Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 July 2008
The morning session (through agenda item II.A) was convened in the National Capital Planning Commission offices at 401 9th Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20004, at 10:29 a.m.
The afternoon session (beginning with agenda item II.B) was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 12:18 p.m.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's meeting room was unavailable for the morning; he thanked the National Capital Planning Commission for providing its meeting room and noted that the morning's major agenda item, the National Capital Framework Plan, results from a partnership between the two Commissions.
A. Administration of oath of office to Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Witold Rybczynski. Mr. Luebke announced that the President reappointed Mr. Rybczynski and appointed Ms. Plater-Zyberk to the Commission; he administered the oath of office to them. He summarized Ms. Plater-Zyberk's background as a leader in the New Urbanism movement: she was a co-founder of the firms Arquitectonica and Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company; a founder and board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism; and is dean of the University of Miami's School of Architecture. He noted her recent books, The New Civic Art and Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. The Chairman welcomed Ms. Plater-Zyberk to the Commission.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 19 June meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the minutes without objection.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 18 September, 16 October, and 20 November; no meeting is scheduled in August.
D. Proposed year 2009 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2009, with meetings generally scheduled on the third Thursday of each month and no meetings in August and December. He explained that the schedule will be published in the Federal Register; future changes could be made if necessary. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the 2009 schedule.
E. Status report on the 2008 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Grant Program. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission. The $8.34 million of appropriated funds for fiscal year 2008 has recently been distributed to 23 organizations, including two organizations that are new to the program: the GALA Hispanic Theater and the Cathedral Choral Society. He said that the grants, averaging $363,000, are a significant source of support for these local arts institutions. He noted that the funding for fiscal year 2009 has not yet been determined; the House of Representatives is proposing $10 million in the federal budget.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke noted that the appendices, normally considered at the beginning of the submissions and reviews, are listed later on the agenda to be considered when the Commission reconvenes for the afternoon session.
A. National Capital Planning Commission / Commission of Fine Arts
CFA 17/JUL/08-1, National Capital Framework Plan. Draft plan. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 19 July 2007, Executive Session.) Mr. Luebke explained that the National Capital Framework Plan (NCFP) is a joint initiative between the Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC); the draft plan was released by NCPC the previous week for public comment. He said that the NCFP builds on previous planning studies including Extending the Legacy and the Memorials and Museums Master Plan. The NCFP project began in 2005 when the two Commissions and the National Park Service discussed the need to create new destinations beyond the National Mall for museums, memorials, and public gatherings in order to protect the Mall from overdevelopment. He noted the extensive collaboration among federal and D.C. agencies in planning for the four precincts that are studied in the NCFP.
Mr. Luebke outlined the goals of the NCFP: to preserve and protect the National Mall; to integrate the Mall's civic qualities and the city's vibrancy into the four precincts; and to guide the future decisions of the federal government and private sector involving memorials, museums, gathering places, office space, and other investment in order to promote a sustainable city. He said that the NCFP addresses the potential for accommodating growth within the four precincts and more generally supports the enhancement of Washington as a preeminent workplace and visitor destination. He explained that the NCFP's proposals include beautification, mixed-use development, infrastructure changes, transit options, recreation, commemorative opportunities, and efficient use of federal land and facilities. He emphasized that many changes will be occurring, and the NCFP is intended to guide these future changes to support the long-term improvement of Washington's design.
Mr. Luebke introduced Marcel Acosta, NCPC's Executive Director, to continue the presentation. Mr. Acosta expressed NCPC's appreciation to the Commission of Fine Arts and its staff for their participation in the project. He noted that the two Commissions have joint responsibility for the stewardship of the national capital; he said that their cooperation in developing the NCFP has resulted in a plan that respects the city's historic legacy while applying modern principles to ensure that Washington will continue to be a world-class capital city.
Mr. Acosta said that the NCFP has been the subject of extensive press coverage resulting from its public release earlier in the month; Mr. Luebke noted that copies of the news articles have been distributed to the Commission members. Mr. Acosta emphasized that implementation of the NCFP will require collaboration and partnership. He explained that the project has been guided by a fifteen-member interagency steering committee that is jointly headed by the chairmen of the two Commissions, along with a working group of staff members and stakeholders. He emphasized the extraordinary cooperation among the many agencies involved and noted three related planning efforts that are currently underway: the National Park Service's plan for the Mall; the D.C. government's Center City Action Agenda; and the Architect of the Capitol's master plan for the U.S. Capitol complex. He said that one purpose of the NCFP has been to encourage a coordinated approach for these planning initiatives, so that central Washington would have an overall coherence. He indicated the brochure "Planning Together for Central Washington," which was distributed to the Commission members, which summarizes the roles of the various agencies, their current planning initiatives, and their shared objectives.
Mr. Acosta emphasized the public involvement throughout the development of the NCFP, including presentations of the plan's development, opportunities for comment, and a symposium held at the National Building Museum. He said that the outreach program is continuing with the 90-day public comment period that is currently underway for the draft plan.
Mr. Acosta introduced two members of the NCPC staff to present the details of the plan: project manager Elizabeth Miller and project planner Shane Dettman. Ms. Miller acknowledged additional people in attendance who have contributed to the project from NCPC, the Commission of Fine Arts, the D.C. government, and the planning firm EDAW. She also expressed appreciation for the guidance of the Commission members in past presentations of the project.
Ms. Miller emphasized the NCFP's primary purposes: identifying locations that can become new cultural destinations beyond the Mall; improving the settings of these locations; and improving connections between these areas, downtown, the waterfront, and the Mall. She offered the examples of strolling through a park from the Lincoln Memorial to the Kennedy Center; taking a self-guided walking tour through the Federal Triangle; enjoying a public space between the Smithsonian Castle and the waterfront; or visiting a festival in East Potomac Park. She described these areas as the main focus of the NCFP while explaining that the plan also considers the waterfront areas of South Capitol Street and East Capitol Street as part of the overall relationship of the city center to the Anacostia River; she noted that these riverfront areas have been the subject of other planning studies in recent years. She said that the NCFP's major proposals are intended to show where improvements would generate the most benefits.
Ms. Miller summarized the influence on the NCFP of other recent planning initiatives. Extending the Legacy proposed new cultural sites while respecting the city's historic plans; it also proposed incorporating the waterfronts into city life and mixing federal and private office space, commercial uses, and residential development. The Memorials and Museums Master Plan led to the establishment of the Reserve, an area that protects the major cross-axes of the Mall from further development of memorials. The NCFP continues these initiatives by improving the settings of sites that are beyond the Mall. She cited the large number of visitors and special events on the Mall, explaining that improvements in this area are being developed through the National Park Service's current planning study.
Ms. Miller explained the federal government's role in the future development of central Washington, even as the area is thriving with new housing, cultural attractions, and a strong private-sector office market. She said that much of the employment in the area is due to the federal government's presence, either directly or indirectly. New office development is spreading to areas outside of the traditional downtown, with the Mall and adjacent predominantly federal areas now becoming the middle rather than the edge of the central city. The federal government also has an interest in fostering an attractive urban core in order to attract new employees.
Ms. Miller described the existing barriers that will need to be overcome to achieve the plan's vision, such as clusters of large single-use buildings, poorly maintained public spaces, highway bridges, railroad infrastructure, and the visual disruption of buildings spanning streets. She said that these barriers discourage pedestrians or block access to some areas, consume a large amount of valuable urban land, and discourage the siting of future museums, memorials, or other development in these areas of the city. The NCFP instead envisions overcoming these barriers to maximize the use of federal land, bring a dense mix of uses to these areas, enhance the public spaces, and improve connections; the resulting neighborhoods will have stronger economic vitality as well as a better quality of urban life.
Mr. Dettman provided further details on the vision for each of the four precincts of the NCFP. The Northwest Rectangle would become a cultural destination with emphasis on the Kennedy Center; improvements would focus on the E Street corridor and a connection between the Kennedy Center and the Mall. E Street would become a commemorative corridor with a series of interconnected parks and plazas, incorporating improvements and additions to the open spaces that already exist as well as alterations to the highway infrastructure near the Kennedy Center. A new cultural building at approximately the midpoint of the corridor—at Virginia Avenue and E and 20th Streets—would emphasize E Street as a cultural corridor extending between the Corcoran Gallery on the east and the Kennedy Center on the west. Alterations to the road system south of the Kennedy Center would allow a direct pedestrian connection to the Lincoln Memorial through a new waterfront park, providing the Kennedy Center with the symbolic relationship to the Mall that is appropriate for this presidential memorial. The proposed park would also serve as a ceremonial gateway into the city. He noted that similar proposals for the Kennedy Center area have been publicized in recent years but the NCFP version provides additional emphasis on relating to the historic street pattern; for example, Constitution Avenue would be reconnected to its historic terminus at the belvedere along the Potomac River.
Mr. Dettman described the proposals for the Federal Triangle. Improved north-south connections would encourage pedestrian movement between downtown and the Mall; 7th, 10th, and 12th Streets would be emphasized. Improvements could include signage, landscaping, and safer intersections. East-west circulation would be improved by providing better connectivity among the existing parks, plazas, and courtyards, combined with improved maintenance and landscaping. A pedestrian route could be designated as a "federal walk" that incorporates educational information about the federal agencies in the buildings as well as the architectural and artistic features of the Federal Triangle. A new destination area would be created along Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 12th Streets to diversify the mix of uses in the area and take advantage of the cultural assets that already exist. An improved treatment of 10th Street would emphasize the connection between the Mall on the south and the future redevelopment of the old convention center site on the north; the street's role as a transit hub would also be improved. The sharp separation of uses along Pennsylvania Avenue—with primarily federal buildings on the south—would be blurred to reduce the sense of the avenue as a barrier. The Old Post Office building would be enlivened with new uses that would add vitality into the evening hours. The adjacent annex site would also be redeveloped and would provide connections between 10th Street and the Metrorail station on 12th Street. The current site of the FBI building would be redeveloped when feasible, providing a more pedestrian-friendly design that could include a major new cultural attraction as well as federal office space equivalent to that of the current building.
Mr. Dettman then discussed the Southwest Rectangle, with an emphasis on using 10th Street to connect the Mall—particularly the Smithsonian Castle—to the Southwest Waterfront. This 10th Street corridor could become a lively mixed-use area with new museums that might otherwise seek locations on the Mall; the corridor would be anchored on the south by a major new cultural destination that would relate the corridor to the waterfront. In other areas of the Southwest Rectangle, the street grid would be reclaimed where possible; Maryland Avenue would be reestablished as a major feature, and Virginia Avenue would be strengthened to emphasize its views to the Washington Monument. He presented a video animation of the proposals for this precinct. He emphasized that more efficient development of federal land, such as at the Forrestal Building site, could accommodate the existing federal workforce as well as the proposed new uses; the result would also be a livelier work environment for the federal employees. The railroad line through the area would be realigned slightly to allow the restoration of Maryland Avenue and an improved treatment of the park reservation at the intersection of Maryland and Virginia Avenues along the 8th Street axis. The restored Maryland Avenue would fulfill its potential from the L'Enfant Plan by connecting the Capitol to the waterfront with a sequence of special spaces including the future Eisenhower Memorial toward the east, the park reservation at 8th Street, and a new waterfront overlook on the west.
Mr. Dettman described the vision for East Potomac Park, where improved access would make this recreation area a more important part of the city; the NCFP particularly focuses on the setting of the Jefferson Memorial and the relationship of the park to the Washington Channel. The existing bridge and rail infrastructure near the Jefferson Memorial would be reconfigured to be less intrusive; a large gathering space would be created in this area, served by a new Metrorail station that would be created by shifting the tracks from the existing bridge into a tunnel. Pedestrian access to this area would be improved at the northern end of the Washington Channel by creating a wider connection and reconfigured streets in the vicinity of 15th Street; the result would be a more formal entryway into the park. Three additional bridges across the Washington Channel would provide a combination of vehicular and pedestrian access at other locations along the length of the park and define an accessible loop around the northern part of the Channel. These connections would be part of the overall plan for a continuous riverfront connection between Georgetown and the National Arboretum. In order to prevent these bridges from interfering with boat traffic, a canal would be created across the northern portion of the park to provide a new connection between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River. The canal would be more convenient for boat traffic and could become an attractive destination for visitors. The Channel shore in this area would be developed with small-scale visitor amenities and recreation-related facilities that would complement the anticipated redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront into a lively mixed-use area on the opposite side of the Channel, resulting in an attractive overall waterfront experience. The park's eastern shoreline along the southern portion of the Channel, freed of passing boat traffic, would be altered to provide a softer riparian edge to stabilize the existing seawall, provide natural flood control, and serve as a wildlife habitat. The park's perimeter promenade in this area would be reconfigured into a more informal boardwalk. He concluded by presenting a rendering of East Potomac Park as seen from the 10th Street overlook, an important transitional location for attracting visitors from the Mall to the waterfront and the park.
Ms. Miller summarized the benefits that would result from the NCFP's proposals: 120 acres of open space, including small and large areas, as well as five million square feet of new developable building space that could accommodate museums and offices. She explained that over two million square feet would be best suited for major museums; over one million square feet would be for federal office space; and over two million square feet would be available for private-sector office development. She acknowledged the boldness of the NCFP vision and the difficulty of achieving it, noting that similar concerns were raised about past visionary plans; she described the slow implementation and unexpected deviations from the L'Enfant and McMillan plans, and the difficulties posed by incremental development and isolated decisions. She emphasized that a strong plan can withstand the test of time and ultimately achieve the intent of its original vision. As a recent example, she described the proposals of Extending the Legacy that have been implemented, including the Circulator system, the siting of several memorials, development along South Capitol Street, and major federal agencies moving to areas northeast and southeast of the Capitol.
Ms. Miller emphasized that the NCFP is intended to guide strategic decisions rather than to prescribe particular solutions. She summarized the NCFP's "action agenda" of next steps, legislative tools, and organizational strategies that can be used to achieve the vision; for example, the NCFP suggests areas where more detailed planning will be needed. She described the schedule for the public outreach and finalization of the plan, including public meetings later in July and in September, numerous meetings with interested groups, and refinements to the plan in response to public and agency comments. She anticipated that the final plan would be reviewed by the Commission at its meeting of 20 November.
Ms. Balmori acknowledged the extensive work and detailed concepts that were presented. She commented that the issue of scale is problematic: the proposals are organized around four sections of the city, each with proposed interventions and improved connections that are appropriate to these areas; overall, however, the plan deals with a large portion of the city which involves bigger issues such as sustainability that should be considered beyond the scale of individual buildings or streets. She suggested further consideration of topics such as energy and water consumption, connectivity of green spaces, and recognition of the city as a place where plants, animals, and humans need to exist together in a healthy way. Mr. Belle agreed, commenting that sustainability is a topic of great current importance and an emphasis on it would give this plan a unique identity comparable to the unique identities of historic plans. He added that sustainability should be incorporated into the earliest stages of planning for a site.
Mr. Belle recommended further emphasis on the topic of connectivity and mobility. He noted that conservation of fuel has become an important issue for the future of our cities. He suggested the consideration of innovative forms of movement that do not necessarily rely on automobiles and fossil fuels.
Mr. Rybczynski questioned the coordination of text and graphics for the Northwest Rectangle, commenting that the description of a beautiful park and the elimination of highways south of the Kennedy Center does not seem to be illustrated by the rendering. He added that it is difficult to envision walking between the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial through the park and highway system shown in the rendering. He noted the photograph of the existing condition—which he agreed is "clearly awful"—but commented that the proposed design does not appear much better in the rendering, with many highways remaining and only a group of leftover green spaces. He questioned whether the problem is due to graphics or the design.
Ms. Miller responded that the area is intended to be provide a very pedestrian-friendly link while accommodating the "mammoth infrastructure" that passes through. She said that the linkage directly along the waterfront is at a smaller scale that is not depicted strongly in the rendering. She also explained that the area is at the boundary between the NCFP study area and the National Park Service's planning for the Mall, requiring ongoing coordination. She said that the overall concept is to put the highway connections underground where possible in order to allow emphasis on green space and pedestrian connections at the surface. She offered to study this issue further. Mr. Belle added that a more beautiful connection does not shorten the distance that must be traversed. Mr. Luebke said that portions of this area have been the subject of numerous studies, and several different urban systems are affecting the design: the proposed connection with a monumental character between the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Memorial, conceived as an extension of the Mall's landscape; the infrastructure of the highway system passing through the area; and, between these two extremes, the scale of the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway which relates to the river as well as the city grid. He said that the design is intended to accommodate all three of these experiences; he agreed that further study of the balance and emphasis would be helpful.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the concepts illustrated in the NCFP would be developed through further studies that could address these concerns; she offered the example of the Kennedy Center vicinity where building sites might be defined as part of the detailed study of the new connection to the Lincoln Memorial. She acknowledged the extensive work and extensive content of the NCFP, and she suggested that the information about past plans be given further emphasis in the presentation—particularly the Memorials and Museums Master Plan which provides a strong basis for the NCFP. She said that the past planning work is particularly important because the NCFP is part of the long history of plans for Washington, which she said is a national model of a "city which is constantly improving itself." Mr. Belle agreed that the NCFP's "pedigree" should be emphasized.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the graphic format of the printed report is daunting and not as clear as the verbal presentation, which provided a more logical sequence and an emphasis on the big ideas. She suggested that a clearer document would help those responsible for funding decisions to understand the next steps that could be taken. Ms. Miller responded that the current document is intended to provide enough detail to guide future planning efforts; an additional document is anticipated which will provide an executive summary that will be more appropriate for decision-makers such as members of Congress. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that such a document would be useful and emphasized the importance of its design. She suggested that the longer document could therefore be expanded to provide a format and organization that will encourage people to examine it closely. She said that the draft document does not sufficiently convey the NCFP's hierarchy of ideas. Mr. Luebke said that detailed comments about the draft report would be of great value and suggested that the Commission members could provide such comments in the coming month.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the plan's concepts be conveyed at a more human scale, such as through a video animation of a person moving through these areas on the Circulator or using a water taxi. She said that such images may help people to relate to the experience of moving through the existing Mall and the new development areas that are proposed. Mr. Luebke responded that the National Park Service's current planning for the Mall is addressing the issue of transportation as well as the issue of sustainability that the Commission has raised, while the NCFP provides the opportunity to address these issues as part of the larger city. Mr. Belle commented that this is a valuable opportunity that should not be lost. Ms. Balmori said that a special effort is needed to address sustainability issues at the unusually large scale of a plan such as the NCFP; she suggested the example of a recent master planning project at Harvard University, where a panel of experts on energy, water, air quality, and building systems was brought in to work with the project team on improving the understanding of these issues at a large scale.
Ms. Miller described two upcoming activities that will help to address the sustainability concerns raised by the Commission. The Capitals Alliance will meet in Washington in September, bringing together representatives of capital cities around the world for a conference whose focus this year will be sustainability. The National Capital Planning Commission will also soon undertake a more detailed study of incorporating sustainability policies into the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital, involving a year-long effort in 2009 to address topics such as land use and transit, green building standards, green infrastructure, low-impact development, and stormwater management. She suggested that the Commission's concerns could be addressed in the NCFP but would be more thoroughly addressed through the broad scope of the Comprehensive Plan project. Ms. Balmori said that the most important sustainability-related topics should at least be mentioned in the NCFP, reflecting this significant issue of our times, and the details could then be developed in later studies.
Mr. Belle asked whether housing is included in the proposals for the four precincts. Ms. Miller responded that the NCFP initially emphasized mixed-use development, including housing, in many areas. Due to the anticipated high future demand for federal facilities, the proposals have evolved to emphasize continued federal use of federally owned land, with mixed-use development now emphasized on the newly proposed development parcels such as infill and air-rights sites; the NCFP promotes residential uses at these locations. She indicated the graphics showing proposed land uses, including federal buildings with ground-floor retail and cultural uses, along with over two million square feet of private-sector development areas that could include offices, housing, and hotels. Mr. Belle acknowledged that this would allow for a significant amount of development. Mr. Luebke said that the Southwest precinct in particular would benefit from a mix of uses to overcome the current inhospitable character; he said that retail and residential uses would be especially welcome. Ms. Miller added that there are similar opportunities in the Northwest precinct, and she offered the Navy Memorial plaza as an example of the mix of uses that is envisioned—cultural, office, retail, and residential.
Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the presentation. Ms. Miller welcomed further comments from the Commission members and suggested that the comments be sent through Mr. Luebke.
The Commission recessed at this point and reconvened at 12:18 p.m. in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum for the remainder of the agenda. The three appendices (agenda item II.B) were considered at the end of the agenda.
Mr. Luebke introduced two people who will soon be joining the Commission staff. Kay Fanning will become the Commission's historian in September. He summarized her background with the National Park Service's Cultural Landscapes Program, where she wrote and edited inventories for parks in the Washington area. He said that her doctoral dissertation at the University of Virginia was titled American Temples: Presidential Memorials of the American Renaissance. He also introduced Sarah Batcheler who will become the Commission's Shipstead-Luce architect later in July. He said that she had worked at the architecture firm MGA Partners in Philadelphia for fourteen years, where she dealt with many projects involving a balance between modern architecture and historic structures.
C. National Park Service
CFA 17/JUL/08-2, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Square 580, 2nd and C Streets and Washington Avenue (Canal Street), S.W. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/NOV/06- 1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal for the memorial on a triangular site at the foot of Capitol Hill. He said that the previous design for the memorial included sculptural bronze panels by sculptor Larry Kirkland, which had been reviewed favorably by the Commission; the sponsoring foundation has subsequently reconsidered this feature and is submitting a different design that uses text, images, and silhouettes to emphasize the diversity and gravity of disabled veterans' experiences. He said that the submission also includes further development of the design features that were previously submitted, incorporating responses to the Commission's recommendations. He asked Glenn DeMarr of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. DeMarr said that the project has been through many challenges since the previous review in November 2006, including an extension of its legislative authorization to 2015. He introduced the sponsoring foundation's new project executive, Barry Owenby, who had held the same position for the creation of the World War II Memorial. Mr. Owenby said that the presentation would be made by memorial designer Michael Vergason of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects; Jim Garland of Fluidity Design Consultants for the fountain design; Jerome Cloud of Cloud Gehshan Associates; and sculptor Larry Kirkland.
Mr. Vergason provided an overview of the proposed design features of the memorial, which is intended to express the nation's gratitude to disabled veterans, inform the public about their service and sacrifice, and provide a permanent reminder of the human cost of conflict. He said that most visitors would arrive at the northern corner of the site, where a flame will be floating within a star-shaped pool; the shape symbolizes the five branches of the military and the flame—"a fire in the grove"—symbolizes the warmth and comfort of a campfire as well as destruction, change, and transformation. Nearby, a fourteen-foot-high marble "wall of gratitude" is proposed containing the name of the memorial and several quotations. A triangular fountain extending south will draw visitors toward a grove of ginkgo trees and a grouping of sculptural panels, titled the "Voices of Veterans," that will combine art with quotations from veterans. The design will encourage visitors to wander through this area and then return to the northern end of the site. Mr. Vergason said that the triangular fountain has been raised in height and reduced in length since the previous submission.
Mr. Garland described the technical details of the fountain. He said that the triangular pool would be 150 feet long and raised ten inches or slightly more above the ground. The fountain would be relatively quiet with a thin layer of water that would flow over the edge along all sides, passing through perimeter grating into a continuous trough. The water surface would primarily be a flat reflecting surface unless disturbed by wind. A dark gray stone would be used beneath the water to enhance the reflective quality, matching the stone of the plaza. The star-shaped pool would be higher and would have a more dramatic water flow leading into a curb pool around this upper fountain. The flame within this pool would be formed from natural gas bubbles fed by gas jets below the water's surface; the bubbling action would create a turbulent water surface within the star-shaped fountain. Igniters would be contained within five stones that would protrude slightly above the water surface. Wind-sensing devices would adjust the size of the flame or shut it off when necessary. He said that the flame would be approximately three feet tall and its heat might be perceptible to someone standing at the closest location on the plaza. Mr. Vergason said that the three-foot height would be a maximum, with adjustments made according to the season and the time of day.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the fountain's height. Mr. Garland responded that the surface of the star-shaped pool would be approximately 34 inches above the plaza, which is low enough to be readily visible to a person in a wheelchair while high enough to discourage people from climbing into the pool. Mr. Vergason added that the lower reflecting pool was previously presented as being flush with the plaza surface, encouraging people to walk on it, but it has now been raised in order to give it a more honorific quality. Ms. Balmori asked if the water collection troughs would be covered so that people could walk to the edge of the fountains. Mr. Vergason responded that the covering of the troughs would include a tactile warning strip that would also serve to discourage skateboarders from reaching the edge of the fountain. Ms. Balmori asked if people could sit on any of the fountain edges; Mr. Garland confirmed that the edges have flowing water and are not suitable for seating.
Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle asked about the winter treatment of the fountains. Mr. Garland responded that water would be removed from the triangular pool, leaving a flat panel of stone. He said that the star-shaped pool is designed to operate year-round but would have a reduced water level in the winter, remaining two inches below the edge and eliminating the overflow of water. Mr. Belle asked if the stone color of the triangular pool would be significantly different in wet and dry conditions; Mr. Garland responded that the stone under consideration would be notably lighter when dry.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the flame would be colored. Mr. Garland said that the natural gas will be clean-burning, producing a blue flame with some yellow. He added that the gas would pick up some trace minerals while passing through the water which could result in a slight orange color. Mr. Rybczynski asked for further information on the shape of the flame. Mr. Garland said that the three-foot-high flame would be approximately 2.5 feet in diameter at the base, comparable to a campfire but formed from the weaving together of a series of igniting bubbles.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that people sometimes climb or skateboard on unexpected places; he suggested that the design be field-tested to assure that there will not be problems. Mr. Garland responded that the design team has considered the problem of people entering the star-shaped fountain and reaching the flame. Three design responses are under consideration that would cut off the flame based on additional weight, wave action, or detection by underwater sonar. He said that a decision has not yet been made but the sonar solution is most likely due to its reliability and accuracy; it is used in France to provide an alarm system for swimming pools. Ms. Balmori asked if the sonar would serve to discourage people from walking across the low stone platform beneath the triangular pool when the stone is exposed during the winter. Mr. Garland clarified that the intrusion protection is only intended for the star-shaped pool; Mr. Vergason added that its purpose is to prevent people from being injured by the flame. Mr. Powell asked if there would be security personnel nearby who would respond to an alarm. Mr. Garland responded that the flame would be shut off automatically; afterward, one solution would be an automated system that would restore the flame when there is no longer any indication of an intrusion, and the other option would be a manual restoration of the flame based on a visual safety check.
Mr. Belle asked how falling leaves would affect the fountains, particularly for the very shallow triangular pool. Mr. Garland said that the filtration system and the grating on the troughs will handle this. The system would collect leaves in a container that would be emptied manually; the necessary frequency of emptying would vary by season. Mr. Vergason added that the ginkgo trees change color quickly and drop their leaves in a short period of time; their period of extraordinary color would occur around Veterans Day, and the period of time requiring intensive maintenance would be relatively short—approximately 1.5 to two weeks. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the trees would produce berries; Mr. Vergason responded that only male trees would be used so there will not be berries.
Mr. Cloud presented the proposed quotations for the memorial, including inscriptions on the marble wall and the glass panels. He described the disabled veterans' common experience of enlistment, deployment, injury, recovery, and then finding a new purpose in life. The research extended to the three million disabled veterans and to those who are affected by their experiences, including medical and military personnel, family, friends, and community. The initial set of 600 quotations was narrowed through workshops with the design team, the sponsoring foundation, and disabled veterans. He said that the emphasis of the quotations is on first-person narratives. The research also included images, extending back to the Civil War. Mr. Vergason said that this process added clarity and structure to the memorial concept, which was helpful in continuing the editing process to cover a broad spectrum of experiences with as few words and voices as possible. He said that the quotations would be incorporated into the memorial design as a "tapestry of voices" rather than following a sequential structure; this concept provides flexibility in integrating the quotations with the overall artwork to create a greater whole.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the significance of the Civil War as a starting date. Mr. Cloud clarified that the quotations extend back to the Revolutionary War; he added that these earlier quotations are similar to modern-day descriptions. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson asked how many quotations would be used. Mr. Cloud responded that an exact number has not been determined; the goal is to use as few as possible while conveying a diverse range of experiences, such as representation of the various branches of the military. He estimated that approximately thirty quotations would result from the selection process.
Mr. Kirkland invited the Commission members to inspect the model and the mockup of quotations and sculpture. He discussed the four glass walls forming the Voices of Veterans, which he said have evolved into walls of memory. The concept is to interweave the content, using the text described by Mr. Cloud, with a visual component. He described his conversations with disabled veterans which included emphasis on the relationship of their experience to bigger forces in American society, and on the combination of idealism and realism. The wall is therefore designed to show the veterans' belief in country, honor, and duty as well as the difficult reality of the human cost of war. He said that veterans emphasized the importance of the view to the Capitol from the northern part of the site, serving as a reminder of why they joined the military as well as an assurance that those in the Capitol would symbolically see the veterans. The glass walls on the south would be backlit by the sun. The walls would be composed of five layers of glass, resulting in translucent panels that would capture light and shadow. Behind some of the panels would be cast bronze elements with shapes cut out that would allow the light to pass through; he showed an example of the silhouette of a saluting soldier. He said that the layering of the shapes with glass and bronze would create a stronger image than using the materials separately. The glass layers would include the quotations and photographic images such as a charging marine, a soldier under stress, a military cemetery, and a caregiver.
Mr. Vergason emphasized the varying quality of the light through the day and seasons, including a sense of motion from the flicker of leaves and movement of people, producing "magical" effects that are difficult to reproduce in this meeting room. He said that the legibility of the images will shift from crisp and clear to soft and indirect. Mr. Kirkland explained that the images on the glass panels would be cut by water jets or lasers, with a hand-made surface quality that encourages touching. He noted the proposed thickness of the glass which will affect the way light passes through it. He said that the images are clearly legible from a distance but tend to disappear as one gets close. He clarified that the photographic images would sometimes be combined with text within the glass panels. Ms. Nelson asked if the glass panels would be legible from a passing car; Mr. Vergason responded that the trees would probably be limbed up to a height of ten to twelve feet so there would be some visibility. He added that there would typically be an eight-foot planting bed behind the glass walls, including ginkgo trees, so people moving around the walls would not be likely to closely approach the back side of the panels.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information on the size of the panels and the number of images. Mr. Vergason said there would be approximately seventy panels, each four feet wide and eight to nine feet high, with a thickness of 2.25 inches; there would be a half-inch open gap between panels, which will allow air movement; the panels would be self-supporting without requiring any steel structure. He said that there would be at most five bronze panels spread out among the walls. He acknowledged that the density of images and quotations is currently excessive, saying that the design would be refined to include as much space as possible between the graphic elements to give an appropriate setting for the compelling emotional content.
Mr. Rybczynski asked why the new artwork proposal is so different from the previous concept. Mr. Kirkland said that the previous proposal, using inverse bas-reliefs of human figures, was initially well received. As Mr. Kirkland refined the design to include the image of human heads, as suggested by the Commission, the intention of the artwork became less satisfactory. Some members of the sponsoring foundation's board began questioning the meaning of the sculpture and doubting that it reflected the experience of disabled veterans. He therefore reconsidered the concept for the sculpture to more effectively tell the story of the people whom the memorial honors. Mr. Vergason added that the concerns about interpretation of the previous design were heard from a wide range of disabled veterans. Mr. Kirkland said that the previous design also did not make good use of the glass panels that were placed between the bas-reliefs; the current proposal takes better advantage of the sunlight and the material to produce an ephemeral and animated effect. Another inspiration was the concept of contrasting idealism and realism to convey a more powerful story.
Chairman Powell asked for discussion of the proposed lighting. Mr. Vergason said that the emphasis would be on the flame and the glass walls, and lighting within the memorial would be only enough to provide minimal ambient lighting; pole-mounted fixtures would be set among the ginkgo trees. A heavily used pedestrian route along the south edge of the site would have a slightly higher lighting level. The sidewalks along the perimeter of the memorial would be more brightly lit using standard streetlights—single-globe along Second Street and double-globe along Washington Avenue. The glass panels would be backlit using continuous LED lights.
Mr. Owenby summarized the status of the project, acknowledging that the design is still evolving and more research is needed on the content. He requested the Commission's support for the current conceptual framework and offered to work closely with the Commission and the staff in developing the design. He said that the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gordon Mansfield, wished to address the Commission at the conclusion of the presentation. He summarized Mr. Mansfield's career in the Department of Veterans Affairs and as the former executive director of the Paralyzed Veterans Association; he served in Vietnam and was injured in the Tet offensive.
Mr. Mansfield, speaking as a member of the disabled veterans community rather than on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs, stated his support for the memorial's design concept. He noted the site's prominent location and visibility to members of Congress and Executive Branch officials, who will be reminded of the cost of conflict; the flame rising from the fountain would remind them of those who pay the price. He said that the seals of the various armed services would be placed on the Wall of Gratitude, serving to unite all veterans, and the artwork would reflect the ideals and the reality of disabled veterans. He said that the revised concept for the artwork will achieve the two critical objectives: representing the varied stories of the disabled veterans, including their sense of duty and the trauma of the battlefield, as understood from their own perspective; and conveying the reality of their sacrifice to the public. He said that the proposed memorial design and the artwork will honor and uphold the courage of the veterans, and he requested the Commission's support for the project.
Mr. Powell asked if a full-scale mockup is anticipated for the artwork. Mr. Owenby responded that various mockups would be prepared, possibly culminating in a full-scale mockup of all the walls; mockups of individual pieces would be used to study issues such as text, density, and reflection. Mr. Luebke said that the lighting effect would be critical to the design, suggesting an onsite mockup with the correct solar orientation; Mr. Owenby said that this could be done at the appropriate time. Mr. Belle agreed that a full-scale mockup should be done soon, and Ms. Nelson agreed that an outdoor full-scale mockup would be informative.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the design for this memorial is coming together well overall but expressed disappointment at the abandonment of the previous artwork concept, which he said had the advantage of not telling a narrative story; he said that the vagueness of the previous concept allowed for people to interpret the meaning of the artwork. He said that the new proposal for literal silhouettes is less exciting but could be effective. He questioned the proposal to include photographic images, which he said are too literal and have only one way to be interpreted, taking on the character of a documentary movie or advertising. He emphasized that memorials, because they are intended to last forever, should have a sense of being apart from the everyday world. He therefore also questioned the use of glass, which is typically not used for memorials due its lack of permanence, but acknowledged that it could be successful in this design. He suggested that the silhouettes seen through the glass would be sufficient, without using the proposed photographic images; he said that this simplification would be reasonable because the design would continue to include a multiplicity of elements, including the flame and the multiple pools. He added that the photographic images at the Korean War Memorial are not successful, appearing to be part of the everyday world rather than part of a memorial. Ms. Balmori agreed, commenting that the quotations and silhouettes are effective in telling stories while the photographic images are an unnecessary additional layer that make the design complicated and lessen its character as a memorial, instead suggesting the character of commercial advertising. Overall, she agreed that the pieces of the design are beginning to come together well.
Ms. Balmori commented that walls within public spaces can be problematic. She said that the glass walls in this design could be successful if people can easily see through them, which will need to be demonstrated by a mockup. Ms. Nelson agreed with the concern and suggested that the gap between the glass panels be widened, which would be feasible if the quotations are limited to single panels. She agreed that the photographic images should be eliminated, saying that strong, evocative quotations will allow people to form images in their minds. She suggested that the other walls in the design could also be broken into segments with gaps between them, emphasizing a more porous character for the space.
Mr. Belle commented that the design may have too many strong features, diluting the power of the various elements. He cited the large number of quotations, the fire and water, the shape of the pools, the prominence of the northern part of the site, and the panels and grove of trees toward the south. He suggested that the ideas be pared down to emphasize the core of the concept.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the proposed photographic images, saying that the selection includes classic images that represent the veterans' experience; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the lighting poles, although shown in the drawings, do not appear in the model, and she suggested that the poles be eliminated from the design. She said that the low memorial design will generally be surrounded by tall buildings, with streetlights and trees providing an intermediate scale, while the proposed poles would be an undesirable additional element.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's comments, including general enthusiasm for the revised concept and the use of glass, with varying opinion on the use of photographic images. He said that the Commission's overall guidance is to simplify the design, particularly the walls. Mr. Luebke added that there was a consensus to request a mockup to demonstrate the effectiveness of the complex artwork configuration. Mr. Powell agreed that the mockup is necessary while adding that he supports approval of the proposal as a revised concept. Ms. Balmori suggested emphasizing the Commission's recommendation for simplification; Mr. Powell agreed to provide this as a general recommendation while allowing the photographic images to remain as part of the concept subject to further review in a mockup. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept subject to the concerns discussed by the Commission.
D. Department of the Treasury / U. S. Mint
CFA 17/JUL/08-3, American Eagle Platinum Coin Program for 2009. Reverse design and privy mark. (Previous: CFA 21/JUL/05-3, coins for 2006, 2007, and 2008.) Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to make the presentation. Ms. Budow said that the Secretary of the Treasury has authority to issue platinum coins and to select their design and denomination. Since 1997, the Mint has been issuing the American Eagle series of non-circulating platinum proof coins in various denominations; the obverse depicts the Statue of Liberty, and the reverse design changes each year. Initially, the reverses included a series of variations on the theme of the eagle; the most recent designs have been a three-year series honoring the three branches of the federal government.
Ms. Budow explained that the Mint now proposes to begin a six-year program of annual reverse designs based on the foundations of American democracy that are expressed in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The current submission for the 2009 reverse is based on the preamble's phrase "to form a more perfect union." In addition, the submission includes the design of a small feature, known as a "privy mark," that will depict an eagle on the future reverses to provide continuity with the theme of the earlier coins in the series. She clarified that the current obverse design will continue with no change other than the updated indication of the minting year.
Ms. Budow presented the eight design alternatives for the 2009 reverse, which depict the unity of the nation through symbols such as trees, clasped hands, interlocking rings, a fasces, stars, allegorical figures, flowing water, and an arch. She explained that the narrative that was used by the artists as the basis for these designs was developed by John Roberts, Jr., the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. She also presented three alternative designs for the privy mark which were based on historic precedents. Mr. Luebke emphasized that the privy mark would be very small; Ms. Budow said that the exact size and location of the privy mark on the reverse have not yet been determined, but it would not significantly detract from the overall design of the coin due to the mark's small size.
Ms. Balmori commented that alternative B for the privy mark would be too difficult to understand; she said that alternative A would be the most clear. Ms. Nelson expressed a preference for alternative C due to the treatment of the end of the eagle's neck; Mr. Rybczynski agreed with this choice, and Ms. Balmori said she could support it. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended alternative C for the privy mark.
Ms. Budow then presented an image of the coin's obverse for the Commission's consideration in discussing the alternatives for the reverse design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the significance of the rendering technique used in the presentation; Ms. Budow responded that the photographic images in the presentation are altered with black and silver highlights to depict the mirror finish that will be used for the proof coins. Ms. Budow clarified that the coins will be minted in four different sizes corresponding to the various denominations; the printed images distributed to the Commission members include full-scale depictions of the largest and smallest of these sizes.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for reverse design #2 because of the strong image of the tree that will be legible at a small scale. Ms. Nelson supported design #4 due to the dignity and clarity of the interlocking rings and fasces. She acknowledged the strength of the tree design used recently for the quarter-dollar coin honoring Connecticut but said that the proposed treatment of the tree in design #2, with separate clumps of foliage to represent the thirteen original states, gives the appearance of broccoli. Mr. Belle agreed that design #4 is problematic, comparing the tree image to a cranium, and he said that design #4 is too similar to the interlocking rings that represent the Olympic games. He recommended design #5, depicting three allegorical women representing the branches of government; Ms. Balmori expressed dissatisfaction with this alternative. Mr. Rybczynski said that he initially supported design #2 but agreed with the concerns that were expressed. He added that the symbol in design #4 is now associated with less desirable meanings; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Chairman Powell asked for a consensus. Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Balmori commented that the high value of the coin—one hundred dollars—merits a more thoughtful design, suggesting that additional alternatives be submitted. Ms. Budow responded that the Mint could consider this request. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the Commission provide some guidance to the Mint for improving the alternatives. She said that the objects representing the three branches of government in design #5 are appropriate but are difficult to see among the three larger human figures. Ms. Budow said that the current series of reverses uses similar allegorical figures. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that some continuity in the annual designs would be desirable but was difficult to evaluate since no images of the current design series were presented.
Ms. Nelson suggested that design #1 be revised to include the branch with thirteen leaves but remove the supporting hand; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Budow responded that this change could allow the leaves to be depicted more boldly; Ms. Balmori supported this proposal. Mr. Powell expressed support for design #2. Ms. Budow said that the separation among the parts of the design would be emphasized due to the polishing process for proof coins, and the textures of the three-dimensional coin would appear different than shown in the graphic depiction. Ms. Nelson reiterated her support for separate leaves as shown in design #1 but without the hand and roots; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Belle questioned the depiction of the plant leaves, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the shape of the leaves be studied further.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended that the Mint submit a revised version of design #1 incorporating the comments that were offered; Mr. Belle abstained.
E. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 17/JUL/08-4, National Zoological Park, Rock Creek Site Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/APR/86-5.) Mr. Lindstrom said that the overall master plan addresses the two major sites operated by the National Zoo: the Rock Creek site, which is being presented today; and the research and conservation center in Front Royal, Virginia, which is not subject to review by the Commission. He said that the previous master plan for the Zoo was submitted in 1986. He introduced John Berry, director of the National Zoo, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Berry said that the master plan is based on the Zoo's recent strategic plan, which he summarized. The overall intention is "to become the world's finest zoo," with a goal of achieving this status by 2016; he said that currently there are many great zoos in the world without one being clearly best. He described the components of the vision: high-quality animal care, world-class conservation science, an outstanding educational experience, leadership in sustainability, and a good visitor experience which encompasses such facilities as bathrooms, food service, and the gift shop. He said that the Zoo needs to improve each of these components, with the conservation science already near the highest level of achievement due to the strong group of scientists working at the Zoo.
Mr. Berry described animal care as an obvious primary requirement, while noting that the Zoo is both a zoological park and a botanical garden, requiring the care of plants as well as animals. He noted the Zoo's founding in 1889, making it one of the oldest in the country, and the transition to the modern Zoo in the 1920s and 1930s including a legacy of buildings from this period; he said that these buildings are outdated and not consistent with modern understanding of requirements for animal care.
Mr. Berry described the constraints of the Zoo's site, including the scarcity of space and the steep topography, noting that the Zoo's site is also divided by Rock Creek. He said that the challenge for the master planning committee and the consultant firm, Ayers Saint Gross, was to renovate the site and buildings to achieve the highest quality of animal care according to modern standards which would require more animal habitat and exhibit space within the site. He described the main public path, part of the design by Olmsted for the public areas, that slopes continuously for a height of sixteen stories along the main hill on the site. A nearby hill is used for the bird exhibit, and a third hill contains the Zoo's veterinary facilities that are not open to the public. Additional issues for the master plan include: reducing the number of public entrance points, currently approximately thirteen, in order to improve the opportunity for visitor orientation and reduce the conflict between pedestrians and through-traffic along the edge of the site where Zoo parking is located; and addressing the physical challenge of people needing to climb the large slope. He said that the resulting master plan is successful in addressing these issues, and he requested the Commission's comments on the proposal. He introduced Harry Rombach of the Smithsonian Institution to continue with the presentation of the master plan.
Mr. Powell asked Mr. Berry to identify any special highlights or urgent proposals in the master plan that the Commission should be aware of during the presentation. Mr. Berry said that one key concept is to consolidate the surface parking, which consumes much of the site's relatively flat area which is scarce, to provide room for expansion of animal exhibits. The proposed parking structure would allow for a concentrated arrival point including a pedestrian bridge to provide a safe separation from through-traffic. He said that the financing and other issues still need to be resolved, but the concept is strong. Another important issue is how to use the resulting area that is made available, including a nine-acre parcel that would allow for an exhibit with a herd of animals rather than just one or two. The proposed availability of land currently used for parking along Rock Creek would provide the opportunity to demonstrate sustainable principles of water use, such as the creation of a marshland that would provide a fish habitat and filter the water; a goal would be to have the water clean enough for children to play in the marshland. Issues of energy conservation and sustainability would also be demonstrated throughout the Zoo, particularly because these issues affect the survival of wildlife in nature. He said that the master plan proposals are also intended to increase children's experience with nature in order to counteract the prevailing trend toward being indoors.
Mr. Rombach emphasized that the proposals in the master plan are less specific than the project proposal that are usually presented to the Commission. He said that the process used to develop the master plan is an important topic that will be presented, in addition to the resulting proposals. He explained that more detailed proposals for specific projects would be presented in the coming years, beginning with the exhibit of seals and sea lions that will be submitted later in 2008 and the renewal of the bird house that will come soon after, followed by submissions for the parking and the aerial tram. He also emphasized the large scope of master plan proposals that will not be widely visible, such as infrastructure improvements concerning stormwater, sewers, telecommunications, and electrical systems. He introduced Luann Green of Ayers Saint Gross to present the master plan.
Ms. Green presented an outline of the presentation, noting that the description of the plan's objectives was already largely covered by Mr. Berry. She said that the consideration of entrance points also relates to the process of exiting the Zoo, with visitors currently having some difficulty finding the exit that will bring them back to their parked cars; signage would therefore be improved to assist people exiting as well as entering, and these issues would be addressed as part of the overall topic of circulation. She said that the revitalization and distribution of facilities also involves the intention to spread visitors more evenly across the site so that the facilities are not overwhelmed with concentrations of people.
Ms. Green described the process of developing the master plan: data gathering, development of broad planning principles, an overall concept for addressing the issues, and more detailed study of particular areas including analysis of the topography. The results were combined to generate alternatives and the resulting master plan.
Ms. Green described the existing conditions, including the park-like setting, the adjacency to Connecticut Avenue with commercial areas and nearby Metrorail stations on the west, the nearby residential neighborhoods to the east and west, and the park setting of Rock Creek on the north and south. She described the topographic conditions with the high point near Connecticut Avenue; since Olmsted's time, the Zoo has been organized along a linear circulation spine—known as Olmsted Walk—descending from Connecticut Avenue to Rock Creek. Vehicular circulation is along North Road on the north edge of the site, with parking lots distributed along its length. She said that visitorship is very high on most weekends outside of winter, tending to overwhelm the site, and the number of visitors is expected to increase. She added that the scientific research that is associated with the Zoo, already a strong feature as Mr. Berry had described, is not currently communicated well to visitors. She emphasized the strong benefits of the site's natural setting and said that its features are integrated into the master plan.
Ms. Green summarized the alternatives that were developed, including a no-action alternative and various configurations of arrival points and surface, structured, or underground parking. The alternatives include transit options of a surface tram along North Road and an aerial tram; the preferred alternative includes both of these systems, which she said will serve different audiences. She said that previous master plans for the Zoo had already explored some of the key concepts that are included in the preferred alternative: consolidating the surface parking into a structure, and locating this structure along the middle of the Zoo's north side adjacent to a special focus and entrance point so that visitors would be able to perceive the large steep site as two separate zones of more manageable size with a landmark location and resting area at the center.
Ms. Green indicated recent and current construction projects at the Zoo, including the Asia Trail and the Elephant House, and the areas of the site that would be reclaimed for animal exhibits. She discussed the two major entrance points that would be emphasized, at Connecticut Avenue and at Harvard Street, as well as the two entrances along North Road from the parking structure and at a bus drop-off area. She explained that the consolidation of entry points would allow for improved security and for counting of visitors. She indicated the proposed aerial tram that would connect the west, central, and east portions of the site, as well as the surface tram that would operate along North Road. Roundabaouts would be created within North Road near Connecticut Avenue and Harvard Street to allow for drop-off and turnaround of the surface tram or other shuttles. Service circulation would be separated to the extent possible. She described the proposed parking structure which would replace an existing support building with rooftop parking; the new structure could include a pedestrian bridge leading to a visitor services building that would be located along Olmsted Walk, framed by two of the Zoo's historic buildings. She also indicated the proposed underground parking along North Road near Connecticut Avenue, noting that the master plan proposals would result in an increase in the amount of parking even as surface lots are eliminated. Ms. Green concluded by emphasizing that the project's underlying intention is to integrate the Zoo's conservation mission and sustainability concerns into the master plan.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the four proposed entry points in comparison to existing ones; Ms. Green explained that all four correspond to existing entrances although the proposed major entrance from the parking structure is currently a minor entrance with a steep staircase. Ms. Nelson asked about the purpose of establishing a count of visitors and whether the number of visitors would be restricted. Ms. Green responded that there is no limitation on public access nor any entrance fee, and the site is large enough to handle large numbers of people; the major constraint is parking, so the use of mass transit is emphasized in the master plan. She acknowledged that the uneven distribution of visitors can result in queuing at some locations, which the master plan addresses through improved visitor services and the renovation of exhibit areas that are currently less visited. Mr. Rombach added that improved visitor counts could have implications for funding while also helping to plan more accurately for facilities such as restrooms and food service; the information would also be analyzed to predict future visitation patterns and anticipated needs for additional visitor amenities on particular days. He said that future increases in visitation would also be more feasible with the enlarged animal habitat areas which would provide the animals with sufficient room to be away from visitors if desired.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the reaction of neighborhood residents to the master plan. Mr. Rombach responded that the Smithsonian has held three public meetings as part of the environmental review process; there were many comments, including unexpected support for additional parking at the Zoo which was apparently due to a desire to reduce the demand for visitor parking on neighborhood streets. He said that many neighbors who frequently visit the Zoo expressed support for the aerial and surface trams. He acknowledged that opinions varied and some people did not support these proposals. Ms. Nelson asked if neighborhood residents walk on the Zoo's hills for exercise; Ms. Green confirmed that this occurs.
Mr. Belle asked for further information about funding of the master plan proposals. Debra Nauta-Rodriguez of the Smithsonian Institution responded that the work on the elephant facility is already funded and under construction; federal funding is currently being requested to renew the bird house and the seal and sea lion exhibits within the next five years, as well as to undertake infrastructure improvements such as improved fire protection. Ms. Balmori asked about the status of the proposed parking structure; Ms. Nauta-Rodriguez responded that funding of this project is not proposed within the next five years but construction would likely start soon after that; she said that federal funds would probably not be used for this project so the Smithsonian is considering other funding sources. She acknowledged that completion of the parking structure is a key step in making other circulation and entrance improvements. She said that work on additional exhibits in historic structures would occur further into the future. Mr. Belle asked for the cost of the aerial tram; Ms. Nauta-Rodriguez was not able to provide the figure but said that it is included in the cost estimate information and is scheduled beyond the initial five-year period of funding.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the master plan and for the clarity of the presentation, recommending that the Commission support the proposal. She requested clarification on the importance of infrastructure improvements; Ms. Nauta-Rodriguez responded that construction must be undertaken gradually to correspond with the annual allotment of federal funds. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the surface tram be extended beyond the Zoo to connect with the nearby Metrorail system; Ms. Nauta-Rodriguez said that the Zoo has had such a service but it is not currently operating. Ms. Plater-Zyberk also suggested that the proposed parking structure be combined with other uses that would attract the necessary funding and would take better advantage of the views of Rock Creek from the proposed site. Mr. Nauta-Rodriguez said that the site of the proposed structure currently includes a surface parking lot and administrative space; the new structure will include expanded administrative space that will allow consolidation of offices that are currently scattered around the Zoo. She noted the steepness of the site and said that the multi-purpose structure would step down the hillside and incorporate green roofs to avoid a massive appearance. Ms. Nelson suggested that the building could include a banquet facility which would be a source of revenue.
Mr. Powell expressed support for the plan, commenting on its comprehensiveness and encouraging the funding of its proposals. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission voted in favor of the master plan.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Old Georgetown Act
O.G. 08-205, Safeway (retail grocery store), 1855 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. Raze existing building and construct new replacement building. Concept. Mr. Martínez said that the report of the Old Georgetown Board has been circulated to the Commission members and he summarized the Board's comments, including overall support for the proposed site plan and massing along with a request for further development of the elevations for additional review. He explained that the Commission could support this position or give the Board different guidance. He introduced architect Brian O'Looney of Torti Gallas and Partners to present the design.
Mr. O'Looney explained that the site is on the northern edge of Georgetown and is between the lower-scale buildings of Georgetown to the south and two ninety-foot-high buildings in the Glover Park neighborhood to the north. He noted the existing surface parking lot on the site and another surface lot across Wisconsin Avenue, resulting in a break in the urban fabric at this location. He presented photographs of the existing building, explaining that the proposed replacement is part of Safeway's nationwide program to establish a new identity for its stores and merchandise. The new store would become a "lifestyle center" with more produce and other fresh products, a coffee shop, sushi bar, bank, and drop-off location for clothes cleaning.
Mr. O'Looney said that the replacement project also provides an opportunity to improve the urban environment of the Georgetown neighborhood. He explained that the current building and parking lot replace an earlier small Safeway building that was sited directly along the street wall of Wisconsin Avenue; the design goal is to restore this siting so that the new building helps to activate the street. The proposal is to place the large retail space on the second floor and locate small retail areas on the ground floor along Wisconsin Avenue in order to connect the existing retail areas north and south of the site. The interior parking garage and loading area would be located on the first floor behind the small retail areas; an additional driveway would lead to an upper-level surface lot toward the rear of the site that would provide at-grade access to the large retail area. An entrance lobby marked by a tower along Wisconsin Avenue would provide vertical circulation to the upper-level store; the parking garage would also be connected to the store by additional escalators, stairs, and large elevators that could accommodate shopping carts. Ms. Balmori commented that the vertical circulation system and the shopping carts would create bottlenecks, acknowledging that this problem would have little impact on the issues being reviewed by the Commission.
Mr. O'Looney provided additional information on the vehicular circulation. The south driveway would remain in its current location; the north driveway would be realigned slightly. He indicated the route of large delivery trucks entering the parking garage and reaching the loading dock, where service elevators would lead to the store above. Mr. Belle asked about the amount of parking; Mr. O'Looney responded that the site currently includes 197 parking spaces, and the proposed configuration will have 279 spaces.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the sidewalk space at the small retail areas and entrance tower would be sufficient; Mr. O'Looney said that the public sidewalk space would be combined with additional sidewalk area within the site that would be available for outdoor retail use. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the relationship of the project to the park (Dumbarton Oaks Park, a federal park east of the site). Mr. O'Looney explained that the existing twenty-foot setback on the east would be retained; the elevated parking deck would be located within the footprint of the existing store and would be lower, with further screening provided by planting. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked how the edge would appear from the park; Mr. O'Looney responded that the park in that area is not in active use. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the twenty-foot setback area be made part of the federal park; Mr. Luebke and Mr. O'Looney responded that the setback distance is necessary to conform with the zoning requirement for the site.
Mr. O'Looney presented site sections and explained the intention to reduce the visibility of the rooftop mechanical equipment by moving it toward the center of the building. Ms. Balmori asked if a green roof could be incorporated into the design, noting that the large flat roof would be ideal for this feature. Mr. O'Looney said that such features are currently under consideration for the design of all Safeway stores; although a green roof is not proposed, a reflective roof surface is being considered.
Mr. O'Looney presented the Wisconsin Avenue elevation in the context of the widely varying scale of details in the neighboring buildings and the potential for construction of taller buildings in the vicinity. He said that additional precedents include Georgetown architecture and traditional buildings where people have enjoyed purchasing food, such as the surviving and lost market buildings in Washington. He cited the successful older market buildings in other cities such as Seattle, Portland, Milwaukee, and Cleveland, as well as newer markets being constructed. He said that Washington's former Center Market had a varied side elevation that was built in stages, providing the inspiration for the proposed south elevation of the Safeway store with a variety of arrival points and expression of functions. He presented drawings of the articulation of the building skin and said that steel angles would be included in the facade detailing. The east elevation facing the upper-level surface parking area would have a simpler design vocabulary that relates to the landscape context, which will be enhanced by the proposed plating of a "green screen."
Mr. Powell asked about the project schedule; Mr. O'Looney said that the design work could be completed in approximately six months, including the additional submission requested by the Old Georgetown Board to review further development of the facades. He offered to present the proposed materials to the Commission; Mr. Martínez said that this would be premature because the Board has not yet provided a recommendation on the materials. Mr. Luebke added that guidance from the Commission on materials would be appropriate, while the subsequent submission would include more detailed development of the design.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted the Board's report including approval of the concept. [The following comments were made at the close of the meeting during the discussion of the Old Georgetown Act appendix.] Ms. Balmori requested that the recommendation for a green roof be conveyed to the Board; Mr. Luebke agreed that this comment would be included in the letter to the applicant. He added that the Commission is starting to see many opportunities to address the general issue of incorporating sustainable design features into historic districts, adding that the Board would soon be discussing the policy implications of this issue. Mr. Powell commented that the large roof of the Safeway could be used for growing food; Ms. Nelson agreed.
The Commission then considered the appendices listed earlier on the agenda (item II.B).
B. Appendices. Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported a minor change to the draft appendix: the numbering of one case was revised due to an erroneous duplication of numbers issued by the D.C. government. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported the revisions to the draft appendix: three cases were removed, minor adjustments were made to the wording of some recommendations, and minor revisions have been made for several projects in response to supplemental drawings that have been received. [See the conclusion of agenda item II.F for additional comments on sustainable design features in Georgetown.] The Commission approved the revised appendix unanimously.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:41 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: October 2, 2008