Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 April 2008
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 20 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the minutes without objection.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 15 May, 19 June, and 17 July.
C. Confirmation of recommendation on the 2009 Double Eagle Gold $20 ultra-high relief coin based on 1907/08 design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Mr. Luebke said that the proposal had been circulated to the Commission members for a vote prior to the Commission meeting due to the U.S. Mint's tight production schedule and the similarity of the proposal to a historic coin design; he asked the Commission to confirm the recommendation. He said that the Mint's proposal was to reissue a coin from 1907 designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens: the original high-relief design was minted for one year, then adapted by the Mint to a low-relief coin that was issued from 1908 to 1932. The only proposed changes to the 1907 design would be to update the minting year, which will continue to be rendered in Roman numerals; to add a rim which will improve the production process; and to add the phrase "In God We Trust" which was historically included on the coin from 1908 onward. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission confirmed its recommendation to approve the updated design with the comment that the Roman numerals for the issue date be as similar as possible to the original design in scale, spacing, and character.
D. Confirmation of the last two recommendations from the March 2008 meeting after the loss of a quorum.
1. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act: O.G. 07- 127, Single-family residence, 1645 31st Street, N.W. New house, and alterations to garage and site. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19 July 2007.) Mr. Luebke summarized the previous reviews of the concept design for a new house on the grounds of the historic Williams-Addison House with alterations to outbuildings on the site. He said that in July 2007 the Commission had decided not to take an action on the proposal until the applicant obtained the local zoning and subdivision actions that would be necessary for construction of the new house. In March 2008, the Commission members present—insufficient for a quorum—recommended adopting the report of the Old Georgetown Board to approve the concept design.
Mr. Powell noted that he was not present during the July 2007 consideration of the project. Mr. Rybczynski, who was present at both discussions, offered a motion to reaffirm the Commission's July 2007 decision to wait for the local approvals before taking action on the proposal. With a second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission adopted this motion.
2. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act: O.G. 08- 112, Harbourside Development—North Building, 901 30th Street, N.W. New window openings at penthouse, alterations to roof terrace for pool deck and glass railing. Concept. (Previous: O.G. 06-160, 20 April 2006.) Mr. Luebke summarized the recommendation from March 2008 to approve the proposed concept. Without further discussion, the Commission confirmed this recommendation upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori.
E. Report on the site inspection of the mockup for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission discuss the site inspection in conjunction with the corresponding agenda item (II.B.).
Mr. Luebke reiterated the announcement from previous months that Commission member Witold Rybczynski will deliver the second annual Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, May 13, at the National Building Museum; his topic will be the impact of height limits on Washington and other cities.
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: The staff did not report any changes to the draft. Ms. Balmori expressed concern about the design of the second project, CFA 17/APR/08-b, a concept proposal from the Department of the Navy for a new building at Bolling Air Force Base to house the "Construct Operations Facility." Mr. McKinnell agreed, commenting that the proposed design is of poor quality and should not be approved. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission removed this item from the Consent Calendar and requested that it be resubmitted with revisions. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the remainder of the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported the addition of one project to the draft appendix, the report of an approval for 2400 Tilden Street, N.W., that had been delegated to the staff. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. He said that several projects listed on the draft appendix were subsequently withdrawn by the applicants, and a portion of the first project was withdrawn to allow the applicant to make revisions in response to new comments from the D.C. Government. He noted that minor revisions have been made for several projects in response to supplemental drawings; he requested the Commission's authorization to finalize the recommendations for two projects upon the receipt of anticipated supplemental drawings. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the revised appendix with this authorization.
B. National Park Service
CFA 17/APR/08-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W. at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA15/NOV/07-1.) Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's previous review on the project in November 2007, resulting in a request for numerous further refinements to the design concept. He said that the current submission addresses most of the Commission's previous recommendations and also addresses several topics from earlier reviews, including the stone selection and inscriptions. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May acknowledged the Commission's site inspection prior to the meeting to see a mockup of the memorial's scale. He introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, executive architect of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., who asked architect Ron Kessler to present the proposal. Mr. Kessler explained that he would present the architectural design, followed by Sheila Brady of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to present the landscape design; consultant David Mintz to discuss lighting; and stone engraver Nick Benson to describe the proposed engraving.
Mr. Kessler presented an animated video of the memorial, showing the proposal and context from various aerial viewpoints as well as from the ground level. He then presented an overview of the changes that would be described during the presentation:
• The walls flanking the entrance path at the northwest corner of the site are revised to use a curvilinear geometry in response to the Commission's recommendation; the remainder of the design for the entrance path is unchanged.
Mr. Kessler introduced Nick Benton to describe the proposed typography. Mr. Benson said that his proposed design for the lettering is based on a study of the lettering at other memorials as well as consideration of this memorial's design, subject, and stone. He said that a more modern font was used at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, while he created a more classical Roman font for the inscriptions at the World War II Memorial. He said that a classical font would be less appropriate for the Martin Luther King Memorial; instead, Greek lettering provided the inspiration for the current proposal. The font would be without serifs, consistent with the contemporary rather than classical style of the memorial. He compared the proposed font to the "Trajan" font—based on Roman lettering and commonly used for print and architecture, such as on the new facade of the Newseum—and the "Lithos" font, a modern design based on Greek lettering, which he said would be too idiosyncratic and would distract viewers from the content of the quotations.
Mr. Belle noted the long quotations that are proposed and asked if a combination of upper- and lower-case lettering was considered. Mr. Benson said he discouraged the use of lower-case lettering because of its excessive informality; he agreed that the usual formality of upper-case lettering would not be desirable for this memorial, but he explained that the proposed upper-case font is designed to be dynamic and energetic, striking the right balance between informality and monumentality. He presented an image of an ancient Athenian inscription, commenting how the linear flow carries the eye across the text.
Mr. Luebke said that one design issue that has been raised by the staff is the symmetrical treatment of each quotation, whereas an asymmetrical configuration could be used to achieve the flowing and dynamic qualities that Mr. Benson was describing, particularly as the multiple quotations are seen across the extensive length of the inscription walls. Mr. Benson responded that a varied layout—such as a flush-left configuration on one side of the Mountain of Despair, and a flush-right configuration on the other—might appear desirable from an architectural drawing; but the large scale of the inscription walls would make it difficult for viewers to comprehend their full extent from a single vantage point. He presented a full-scale drawing of sample text to illustrate the distance needed to perceive an entire quotation. He acknowledged that other types of asymmetry could be considered, as was done at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, but he emphasized that viewers will tend to choose a separate central vantage point to read each quotation.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the presentation of the lettering was convincing and expressed support for the proposal. Mr. Luebke clarified that three issues should be considered with the quotations: the font, the scale, and the layout. Mr. Rybczynski said that the layout and font are interdependent and both should be developed further by Mr. Benson; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Powell emphasized that the current submission is a concept. Mr. Benson offered to study various layouts of the text as the design is developed. Ms. Balmori agreed that the Commission should see further information on the overall layout of the inscription walls; she expressed support for the details of the design that were presented. Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Balmori's comments.
Mr. Kessler presented the sample of stone that was previously reviewed for the memorial's walls, with a dark green color and a honed finish, along with the stone for the pavers which will include two different finishes to provide a darker accent along the inscription walls. Ms. Balmori asked if polished stone would be used; Mr. Kessler responded that a variety of honed and thermal finishes will be used, but no polished finish. Ms. Balmori expressed support for this choice; she then asked about the size of the accented paving area along the inscription walls. Mr. Kessler responded that the darker finish would be in a crescent shape that would be four feet wide at the outer ends and widen to eight feet toward the center as the height of the wall increases.
Ms. Balmori commented that the new proposed gray-green stone for the inscription walls is dull and has the appearance of bathroom tile; she suggested that one of the darker stones with a more lively character would be more interesting and should be selected. Mr. Belle agreed, noting that a darker stone would appear better in the context of the paving stone. Dr. Jackson responded that a darker stone appears preferable in a small sample, but the design team has seen the stone at a larger scale and is concerned that the stone's dark color will compete with the lettering. Ms. Balmori asked if this issue could be illustrated for the Commission; Dr. Jackson offered to provide further information. Mr. Powell emphasized the importance of the stone selection for the inscription walls due to the care Mr. Benson has taken in designing the font in response to the material; he commented that the uniformity of the proposed material gives the appearance of cast stone. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the proposed finish of the inscription walls, commenting that it will clearly be distinct from the polished finish at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Dr. Jackson offered to provide further study and a more detailed mockup of the proposed materials.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission's guidance be treated as a direction for the stone's color and character rather than an endorsement of a particular stone, so that the design team could continue to research different sources for the stone; Mr. Powell agreed, summarizing the Commission's view that the proposed materials generally have an elegance and quality but the stone for the inscription walls should be reconsidered.
Mr. Kessler presented the proposed cleft-face granite for the water features, superseding the striated pattern that was proposed in November; he noted that the stone would sometimes be visible without the water flowing. Ms. Balmori expressed support for the new proposal; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Kessler then presented multiple views of two alternative widths for the water feature, which the Commission had previously questioned. He said that the design team prefers the five-foot width rather than the forty-foot width, explaining that the narrower width is sufficient to separate the Mountain of Despair from the inscription walls without causing the water features to compete with the size of the walls; the wider dimension of the water features would also result in the loss of an inscription from each side. Mr. McKinnell agreed with this conclusion and expressed support for the narrower dimension; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposed cleft-face finish would introduce an auditory element from the water flowing over the wall. Ms. Balmori commented that a "torrential" playful water flow would be appropriate for the narrower width, and she expressed support for the proposed finish; Mr. Belle agreed.
Mr. Kessler presented the revisions to the paving pattern, explaining that the large module of striping has been removed and the smallest size of pavers eliminated in response to the Commission's recommendations. The smallest pavers would now be 1.5 feet square, with the largest dimension being 3.5 feet.
Mr. Kessler then presented the material for the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope, explaining that the proposed stone is the same as previously presented. Mr. Powell commented on the red color in the photographs of the sculpture in progress; Mr. Kessler clarified that the photographs show a clay model, which will be followed by plaster and then execution in stone. Mr. Powell reiterated the Commission's overall support for the proposed palette of stones.
Mr. Kessler presented the revised location and configuration of the ancillary building containing the bookstore, visitor contact station, and restrooms. He summarized the proposal from November 2007: the small visitor contact station at the south end of the memorial and east of the road; and on the west side of the road, the bookstore and restrooms configured as two 34-foot-square pavilions framing a 34-foot-square plaza, with a maximum building height of 16 feet. In response to the Commission's recommendations, the new design combines these functions into a single building that is located further north along the west side of the road where visitors will be closer to the memorial's main entrance at the northwest corner of the site; the height has also been reduced to 12 feet 9 inches. He said that further discussions with agencies and the public, held through the historic preservation Section 106 process, included comments to restore a significant shaded open space area to the design. He therefore presented an alternate scheme that includes a large shaded open space between the restrooms on the south and the bookstore and visitor contact station on the north, a configuration similar to the previous submission. He added that this configuration would better relate these facilities to the playing fields on the west. He said that the proposed location is also further west of the road than previously submitted, in order to provide visitors with a wider paved area along the road.
Mr. Belle asked about the effect of the open space on the overall length of the building. Mr. Kessler responded that the alternate design is 102 feet long, while the elimination of the open space reduces the length by 34 feet; Mr. Belle commented that the difference is substantial.
Mr. Kessler showed the elevations and proposed materials for the building. Clear glass blocks along the bookstore would be shaded with sunscreens; translucent openings would be provided at the restrooms to bring natural light inside; and the material for the exterior stone surfaces would be similar to the pavers at the memorial but with a honed finish. The visitor contact station would have a small canopy; he acknowledged that further study is needed for the design of this area. The interior flooring would be limestone.
Ms. Balmori expressed her general support for creating courtyards but said that it would be an inappropriate design feature for this location. She commented that the configuration in the alternate scheme—an open area between two solid masses—is too similar to the entry experience of the memorial itself; the courtyard also adds significant length to the building, causing its scale to compete with that of the memorial. She supported the relocation of the building to the north where it will better relate to the memorial's primary entrance. Mr. Belle agreed with Ms. Balmori's comments, adding that the visibility of the ancillary facilities should be deemphasized rather than exaggerated through inclusion of a courtyard. Mr. McKinnell and Mr. Rybczynski agreed with these comments, and Mr. Powell confirmed the Commission's support for the more compact plan that was presented. Mr. Powell also summarized the Commission's general support for the palette of materials that was presented for this building, while acknowledging the design team's intention to study the elevations further.
Mr. Kessler then introduced Sheila Brady of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates to present the landscape design. Ms. Brady emphasized that the design respects the continuous grove of cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. She said that the issue of shading has been studied further in response to the Commission's recommendation, including a shadow study for mid-day in August. She explained that additional shade trees were considered alongside the entrance walkway, but this idea was rejected because the trees would obstruct views of the memorial's entrance portal. However, two additional street trees are now proposed near the road intersection to the northwest of the entrance walkway, with the spacing between these elm trees reduced, in order to increase the amount of shading. The proposed trees in other areas of the memorial have been repositioned to provide additional shade to the plaza, particularly at the seating areas. She emphasized that the shading simulations show conditions at noon, while the late-afternoon sun angle would result in much more shading.
Ms. Brady indicated the existing cherry trees that would remain and the proposed new cherry trees; she said the configuration has been adjusted in response to comments from the National Park Service. She said that the overall palette of plantings remains unchanged from the previous presentation. The grove of trees above the inscription wall would be planted in a naturalistic arrangement that relates to the overall setting of the Tidal Basin; crape myrtles would be included for highlights.
Mr. Belle asked about the mature height of the cherry trees; Ms. Brady said they would reach 35 feet. Ms. Balmori commented that it would take many years to achieve this height; Ms. Brady explained that large trees would be obtained for the project so that the landscape has a strong appearance from the beginning, adding that the budget is sufficient to cover the cost of such trees.
Ms. Brady discussed the cascading jasmine that is proposed along the upper edge of the inscription walls. She acknowledged that the architectural rendering exaggerates the intended effect by showing the cascading plants at frequent intervals; the actual planting plan calls for sporadic placement that will frame the text locations on the wall below. She emphasized the softening effect of this planting and the overall appearance of the inscription walls in relation to the typography and the landscape. Ms. Balmori asked that a drawing be submitted to document the proposed spacing. Mr. Belle commented that the large size of the plaza will allow people to see the inscription walls from a sufficient distance to see the landscape above, without the need for plantings to cascade over the edge. Ms. Brady explained that English yew is proposed throughout the upper planting areas to provide a continuous green frame to the inscription walls; the cascading jasmine is proposed to frame the specific areas of text and to provide additional color in the early spring. Mr. Belle expressed support for this intention despite the misleading depiction in the rendering. Ms. Balmori asked if the plantings in this area would be mixed together or grouped separately; Ms. Brady said they would be arranged as separate masses.
Ms. Balmori commented that the shading of the entrance walkway remains insufficient; she emphasized the need for protection from Washington's heat in the summer, when a large number of visitors will be present. She reiterated her recommendation for tall shade trees, adding that the resulting darkening of the entrance walkway area would provide a dramatic contrast with the sunlit plaza and Stone of Hope beyond. Ms. Brady responded that trees placed within the walkway would obstruct views, while taller trees in the flanking planted areas would not provide significant shade to the walkway in the summer. She said that other configurations of trees were considered but would result in an overly structured and architectural appearance to the entrance area . The conclusion was therefore to keep the proposal for cherry trees in this area, with minor adjustments to slightly improve the shading. She also explained that people will tend to move through this walkway rather than stay within it for long periods of time; the additional shading has instead been provided near the seating areas in the plaza, where it will most benefit those who wish to stay longer at the memorial. Ms. Balmori commented that it would take decades for the cherry trees to grow sufficiently large to provide useful shade along the entrance walkway; she recommended further study, including the possibility of continuing the elm trees along the walkway. Ms. Brady agreed to prepare an additional study for the Commission's review.
Mr. Belle commented that the size of the trees should be related to the size of the Stone of Hope, with its sculpture of Dr. King, and the walls of the memorial; he suggested that the maximum tree height of 35 feet might be insufficient alongside the built elements. Ms. Brady acknowledged the importance of these relationships. She said that the intention is for the Stone of Hope to appear to sit in a planar field rather than be incorporated into the landscape; this design concept inevitably results in an unshaded expanse for the plaza, which is mitigated to a limited extent by the landscape design. Ms. Balmori expressed support for the landscaping near the seating areas and for the general selection of plants and massing of the cherry trees. Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's support for the overall landscape design with the request for further study of trees along the entrance walkway.
Mr. Mintz then presented the lighting proposal. He said that the overall concept has been maintained from the previous submission, with a low lighting level along the entrance walkway and a relatively dark area in the passage through the Mountain of Despair. The Stone of Hope and its sculpture would be brightly lit, with the inscription walls forming a glowing background; this configuration would be visible from across the Tidal Basin. He discussed the revised proposal for lighting the inscription walls, with the above-ground enclosures replaced by a louver-covered trench with below-grade lighting fixtures in response to the Commission's recommendation. He said that this revision allows for continuous lighting fixtures which will improve the uniformity and color rendition across the wall as well as eliminating the potential tripping hazard of the enclosures. An open parallel-blade louver is proposed, which will require periodic maintenance to remove debris from the trenches; the alternative of a glass cover was rejected due to the potential slipping hazard, the long-term scratching that would alter the light transmission, and the problems that would result from condensation. He said that while the previous above-ground proposal provided superior lighting, the current proposal is viable and addresses the Commission's concerns. Ms. Balmori asked about the type of fixture; Mr. Mintz said that continuous fluorescent lighting would be provided, rather than the metal halide fixtures shown in the previous submission. He added that the proposal for the lighting color would be finalized based on the stone selection as well as coordination with the metal halide lighting for the Stone of Hope. Mr. Belle acknowledged the trade-offs that Mr. Mintz described, particularly the need for additional maintenance; he asked for a review of the Commission's concerns with the above-ground proposal.
Mr. Mintz said that the tripping hazard had been raised as an issue, although the design had addressed this by making the enclosures larger; he also noted Mr. Benson's comment that people reading the inscriptions would tend to stand far back from the wall, away from the lighting enclosures. He said that another concern was that the enclosures would act as a barrier to the inscription walls, although people could step over the enclosures if they wanted to approach the walls. Mr. Rybczynski said that another concern was the theatrical effect of the ground-level lighting, similar to footlights, which was contrasted with the potential "billboard" effect of overhead lighting. He expressed support for the below-grade proposal, which he said is superior aesthetically despite its drawbacks; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Belle emphasized his concern about the long-term viability of this solution.
Chairman Powell asked about the evolution of the sculpture depicting Dr. King, commenting that the original concept of the figure emerging from the stone has now shifted to a more centralized and static figure. Dr. Jackson explained that the original concept, as shown in the architect's drawings, have been refined through consultation with Lei Yixin, the selected sculptor. Dr. Jackson said that sculpting the original concept would have required cutting off portions of Dr. King's body such as his right shoulder; the pose was revised to provide a more appropriate depiction of the human figure. Mr. Powell acknowledged this concern but questioned whether the rigid pose is the best way to express Dr. King's personality. Dr. Jackson said that the full-scale sculpture, based on his visits to see the clay model, will provide a powerful expression of Dr. King. Ms. Balmori agreed with Mr. Powell's concerns and said that in the current proposal the statue appears to be applied onto the stone, whereas the original concept had a more integral relationship. Dr. Jackson responded that the finish of the statue would provide this integration through a transition from a rough surface in the lower part of the figure, corresponding to the texture of the Stone of Hope, to a smooth surface in the upper figure. While Mr. Powell acknowledged that the images of the clay model may be providing a misleading impression of the finished work, he and Ms. Balmori emphasized the importance of better integrating the statue with the Stone of Hope; they also reiterated their preference for the off-center dynamic stance of the original concept. Mr. Belle agreed, commenting that the earlier pose conveyed Dr. King's personality in a more sympathetic manner while the current proposal has a more confrontational stance which is not appropriate.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the statue design is difficult to evaluate because such colossal human sculptures are rarely created in modern times. He said that recent imagery of such sculptures includes television broadcasts of these statues being pulled down in other countries, a comparison that would be harmful to the success of this memorial. He emphasized the symbolic importance of Dr. King's image "being merged with the natural force of the stone"—an important metaphor for the memorial—rather than depicting him through the "colossal monumentalization" that has acquired a negative connotation. He added that "the degree to which the metaphor of the stone and the man become one is absolutely imperative here." Mr. Powell suggested that this concern can be addressed by careful sculpting of the figure and background, requiring great skill and sensitivity that is not apparent in the photographs that have been presented. He recommended that the design team remind the sculptor of the Commission's concerns and the importance of the sculpture as the central feature in the memorial; he suggested the sculptures of Michalengelo and Rodin as successful examples of a figure emerging from stone.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed disappointment that the size reduction, as recommended by the Commission, had been applied to the Stone of Hope but not to the statue. He reiterated that a figure this large is rarely created—aside from the foreign examples mentioned by Mr. McKinnell, the typical use would be on top of a building, such as William Penn's statue on top of Philadelphia's city hall, but such figures would be seen from a great distance. He said that the intended effect will be difficult to achieve and may fail, creating the impression of a colossal statue rather than a depiction of an actual man. He said that other major statues in Washington are much smaller while being powerful, such as the Lincoln Memorial statue. He emphasized that the design team should be aware of the difficult sculptural challenge and the risk of failure.
Mr. Powell commented that the figure now appears to be full-length; he acknowledged that the shifting texture may help to integrate the figure with the Stone of Hope and suggested that the Commission be kept informed as the proposed sculpture is further refined. He emphasized that these concerns could more easily be addressed now, while the sculpture is being modeled in clay, rather than at the later stage of execution in stone. However, he commented on the difficulty of assessing the effect of the final sculpture from the clay model; he said that the stone sculpture will have softer shadows and a more elegant appearance in sunlight. Ms. Balmori reiterated her objection that the dynamism in the original version—created by the off-center position and the continuation of the figure to the edge of the stone—has been lost.
Mr. Powell suggested a motion to summarize the Commission's comments. Mr. Luebke offered a summary of the discussion:
• Support for the typography and its scale and layout, with some possibility for further adjustment to the layout.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission adopted the recommendations as summarized by the Secretary. Dr. Jackson expressed appreciation for the Commission's continuing advice that has resulted in a better design solution.
C. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1. CFA 17/APR/08-2, Reservation 174, bounded by New York Avenue and 10th and I Streets, N.W. Landscape design for new public park. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/07-6.) Mr. Simon introduced the proposal for the park at the northwest corner of the former Convention Center site. He explained that the location is one of the original small triangular park reservations from the L'Enfant Plan. The park is subject to the normal review process for a public project, with the concept reviewed in May 2007 and the final design currently submitted. The development of the adjacent blocks is occurring through a more complex public-private arrangement involving the District of Columbia government, with much of the development being shown to the Commission through information presentations; the most recent presentation was in March 2008. He introduced landscape architect Rodrigo Abela of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. to present the final design for the park.
Mr. Abela said that the revisions since the concept stage include refinements and development of the material palette. He showed the previous and current plans, explaining that the only significant change was to replace one of the proposed fountain areas along New York Avenue with planting; the adjacent steps would also be extended to form a small platform. He said that the details of the fountains have been developed further and more of the proposed materials have been selected. He summarized the design features of the park, including a diagonal entry path framed by fountains and seating areas, with a complex geometry that responds to the site configuration and context. He said that water could remain in the fountain basin through much of the winter although the water jets would be turned off. The lighting design would emphasize the fountain areas; lighting would be incorporated into the fountain jets, creating the effect of a candle or flame.
Ms. Balmori asked if smaller or different trees are now proposed, due to the smaller graphic representation of them on the site plan. Mr. Abela explained that the graphic size has been adjusted to correspond to the city's standard dimension for trees, and some small flowering trees are now proposed to be planted among the larger trees. Ms. Balmori said that her concern is whether sufficient shade will be provided. Mr. Abela responded that large canopy trees will be provided.
Ms. Balmori asked about the depth of the water and height of the plinths around the fountains. Mr. Abela responded that the depth in the basins would be approximately 16 to 18 inches, and the adjacent plinths would be 18 inches tall. Water would also flow over adjacent sloped stone planes with a depth of a quarter- to half-inch; additional texture is being considered for these stone surfaces in order to generate more animation in the flowing water. Ms. Balmori asked if people could walk through the thin sheets of water; Mr. Abela responded that the intention is to discourage this, which is an additional reason for adding substantial texture to the stone surface.
Mr. Abela presented the proposed materials, including white marble with green veining for the plinths; he said that the intention is to assemble the plinths in a configuration that emphasizes the visual interest of the veining. He said that the paving material, a dark green quartzite, has a shimmering quality that will produce a dynamic visual effect. He explained that the size of the paving stones will vary; a smaller size will be used on the bed of I Street, which will remain closed to general traffic but will accommodate emergency vehicles while also functioning as part of the park. The largest pavers would be used for the diagonal path to provide emphasis. He added that the previously proposed wide band of white stone along the implied curb line of I Street has been removed in response to the Commission's recommendation; the continuation of the I Street alignment is now marked only by a stone curb line that is flush with the park paving on both sides, emphasizing the continuity of the park.
Mr. Abela addressed the issue of skateboarders that was raised by the Commission in the previous review. He said that solid stone would be used at the corners to withstand the potential impact from skateboards. Skateboarding would also be discouraged by including a radius on the stone edges and detailing the plinths with stepping and reveals to interrupt the surface.
Mr. Abela described the proposed plantings, including boxwood, yew, two types of flowering rhododendrons, and additional flowering plants such as lilac. He said that the varying colors and heights would create a sense of depth in the small park. Canopy trees would include elms lining New York Avenue, the I Street alignment, and the diagonal path, and a grove of ginkgo trees that could be extended to define 10th Street. Other trees within the park would include hornbeams along a seating area and two groupings of flowering trees, possibly crape myrtles with white flowers. He said that the tree planting plan is being coordinated with the urban forestry program of the D.C. government, which has encouraged a diversity of tree types.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the overall design of the park. She questioned whether the proposal includes sufficient shade for the southern portion of the park, since the hornbeams have a vertical shape rather than a wide canopy and the crape myrtles are small trees. She also asked whether the water features would be simple and durable enough to remain operational, commenting on the frequent problems with urban fountains and the negative appearance of a broken fountain in a public place. Mr. Abela acknowledged this concern and said that the design includes careful attention to the appearance of the fountain surfaces when water is not present; all of these surfaces will be clad in stone, and the sloped planes will have a textured finish. He explained that water simply overflows the basin to the sloped planes without any moving parts. The design of the water jets within the basin is still being finalized with consideration of their appearance when water is not present. He added that the developer of the adjacent buildings will be responsible for the park's maintenance in accordance with a twenty-year agreement with the D.C. government. Mr. Luebke said that the sloped planes would become occupiable surfaces if the water is not flowing; Mr. Abela agreed while noting that the slope would be steeper than normal for a walking surface.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's support for the design with the request to provide more shade by including additional trees; Ms. Balmori clarified that the issue could be addressed by specifying trees with wider canopies and that her concern is with the southern portion of the park. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the final design subject to this recommendation.
2. CFA 17/APR/08-3, Walker Jones School, public library and community recreation center, New Jersey Avenue and Pierce Street, N.W. New building for school, library, and community recreation center. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/07-7.) Mr. Simon introduced architect Peter Winebrenner of Hord Coplan Macht to present the final design. Mr. Winebrenner explained that the revisions since the concept approval include development of the landscape plan and the building facades and roofs. He summarized the project design and the context, noting that the existing Terrell Junior High School building on the site is currently being demolished. Some of the required parking for the project will be accommodated on the site along the north side of L Street adjacent to the playing fields; additional parking will be off-site through a shared-use arrangement with a church on the south side of L Street. The streetscape design conforms to area-wide guidelines.
Mr. Winebrenner indicated the green roofs in the design—a lower one accessible from the science classroom that can be used for educational purposes as shown in previous submissions, and additional planting of the upper roofs to further reduce heat gain and water runoff. He explained that the mechanical penthouses and stair tower have been refined since the previous submission, noting that some additional equipment—not shown on the renderings—would be placed on the roof of the gymnasium and cafeteria. Ms. Balmori asked why green roofs are not included above these spaces. Jeff Hagan, the project manager from Mr. Winebrenner's firm, responded that the gymnasium and cafeteria have long-span roof structures that would require costly modifications to support the weight of a green roof; Ms. Balmori acknowledged this concern.
Mr. Winebrenner discussed the masonry colors and patterns being considered for the facades. He confirmed the feasibility of the design to create a basketweave pattern on the upper walls using bricks that will be custom manufactured in double-sized units incorporating a slight recess. He showed several samples of the brick color combinations being considered for the darker and lighter portions of the walls. Ms. Balmori commented that the darkest of the samples would be too dark; Mr. Belle agreed. Mr. Winebrenner said that the renderings depict this darkest color, which the design team slightly preferred, but any of the combinations shown would be satisfactory. Ms. Balmori recommended that any choice of colors other than the darkest would be acceptable, leaving the final choice of color to the architect. Mr. Winebrenner said that the selection could be made after the design team consults further with the various groups having an interest in the project, including the D.C. school, library, and park organizations.
Mr. Belle asked if the color choice would be influenced by the predominant material of neighborhood buildings; Mr. Winebrenner said that there are many brick buildings nearby but no prevailing color or style. Mr. Luebke noted the warm red brick of major buildings to the southeast, including Gonzaga High School and the Government Printing Office, as well as the dark beige brick of the adjacent Sursum Corda housing complex and the red brick of the historic row houses in the area. Erika Lehman of Regan Associates, a consultant for the project, clarified that the Sursum Corda complex will be demolished as part of the planned redevelopment of the neighborhood; she emphasized that the Walker Jones School will begin to establish the neighborhood's new identity. Mr. Winebrenner presented additional photographs of the context; Mr. Belle agreed that the character is varied and commented that the pattern of isolated buildings does not suggest a strong design context.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the importance of retaining the basketweave pattern in the facade design. Mr. Winebrenner acknowledged the Commission's previous support for this pattern and said that the budgetary trade-off for including it was to change the proposed lighter masonry to a standard brick rather than the larger unit resembling limestone that was previously being considered. Mr. Luebke said that this change could be considered an improvement since the previous proposal could have given the appearance of low-cost concrete masonry units for the lighter-colored portions of the facades. Mr. Winebrenner presented a rendering of additional detailing of the brick wall that will be treated as an alternate in the construction bidding process; the embellishments would include a grid of horizontal and vertical bands and panels suggested by changes of plane in the brick walls. He confirmed that the basketweave pattern is part of the basic building design and will not be an alternate in the bidding.
Ms. Balmori asked about the inclusion of shade trees. Mr. Winebrenner acknowledged the Commission's concern in the previous review and said that trees are now proposed for the courtyard playground. He explained the need to balance the tree locations with the placement of playground equipment and said that as many trees as possible would be included.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the final design with the understanding that the architect will select the two masonry colors from any but the darkest of the options presented.
D. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 17/APR/08-4, Public art projects for the City Vista complex, 5th and K Streets, N.W. Two art installations in new residential development: plaza sculpture and ventilation grille. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/07-7.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Rachel Dickerson of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to begin the presentation of the two artworks at the CityVista development. Ms. Dickerson introduced the development's architect, Felix Deloatch; the landscape architect, Jeff Lee; the artists for the two projects, David Black and Ethan Kerber; and other members of the project team.
Mr. Black presented his proposal for Lift Off, the sculpture to be located in the plaza at 5th and K Streets on the southwestern corner of the site. He described his inspiration from seeing a kite festival on the Mall during his initial visit to the site. The resulting proposal is a transparent, canopy-like structure that spreads out while not interrupting pedestrian movement. He emphasized the views of the sculpture from both K and 5th Streets as well as from underneath; he noted that the sculpture would create a strong shadow pattern that is not apparent from viewing the model in the meeting room. He indicated the small bench that would be incorporated into the lower part of the sculpture. He said that the design has changed slightly from the concept submission to include more openings and a greater sense of transparency. In consultation with the landscape architect, the siting has been revised to ensure coordination with the paving pattern, the planned outdoor restaurant seating, and pedestrian movement patterns across the plaza and along the sidewalks. The relationship between the supporting columns and the ground plane has also been refined in response to the Commission's recommendation. He acknowledged the Commission's additional recommendation to increase the height of the sculpture but said that this was not feasible due to the additional expense; he emphasized that the proposed size will be sufficient to generate a sense of being surrounded by and embedded in the sculpture for people beneath it.
Mr. Black described the lighting which the Commission had suggested be studied further. Lights would be placed at the ends of the four cross-beams, with cables running through the sculpture and the lighting level controlled from within the building.
Mr. Deloatch and Mr. Black presented material samples: the brick being used for the adjacent CityVista building's facades and the proposed yellow aluminum for the sculpture. Mr. Lee added that the D.C. standard light-colored pavers would be used for the plaza, with the appearance of beige concrete; additional detailing would include pavers with a slightly redder tone.
Mr. Kerber described the revisions to his sculpture, Inspiration, the embellishment of an air intake louver along the 5th Street facade, in response to the Commission's review in May 2007. The proposed aluminum representations of human footprints have been removed from the design. The future relationship to the adjacent storefront, which has not yet been designed, has been addressed by leaving additional space between the sculpture and the retail location. Additional horizontal elements have been added to the sculpture to improve its relationship to the louver behind it. The colors have been toned down to allow the blue to dominate, giving a calmer and more rippling effect with greater unity among the parts. He presented renderings of the building with Mr. Black's sculpture as well as his own, under day and night lighting conditions, to show the overall balance and color relationships. An additional rendering showed in more detail the visual effect of the proposed ground-level lighting fixtures. He presented a material sample of the steel plate which will be framed by steel beams.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the depth of the sculpture. Mr. Kerber said that it would not be in a single plane, as the drawings might suggest, but would have a three-inch depth with an interweaving of the sculpture's eighty component pieces; the exact pattern would be studied further in the coming months. He emphasized that the actual sculpture will have more shadows and depth than indicated in the renderings.
Mr. Powell acknowledged the responsiveness of both artists to the Commission's previous recommendations. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved both sculptures.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:06 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: May 15, 2008