ventilation intakes are located at the bottom of the areaway. Mr. Belle commented that the relation of the proposed enclosures to the building's existing stair towers would leave the intakes significantly exposed, so the design revision would serve little purpose.
Teresa Hueg, the consulting architect from Wisnewski Blair & Associates, responded to the comments. She explained that even if the intakes will be recognizable in the revised design, the configuration of the areaway prevents people from getting close to the louvers. In the previously approved scheme, it would be possible for someone to place a harmful object directly on the sloped louvers or to climb onto the louvers and gain access to the building. She explained that custom-designed louvers are proposed to obtain a sufficient air flow with the smallest possible surface area while meeting the security requirement that the air intake not occur closer than ten feet to the sidewalk. The resulting louver design provides for 70 percent free air flow with a bird screen placed behind.
Ms. Hueg explained that the rectangular volumes in the revised design are intended to follow the existing lines of the building as much as possible. She noted that E Street slopes approximately nine feet between the corners of 9th and 10th Streets where the two intakes are located; the top of each enclosure would align with different components of the existing building to achieve the required height above the varying grade. She emphasized the technical constraints on the design and welcomed the Commission's suggestions for improving the design.
Mr. McKinnell offered the historical analogy of providing underground public toilets in British cities: the ventilation for these toilets required a vertical pipe rising above the street level; these pipes were typically disguised within a statue of Queen Victoria using the gown and tiara to disguise the pipe and vent. Another popular subject for statues, the Duke of Wellington on a horse, was not used for this purpose because the form did not lend itself to concealing a vertical pipe. Mr. McKinnell suggested that the historical lesson be applied to this project by treating the enclosures as an opportunity for public art such as bas-reliefs or sculpture. He expressed the hope that these necessary intrusions on the city could be turned into an advantageous situation. Ms. Nelson agreed with this suggestion. Ms. Hueg offered to pursue the idea. Mr. McKinnell added that the building is in need of some artistic treatment; he commented that architects would traditionally work with a sculptor rather than try to solve such a design problem on their own. Ms. Balmori agreed with this approach and criticized the anti-urban character of the design as presented.
Mr. Luebke suggested an alternative solution that would retain the approved diagonal form but move the louvers to the vertical face, eliminating the vulnerability from the sidewalk. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson said that even the diagonal profile is intrusively large, so the change in profile would not be as effective as an artistic treatment of the surface. Ms. Hueg said that the sloped profile would still be a problem because somebody could climb on it; if the angle were adjusted to meet the minimum required height, the resulting shape would be awkward.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission request a further revision and subsequent submission. Ms. Hueg asked for a consensus that the size and shape of the enclosures is acceptable, with further study needed for the treatment of the surfaces facing the street. Ms. Balmori emphasized that sculptures would be appropriate. Ms. Hueg noted that no additional foundation structure is proposed, so the weight of the enclosure must be kept low. Mr. Luebke suggested that lighting be considered as part of the artistic treatment; Ms. Nelson agreed and said that special lighting would be a good component because it would add no weight.
The Commission concluded the review without a formal motion but with consensus on the recommendations that were discussed.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. S.L.07-050, Hay-Adams Hotel, 800 16th Street, N.W. New rooftop enclosure. Concept. (Previous: S.L. 07-036, exterior cleaning, and repair) Ms. Penhoet explained that the project involves construction of a rooftop enclosure to replace the existing tent-like structure on the building's roof. She introduced Warren Cox of Hartman-Cox Architects to present the design.
Mr. Cox explained that the D.C. Comprehensive Plan allows a 16-foot-high addition on the Hay-Adams Hotel. The addition would contain a more permanent special-events banquet facility than provided by the current rooftop structure; a serving kitchen, small exercise room, and bathrooms would also be provided, and the existing mechanical equipment would be consolidated and screened. He described the hotel's prominent location overlooking Lafayette Square and the White House, with views southward down the Potomac River, and the hotel's 1927 design by noted Washington architect Mirhan Mesrobian. He showed views of the building from Lafayette Square and 16th Street, with limited seasonal views of the project area. He said that some buildings in the vicinity are several stories taller than the Hay-Adams and have a wide variety of penthouse structures. He explained that currently rooftop events must be serviced by carrying things up from the building's eighth floor, and two eighth-floor guest rooms must be kept vacant so their bathrooms are available during the events; the existing rooftop enclosure is also not suitable for use during very cold weather or heavy rain storms.
Mr. Cox showed photos of the existing rooftop mechanical equipment which pre-dates the requirement for screening walls. The proposed structure would place the mechanical equipment above the new kitchen, squeezing both levels into the allowable 16-foot height. The two existing stair towers would remain and would be concealed by the new structure. The building's elevator system would be expanded to allow four elevators to reach the roof.
Mr. Cox described the proposed facades, which would be set back three to six feet from the existing building faces; the structure would have projections corresponding to the bays on the lower portion of the building. A trellis-like steel structure would be placed between the new facades and the edges of the existing building, allowing for the placement of awnings so that the windows would not need interior curtains for sun protection, helping to maximize the openness of the views. Skylights over the dining areas and fitness center would emphasize their character as pavilions. He showed photo simulations of the view from nearby ground-level locations; the steel framework and the complex shadows would de-emphasize the presence of the enclosed space further behind. He said that the color for the project elements has not yet been determined.
Ms. Balmori asked about the material of the awnings. Mr. Cox said they could be cloth or metal or gray glass; their visibility would be limited from the ground. Mr. Belle asked about the cladding material for the mechanical penthouse. Mr. Cox said this was not determined but would probably be stucco or pre-cast concrete.
Mr. Belle commented that the design problem is difficult, since the size of the program causes the new facades to come close to the existing facades which results in seeing both from the ground level. Mr. Cox noted that the elevations imply more visibility than can be achieved in the existing conditions due to the nearby buildings and trees.
Mr. Belle asked if stone was considered for the walls of the enclosure. Mr. Cox said that this was considered and rejected for several reasons: cost, the extra weight on the building's structure, and the desired character of the enclosure as a pavilion structure rather than a continuation of the building. Mr. Belle suggested consideration of a lighter opaque material, such as a panel system, if a greater appearance of solidity is desired.
Mr. Belle asked what factors would determine the choice of color. Mr. Cox said that the existing building's window mullions are fairly light so the rooftop framework could repeat this color. The photo simulations show a white color that was considered, but this would probably be revised. Ms. Nelson agreed that a more neutral color would be appropriate. Mr. Belle commented that the window mullion color is successful in relation to the surrounding stone but this might not be a successful color for the new rooftop structure; Ms. Balmori added that the rooftop structural tubes are thicker than the mullions and will be perceived differently. Mr. Cox said that these issues would be addressed in the subsequent submission.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested that additional views be provided from more distant locations. Mr. Belle agreed and suggested a view from the White House. Mr. Cox said that the longer-distance views are greatly limited by the trees in Lafayette Square. He noted that the U.S. Secret Service supports the proposal, and review will still be necessary from the D.C. Zoning Commission and Historic Preservation Review Board. Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed design is successful in achieving the character of a garden structure; she said that the color should be considered further as part of the effort to achieve a visual lightness. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the external trellis system would be effective in emphasizing the views from the interior and would give occupants the sense of being in an unusual sort of aerial garden. Mr. Cox said that this was the desired effect, along with a sufficient sense of enclosure that occupants wouldn't feel a sense of vertigo.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept and requested further coordination with Mr. Cox as the design is developed.
2. S.L. 07-054, Nassif Building (U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters), 400 7th Street, S.W. Building renovation, streetscape, and perimeter security. Final for streetscape and facades; revised concept for perimeter security. (Previous: S.L. 06- 155, 21 September 2006) Ms. Penhoet introduced architect David Varner of SmithGroup to present the project. Mr. Varner said the presentation would emphasize two areas of revision since the previous review: a small change in the facade design and new proposals for the streetscapes.
Mr. Varner explained that the articulated curtainwall on the 2nd through 10th floors of the building would be revised to use a 30-foot module that corresponds to the column spacing rather than the 10-foot module that was previously approved. He said the result would be slightly more glass, an improved scale across the large expanse of the facades, and a more direct expression of the structural system. He confirmed that the penthouse design remains unchanged, with metal panels along the street facades; all louvers would face the interior of the block or the sky. Ms. Balmori asked for further explanation of the reason for the facade revision; Mr. Varner emphasized the aesthetic benefit of adjusting the scale of the walls. Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed 30-foot module is very large; she said that she prefers the previous design which had a lively rhythm.
Mr. Varner explained the details of the mullion and trough system of the previous and revised curtainwall designs. He confirmed that all of the curtainwall cladding, including the white mullions, would be aluminum.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the revised curtainwall design appears out of date and reminiscent of a 1960s aesthetic, which undermines the overall effort to modernize the building. Mr. Varner said that one factor in making the change was simulations of views from the interior, with some offices gaining improved views from the revised curtainwall design. He clarified that the affected office modules would get 20 percent more glass with the revised design; Mr. McKinnell commented that an office would typically encompass at least two modules so the benefit would be much less significant. He said that the previous design would be preferable, due to its subtlety and the delicate shift in the spacing between mullions. He characterized the proposed 30-foot module as coarse and said it would emphasize the ponderous scale of the building. He agreed with Ms. Nelson's support for the previous curtainwall design; Ms. Balmori also agreed. Mr. McKinnell added that the previous design related well to the abstraction of the building's corners.
Mr. Belle asked for a site plan that would illustrate the neighborhood context of the project; none was available. He said that the views of the building are oblique rather than frontal, so the module of the curtainwall would not be of importance. Mr. McKinnell disagreed and said that the facades would be prominently visible from across the surrounding streets. Mr. Varner said that the longer views would be from the base of the Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters to the west and from parts of the Southwest neighborhood across Interstate 395 to the south.
Mr. Varner presented the revisions to the site plan. He acknowledged that the Commission and the D.C. government were reluctant to approve a high level of perimeter security for this private building without a specific tenant being identified. The proposal is therefore for final approval of a non-secure site plan, with a request for concept approval of a secure perimeter that could be developed further if specific tenant needs are identified in the future. The design goals of the non-secure proposal are to maximize green space and provide a small standoff distance. Existing trees around the site would be re-planted to the extent possible. Plantings would be limited along D Street, where the busy loading area for buses results in damage to the trees; while plantings on the east and south sides of the site would be extensive due to the minimal pedestrian activity along these edges. He said that the design includes more than seven times the existing amount of green space beyond the building perimeter.
Mr. Varner said that the D.C. government had requested a five-foot clear zone along the curbs around the site to facilitate on-street parking, particularly for the handicapped. He said that the project team is also coordinating with the D.C. government to install traditional acorn-style streetlights along 7th and D Streets. Lay-by areas are under consideration to improve the adjacent traffic flow. He said that the position of the Metro sidewalk grates adjacent to the 7th Street curb is a problem for people exiting buses or cars, so the proposal includes a three-foot realignment of the curb to create an additional pathway for pedestrians.
Ms. Balmori asked about the treatment of the large existing trees around the perimeter of the site. Mr. Varner said that the trees along 6th Street are particularly large, while those along the other streets are in worse condition. He said that all trees around the site would be replaced so that they are of uniform size and species; the removal would also permit access by construction cranes during the facade demolition and construction phases of the renovation. He said that the project team is working with the D.C. government to mitigate the loss of the mature trees, and all of the trees from the perimeter and the courtyard will be donated to the city or appropriate groups if removal can be accomplished by the spring. Ms. Balmori expressed regret at the loss of these trees and suggested that they be transplanted to one side of the building, allowing room for trees of a consistent size on the remaining sides. Mr. Belle agreed with this suggestion. Mr. Varner said that the general contractor advised the project team that it would be difficult to operate the construction cranes around the trees. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle said that this concern is typical and should not be considered conclusive. Mr. Varner confirmed that the tree spacing is approximately 40 feet, a typical dimension for street trees. Mr. McKinnell said that this spacing should provide sufficient room for the construction cranes, but Mr. Varner said that the trees had grown large enough to overlap.
Mr. Varner clarified the location of loading docks and parking access. He said the at-grade loading dock along 6th Street would be enlarged to four docks due to the anticipated presence of a large food-service facility.
Mr. Belle asked for details of the courtyard design. Mr. Varner said it would be a one-acre private garden for the enjoyment of the tenants, who could enter the courtyard or see it from the windows. He showed the proposed ground-level concourse ringing the courtyard with doors leading into it, unlike the current configuration that provides open public access. He showed the proposed plan of paths and water features. The four air intakes for the garage would be screened with three-dimensional configurations of metal gratings reaching a height of three feet. Mr. Belle questioned whether the courtyard plantings would be successful due to the height of the surrounding building. Ms. Balmori said that the plantings would have to be carefully chosen to withstand the shaded light. Mr. Varner said that this has been considered in the selection of plants, and he noted that some parts of the courtyard get a reasonable amount of direct sunlight for much of the year. Ms. Balmori questioned the proposal to include a large number of trees in the heavily shaded courtyard; Mr. Varner said that the larger and smaller trees would provide a multi-level canopy in addition to the ground-cover plantings.
Mr. McKinnell said that the Commission might not need to consider the design of the courtyard since it would not be accessible to the public. Mr. Varner confirmed that the courtyard is already under private ownership as part of the building site, and the existing public access would end due to the proposed reconfiguration of the building. Mr. Belle commented that the building tenants would have views of the courtyard and many, perhaps hundreds, would have lunch in the courtyard. He asked if the courtyard facades would be replaced with the same curtainwall system proposed for the street facades. Mr. Varner said a different curtainwall system would be used that would have less articulation; the five-foot module would be maintained, and the major design emphasis would be on the ground plane of the courtyard.
Mr. Varner showed the alternative site plan that would provide additional perimeter security. Where necessary, planting areas would be raised behind three-foot-high walls, or walls would be inserted within the planting areas. Some areas of the building perimeter are already protected by low walls due to the varying topography in relation to the below-grade parking levels. He said that a minimal number of bollards would be provided on the side streets to protect areas of pedestrian access between the street parking and sidewalks. Along the main facade on 7th Street, a series of bollards and low walls would be coordinated with the areas of landscaping. He showed how the generous amount of perimeter landscaping on each side would be included in both the secure and non-secure alternatives.
Ms. Nelson asked if the secure alternative would achieve the highest level of perimeter security protection. Mr. Varner said that there are a variety of design standards for perimeter security; this proposal is designed to a K-12 level that would protect against a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling at 50 miles per hour. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori asked if the protection is intended to meet the needs of a government agency. Mr. Varner said that there have been expressions of interest from both public- and private-sector organizations, but a government tenant is most likely. Ms. Nelson said that the secure alternative was therefore the more likely scenario. Mr. Varner said that either alternative might be possible, so he wanted to obtain approval for the overall landscaping configuration while making the review agencies aware of the possible need to adapt the design to a more secure alternative.
Ms. Balmori commented that the non-secure alternative's continuous planting beds for the trees would be advantageous, serving to double the life of urban trees compared to separate planting beds. She suggested that the pedestrian access paths across the planting beds be just a surface material with the dirt continuing beneath. In the secure alternative, she said that the bollards and the extensive perpendicular configurations of walls would be unpleasant, creating a fortified aesthetic that would cut off the public from the site. She suggested that this alternative be studied further.
Mr. Belle asked about the anticipated distribution of people approaching the building along the four street facades. Mr. Varner said that the current transit service in the vicinity brings most people to the northwestern portion of the site; future development of the area could change this pattern, such as by drawing more people across the highway to the south. The west entrance on 7th Street is the most prominent and would likely be used by visitors. He acknowledged that the south frontage on E Street is the least heavily used.
Mr. Belle asked if the landscape design responds to these varying conditions. Mr. Varner said that the design is intended to provide varied responses rather than a single relentless solution, in response to suggestions from the D.C. Office of Planning. He said the E Street frontage includes a 12-foot-wide sidewalk and a 5-foot-wide paved area along the curb, in accordance with D.C. government guidelines, and the remaining areas are landscaped. Mr. Luebke said that the minimum dimension of the walkway along the curb has apparently been increasing—two feet was once required, then three feet, and now the proposal is for five feet. He suggested that the Commission could comment on this proposed dimension, and the staff could meet with D.C. government officials to discuss the guidelines. He also said that the design for the secure alternative has improved since the previous submission, even though the need for a secure perimeter would be regrettable; he suggested retaining the improved features of the design and continuing to work on the components that are not yet well resolved.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the secure design along D Street appears to be the least intrusive due to the placement of the raised planters away from the curb. He suggested that this concept be used along the other streets. Mr. Varner said there were constraints on the other sides of the site related to utilities, such as large water mains along E Street and various sidewalk vaults, as well as the configuration of the below-grade parking garage. He clarified that the building facades do not extend to the property lines so some of the streetscape space is within private property.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the final design for the non-secure streetscape. Mr. Varner confirmed that the streetscape design would be submitted for further review if a more secure alternative is needed by the future tenant.
Ms. Nelson asked for a motion concerning the proposed revision to the curtainwall system. Tim Jaroch, the managing general partner of David Nassif Associates that owns the building, addressed the Commission, explaining that the complex design challenges for the facade, including the need for blast protection. He said that the renovated building is intended to meet a "Level Four" standard for blast protection. He said that the original engineering for the building makes it one of the few large buildings that can be retrofitted to meet new standards for protection against progressive collapse. This protection would be achieved with an enormous new structural ring surrounding the second floor of the building.
Mr. Jaroch said that the facade would also need to be extraordinarily airtight to allow for the installation of a progressive energy-conserving air-handling system; the technology is common in Europe but this would be the first installation in the Washington area. The project team had conducted extensive studies to ensure the adequacy of this air-handling system in meeting building comfort standards in Washington's climate, and the results were very promising. The configuration of the air-handling system requires that air infiltration through the exterior wall be tightly limited.
Mr. Jaroch explained that the combined requirements of the security and the building systems resulted in severe technical constraints on the design of the curtainwall. The project team had therefore contacted the few manufacturers that could handle this project; due to the long lead time for this product, the project team had already awarded the contract to one curtainwall manufacturer. That company concluded that the approved curtainwall design would be difficult to construct in accordance with the desired performance standards, resulting in an inability to provide the necessary warranties. The manufacturer therefore proposed the revised curtainwall design that is now submitted for review. Mr. Jaroch said that he supported this design revision on behalf of the building owners and also found it to be an aesthetic improvement over the previously approved design. He asked the Commission to consider the technical and scheduling constraints in deciding how to act on the proposed revision to the curtainwall.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. McKinnell asked if the curtainwall is already being manufactured. Mr. Varner said that the physical fabrication has not begun but the engineering drawings are underway. Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification whether it was no longer possible to revise the curtainwall design; Mr. Varner said that "it is pretty close to being a done deal."
Mr. McKinnell said that the submission makes a mockery of the review process by replacing the previously approved design with a new version that cannot be changed. Mr. Varner said that the project team thought the revised design was an improvement. Mr. Jaroch said that the decision to move forward had occurred within the last six weeks due to the unexpected urgency of the scheduling. He said that the selected company was the only manufacturer willing to provide a warranty for this type of curtainwall system and would only provide the warranty for the revised design. Ms. Nelson said that this information should have been provided with the submission materials to avoid wasting the time and talent of the Commission members. She emphasized that the Commission is responsible for providing aesthetic advice, regardless of the financial and engineering details of the project. Mr. Varner reiterated that the design team prefers the revised design; he said that the architects also have a responsibility to choose a design that is practical to manufacture due to the large expense involved. He said that the project was submitted as soon as possible after the need for the design revision became known, but the decision to move forward had to be made before the review.
Ms. Nelson suggested that no vote would be needed since the design decision has already been made. Mr. Belle emphasized that the Commission's monthly meetings provide ample opportunity for review if the project schedule is developed thoughtfully. He expressed regret that the Commission had heard and responded to the lengthy presentation before learning at the end that the design has been determined. He acknowledged that there might be advantages to either of the curtainwall designs but concluded that the Commission should not give any further consideration to the project.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed regret that the problem involves the facades which are the primary features of the building. He said that it was a serious error of judgment for the project team to choose a cheaper facade and assume that everyone would agree with the change, particularly for such a visible and important component of the renovation. He asked if it would be appropriate for the Commission to abstain on the submission. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could take no action, and the comments could be transmitted in a letter. Ms. Nelson noted that the Commission members' comments would be recorded in the minutes.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the protocol for applicants who construct something different than the design that was approved. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's recommendations on private-sector projects are conveyed to the D.C. government which is responsible for permit issuance and enforcement; project owners are supposed to comply with the Commission's advice to the greatest extent possible. Mr. McKinnell said that the protocol is particularly important because the Commission is a public body holding public hearings, and a lax enforcement would set an undesirable precedent for future projects.
Mr. Jaroch emphasized that the project team prefers the revised design regardless of any potential cost savings, and the revision was not expected to be a major issue. Mr. McKinnell responded that the Commission should provide the aesthetic judgments; if the project team is making the final aesthetic decisions then the Commission's purpose no longer exists. He added that the Commission members are here to serve the public and to try to make the city a better place. He characterized the applicant's behavior as personally offensive; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Jaroch said he did not intend to substitute the project team's judgment for that of the Commission; the intention was only to shift to a design that achieved the required performance standards and was also very attractive.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission members' comments be reflected in the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that a summary could also be included in the recommendation that will be transmitted to the D.C. government. The discussion concluded without a motion on the facades.
3. S.L. 07-056, Single-family residence, 2438 Belmont Road, N.W. Rear addition and building alterations. Concept. Ms. Penhoet introduced the project located across Belmont Road from Rock Creek Park. She introduced Olvia Demetriou of Adamstein & Demetriou Architecture & Design to present the project.
Ms. Demetriou described the programmatic needs before proceeding to the elevations. The client has requested an elevator for the four-story house. In order to protect the front facade and the roofline, and after consultation with the staff of the Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, the proposal is to place the elevator in a new addition along the rear of the house, in a location between an existing addition and an existing bay window. The new addition was then studied for further opportunities to integrate the various masses at the rear of the house to form a logical composition.
Ms. Demetriou explained that the resulting design would extend approximately seven feet from the existing facade. The elevator shaft would be clad with some of the stone that is removed from other parts of the facade. The remainder of the addition would be a bronze-painted structure of exposed steel beams with large panes of thermal glass. She said that the existing fieldstone has a varied color pattern including some gray.
Ms. Demetriou said that alterations to the front facade would be minimal. The client had requested new windows but this was dropped after consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. She said that the existing front door is a pair of narrow panels; she proposes to replace them with a single larger door. Nearby, she proposed altering a living-room window that has a fanlight and operable doors leading to a miniature balcony: the pair of operable doors would be replaced by a single pane of glass to provide a better setting for a sculpture that the owners want to place inside the window. Ms. Nelson asked if the new window would be operable; Ms. Demetriou said this could be done but there was no need because it is not necessary for the owners to have access to the shallow balcony.
Ms. Demetriou showed additional views of the rear facade; she noted the dense foliage and the upward slope of the property toward the rear property line, helping to reduce the visibility of the rear facade from neighboring properties.
Mr. Belle commented that the existing house has a mix of styles but some consistency of solid walls with punched windows; he asked why the addition would use a curtainwall vocabulary. Ms. Demetriou responded that a solid-walled addition of the proposed size would be a "huge imposition" on the constrained site, so the materials have been selected to reduce the apparent mass of the addition. She said the re-use of the stone to clad the elevator was debated, but the D.C. Historic Preservation Office staff encouraged this design gesture to provide a contextual transition to the contemporary style of the remaining part of the new addition. Mr. Belle suggested that the stone vocabulary could be continued throughout the addition while still providing extensive areas of glass. Ms. Demetriou offered to insert additional stone elements, but she said that thin spandrels of stone would look inappropriate; the design is intended to contrast the massive aesthetic of the stone house with the light modern aesthetic of the proposed addition. Mr. Luebke said that the staff had recommended the modern materials and the elimination of stone from the design for most of the addition.
Mr. Belle asked if the elevator shaft could be shortened by using a hydraulic system; he suggested that the elevator tower align with the roof eaves. Ms. Demetriou explained that the attic level contains three bedrooms so the elevator needs to reach this height. She said that the proposed solid wall adjacent to the elevator shaft has been modified to stop at the top of the second floor, based on design review guidance. Ms. Demetriou added that a second-floor terrace at the rear, adjacent to the elevator shaft, would be altered to provide glass balustrades to replace the existing metal railing. She said the terrace was difficult to see from the ground due to the foliage; the owners would use it as a setting for sculpture.
Ms. Nelson commented that the house appears to have had many alterations and additions over the years, so the new addition would be in keeping with the house's history. Mr. Belle said that the contrasting styles might be appropriate, but the new elements should still relate to the existing house in scale, proportion, and material. He said that none of the alterations to the rear facade was yet successful and suggested further study of the design. Ms. Demetriou said the intention was to relate the proposed bronze trim with the existing copper trim, and to emphasize the insertion of the steel frame into the massive stone walls. Mr. Belle supported the intention but said that the first requirement is to resolve the basic design gestures.
Ms. Balmori suggested that the modern aesthetic be extended to the elevator shaft rather than creating an intrusive new stone-clad mass. Ms. Demetriou said that this approach had been considered, perhaps using an articulated system of patinated copper cladding for the shaft. She said that another option is to incorporate a trellis, perhaps made of metal; Ms. Balmori discouraged this solution.
Ms. Nelson noted the Commission's satisfaction with the changes proposed for the front facade, and she suggested that a revised design be submitted for the alterations to the rear. Ms. Demetriou offered to submit a revised concept for the following month. She asked if the Commission is satisfied with the footprint of the proposed addition. Mr. Luebke said that the staff had discussed this with the architect and was satisfied that the footprint is appropriate; the problem is how the addition is realized in three dimensions. The presentation ended without a formal motion.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:19 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: June 1, 2007