Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
15 March 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 10:20 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 February meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the February meeting were circulated to the members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: April 19, May 17, and June 21. There were no objections.
C. Confirmation of recommendations from last month's meeting after loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the last three recommendations from the February meeting as described in the action letters that were previously circulated. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission confirmed the recommendations.
D. Status report on the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission. The staff has received applications from 21 arts-related organizations, the same number as in recent years, and is reviewing the requests in accordance with the established formula. The staff expects to distribute the grants by the end of April. The FY 2007 program is funded at slightly more than $7 million under the continuing resolution, the same amount as in FY 2006. Mr. Luebke noted that the President's proposed budget for FY 2008 would eliminate this program; this would be noted at the Commission's upcoming budget hearing before the House Appropriations Committee.
Mr. Luebke reminded the Commission of the first Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture scheduled for the evening of April 10 at the National Building Museum; the speaker will be David Childs, former chairman of the Commission. The lecture will serve as the keynote address for an all-day symposium on April 11, co-sponsored with the National Capital Planning Commission and National Building Museum, titled "Framing a Capital City."
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission discuss the morning site visit to Arlington National Cemetery in conjunction with the corresponding agenda item (II.C.); the site visit had been postponed from October 2006.
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 two projects in the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Luebke confirmed that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Barsoum reported the revisions to the draft appendix. Drawings for case O.G. 06-295 at 3239 P Street, N.W., remain insufficient so the recommendation is against issuance of permit. Case O.G. 07-083 was added to the appendix based on the Old Georgetown Board's review in February. Supplemental drawings were received for case O.G. 07-080. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
1. CFA 15/MAR/07-1, Congressional Gold Medal for Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the proposed design. Ms. Budow explained that the medal is authorized by federal law to honor Dr. Borlaug's achievements in improving agricultural productivity, saving more than a billion people from famine. The proposed obverse depicts Dr. Borlaug in a field of wheat based on a photo from the early 1960s along with his name. The proposed reverse contains a map of the western hemisphere framed by wheat shafts held by hands beneath and superimposed with a quote from Dr. Borlaug: "First Essential Component For Social Justice Is Adequate Food For All Mankind." Additional text would read "Act of Congress" and "2006."
Ms. Nelson commented that the depiction of the two hands on the reverse appears exaggerated and strange. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the hands be revised to hold the global map as well as the wheat shafts; Ms. Nelson concurred.
Mr. Belle asked about the wording of the quotation on the reverse; Mr. Rybczynski added that the text does not seem grammatically correct. Mr. Belle suggested that the Mint should look for a shorter and clearer quotation, particularly since the amount of text could be excessive at the scale of a medal; Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the scale could be addressed by removing the map so that the hands, wheat, and text would be more legible. Ms. Budow clarified that the medal will be three inches in diameter, which the Commission members concluded would be sufficiently large to allow for legibility of the proposed design. Mr. Belle commented that the medal's large size makes it particularly important to address the Commission's design concerns.
Mr. McKinnell then suggested that the proposed quote could be clarified with ellipsis points indicating a partial sentence; Ms. Nelson concurred that this would be an alternative solution. Mr. Rybczynski opposed the use of ellipsis points in a memorial quotation, as recently discussed by the Commission for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; he supported the recommendation to research the quote and use a full sentence if possible.
Ms. Zimmerman expressed concern that the obverse image bleeds off the edge of the coin, resulting in an unfinished quality. She suggested some sort of edge line around the coin, in keeping with typical coin designs; Mr. Powell and Mr. Belle concurred. Ms. Budow said that this feature is always included in circulating coins due to the technical requirements of mass production, but an edge line is optional for a single medal; she said the Mint could consider this suggestion. Mr. Belle commented that the unfinished character also results from the position of the head near the edge of the coin between the first and last names.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the proposed medal with the recommendations discussed by the members concerning the obverse edge and the quotations and hands on the reverse.
2. CFA 15/MAR/07-2, 2008 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Designs for the second set of four First Spouse $10 gold coins and bronze medals: Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Adams, Andrew Jackson's Liberty, and Martin Van Buren's Liberty. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/06-2, first four spouse coins.) Ms. Budow reviewed the legislative requirements for this series, including an obverse portrait of each President's spouse and a reverse image representing the life and work of the spouse. For Presidents who served without a spouse, including Jackson and Van Buren for the 2008 coins, the obverse would have an allegorical image of liberty from a coin issued during the President's historical period and the reverse would depict a theme of the presidency. The bronze medals and gold coins would have similar designs except that some wording for coins would be omitted from the medals, resulting in slight reconfiguration of the design elements. The general layout and text would follow the template that was established for the first four designs in the series.
Ms. Budow presented seven alternative obverses depicting Elizabeth Monroe. Ms. Nelson commented that #3, showing Mrs. Monroe wearing a headband, is based on her official White House portrait and therefore indicates her own choice of how she wished to be depicted. Mr. Rybczynski expressed concern that the headband resembles the revolutionary cap shown in French depictions of liberty. He suggested further consideration of #5 and #4. Ms. Zimmerman said that in #4 Mrs. Monroe appears to be very young, perhaps a child, so she suggested #3 or #6 which appear more dignified. Ms. Nelson said that #3 shows a mature woman with "her own sense of who she is." Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #3 for Mrs. Monroe.
Ms. Budow presented six alternatives for the Monroe reverse, including several depicting her involvement in re-furnishing and re-opening the White House after it burned. Mr. Belle expressed concern that the furniture depicted is French in style; Ms. Nelson noted that this was the prevalent style and Mrs. Monroe had an interest in French style. Mr. Belle suggested that the building should be depicted, but Ms. Nelson commented that Mrs. Monroe was more closely involved with the interior. Ms. Nelson suggested #4, although she and Mr. Belle concurred that the assemblage of furniture resembles an antique store. Mr. Powell suggested #6 depicting Mrs. Monroe in front of a window and touching a vase on a table, but he commented that the perspective of the vase should be corrected so that it appears to be resting on the table. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #6 with this comment.
Ms. Budow presented nine alternative obverses depicting Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams. Ms. Zimmerman suggested further consideration of #1, 3, and 8, noting that 3 and 8 are very similar. Mr. Rybczynski favored #1; Mr. Powell concurred, characterizing it as simple, elegant, and stylish. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #1 for Mrs. Adams.
Ms. Budow presented five alternatives for the Adams reverse. Ms. Zimmerman supported #1 that identifies Mrs. Adams as a poet, writer, and musician, preferring it to #5 that shows Mrs. Adams guiding her young son. Mr. Rybczynski supported the depiction of a harp as shown in #2 and 4. Ms. Nelson supported the composition of #4 but commented that Mrs. Adams's face would be very small and indistinct; Mr. Powell and Ms. Zimmerman concurred that the rendering should be improved to provide more definition and expression to her face. Mr. McKinnell commented that #4 is particularly interesting because it immediately conveys the musical interest of Mrs. Monroe. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #4 with the suggestion to improve the rendering of the face.
Ms. Budow presented five alternative obverses depicting Andrew Jackson's Liberty and showed the historical coins from the 1830s from which the proposed designs are derived. She confirmed that any of these historical coins would be appropriate as a precedent. Ms. Nelson expressed support for #4 due to the balance of its design; Mr. Rybczynski concurred that it is the most handsome design. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #4.
Ms. Budow presented eight alternatives for the Jackson reverse. Mr. Powell commented that the horse shown in #8 appears under-sized; he expressed a preference for #1 showing crossed swords, branches, and the text "Old Hickory." Ms. Zimmerman concurred in supporting the simpler version of #1 for the medal but questioned the excessive complexity of the design when the additional wording is added for the coin; Ms. Nelson concurred. Mr. Belle expressed support for #5 with a battle scene showing Jackson on a horse, although several Commission members commented on the unusual bending angle of one of the horse's legs. Ms. Nelson suggested further consideration of #1; Mr. Powell supported this alternative as "simple and straightforward." Mr. Rybczynski expressed concern that this recommendation would mean that Jackson's image would not appear on the coin. Mr. Powell suggested #8 with refinement of the depiction of the horse. Ms. Zimmerman concurred and suggested reducing the size of the horse's ears to avoid the resemblance to a mule; Mr. Belle suggested that the horse should appear larger and healthier. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #8 with these comments.
Ms. Budow presented five alternative obverses for Van Buren's Liberty. Mr. Powell commented that #3 has the most interesting hair arrangement; Ms. Nelson concurred, and the Commission agreed to recommend this alternative.
Ms. Budow then presented the five alternatives for the Van Buren reverse. Ms. Zimmerman expressed a preference for #4 depicting Van Buren in his youth. Ms. Nelson commented that the image of the older Van Buren in #5 appears more familiar, but the additional people depicted in the scene make the composition problematic. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #4.
C. Arlington National Cemetery
CFA 15/MAR/07-3, Arlington National Cemetery. Land Development 90. Details of boundary wall. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/98-1, Comprehensive Master Plan.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Katherine Basye Welton, the project manager from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Jack Metzler, superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. Powell thanked Mr. Metzler for hosting the Commission's site visit earlier in the morning.
Mr. Metzler explained that the proposed boundary wall would include niches for cremated remains, an arrangement that would be new at Arlington but was already in use at other military cemeteries. The proposal would provide a much-needed increase in the capacity of the cemetery by providing 5,000 niches. He said that the cemetery has approximately 6,000 funerals per year with one-third involving cremation. Mr. Metzler introduced Allison Kern of the Corps of Engineers to provide details of the proposal.
Ms. Kern explained that the proposed wall would connect to an existing wall on the south and a maintenance gate on the north, replacing the existing chain-link fence along this recently developed area of the cemetery. She showed photos of existing conditions and renderings of the proposal. The wall would be located near the existing columbarium project which will continue to be expanded as planned. Along the outer face of the wall, facing Virginia Route 110, low-maintenance plantings would be included. The inner face of the wall would include three stacked tiers of niches. The wall would be interrupted by piers to allow for height adjustments that would follow the topography of the site. The wall would rise approximately five feet above the grade of the cemetery side, providing some screening of the nearby traffic while allowing views east to Washington's monumental core. The grade on the highway side would be approximately one foot lower. She showed material samples for the fieldstone facing of the wall, chosen to match the color of existing boundary walls at the cemetery. She explained that the piers and other details are intended to be consistent with other walls around the cemetery.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the material for the coping on the wall. Ms. Kern said it would be precast concrete; Mr. Belle commented that this would not match the coping on the cemetery's existing boundary wall. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the visibility of the stone facing; Ms. Kern confirmed that it would only be visible from the highway side. Mr. Rybczynski commented that this choice of material might be excessive for a face seen primarily from moving cars.
Mr. Belle asked about the slate walkway proposed along the niches. Ms. Kern said that it would be eight feet wide and is not fully depicted on the drawings. She noted the proposed planting bed and granite edging between the walkway and the wall, similar to the configuration at the existing columbarium.
Mr. Rybczynski noted that the taller walls of the columbarium have five or six tiers of niches; he asked how the height of the proposed boundary wall was determined to be five feet. Ms. Kern said that while the columbarium was designed to create a sense of enclosure, the boundary wall is intended to allow views of the city. Mr. Rybczynski noted that the topography rises within the cemetery so the wall would provide very little screening of the nearby traffic; he suggested that the wall be made taller. Mr. Metzler added that the wall is relatively low to allow views into the cemetery as well as outward, and he said that a sense of privacy for visitors walking along the wall was not a design goal. Mr. Rybczynski observed that visitors would likely have to step back from the wall to higher ground in order to have views of the city, and he reiterated the suggestion to consider a different height for the wall. Mr. Metzler noted that most of the cemetery walls are four to five feet tall; Mr. Rybczynski said that this location has a highway adjacent so a taller wall could be appropriate. Alan Eidsmore of the Corps of Engineers provided further explanation of the design intent to have the wall screen the highway as visitors draw close while maintaining views toward Washington.
Mr. Belle commented further on the choice of materials, expressing support for the selection of granite, slate, and fieldstone, but he questioned the appropriateness of using precast concrete for the coping. He commented that the intention to make the precast coping match the nearby historic wall coping would likely be unsuccessful.
Mr. McKinnell said that the morning tour was his first visit to Arlington National Cemetery and he found it to be a very moving experience. He singled out the sight of simple white headstones set against the natural topography with the backdrop of the red fieldstone wall at a vast scale, commenting on the "poignant simplicity" of the composition. He said that the proposed wall does not compare well to the simplicity of the existing features. In particular, he observed that the proposed piers and molded capitals are not seen elsewhere in the cemetery and would subvert the strength of the architectural statement made by the existing fieldstone walls. He concurred with Mr. Belle that the precast concrete coping would be inappropriate, particularly if used on the piers to imitate carved molding. He urged the design team to reconsider the detailing to be more consistent with the high-quality materials proposed for the majority of the project.
Mr. Metzler responded that the piers are included to provide breaks along the rows of niches and to give a sense of framing and moderate scale to groupings of niches. He explained that families would find gravesites through a numbering system, as at the existing columbarium, and the piers would provide a way of organizing the system. He said that the wall coping is traditionally made of slate but this would be too expensive so the precast concrete was chosen. Mr. Belle observed that other parts of the wall construction include granite that is 2.5 inches thick, a generous and perhaps excessive dimension, so the budget should be sufficient to provide a higher-quality material for the coping. Mr. Metzler explained that the design details are modeled after the existing columbarium. Mr. McKinnell said that this very intention is the problem and the source of confusion in the design: the wall should respond to the vast scale of the cemetery and the topography rather than be detailed like a portion of a building. The challenge is to adapt the wall vocabulary to accommodate niches, but the response of treating it like a building results in losing the design strength of the cemetery's traditional walls. Mr. Metzler responded that this concept is new for the cemetery and involves combining a traditional wall, as seen from the highway side, with a more formal configuration of niches facing the cemetery. He offered to work further with the staff to refine the design.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that the lowest tier of niches is very close to the ground which might seem inappropriate and undignified to visiting family members. She acknowledged the intention to allow city views by keeping the wall low but suggested that visitors close to the wall would prefer a sense of "communion" through a stronger sense of enclosure, such as at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Since visitors could experience the city views from higher ground nearby, she concurred with the suggestion to raise the height of this wall, which would better screen the cemetery from the highway and would also allow for the lowest tier of niches to be raised further above the ground. Mr. Metzler responded that the cemetery has extensive experience with niche heights from the existing columbarium; complaints from family members are rare, but when requested the remains are moved from very high or low niches to "a more neutral level." He noted that the columbarium's lowest tier is comparable to that of the proposed wall.
Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Zimmerman's comments and suggested that the entire configuration of wall and niches be raised to approximately the height shown for the top of the piers; the resulting lower portion of the wall could be faced in fieldstone to more clearly relate it to other cemetery boundary walls. He recommended that all of the detailing be refined to emphasize the strong, simple character seen in the existing walls. Mr. Metzler responded that a taller wall at this location would be inconsistent with the prevailing height of the cemetery's other boundary walls. Mr. Rybczynski agreed with Mr. McKinnell, emphasizing that the wall's enormous length—3,000 feet, according to Mr. Metzler—would result in a substantial new intervention that would not need to conform to the height of other cemetery walls. Mr. Rybczynski noted that each drawing shows only a portion of the wall so its overall effect will be much stronger than the drawings would suggest. He reiterated Mr. McKinnell's suggestions to eliminate the piers and add fieldstone beneath the niches. Mr. McKinnell concluded by saying that the wall should be designed to reinforce the large-scale vista that encompasses the topography and the city views; he expressed support for the general concept of placing the wall in this context.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission reach a decision whether to approve the project as a final design. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission had approved the project in concept as part of the 1998 review of the cemetery's Comprehensive Master Plan, but that none of the current Commission members has previously reviewed the project. Mr. Rybczynski emphasized the project's importance and suggested that the design be revised and re-submitted for further review by the Commission. Mr. Belle requested that the drawings in the next submission be more clearly dimensioned. With the concurrence of Mr. Metzler, Mr. Powell concluded that no formal action should be taken on the project; the Commission's comments will be conveyed to the design team which will work with the staff to prepare a revised submission.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 15/MAR/07-4, National Zoological Park, Asia Trail Phase II: Elephant House, habitat renovation, and additions to existing facilities. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/MAR/06-3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Tim Buehner of the Smithsonian Institution to provide an overview of the project. Mr. Buehner described the Smithsonian's intention to be a world leader in the management, care, and preservation of Asian elephants. He said that subsequent to the previous submission the Smithsonian had selected a design-build team for the project, and he introduced the team's new architect, Michael Holleman of the design firm Vitetta.
Mr. Holleman summarized the design issues for the project: appropriate renovation of the Elephant House built in 1937 and a contemporary architectural style for the addition on the west, with particular emphasis on the facade facing Olmsted Walk. The outdoor habitat space is designed to provide an improved and enlarged area for the elephants while preserving mature trees where possible. He noted that the project would be designed to meet environmental standards for LEED gold certification.
Mr. Holleman described the public prominence of the project, with the zoo receiving three million visitors annually. Visitors will see the outdoor exhibit areas from "immersive viewpoints" that will accommodate crowds and will be located away from Olmsted Walk. He showed the site plan including the original Elephant House, the proposed "barn" addition on the west and two smaller additions, and the habitat that will be expanded from one to four acres. He showed the major features of the habitat area: a pool, an amphitheater, and a walking path for the exercise of the elephants. The path would be formed by converting and enclosing an existing service road. Mr. Holleman explained that the site features would be consistent with the design of phase one of the Asia Trail project, currently nearing completion.
Mr. Holleman described the changes to the Elephant House. The visitors' viewing area would be relocated along the north facade, allowing the central hall to become part of the elephant area. The enlarged facility would have separate stalls for the male and female elephants, with additional mezzanine space provided for staff offices. A small basement would accommodate mechanical equipment, and additional equipment would be located in sunken areas so that no visible rooftop mechanical systems would be needed. New skylights, windows, and sliding doors would be created to increase natural light and ventilation.
Mr. Holleman described the proposed facades for the larger addition on the west and the relationship to the existing Elephant House. In areas inhabited by elephants, the walls of the addition would be colored concrete; Mr. Holleman explained that durability is an important requirement because elephants will typically rub against the walls. The north facade facing Olmsted Walk would have a higher level of refinement, including stone veneer and steel-framed canopies. The lines of the existing Elephant House facade would be carried into the addition's north facade, and the two window openings would echo the two public entrances of the Elephant House. An additional staff entrance on this facade would be expressed by a vertical element clad in copper panels. In response to Mr. Rybczynski, Mr. Holleman explained that the stone veneer would be used only on the addition's north facade, relating to the north facade of the existing building; the veneer would not be used on walls facing areas used by the elephants.
Mr. Holleman concluded by presenting two animations depicting the project. He noted that the design was not yet fully developed for the plaza area in front of the Elephant House along Olmsted Walk; this would be presented in a future submission.
Mr. Belle asked the basis for the size of the additions. Mr. Holleman explained that the facility would accommodate a herd of up to eight elephants; this capacity was determined by the Smithsonian as part of the conservation program for this endangered species. In addition to the visitor area, the facility's program includes animal care facilities and staff areas as well as animal stalls and a community area for the elephants. The smaller additions are sized to fit into recessed areas of the existing building and are constrained by the adjacent topography; the remaining programmatic requirements are placed in the larger addition which would have its own architectural expression.
Ms. Nelson asked if any of the elephant habitat and walking trail would be away from public view. Mr. Holleman explained that a portion of the trail and some paddocks would not be visible to the public. Ms. Zimmerman asked how the site configuration would allow the separation of male and female elephants outdoors. Mr. Holleman showed the system of gates that would allow animals from either set of stalls to reach the habitat areas and trail, and he emphasized the complex animal management requirements that would be handled by the zoo staff. Ms. Nelson asked if the exterior fence would be sufficiently transparent to allow for public viewing; Mr. Holleman explained that the fence would consist of steel poles connected by cables. Ms. Zimmerman expressed support for the proposed skylights and the hidden location of the mechanical equipment.
Mr. Powell asked when the project is scheduled for completion; Mr. Holleman said that construction would occur in phases and would be completed by 2011. Ms. Nelson commented on the poor existing condition of the elephant habitat areas and urged that the improvements be completed as soon as possible. Mr. Holleman said that the larger addition and one outdoor habitat area would be part of the first phase, resulting in quick improvements to the elephants' living conditions.
Mr. Rybczynski commented on the characterization of the larger addition as a "barn" that expresses its function in a simple way: he acknowledged the appropriately utilitarian character of the west and south facades and the straightforward response of their design to the project constraints but noted that this aesthetic is not used for the north facade. He said that the stone veneer and metal highlights do not seem appropriate, despite the intended relationship to the existing Elephant House facade, and he suggested that the design of this facade be simplified and better integrated with the rest of the building. Ms. Zimmerman said that this design appears to respond to the Commission's comments given to the previous design team, requesting that the new addition relate more clearly to the existing building when seen from Olmsted Walk; she suggested that the Commission help move the project forward rather than require a further re-design of this facade. Mr. Powell suggested that further revision of this facade could be part of the forthcoming final submission.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the addition's north facade would be screened from Olmsted Walk due to the proposed fencing and landscaping. Mr. Holleman said that there would be some limited visibility so the intention was to provide a refined architectural expression rather than treat this facade in a utilitarian manner. He acknowledged that either of these design approaches could be suitable and the design could be developed further in response to the Commission's guidance. He said the emphasis in the proposed design was on continuing the simple, broad lines and proportions of the existing building.
Mr. McKinnell said that the Commission was reacting to the differing design intentions offered by of the previous and current architects—the previous design was intended to relate closely to the existing building, which the Commission concluded was not successfully accomplished, while the current intention is to create a more utilitarian structure which is successful except on the north facade. He said that the utilitarian approach is a more appropriate concept for this project and concurred with Mr. Rybczynski that the north facade should be revised to support this concept. He suggested that the design vocabulary of the addition should emphasize accommodation of the elephants to contrast with the Beaux-Arts design principles of the 1937 building that emphasizes accommodation of the human visitors. Mr. Holleman responded that the design team had been considering this utilitarian approach and it could be implemented with only a small amount of design revision. Mr. Belle added that the addition could relate to the original building by being composed of simple shapes, rather than by repeating particular lines and materials; Ms. Zimmerman agreed.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission's comments could be incorporated into the next phase of the design process. Mr. Luebke noted that the design of some landscape structures has not yet been fully developed. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept subject to the Commission's comments on the larger addition and the further development of the landscape design.
E. U.S. Department of Agriculture / U.S. National Arboretum
CFA 15/MAR/07-5, U.S. National Arboretum, Fern Valley (Native Plant Collection). New entrance to the Fern Valley exhibit area and improvements to its trail system. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/MAY/06-4.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced landscape architect Scott Rykiel of Mahan Rykiel Associates. Mr. Rykiel explained the project's context near the Arboretum's administration building and the Capitol columns display; he summarized the nearby projects included in the approved master plan, including a future visitor center.
Mr. Rykiel explained that the Fern Valley project would increase the portion of the path system that meets accessibility standards, which is difficult to achieve due to the steep terrain. The paths that meet accessibility standards would be concrete; other paths would be crushed gravel. The boardwalks would be pressure-treated white pine. Most stairs would be eliminated, but one small section of stone steps would remain leading to an overlook. Signage would be improved to identify the plants, nearby exhibits, and the accessibility of paths. The project would include installation of new rustically styled wood bridges, railings, and benches by the designer David Robinson; Mr. Rykiel showed examples of Mr. Robinson's work.
Ms. Zimmerman asked about the impact of the project on existing trees, as indicated on one of the site plans. Mr. Rykiel explained that the design details and construction methods are intended to minimize damage to existing trees and roots; he confirmed that the preservation of existing trees is an important part of the design.
Mr. Powell commented that Mr. Robinson's site furnishings would be a wonderful addition to the Arboretum. Ms. Nelson expressed her support for the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the final design.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead-Luce Act
1. S.L. 07-033, 1510 H Street, N.W., United Press International. New front facade and alterations to side and rear facades. Revised concept. (Previous: 15 February 2007.) Ms. Penhoet introduced architect Eric Colbert to present the design revisions in response to the Commission's comments the previous month. Mr. Colbert showed the site near Lafayette Square and the previous design proposal for the H Street facade. He said that the design now eliminates the angled facade and balconies to which the Commission had objected. He showed the revised design for the facade, composed of butt-glazed glass with limestone trim. A steel framework of mullions would project in front of the facade; he clarified that this framework would not contain glass but would add another plane to the building's facade in response to the varying alignments of the adjacent buildings. The existing building is set back from the property line; the office floors would be slightly extended toward the street.
Ms. Nelson commented that the revised concept responds to the Commission's previous advice. Upon a motion by Ms. Zimmerman with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept with the request to include material samples in the final submission.
2. S.L. 07-043, 2141 F Street, N.W., George Washington University, Square 80 Residence Hall. New ten-story dormitory building. Revised concept. (Previous: S.L. 06-070, April 2006.) Ms. Penhoet introduced the project, explaining that the design has been significantly modified since the previous submission. The proposal for basement dormitory rooms has been eliminated, and with them the large windows at the basement level; the ground floor has therefore been lowered toward the sidewalk level, eliminating the need for an entrance staircase and ramps. The brick pattern and cornice have also been revised in response to the Commission's comments. She introduced Chris Graae of Cox Graae & Spack Architects and Anne Adams from the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, representing the George Washington University.
Mr. Powell asked about the status of a large nearby site owned by the university, the former location of the hospital. Alicia O'Neil of the George Washington University explained that the university is proposing commercial development for that site; the proposal is being developed separately from the university's campus planning process and would soon be submitted to the D.C. government for review. Mr. Powell commented that some improvement would be desirable for this large vacant site.
Mr. Graae presented the proposed design for the dormitory on F Street. He showed the context for the mid-block project and its relation to the historic D.C. public school to the north, the School Without Walls, which will be renovated in conjunction with this project as the result of a partnership between the university and the D.C. Public Schools. The block also includes historic rowhouses and large apartment buildings. The dormitory will be U-shaped with a courtyard; access will be from the street entrance on the south and from the mid-block pedestrian path system on the north.
Mr. Graae explained the modifications to the design. The elimination of dormitory rooms from the basement was partially offset with additional rooms on the upper floors, achieved by improving the efficiency of the layout. The facades were modified to use more brick and less precast concrete. The emphasis on the central portion of the F Street facade has been reduced to lessen the monumental character of the building, and the facade is articulated as two masonry masses. The detailing of the entrance area has been refined to provide an opportunity for signage and a canopy. The living rooms are expressed as glass bays with an asymmetrical mullion pattern relating to the main entrance; the pattern of bays has been simplified. On the four-story projecting bays that relate to nearby townhouses, the sills and headers have been refined to improve the architectural expression. The large doors for the parking garage and loading dock will be colored to more closely match the brick facade. The size of the cornice along F Street has been reduced, and the mechanical penthouse is smaller due to further information on the necessary equipment.
Mr. Graae showed samples of the tentative material selections for the window system and the various brick types. He said that the metal canopy would probably match the metal used for the window system. Mr. Luebke asked Mr. Graae to describe the cladding material for the penthouse; he responded that it would be an Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) with a stucco appearance.
Mr. Powell expressed support for the revised design. Mr. Belle commended Mr. Graae for using the Commission's comments to improve the project; although the overall bulk of the building remains a concern, it is handled well in the design. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised concept. Ms. Nelson asked that the next submission include further information on the lighting, entrance, and landscaping.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:05 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: May 11, 2007