Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 January 2007
The meeting was convened in Room 318 at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:16 a.m.; the usual meeting room in the adjacent Commission of Fine Arts offices was unavailable due to renovation work in progress.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
Mr. Luebke reported that the renovation of the Commission's meeting room would likely be completed by the February meeting date. He extended thanks to the National Building Museum for providing another meeting room for the day.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 November meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the November meeting were circulated to the members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: February 15, March 15, and April 19. There were no objections.
Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's site visits earlier in the morning and suggested that the Commission discuss them with the corresponding agenda items for the projects; Mr. Powell concurred. (See items II.B. and II.C.2.)
C. Confirmation of the Approval of the December 2006 Submissions Under the Old Georgetown Act and Shipstead-Luce Act. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote in public session to confirm the actions that were circulated and endorsed in December, when no Commission meeting was held. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the December submissions.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three new 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 Mr. Rybczynski, 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- 016, involving proposed awnings for an outdoor cafe at 500 H Street, N.W.; the revised text strengthens the wording of the negative recommendation and includes a suggestion for umbrellas rather than a fixed awning. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. Several newly submitted projects were found not to be visible from public thoroughfares so they are included in the appendix with no action required. Supplemental drawings were anticipated for three projects to demonstrate conformance with the Old Georgetown Board's recommendations; Mr. Martínez requested that staff be authorized to finalize these favorable recommendations upon receipt of this information. With this understanding, the Commission approved the revised appendix upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle.
Mr. Luebke offered congratulations to Mr. Rybczynski on receiving the National Building Museum's Vincent Scully Prize at a ceremony the previous evening, commenting on the successful event that included a lecture presented by Mr. Rybczynski.
B. Department of Defense
CFA 18/JAN/07-1, The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. The Pentagon Memorial for the Victims of September 11th, 2001. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/NOV/06-2.) Mr. Simon introduced the project, explaining that the discussion was a continuation from the November meeting when the Commission decided not to take action until the on-site prototype became available for inspection. After this morning's site visit, the Commission could continue its review of the proposed final design. The project team had also prepared supplemental information in response to the Commission's previous discussion. He introduced Jean Barnak, the memorial's project manager from the Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program.
Mr. Powell expressed his appreciation for the project team's efforts in preparing the prototype. Ms. Barnak said the presentation would include new information learned from creating the prototype and additional lighting information that the Commission had requested. She introduced Chris Hartzler of Centex Construction Company to discuss the prototype; Mr. Hartzler showed photos of the construction process, including the crating and leveling of the components. The prototype allowed for testing of the tolerances and mechanics of the design, resulting in refinements to the design of the age lines and adjacent pavers to assure a straight alignment. He emphasized the improved connections and speed of assembly; Mr. Powell noted the Commission's interest in the final appearance.
The presentation continued with Keith Kaseman of Kaseman Beckman Amsterdam Studio, the designer of the memorial. Mr. Kaseman said that much was learned from creating the prototype, extending to lessons from this morning's visit by the Commission members; as a result, the design team would continue studying the design of the water filtration and circulation systems. The proportion of the weir could be revised to allow for improved maintenance of the water basins. He showed photos of the materials under different weather conditions, including the darker color of the pavers when wet. In response to the Commission's concern about the legibility of the lettering on the benches, the project team would explore different lettering depths and finishes. He then introduced Craig Atkins of Lee and Associates to discuss the project lighting.
Mr. Atkins reminded the Commission that the lighting is being designed in collaboration with a lighting research center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. To the extent possible, the lighting of each bench unit would provide the memorial's illumination. Supplemental lighting would be provided for safety and comfort. The construction of the prototype allowed measurement of lighting levels that were consistent with those predicted in the design studies. In the gateway area, where there are no memorial benches, lighting would be provided through more conventional fixtures. Lights in the age wall would illuminate perimeter paths; lights in trees would illuminate the paved paths that cross the site, emphasizing these routes wich are handicapped-accessible. He noted that the pool of water would be illuminated but would not provide a direct view of the light fixture; the light would reflect off the concrete and metal surfaces.
Ms. Balmori asked who would be responsible for maintaining the memorial. Ms. Barnak said that the Pentagon's maintenance office would handle maintenance since the memorial is on the Pentagon grounds. Ms. Balmori said that news reports had stated that the National Park Service would maintain the memorial. Ms. Barnak clarified that the project team has been coordinating closely with the National Park Service to understand the maintenance needs of memorials, but the National Park Service would not actually perform the future maintenance work.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the proposed epoxy polymer concrete would change color after prolonged exposure to sunlight. Mr. Kaseman responded that the material has been tested rigorously by the Army Research Lab and subjected to accelerated sunlight degradation testing at an Arizona facility. The conclusion is that neither the color nor performance of the material will degrade; maintenance should include light sanding and reapplication of the surface protective coating at approximately six- to ten-year intervals.
Ms. Nelson questioned the white color of the basins beneath the benches; she suggested a darker color to reduce the stark contrast with the benches. Mr. Kaseman agreed and said that a light gray tone was being considered to more closely match the stainless steel benches, contributing to a unified appearance for the overall memorial unit. He explained that a dark gray would be too dark to match the color of the benches; the color would be refined further based on field testing with daylight and the night illumination of the water. Mr. Kaseman also noted that the memorial's lighting would be supplemented by the ambient light from the nearby freeway, parking lot, and the Pentagon building.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the Commission's previous recommendations that the design be simplified, primarily for aesthetic reasons aside from any functional concerns. She commented that each memorial unit is itself complex and that the combination of 184 of them across the site would raise further aesthetic and operational concerns. She described the difficulty of keeping so many fountains operational and the tendency to give up on operating them during the winter. Mr. Kaseman responded that the memorial unit has a range of meanings and functions, identifying each victim and their presence on the plane or in the building, as well as providing seating for visitors. The basin and lighting beneath the benches would make each memorial unit a special place. He expressed confidence that the technical issues for the fountains have been solved and acknowledged that the water might be shut off in extreme cold but not during normal winter conditions. Ms. Balmori reiterated that the water adds great complexity to the design with little visual benefit.
Mr. Belle commented that this design is fundamentally dependent on an unusually high level of maintenance and the use of sophisticated materials and technologies. He contrasted the precise construction required for the memorial units with the traditional landscape materials of pavers, gravel, and trees; he questioned whether these two design approaches could be combined successfully. He questioned whether visitors would appreciate some of the subtler design gestures and suggested that the maintenance of these features would be abandoned over time. Mr. Kaseman responded that most of the memorial is designed with typical landscape features with typical maintenance requirements. He acknowledged that the complex design details would be important; he explained that there were relatively few such details and these are repeated across the site. Since the site is quite flat, some of the subtle design gesturesósuch as the age lines crossing the site and intersecting the perimeter benchesówould be legible to visitors. Some details had been designed with an emphasis on simplicity, such as trees emerging directly from the gravel without using tree grates. He said that the overall effect of the memorial was intentionally unconventional because it commemorates a day that was like no other. He also emphasized the design intent to encourage visitors to form their own interpretation rather than promote a particular perception; he suggested that this concept would remain valid in the long-term future.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the prototype construction raised different issues than those that emerge from the drawings. He acknowledged Mr. Belle's comments and suggested that one major issue is tolerancesóthe big tolerances associated with the landscape design and the fine tolerances associated with the memorial units. The problem arises where these tolerances meet, as illustrated during the site visit by showing the undesirable effect of gravel falling into the basin. He acknowledged that this overall conceptual concern could not be addressed at this late stage of the memorial's design. Mr. Kaseman responded that the design addresses these varying tolerances; for instance, special foundations would be used for those portions of the memorial that have more precise design requirements.
Mr. Rybczynski discussed the powerful effect of seeing the water's presence in the prototype, an effect that was not readily apparent from the drawings or descriptions of the design. The motion of the water is particularly captivating but its symbolism is unclear. There is a contrast between the moving water and static bench; the lighting gives further emphasis to the water, making the bench seem unnecessary. He supported the suggestion to darken the color of the water basin. Mr. Kaseman responded that the mysterious effect of the water would be a desirable result, contributing to the contemplative nature of the memorial. The presence of the water at each bench would help to tie together the entire site and provide a unifying experience for visitors.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the concrete surface of the bench did not appear to be related to the gravel on the ground plane, undermining the design intent of continuity between these surfaces. He supported the suggestion from the site visit that the polymer-gravel surface be omitted and the entire bench be constructed of stainless steel. He acknowledged that a more direct solution, such as embedding gravel within the surface of the concrete, might not be desirable. Mr. Kaseman acknowledged that the concrete and gravel have differing textures, which was expected; the design details were intended to suggest the continuity between these surfaces, and some of the details would be refined as a result of seeing the prototype. He emphasized that the relationship would be more legible in the context of the overall memorial including the age lines extending across the site.
Ms. Nelson commented on the difficulty of the site due to the adjacent highway, parking lot, truck inspection area, and the large Pentagon building. She acknowledged that significant perimeter walls are included in the design but suggested further design solutions to screen the site from some of the surrounding distractions; she also asked about the future plans for the truck inspection area. Ms. Barnak explained that the current tent is temporary and would be replaced by a permanent facility that has not yet been designed; initial studies include berming to screen this facility. The parking area adjacent to the memorial entrance will be slightly reconfigured to move the circulation road further away from the memorial, providing room for a pedestrian plaza. These improvements are included in the master plan for the Pentagon, but funding and schedule have not been determined.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's discussion, including the many concerns that extend beyond aesthetics to the technical and maintenance issues of the memorial. He noted the Commission's consensus to darken the water basins and suggested that the Commission's comments be conveyed in a letter without a formal vote on the final design. He asked when the memorial is scheduled for completion; Ms. Barnak said it will open in September 2008.
C. National Park Service
1. CFA 18/JAN/07-2, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W., at the Tidal Basin. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/OCT/06-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the project, explaining that the submission addresses the transition areas between the inscription walls and the two stones of the "Mountain of Despair." In October 2006, the Commission had reviewed a proposal for water features at these locations and urged further study, including consideration of a design without water. He introduced John Parsons of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. Parsons explained the Park Service's conclusion that the memorial design should include water because of its symbolic relationship to Dr. King's teachings, noting that the original design had included water flowing over the inscription walls. Now that the inscription walls had been simplified, the design team was focusing on placing water at the junction of these walls with the Mountain of Despair; these transition areas would be critical points in the design. He acknowledged the Commission's past concern that the adjacent Tidal Basin already provides a dominant water feature but concluded that it would still be beneficial to include water within the memorial, particularly moving water to generate sound. He introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., executive architect of the sponsoring foundation, to explain the revised concept for a water feature, noting that this revision was already approved by the Secretary of the Interior and the National Capital Planning Commission in accordance with the Commemorative Works Act.
Dr. Jackson explained that the design team considered the Commission's advice from October to eliminate the water and create a small separation between the inscription walls and the Mountain of Despair. He showed the resulting design studies, including various configurations of a berm that would accommodate the grade change at the memorial's entrance. He said that one arrangement had the effect of implying additional entrances to the memorial, resulting in potential confusion for visitors; other berm configurations did not seem advantageous. The design team therefore chose to pursue a refinement to the water features that were presented in October, with narrow waterfalls at each transition area. Dr. Jackson noted that the submission materials include a chronology of the various designs that have been considered for these areas, partly in response to the Commission's past recommendations.
Mr. Belle suggested that the water should be a single feature or come from a single source, rather than the two independent waterfalls that were shown. Dr. Jackson explained that the water is used partly for its symbolic relation to Dr. King's work, which might suggest a single water feature; and partly as a design solution for the two transition areas, which requires two separate features. Mr. Rybczynski expressed concern that having two water features would reduce their symbolic value and make them merely decorative. He contrasted this with the two stones of the Mountain of Despair, which he said are appropriate because they both relate clearly to the third stone that is pulled forward. He concurred with the project team's decision to include water for its symbolic value but suggested that the water feature be designed as a unified special feature rather than treated as an aesthetic solution to a pair of difficult transition areas.
Mr. Rybczynski also questioned the technical operation of the proposed waterfalls, since the channel gets narrower toward the bottom. Dr. Jackson explained that the water would drain through a slot into an underground basin that would be large enough to accommodate the water flow. Mr. Powell asked how the water movement would relate to the tapering profile of the Mountain of Despair; Dr. Jackson explained that a channel would be carved into these stones to provide a straight downward path for the water. Mr. Powell commented that a similar water cascade at the National Gallery of Art has problems of maintenance and staining of the stone due to splashing.
Ms. Nelson asked about the appearance when the water is turned off. Dr. Jackson said that the stone behind the water would match the stone of the inscription walls but with a varying surface texture that would create a darker appearance and emphasize a visual distinction between the walls and the Mountain of Despair.
Mr. Rybczynski reiterated his support for the powerful concept of the Mountain of Despair and the third stone sliced out and moved forward; he asked if the proposed water channels cutting into the Mountain of Despair stones would weaken this concept. Dr. Jackson said that some articulation of the stones would be necessary anyway at these transition areas, and the visual effect could be addressed through the detailing and depth of the channel. Ms. Balmori commented that any intrusion into these stones at the transition areas would weaken the very strong concept of the Mountain of Despair, giving the impression that it is just an embellished extension of the inscription walls. Following the earlier suggestions of other Commission members, she recommended that the water be placed into a single iconic central feature, with no water feature or wall touching the Mountain of Despair; Mr. Belle concurred.
Mr. Parsons acknowledged the Commission's advice concerning water and asked for comments on the proposed landscaping and stone configuration at the transition areas. Mr. Rybczynski said he accepted that water should be an integral element of the memorial. He said that the relationship of the stone to the ground appeared appropriate and that he was satisfied with the proposed connection of the inscription walls to the Mountain of Despair but that the issue of how the water is treated is not resolved. He described the design as implying the presence of an ancient rock with a later wall that runs into it. Ms. Balmori expressed a preference for a complete separation, even if quite narrow, between the inscription walls and the Mountain of Despair. She supported the version shown in sketches dated 2 October 2006, except for the water features that appeared in the view looking northwest from the memorial plaza; Mr. Powell concurred. Dr. Jackson said that the visual separation of that scheme worked well on the side away from the plaza but would require further study on the side facing the plaza. Mr. Belle suggested that the solution might be to use the wall configuration as proposed for the waterfall, but without the water; Dr. Jackson agreed to study this further.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission allow the project to move forward; he said that he did not find the dual water features to be problematic but would support some additional use of water as an accent in the memorial. Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's recommendation for further study of the placement of water and the treatment of the transition areas; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson concurred. Several Commission members commented that the design was nearing a successful resolution and the remaining problems appeared solvable.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle emphasized that the Commission was endorsing the concept of using water in the memorial. Mr. Belle clarified his view that the water should come from a single source. Dr. Jackson responded that the memorial's symmetry around the entry axis suggests that two water features could be appropriate and would provide a desirable framing around the entry. He agreed to study a single water feature at another location, such as in the memorial plaza, but questioned whether this would be as successful in relating to all of the memorial's major features. He reiterated his preference for cascading water to mark the transition between the Mountain of Despair and the inscription walls. Ms. Balmori reiterated the concern that it is the intrusion into the Mountain of Despair stones, in addition to the water itself, that is problematic. She emphasized the tradition of mountains as sacred symbols and recommended against any design changes that would reduce the power of this form as expressed in the original design. Mr. Rybczynski commented that he thought it was fine that some features touch the Mountain of Despair, such as grass and earth; he expressed support for the proposed direct contact of the stones with the ground plane without placing the stones on a pedestal. He suggested that the proposed waterfalls might undermine this simplicity by framing the Mountain of Despair and treating it as a special object rather than as an ancient feature.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission affirmed the use of water as an important symbolic element in the memorial, approved the general concept of including water at the transition areas or elsewhere, and encouraged the project team to continue refining the design in response to the Commission's comments. Mr. Powell particularly emphasized the Commission's concern that the symbolism of the water be clarified and strengthened so that the water would not become merely a decorative feature or a solution to a minor design problem.
2. CFA 18/JAN/07-3, John Marshall Place Park. Pennsylvania Avenue to C Street at 4th Street, N.W. Rehabilitation and new design. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/85-4.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project, noting that the Commission had visited the existing park earlier in the morning. He explained that the Commission approved the existing design in 1981; the original landscape architect, Carol Johnson of Carol R. Johnson and Associates, is also designing the rehabilitation. He introduced John Parsons of the National Park Service to summarize the proposal.
Mr. Parsons said that the project results from a partnership between the National Park Service and the John Marshall Foundation, based in Richmond where Marshall had lived. The foundation sought further recognition of Marshall in Washington with a place where people could learn more about him. Mr. Parsons explained that the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation created the park in the early 1980s after closing a block of 4th Street, N.W. The original park, as designed by Ms. Johnson, did not have a memorial purpose; the statue of Marshall, a copy of the original at the Supreme Court, was placed in the park after the initial construction. The National Park Service requested that Ms. Johnson be involved in the rehabilitation of the park and the adaptation of its design to further commemorate Marshall.
Mr. Parsons introduced Harry Carrico, the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia and president of the John Marshall Park Foundation. Mr. Carrico gave a presentation on Marshall's life and jurisprudence, emphasizing his influential tenure as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835. He summarized Marshall's earlier accomplishments as a self-taught lawyer, soldier in the Continental Army, supporter of a strong central government, member of the U.S. Congress, and biographer of George Washington. Mr. Carrico explained that the 200th anniversary of Marshall's birth was commemorated actively in 1955, but the recent 250th anniversary was much less noted. The proposed improvements to the park would reverse this trend by helping to perpetuate his memory.
Ms. Johnson then presented the proposed design. She described several features of the original design that would be retained: the configuration of the sloped site as three flat terraces; the open paved area along Pennsylvania Avenue to provide a gathering place and accommodate spectators for the inaugural parades; a large lawn at the middle level; walkways along the east and west edges of the park providing connections with the nearby Metro station; and small fountains at the northern corners that are a popular amenity and mark the site's history as a source for public water. She introduced Kyle Zick from her firm's staff to present the details of the proposed changes.
Mr. Zick discussed the relation of the site to Marshall: while serving on the Supreme Court, Marshall and other justices lived in a boardinghouse on this block; in modern times, several courthouses are in the immediate vicinity. The site is several blocks from the present-day Supreme Court building and the U.S. Capitol, where the Supreme Court met in Marshall's time. He showed photos of the existing site conditions, with some materials showing signs of wear and some plantings that have not been successful. He explained that these conditions could be improved based on further knowledge from recent decades about urban planting conditions.
Mr. Zick showed the proposal to relocate the Marshall statue from the northern end of the site to the southern edge of the central lawn. The new location would place the statue closer to Pennsylvania Avenue, with added prominence provided by its elevation several feet above the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk, the six-foot-high base, and the proposed stairs adjacent to the statue. The existing modern base would be replaced with a restored version of the statue's historic base, currently in storage at the Supreme Court, that includes several relief panels. Mr. Zick explained that the sculptor of the original statue and reliefs was William Wetmore Story, son of an associate justice who served on the Supreme Court with Marshall. The statue would continue to be oriented to face southward toward Pennsylvania avenue.
Mr. Zick explained that the proposed elm trees in the plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue would provide shade and reinforce the 4th Street axis leading north to the Old City Hall. The trees would be spaced 70 feet apart across the axis, slightly narrower than the current 80-foot spacing but wider than the 45-foot distance between trees within the landscaped area immediately north of the park between C and D Streets. The plaza paving would follow a diamond pattern based on the alignment of Pennsylvania Avenue; an area of orthogonal paving would mark the central axis and draw visitors to the stairs leading to Marshall's statue.
Mr. Zick described the central area of the park: a large elliptical lawn surrounded by a paved path, a seating wall, and four display areas. The displays would include cast-glass walls inscribed with text from Marshall's Supreme Court decisions. Mr. Zick commented that the memorial's emphasis on words is appropriate to honor Marshall's contribution to the nation as the Chief Justice. Behind each glass wall would be an "interpretive room," with additional text panels providing more information on Marshall. The glass walls, with their brief text, would serve as a transition between the simple lawn area and the more complex information displayed in the interpretive rooms. Mr. Zick suggested that the rooms could be used as gathering areas for school groups; landscaping would provide a backdrop to these spaces.
Immediately north of the lawn, near the stairs leading up to the C Street plaza, would be a three-sided "Constitutional pillar" symbolizing the three branches of government. The pillar would commemorate Marshall's judicial decisions that established the importance of the Constitution and the relationship of the three branches; each side of the pillar would contain a panel describing one of the branches. A granite sculpture on top of the pillar would depict an eagle, symbolizing the American people, and scrolled paper representing the Constitution.
Mr. Zick described the C Street plaza, a less formal area than the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza. It would provide a gathering area and draw people into the park, while retaining the fountains at each side.
Mr. Zick showed the lighting concept for the park, with an emphasis on safety for people walking to the Metro station after dark. The glass walls would be internally lit, and the central area of the park would become a night-time attraction for tourists. The plaza lighting would connect the glass walls into a continuous ellipse of light that would emphasize the shape of the central lawn. He showed additional sections and elevations to illustrate the concept for the park, along with more detailed depictions of the interpretive rooms. He noted that the submission booklets included extensive examples of the proposed interpretive text.
Mr. Belle expressed general support for the proposed relocation of the statue. However, he commented that the steps and retaining walls around the statue would create an unnecessarily narrow route for pedestrians; he suggested a broader entrance into the central portion of the park.
Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson asked for further clarification of the glass panels and associated walls; Mr. Zick confirmed that the glass walls would be transparent with simple text, and the interpretive walls with lengthy text would be porcelain enamel on a granite base. Mr. Belle said that the interpretive elements seemed to intrude on the otherwise well-mannered landscape design. He questioned the need for the glass walls since they wouldn't convey a significant amount of information. Mr. Zick said that the glass walls provide a framework for summarizing Marshall's significance. Ms. Nelson suggested that these quotations could be set into the paving instead; Mr. Zick responded that vertical elements were desired to define the elliptical space and relate the interpretive rooms to the elliptical form of the lawn.
Mr. Rybczynski said he admires the original park design and encouraged the intention to rehabilitate it; he supported the proposal to retain some elements of the original design and to restore the statue. He agreed with the effort to site the statue more prominently but questioned the proposed location because the statue would have its back toward the elliptical lawn, which is the heart of the park; he acknowledged that these goals would have to be balanced.
Concerning the proposed interpretive panels, Mr. Rybczynski said that he opposes treating the park as a pedagogical place and said that these elements inappropriately turn the park into an outdoor museum. He suggested that this information should be transmitted through books rather than in a public space. He suggested that the interpretation be limited to a few artistic elements such as the statue, including the reliefs that would be added to the base, and the Constitutional pillar; he recommended that an artist be engaged to design the pillar. He commented on the universal appeal of the statue, regardless of the viewer's knowledge of Marshall, and expressed opposition to the intention of providing extensive interpretation of Marshall's life.
Ms. Balmori concurred with Mr. Belle and Mr. Rybczynski, including the concern about the siting of the statue. She also criticized the glass walls, commenting that they needlessly interrupt the sense of expansive public space. She recommended that the park accommodate outdoor activities such as walking and sitting rather than encourage visitors to examine text displays. She also commented that the glass walls serve to isolate the interpretive rooms which could make these areas unsafe for visitors.
Mr. Belle commented that glass is an unusual material to use for transmitting information in a landscape setting. He also suggested that the landscape north of the park, between C and D Streets, needs to be improved; he acknowledged that this was beyond the scope of the current project but observed that this area and the John Marshall Place Park are perceived as a continuous space.
Ms. Nelson concurred with the criticism of extensive outdoor text. She observed that the Washington Monument is very powerful without using any text. She recommended that the park include only a few quotations, perhaps four, that could encourage interested visitors to read a book about Marshall. Mr. Zick responded that the judicial branch in general, and Marshall in particular, are not well known to the public; the park design is therefore intended to provide a resource for information.
Mr. Parsons added that the National Park Service is working with staff of the nearby Newseum, now under construction, about using the park for school groups visiting the museum, perhaps combining their lunch break with an educational experience. He therefore supported the inclusion of some substantial text within the park in addition to the symbolic elements such as the statue. Several Commission members responded that this would be acceptable if the text could be conveyed in a manner more appropriate to the park setting, such as lettering set into the pavement. Mr. Powell suggested that more detailed information could be provided at the Newseum in an appropriate museum setting. Mr. Belle commented that the three tall panels on the Constitutional pillar would provide ample room for text; Mr. Rybczynski concurred and reiterated that the text should be subservient to the landscape.
Mr. Powell reiterated the concern that the interpretive rooms will result in a safety problem within the park. Several Commission members expressed general support for the concept, subject to the concerns that were discussed. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept for the rehabilitation and redesign of the park subject to reconsideration of the design of the interpretive rooms to reduce the proposed information elements.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 18/JAN/07-4, Fifty States circulating / commemorative quarter program for 2008. Reverse designs for the Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii state quarters. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/JAN/06-4.) Ms. Kohler said that the Mint is presenting the last five of the fifty state quarters; this review will be the end of the Commission's involvement unless legislation is enacted to add coins for the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. She introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Budow began by showing the newly issued Jamestown coin that was reviewed by the Commission in February 2006. She then showed the five alternatives for the Oklahoma coin. The first showed the people and industries that have shaped Oklahoma, set against an outline of the state. Design #2 showed the state flower and bird along with an Indian blanket and a native prairie. Designs #3, 4, and 5 showed various configurations of the state outline, a windmill, a gushing oil derrick, a wheat stalk, and a pioneer woman and child as depicted in a well-known statue in Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Several commission members expressed a preference for Design #2. Ms. Nelson preferred Design #4 because of its emphasis on the pioneer woman statue; she suggested removing the outline of the state from the background. She agreed that the bird on #2 was beautiful but said it did not seem to relate well to Oklahoma. Mr. Powell commented that the bird design would be meaningful to Oklahomans. Ms. Nelson concurred, and the Commission recommended Design #2.
Ms. Budow presented four alternative designs for New Mexico, showing combinations of the pueblo four-pointed "Zia" symbol and an outline of the state with various textures. Ms. Nelson suggested Design #1, since it features the largest rendition of the Zia symbol in the center of the coin. Ms. Budow noted that on the other designs the symbol is positioned over the map to signify the location of Santa Fe. Mr. Powell asked for clarification of the texture on Design #1; Ms. Budow said the surface would be raised and lightly textured, with the Zia symbol also raised. The Commission recommended Design #1.
Ms. Budow presented five alternative designs for the Arizona quarter. The first showed a view of the Grand Canyon and the text "Grand Canyon State." Design #2 showed the sun behind the Grand Canyon, with a cactus and landscape in the foreground; a banner would separate these elements since they are from different areas of the state. Design #3 showed a cactus in the foreground with a mountain and desert vegetation in the background with the text "Grand Canyon State." Design #4 showed the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, with a historic boat and the text "Powell's Grand Canyon Expedition." Design #5 showed Navajo code talkers from World War II.
Several Commission members said the design should relate to the Grand Canyon and supported #1 or #3. Mr. Belle commented that the landscape shown in #3 was typical of the state even though it was not related to the Grand Canyon. Mr. Powell and Mr. Rybczynski said that this would make Design #3 confusing since the text says "Grand Canyon State." The Commission voted to recommend Design #1.
Ms. Budow presented the four alternative designs for Alaska. The first showed a polar bear with the sun in the background and the text "Land of the Midnight Sun." Design #2 showed the Denali mountain, a dog sled, the big dipper with the north star, and the text "North to the Future." Design #3 showed a brown bear with a salmon next to a waterfall, with the text "The Great Land." Design #4 showed a person panning for gold with Denali in the background and the text "Denali, the Great One."
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the source of the various alternative phrases; Ms. Budow suggested that the state may have a variety of nicknames. She clarified that the text would be recessed on Design #1 and raised on the other designs; she acknowledged that the graphic depiction of this distinction should not be interpreted to suggest any special emphasis on the text in Design #1. Ms. Nelson supported #1 and #3 due to the power and grace of the bear images. Mr. Powell supported #1 but questioned the phrase "Land of the Midnight Sun" because it is not unique to Alaska. Mr. Luebke said he recollected that the official phrase for the state is "The Last Frontier"; Ms. Budow concurred and said that this phrase was considered for the coin but ended up not being used in any of the final alternatives. Mr. Belle and Mr. Powell commented on the value of depicting the polar bear, an endangered species. Ms. Balmori suggested that the horizontal text line in Design #1 be curved to match the adjacent lettering in order to reduce the fragmentation of the design. Ms. Budow said that the text was intended to follow the edge of the island and clarified that the text appeared overly prominent because of the graphic technique of representing recessed lettering. Mr. Powell suggested that Design #1 be used but with the phrase "The Last Frontier"; the Commission concurred.
Ms. Budow concluded with the five alternative designs for Hawaii. The first showed a surfer with Diamond Head in the background. Design #2 showed a hula dancer and a map of the Hawaiian islands. Design #3 showed Diamond Head and a well-known statue of King Kamehameha I. The last two designs showed differing configurations of King Kamehameha and a map of the islands. The first three alternatives included the text "Aloha"; the last two included the Hawaiian-language phrase that is the state motto.
Ms. Balmori, Ms. Nelson, and Mr. Rybczynski commented that none of the designs appeared strong; in particular, Ms. Nelson said that the map of the islands resulted in weak compositions. Ms. Budow responded that the spacing of the islands was necessary for accuracy. Ms. Nelson asked if revised designs could be submitted; Ms. Budow said that the design selection process would need to move forward and suggested that the Commission provide whatever comments it could, including any suggestions for revising or combining the proposed designs.
In response, several Commission members commented that the figures of the surfer and hula dancer were not well executed. Ms. Nelson suggested that the Diamond Head image could be the primary emphasis of the coin; Mr. Powell concurred, suggesting the general layout of Design #3 but without the image of King Kamehameha. The Commission agreed with this recommendation, and Ms. Balmori also suggested that the palm trees be removed from Design #3.
Ms. Balmori asked if the Commission could be advised of the final design for the coins. Ms. Budow offered to send the information after final design approval by the Secretary of the Treasury. She offered to continue bringing samples to the Commission when presenting future submissions, and she noted that new coins would be coming out in the next several months.
E. General Services Administration
CFA 18/JAN/07-5, Lafayette Building (Export-Import Bank), 811 Vermont Avenue, N.W. Building modernization, alterations, perimeter security barriers, and streetscape improvements. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/06-6.) Mr. Lindstrom summarized the Commission's recommendations from May 2006, including support for the proposed renovation and rehabilitation of the building but concern about the streetscape design and perimeter security. He noted that the new submission also includes a rooftop security barrier that was not previously reviewed. He introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill reviewed the history of the building, constructed in the 1930s for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; it now houses the Export-Import Bank and offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as retail shops on the ground floor. He introduced Robert Perry of DMJM Design to present the project. Mr. Perry outlined the topics for the presentation: the roofscape; exterior restoration along with some brief discussion of interior renovation; treatment of the ground floor; and the streetscape and perimeter security.
Mr. Perry showed the existing rooftop equipment and structures that had accumulated over the years; he said the design intention is to restore the appearance of the building's original roofscape. Modern equipment such as cooling towers and vents would be relocated to less visible areas of the roof. One new element was a security screen to prevent rooftop access from the roof of the neighboring hotel, which was a concern because the Lafayette Building's roof has a direct sight line to the White House. An existing chain-link fence, visible from the street, was installed shortly after September 11, 2001. The design team coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security to consider several options for improving the appearance of this barrier. The resulting proposal is an eight-foot-high fence that would be only slightly visible from the street; it was shown in black on the renderings but would actually be a lighter color to blend better with the sky, and a non-climbable fencing material would allow for removal of the existing barbed wire. The fence would be set entirely behind the roof parapet. An additional fence was considered for the 11th-floor setback area but was determined not to be necessary.
Mr. Perry showed the exterior renovation design, including refurbishment of the historic windows. Replacement was considered but refurbishment was found to be feasible; blast protection and modern weather-proofing would be provided by an additional storm window placed ten inches behind the historic windows. Based on ongoing analysis, the proposed yellow color for the frames has been slightly modified to more closely match the historic finish. Mr. Perry confirmed that the windows would no longer be operable, a necessary part of the blast protection; but the original sashes would be repaired so that the windows could become operable in the future. He explained that heating and cooling are provided through a water system at the window sills, supplemented by an air circulation system that will allow the building to meet modern environmental-quality standards.
Mr. Perry showed tentative material samples for areas where replacement would be necessary; he offered to show final samples to the Commission when they become available. New limestone would be obtained from the original quarry used for the building's facades, but careful analysis would still be required to match the historic color. The black stone at the base of the building would also be replaced with a matching material. Mr. Perry said that the brick facades facing the courtyard are not considered historically significant, but nonetheless the replacement bricks would be carefully specified for color consistency.
Mr. Perry provided an overview of the interior renovation. Historically significant areas were identified, including the main lobby, elevator doors, and special rooms on the 11th and 12th floors. He explained that the corridors of the office floors have some historical significance but are not well suited to modern efficient office layouts. After consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, the decision was to retain the historic corridors on several floors and near the elevator lobby of each floor, while the remaining office areas would be completely modernized which would accommodate thirty additional employees per floor.
Mr. Perry described the proposed modifications to the ground floor, particularly toward the retail shops on the 15th Street side of the building. He explained the proposal for a second entrance for the building's office workers at the corner of 15th and I Streets. The new entrance lobby would be created from a portion of the current restaurant tenant space. A historic photograph showed that the restaurant's existing corner entrance was not part of the original building design; the original building wall would be restored at the corner and the adjacent retail window bay would become the new office entrance. The lobby would be sized to accommodate security screening equipment; the walls would be faced with original marble salvaged from the office corridors being demolished. Visitors would continue to enter through the historic main lobby on Vermont Avenue.
Mr. Perry explained that the rear area of the retail tenant spaces would be reconfigured to provide a service corridor, emergency egress, and public bathrooms that would be entirely separated from the secured office areas of the building; this change would make it feasible for retail uses to remain in the building along 15th Street. On the opposite side of the building, the existing air intake louvers are on the ground floor facing Lafayette Square; for safety reasons, the air intake would be moved to the roof and courtyard. The louvers would be replaced with windows to provide additional offices with views of the park.
Mr. Perry then discussed the proposal for perimeter security. He showed the various security barriers used elsewhere in the neighborhood and said that the design team had been encouraged to use a variety of security elements rather than long rows of bollards. The proposed perimeter security would therefore include benches, planters, streetlights, and bollards. Planters would frame the entrance on Vermont Avenue. The proposed bollards would have a wedge-shaped form so they could be positioned with their thinner side facing the direction of pedestrian movement. The bollards would be clad in two varieties of dark granite. The bollard design would also be incorporated into the benches; several alternative configurations were shown. The Washington Standard streetlights would be reinforced with bollards; double-globe lights would be used along Vermont Avenue and single globes along 15th and H Streets. Standard D.C. pavers would be used for most sidewalks with a special paving material at the main entrance; Mr. Perry showed material samples to the Commission. He presented two alternatives for the configuration of lights, planters, and street trees at the entrance, suggesting that additional trees would improve the relationship between McPherson Square and Lafayette Park.
Mr. Perry explained the proposed streetscape along 15th Street. Benches would be emphasized in this area since it has retail activity. He said there was disagreement among the review agencies on whether to place the security line near the curb or toward the middle of the wide sidewalk where the security line could be integrated with the edge of outdoor seating areas for restaurants. The design team studied the sidewalk treatment at nearby buildings and concluded that the middle of the sidewalk would be the best alignment, as the Commission had previously recommended. The streetscape elements would be aligned with the retail entrances to create pedestrian paths that would be separate from potential outdoor commercial seating areas. Benches would be emphasized along the retail-oriented 15th Street frontage.
Mr. Perry described the need for a guard booth at the southern end of the 15th Street frontage to regulate access to the alley that is shared by the Lafayette Building and the adjacent hotel. He showed several options for creating a guard booth from the existing retail space within the building, with access from either a new alley door or an existing retail window; he also showed an option to create a separate booth in the sidewalk space. He suggested the option with a new alley door as the preferred alternative.
Ms. Balmori commented that the perimeter security seemed to have an excessive variety of elements, with a different treatment on each side of the building, even though each of the elements was well designed. Mr. Perry suggested that the staggered pattern of the bollards could be simplified. Mr. Powell supported a simpler configuration of the various security elements; Mr. Perry said the complexity might have been an over-reaction to earlier advice and agreed to study this further.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission comment on the proposed shape, scale, and material of the bollards, which resulted in a larger visual impact than necessary. Ms. Balmori said she favored the bollard design. She asked for the dimensions; Mr. Perry said the current design was one foot at its widest end, which Ms. Balmori said seemed excessive. Mr. Perry said the design team could squeeze this to 11 inches and was still trying to obtain approval for a narrower structural pipe within the bollard, which would allow a much greater reduction in the outer dimensions. Ms. Balmori encouraged this reduction in size. Mr. Perry said this could be studied further, but a narrower pipe might result in more bollards since the maximum space between pipes is fixed by security considerations.
Mr. Powell suggested that the perimeter security and bollard design was not yet ready for final approval. Mr. McGill noted that further change in the bollard size would depend on the outcome of security testing, and he suggested that the resulting design decision could be coordinated with the staff. The Commission voted to approve the final design, with the exception of the perimeter security, and recommended that the security be resubmitted with a simplified design and smaller bollards to the extent possible.
F. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 18/JAN/07-6, Bicycle Transit Center, Union Station, west plaza. New structure for a bicycle service station. Revised concept/Final. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/05-14.) Mr. Simon explained that the submitted design includes further development of the approved concept and is nearly at the final design stage. He introduced Jim Sebastian, bicycle coordinator for the D.C. Department of Transportation, to present the project.
Mr. Sebastian said that the Bicycle Transit Center, or bike station, will provide bicycle parking, rentals, and repairs, along with sales of bicycle-related accessories and facilities for riders. He said the station would encourage the use of other sustainable forms of transportation such as transit, particularly due to its proximity to the Union Station transportation hub. The users could include area residents and workers as well as tourists. He described similar bike stations in several other U.S. cities; this would be the first one on the East Coast. Ms. Nelson said she had seen the Chicago facility and predicted that the Washington bike station would become very popular.
Mr. Sebastian said the design continues to follow the original concept, with a transparent structure that would be distinct from the adjacent historic buildings; its low profile would avoid obstruction of existing views. The bike station's landscaping and site work would enhance the appearance of the west plaza. He noted that this project has been coordinated with the upcoming rehabilitation of adjacent Columbus Plaza in front of Union Station. He clarified that the bike station site will be configured as a large median island. The adjacent roads would only be used by a limited number of buses; existing taxi and general traffic will be routed away from the site as part of the Columbus Plaza project.
Mr. Sebastian explained that the bike station will be operated by a private-sector vendor chosen by the D.C. government. The contract would include minimum hours of operation. A paid annual membership system would give bicyclists access to the bicycle parking at all times; the general public could also pay to use the parking during operating hours. The bike station might also accommodate rental and parking of Segway scooters in the future.
Mr. Belle asked how the facility could be expanded if it is successful. Mr. Sebastian said that expansion on this site is not feasible. Additional facilities could be built at other sites around Union Station or elsewhere in the city; Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell encouraged the future development of such facilities. Mr. Sebastian explained that the station would have an initial indoor capacity of 150 bicycles, including parking and rental bikes configured in two tiers; a limited-access third tier could be added to increase the capacity to 180.
Mr. Belle commented that the facility appeared to have a very expensive design and asked how it would be funded. Mr. Sebastian explained that the structure and site work would cost $2 million, a relatively inexpensive amount for transportation infrastructure; he compared this to the typical $5 million cost of a parking garage that would hold 150 cars. Mr. Powell commented that the site is available without cost, helping to offset the high construction cost.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the project. Ms. Nelson, acting as chair, noted that Mr. Powell had left the room at the time of the vote but that he had expressed support for the project. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Lindstrom explained that the project was not quite at the final design stage and asked if the Commission would prefer to delegate the final review to the staff. The Commission agreed to this delegation with the understanding that any design changes would be brought to the Commission for review.
G. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 18/JAN/07-7, Mount Vernon Square/Convention Center Metro Station entrance, 7th and M Streets, N.W. Sculpture installation of "Transit" by artist Wendy Ross. Revised concept/Final. (Previous: CFA 19/JAN/06-8.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project for public art in the Convention Center arcade over a Metro entrance. He introduced Rachel Dickerson from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and Wendy Ross, the artist.
Ms. Dickerson explained the revisions since the Commission reviewed the concept a year earlier. The location was unchanged, but the spherical sculptures would now be suspended from the ceiling of the arcade rather than mounted on the floor. Ms. Ross showed some examples of her past work, including a sculpture in Ballston commissioned by Arlington County, Virginia, and a sculpture for a building in Boston designed by Mr. McKinnell's firm. She showed the lighting effects in her past projects that would be similar to the lighting of the proposed new sculpture. One of her works in Florida, a suspended sculpture of metal components similar to the proposal for Washington, was designed to withstand extremely high winds.
Ms. Ross provided further details on the revised design. The long pipe segments outside of the spheres were reconfigured in response to the change to a ceiling-mounted support system, as recommended by the Commission. She said the revised design would animate the space with a progression of visual events. The spheres would be positioned to be visible from outside the building through the arcade openings. Mr. Powell asked if the sculpture would move; Ms. Ross said that all components would be static. She summarized her design intention to suggest transit through the site in response to the urban context, with further inspiration from the shadow patterns cast onto the arcade's curved wall by the building's beam and skylight system.
Ms. Ross described the materials and fabrication of the sculpture: hand-welded aluminum with a polished finish. Each of the three spheres would be composed of over 1,200 aluminum rods. The precise method of attachment to the building was still being finalized. Mr. Belle commented that the delicate sculpture is overwhelmed by the scale of the architecture; he asked if the sculpture's dimensions could be more generous. Ms. Ross said that the scale was constrained by the budget, particularly because of the labor-intensive construction process. Mr. Powell offered to encourage a larger budget to allow a larger scale for the sculpture; Ms. Ross responded that budget constraints are a normal part of creating public art. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the project.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:12 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: March 7, 2007