Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
15 February 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 10:05 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
Mr. Luebke welcomed the Commission and public to the newly renovated meeting room and noted the improved visibility, sound system, projection equipment, and table.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 January meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: March 15, April 19, and May 17. There were no objections.
C. Announcement of lecture and symposium. Mr. Luebke reported that the Commission is sponsoring two upcoming events to be held at the National Building Museum.
The first Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture will be presented on the evening of April 10. The lecture series is being established from funds donated in honor of Mr. Atherton, the long-time secretary of the Commission who died in December 2005. The purpose of the lecture series is to provide a forum for discussion of planning and design in Washington. The speaker at the inaugural lecture will be David Childs, former chairman of the Commission.
On April 11, the Commission will join with the National Capital Planning Commission and National Building Museum in sponsoring a day-long symposium titled "Framing a Capital City." Topics for the symposium's discussion panels will include commemoration and the national narrative, the natural environment and sustainability in relation to Washington's waterfront, management of the Mall, and the implementation of a vision for the nation's capital. The symposium will relate to the National Capital Framework Plan currently being developed by the Commission and NCPC.
D. Announcement of book publication. Mr. Luebke reported the publication of the Commission's book, "Designing the Nation's Capital: The 1901 Plan for Washington, D.C." The book is a series of essays on the Senate Park Commission Plan, known as the McMillan Plan, which has greatly influenced the development of Washington. The editors were Sue Kohler of the Commission's staff and Pamela Scott. He said that it is available through the Government Printing Office, the University of Massachusetts Press, and bookstores including the National Building Museum shop.
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. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom presented the appendix. He noted a revision for project S.L. 07- 030: the draft had recommended disapproval of window replacement due to insufficient information; the staff subsequently received supplemental information and revised the appendix to recommend approval of this project. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. Supplemental drawings were received for several projects, so the recommendations were updated. One newly submitted project was added with the response that it is outside the Commission's jurisdiction. Project O.G. 07- 067 was withdrawn earlier in the day, which was not yet reflected in the printed revision of the appendix. With this deletion, the Commission approved the revised appendix upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 15/FEB/07-1. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W., at the Tidal Basin. Inscriptions and sculpture. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JAN/07-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposed concept for inscriptions and sculpture at the memorial, submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the sponsoring foundation. He noted the Commission's previous concern with the visual effect of forming the large sculptural forms from a series of smaller pieces of stone. He also explained that the National Park Service had noted some concern about the choice of quotations for the inscriptions. He introduced Sally Blumenthal of the National Park Service.
Ms. Blumenthal conveyed the National Park Service's enthusiasm for the further development of this memorial's key features, including the Mountain of Despair, the Stone of Hope, and the memorial's inscriptions. She supported the proposed text as an initial proposal but explained the concerns about combining quotations of Dr. King's words from different occasions and omitting words from some quotations; she suggested that further refinement would be needed in finalizing the text. She compared the proposed inscriptions to those at the Lincoln Memorial, where lengthy quotations are provided with great success, and at the Jefferson Memorial, where a series of phrases are used without fully conveying Jefferson's eloquence. Mrs. Blumenthal also noted the issue of the placement of the text in relation to the memorial's architecture, which would be studied further as the length of the quotations is finalized. Ms. Blumenthal then introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., executive architect of the sponsoring foundation, to explain the proposal.
Dr. Jackson began with a discussion of the inscriptions. He explained that the omitted phrases were references to specific locations—Vietnam and Montgomery, Alabama. The foundation's intention was to make the inscriptions universal and avoid making reference to specific cities and countries. In response to the National Park Service's objection to this editing, he said that the foundation would agree to use Dr. King's original quotations without editing. Dr. Jackson noted that the submission materials included these original quotations along with the proposed editing.
Dr. Jackson explained that the quotations were developed with the advice of the foundation's council of historians. He introduced two members of the council to discuss the proposed quotations, both from the University of Michigan: Dr. James Shaffers, professor of architecture, and John Lockhart, professor of art.
Dr. Shaffers explained the panel's difficult deliberations in selecting quotations, with the eventual consensus that the emphasis should be on how Dr. King's values could influence our daily lives and character, rather than emphasizing his own times; the result would be a "living memorial" that would inspire future generations.
Mr. Lockhart recounted a recent classroom discussion in which students had difficulty answering the question, "What is an American?" He expressed hope that the memorial's inscriptions would suggest to future generations the values that are part of American society.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for further explanation of the inscriptions proposed for the Stone of Hope. Dr. Jackson said that each side of the freestanding stone would have an inscription; one of them would be the quotation that refers to a stone of hope and a mountain of despair, providing visitors with an explanation of the memorial's symbolic form.
Mr. Rybczynski said he concurred with the National Park Service's concerns about the inscriptions and was pleased that the sponsor had agreed to revise its proposal. He specifically urged that the full quotation from Dr. King about being called a "drum major" be used; Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson concurred that the full original quote is stronger than the excerpt. Dr. Jackson agreed to make this change.
Ms. Nelson observed that the selection of quotations inherently involves editing from the range of Dr. King's writing and speeches; she commented that the selected quotations will successfully convey the breadth of his thinking. She supported the use of the full quotations despite the foundation's concern about including specific references from the 1950s and 1960s, saying that "I understand your wanting to be universal, but he was specific in time and place."
Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission members had comments on the general disposition of the quotations on the various components of the memorial. Mr. Belle suggested that this could be reviewed when the revised wording is submitted. Mr. Powell concurred, emphasizing that the Commission will be interested in how the inscriptions relate to the architecture.
Dr. Jackson then introduced the concept for the memorial's sculpture. He explained that the foundation had selected a renowned sculptor from China, Lei Yixin, based on recommendations from an international group of sculptors at a recent event in Minnesota. Dr. Jackson said that China had designated Mr. Lei as "a living national treasure," one of nine people in the nation with this honor. Dr. Jackson distributed pamphlets on Mr. Lei's work and introduced Dr. Shu Mi Lei, an American relative of Mr. Lei, to introduce Mr. Lei and explain the family's background; Dr. Lei said the family was split by the Chinese revolution in the 1940s and the American branch had only met the relatives in China in the past few years.
Mr. Lei (through an interpreter) described his familiarity with Dr. King's work from the school curriculum in China, supplemented by additional study since obtaining this commission in recent months. He described his concept for sculpting the four sides of the Stone of Hope. The side facing northwest would have a natural stone contour. Two sides of the Stone of Hope would have a horizontally striated pattern, with a corresponding pattern on the faces of the Mountain of Despair to suggest that the Stone of Hope had been pulled horizontally from the Mountain. Portions of these sides would contain inscriptions. On the front of the Stone of Hope, Dr. King's form would emerge, with the level of precision gradually increasing from the bottom to the top. The sharply defined edges of the Mountain of Despair would be clearly visible behind Dr. King's image; the symbolic sharpness of the despair would be balanced by the implied force of the emerging Stone of Hope.
Mr. Rybczynski asked what Dr. King appears to be holding in his hand in the proposed sculpture; Mr. Lei explained that it is a pen. Mr. Rybczynski supported the proposed striations of the stone sides, in comparison to the earlier concept for smooth faces; Mr. Powell concurred. Dr. Jackson clarified that the striated effect would be achieved from sculpting larger blocks of stone, rather than stacking thin layers of stone. Ms. Nelson commented on the technical difficulties of assembling the large stone shapes with the appearance of no seams, and she noted that the proposed striation pattern would help to simplify this task; she suggested that the details should be resolved so that no joints or caulking lines would be visible. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the joints on Dr. King's figure could be hidden; Dr. Jackson showed examples of Chinese sculptures and their treatment of joint lines.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the lettering would be inscribed or raised; Dr. Jackson said it would be inscribed, notwithstanding the depiction of raised lettering in Mr. Lei's computer-generated graphics. Mr. Belle commented that the visual effect was quite different and could affect the choice of stone color; he asked for a further description of the stone selection. Dr. Jackson showed a sample of the proposed brown granite; he explained that the darker color shown in the sculptor's images is actually the result of using clay models, which then appears even darker to the photography process. Mr. Belle suggested that the darker color shown in the sculpture renderings might be preferable and suggested that the stone selection be given further consideration.
Ms. Nelson asked if Dr. King's signature would be shown as part of the inscriptions. Dr. Jackson said that this was not proposed; Ms. Nelson suggested that the signature might be of historical interest. Dr. Jackson explained that the inscriptions would include the date and location of the quotations, using smaller letters than the quotations themselves.
Mr. Luebke raised the issue of legibility of the lettering in relation to the stone color and the potential use addition of coloring within the inscribed letters. Dr. Jackson offered to show a mockup of the lettering in a subsequent submission; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of presenting this to the Commission.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept for the inscriptions and sculptural elements.
2. CFA 15/FEB/07-2 Georgetown Waterfront Park, between the Potomac River and K Street, from the Key Bridge to the terminus of 31st Street, N.W. Revised concept for the Wisconsin Avenue terminus. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/05-5.) Mr. Martínez introduced the project and noted that the Old Georgetown Board's report had been circulated to the Commission members. The Commission approved the concept for the overall park in 2003 and subsequently reviewed the final design for Phase I west of Wisconsin Avenue and the concept design for the Wisconsin Avenue terminus, which is now submitted as a revised concept. A proposed sculptural element in Phase I was not approved; the design was subsequently changed to provide benches and panels containing historical background. Mr. Martínez noted the Commission had requested that the park's elements be unified in design and materials throughout the various phases.
Mr. Martínez explained that the Old Georgetown Board had reviewed the submission and commented that the design of the proposed pergola and granite benches should be simplified. The Board also commented that the proposed grass parterres should be eliminated; if protection is needed to prevent people from falling down the adjacent steps toward the river, additional bollards could be provided. He noted that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission supports the submitted design, and letters of support with a long list of signatories were submitted and distributed to the Commission members. Additional letters and e-mails were distributed expressing opposition to the proposed design. Mr. Martínez introduced Sally Blumenthal of the National Park Service.
Ms. Blumenthal noted that the portion of the park west of Wisconsin Avenue is currently under construction, with completion scheduled for spring 2008. The revised concept design for the Wisconsin Avenue terminus contains most of the elements previously approved, along with a revised pergola proposal, and the design continues the general materials and spatial arrangement of the entire park.
Mr. Powell asked about the schedule and funding for construction of the Wisconsin Avenue terminus. Ms. Blumenthal said the schedule would depend on the progress of fundraising, which could be accelerated by a provision in the President's proposed 2008 budget for National Park Service grants that would match private donations for selected projects and programs over the next ten years. She then introduced landscape architect Ignacio Bunster-Ossa of Wallace Roberts and Todd to present the design.
Mr. Bunster-Ossa discussed the redesign of the pergola with an open character that would emphasize views of the park and river. Columns would be placed only on the inland side of the pergola so that people sitting on the benches beneath it would have unobstructed views of the water. This design feature would require a complex structural system; cables and a light fabric would be used to minimize the visual impact of the pergola; flowering vines would integrate the pergola into the landscape. The pergola would also be composed of three separate segments to reduce its visual mass. The benches would be placed in a variety of orientations to provide people a choice of views, sunlight, and group seating configurations.
Mr. Bunster-Ossa explained that the raised grass parterres would provide a landscaped area between the park's paths and the steps to the river, while also providing a necessary safety feature at the top of the steps. He added that people could sit or lie on the parterres to enjoy views of the river. He discussed two alternatives that were considered—bollards, which would be visually obtrusive particularly for people sitting on the lawn or benches, and a raised curb, which would be a tripping hazard.
Mr. Bunster-Ossa described several other features of the design, including the granite fountain and benches and the areas for inscriptions that would be part of the system of interpretative text extending throughout the park.
Mr. Belle expressed support for the Old Georgetown Board's comments. Ms. Blumenthal asked for further clarification of the Board's recommendation that several elements of the design be "simplified." She noted the large scale of the site and asked for the Commission's advice on such specific design proposals as breaking the pergola into three separate segments.
Ms. Nelson commented that a long line of bollards might not be desirable at the top of the steps. She acknowledged the value of providing seating with views of the river and suggested that a low seating wall, perhaps surrounding a planter, could be placed at this location. She said that the pergola has a jumpy appearance and suggested that a simpler form would be preferable. She also suggested that the configuration of benches be simplified, while supporting the general intention to provide a variety of views and groupings of seats.
Mr. Rybczynski said he accepts the design of the seating as proposed, based upon Mr. Bunster-Ossa's explanation of the design intention, but commented that the pergola had become a highly technical structure that was not appropriate to the park setting. He supported the use of columns on only one side with a cantilevered roof but recommended that the design be simplified; he suggested that a lighter color might also be preferable. He noted that a pergola would traditionally become invisible beneath vines, but this design includes vertical posts that would protrude from any plantings. He commented that the separation of the pergola into multiple segments would not be apparent from a slight distance, so he did not think that this choice was an important concern in the design; Mr. Powell concurred.
Mr. Powell noted the excessive use of bollards in Washington and suggested that their presence be minimized in this design. He therefore supported the proposed use of landscaping at the top of the steps but suggested that the design be refined further. Ms. Blumenthal noted that this location would provide views of July 4th fireworks and of the finish line for boat races, resulting in crowds of people; grass was therefore proposed due to concern about the survival of shrubs at this location.
Mr. Belle commented on the large scale of the park in contrast to the relatively small size of the details that were being discussed. He suggested that the design elements be simplified and developed to emphasize their relationship to the larger space. He said that the long set of steps appears to be reasonably scaled to the space. Ms. Nelson concurred, suggesting fewer elements and a bolder design for them.
Mr. Powell recognized several members of the public who asked to speak. Steve Kurzman, former president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown and a founder of the Georgetown Waterfront Park Commission, noted the petition signed by over 200 local residents and business owners criticizing elements of the park design including the inclusion of the pergola. Mr. Martínez clarified that this was the petition that had been submitted to the Old Georgetown Board and circulated to the Commission members. Mr. Kurzman asked the Commission members to note that one of the Board members had also questioned the need for the pergola. Mr. Kurzman said that because this section of the park is relatively narrow, a special entrance feature is not necessary and would obstruct the view of the river and the Kennedy Center as people enter the park from the foot of Wisconsin Avenue. He said that the petition also questioned the placement of a fountain at the park's principal entry point and the inclusion of potentially hazardous steps at the water's edge. He questioned the importance of accommodating crowds for boat races since there are only a few weekends per year with such events. He said that a local university rowing coach had commented that different races have different finish lines so there is no preferred location for crowds. Mr. Kurzman suggested that the hardscape areas in the design be replaced with additional landscaping.
Mel Bass, former chair of a design committee for the park, concurred with Mr. Kurzman. Mr. Bass explained his design committee's conclusion that the park's design should emphasize views of the river from within the park and from the nearby streets of Georgetown. He said that the park design includes too many trees resulting in a visual barrier between Georgetown and the river. He noted a common response that the trees could be pruned to allow ground-level views but said that the National Park Service's current pruning of trees in that area does not maintain views. He said that the view should also include the sky and the far shoreline to emphasize the feeling of openness. He suggested that some trees would be appropriate to provide summer shade while allowing more extensive views in winter; however, the proposed pergola would obstruct views year-round.
Bob vom Eigen, president of Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park, displayed a picture looking downstream along the park, emphasizing the park's large size and the attractive vista. He characterized the Wisconsin Avenue terminus as an area of human interaction in contrast to the contemplative character of the Phase I design. He supported a suggestion from the Commission to combine the proposed benches into a single continuous bench that would encourage groups to sit together. He noted that Phase I will provide individual seating with isolated benches. He said that the Friends group includes 150 dues-paying businesses and families who support the construction of the park, and he urged approval of the design.
Gretchen Gail Ellsworth, a rower and a director of Friends of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, said she supports the location of the steps since all of the racing finish lines will be in that vicinity. She said the steps would also provide a viewing area for watching rowers practice. She supported the continuation of the steps directly to the water, noting that a similar connection to the water is available near the Thompson Boat House. She suggested that the Commission consider the appearance of the park from the river, from which rowers and other boaters will see it.
Ann Satterthwaite, a local planner with longtime involvement in the park, emphasized the need for the pergola and benches. She said that the park would attract many people as shown by the crowds on weekends at the adjacent Washington Harbour development; seating and an area under cover would therefore be useful features. She said that the design allows for views and a sense of openness. She disagreed with an earlier speaker's criticism of the proposed trees, commenting that the areas of the park aligned with streets would not have trees and other parts of the park have a pastoral character with open views. Ms. Satterthwaite said that the varied character in different parts of the park would enhance the overall design.
Mr. Powell noted the Old Georgetown Board's report and suggested that the Board's comments in the report, along with those made by the Commission members, be incorporated into a motion for a recommendation that the National Park Service could consider along with the public testimony that had been given. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification on whether the Commission recommends refining or eliminating the parterres; Mr. Powell said these should be refined with an emphasis on providing additional plantings and minimizing the number of bollards. Mr. Powell noted that the motion would include Mr. Rybczynski's comments on revising the pergola design to be simpler and less technical in appearance. Ms. Nelson suggested including Mr. Belle's comment concerning the need for a generous scale for the park's main features. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept subject to the recommendations from the Board and the Commission members.
C. Smithsonian Institution
1. CFA 15/FEB/07-3 National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum (Old Patent Office Building), 7th and F Streets, N.W. South stair reconstruction and perimeter security. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/JUN/06- 2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the project which provides additional details on the concept for the Old Patent Office Building's perimeter security and reconstruction of the south stair. The revised concept responds to previous Commission recommendations to make the perimeter security as unobtrusive as possible and to eliminate gates on the stairs in order to allow public access to the stairs and portico. He suggested that the Commission may also consider signage at the new building entrance associated with the south stair. Mr. Luebke introduced Harry Rombach from the Smithsonian Institution.
Mr. Rombach noted that the Commission's agenda includes two perimeter security projects for the Smithsonian—at this building and at the National Museum of American History—both based on the same set of design elements and both satisfying federal security standards while resulting in good designs. He noted the intense collaboration process among designers, technical experts, and review agency staffs. He introduced Mary Kay Lanzillotta of Hartman-Cox Architects to present the design.
Ms. Lanzillotta showed photos of the building and its context, emphasizing its urban environment. She explained that the site perimeter is mostly encircled by a historic metal fence on a granite plinth; the perimeter security design would incorporate this historic fencing where possible in order to minimize the creation of barriers on the sidewalk. The fence was placed in its current location in 1936 when the street alignments were last altered, with further adjustments related to creating a Metrorail station entrance; only a small section of the fence along 7th Street remains in its original location. The proposed design would retain the fence at its existing location along 7th, 9th, and G Streets; the F Street fence would be moved slightly southward to align with the proposed south stair reconstruction, necessitating the fabrication of some additional segments of fence to provide continuity. The granite plinth would be reconstructed to a height of 26 inches, which is only slightly higher than the existing plinth in some locations and is similar to the fencing around the historic Tariff Building (now the Hotel Monaco) across the street.
Ms. Lanzillotta explained the details of the concept at each area of the perimeter. The G Street frontage would have a free-standing fence with planters behind, similar to the existing condition. The ground along 7th and F Streets would be re-graded to meet the raised plinth. Along 9th Streets, the wall would be free-standing. She explained that cables would be embedded within the wall and at the lower rail of the fencing to provide the necessary perimeter security protection in conjunction with the mass of the plinth wall. The height of the wall would be adjusted adjacent to the building entrances on F and G Streets. Ms. Lanzillotta showed the Metro escalator at 9th and G Streets. Its granite walls do not provide sufficient security protection so bollards will be added along the side of the escalator; the existing newspaper vending boxes at this location would be reconfigured and the bollards would be interspersed among them. The bollards would have a simple form and a stainless steel finish. A bike rack would be provided in this area with reinforcement to provide perimeter security; a guard booth, similarly reinforced, would be constructed for the adjacent loading dock driveway.
At the unused historic entry staircase along 9th Street, the handrails would be redesigned to incorporate bollard protection; these posts would be designed in the character of the historic railings. At the F Street entrance, perimeter security would be provided by the walls of the new south stair; a bollard would also be incorporated into the railing of each of the split staircases. At the unused 7th Street staircase, a line of bollards is proposed along the curb, continuing to the tree boxes located just north and south of the stair. Some of these bollards would be incorporated into streetlights, and additional planters are under consideration which could include some of the bollards.
Along the G Street entry stair, where the sidewalk is only ten feet wide, a simple line of bollards would be placed along the curb. Ms. Lanzillotta said that the D.C. government had suggested widening the sidewalk at this location, which will be explored further as a long-term option; she showed an alternative design for a wider sidewalk area but noted that this would necessitate additional bollards across the sidewalk to protect the wider space.
Ms. Lanzillotta then showed the design for the south stair which had not significantly changed since the last review. She showed a design with glass doors within the entrance portals and an alternative design with metal gates at the portals, resulting in an open-air vestibule leading to doors located deeper within the entrance structure. She clarified that the gates could be designed to slide into the walls during the hours the museum is open. Ms. Lanzillotta also showed the proposed revision to the gates on top of the portico; this configuration would allow people to reach the portico from the street.
Mr. Belle asked if there were programmatic issues that would affect the choice between gates or doors at the new F Street entrance. Debra Nauta-Rodriguez, the project manager from the Smithsonian Institution, said that both options were feasible and no preference had been determined. Mr. Belle commented that the design raises an interesting historic preservation issue since neither the gates nor doors were part of the demolished historic staircase upon which the new design is based. Ms. Lanzillotta and Mr. Luebke clarified that the design is based on the second of the two staircases that were constructed at this location during the 19th century, but the historic staircases did not include entrance portals. Mr. Rybczynski said he prefers the gates, commenting that the doors would be inappropriately close to the street. Mr. Powell supported the use of gates due to their relation to the building's historic vocabulary.
Ms. Nelson commented that the lettering depicted in the renderings of the F Street entrance appeared too large. She suggested that the lettering size be reduced or that the museum names shown beside the doors be omitted since they are similar to the building name above the doors. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the building name could be relocated to the side. Ms. Lanzillotta offered to convey these comments to the Smithsonian.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission respond to the proposed bollards at the Metro entrance. Ms. Nelson suggested combining bollards and the newspaper boxes, or rethinking the security barrier in relation to the Metro entrance. Ms. Lanzillotta noted that the bollards previously shown across the entrance path to the Metro escalator had been repositioned closer to the building where they would not interfere with pedestrian access to the station but she agreed to study this further.
Ms. Nelson asked why the proposed guard booth near the Metro entrance is identified as temporary. Mr. Lanzillotta explained that this booth is needed urgently because the guard currently stands outdoors. He said it is a prefabricated unit that will be customized slightly; it will eventually be replaced by a permanent booth, scheduled as part of the 2009 budget. Ms. Lanzillotta also noted that the booth will be located below sidewalk level along the descending driveway, so pedestrians will still have views of the building. Mr. Rombach clarified that the booth itself is not designed to provide perimeter security protection. He also explained that the budget for the stair reconstruction and perimeter security is $20 million, of which half would be requested as a federal appropriation to cover security costs and half would be raised from private donations.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept subject to the comments that were discussed.
2. CFA 15/FEB/07-4 National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. Perimeter security. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JAN/04- 6, Smithsonian Mall Museums Security Master Plan.) Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Belle had recused himself from reviewing this agenda item due to his firm's involvement in the project. Mr. Simon explained that the proposed final design is based on the Smithsonian's Mall-wide master plan for perimeter security that was previously approved by the Commission. He introduced Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the project.
Mr. Hassan said that perimeter security at two other Mall museums, Air & Space and Natural History, is already under construction with designs based on the Mall-wide master plan approved in 2004. The new proposal for American History would continue the master plan's design vocabulary while also benefiting from lessons learned with the other projects. Among the improvements is a decision that the spacing between security elements could be increased and a reduction in the diameter of these elements from eight to six inches. Shallower footings would also now be possible, resulting in less disruption to tree roots and underground utilities.
Mr. Hassan reviewed the existing conditions of the large site. Since Constitution Avenue on the north is significantly lower than Madison Drive on the south, the sides of the site along 12th and 14th Streets are sloped. He explained that the building is surfaced in marble and other existing site features are constructed of two shades of granite. The proposed perimeter security design is derived from existing site features such as the post-and-lintel balustrades. A combination of benches, solid low walls, and open post-and-lintel balustrades would form much of the site perimeter. These features would be organized as twenty-foot-long units; bollards would be incorporated within them and would be located within the vertical posts of the open walls. The height and spacing of these units would relate to the existing site features, which have appropriate dimensions for accommodating modern security requirements.
At the Constitution Avenue entrance, the fountain wall would be designed to provide perimeter security; stationary and retractable bollards would protect the sidewalks and driveways leading to the building. On Madison Drive along the Mall, the security barriers would be set back from the street to minimize their impact on the setting. New benches would be designed to slow an approaching vehicle sufficiently so that the existing site walls could provide the remaining layer of protection for the building. Planting beds at the Mall entrance would define a forecourt while minimizing the need for bollards across the entrance walkways.
Due to the slope along 12th Street and near the corner of 14th Street and Madison Drive, the system of horizontal elements would not be feasible in these areas. Instead, a cable-reinforced fence system set within planted hedges is proposed. Mr. Hassan clarified that the same type of plant would be used to form the hedge on both sides of the fence. The fence line would be adjusted to protect mature trees where possible. The fence line would also deflect for the site's two service driveways, which would be protected by retractable bollards.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the design and said that it respects the building and the street; Mr. Rybczynski concurred. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the final design.
Mr. Belle returned to the meeting for the remainder of the agenda items.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 15/FEB/07-5 Byron Nelson Congressional Gold Medal. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Rachel Spikula of the U.S. Mint, substituting for the Mint's usual representative, Kaarina Budow. Ms. Spikula explained that the medal was authorized by public law to honor Byron Nelson's contributions to the game of golf as a player, teacher, and commentator. She showed the proposed obverse with Mr. Nelson's image and related inscriptions. The proposed reverse shows an image of Mr. Nelson in earlier years with the inscription "Player, Teacher, Humanitarian" and also "Champion."
Ms. Nelson commented that the commas are distracting within the phrase "Player, Teacher, Humanitarian" at the perimeter and she suggested separating the words with round dots or just spaces; Mr. Powell concurred. Ms. Nelson also questioned the placement of the word "Champion" across the image and suggested including this word with the perimeter text; Mr. Rybczynski concurred and noted that many people are champions without it being spelled out on a medal.
Ms. Nelson asked how the family responded to the likenesses shown; Ms. Spikula said the proposed design is the one chosen by the family. For the obverse, Ms. Nelson questioned the shadow line at the lower end of the image. Ms. Spikula explained that this is part of the normal rim treatment of a medal.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the proposed medal subject to her comments on the reverse design.
E. U.S. Institute of Peace
CFA 15/FEB/07-6 United States Institute of Peace, 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. Landscape design for new headquarters building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/05-1.) Mr. Luebke explained that the final design of the building was approved in 2005; the landscape design concept is now being submitted. He noted that the designer is the firm of Diana Balmori, a member of the Commission who is not present today. He introduced Charles Nelson, vice-president of the Institute of Peace.
Mr. Nelson explained that utility relocation was beginning this week and that construction would begin in August or September He introduced landscape architect Mark Thomann of Balmori Associates to present the design.
Mr. Thomann showed the context and the site plan which has been slightly revised since the previous presentation. The entry plaza at the southeast corner was changed from a pure circle to an oval shape, and the adjacent path and water feature were reconfigured. The refinement of the entry plaza design was based on a closer study of the architectural form, which combines a classically shaped building with an unconventional curved roof; the entry design now conveys the "flowing nature" of the roof form. The oval shape will also help to direct visitors from the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue toward the building entrance to the northwest.
Mr. Thomann described the site features in more detail. A thirty-inch-high wall would provide seating along the entrance plaza and would serve as terraces for the rising grade, allowing the plaza to have a modest grade of three percent. The seating would be useful for visitors, particularly student groups as they assemble upon entering and exiting the building. These terraced walls would also provide a visual link between the entry plaza and the private garden further to the northwest that would be accessible only to the building's occupants. Adjacent to the entry plaza, an upper terrace would serve as an outdoor extension of the building's main hall. Plantings would be designed to maintain the prominent view corridor toward the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Thomann explained that the landscape design would be implemented in phases. John Stranix, the owner's representative, explained that the Institute of Peace may acquire two Navy buildings immediately north of the site; if this occurs, the site path system would be extended to include these two buildings with related adjustments to the terrace wall system on the west. Phase I would include those elements that would not be affected by this potential acquisition. Phase II would be implemented if the acquisition does not occur; otherwise an additional design would be prepared for the enlarged site. Mr. Thomann explained that the first phase would include sufficient site walls and plantings to convey the full intention of the concept. Some areas intended for heavy shrubs in Phase II would be planted with ground cover in Phase I.
Mr. Thomann showed the curving two-level water rille that would follow the edge of the entrance plaza and lead to the building entrance, reinforcing the shape of the terrace walls. The upper rille would have churning water while the lower rill, flush with the ground, would have a calmer sheet of water flowing gradually downward. The rilles would symbolize the issues of peace and conflict that are the subject of the Institute. He said that details of the fountain design were still being studied. The water would provide background noise to mask the sound of traffic along the adjacent approach ramp to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge; the rising terraces would also provide a physical separation from the traffic. He noted that a future bicycle path might be developed along this edge of the site. Cherry trees would be planted in lower areas on the west, allowing views above them toward the river from the building's upper atrium site. On the east, a series of curved terrace walls would follow the rising sidewalk along 23rd Street, revised from an earlier concept to use flat planes in this area. Plantings would be set in bands of darker and lighter colors symbolizing the duality of peace and conflict. Trees near the entry plaza would grow to provide extensive shade.
Mr. Thomann explained the proposed site lighting. The curved building roof is designed to be translucent and will glow from interior light; this will be the visual focus at night and will provide spillover light to the entry plaza. Additional lighting is proposed to highlight the water rilles and the adjacent wall, resulting in improved lighting along the walkway. A curved bench within the entry plaza would be lit from beneath, emphasizing the Peace Institute's logo set within the pavement. The three flagpoles would be up-lit, and the building's identification lettering would also be illuminated.
Mr. Belle commented that the potential acquisition of the two additional buildings could have a significant impact on the landscape design. Mr. Nelson explained that recent legislation authorizes the Navy to make the transfer but does not mandate it; the Institute is currently discussing this with the Navy. He emphasized that the overall project should not be treated as dependent on the potential transfer. Mr. Belle asked if the two additional buildings would be used by the public. Mr. Nelson said that the Institute's intention would be to use those buildings for a conflict management training academy which would be attended by a range of government and non-government people. Mr. Belle commented that the proposed design is, appropriately, not intended to provide connections around the edges of the site to these two buildings; but if they are acquired, then such connections might be a desirable feature of the landscape design. He acknowledged that this didn't need an answer yet but should be considered as the design is developed. Mr. Nelson added that the Institute asked the architect to design potential bridges from the new Institute of Peace to these two existing buildings, so access could be from within the Institute as well as from the exterior.
Mr. Belle commented that the design has a lyrical character that corresponds to the curving roof forms. He expressed support for the rilles, especially the background noise they would generate, and suggested that their design could be bolder. He suggested further development of the design.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the various entry plazas. Mr. Thomann explained that the general public, including groups of students and tourists, would use the entrance plaza on the south. Mr. Nelson clarified that the building includes an education center for the general public with access from the south plaza, office space with access from an upper level porte-cochere along 23rd Street, and a conference center that could be used for public or staff events. He added that the entrance plaza could also be used as an assembly point for groups touring the war memorials in West Potomac Park in conjunction with their visit to the Institute of Peace.
Ms. Nelson noted that no bollards are shown and asked if the terrace walls would provide perimeter security. Mr. Stranix said that some protection would be provided by the walls but a vehicular threat was not considered a major concern. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson expressed enthusiasm for the lack of obtrusive security measures in the site design.
Ms. Nelson asked for further information about building signage. Paul Gross from Moshe Safdie and Associates, the building architect, said there would be signage along the terrace wall facing the entrance plaza and additional signage at the 23rd Street entrance.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the building design's interest comes from the contrast between the curved roof and the boxy building. He questioned whether the landscape design would contribute to this and suggested that the landscape as proposed might undermine the architectural interest. He deferred to the landscape architect's coordination with the architect on this issue but expressed particular concern about the 23rd Street edge, where the curved landscape motif abuts the urban grid. He noted that the street alignment would be visually disrupted by the unconventional tree placement resulting from the curved planting areas. He opposed the effort to create a separate design aesthetic within the city fabric, preferring the architect's concept of emphasizing a rectilinear form along the urban edge and limiting the use of curves to selected features. He said the landscape design approach was less problematic along the southwest part of the site, where it abuts a curving highway ramp rather than a city street. Mr. Thomann said that the landscape curves are often based on the radius of the curved architectural features; Mr. Rybczynski said that this relationship was not important because the curved roofs are perceived very differently from the curved garden walls. He recommended that the design should respond to the site conditions rather than emphasize its own curved motif.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the bus drop-off lane would also damage the visual continuity of 23rd Street. Ms. Nelson asked if it could be located elsewhere but Mr. Thomann said that no other part of the site perimeter would be feasible. Mr. Powell asked if the D.C. government is supporting the design; Mr. Stranix said that the transportation management plan is currently being reviewed by the D.C. Department of Transportation, and their comments so far have been favorable.
Mr. Belle continued to emphasize the challenge of potentially needing to relate the building to the adjacent buildings on the north, particularly given the configuration of the driveway at the northeast corner of the site. Ms. Nelson concurred that the north side of the building is treated as the back. Mr. Belle commented that his concern and Mr. Rybczynski's both suggest the need for further study of the 23rd Street frontage. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the curved landscape design would be extended to the two additional buildings if they were acquired; Mr. Thomann said that a design approach for this additional site area had not yet been determined.
Ms. Nelson summarized the Commission's recommendation for further study of the 23rd Street area and the potential northward extension of the site. Mr. Powell offered a motion that these comments be part of an overall approval of the concept. With a second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted this motion.
F. D.C. Courts
1. CFA 15/FEB/07-7 Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W. Building alterations to the main entrance. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/APR/06-8.)
2. CFA 15/FEB/07- 8 Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue, N.W. Alterations to the main entrance plaza. Concept.
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the two projects for the courthouse entrance area, noting that the building alterations and entrance plaza are listed as separate agenda items because they are at different stages of review but would be presented jointly. He explained that the Commission had approved the concept for the lobby expansion in April 2006 with the advice to reduce the size of the building identification lettering and to consider undertaking a renovation of the adjacent plaza. The final design for the building alterations is now submitted, along with a concept proposal for alterations to the plaza to provide a simpler design with fewer planters. He introduced Ira Goldfarb of Gruzen and Samton Architects to present the building alterations and landscape architect Roger Courtenay of EDAW to present the plaza proposal.
Mr. Goldfarb said that his firm had brought the project through the design development phase and the final drawings and construction would be handled by the architect of record, Zivic & Hurdle Architects. He explained that the size of the lettering over the doorway has been reduced in response to the review agencies; otherwise the design has been developed in keeping with the previously approved concept. He showed the Commission a sample letter made of a Pilkington glass facing on a plastic backing with metallic paint to provide a silvery finish. Ms. Nelson suggested that actual aluminum letters would be preferable if the budget allows; Mr. Goldfarb explained that because the letters would have to be attached with an adhesive, a lighter material such as plastic was necessary. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the durability of the proposed letters; Mr. Goldfarb said the manufacturer reports that such letters have been in use for thirty years. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the final design.
Mr. Courtenay explained that the courthouse entrance and adjacent plaza are heavily used. The proposal would remove the existing raised planters and extend granite pavers across the plaza. Curved bands of slightly contrasting pavers would reinforce several features of the context: the new curved wall of the entrance lobby, the curve of Indiana Avenue merging with D Street, and the sloping topography adjacent to the plaza. The outermost curve would contain a line of bollards near Indiana Avenue, where the building is vulnerable to a vehicle approaching on a direct line from 5th Street. The bollards would have a simple vertical design that would avoid emphasizing the grade change across this portion of the plaza. Streetlights and a new flagpole location would be included along the sides of the plaza to define the approach to the building. Benches and planter edges would provide seating in areas away from the entrance doors. He noted that budget cycles might require the phasing of the project so he showed a plan for the first phase that would include the area closest to the entrance lobby.
Ms. Nelson asked about the flagpole material; Mr. Courtenay said it would be bronze and might be just a relocation of the existing flagpole. The site furniture would have a bronze finish. He showed samples of the granite paver materials being considered, incorporating a pink tone that relates to the existing building and its surrounding curb. Ms. Nelson asked if the curved bands should have a higher level of contrast; Mr. Courtenay said this was not desired because people should not misinterpret them as steps.
Ms. Nelson said that the proposed design would be more welcoming and urged that it be implemented in its entirety. The Commission approved the concept design and delegated the final review to the staff.
G. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 15/FEB/07-9. Savoy Elementary School, 2400 Shannon Place, S.E. Renovation, alterations, and additions. Concept. Mr. Simon introduced the project, noting that the Savoy School is adjacent to a historic school that is prominently sited along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. He introduced Elise Robinson of Bowie Gridley Architects to present the project.
Ms. Robinson explained that the project involves the modernization of the Savoy School and an addition to provide an improved gymnasium that would serve the Savoy School as well as the charter school housed in the adjacent historic building. She described the site context, including the nearby Anacostia Metro station and the adjacent historic commercial area along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. The school fronts on Shannon Place, a residential cul-de-sac, and the site for the gymnasium extends to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. She explained that the charter school is a high school; since Savoy is an elementary school, the student populations will be kept separate. She explained that the gymnasium would be used by the two schools and also by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. The Savoy School's existing multi-purpose room wing at the gymnasium location would be demolished and a new multi-purpose room would be constructed along Shannon Place. The remainder of the block includes several other small buildings fronting the avenue, including a power substation and small commercial buildings; redevelopment of those sites would likely occur. An alley would be retained that serves these buildings and the Savoy School.
Ms. Robinson explained that the new gymnasium wing would include multi-use classrooms with windows facing the avenue and a second floor for speculative office space, possibly for leasing to an unrelated tenant. The street frontage would therefore be generally consistent with the commercial district's pattern of two- and three-story buildings with ground-level shopfronts while using a more modern design vocabulary. A public entrance to this wing would face the sidewalk; a separate entrance facing a parking courtyard would allow charter school students to reach the gymnasium, separated from the public sidewalk by a fence; and Savoy School students would reach the gymnasium through an interior lobby. Underneath the gymnasium wing will be a 40-space parking garage for Savoy School teachers with access through the charter school's parking courtyard.
Ms. Robinson explained the proposed changes to the main building of the Savoy School. The classroom spaces would be reorganized to provide larger spaces. The main entrance area would be redesigned to give it prominence with a canopy extending to the entrance for the new multipurpose room. All of the school's storefront window system would be replaced with laminated glass; color highlights and changes of plane would be introduced to add interest. Landscaping would be limited due to the site constraints: street trees would be retained and new outdoor play areas would be added. Ms. Robinson showed material samples related to the context of the various edges of the site. She noted that the design team is working with the D.C. Public Schools to achieve LEED certification for this project.
Mr. Belle asked about a dark fencing line along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue shown in the renderings. Ms. Robinson explained that this would be a four-foot-tall vinyl mesh fence along the charter school's property line to prevent access to that property on weekends.
Ms. Nelson commented that the design is well developed and would be a valuable addition to the community; however, the playground areas and fencing seem less well developed and could be studied further. Mr. Powell concurred in supporting the project and encouraged the redevelopment of the commercial buildings adjacent to the site.
The Commission members discussed the tinted glass proposed for the school's facades. Ms. Robinson showed samples of the green and blue tinting and explained that a yellow tinting would also be used, as indicated on the elevation drawings. Mr. Belle suggested that the yellow color should be omitted; Ms. Robinson agreed to consider this simplification and rely on the other colors and materials of the facades.
Ms. Nelson asked about the penthouse screening for the mechanical equipment; Ms. Robinson explained that this would be a gray corrugated metal screen and would likely contain louvers.
Mr. Rybczynski commented on the advanced stage of design and suggested that the final approval be delegated to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept with the final design review delegated to the staff.
At this point Mr. Powell departed the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke noted that the recommendations for the remaining agenda items would be confirmed by a vote of the full Commission at its next meeting in March.
H. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
1. CFA 15/FEB/07-10 Lamond Recreation Center, 20 Tuckerman Street, N.E. Exterior mosaic mural by artist Byron Peck. Concept. Ms. Barsoum introduced Rachel Dickerson of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to explain the proposal for artwork at the new Lamond Recreation Center. Ms. Dickerson explained that the project is being coordinated with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. The selected artist, Byron Peck, has proposed a mural on the masonry wall above the building's main entrance.
Mr. Peck said that he would explain his concept for this project and show examples of other murals and mosaics that he has done. He explained that mosaics have high durability and a lot of color in the glass tiles and other materials. He said that the Department of Parks and Recreation had requested a design that showed the participation of young children, youths, and the elderly in recreational activities. The mosaic structure would be hung slightly in front of the building surface on a grid of aluminum struts, similar to a work he has done at Metro Center. The inch-square tiles would be applied to a backing board; a palette of about 200-250 tile colors would be available. An additional layer above this panel would provide outlines for the mosaic. The overall weight would be about 600 pounds.
Mr. Peck emphasized the advantages of placing the mural outdoors. He described the solar orientation which would help to emphasize the tile colors. He noted that the mural would be visible from Kansas Avenue located a block away and could be enjoyed by everyone in the neighborhood. The recreational activities depicted would include people enjoying nearby parks as well as the facilities within Lamond Recreation Center. The sculptural shape of the mural would animate the building and the setting.
Ms. Nelson asked about lighting; Mr. Peck said this would be desirable but none is currently planned. Ms. Dickerson offered to suggest lighting to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Ms. Nelson commented that the subject matter was too extensive and that it is difficult to convey so many ideas in one mural of modest size. She suggested that the extent of the subject matter should be considered more carefully before the artist is given direction, and she suggested that the Commission be involved earlier in the process.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the mural's sculptural form and commented that the shape, rather than the details of the subject matter, would be most legible when the project is perceived from a distance. Mr. Rybczynski said that this is a problem with the design; he compared it to other elevated murals that are successful due to their large scale and simple design. Mr. Peck said that the client had requested that the design be more complex than he would have suggested.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the existing building is attractive and doesn't need to be "deconstructed" by this complex mural; he compared it to the usual placement of murals to improve the appearance of decaying buildings. Mr. Luebke concurred that the building is well designed and asked for clarification of how the location was chosen and whether the architect was involved. Ms. Dickerson said that the Department of Parks and Recreation architects were on the panel that selected this proposal, and they considered it an enhancement to the building and the neighborhood. She and Mr. Peck clarified that the location at the corner of the building was part of the artist's proposal that was endorsed by the selection panel. Mr. Peck explained that the other potential location was inside the gymnasium, a very large room which he thought would not be appropriate for the modest scale of his artwork. He concluded that the outdoor location would better engage the community and would relate the building to its larger context.
Ms. Nelson asked about the durability of the project materials; Mr. Peck confirmed that weatherproofing had been taken into consideration and there should not be any problem of delamination. Ms. Nelson commented that the combination of materials seems quite interesting and the strong texture is not fully conveyed by the renderings.
Mr. Rybczynski emphasized his concern that the D.C. agencies should be more respectful of architecture, including new architecture, and should not place impossibly complex demands on artists. Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission convey its comments but abstain from taking action on the project. Mr. Luebke requested that the Commission take some sort of action which could include advice about the proposed artwork or about the process. Ms. Nelson said her concern was more with the process of communicating the design parameters to the artists; she expressed support for public art that is sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities but said the process needs improvement. Ms. Dickerson said that she had recently increased the amount of communication with the Commission staff to address this concern, but the design of this project has already been underway for a year.
Ms. Nelson offered a motion to approve the concept; there was no second. She reiterated her suggestion that the Commission not take a formal action, particularly since there was not a quorum. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission members to further elaborate on their guidance for the project. Mr. Rybczynski said the design should be more sympathetic to its location, such as by simplifying the subject matter or the relation of the artwork to the building; he acknowledged that changes might be difficult at this stage. Mr. Peck responded that the renderings do not fully convey the relationship of the mural's angles to the building and that the mural would add distinction to the building's masonry blocks. Ms. Nelson suggested that the mural could relate to the colored band on the building facade rather than create a new triangular geometry.
Mr. Belle questioned why the art is placed at this corner of the building; he commented that Mr. Peck's explanation of the mural's role in animating the shape of this corner was not part of the initial presentation, suggesting a lack of integration between the art and architecture. Mr. Peck explained that the selected facade is most visible from nearby roads and the playing field that is now under construction. He said that the subject of the mural would relate to the adjacent outdoor recreation. Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the artwork's relation to the building entrance. Mr. Peck emphasized the location's visibility from streets; Mr. Luebke said that the artwork would not relate to the building entrance.
Mr. Luebke summarized that the Commission members do not object to the technical execution of the mural but to its subject matter, location, and relationship to the architecture of the building.
2. CFA 15/FEB/07-11 Pennsylvania and Fairlawn Avenues, S.E., near the entrance to Anacostia Park. Kiosk of stained glass featuring the species of Anacostia Park by artist Hazel Rebold. Concept. Ms. Dickerson continued by introducing the next project from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a stained glass proposal along Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. near the Sousa Bridge. She explained that the project is being developed in partnership with the D.C. Department of Transportation and is located on public space. She introduced artist Hazel Rebold to present the proposal.
Ms. Rebold showed examples of her previous work, including a piece at the Metro Center station. Other works have been created for a law firm, an elementary-school library, a senior citizens center, and a private home. She explained that some of her works include scientific information and lettering. She showed how the appearance of stained glass changes between daylight and night lighting.
Ms. Rebold described the site near the Sousa Bridge, at a transition area between Anacostia Park and the busy Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. She described her intention to create an intimate place for people to pause and "become acquainted with some of the plants and animals of the Anacostia Park area," as well as to create a good work of art. The project would consist of an aluminum structure containing six stained-glass panels forming a landscape scene. The installation would be oriented to have viewers facing southward in order to take advantage of sunlight shining through the glass. The structure would include an overhanging roof to shade the viewing area and limit reflected light. She commented that the appearance would vary with changing light conditions from weather and the time of day and year.
Ms. Rebold explained that the glass panels would depict approximately twenty species of plants and animals; most would have identification numbers that would be keyed to identifying text in the adjacent panels. She said that a one-day survey of a portion of the park by a team of scientists in 1996 resulted in a list of nearly 1,000 species, and more have since been identified. She suggested that viewers would discover additional unlabelled depictions of plants and animals with each viewing.
Ms. Rebold described the frame's construction using three-inch-square aluminum tubing of quarter-inch thickness with powder-coat finish in a dark bronze color. The glass panels would be sandwiched between layers of high-strength Lexan for protection. The lower portion of the kiosk would have sheet-metal infill panels. Ms. Dickerson noted that the slab and walkways for the project would be constructed by the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Ms. Nelson asked if the project would primarily be seen by pedestrians or motorists; Ms. Rebold said that she had observed many bicyclists near the site. Ms. Dickerson said there are many pedestrians in the area and suggested that the project would help people find the nearby entrance to Anacostia Park.
Ms. Nelson commented on the difficulty of the site and asked who had designed the kiosk. Ms. Rebold explained that the kiosk design was part of her proposal for the artwork. Ms. Nelson suggested a different shape for the kiosk, such as a folding screen or arc, to avoid the undesirable resemblance to a bus shelter. Ms. Dickerson said that an architect would soon be added to the project team and offered to convey this suggestion. Ms. Rebold emphasized the need for unbalanced directional light when viewing stained glass and questioned whether a more complex kiosk shape would be appropriate for displaying this art. Mr. Belle suggested that less heavy detailing of the kiosk would reduce the resemblance to a bus shelter without having to revise the overall configuration. Ms. Rebold agreed to consider this provided that the kiosk would be structurally secure. Mr. Belle suggested that an architect be engaged for the kiosk design.
Mr. Belle asked if viewers approach from a predominant direction. Ms. Dickerson said this had not been closely studied but she had observed most pedestrians coming from the Sousa Bridge, corresponding to the orientation of the kiosk. Mr. Belle questioned whether the pedestrian patterns are reversed at other times of day and emphasized the importance of understanding the prevailing pedestrian patterns.
Ms. Nelson suggested that landscaping would help the design to soften the desolate site and the view toward a nearby gas station. Ms. Rebold suggested locating evergreen trees behind the viewers.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how the site was selected. Ms. Dickerson explained that the site was offered by the D.C. Department of Transportation which considered it to be an opportunity. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the artist or others could select a more appropriate site. Ms. Dickerson said that another site was considered nearby but it was not feasible because people couldn't easily stop there.
Mr. Rybczynski questioned the use of stained glass in this setting, commenting that stained glass is usually used as part of a building, whether religious or domestic, rather than as a central feature. He added that the kiosk design is more troubling due to its heavy appearance that overpowers the stained glass. He suggested a much more delicate kiosk design that would be more sympathetic to the art. Mr. Belle concurred and asked if Ms. Rebold had previously done an outdoor stained-glass piece; Ms. Rebold replied that all her glass projects have been indoors. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the stained-glass panels, while beautiful, might be more appropriate as part of a park building rather than as free-standing sculptural features. Mr. Luebke asked Ms. Dickerson if her agency would be able to consider this suggestion; Ms. Dickerson offered to discuss it with the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Mr. Rybczynski commented further that the site seems more appropriate for a sculpture that could be appreciated from a passing car rather than a delicate design that requires close-up viewing; he questioned why the Department of Transportation would be involved in the project. Ms. Dickerson explained that they had provided the site but had not guided the program or intended audience. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation would be a more appropriate agency to form a partnership for this project; the kiosk could then be designed to serve additional park-related purposes. He commented further that a kiosk form is ordinarily used for advertising or sales and might not be an appropriate form for displaying art. However, he suggested at this stage that the refinement of the kiosk design would be the best way to improve the project.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept with the recommendation to refine the kiosk design or reconsider an alternative setting for the stained glass with an appropriate delicacy. Ms. Nelson noted that the Commission would have the opportunity to see the project again.
I. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead-Luce Act
S.L. 07-033, 1510 H Street, N.W. New front facade and alterations to side and rear facades. Concept. (Previous: S.L. 02-093.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project to renovate and re-clad an office building containing the headquarters of United Press International. He introduced the architect, Eric Colbert of Eric Colbert and Associates.
Mr. Colbert explained that the relatively small 1960s mid-block office building is close to the White House and Lafayette Square; the building's rear windows have a notable view through the block toward the monumental core, while the long sides of the building include a party wall and a narrow alley exposure. He noted that the existing H Street facade is set back five feet from the property line, an unusual situation for downtown commercial buildings, to align with the upper facade of the adjacent neo-classical bank building to the east. Across the alley to the west, the face of a federal court building comes directly to the property line. The proposed new street facade for the building at 1510 H Street would therefore involve a combination of planes and angles to relate to both of these neighboring buildings. Alterations to the side and rear facade would be minimal, with additional vertical emphasis in the masonry walls and a new rear bay that would be aligned with the southward views. Mr. Colbert explained that the two lower levels would be converted into a parking garage served by a car elevator that would open onto the rear alley.
Mr. Belle asked about the balconies shown on the street facade. Mr. Colbert acknowledged that these are unusual for an office building but would provide a "hinge" element between the two major portions of the facade. He clarified that one plane of the facade is at a slight angle to the property line to create a sculptural effect along the street. He confirmed that these facade features were not generated by mechanical or structural needs but would provide some interesting office views along H Street to relieve the limited exposure of the building. He described his intention to create a transparent facade, noting that the new projections would still be behind the wall plane of the adjacent court building that visually dominates the block.
Ms. Nelson expressed concern about the form of the balconies. Mr. Rybczynski agreed, saying that they would be more appropriate for a hotel or apartments than for an office building; he also commented that the angled facade relates poorly to the street. He suggested that the street facade be revised to relate directly to the line of the street in keeping with other buildings in the area. He said that the modest amount of street frontage—just over 50 feet—could not support so many design gestures; a single gesture and elegant proportions would result in a good urban building.
Mr. Belle concurred and suggested that a simpler, stronger design would be better as well as more cost-effective. He suggested that some of the setbacks and angles, but perhaps not the balconies and overall complexity, would be desirable features.
The Commission members discussed whether to approve the concept and see modifications with the final submission but concluded that a revised concept submission would be preferable. Mr. Belle emphasized that his comments were intended to support the general intention of the design. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Lindstrom suggested that the applicant ask the Commission to hold the project pending a revised submission, so no formal Commission action would be required at this point; the Commission would send a letter summarizing the comments. The Commission members and Mr. Colbert agreed to this arrangement.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: March 29, 2007