Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
20 September 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 10:07 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 July meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the minutes without objection.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: October 18, November 15, and January 17; no meeting is scheduled in December. There were no objections.
C. Report on the National Building Museum presentation, Designing the Nation's Capital: The 1901 Plan for Washington, D.C., on 10 September 2007. Mr. Luebke reported that the National Building Museum hosted a lecture based on the Commission's recent publication of essays concerning the 1901 plan for Washington, known as the McMillan Plan. Six of the seven contributing authors, including Sue Kohler of the Commission's staff, gave presentations on their research and joined in a panel discussion led by co-editor Pamela Scott.
D. Departure of staff members. Mr. Luebke announced that Ms. Kohler, the historian on the Commission's staff for over 33 years, will retire at the end of September. He summarized her work on the Commission's internal records and in preparing publications on the history of the Commission and of planning and architecture in Washington. He said that Ms. Kohler would continue to be involved with the Commission as a part-time consultant. The Commission members joined Mr. Luebke in expressing appreciation for her work.
Mr. Luebke reported the departure of Kristina Penhoet, the Commission's architect with responsibility for Shipstead-Luce submissions for the past six years. Ms. Penhoet left in August to spend more time with her growing family. He said that Mr. Lindstrom would handle the Shipstead-Luce submissions until the position is advertised and filled.
E. Introduction of new staff member. Mr. Luebke announced that Raksha Patel would begin the following week as administrative assistant on the staff. Ms. Patel comes to the Commission from the National Capital Planning Commission.
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 Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the appendix.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported that the only revisions to the draft appendix were minor editing of the text, with no change to the substance of the recommendations. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Barsoum reported several changes to the draft appendix. She said that additional supplemental drawings were still pending for two projects and asked that the staff be authorized to finalize the recommendations once these drawings were received. Two projects were added involving alterations that will not be visible from public space; they are listed as being returned without action. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised appendix subject to confirmation by staff of the recommendations for the two projects requiring supplemental drawings.
B. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 20/SEPT/07-1, Columbus Plaza at Union Station, Massachusetts Avenue between North Capitol Street and Second Street, N.E. Revisions to plaza to improve vehicular and pedestrian access and circulation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JAN/01-2.) Mr. Lindstrom reported that the Commission had approved the initial concept for this project in January 2001. The current submission is updated to incorporate continued design refinement and to include the proposed bicycle station that the Commission approved last year. Mr. Luebke noted that the approval from 2001 has lapsed and the Commission could treat the project as a new submission. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Gary Burch of Parsons Transportation Group, the transportation consultant firm for the project.
Mr. Burch showed plan drawings of the previously approved concept from 2001 and the current proposed concept. He explained that the project was initiated by the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation to improve the plaza in front of the building, with the goal of enhancing the aesthetics and the movement of vehicles and pedestrians. The project is now jointly funded by the three entities with jurisdiction over portions of the site: the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation which controls the roadways along the building; the D.C. Department of Transportation which controls the other roadways; and the National Park Service which controls the plaza areas. He explained that adjacent property is controlled by the Architect of the Capitol, and the project has been coordinated with that office. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the relationship of the consultant and clients for the project. Mr. Burch said that his firm is under contract to the D.C. Department of Transportation; the funding is provided by the three involved entities in proportion to the amount of land over which each exercises jurisdiction within the project area.
Mr. Burch explained the proposed modifications to the 2001 design. The radial pedestrian walkways have been extended to Massachusetts Avenue, giving further emphasis to the geometry of the site. The pedestrian and bicycle circulation system has been revised in response to the proposed bicycle station on the west side of Union Station. On the east side of the plaza, where fast-moving traffic has been causing conflicts with pedestrians, the proposed road curvature has been adjusted and a raised crosswalk has been added to the design. The proposed islands in Massachusetts Avenue have been widened to improve pedestrian safety. More extensive lengths of curbs have been lowered at the sidewalk and islands in front of Union Station for improved convenience of pedestrians with wheeled luggage. Designated bike lanes have been added along Massachusetts Avenue, connecting to the Metropolitan Branch Trail which will have its southern terminus at Union Station.
Mr. Burch said that construction would take approximately fifteen months, with the work being phased to allow traffic flow to be maintained throughout the project. He said that many plaza elements, such as the fountains and flag poles, would not be altered and would be protected during construction. The fountain pump, possibly still the original equipment from the early twentieth century, would be replaced as part of this project; he said that the National Park Service also intends to repair the damage to one fountain as a separate project. He emphasized the desirability of the proposal to eliminate the internal roadway that currently interrupts the plaza.
Ms. Nelson asked for further information about the historic design of the plaza. Mr. Burch said that it was a paved area, without landscaping, as described in the historic properties report for the project. He said that the plaza has been altered many times since its initial construction, including projects under his direction when he served as Chief Engineer for the District of Columbia. He said that the design of the historic plaza areas is being closely coordinated with the National Park Service.
Ms. Nelson asked about security requirements for the plaza. Mr. Burch said that the project does not include any special security components for the plaza. He noted that the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation is working on a proposal for perimeter security near the building that would be submitted separately. He clarified that these perimeter security elements—including bollards and possibly hardened fencing around planters—would be located along the building sidewalk and first traffic island; they would not extend into the landscaped plaza areas.
Mr. Belle commented that the space is dominated by multiple types of traffic, and he asked for further explanation of how movement would occur. Mr. Burch indicated the paths of various types of vehicles. Taxis will use the lane closest to the station for pick-up and drop-off, with queuing for pick-up at the back of the building. Buses, including Metro buses and tour buses, will use the middle lane in front of the building; bus staging, which sometimes now occurs on the plaza, will occur in the parking garage. The design accommodates buses by providing sufficient turning radii and a special exit lane to Massachusetts Avenue. Private cars will use the third lane in front of the station. Bicycle lanes will be provided with connections to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, designated by special paving. Pedestrians will be accommodated with additional crosswalks, many of them raised.
Mr. Belle asked for further discussion of the paving materials. Eric Walker of Lee + Papa and Associates, the landscape architecture firm for the project, explained that the landscaping decisions were guided by the National Park Service, which wants to keep intact the existing historic elements of the plaza as much as possible. He showed the example of existing granite curbs that separate the pedestrian plaza from the internal roadway; with this roadway to be eliminated, these curbs would be replaced with flush granite paving at the same location. The existing brick herringbone pattern would be maintained, with replacement of damaged bricks where needed; the brick paving pattern would also be extended into the enlarged pedestrian plaza area. The brick herringbone pattern would also be used for most of the median islands, except where bicycle routes would be differentiated with brown-colored concrete. The sidewalk along the front facade of Union Station would be extended outward by approximately three feet; the paving and scoring would match the existing concrete sidewalk.
Mr. McKinnell asked for information about the original paving materials. Mr. Luebke provided some historic photographs and plans of the plaza, which was a large open area paved in granite cobbles interrupted by small areas of grass, fountains, and other features.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the plaza is an historic place in front of one of the city's great buildings; he suggested that further information about its historic treatment would be helpful in addition to the description of the current altered conditions. He questioned whether the proposed design solution—including the brick surfaces and extension of the walkways—would be appropriate for the setting's historic Beaux-Arts character. Mr. Walker explained his understanding of the historic materials based on information provided by the National Park Service; Mr. Luebke questioned the accuracy of the description in comparison to the historic photographs.
Jeff Lee of Lee + Papa and Associates explained that the original early-twentieth-century design allowed cars to occupy much of the plaza area. The current proposed design would strengthen the open space and clarify the pedestrian connections between the plaza and the radiating streets. He said that the design was developed in close consultation with the National Park Service's cultural resources staff including study of historical documents. Mr. Rybczynski said that the Commission should be presented with this information on the historic design and the existing conditions; instead, only a minimal amount of information on the current proposal has been shown.
Mr. Burch responded that he could send the Commission additional copies of the historic properties report which explains the history of the plaza and its relation to Union Station. He explained that the existing historic elements within the plaza, such as the balustrades, fountains, and flag poles, would not be altered. Mr. Belle commented that the appearance of these historic features would be affected by the proposed reconfiguration of the plaza, even if they are not directly altered; he reiterated the need for additional information on the historic design. He observed that the historic photos show a broad continuous paved plaza with an urban character that responds to its purpose of distributing people and traffic; he questioned why the proposed design has the character of a fan-shaped plaza with extensive landscaping.
Mr. Burch responded that the plaza acquired the landscaped character through later alterations; he said the intent of the current proposal is to return to some of these intermediate design solutions rather than to the original character. Mr. Belle commented that the design should respond to the intense use of the space by vehicles and pedestrians. Mr. Burch added that use by bicyclists would also become increasingly important, and the design is intended to accommodate all of these uses. He emphasized that the proposed design would improve the traffic patterns and would eliminate most of the problems in the existing circulation.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the traffic issues are apparently being handled well but the issue that concerns the Commission is the plaza's relationship to Union Station and to the broader context, including the nearby U.S. Capitol. He pointed out a quotation from Daniel Burnham, the architect for the plaza and Union Station, that emphasized the artistic relationship among these elements. Mr. McKinnell commented that there should be further consideration of returning the plaza to the character envisioned by Burnham, emphasizing his significance in architectural history.
Mr. Powell observed that some of the historic photos show grass areas. Mr. Rybczynski said that even if grass was used historically, the proposed flower beds are probably not historically appropriate. Mr. Powell agreed that a return to the historic materials would be worth considering, and he agreed that the concern is with the plaza rather than with the circulation pattern which seems well resolved.
Mr. Lee responded that the National Park Service did not want to use cobbles because they would provide an uneven walking surface for the large number of pedestrians in this area. Mr. Luebke noted that there was nobody present from the National Park Service to discuss these concerns with the Commission; he suggested that a representative be available when this project is next reviewed. Mr. McKinnell observed that the historic photos may show smooth paving blocks rather than rough cobbles.
Mr. Powell said that the proposal deserves a more complete discussion that would be based on additional historical information. Mr. Belle agreed, requesting a presentation on the evolution of this space from Burnham's time onward, along with an analysis of how modern needs—such as increased vehicular traffic—would affect the viability of the historic design features. He expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed solution of additional landscaping to extend the remains of the Beaux-Arts composition.
Ms. Nelson questioned some of the traffic issues such as control of taxi usage. Mr. Burch said that the staff of Union Station manages that process. Mr. Powell said that these traffic issues are relevant to the Commission's review of the plaza design. Mr. Burch offered to return to the Commission with the additional information that has been requested; Mr. Powell agreed that this would be helpful.
Mr. Luebke noted that the anticipated perimeter security elements are not included in the proposal. Mr. Powell requested that the next presentation include information on this component, even if it is being developed as a separate project. The discussion concluded without a formal motion.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 20/SEP/07-2, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial One-Cent Coin Redesign Program for 2009. Reverse designs for four coins. Final. Ms. Kohler introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the proposal. Ms. Budow began by showing the Commission several of the Mint's recent issues, including the first two presidential spouse one-dollar coins and several bronze medals. Ms. Nelson commented on the substantial size of the medals, giving the designs a sculptural scale.
Ms. Budow presented the proposed designs for the 2009 issue of the penny, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. She acknowledged the proposals in recent decades to eliminate the penny, and she explained that the proposed redesign is specifically authorized by law. She summarized the legislation which calls for the obverse of the penny to remain unchanged from its 1909 design, with four new reverse designs to illustrate phases of Lincoln's life: his birth and humble beginnings in Kentucky; his formative years in Indiana; his professional life in Illinois; and his presidency in Washington, D.C. She said that the coin program has been developed in coordination with the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; that Commission had suggested that the coin reverses include a brief text explanation, perhaps simply an abbreviated state name, to identify the designs in addition to the usual required wording.
Ms. Budow presented the five alternative designs for the first phase of Lincoln's life, numbered as LC-R-1-01 through LC-R-1-05. Each depicts the representative log cabin at the Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site which is considered "symbolic of Lincoln's humble circumstances." Each would have the date 1809, the year of Lincoln's birth. Ms. Nelson said that she prefers LC-R-1-05 because the absence of landscaping makes the image of the cabin more legible. The other Commission members agreed; upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved alternative LC-R-1-05.
Ms. Budow presented the ten alternative designs relating to Lincoln's boyhood in Indiana, where he lived from age 8 to 21. The first two designs show his boyhood home; several additional designs show Lincoln educating himself through reading and writing. Additional designs show Lincoln as a rail-splitter, an activity which letter became associated with his public service.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for LC-R-2-07, showing Lincoln studying, because the profile portrait works well on a coin; she said that the image of him studying was appropriate to show his ambition and intelligence. Mr. McKinnell commented that the images of the house should not be chosen because of the similarity to the design of the first reverse. The Commission members considered the small size of the penny; Mr. Rybczynski commented that the existing coin's simple symmetrical elevation of the Lincoln Memorial is the appropriate amount of visual information for a coin of this size. Ms. Budow acknowledged the limited size and said that the Mint had discouraged suggestions for additional inscriptions.
Mr. Rybczynski supported LC-R-2-04 showing Lincoln's hands in the process of writing; he commented that the subject of writing is superior to rail-splitting. He suggested that the design be simplified further, such as by not attempting to provide legibility to the actual lettering. He added that the depiction of Lincoln's large hands would relate to the sculpture of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Powell commented that the drawing of Lincoln in LC-R-2-07 is unsatisfactory. Ms. Nelson said that some of the other alternatives also have questionable depictions of Lincoln; Mr. Belle agreed, commenting that the small size of the coin results in the head being out of proportion with the rest of the body.
Mr. McKinnell commented that Lincoln's face will appear on the obverse, so a reverse design that also shows his face would be inappropriate. Ms. Nelson supported LC-R-2-04 since it emphasizes Lincoln's hands; Mr. McKinnell agreed, provided that the details are simplified. Ms. Budow said that the Mint has determined that all of the proposed designs can be executed as coins; details that could not be executed have already been removed from the designs. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved alternative LC-R-2-04.
Ms. Budow then presented the sixteen alternatives relating to Lincoln's professional life in Illinois, including depictions of his work as a lawyer; depictions of the Illinois State House where he served in the state legislature; depictions of his home in Springfield, Illinois; and depictions of the well-known Lincoln-Douglas debates. Mr. Belle asked why the images of the buildings are combined with images of Lincoln; Ms. Budow said that the images are intended to show the relationship of Lincoln to the buildings.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. McKinnell suggested a pattern of depicting buildings of significance to Lincoln on the reverses, extending the logic of the current design showing the Lincoln Memorial. The approved design for the second phase, showing Lincoln's writing, could be an exception to this pattern. The coin for the third phase could therefore depict the Illinois State House, and the fourth coin could depict the U.S. Capitol. Of the several alternatives depicting the State House, Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. McKinnell suggested LC-R-3-12. Mr. Belle commented that the depiction lacks architectural detail. Ms. Nelson suggested LC-R-3-02 which shows the State House with Lincoln standing in front of it. She supported the combination of Lincoln's image with the building but criticized the proportions in the depiction of Lincoln; Mr. Powell and Mr. Belle agreed with this concern. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved LC-R-3-02.
Ms. Budow concluded with seven alternative designs for Lincoln's presidential years. The first four alternatives depicted various views of the U.S. Capitol dome under construction during Lincoln's administration. The last three alternatives showed the cottage he used at the Old Soldiers' Home, where he drafted some of the major works of his presidency. Ms. Nelson questioned the legibility of the Capitol construction at the size of the penny; she suggested that the construction crane and scaffolding would be clearest in alternative LC-R-4-03. Mr. Rybczynski said that the crane might appear to be a chimney rising from the building; he suggested showing the unfinished dome without the crane. Ms. Budow said that the first two designs are based directly on historic photographs, while LC-R-4-03 is a composite view from a different angle.
Mr. Belle expressed support for the asymmetrical composition of LC-R-4-03; the Commission approved this design upon a motion by Mr. Belle.
D. General Services Administration
CFA 20/SEPT/07-3, Federal Office Building #8 (former Food and Drug Administration), 2nd and C Streets, S.W. Building modernization and renovation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JAN/06-3.) Mr. Lindstrom said that the design has changed considerably since the Commission reviewed it in January 2006. He introduced John Crowley of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission's action in January 2006 included concept approval for the building but not for the landscape and site design.
Mr. Crowley explained that the concept design has changed in response to the Architect of the Capitol's office, which will be leasing most of the building's space for use by Congressional committees. The Architect of the Capitol requested changes to the security and the appearance of the building. He introduced Joseph Boggs and Frank Kaye of Boggs & Partners Architects to present the revised concept.
Mr. Boggs said that the requested changes include an increased emphasis on sustainability and a secure appearance, as well as actual building security. He said that the existing three-inch-thick limestone facade provides a strong appearance and a solid institutional character, so more of it is being retained than was previously proposed. The design goals remain of achieving a silver LEED rating, giving the building a new look and feel while respecting its minimalist modern detailing, and bringing more daylight to the interior. The east and west walls—mostly solid limestone in the existing building—will be altered to provide extensive window areas; Mr. Boggs said that the views from the eastern windows, facing the Capitol and the Rayburn House Office Building, will be particularly important for the tenant. The existing strips of small windows on the east and west facades, related to the interior stairwells, would be retained. The existing windows on the north and south facades would be expanded. An atrium would be created through the full height of the building, covered by a new skylight. He described the detailing of the projecting glass bays and the appearance of shadows and overlapping planes.
Mr. Boggs showed the proposal for adding an entrance pavilion on the north side of the building within the plaza space along C Street; the existing building, like several others in the vicinity, is set back substantially from the C Street right-of-way. The connection between the pavilion and the building would suggest "a waterfall of glass," and the projecting pavilion would be visible to people approaching along C Street from the east and west.
Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Nelson asked for further information on the projecting glass bays. Mr. Boggs confirmed that the bays will project forward from the facade by one foot, although this detail is difficult to see at the scale of the model. He said that the one-foot projections with butt-jointed glass continuing around the sides would provide a special visual experience for the building's occupants. He said that mullions would be minimal, and special films would be used to reduce the light transmission where necessary, particularly on the west facade.
Ms. Nelson asked about the purpose of the entrance pavilion, commenting that it would be a prominent feature of the design. Mr. Boggs explained that it would be the location for security screening, including metal-detection equipment; by placing this screening in a pavilion, a blast at the screening area might destroy the pavilion but not the main building. Ms. Nelson commented that the screening equipment can be unsightly and should not be showcased in a glass pavilion. Mr. Boggs showed the proposed location of the equipment and the placement of frosted glass and a stone base, which would screen the view of the equipment. Mr. Belle commented that the new entrance pavilion and atrium configuration would create a pleasant work environment. Mr. Boggs said that the design goals are to have office areas within forty feet of daylight and to create a first-class office building rather than have the feeling of a converted laboratory building. Mr. McKinnell and Mr. Belle said that these goals appear to have been achieved.
Mr. Kaye presented the site design. He said that the design is quite preliminary because the Architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police are still providing information on design requirements such as perimeter security. He described the master plan for the C Street area that is currently being prepared by the General Services Administration. The space along C Street currently used for surface parking would be converted to a plaza and landscaped space, in accordance with the master plan recommendations being developed. The existing ramp to underground parking and loading would remain on the northeastern edge of the plaza. A bosque of trees would be placed on a tilted lawn at the northwest corner of the plaza. A potential location for artwork is identified at the sidewalk in front of the entrance pavilion.
Mr. Kaye said that perimeter security around the block would be provided by landscaping and planter walls where possible, with a minimal number of bollards for the remaining areas. Public metered parking along the curb would remain on all four sides of the site. Areaways around the building perimeter would remain and would receive new glass railings. Standard Washington pavers would be used for most sidewalks, with special granite pavers at the entrance pavilion.
Mr. Belle asked if a daycare facility is included. Mr. Kaye said none is yet contemplated; programming is still being coordinated with the tenant. Mr. Crowley said that a daycare facility is located nearby in the Mary Switzer Building.
Mr. Belle asked for more information on the proposed site design along C Street. Mr. Kaye said that the plaza encompasses 90 feet from the building to the curb. The area is now mostly paved; the proposal will provide extensive planting areas, including raised planter walls that will provide perimeter security as well as seating. He said that people can also sit on the grass under the bosque of trees; Mr. Belle commented that this area is relatively small. Mr. Kaye described the C Street plaza as a space for gathering, queuing for entrance, and passing through on the way to nearby areas such as the Rayburn House Office Building and the planned Disabled Veterans Memorial. He noted the Metro station entrance opposite the southwest corner of the building and pointed out the probable location of an employees-only entrance on the south facade.
Mr. Luebke said that the perimeter security line extends close to the curb and encompasses an extensive amount of public sidewalk area; he said that the National Capital Planning Commission has expressed concern about this issue. He noted that the Commission of Fine Arts had previously taken separate actions on the building design and the site design. Mr. Powell asked if the proposed site design is still considered tentative; Mr. Kaye confirmed that the perimeter security requirements were still being determined. Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission focus on the building design and await a subsequent submission of the site design.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Powell reiterated their support for the building design. Mr. McKinnell commented that the building's success will depend on high-quality detailing which would be expensive; he expressed concern that low-quality materials would be substituted as a cost-saving measure, and he urged the General Services Administration to support the successful execution of the design. Mr. Belle recommended particularly close attention to the intersection of the projecting glass bays with the raised planting beds that will abut the facade.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Belle recommended further study of the C Street plaza. Mr. Rybczynski said that the position and scale of the entrance pavilion create an axial approach that might be appropriate for a monumental building but not for an office building. He also commented that the plaza does not have an urban character while acknowledging the difficulty of designing the space around the existing parking ramp.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept for the building design and requested a re-submission of the site design that would incorporate further design study and additional information about security requirements.
E. Department of State
CFA 20/SEPT/07-4, International Center. Embassy of Morocco, International Drive, Lot #4. New embassy building. Concept. Mr. Martínez introduced Donna Mavritte from the U.S. Department of State to begin the presentation. Ms. Mavritte said that the proposed new building will be presented by the architect, Eric Morrison of Morrison Architects.
Mr. Morrison described the site, which he said is the last open lot at the International Center. He showed the steep grade change from the entrance along International Drive at the top edge of the site to the intersection of Reno Road and Tilden Street at the rear of the site, resulting in the rear facade of the building rising prominently when seen from these lower streets. He showed the adjacent buildings for Ethiopia and Bangladesh; their sites are similarly configured and their front and rear facades have very different appearances.
Mr. Morrison described the massing of the proposed building, centered on a multi-purpose hall; the hall's glass roof and stone paving would give it the character of an outdoor courtyard. The adjacent ambassador's office would rise over the lower portion of the site, and four stories of offices would be located along the front of the site. A fifty-space parking garage would be located beneath the building.
Mr. Morrison said that he studied Moroccan architecture as part of the design process. He said that the ambassador requested that the office space have a modern character, suggesting the need for extensive window areas, while most traditional Moroccan architecture has solid walls with punched windows. The proposed design includes cast-stone walls with alternating stripes of smooth and textured finish, with large punched window openings for the offices and an arched entrance portico. The cornice would have a simple castellated pattern. Terraces along the rear facade would include trellises, and the ambassador's office would be articulated with a bay reminiscent of traditional Moroccan architecture. Mr. Luebke observed that the overall character of the International Center is a collection of buildings that project an image of each country's architectural identity.
Ms. Nelson commented that the design's two architectural directions—traditional Moroccan architectural references and a modern office building—appear to be battling each other. She suggested further development of the design to resolve this conflict. Mr. Rybczynski agreed and commented that the rear elevation is better resolved because of the progression from the more solid lower floors, which enclose parking and services, to the lighter character of the windows at the ambassador's office. Mr. Rybczynski questioned the proposal for three arched porticos on the front facade, with only the center one serving as an entrance. He encouraged a main entrance arch that is elaborate and authentic to Moroccan traditions. Mr. McKinnell agreed and recommended that the side arches be eliminated; the facade could then focus on the contrast between the single traditional entrance arch and the modern office building facade, which he suggested should be refined to reflect more of the Moroccan architectural tradition. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson said that the overall massing and the configuration of punched windows are acceptable; the refinement should occur in the detailing of the front facade to lessen the abrupt contrast. Mr. Powell suggested further study of the scale of the windows, which he said have an industrial appearance. Mr. Belle said that the historic examples show a variety of treatments of openings; he suggested that the facade be developed with more complexity than simply an entrance portico and repetitive windows.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission approve the overall massing and request that the detailing of the facades be studied further—with emphasis on developing the references to traditional architecture—and resubmitted as a revised concept. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
F. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 20/SEPT/07-5, National Zoological Park. New centralized hay storage facility. Final. Mr. Martínez said the proposal is for a metal building that appears to be a barn; he introduced Tim Buehner of the National Zoo to present the project.
Mr. Buehner explained that hay for the zoo animals was previously kept on open trailers but there were problems with mold. A more specialized trailer design would be possible but would not fit in well with the aesthetic character of the zoo. The proposal is therefore to construct a permanent storage building that will be sited with other visible maintenance facilities near the Mane Restaurant.
Mr. Buehner described the other adjacent zoo areas, including the new Kids' Farm and the service area for the Amazonia exhibit. The site is currently a stormwater retention pond that will be removed based on consultation with the D.C. government. Existing trees will be retained where possible, and additional landscaping will be provided to screen views of the building and service drive from the nearby public path. He said that the proposed building would reinforce the vernacular design character of an existing storage shed in the vicinity.
Mr. Buehner explained that the hay would be delivered on large trucks, transferred to the storage building, and then transferred to small trucks as needed for distribution around the zoo. The proposed orientation of the building has been adjusted so that the large trucks will be able to use the existing service drive.
Mr. Buehner described the proposed building design and operation. It would be a simple rectangular building in the style of a barn, primarily a single open storage space except for a small machine room for the fire suppression system and fans. Two large doors would be provided at different ends of the building to facilitate the management of the hay inventory. The building would be made of metal rather than wood due to the concern of contaminating the hay—used as food for animals—with the chemicals that are used to treat wood used in construction. The landscaping would help the building be perceived as part of the environment without encouraging people to walk into the service area to see it; eventually, the landscape would grow enough to fully conceal the building.
Ms. Nelson questioned the proposal to paint the building red, giving it the image of a traditional barn. She acknowledged that this color would be compatible with the Kids' Farm buildings but would make the building highly visible; she suggested a color that would help the building to recede, such as dark green. Mr. Buehner said this question was discussed by the zoo's leadership committee, which concluded that the various buildings visible from the Mane Restaurant should be in the style of vernacular farm buildings such as a red barn.
Mr. McKinnell said that the barn imagery and the red color would be acceptable, but he commented that the extensive landscape screening gives the impression that the designers are embarrassed to let the barn be visible. He suggested a simpler landscape that would correspond to the utilitarian character of the building; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Buehner said that the proposed landscaping is considered part of the zoo's exhibit.
Mr. Rybczynski asked why the building isn't sited further from the walkway. Mr. Buehner explained that the location is related to the need for trucks to turn in and back out when making deliveries. He said that deliveries would usually be handled when the truck arrives but occasionally the truck would need to remain for a longer period of time; the building is therefore sited to screen views of the driveway where the truck would park. Mr. Belle asked about the extensive paved area between the barn and the driveway. Mr. Buehner said that this proposed asphalt area would need to support the forklifts that carry the hay into the barn; materials with less environmental impact were being considered but would apparently not support the necessary weight. Mr. Belle commented that the asphalt area would exceed the size of the barn. Mr. Buehner said that the large area is necessary to accommodate the movements of the forklifts; he acknowledged that the situation is not ideal.
Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the proposed treatment of stormwater. Mr. Buehner said that underground facilities would hold stormwater briefly and provide treatment to separate oil from water. He explained that D.C. officials had initially requested significant retention of stormwater, but their most recent recommendation was that the zoo's location toward the downstream end of Rock Creek makes it advisable to discharge the stormwater quickly before upstream stormwater enters the treatment system. Based on this updated advice, the stormwater retention pond is no longer desired.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission approve the building without acting on the landscape design. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
G. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1. CFA 20/SEPT/07-6, Marvin Gaye Park (former Watts Branch Park), Watts Branch between Minnesota and Southern Avenues, N.E. Public park and stream rehabilitation and restoration. Concept. Mr. Simon introduced Todd Douglas from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to begin the presentation. Mr. Douglas said that the project was initiated by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation whose operations were recently transferred to the Office of the Deputy Mayor. He introduced landscape architect Marsha Lea from EDAW to present the design.
Ms. Lea explained that the linear park was formerly known as Watts Branch Park corresponding to the stream that runs through it. The park had become a dumping ground; it has improved in recent years with increased community involvement, and the proposed design would further reinvigorate it and encourage public use.
Ms. Lea showed the park's configuration and context, extending almost two miles on the east side of the Anacostia River between the Capitol Heights and Minnesota Avenue Metrorail stations. The stream continues beyond the limits of the park to empty into the Anacostia River. She said the park is very narrow and steep in places and is interrupted in one central location where the stream is in a culvert. The proposed design takes advantage of the wider areas to locate major features.
Ms. Lea described the design of goal of improving the park's connections to the adjacent neighborhoods, including stronger pedestrian connections and carefully designed vehicular connections that would not cause conflicts with park users. She explained that some of the streets that dead-end at the park do not currently have sidewalks; some are blocked off by jersey barriers and fallen trees. She showed the many schools that are adjacent to the park, providing the opportunity for improved connections. She emphasized the need for clear entrance points and gateways to the park, especially since portions of the park are adjacent to the rear of residential and commercial properties. She explained that the D.C. Department of Transportation is currently constructing a multi-purpose trail through the park which is being incorporated into the proposed design.
Ms. Lea said that the park would primarily commemorate singer Marvin Gaye, who grew up in the area. The park would also commemorate other people who have been associated with it historically, including Nannie Helen Burroughs, Lady Bird Johnson, and [Laurance] Rockefeller. She explained that Mr. Gaye's life and career corresponded to an east-to-west path associated with the park, from his childhood in the neighborhood at the park's eastern end to his early musical performance venues in and near the central area of the park; his later music about environmental degradation relates to the more urban character of the park's western end. Ms. Lea then described the four major nodes proposed for the park: Capital Gateway; Heritage Green; the King Sanctuary and Lederer Center; and Lady Bird Johnson Meadows.
The Capital Gateway area would be at the eastern end of the park. The proposal includes elimination of 61st Street across the park, with a cul-de-sac created to retain access to the adjacent residential properties and improve pedestrian connections. The existing recreation center in this area is considered inadequate and would be replaced; the new center would be sited with an improved relationship to the park and the adjacent streets. Play areas would be rehabilitated and improved; a concession stand would be added; and trail connections would be increased. An overlook and interpretive area would be located near the site of Mr. Gaye's home, which no longer exists; a sculpture might be included at this location.
The Heritage Green are would be near the geographic center of the park along Division Avenue. Mr. Gaye had performed at the adjacent Riverside Center which is still an active community center. The proposal includes a plaza next to the Riverside Center for street fairs or performances, a play area on the other side of the stream, improvements to an existing play area, and improved path connections. An outdoor amphitheatre would also be provided; the location is still being finalized, with one possibility being to site it near the Woodson High School athletic field. Traffic would be maintained on Division Avenue but a speed table or speed bump might be provided, based on coordination with the D.C. Department of Transportation. An existing pedestrian bridge would be maintained and slightly relocated if necessary.
The next node would be the King Nature Sanctuary and Lederer Center. The Lederer Center is an existing park support facility housed in a temporary structure adjacent to the community garden; a permanent building is proposed, along with enhancements to the garden, a new greenhouse to replace the existing obsolete structure, and an area where produce could be sold. A wetland and a healing garden would be constructed. An existing unused vehicular bridge, formerly carrying 48th Place, is blocked by jersey barriers; it would be renovated as a green bridge that is designed for pedestrians.
The Lady Bird Johnson Meadows would be at the western end of the park. As First Lady, Mrs. Johnson visited the park and walked along the stream at this location as part of her beautification campaign. This area would be planted with wild flowers and could include artwork celebrating Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Gaye. The northernmost segment of the park contains a small library kiosk which will probably be replaced with a new library; a cafe could also be included at this location, along with a wall for art or graffiti to screen the adjacent McDonald's restaurant. Hunt Place, which divides this section of the park, would be narrowed to reduce the amount of cut-through traffic. An existing plaque commemorating Laurance Rockefeller's financial support for the park would be relocated along Hunt Place.
Ms. Lea said that new structures in the park would incorporate current environmental standards for green buildings, including low-impact development and recycling of existing materials. Several environmental monitoring stations would be located along the length of the park—usually near schools—to encourage students to test the water and air and possibly keep an environmental scoreboard.
Ms. Nelson asked about the cost of this extensive project. Ms. Lea said the estimate is $45 million, with the work to be undertaken in phases. She also explained that the D.C. and U.S. governments are undertaking a stream restoration project for Watts Branch that is nearly ready for construction.
Mr. Rybczynski, Ms. Nelson, and Mr. Powell expressed support for the project. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the thematic approach is an unusual way to deal with a large park. He said that most commemorative parks contain only a single commemorative feature; the celebration of Mr. Gaye's life along a two-mile park might be excessive, and the design might be more successful if the commemorative elements are focused at one location. Ms. Lea said that the challenge was to relate the entire park to Mr. Gaye, after whom it is named; commemoration at the eastern and western gateways would be one design option, but the park also contains many intermediate gateways from the surrounding neighborhoods. She emphasized that the design also commemorates other people associated with the park.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposed transverse connections across the park are successful and work well in combination with the park's linear path system. He said that bicyclists may be the primary users of the park's linear path. Ms. Lea responded that many pedestrians follow the park's path toward the Metro stations at each end.
Ms. Nelson asked for further explanation of the art graffiti wall, questioning whether it would be inappropriate in the area commemorating Mrs. Johnson who was a vocal opponent of graffiti. Ms. Lea said that this wall might be composed of permanent mosaics created by neighborhood schoolchildren.
Ms. Nelson commented that the complex and ambitious design will likely be simplified as it is implemented. She suggested that further revisions to the design should emphasize nature rather than hardscape. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept.
2. CFA 20/SEPT/07-7, Kingman and Heritage Island Environmental Center, Anacostia River (northeast of RFK Stadium). New public park and education center. Concept. Mr. Simon said that this is another project initiated by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation and now submitted by the Office of the Deputy Mayor. He explained that the project includes a new educational building—the Environmental Center—as well as an extensive park that will occupy most of the lengthy Kingman Island and all of the smaller Heritage Island. He introduced Jimmy Diggs of the Deputy Mayor's office to begin the presentation. Mr. Diggs introduced landscape architect Adrienne McCray of Lee + Papa and Associates to present the park design and architect Marnique Heath of Studios Architecture to present the building design.
Ms. McCray described the site and context. Kingman Island lies between Kingman Lake and the main channel of the Anacostia River, with limited access by road from the Benning Road Bridge and by a footbridge from the parking lot of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, which is considered the primary access point. The footbridge crosses the smaller Heritage Island located within Kingman Lake. The islands were created by dredging operations in the early twentieth century and have generally been neglected since that time. Kingman Island itself has served as a municipal dumping ground for leaves and other debris.
Ms. McCray explained that the D.C. government prepared a master plan for the island in 2000 through consultation with nearby communities, resulting in the park's main program elements: a nature center, an open meadow, and passive recreational trails. The park would also include a grouping of memorial groves commemorating the D.C. residents who died in the September 11 attacks; the memorial grove design was developed through a separate design competition that was won by Ms. McCray's firm. The park would connect to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail System that is currently being developed.
Ms. McCray described the general layout of the park. Visitors would enter on the footbridge from the parking lot on the west and cross Kingman Lake and Heritage Island and continue to a meadow on Kingman Island. The meadow would be shaped as an amphitheatre with the stage area near the park's entrance point, making use of the existing mounding on the site. The meadow would be framed by the Environmental Center to the south side and the memorial grove complex to the north; both would be visible across the water as visitors traverse the footbridge. Paths leading south from the meadow would bring visitors up to the building's entrance or down toward the shore to pass beneath the building. Other paths would lead north toward the memorial groves which would include flowering, shade, and beech trees, as well as a totem pole sculpture that is currently on temporary display at Congressional Cemetery. Adjoining the Environmental Center would be an outdoor classroom area and a small parking area for service vehicles or handicapped access. Additional outdoor classroom areas would be located on different parts of the island to provide a variety of natural settings for education, including areas of deciduous and evergreen trees.
Ms. McCray said that the proposed landscaping would involve removal of invasive species, retention of other existing plants, and the introduction of new plants to create a diverse environment that will support a diversity of animals. The landscaping is being coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' habitat restoration project for the islands. She said that site materials would be chosen with an emphasis on sustainable design, including permeable surfaces and recycled materials.
Ms. Heath then presented the design of the Environmental Center. She said the building is intended to be a model for innovative architecture and forward-thinking environmental concepts. The design not only incorporates LEED platinum standards but also makes the sustainable design features visible to visitors as part of the building's educational purpose. The building will be a primary destination and also provide an orientation feature for those visiting other parts of the park.
Ms. Heath said that the north facade is intended to be a "serene background" for the visitor arrival area at the meadow and the memorial grove further to the north. The design encourages visitors to experience the building and site in a variety of ways. She explained that one ramp would provide visitors with access to the roof of the building, which will be a green roof with a bird observation area. A second ramp would lead under the building along the water toward a canoe dock, and another ramp would lead to the building's entrance. She confirmed that all of these ramps would be accessible to the handicapped. The building would extend over the water on piers, allowing visitors inside to view a variety of habitat conditions.
Ms. Heath described the interior configuration of three primary spaces: an exhibit hall, a multi-purpose room, and a discovery room with access to the outdoor classroom. The north and south facades would have extensive glass to emphasize views of the surrounding environment. The concrete structure would provide passive heating and cooling, and the building would incorporate a geothermal system. Mechanical systems would be exposed, particularly on the roof where a greenhouse would display the wastewater treatment system. The facades would have a double skin to allow natural ventilation; louvers on the south facade would incorporate solar technology.
Mr. Powell commented that the project is ambitious in its scale. Mr. Rybczynski questioned the combination of a memorial with a recreation area; he suggested that the memorial grove complex be placed further from the entrance area so that visitors do not necessarily have to interact with it as part of a recreational visit. Ms. McCray explained that the memorial's sequence of nodes and groves begins at the meadow but the stronger sense of entrance occurs deeper within the path system. She explained that most of the park's attractions are to the south of the entrance, so the memorial grove area on the north does not directly affect the visitors' main pathway. She confirmed that the memorial grove area would be visible from the meadow as well as from the entrance footbridge, where the formal planting configuration of the beech tree grove will be visible across the water. She said that the memorial design is intended to provide a general sense of quiet contemplation and special places, rather than having specific trees or other features associated with the individual victims.
Mr. Belle asked about the distance from the parking lot and Metro station to the park. Ms. McCray said that the Metro station is about half a mile away; the parking lot is at the west end of the footbridge, perhaps a five- or ten-minute walk from the park.
Mr. Belle asked for further explanation of the landscape sections. Ms. McCray said that the eleven-foot-wide roadway zone would have ten-foot buffers on each side that would include understory plantings. The path system would have similar buffer zones that would be cleared of invasive species. Shorter plants would be used around the Environmental Center to maintain open views.
Mr. Powell asked about the proposed schedule. Ms. Heath said that site work could begin next spring. Mr. McKinnell asked about funding for the project. Ms. McCray said that the habitat restoration would be partly funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mr. Diggs said that additional funding for the park and building would come from the D.C. government. Ms. Heath said the budget for the Environmental Center and associated sitework is $15 million; the design process is currently at the end of the schematic design phase.
Mr. McKinnell described the project as "extraordinary" and "wonderful." He commented that the building has a simple concept of a hovering form emerging from the hillside, in contrast to the complexity of the cladding system that is proposed. He predicted that the cladding would be simplified as a cost-cutting measure, and he said that this would be acceptable as long as the overall building concept remains. He observed that the extensive screening system on the north facade is not needed for solar control, undermining the intention to have the building serve as a model of environmental responsiveness and to emphasize views from the interior to the park. He suggested that the concept is strong and elegant enough to allow for some editing of the architectural development.
Mr. McKinnell suggested approval of the concept. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission would like to delegate approval of the final design to the staff; Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell said that the Commission should see it again. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the concept.
3. CFA 20/SEPT/07-8, Diamond Teague Park, Potomac Avenue & First Street, S.E. New public park. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a riverfront park and piers adjacent to the baseball stadium that is currently under construction. He described the adjacent waterfront sites: a large historic pump station on the east for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), and the Florida Rock property on the west that is planned for mixed-use development. He explained that the site includes a former pumphouse building that is used by the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC); the proposed park is named to honor one of ECC's most promising students who was murdered several years ago. He introduced Judith Greenberg of the Deputy Mayor's office to begin the presentation.
Ms. Greenberg said that the project includes several major components: a commercial pier adjacent to the ECC building to accommodate larger boats such as water taxis; a smaller pier for kayaks and canoes; and a park on the land including walkways, boardwalks, and plantings. She said that the users would include ballpark visitors. She noted that this site is one of the few riverfront portions in the area that is not bulkheaded, providing the opportunity to bring visitors directly to the river and to create a wetland environment along the bank. She introduced landscape architect Jonathan Fitch of the Landscape Architecture Bureau to present the design.
Mr. Fitch said that his firm has been working with Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop the concept for the project. He described the existing conditions, including the assets of extraordinary river views, the handsome former pumphouse occupied by the ECC, and mature vegetation. He discussed the site's problems, including proximity to a storm sewer outflow that brings debris to the area after heavy rains and the general presence of debris floating on the river—a situation made worse by the eddies at this location that tend to catch the debris. He described the nearby combined sewer overflow that pollutes the site on fifty to sixty occasions per year; this situation will remain until approximately 2018 when WASA expects to complete improvements to the sewer system. He said that the ECC's work includes addressing such issues and cleaning up the area; ECC has been involved in the design of the project and would also participate in its management after construction, when more intensive cleaning of debris—at least once per day — will be needed to make the site an attractive place for the public.
Mr. Fitch described the phasing of the project. The first phase would include the commercial and recreational piers and the central portion of the park. The second phase would include the western portion of the park that would extend onto the Florida Rock property that will become available after the development of that site moves through the approval and construction process; in the interim, there would be a fence along the property line and the western portion of the park would not be constructed. The commercial pier would therefore have interim access via a pier aligned with First Street that could accommodate emergency vehicles. The easternmost edge of the project, including a floating boardwalk, would also be completed in a later phase when connections can be made to the adjacent waterfront park planned for the Southeast Federal Center. When the system of parks and development projects is complete, Diamond Teague Park will be part of a continuous public waterfront from the Navy Yard to the South Capitol Street bridge; further continuations are also under consideration.
Mr. Fitch described the commercial pier, with gangways and floating docks around the ECC building. The docks would have a capacity for two to three commercial water taxis as well as space for the ECC crafts which currently dock at this location; fire and police boats could also dock here during baseball games to provide emergency assistance. On the shore, existing mature plantings would be retained and other plantings would be added; the shoreline would be designed to offer environmental education. The shoreline would be slightly reconfigured to improve the relationship between the river and the boardwalk. A floating wetland zone would be created that will help to clean the water in the area. Crossing the wetlands, a series of gangways would connect to the floating pier on the east that will accommodate small craft and environmental education exhibits. The park would be designed with plantings, lawns, and mounded areas for special events and gatherings, including the large groups from the baseball stadium that are expected to visit the site. This area would also include a memorial to Mr. Teague by artist Byron Peck; Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Peck has presented other artworks to the Commission. Mr. Fitch showed the concept for the memorial which would be a pyramidal mosaic depicting the history of the river and the clean-up efforts in which Mr. Teague was involved.
Mr. Belle questioned the intention to construct the project while not addressing the sewer overflow problem in the near term. Mr. Fitch encouraged a quicker solution by WASA; he described their plan to construct a large-scale storage tunnel for the combined sewer overflow in the next decade. Mr. Luebke said that a similar project has been constructed in Chicago. Mr. Fitch said that the interim solution for this project is to clean the adjacent river area as often as necessary, using special boats dedicated to the daily clean-up operations. He agreed that successful management of the site will be critical to the project's success.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the design is more like a garden than a park; he questioned the appropriateness of breaking up the modestly sized park with small-scale features in comparison to the large adjacent baseball stadium. Mr. Fitch said that the large-scale development planned for the Florida Rock site would address the scale of the baseball stadium, and Diamond Teague Park would fit in appropriately as part of the eventual overall context. He said that the design includes larger features such as a thirty-foot-wide esplanade along the waterfront. Mr. Rybczynski said that the thirty-foot width will seem very small in this context, and he reiterated that the design breaks the site up into too many pieces. He observed that the park areas along this esplanade are divided into many small pieces that give the appearance of an herb garden or biological specimen garden rather than an urban park. Mr. Fitch said that the portion of the park closest to the stadium could accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 people.
Ms. Nelson commented that such large gatherings would require more consideration of comfort, such as shade, shelter, restrooms, and drinking water. She said the paved areas could become very hot, while shade is provided only on land and not near the water-taxi docks. Ms. Greenberg responded that queueing for the boats would probably occur on the land, so that people will not be waiting for long periods of time on the docks. Mr. Fitch explained that shade structures over the docks are not provided because they would obstruct views from the park toward the river.
Mr. Fitch showed additional images of the proposed piers and gangways within the context of the planned adjacent development. Mr. Belle asked if the posts supporting the piers would collect the debris in the water. Mr. Fitch explained that the floating piers would cover the water surface so no surface debris would accumulate beneath them.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the surrounding buildings in the renderings. Mr. Luebke said that the planned adjacent development would frame the site and define it as a special open connection between the baseball stadium and the river. Mr. McKinnell commented that the waterfront park will be positioned between a baseball stadium and waterfront that have an "imperial" scale involving vast numbers of people; he supported Mr. Rybczynski's concern that the design is overly focused on small elements that are conceptually inappropriate within the large-scale context. Mr. Fitch responded that the paved areas could be enlarged. Mr. McKinnell said that the broader concept of the design needs reconsideration.
Mr. Fitch said that the problem might be the scale of the large staircase that descends from the baseball stadium to the street across from the park; he suggested that the scale of these stadium steps could be reduced to improve the relationship of the stadium to the project. Mr. McKinnell responded that the project should be designed to respond to the stadium and stairs that are currently under construction. Mr. Fitch said that a design of imperial scale would not be possible on this site. Mr. McKinnell clarified that the project should relate to the large scale of the stadium and river, rather than the project itself having such an imperial scale. The Commission later explained that the recommendation is for the character of the park to be "bolder" rather than more "imperial." Mr. Rybczynski emphasized the attractiveness of water and estimated that several thousand people leaving the stadium might choose to cross the park and approach the river; the park should be designed to handle such large groups. He concluded that the concept for the park is not well related to the programmatic requirements of the location.
Mr. Belle asked for further explanation of the water-taxi service that would use the piers. Mr. Fitch said that the dock would be part of a regional water-transportation service. He estimated that the dock would have the capacity for 1,000 people at the conclusion of a baseball game. Ms. Nelson commented that the demand for water transportation could be much higher among baseball game attendees; she asked if additional capacity could be provided. Mr. Fitch said that this issue is still being coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mr. Belle commented that water transportation is generally not economical and typically requires a massive subsidy. Ms. Greenberg said that the docks would be used by charter boats during baseball games; docking times would be coordinated before and after games to accommodate a certain number of charter boats and water-taxis. She also noted that the stadium's main entrance is to the north leading to the nearby Metro station, so the amount of pedestrian traffic on the south side of the stadium would be moderate despite the large scale of the south-facing staircase.
Mr. Fitch presented the proposed materials for the project. Railings would be designed to minimize the obstruction of views to the water; aluminum grating at the water's edge would allow views of the water beneath. Materials would be coordinated with the waterfront esplanades of the planned adjacent developments as much as possible. He showed the proposed lighting fixtures and benches, emphasizing that they would not have a historicist aesthetic.
Mr. Fitch showed a series of site sections showing the proposals and additional drawings from the maritime engineer showing the dock construction system; the dock drawings have already been developed more fully due to the permitting requirements from the Corps of Engineers.
Mr. Luebke asked for further information on the ownership and management of the portion of the park that would be on the Florida Rock property. Ms. Greenberg said that this area would remain under private ownership; an agreement is already in place concerning the design of this area, and future agreements would address the maintenance issues. She explained that the zoning approval process for the Florida Rock project would likely include a requirement for a minimum amount of park space, and the approval is likely to specify that some of the development's open space be at this location between the stadium's monumental stair and the waterfront.
Mr. Belle expressed support for the broad concept of reactivating the waterfront and introducing alternative modes of transportation, notwithstanding the Commission's concerns about the design concept. He reiterated his concerns that the park would not be successful due to the continuing pollution of the river and that the water transportation would not be economically viable. He asked what primary audience the park would serve—stadium attendees, boat passengers, or nearby neighborhoods. Ms. Greenberg said that the design process has included extensive outreach to the various groups that would use the project, including boat operators, and she emphasized that the charter boats would not require subsidies. She said that regularly scheduled boat service was not likely in the immediate future; eventually, as adjacent developments are completed, such service could be provided at a modest scale. Regarding the suggestion to delay the project until the river pollution is resolved, she said that this could take decades; she clarified that the problem is intermittent, and on many days the riverfront is beautiful with only a small amount of debris that varies with weather patterns. Mr. Fitch added that much of the trash originates from the nearby storm sewer outlet; this project will include installation of a cage that will trap such debris for daily removal, with the cooperation of the ECC. Mr. Belle said he was encouraged by these clarifications.
Mr. McKinnell expressed agreement with the value of supporting revitalization of the waterfront. He said that the stadium and other nearby development would make this site a popular place, regardless of whether water transportation is provided. He said that a popular attractive park could create public pressure to speed up the resolution of the river debris problem. He emphasized that his concern is with the design of the space, which he characterized as too fussy, agitated, and timid in the context of the waterfront and stadium. He suggested that the Commission enthusiastically approve the idea of creating a park at this location while asking for a revised submission of the proposed design concept.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission arrange a visit to the site with Mr. Fitch. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission might not be able to schedule such a visit until November and asked whether this could be accommodated in the project schedule. Ms. Greenberg said that design needs to move forward so that the Corps of Engineer permits can be obtained. Mr. Powell and Mr. Luebke said that an earlier date might be possible and would be coordinated with the project team. Mr. Rybczynski said that a site visit might not be critical because he already has a sense of the physical context; his concern is how the site will feel when 10,000 people come from the stadium to this site. He reiterated his suggestion that the emphasis of the design shift from angular geometries to the broad movement of large numbers of people.
Ms. Nelson commented that a large area of the river frontage is shown with floating vegetation among the eastern piers; she asked if this area could be reconfigured for walking so that the park area would be expanded. Mr. Fitch said that this could be considered. Mr. Powell asked if the floating vegetation is removed in the winter. Mr. Fitch said that it would remain; the issue of ice is being addressed by the maritime engineering firm. Mr. Lindstrom said that the proposed floating dock system is similar to one approved by the Commission for the Washington Marina on the Washington Channel.
Mr. Powell concluded that the Commission would not take an action on the submission; the concept would instead be revised and resubmitted for the Commission's continued review.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the Commission state its support for the design of the piers so that design work could continue on these components, which require a time-sensitive permitting process from the Corps of Engineers. Mr. McKinnell agreed that the Commission's primary concern is with the land areas of the project, but he also expressed concern about the complex geometry of the gangways that would connect the eastern pier to the shore.
Ms. Greenberg responded that the design is intended to preserve as many trees as possible along that portion of the shoreline; she suggested that fewer gangways could be provided but the existing character of the river's edge is worth preserving, including the shade that is provided by the existing trees. Mr. Rybczynski said that a small area of natural beauty might be important in the current quiet setting of the site, but it would not necessarily be a design goal as large buildings are constructed around the site. Ms. Greenberg said that the site embodies a tension between the natural beauty along the riverbank—particularly due to the lack of a bulkhead—and the emerging urban context. Mr. Luebke said that the attractive existing features could be incorporated into the overall design of the project. Mr. Fitch said that the riverfront would have to be bulkheaded to fully relate to the scale of the much larger waterfront esplanades that are planned to either side of this project, and he emphasized that bulkheading is not a desired solution for the design of this project. He said that this site would therefore necessarily have a different character than its neighbors, and he asked for the Commission's acceptance of this design direction. Mr. Belle agreed that a different character is acceptable provided that the scale is reconsidered. He pointed out that the Kingman Island project, presented earlier on the agenda, will have paths with a scale comparable to or larger than those shown for this park, even though that project would likely have a much smaller number of visitors.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the executive session was adjourned at 3:28 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: October 31, 2007