Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 May 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 10:08 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 April meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the April meeting were circulated to the members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes without objection, upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Nelson.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: June 21, July 19, and September 20; no meeting is scheduled in August. There were no objections.
C. The Commission's 97th year and the Shipstead-Luce Act's 77th year. Mr. Luebke reported on the Commission's two historical anniversaries falling in May: the 97th anniversary of the Commission's establishment on 17 May 1910, and the 77th anniversary of the Shipstead-Luce Act which was approved on 16 May 1930. He noted the approaching centennial of the Commission and the possibility of preparing a new history of design in the nation's capital over the past century. He also noted the recent favorable comments on the Commission's new publication of essays honoring the centennial of the McMillan Commission, with Sue Kohler of the Commisison staff as co-editor and contributing author.
D. Report on the Citizens Association of Georgetown's presentation of the 2007 Charles Atherton Award. Mr. Luebke reported that this award has been given to Jose Martínez of the Commission's staff for exceptional service by a dedicated public-sector professional. He cited Mr. Martínez' twenty years of service to the Commission and his professionalism and dedication in supporting the Old Georgetown Board.
E. Report on the inspection of objects proposed for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Powell reported that the Commission members had visited the Freer Gallery to inspect the objects prior to the meeting and had approved the acquisition of five 13th-Century Chinese ceramic pieces. Mr. Powell described the works as "very beautiful and a very elegant addition to the collection."
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commissioners in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I — Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Luebke confirmed that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Penhoet reported the revisions to the draft appendix: cases S.L. 07-075 was revised to a favorable recommendation based on additional information that was submitted; and several new cases were added at the end of the appendix. She noted that the Newseum's application on the appendix, concerning signage for a restaurant tenant, is separate from the Newseum signage proposal that will be reviewed later in the day with a presentation to the Commission. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Zimmerman, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Powell reiterated the Commission's congratulations to Mr. Martínez on his receipt of the Citizens Association of Georgetown award. Mr. Martínez reported that there were no changes to the draft appendix, but supplemental drawings were received earlier in the day for case O.G. 07-142, so he requested authorization to revise the recommendation for this case to be favorable pending circulation of the revised drawings to the Old Georgetown Board members for their approval. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix with this authorization.
Mr. Luebke noted that the National Park Service had withdrawn a previously listed agenda item, the bollard design for the east side of the Lincoln Memorial; the Commission's planned site visit was therefore also cancelled.
B. National Park Service
CFA 17/MAY/07-1. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center, Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, N.W. Informational presentation. (Previous: CFA 21/SEP/2006, Administration Item C—Design Guidelines.) Mr. Luebke introduced the information presentation and summarized the Commission's previous actions, which included conditional approval of the site in 2005 subject to the sponsors providing a design that does not detract from the setting of the Lincoln Memorial nor the experience of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He noted that the Commission approved design guidelines for the site in July 2006 in cooperation with the National Capital Planning Commission. He introduced John Parsons of the National Park Service and architect Jim Polshek of Polshek Partnership Architects to present the project.
Mr. Parsons said that the project team had closely studied the guidelines that the Commission approved; he felt that the design being developed has met the spirit and intent of these guidelines. He explained that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the sponsor of the project, has presented three alternative designs to the National Park Service which decided to share all three with the Commission rather than select a single design for submission. He requested the Commission's comments on the alternative designs. He introduced Jan Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Scruggs said that the visitor center is authorized by legislation that was enacted with the support of several presidents along with educators, veterans groups, schoolchildren, and the general public. He acknowledged that the site context of West Potomac Park is perceived as a sacred space and said that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial contributes to that impression. He said that the visitor center would provide a unique experience that will make the names on the memorial wall come alive; the visitor center will also honor American soldiers who gave their lives in earlier wars, using images of soldiers from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Mr. Polshek presented an overview of how the alternative designs were developed. He said that the project is the most unusual in his 45 years of practice due to its importance, its sensitive location, and especially the need for the architect's work to be invisible within the context of a landscape solution. He said that he expects the completed project to "become part of the organic material and the philosophical evolution of the National Mall." He described the quest for an invisible design. In early design studies, the architecture and landscape architecture became too evident: "a statement began to creep out and we stomped on that statement and removed it" to produce the current set of alternatives, which he described as "virtually invisible from just about any angle." He said that Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, had visited his office on several occasions to discuss the project and study the initial designs, with the result that "we have her blessing." The design team also consulted with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office to obtain suggestions, many of which were incorporated into the design. He introduced James Cathcart of Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the exhibit design firm for the project, to present the concept for the building's interior.
Mr. Cathcart said that his firm has been working for two years with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, its advisory board, the National Park Service, and Polshek Partnership Architects to develop the themes and conceptual design approach for the project. He summarized the goals of the project as enhancing the memorial experience, honoring those who died and all those who served, making the names on the wall visible, and encouraging younger visitors to learn more. He said the visitor center will serve a wide variety of people but the younger visitors are considered particularly important.
Mr. Cathcart said that one key concept is to explore the sense of place, especially the visitor's understanding of the relationship between the memorial and the visitor center. He said that the memorial is a place of memories and feelings, while the center will reveal the human dimension of the war and celebrate the soldiers' service and the bonds of loyalty and brotherhood: the center "will enhance the experience of the memorial by providing a journey through deeper layers of storytelling, honoring, and history." He emphasized the themes of personal patriotism and the values of those who served in Vietnam and in other wars, including trust and brotherhood.
Mr. Cathcart described how these concepts are expressed in the design of the interior space. As visitors enter the visitor center, they would see a large media wall showing the faces and names of soldiers and a description of where they served. The changing montage of images would show people on their birthday; family members could come to the visitor center on the person's birthday to observe the image. Additional images would show letters written by the soldiers or other remembrances of the person. Among the video images would be words identifying the soldiers' values, such as loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and courage.
Mr. Cathcart explained that visitors would move along a series of ramps to experience different views of this Wall of Faces while descending into the main space of the visitor center. Visitors would also move along a series of dramatic glass cases containing selections of artifacts and letters that have been left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, drawing on the collection of more than 100,000 personal items that have been placed at the memorial. He said that some of these objects are memorials to specific people and other objects express the shared experience. The close placement of the Wall of Faces and the display cases would emphasize the relationship between those who died and the living people who have paid tribute to them. The displays would celebrate the bonds of love, friendship, and happy memories.
The descending ramps would also bring visitors along a timeline providing historical context for the Vietnam War. The timeline would include military events and key actions combined with maps and charts, letters about specific events, and "some of the iconic imagery of the period." The lower level of the visitor center would contain the resource center with "learning pods" and "interactive stations" providing access to more information on the topics of the period. Specific "zones" within the resource center would be dedicated to information about topics such as films, photos, music, oral histories, journalism, and literature. The resource center would also serve as a gathering place for school groups.
Mr. Cathcart said that the concluding exhibit would relate the Vietnam story to the larger national story of American wars through quotations and images of soldiers from various wars, conveying the message that by honoring those who served in Vietnam, we also honor those who served and sacrificed in other wars.
Mr. Polshek explained that the architectural expression of the exhibit concept would include the "three walls of memory": the Wall of Faces, the Wall of Objects, and the Wall of Time. Visitors would weave among these walls as they move through the visitor center. He introduced his associate designer, Thomas Wong, to further discuss the architectural response to the exhibits and present the alternative designs for the exterior and landscape.
Mr. Wong explained that the three walls would be parallel planes that echo the form of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, providing layers of memory to supplement the black granite of the memorial. The "walls of memory" would be the primary feature of the visitor center and would pass through the floor levels, penetrate the ceiling, and be expressed on the ground above. To emphasize their importance, these walls would be load-bearing and would be perceived as supporting the entire structure of the visitor center; they would be constructed of a thick cellular system that would allow transparency for the projection of images and the simultaneous perception of all the walls. At the top of the walls would be skylight slots to provide emphasis and make the walls "almost seem spiritually lit from above."
On the exterior, each of the alternatives would introduce a small sunken courtyard to provide access and natural light and allow for mechanical system requirements; the "walls of memory" and skylights would be expressed nearby on the ground surface. Each alternative shows a different combination of sloping exterior paths and rising land to form the entry sequence and courtyard. Protrusions above the ground would not be required; railings along the courtyard could be eliminated by using a berm and platform modeled on the traditional ha-ha of English landscape design. The air intake and exhaust would be handled in the courtyard walls without rising above the ground level. A geothermal heat pump would be used to eliminate the need for cooling towers or boiler stacks. Plumbing vents would be hidden within a small areaway. People would be able to exit the building into the courtyard either from the entrance doors or from the lower level, where they could use an exterior stairway to return to grade level without the need for stairway bulkheads. Due to the anticipated soil and water conditions of the site, the construction method would include a slurry-wall cavity system to provide extensive waterproofing. The cavity would be used for mechanical space and ducts; a sump pump with an emergency generator would be required to handle water seepage in this cavity. The location of this generator was still being studied; one possibility would be to locate it with the mechanical equipment for the nearby food service kiosk that was recently constructed by the National Park Service.
Mr. Wong described some additional treatment of the site, including replacement of missing elms around the perimeter of the block to fill in the historic tree canopy. He described the visual connection between the entrance to the visitor center and the flagpole at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He showed the crosswalks and the recently completed bus drop-off area along Henry Bacon Drive. He said that approximately 1.5 to 2 million visitors per year are expected, with a "design day" of over 3,000 people.
Mr. Wong and Mr. Polshek then showed the site model with the three alternatives for the entrance and courtyard configuration. Mr. Polshek explained that the treatment of topography is a major difference among the schemes but very subtle to see on the models. Alternative A raises the ground plane by seven feet and uses walkways to bring visitors down seven feet from the sidewalk level, providing a height of fourteen feet for entrance from the courtyard; the one-in-twenty slope of the walkway would result in a 140-foot-long entry path. The other two alternatives maintain a level ground plane and bring visitors down fourteen feet on ramps set within the courtyard. Alternative B provides a compact entry sequence of a stair and switchback ramp system within a sunken forecourt. Alternative C incorporates an extensive tilted ground plane sloping downward from the northeast corner of the site; the entry sequence would include a more gradual landscape stair and a descending path along the main retaining wall leading from the Constitution Avenue sidewalk.
Ms. Nelson asked the area of the building's footprint; Mr. Wong said it is 25,000 square feet. Mr. Belle asked about the materials and Mr. Polshek responded that the courtyard facades would be glass and stone; more detailed decisions have not yet been made. Ms. Nelson asked if food would be provided in the courtyard; Mr. Polshek said this is not intended. Ms. Balmori asked if natural light is an important purpose of creating the courtyard; Mr. Polshek emphasized that the courtyard also provides the solution for air intake and exhaust, plumbing vents, and emergency egress. Mr. Polshek reiterated that the courtyard is the key concept for the landscape solution.
Mr. Wong offered to show views from the sidewalk level since these would be more important than the views suggested by the model. Ms. Nelson commented that the view from the Lincoln Memorial would also be important; Mr. Wong said that this view is included in the drawings.
The Commission members inspected the site model with the three alternative schemes inserted and viewed the renderings. Ms. Nelson asked how about conflicts between exiting and visitor queueing on busy days; Mr. Wong showed the different routes through the courtyard that would be taken by arriving and departing visitors. Mr. Polshek added that the comfort of arriving visitors is an important difference among the schemes; Alternative B is somewhat pinched along the entrance sequence while Alternative C provides more generous space and a variety of routes to reach the entrance door. Ms. Nelson asked if the courtyard would become a gathering place, particularly in Alternative C. Mr. Polshek said this was not intended but would be possible.
Mr. Belle asked about the connection between the visitor center and the memorial. Mr. Wong said that there would not be a physical connection; people would walk between them using the crosswalk on Bacon Drive. Mr. Polshek added that a tunnel was considered but rejected due to symbolic and technical concerns. He also explained that there is no formal geometric relationship between the wall and the visitor center, although the memorial itself has a geometric relationship with the major memorials nearby.
Ms. Balmori asked if the visitor center could be located elsewhere on the block. Mr. Polshek explained that the visitor center could not move southward because of the new food kiosk, which appears small but includes an extensive underground area; and moving the visitor center northward might be possible except in Alternative C due to the required sloping distance for the walkway connection with Constitution Avenue, and the noise along Constitution Avenue would make such a location less desirable. Relocation to the west would be possible but would affect the recreational use of the open space in this area. He said that the proposed location is therefore the most logical place within the block.
Ms. Nelson asked if the walkway shown with Alternative C would appear similar to other sidewalks in the area, particularly when seen from the Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Wong said that the walkway would be treated as a park path, like others in West Potomac Park, rather than as a sidewalk. Mr. Belle asked about bus drop-off of visitors and where the buses would wait. Steve Lorenzetti of the National Park Service said that drop-off and pick-up will occur along Bacon Drive, but buses are not permitted to wait there.
Mr. Wong showed the photo simulations of views from the Lincoln Memorial, Bacon Drive, and 23rd Street; he said the photos were taken approximately four weeks ago. He said that the tree branches provide some screening of the project area, particularly when seen from the Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Polshek emphasized that landscaping would be seen from most directions; the building face would only be prominently visible from Bacon Drive and across the street near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which would be appropriate since visitors would enter from this direction. Further study would be needed of the desired amount of visibility and clearance at the entrance to the visitor center.
The Commission members expressed a general concern about the scale of the proposed visitor center in relation to the existing Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Ms. Balmori asked about the calculation of the main retaining wall height as fourteen feet, compared to the highest point of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall at ten and a half feet. Mr. Wong said this dimension would allow for the interior space, ceiling structure, and the landscaping above the roof.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that the size of the interior seemed excessive and compared its scale to that of an airport. For the exterior configuration, she expressed a preference for Alternative C, but noted that while it best solved the entry sequence, it also had the greatest impact on the site. Ms. Balmori and Mr. McKinnell agreed; he added that the generous entry could compete with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial experience of a processional path against a monumental wall. He said that these conflicting constraints pose an essential dilemma for the design. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the design gestures could be powerful without being so big; she offered the example of the existing Memorial's intimate scale in contrast to the grandiosity of the proposed visitor center.
Mr. Rybczynski said that he remains unconvinced of the need for a visitor center and the appropriateness of the site. However, he acknowledged that the design is progressing well within these constraints. Mr. Belle commented that the courtyard solution simply moves the building design challenges—such as mechanical systems and egress—into the courtyard. He warned that the courtyard itself could have a great negative impact on the sacred commemorative landscape, possibly worse than would result from a small pavilion in this location. Mr. Polshek said that without the courtyard, a different design approach would be required and the project would have to be treated as a building.
Ms. Nelson asked about night-time usage of the visitor center and the need for lighting. Mr. Lorenzetti said that the center would likely be open until the early evening. Mr. Polshek said that some lighting of the steps and ramps would be needed, since the winter afternoons would be dark even if closed in the evening.
The Commission members expressed their continuing concern about the large scale of the project, the difficulty in reconciling its relationship to the sensitive context, and its visibility—including associated lighting, which should be kept as discreet as possible. Mr. Belle requested that the formal submission explicitly address the design guidelines that the Commission had adopted. The Commission's discussion of the information presentation concluded without a formal action.
C. U.S. Institute of Peace
CFA 17/MAY/07-2, U.S. Institute of Peace, 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. New headquarters building and landscape design. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/FEB/07-6, landscape concept.) Ms. Balmori recused herself during this agenda item due to her firm's involvement as the landscape architect for the project. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project and explained that the concept for both the building and landscape design had been approved in February 2007; he said that the submission for this meeting was for final approval of both. He introduced Charles Nelson, vice-president of the Institute of Peace, who summarized the Commission's suggestions at the February meeting regarding the landscaping proposals along 23rd Street. Mr. Nelson said the major presentation would be by architect Isaac Franco of Moshe Safdie and Associates; he also introduced John Stranix, the owner's representative, and landscape architect Mark Thomann from Balmori Associates. He then turned the presentation over to Mr. Franco.
Mr. Franco said he would use a slide presentation and give a more detailed explanation of the landscape, the exterior materials, and a brief summary of the building design. He described the location at the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue on a site that slopes about 23 feet at the base of Old Observatory Hill. He showed views taken from various vantage points, noting that the building would be mostly shielded by a canopy of trees. He described the building as a fairly classical rectilinear building that is cut by three free-form curves enclosing atriums looking south onto the Lincoln Memorial and west onto the Potomac River.
Mr. Belle asked what the materials would be and Mr. Franco responded that the walls would be a limestone-colored acid-etched precast concrete. The etching would reveal the mica aggregate in the concrete that would impart a slight sparkling quality to the masonry. The floor of the building would be limestone extending outside to the terrace; the inside stone would have a honed finish and the outside stone would have a rougher finish. The ground plane of the drop-off and plaza would be made of exterior precast pavers, with the plaza possibly in granite. The flat roofs would be grey and would not be visible. Window frames would be either white or silver depending on location and the glass—the most important element in the building—would have a white frit on the outside and a white interlayer on the inside to cut the transmission of light through the glass walls. Ms. Nelson asked about the location for the white and silver mullions; Mr. Franco said the white would probably be used in the major spaces and the silver for the windows that would be recessed within the precast walls.
A discussion of the roof followed, with Mr. Belle and Mr. McKinnell questioning Mr. Franco about its structure, its visibility at night, and the method of removing rainwater.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the framing system for the roof. Mr. Franco explained that the roof would have two layers; the materials would be painted white with white caulking and gray silicone used between material surfaces to create the perception of a uniformly white surface. Mr. Belle said that the roof is a dominant feature of the building and emphasized the importance of its design. He asked for further clarification of whether the finished roof would be the simple white continuous surface that is shown in the model. Mr. Franco said that the finished roof would be composed of four-foot-square panels. He showed the mock-up that was prepared by the German manufacturing firm. During the day, the roof would appear opaque; at night, the grid structure of the roof system would be visible from the exterior as a shadow. Ms. Zimmerman commented that the shadow appeared to be very faint; Mr. Franco said it would be stronger at night.
Mr. McKinnell asked how the roof design would address issues of ice formation and water runoff; he expressed concern that the purity of the form would be marred by intrusions such as gutters or snow guards. Mr. Franco said that there would not be visible gutters; the water would shed away from the public spaces and building entrances. He said there was a possible need to place a few ice breaks to prevent ice from sliding off the roof; this was still being studied, but it was likely to be a minimal addition.
Mr. Belle expressed further skepticism about the complex form of the roof and the difficulty of constructing it with the intended appearance. Mr. Franco said that the design team was arranging a full-size mockup with the manufacturer. He said the spherical shape of the roof surfaces allows for a repetition of elements that makes the design affordable. Ms. Zimmerman asked whether the design team had studied the roof's shading of the glass wall below. Mr. Franco said that lighting studies were performed for the atrium space showing how sunlight enters through the glass wall; the roof would provide some southern and western shading. Ms. Zimmerman questioned the relationship of the spherical roof forms to the more conventional forms of the building but acknowledged that this design had been previously approved by the Commission. Mr. Franco confirmed that the form of the roof has not changed since the previous submission.
Mr. Franco then discussed the landscaping. He said that the curvilinear walls along 23rd Street, which the Commission had questioned at the February meeting, had been redesigned as a simple landscaped sloping along the street. He said the rest of the landscape had remained intact. He showed the palette of the proposed plant materials that would emphasize colorful—in white, purple, and dark blue tones—and scented flowers. There would be trees to provide shade as well as shrubs and ground cover in addition to the flowering plants. He assured Mr. Belle that there would be no underground construction in areas where large trees were shown.
Mr. Franco pointed out the curving walls within the site and the water feature that would line the west side of the entry to the public education center, its sound isolating the public from the noise of a nearby access ramp. The water feature would have two adjacent troughs, one higher than the other, with the water running faster in the upper trough. In answer to a question from Ms. Zimmerman, Mr. Franco said there would be seating in the form of a bench in the plaza area, as well as seating walls along the walk. He concluded with a brief description of the interior organization.
Ms. Nelson commented that the landscaping was more colorful than in any other site on the Mall, but she thought it was suitable for this building which would be different from any other Mall building. Mr. Powell asked if the fountain would be running in the winter; Mr. Franco said that it would. Mr. McKinnell commented that the site design was more of a garden than landscaping, and he said it would be delightful; his only concern was that it would require a lot of maintenance.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the final design of the building and landscaping.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
1. CFA 17/MAY/07-3. Congressional Gold Medal for Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Kohler introduced the submission of a Congressional Gold Medal to be given to Tensin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet. She added that bronze duplicates would be available to the public and then introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to give the presentation.
Ms. Budow said the medal was authorized by Public Law 109-287, which requires the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue "a Congressional gold medal to honor Tenzin Gyatso the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet in recognition of his many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, non-violence, human rights, and religious understanding." She said the law also noted that "he has used his leadership to promote democracy, freedom, and peace for the Tibetan people through a negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue, based on autonomy within the People's Republic of China," and that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for this efforts to promote peace and non-violence throughout the globe.
Ms. Budow then showed two designs, one for the obverse and one for the reverse of the medal. The obverse would have a portrait of the Dalai Lama based on a photo, along with suitable inscriptions including "Act of Congress 2006" to be placed on a ribbon on at the lower left part of the medal. Behind the head and shoulders of the Dalai Lama, with his hands pressed together in prayer, would be a depiction of the Tibetan mountains. The reverse of the medal bore a rendition of a lotus flower and an inscription saying: "World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion."
The Commission members then discussed the designs, beginning with the reverse. Ms. Nelson said she thought there should be a thin line around the edge, something to hold the lotus in and give the coin an edge. Mr. McKinnell agreed, saying that at three inches in diameter these medals really need a rim. Ms. Nelson thought the same kind of rim should be used on the obverse.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the use of a ribbon for the text "Act of Congress 2006" did not seem appropriate for the medal design. Ms. Balmori suggested that the text be placed at the bottom of the medal as a legend without a ribbon. Ms. Nelson agreed and said that this solution, with careful placement of the text, would eliminate the problem of interfering with the Dalai Lama's hands and robe.
Mr. Belle said his chief concern was with the rendition of the Dalai Lama's smile on the obverse, saying that anyone who had seen the Dalai Lama would recognize that the interpretation proposed for this medal was not right. He said he would like to see the photograph that was used by the artist. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson both commented that it was difficult to look at a sketch and be able to tell how it would look when interpreted in relief, as it would be on the medal.
Mr. Powell asked for a motion summarizing the Commission's comments. Ms. Balmori made a motion to recommend that a simple rim be placed around the edge on both sides of the medal and that "Act of Congress 2006" should not be placed on a ribbon but should follow the curve of the medal at the lower edge. Ms. Nelson seconded the motion, which passed with Mr. Belle abstaining.
2. CFA 17/MAY/07-4. 2008 American Bald Eagle Coin Program. Designs for $5 gold coin, $1 silver coin, and half-dollar clad coin. Final. Ms. Budow continued with a presentation of the bald eagle coins. She said this program had been authorized by Public Law 108-486, which requires the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue gold, silver, and clad coins emblematic of the bald eagle, its history, and its national symbolism. Ms. Budow noted that the bald eagle appears only in North America and that it had been designated the national emblem of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1782. It continues to appear on the Great Seal and the seals of many branches and departments of the federal government. The coin program will celebrate the 1995 recovery of the eagle from its listing as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It is now listed as "threatened," a less serious classification than "endangered." The coin program will also commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Turning to the designs, Ms. Budow said the obverse of each of the three coins would depict stages in the life of the eagle or the usage of the eagle as a national symbol. The clad coin would show a family of baby eaglets in their nest; the silver coin a mature eagle in flight; and the gold coin would show eagles as they appeared on historic coins.
There was only one design presented for the reverse of the gold and silver coins; the gold reverse design depicted the eagle as used in the Great Seal, and the silver reverse showed an early version of the seal. The alternative designs for the reverse of the clad coin all showed close-up depictions of an eagle with an American flag in the background, as if waving in a breeze. One design depicted the "Challenger" eagle, named in honor of the Challenger space shuttle crew.
There was a brief discussion of the designs and then unanimous agreement on the following choices: gold obverse, BE-O-G-03; gold reverse, BE-R-G-01; silver obverse, BE-O-S-08, with the recommendation that the mountains in the background be deleted; silver reverse, BE-R-S-01; clad obverse, BE-O-C-03, because the inclusion of an adult bird gives a context for the baby eagles; and clad reverse, BE-R-C-01.
E. General Services Administration
CFA 17/MAY/07-5. Frances C. Perkins Building, Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Relocation of sculpture and childcare playground. Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project to relocate the childcare center's playground from the north side of the building along D Street adjacent to a highway ramp, to an elevated yard to the east of the building. An existing large outdoor sculpture at this new location, by artist Tony Smith, would be moved to a lawn on the west side of the building. He introduced project manager Harish Kapur from the General Services Administration to further describe the proposal.
Mr. Kapur said that the existing permanent playground area is too small as well as being adjacent to high-traffic streets. The playground has been temporarily relocated to a portion of the elevated east yard; the proposal is to construct a permanent playground in this vicinity which requires relocation of the existing sculpture. The proposed new site for the sculpture is between the Department of Labor headquarters and the D.C. municipal building to the west. Mr. Lindstrom noted that this lawn already has a traditionally styled sculpture of Albert Pike.
Mr. Kapur showed drawings of the proposed playground design, which will include a colonnade and a six-foot-high perimeter fence. The area currently occupied by the temporary playground will be converted to a park for use by Department of Labor personnel.
Ms. Nelson asked if the sculpture would be fenced at its new location; Mr. Kapur said that no fencing is planned; he noted that the temporary fence that now surrounds the sculpture is for protection while the adjacent temporary playground is in operation. He added that the sculpture will be refinished and placed on a new pedestal.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed relocations would be an improvement for the children and for the sculpture; Mr. Powell agreed.
Mr. Lindstrom asked the Commission to comment on the alternative color schemes that were submitted for the proposed playground equipment. Mr. Kapur pointed out the alternatives and said that the design intent is to avoid the typical primary colors for playground equipment. Ms. Nelson supported the color scheme labeled "nature" on the drawings, commenting that this alternative's green and tan colors would relate best to the existing building exterior.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the proposal and recommended the "nature" color scheme.
F. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 17/MAY/07-6. Reservation 174, bounded by New York Avenue and 10th and I Streets, N.W. Landscape design for park. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/APR/07- 3, Old Convention Center Site Redevelopment.) Mr. Simon introduced the project, explaining that the park design is for the site of a small federal park reservation that was formerly incorporated into the plaza of the old convention center. Now that the convention center has been demolished, the historic street pattern would be reintroduced and the park would be redesigned in conjunction with development of the adjacent blocks. He noted that the park reservation is still federal but legislation is pending that would transfer it to the D.C. government. He introduced Howard Riker from Hines, the development company for the overall redevelopment of the old convention center site.
Mr. Riker explained that the park design was being developed as an integral part of the overall master plan for the old convention center site. He noted that the Commission saw an information presentation on the overall master plan a month ago; the concept for the park is now submitted for formal review since the reservation is federal property. He introduced landscape architect Rodrigo Abela of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. to present the design.
Mr. Abela described the reservation's boundaries of New York Avenue on the north, I Street on the south, 11th Street on the west, and the re-establishment of 10th Street on the east. He noted the proposal from the master plan to treat this block of I Street as a pedestrian area, with vehicular access only for emergency vehicles; nonetheless, this segment of I Street might be opened to general traffic in the future, so the design and construction details would allow for this future conversion. He explained that the paving would be flush across the pedestrianized area, with no vertical curbs, so that pedestrians would not have tripping hazards.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the proposed pedestrian-only treatment of I Street was a design decision or a decision by the D.C. government. Mr. Abela said that the decision was reached jointly by the designers and the D.C. Office of Planning and Department of Transportation. He explained that the re-establishment of this block of I Street for traffic would result in an awkward intersection; the design team had looked at other configurations of opening or closing selected streets and concluded that this proposal is best for traffic flow.
Mr. Abela explained that the park is being designed to relate to the hierarchy of other development planned for the old convention center site. I Street would be the major retail spine of the project. The park's geometry would also relate to a secondary system of retail-lined alleys leading to a central plaza within the adjoining block. The park would also provide a setting for the civic building, possibly a new public library, planned for the east side of 10th Street.
Mr. Abela showed how the park relates to the L'Enfant Plan's system of four groupings of triangular parks that frame Mt. Vernon Square as part of the shifting alignments of the street grid. He explained that the design for this reservation would contribute to the linkage along New York Avenue between the White House to the southwest and Mt. Vernon Square to the northeast. He showed historic maps suggesting that this pair of triangular parks be embellished with fountains, perhaps due to their location framing an approach route to the White House; and he showed an 1893 map that depicts a large fountain at this site. He said that the park's broadest exposure will be northward after construction of the planned adjacent buildings, but nonetheless the street configuration will allow a generous amount of afternoon sunlight to reach the site.
Mr. Abela explained the resulting design goals for the site: to respond to the importance and scale of New York Avenue, to be perceived in conjunction with the related triangular reservation across New York Avenue, to provide a focal point or landmark for the neighborhood, and to be a destination. The main feature of the proposed design is a fountain that is configured to suggest three types of relationships: linkage to the development proposed for the nearby blocks; a relationship to the proposed buildings to the south and east; and a response to the scale of New York Avenue.
Mr. Abela showed the proposed fountain design, a large pool which would be generally triangular when seen from a distance but with a more varied shape when seen closely. A smaller pool to the south west along New York Avenue would suggest a sense of entry from this direction. A seating area on the south, near the smaller pool, would be available to the public; in addition, the nearby building on the south side of the I Street alignment would have restaurants that would extend into outdoor restaurant seating. Another seating area on the east side, called the "reading grove," would relate to the potential library building on the east. A major diagonal path would lead to the southeast corner of the site, aligned with the mid-block entrance further east along I Street that would lead to the development's central plaza.
Mr. Abela explained how the triangular geometry of the major pool is extended into the shapes of site features such as paths, benches, and planters. The pool would have water jets that could be activated in different ways at different times of the year. The low edge of the pool would then lead to sloped surfaces with water flowing on top; pedestrians would be able to walk across these thin surfaces of water. Tilted ground areas would be configured with seating that would encourage people to touch the water. The plantings would include a rain garden, and the stone surfaces would provide a variety of textures. The open space at the southern portion of the park could be used for larger gatherings of up to 1,000 people; it could also accommodate an outdoor ice-skating rink in the winter.
Mr. Riker said that the legislation was enacted last fall to transfer this reservation from the federal to the D.C. government; the National Park Service is now negotiating with D.C. to finalize the conveyance. He said that the development team and the D.C. government will then create a license agreement under which the developer will construct, maintain, and program the park; the D.C. government would own the park.
Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the areas near the large pool shown in white on the plans. Mr. Abela said that these would be blocks of stone, possibly white marble, on which people could sit; some of these blocks would form part of the border of the fountain. Ms. Zimmerman asked for details about the scale and shape of the blocks; Mr. Abela said they would be approximately fifteen to twenty feet in width and flat on top, at a height that would accommodate seating. He explained that the fountain would be elevated to a similar height and the adjacent paving areas would be sloped, so the height of the blocks would vary relative to the adjoining surfaces. Ms. Zimmerman asked how the flowing water would be drained; Mr. Abela said there would be trench drains at the base of the sloped planes. He said that the blocks would allow access to the pool but would not encourage this. Ms. Zimmerman commented that the concept is interesting but the result is a lot of stone surface that is difficult for people to use because of its proximity to water. Mr. Abela and Mr. Riker said that the surfaces of the blocks would provide room for people to sit in various configurations, spread out a picnic or newspaper, put their feet in the water, or walk into the pool.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the park design, commenting that it provides sufficient shade and areas for people to gather. She described the pool as handsome and said it would be very lively and desirable in the summer; she asked what would happen to the pool during the winter. Mr. Abela said that the water could remain as a reflecting pool through much of the winter season, without using the water jets; and the sculptural form of the pool would itself be an interesting feature.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the white strip shown extending east-west across the southern part of the park. Mr. Abela said this would be a special band of paving, probably a white granite because marble would be too slippery for the ground surface. He said that this strip would mark the southern edge of the triangular reservation and emphasize the connection of the park across the bed of I Street to the block on the south. Mr. Rybczynski compared the proposal to the treatment of Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side of the White House, which he described as an unsatisfactory solution that suggests a street that isn't actually functioning as a street. He described the treatment north of the White House—with a pedestrianized area interrupted by granite curbs—as a confusing design. He suggested that a different design concept be considered since this segment of the I Street right-of-way will not function as a street.
Mr. Abela said that the D.C. government is reserving the right to reopen the street in the future, so the designers are acknowledging that it is not permanently closed. He clarified that the white strip would be flush with the adjoining pavement so there would be no actual curb; the only change in grade would be a slight ramping at each end to allow vehicles from the adjacent streets to rise up to this area of paving. He said that the result of the design details would be to treat the area as a park. Mr. Rybczynski asked why the design includes the detail of the white strip, which he characterized as a sidewalk. Mr. Abela said it would be perceived as a graphic marker rather than as a sidewalk because it is flush with the adjacent paving; Mr. Rybczynski disagreed and said the highlighted strip would be perceived as a sidewalk. Ms. Nelson suggested that a continuous paving material would support the perception that the park extends continuously from the building on the south. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the placement of trees and other physical obstructions could be determined by the potential future need to open the road, but the remaining details should emphasize the continuity of the park rather than confuse people by implying the presence of a street. Ms. Balmori agreed and said that the sense of a continuous park space would appear more generously scaled to visitors.
Mr. McKinnell expressed support for the park design, particularly its sculptural quality. He raised the practical concern about the impact of skateboarders on the materials, particularly the marble which is a soft material that is shown with sharply angled edges. He said that the stone blocks would be attractive to skateboarders and the surfaces would be heavily damaged after a year. He added that the design solutions to discourage skateboarders often have the effect of discouraging people from sitting down, so it is a difficult problem to solve. Mr. Abela acknowledged the problem and said that the designers are currently considering a textured surface in these areas that would discourage skateboarders. Ms. Balmori agreed with this strategy, suggesting that gravel walkways could address the problem.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell expressed their support for the design concept. Mr. Powell suggested a motion that would include the comments of the Commission members. Ms. Balmori offered a motion to support the design concept, ask for further clarification of the southern part of the site as either a street or part of the park, and consideration of the potential damage from skateboards. With a second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the motion.
G. D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 17/MAY/07-7. Public art projects for the CityVista complex, 5th and K Streets, N.W. Plaza sculpture and ventilation grille. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for two art projects at the multi-building CityVista development currently under construction in the growing neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. One project would be placed on a grille over a fresh-air intake for the parking garage; the other would be a free-standing sculpture in a plaza at the corner of the block at 5th and K Streets. He introduced Rachel Dickerson of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to present the proposals.
Ms. Dickerson explained that her Commission has several partners for this project: the D.C. Office of Planning; the developer, Lowes Development Enterprises; and the project designer, Michael Marshall Architecture, which was represented on the selection panel. The two artists have been selected: David Black from Ohio for the plaza sculpture and Ethan Kerber from San Francisco for the sculpture at the garage vent.
Ms. Dickerson described the plaza sculpture proposal. The intent is to create a unique element that would express the character of the neighborhood, support its growth, and provide a contemporary landmark. She showed examples of Mr. Black's previous work, including sculptures that cast complex shadows onto the paving below. She showed his proposal for the CityVista site, titled "Lift-Off." She said he was inspired by a flying kite, and the sculpture would have a feeling of movement and openness. She explained that the sculpture's armatures would extend across the plaza while not impeding pedestrian movement; the height would be 19 feet, and the armatures would extend to 29 or 39 feet. A small seating area would be included on the plaza. The material would be welded aluminum. Four small floodlights would be installed at the corners of the armatures. She showed the artist's suggested treatment of the plaza, which the selection panel has suggested should be redesigned in further coordination with the architect. She said that the selection panel has also recommended that the sculpture be taller and the seating be reconfigured to encourage more people to make use of the plaza. The selection panel had also suggested a finish of brushed aluminum or white paint, with masonry instead of steel for the base.
Mr. Belle asked if the 19-foot height was a restriction placed on the artist; Ms. Dickerson said there was no height restriction, but the artist was limited by the available budget of $150,000 which may have influenced the proposed height. Mr. Belle encouraged a taller sculpture; Ms. Nelson agreed. Ms. Nelson asked about the height of the building; Mr. Lindstrom said the various buildings in the complex would be 9, 11, and 12 stories. Ms. Dickerson said that there is retail space facing the plaza and apartments above, so the height of the sculpture and its lighting will need to be carefully considered.
Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson agreed with the selection panel's recommendation for further study of the sculpture's base with consideration of a higher-quality material. Ms. Zimmerman said the budget might be too small to allow a more expensive material. Ms. Balmori suggested that the metal of the sculpture might be extended to the ground.
Ms. Zimmerman asked about the green umbrellas shown around the sculpture. Ms. Dickerson said that this is the architect's rendering of the plaza that suggests possible details of the plaza furnishings. Mr. Belle asked about further details of the sidewalk configuration and steps; Ms. Dickerson explained that the plaza is above the parking garage so some of the design details would still need to be resolved with the architect.
Ms. Zimmerman summarized the outstanding issues as the height, color, lighting, seating, and support for the sculpture and commented that this is a lot of issues remaining unresolved, even for the concept stage. She said that the concept might not be appropriate if the sculpture will be set against many umbrellas in the plaza; Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Dickerson reiterated that the architect was represented on the selection panel; Ms. Zimmerman said that nonetheless the concept of the artwork was not consistent with the architect's rendering of the plaza treatment with umbrellas and tables.
Mr. Powell reiterated that many issues need further study. Ms. Dickerson emphasized that the concept is intentionally being presented at a very early stage to receive the Comvide comment on the color. Mr. Powell supported the selection panel's suggestion of a white or brushed aluminum finish; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson expressed support for the yellow finish shown by the artist. Mr. Powell said that yellow finishes are difficult to maintain; Ms. Balmori said that a white finish would have the same problem. Ms. Nelson suggested the brushed aluminum as the most practical solution; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the artist should choose the color, and the Commission members supported this conclusion.
Mr. Belle asked if the colored stripes in the paving were proposed by the artist; Ms. Dickerson said that these were part of the artist's proposal but were not recommended by the selection panel. Ms. Zimmerman suggested that the artist and architect coordinate their proposals; Mr. Belle agreed. The discussion concluded without a motion; the Commission asked that its comments be considered and the proposal be resubmitted after further resolution of the design.
Ms. Dickerson presented a model of the proposed sculpture by Mr. Kerber. She said that the developer had suggested an embellishment for the garage air grille. She described the artist's concept of representing and celebrating the diverse paths that people walk in life. She said the sculpture would consist of seven sub-assemblies that would be connected to a main assembly frame attached to the building facade; the vertical load would rest on concrete. The sculpture would be steel with a powder-coated finish; footprints made of cast aluminum would suggest a walking path climbing up the building, extending from footprints in the pavement leading from the street. She said the selection panel had suggested that the colors be toned down and the sculpture revised to appear more calm. The panel had also suggested that the artist consider including footprints of varying sizes to suggest the inclusion of people of different generations. She said that the budget for this sculpture is $50,000.
Ms. Nelson asked about the artist's experience with cast footprints. Ms. Dickerson confirmed that he has used this figure in other projects, and it is cast from a dancer's foot. She said that the selection panel was open to the possibility of eliminating the feet.
Mr. Belle asked about the material shown in black on the drawings. Ms. Dickerson explained that this is the louver over the air intake and the finish would be brushed aluminum rather than black. Ms. Zimmerman and Mr. Powell expressed support for the colors shown by the artist. Mr. Powell recommended that the feet be eliminated; Ms. Nelson agreed and said that the footprints look like children's art.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the extent of the louver, and he commented that the artwork would be more effective if it served as the louver itself rather than being applied to the face of the louver. Ms. Dickerson explained that there were constraints involving sufficient air flow and minimizing the size of openings so that people could not reach into the vent space. Mr. Rybczynski said that the traditional approach to commissioning such a feature would be to ask the craftsman to create a grille that meets these criteria rather than to apply a sculpture to a standard grille. He recommended that the concept of the project should involve "not sticking art onto grilles, but making grilles artistic." Mr. Belle asked if the louver is an existing feature; Ms. Dickerson said that the building is still under construction and the louver has not yet been installed. Several members of the Commission therefore agreed that Mr. Rybczynski's recommendation could still be implemented.
Mr. Belle noted that the bay adjacent to the proposed art would be a retail space, and he commented that the design of the store facade would have a great impact on the art. Ms. Dickerson confirmed that the retail facade has not yet been constructed. Mr. Belle recommended that the store design be coordinated with the sculpture design.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's recommendation to have the artist design the grille as the actual louver cover; he suggested that the architect be involved in order to resolve the functional issues. This would allow the elimination of the supporting trusses in the artwork. Mr. McKinnell commented that the Commission should encourage the role of artists as craftsmen who are creating building elements rather than designing applied works of art. Ms. Nelson reiterated the recommendation to remove the feet, and Mr. Belle noted his concern about coordinating the retail facade or keeping the storefront as far away from the artwork as possible. Mr. Powell emphasized the Commission's overall satisfaction with the artist's concept and encouragement of further coordination between the architect and artist.
The discussion concluded without a motion; as with the previous art proposal, the Commission asked that its comments be considered and the proposal be resubmitted after further resolution of the design.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1. Shipstead-Luce Act
a. S.L. 07-054. Nassif Building (U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters), 400 7th Street, S.W. Building renovation, revised building facades. Revised concept. (Previous: 19 April 2007.) Ms. Penhoet explained that the revised proposal for the building facade addresses issues raised in the Commission's review the previous month, when no action was taken on the proposed revision to the facade design. She introduced architect David Varner of the SmithGroup to present the alternative facade designs.
Mr. Varner said the design team had considered the Commission's comments from the previous month as well as the future performance requirements of the facade, the construction schedule for the building renovation, and the relation of the facade design to the large scale of the building and the urban context. He showed two new design alternatives along with the design approved in September 2006 that is no longer considered feasible to construct. He explained that the two alternatives resemble the approved design in their use of a five-foot module, external vertical fins and slots, spandrel glass, and fritted glass for the lower 26 inches of each story to reduce the visibility of furniture from the street. He showed plans, elevations, and perspectives illustrating how the shape, location, and color of the fins and slots vary in each alternative. He explained that the rendered elevations and perspectives were drawn with some assumptions about how the various fin profiles and shadows would appear in different lighting conditions and from different viewing angles. He showed the different ways that the alternatives would affect the extent of windowless exterior wall areas adjacent to the structural columns that are spaced at 30-foot intervals. He said that the design team prefers alternative #2 because it provides the sense of subtle rhythm across the facade that was a feature of the previously approved design.
Mr. McKinnell questioned the accuracy of the rendered perspective drawings; he observed that the elevation for alternative #2 shows a strong emphasis on the fins at the 30-foot intervals of the structural columns, while the perspective view does not show this emphasis. Mr. Varner said that this difference results from the slightly darker color for the fins located at the columns, causing them to recede visually when seen from a distance as shown in the perspective. He said that the site context and transit station locations cause most people to approach the building from an angle, so a head-on view would rarely be seen. Mr. McKinnell commented that the rendering of alternative #2 appears more similar to the design originally approved by the Commission, but he continued to question whether the rendering is an accurate depiction of how the design will appear when constructed. He reiterated that the profile for the larger fins shown in the plan for alternative #2 would cause them to be more prominently visible than was shown on the rendered perspective.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission look at the elevation drawings of a full facade for a more accurate depiction. Mr. Varner showed these drawings again but said that the full-facade elevations are not necessarily preferable because the surrounding buildings preclude a front view of the entire 450-foot-long facade. He said that each facade alternative is intended to provide a range of visual character when seen from different angles.
Mr. Luebke said that the staff had encouraged the design team to develop the design for alternative #2 because the pattern of fins will create a 10-foot rhythm overlaying the 30-foot structural bays; the resulting de-emphasis on the structural bays is seen most clearly in the oblique views. He explained that the broader shallower panels at the columns would become more prominent as a viewer moves from an oblique to a frontal position.
Ms. Nelson commented that alternative #2 is an improvement on the scheme that was presented the previous month. Ms. Balmori said that the approved design from 2005 was superior to either of the alternatives; she was reluctant to support either of the new alternatives and suggested further refinement of the perspective views. Mr. Belle was also reluctant to support either alternative.
Mr. McKinnell agreed with Mr. Belle and asked why the design approved in 2005 could not be built. Mr. Varner said the primary issue is scheduling due to limitations of the manufacturing process and procurement of materials for this large project; he said that cost is also an issue but not a major one. Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the explanation in April that procurement and manufacturing was already proceeding. Mr. Varner said that no physical production has yet occurred, but extensive engineering studies were already underway due to the technical performance requirements for achieving the desired level of blast resistance for this building. He said that both alternatives use very similar components on the interior side of the windows in order to take advantage of the engineering work that has already been conducted. He reiterated that construction of the approved 2005 design is not viable at this time.
Ms. Zimmerman, Ms. Nelson, and Mr. Powell noted the apparent consensus to approve alternative #2; Mr. Rybczynski agreed. Mr. Powell suggested that improved renderings be provided to the staff for further review. Mr. Belle suggested that the renderings show more clearly the contrast between the fritted and clear glass, in addition to studying the rendering of the fins as previously discussed.
Mr. Powell asked for the opportunity to review material samples. Mr. Varner said that a mock-up of materials would be created on site. Ms. Nelson noted that material samples are normally part of the Commission's review of a final design. Mr. Powell and Ms. Balmori suggested that the applicant provide an additional submission with material samples and improved renderings. Mr. Belle suggested that the review of material samples be delegated to the staff to avoid causing further delay of the project; Mr. Powell agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved alternative #2 subject to a final review of material samples that is delegated to the staff.
b. S.L. 07-072. Freedom Forum / Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Signs. Permit. (Previous: S.L. 06-048, Streetscape design, 16 February 2006.) Ms. Penhoet introduced the proposal for signage on the west and north sides of the Newseum that is currently under construction. She explained that the ground-floor signage for a tenant restaurant, called "The Source," was included with a favorable staff recommendation in the Shipstead-Luce appendix that was approved by the Commission earlier in the meeting. She introduced architect Jim Polshek of Polshek Partnership Architects to present the remaining signage for the building.
Mr. Polshek said that Newseum officials wanted their building to be designed as an icon; the architectural response was to design the facade as a "window on the world" combined with a large panel displaying the First Amendment, along with a layered facade composition that would resemble the pages of a newspaper. He explained that the newspaper analogy for the design is lacking the equivalent of the byline of newspaper articles that is critical in journalism to establishing the identity of a reporter. He said that the approved signage includes the museum name located fourteen feet above the sidewalk, but this would not be visible from across the street and would be especially difficult to see during months with leaves on the trees. He therefore proposed a bold identification sign that would correspond to the unique character of the museum and distinguish it from the banners and location maps that might be typical of other facilities such as the Smithsonian museums. The signage would have suspended letters spelling "NEWSEUM" located ten feet behind the glass facade and above the entrance; each letter would be one foot deep and slightly over five feet high. The lettering would be very different from the exterior panel displaying the First Amendment to avoid any confusion for visitors. He explained that the lettering would be positioned toward the western end of the glass facade although this was not clearly shown in the rendering.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the letters be moved to the eastern end of the facade so they would be as far as possible from the First Amendment text. Mr. Polshek said that this alternative was considered but was less successful. He emphasized that this signage is intended to be readily visible from a distance.
Mr. McKinnell asked what people would see inside the building when looking through the large glass facade. Mr. Polshek said the view would include two bridges in the foreground and a media wall behind, configured as a single panel approximately 35 by 50 feet. Mr. McKinnell commented that the media wall is large and would be readily visible to pedestrians along Pennsylvania Avenue. He expressed support for the building design and said that it already provides the recognizable icon sought by the client. He commented that the proposed lettering would be redundant for this purpose and that the juxtaposition of the First Amendment panel with the media wall is a powerful feature of the design that does not need further alteration.
Ms. Nelson said that the building would be better without the proposed sign. She commented that Pennsylvania Avenue is a civic space that does not have much commercial signage; the moving images on the media wall would already make the museum stand out along the avenue. Mr. McKinnell agreed.
Mr. Belle commented that all new museums need time to become familiar and to appear on tourist maps and brochures; he said that this museum, like others, would eventually thrive even if the signage is less than the client wishes. He concluded that the building doesn't need the proposed signage. Ms. Zimmerman agreed, noting that the "Newseum" name will appear on signage near the sidewalk level.
Mr. Polshek introduced Peter Pritchard, president of the Newseum, to further explain the need for the proposed signage. Mr. Polshek emphasized the great interest of Newseum officials in the conceptual development of the building design while noting their concern with attracting visitors to the building.
Mr. Pritchard said that the sign is intended as a wayfinding device rather than as part of the architecture. He said he lives in the neighborhood and is often asked by visitors how to find the major museums in the area, so the existing wayfinding system is clearly not sufficient. He noted that the National Park Service has reached the same conclusion in its current planning study of the Mall. He said that Newseum officials want the building to be clearly identified for tourists. He acknowledged the architectural reasons not to include the sign but noted that the project's construction cost is $450 million, with annual operating costs to exceed $50 million, so attendance would be critical for the museum's financial success. He concluded that the bold sign would be important in supporting the museum's attendance.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the issue is urban as well as architectural, and the proposed sign would not be appropriate in the urban context of Pennsylvania Avenue regardless of the building's architectural merits. He characterized the proposed sign as an attention-seeking feature that is inappropriate in this setting.
Mr. Powell agreed with the concern about wayfinding, commenting on his experience with the National Gallery of Art where a large number of visitors come in to ask about exhibits that are located in other nearby museums. Mr. Belle responded that visitors will eventually find the exhibit and museum that they want; Mr. Powell agreed and supported the consensus of the other Commission members.
Ms. Nelson said that the museum would likely be popular and successful, while the proposed sign would set a bad precedent for this part of Washington. Ms. Balmori said that the panel displaying the First Amendment will be a great image and will serve as the building's identifying feature sign. Ms. Nelson agreed, adding that there will always be people who are lost and always a reason to provide additional wayfinding, but this building will attract sufficient attention due to its unique and interesting design.
Mr. Polshek asked if a mockup of the proposed signage would be worthwhile for the Commission's consideration. Mr. Belle said that the Commission is firm in its guidance and a mockup would be a needless expense; Mr. Rybczynski agreed.
Mr. Luebke said that the submission includes several smaller signage components for the secondary entrances to the building; these did not appear to raise the design concerns of the large sign proposed for the main facade. Ms. Nelson made a motion to disapprove the major sign on Pennsylvania Avenue and approve the other secondary signage that was proposed. Mr. Belle commented that this other identifying signage should not be characterized as "secondary" because it will be an important feature of the building; Ms. Nelson agreed to remove this word from her motion. With a second by Mr. Belle, the Commission adopted the amended motion.
c. S.L. 07-071. Single-family residence, 2438 Belmont Road, N.W. Rear addition and building alterations. Revised concept. (Previous: S.L. 07- 056, 19 April 2007.) Ms. Penhoet explained that the project that was previously reviewed in April; she introduced architect Olvia Demetriou of Adamstein & Demetriou Architecture & Design to present the revised concept.
Ms. Demetriou provided a review of the site and the existing house, noting that the front facade of stone would have only minor alterations that the Commission had previously seen and supported. The proposed rear addition would include living space and an elevator. She said the presentation would include the sketches being developed at this early stage in the design process; the design would also be coordinated with neighborhood groups and the D.C. review process. She showed six options in response to the Commission's request to see a variety of ways to relate the rear addition to the existing house. She noted the presence of an existing small addition at the rear that would remain, despite its unappealing architectural character.
Ms. Demetriou showed several combinations of materials and detailing for the addition in relation to the existing fieldstone rear facade. She suggested a material palette of copper with a dark bronze finish, hardware of burnished bronze, and an anodized metal window system with a deep bronze tone. She said the staff guidance from the Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office has been to make the addition clearly new by contrasting it with character of the existing facade. She identified her preferred proposal for a glassy addition and said that it was well received by the review agency staffs. She said that the other alternatives were developed with more emphasis on stone in case the review agencies preferred that design approach.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the panels adjacent to the elevator shaft. Ms. Demetriou said that the preferred alternative shows opaque spandrel glass at this location to conceal the elevator mechanical equipment.
Mr. Belle commented that the design sketches are very unclear, making it difficult for the Commission to comment on the merits of the alternatives. He suggested that the design be developed in greater detail to assist the Commission in providing more helpful comments.
Mr. McKinnell said that the proposal was sufficiently clear for a concept review. He expressed support for the general intention to create a modern, light, pristine addition that would contrast with the traditional house. He agreed that the detailing would require careful study but said that could be reviewed at a subsequent meeting.
Ms. Demetriou agreed that her next submission would include much greater development of the design details. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could request an additional concept submission if there was concern about the overall intention of the detailing; Mr. Powell said this did not seem necessary and suggested that the Commission approve the revised concept. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised concept with the understanding that the Commission would see the project at a later stage.
2. Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 07-131 (HPA 07-197). Georgetown University, 3700 O Street, N.W. New science center building. Concept. Mr. Martínez explained that the project has not been reviewed previously by the Commission. The proposed new science building would form part of a new quadrangle that would be partially defined by the new building for the business school that was reviewed in March 2006. He showed a rendering of the quadrangle to illustrate the context. He said that the Old Georgetown Board had reviewed the proposal in May and the Board's draft recommendation was circulated to the Commission members. He explained that the Board had no objection to the concept design and suggested further design development of the south elevation and entrance, as well as better integration of the roof form and mechanical equipment with the rest of the building. He introduced Alan Brangman, the Georgetown University architect.
Mr. Brangman said that the new science building would encompass 153,000 square feet and would complete a set of three buildings including the business school and a sports facility. He introduced the architect for the project, Bob Schaeffner of Payette.
Mr. Schaeffner described the adjacent 1960s Reiss Science Building to the east and said the new building would double the size of the university's science facilities. Upon completion of the new building, the Reiss Building would be vacated and renovated; a bridge may be created in the future to connect the two buildings. He described the general context which includes buildings with a range of architectural styles and quality. He emphasized the new building's role in framing the quadrangle being created between the science and business buildings. He described the site's significant change in grade sloping downward to the south, allowing for entrances on four levels of the building in addition to the future bridge connection to the Reiss Building. He explained that the new building is designed with a north-south circulation spine that is intended to serve as an important circulation route through the campus.
Mr. Schaeffner explained the design response to these site conditions. The main facade faces west toward the quadrangle. The circulation spine would cascade down along this facade, paralleling an exterior circulation path. The teaching laboratories would be located close to the circulation spine where they would be part of the active student environment; the research laboratories would be located along the eastern side, away from the main circulation areas. The laboratory areas would be expressed on the exterior with brick walls; the offices, meeting rooms, and circulation and lounge areas would have extensive glass facades with sunscreens.
Mr. Schaeffner described the concept for the landscape which encompasses an elevation change of 46 feet. At the northern end of the quadrangle, the existing upper terrace of the adjacent sports center would be supplemented with an additional terrace area and plantings. The next level down would accommodate students walking across the quadrangle to the business school. Further down would be a large landscaped flat area that could accommodate student recreation with access from both the business and science buildings. The lowest level would include additional lawn space; the most steeply sloped areas of the site would have special plantings. Two pathways, one curved and one straight, would descend through the site; the straight path would run along the science building's facade and would occasionally engage the building to provide access to the building's lounge and circulation areas. Ms. Nelson asked if the paths would require railings. Mr. Schaeffner said this would probably not be necessary; the paths would be set slightly into the landscape with low retaining walls. He described the overall intention to suggest that the landscape is flowing into the building and said that the detailing is still being studied.
Mr. Belle noted the large, steeply pitched roof and asked whether mechanical equipment and associated openings would be located in this area. Mr. Schaeffner confirmed that these areas contain mechanical equipment; the intention is to place the louvers into eaves and vertical walls rather than use the dormers. He pointed out the exhaust vents clustered into five stacks and said the design goal is that these would be the only interruptions of the roof line. He acknowledged the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation to better integrate the dormer design with the building and agreed to study this further. Mr. Belle asked if the roof form was likely to change during further stages of the design development. Mr. Schaeffner said the only anticipated changes are possibly to improve the configuration of the mechanical equipment to avoid the need to alter the slope of the roof near the eaves and to eliminate the need for some of the louvered area. He acknowledged that the idea for the configuration of the split-gable roof and mechanical systems was used in an earlier project by Mr. McKinnell's firm for the Bass Center at Yale University; the split gable allows for the roof slope to be similar to that of nearby buildings even though the new building is wider.
Mr. Schaeffner responded further to the recommendations of the Old Georgetown Board. He said the design team is studying the composition of the south facade and the possible elimination of a window. He said that the suggestion to give further emphasis to the entrance might be unnecessary because the dramatic interior stairway would be visible from the outside; he said that additional renderings would be provided to address this concern. He agreed with the suggestion for additional study of the roof form.
Ms. Balmori expressed general support for the multi-level landscape and its integration with the various building entrances. She commented that lawns are not a very environmentally sustainable choice and suggested that the lawn areas be limited to the relatively flat portions of the site, with varied plantings used more extensively for the steeply sloped areas. Mr. Schaeffner said that one possibility for special landscaping is to provide gardens outside the biology facilities that relate to the teaching curriculum; he said that the biology department already has a planting area elsewhere on the campus. Another option would be to provide native or low-maintenance plantings instead of some of the lawn area. He said that the grading at the foot of the hill was still being refined with the intention of using a shallower grade that would make the proposed lawn more feasible to use and maintain. He said that two separate zones of alternative plantings could result in an awkward composition. Ms. Balmori suggested that these two zones could be treated differently and she recommended further study of the soil characteristics, water flow and collection, and appropriate plantings for these conditions, in addition to the design team's effort to reduce the slope of the proposed lower lawn. Mr. Belle agreed that this area needs further study.
Ms. Nelson offered a motion to approve the concept. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission specifically adopt or amend the Old Georgetown Board's draft recommendation; Mr. Martínez offered to include language to address Ms. Balmori's comments concerning the landscape. Upon an amended motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission adopted the Board's recommendation subject to additional comments on the landscape design.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:25 p.m.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: July 2, 2007