Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 June 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 10:00 a.m.
National Capital Planning Commission staff present:
A. Administration of oath of office to Diana Balmori and Earl A Powell III. Mr. Luebke announced that the President reappointed Mr. Powell and Ms. Balmori to the Commission on 18 May; he administered the oath of office to them. He noted that the White House had also announced the intention to reappoint Mr. Rybczynski and to appoint Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of Florida to the Commission; they will be sworn in at the next meeting in July.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 15 May meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes without objection.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 17 July, 18 September, and 16 October; no meeting is scheduled in August. He added that the Commission's offices may be inaccessible on the morning of 17 July due to a scheduled closure of the building for a special event; a later starting time, change of date, or different location might be announced soon. Mr. Powell said that a later starting time would not be desirable due to the typical length of the meeting agenda.
D. Confirmation of the last three recommendations from the May 2008 meeting after the loss of a quorum.
1. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development: CFA 15/MAY/08-7, Deanwood Community Center (recreation center and branch library), 49th and Quarles Streets, N.E. New building. Final.
2. D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities: CFA 15/MAY/08-10, Kennedy Recreation Center and Playground, 1401 7th St., N.W. Mosaic mural column. Concept.
3. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act: O.G. 08-159, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street, N.W., new science center building. Final. (Previous: O.G. 07-281, CFA October 2007.)
Mr. Luebke summarized the recommendations from May 2008 to approve the projects that were reviewed by three Commission members after the loss of a quorum; letters providing the comments and approvals were circulated to the members in advance. He noted that the recommendation for the Georgetown University project was based on the favorable recommendation of the Old Georgetown Board. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission confirmed the actions on the three projects.
E. Resolution to acknowledge 12 years of service by Mary Oehrlein, FAIA, on the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke said that Ms. Oehrlein would be leaving the Old Georgetown Board in July after twelve years of service, including ten years as Chairman. He read a resolution prepared by the staff to acknowledge her service. Mr. Powell expressed his appreciation of her work on the Board. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the resolution.
F. Confirmation of the appointment of Anne McCutcheon Lewis, FAIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke provided a nomination to replace Ms. Oehrlein for a three-year- term on the Old Georgetown Board: Anne McCutcheon Lewis, a local architect whose work is noted for responsiveness to historic contexts. He said that she served on the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board until earlier this year. Ms. Balmori expressed enthusiasm for the appointment of Ms. Lewis. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the appointment of Ms. Lewis to the Board. Mr. Luebke noted that her service would begin with the Board's September meeting.
II. Submissions and Reviews
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 the proposed pedestrian and bicyclist bridge along the Metropolitan Branch Trail at Rhode Island Avenue, listed as CFA 19/JUN/08- j, is being removed from the Consent Calendar and will instead be on the agenda for a presentation during the meeting (CFA 19/JUN/08- 12, agenda item II.K). He said that there were no other changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: The staff did not report any changes to the draft. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the Shipstead-Luce appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported the revisions to the draft appendix. Minor revisions have been made for several projects in response to supplemental drawings that have been received. Supplemental drawings are still expected for two projects, case numbers O.G. 08-187 and O.G. 08-189; Mr. Martinez requested authorization for the staff to finalize the recommendations for these projects based on receipt of satisfactory drawings within five days. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised appendix subject to confirmation by staff of the recommendations for the two projects requiring supplemental drawings.
B. National Park Service
CFA 15/JUNE/08-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W. at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Revised sculpture. (Previous: CFA 15/MAY/08-1.) Mr. Luebke explained that the submission from the National Park Service, on behalf of the sponsoring foundation, is a revised concept for the memorial's central sculpture of Dr. King on the "Stone of Hope." He said that the submission is a response to the Commission's comments at the April 2008 meeting, when the Commission expressed concern about the changes in the sculpture since the original approval of the concept. He summarized the Commission's recommendation in April for refinements in the modeling of Dr. King's likeness and the position of the sculpture, including its relationship to the Stone of Hope. Mr. Luebke emphasized that the many other features of the memorial's design, which have also been the subject of the Commission's review in recent months, would be addressed in a later submission. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation; Mr. May introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, executive architect of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., to present the proposal.
Dr. Jackson distributed a written statement responding to the Commission's previous comments concerning the sculpture. He requested that the statement be included in the Commission's review as part of the submission materials, and he also read the statement aloud for the record. The statement provided further explanation of the images provided in the submission, including photographs of Dr. King and of sculptures depicting him by various artists. The statement described the history of the design competition for the memorial and the early efforts after the competition to refine the concept of Dr. King's figure emerging from a Stone of Hope; the Foundation had rejected the proposals of the first two artists who depicted Dr. King embedded deeply in the Stone of Hope, which the Foundation concluded would conflict with the intended metaphorical emergence of hope and freedom. The Foundation then selected the current sculptor, Lei Yi Xin, and has been pleased with his work on refining the sculptural concept. The statement described the many photographs in the submission materials illustrating Mr. Lei's progress on the sculpture in his studio in China. The statement also summarized the previous presentations to the Commission concerning the sculpture, along with the Commission's response letters and minutes of the meetings.
Dr. Jackson then discussed further the design of the sculpture. He emphasized the historic photograph of Dr. King with his arms crossed, providing justification for using this pose for the statue. He explained that various artists working on the development of the Stone of Hope have centered the statue of Dr. King rather than shifting it to one side. He said that the Foundation's artistic advisory group has been working with the sculptor on further refinement of Dr. King's features; members of Dr. King's family have expressed support for the resulting design. Dr. Jackson acknowledged the ongoing discussions of Dr. King's features and expression, particularly whether he should have "more of a smile on his face as opposed to a concerned look." He emphasized that the sculpture is not intended to represent a single historic photograph but to convey Dr. King's spirit.
Dr. Jackson discussed the transition from the rough surface at the lower part of the sculpture to the smooth surface above: the level of the transition has been raised to a location just below the pocket of Dr. King's coat. He also described a slight revision to the sculpture's profile and scale in comparison to the version presented in 2007. He presented computer-altered photographs of the earlier maquette to illustrate the proposed changes.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the last revision in the presentation, adjusting the relationship of Dr. King to the Stone of Hope, is a significant improvement. He asked if the closer relationship between the shoulders and the sides of the Stone of Hope is a result of narrowing the width of the Stone, observing that the result is closer to the original competition drawing. Dr. Jackson said that the width of the Stone of Hope remains at twelve feet, a dimension corresponding to the width of the entrance walkway through the Mountain of Despair as refined earlier in the design review process. He explained that the sculpture may not correspond exactly to the original competition drawings prepared by a graphic artist—an expected result of transforming the two-dimensional drawings into a three-dimensional form under the guidance of a sculptor.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the presentation of photographs or three-dimensional models in past submissions. Dr. Jackson said that small models were presented in 2007, in addition to the photographs of the sculptural studies. Mr. Belle commented that models would be preferable to photographs in reviewing the sculpture. Mr. Powell added that presentations using the actual proposed granite would be preferable to further review of the red clay model; he emphasized that the sculptural details would have a different appearance due to the differing nature of the materials. He asked if a stone maquette will be prepared. Dr. Jackson responded that the sculpture process is expected to proceed from clay to plaster and then to granite; meanwhile, earlier reduced-scale bronze models are currently available. Mr. Powell requested that at least a plaster maquette be submitted for review. Dr. Jackson offered to provide one at reduced scale, adding that the Foundation may prefer to obtain the reduced-scale model in bronze for ease of shipping; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell acknowledged that this alternative would be sufficient.
Chairman Powell then summarized that the next submission for the sculpture should include a reduced-scale three-dimensional model, using either plaster or bronze, that will allow for a better understanding of the sculptural details than possible with the photographs of the full-size red clay model. He anticipated further refinements in the sculpture during the next phase of the artistic process; he encouraged this evolution and asked that the Commission be able to review it. He concluded by expressing his support for the general concept of the sculpture as currently submitted.
Several Commission members asked for further information on the construction method and potential for exposed joints in the sculptural features, commenting that these details are not apparent from the earlier maquettes and the current photographs of a clay model. Dr. Jackson explained that the Stone of Hope will be built of 39 blocks that are typically four feet high, five feet long, and thirty inches deep. He said that the design team has visited the intended fabrication plant to inspect similar work; he presented a photograph of a granite sculpture by the fabricator composed of multiple blocks with thin joints that are difficult to see—the joints for this project would be similar, with mortarless joints of one-sixteenth of an inch. Mr. Powell reiterated his comment that such details appear very different in granite compared to the clay model.
Ms. Balmori asked for information about the sculpting process. Dr. Jackson said that the sculpture would be finished by hand rather than mechanically; Mr. Lei would lead a group of assistants and would personally sculpt the hands and head. Ms. Balmori, Ms. Nelson, and Mr. Powell expressed support for this method. Dr. Jackson added that the blocks would be brought to partial completion in China, while the final twenty percent of carving would occur on site; this would allow for potential chipping of the granite during shipment.
Mr. Belle asked about the schedule for the sculpture; Dr. Jackson responded that the anticipated shipping date of the partially-carved granite will be in November or December 2008, with on-site finishing to be scheduled according to the progress of the overall project. Mr. Belle expressed surprise at the speed of the remaining sculptural design process. Ms. Balmori asked when the reduced-scale model would be available; Mr. Belle clarified that the Commission's request for a future submission includes both a reduced-scale three-dimensional model and a full-scale portion of the sculpture in the proposed granite. Mr. McKinnell supported the request to submit a sample of the sculpture in granite, suggesting that a small area could be provided; he said that a combined submission of the granite and small model would allow for a thorough review. Dr. Jackson responded that the full-scale sample would show only a small portion of the sculpture, noting that Dr. King's head will be three feet high. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell acknowledged the limitation of the large scale and reiterated the desire to understand the tactile quality of the finished granite through this sample. Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the proposed finish. Dr. Jackson said that the lower portion of the figure would have a rough finish; the upper portion of the body would have a smooth finish that would be matte rather than polished.
Mr. McKinnell expressed his overall support for the modifications to the sculpture, saying that the design is "moving in a very positive fashion." He reiterated his support in earlier reviews for the design metaphor of associating Dr. King with the stone as a force of nature; he said that his previous concern about losing this metaphor is satisfactorily addressed in the current submission.
Mr. Belle asked about the anticipated future submissions for other features of the memorial. Dr. Jackson responded that several components would be submitted for the Commission's July meeting: the architecture of the ancillary building; a potential curve in the proposed alignment of West Basin Drive, which is a response to the National Park Service's historic preservation public consultation process; and a new proposal for perimeter security through the introduction of bollards at the memorial's entrance points, also at the request of the National Park Service. Mr. Belle asked that the Foundation provide a unified submission of all parts of the memorial when feasible; Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Luebke noted that further information on the proposed layout of the inscription walls should be part of such a submission. Dr. Jackson agreed to prepare such a submission in advance of the eventual final submission for the project; he added that some details might continue to be submitted even during the construction process, such as the inscription technique for the lettering in the stone. He said that an upcoming submission would also include samples for the selection of the green granite, including a sample text inscription, so that the Commission could consider the legibility of text in recommending a preferred pattern for the stone; Ms. Balmori agreed with this proposal.
Mr. Powell concluded by commending the Foundation on the presentations to the Commission. He summarized the consensus of the Commission to give a "very positive endorsement" to the current submission and to anticipate further review of the additional submission materials that were requested. Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of this sculpture in defining Dr. King's image for future generations, resulting in the Commission's careful review and the need for high quality; Dr. Jackson agreed. Ms. Nelson asked how the sculptor is reacting to the modifications resulting from the review process. Dr. Jackson responded that Mr. Lei embraced the changes and did not feel that they significantly detracted from his original concept. The discussion concluded without the passage of a formal motion.
2. CFA 19/JUN/08-2, Georgetown Waterfront Park, bounded by the Potomac River and Water Street, from the Francis Scott Key Bridge to the terminus of 31st Street, N.W. Final, Phase II. (Previous: CFA 21/JUN/07-3.) Mr. Martinez introduced the final design submission from the National Park Service for the second phase of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, extending eastward from the terminus of Wisconsin Avenue. He noted that the first phase—extending westward from Wisconsin Avenue to 34th Street—was approved and is currently under construction. He explained that many design elements from the first phase are repeated in the second phase, including the paving materials, plant selections, and benches; new elements include the design of the fountain, pergola, and steps. He said that the Old Georgetown Board reviewed the design earlier in the month and supported it while expressing concern that the proposed circular metal tables were an unnecessary design feature among the granite benches; he noted that the Board's report was distributed to the Commission members. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service who asked landscape architect Kent Sundberg of WRT to present the design.
Mr. Sundberg said that the current construction of the first phase is scheduled for completion in late August. He described the continuous design elements between the two phases, including the curved paths and the waterfront promenade. He indicated the primary new features of the second phase, including the fountain and surrounding plaza that would be a central entrance element for the entire park; the stepped bulkhead leading down to the river to provide seating with views of the river and boat races; and the curved pergola with benches beneath. He said that the planting plan and the design of the pergola have been adjusted in response to previous comments from the Commission. The trees are now proposed to be configured in an informal grouping toward the north and in a more formal bosque toward the river. The treatment of some portions of the river's edge has also changed from a bulkhead to a planted edge.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the major trees that are proposed; Mr. Sundberg responded that they would include a mixture of red maple, yellowwood, pin oak, willow oak, "Green Vase" Zelkova, and a few honeylocust and Princeton elm trees. He emphasized that the trees were chosen for resistance to Dutch elm disease. He said that the tree types would generally be mixed but he indicated the proposed bosque of yellowwood, the honeylocusts grouped around the plaza, and the row of maple trees that would give emphasis to the path extending from the adjacent Washington Harbour development to the waterfront promenade.
Ms. Balmori reiterated her comment from the previous review that larger trees should be specified to provide adequate shade at the plaza and paths; Mr. Sundberg responded that the number of trees had been reduced due to public comments that the initial design included too many trees. Ms. Balmori said that the reduction in number is appropriate but larger trees providing good shade should be specified. Ms. Nelson indicated the seating areas around the fountain as being especially in need of better shade; Mr. Sundberg responded that the nearby benches would be located directly under the trees. Ms. Balmori said that the proposed honeylocusts would nonetheless be too transparent to provide adequate shade; she said bigger trees with more shade would be appropriate near the fountain in Washington's climate. Mr. Belle added that more shade is also needed for people walking along the waterfront, observing that the trellis is inadequate as the only shade-providing feature. Mr. Luebke noted that the overall configuration of the park, including the tree locations and trellis, have been previously reviewed and approved by the Commission; the openness of the waterfront has been given priority over extensive tree cover. Mr. Sundberg said that trees were removed from the proposal due to concern about blocking views toward the river. Ms. Balmori acknowledged the conflict but emphasized the importance of providing shade; Mr. Belle added that shade could be provided while still maintaining an open character. Mr. Sundberg offered to reconsider the tree species that are proposed on the east and west sides of the plaza.
Mr. Sundberg described the continuity of materials between the first and second phases of the park, including the paving and benches. He indicated the asphalt bicycle path extending east-west across the park, part of a regional bicycle path system. Light fixtures on the north along K Street would be traditional Washington globes; a more contemporary fixture would be used for the remainder of the park. Similarly, granite bollards near K Street—separating bicyclists from pedestrians—would be the same as the related bollards in the first phase; a new type of granite bollard with a more nautical character would be used at the top of the stepped bulkhead.
Mr. Sundberg presented views of the park when entering from Wisconsin Avenue on the north and from Washington Harbour on the east. He described the design of the fountain: it would be low in scale and would not preclude people from walking into it; an underground vault would contain the mechanical system; the lighting and jets would be in a recessed channel; and the visible surfaces of the fountain would be granite. The plaza and fountain would be designed to frame views toward the Kennedy Center from the Wisconsin Avenue entrance.
Mr. Sundberg then described the pergola, constructed of steel—colored dark at the Commission's request—with a lacy metal fabric on top to support the growth of vines. Ms. Balmori asked for further information on the vines; Mr. Sundberg responded that the thought they would be clematis, which will be used in several varieties in the park. Ms. Balmori said that clematis does not provide good coverage and questioned the sufficiency of shade beneath the trellis. Mr. Sundberg responded that the clematis is expected to fill the entire upper area of the trellis.
Mr. Belle asked about the trees that are apparently ghosted in on the drawings. Mr. Sundberg responded that these illustrate the anticipated mature size of trees in the park toward the background of the view. Mr. Belle said that this indication of tree coverage is encouraging.
Mr. Sundberg presented additional views, indicating the planted areas and the proposed granite-clad benches and steel tables; he confirmed that the tables would be permanently fixed rather than moveable. Mr. Luebke clarified that the tables are included in the submitted design, with the Old Georgetown Board providing a recommendation to the commission for removal of the tables as extraneous design elements. Mr. Sundberg said the design includes approximately six groupings of one or two tables, placed where the curved benches come close together. He explained that some benches have backs while others are backless to allow a choice of sitting to face toward the river or toward a table. Mr. Luebke said that the Board was concerned about the lightness and ephemeral character of the tables. Mr. Sundman acknowledged the concern about the contrast of the tables with the heavy design of the stone benches, particularly due to the proposed light color and thin profile of the tables. He clarified that the tables are proposed in steel with a powder-coated finish that would match the color of the stainless-steel guard rails at the water's edge; other site furnishings would have a dark green color.
Mr. Belle commented that the pergola area of the park will be heavily used due to the benches and shade, and there will be many built features in this area such as lights and trash cans, which Mr. Sundman confirmed. Mr. Belle said that the multiplicity of elements suggests that the tables are an undesirable additional obstruction. Mr. Sundman responded that the tables are intended as an amenity but acknowledged that they are not a necessary feature.
Mr. Sundman presented additional views and details of the stepped bulkhead, including the railing at the water's edge that would be a continuation from the park's first phase. He clarified that the stepping would have a sixteen-inch height, intended primarily for seating; there would not be intermediate stairs. He concluded by providing details of the "bio-engineered" slopes leading to the water, formed with a structured terrace that will quickly fill in with planting to form a green surface. He said that a similar terrace has recently been installed in the first phase and has grown in nicely while withstanding recent high water conditions.
Ms. Balmori expressed appreciation for the thoroughness of the presentation and reiterated the recommendation to provide larger trees at the entrance plaza, emphasizing the importance of this issue in Washington. She asked that the Commission be informed of the resulting change in tree specification; Mr. Sundman agreed to do so. He added that the tree selection in this area is also based on a leaf size that will minimize clogging of the fountain; the smaller leaves of the locust trees were considered preferable by the fountain designer. Ms. Balmori said that opinion is split on this issue, with some experts recommending trees with larger leaves; Mr. Sundman acknowledged this concern.
Chairman Powell requested a motion on the project. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission act to adopt the Board's report, which recommends approval with elimination of the tables, and said that the concern about shade trees could be added. Mr. Rybczynski agreed with the Board's recommendation to eliminate the tables, commenting that they are extraneous and out of character with the park setting. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Balmori offered a motion incorporating these views which Mr. Luebke re-stated: to support the Board's report and to request reconsideration of the size and specification of the trees at the entrance plaza to improve shade. With second by Mr. Belle, the Commission adopted this motion.
C. Department of the Army / Institute of Heraldry
CFA 19/JUN/08-3, Veteran Headstone Medallion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Three design options. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Charles Mugno, director of the U.S. Army's Institute of Heraldry, to present the proposal. Mr. Mugno introduced Costella Alford, the designer from the Institute, and Lindee Lenox, director of the Memorial Programs Service at the National Cemetery Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has requested the design. Mr. Mugno said that the proposed medallion is being developed for the grave markers of veterans in private cemeteries; the medallion was authorized by legislation in November 2007, and the Department of Veterans Affairs intends to begin making the medallions available in spring 2009.
Mr. Mugno explained the seven branches of uniformed services whose veterans will be eligible for the medallion, extending beyond the familiar armed services. He said that the design therefore needs to encompass these varying types of national service rather than be exclusively military; the result is design alternatives which he said express "bold simplicity." Three sizes would be produced to fit on varying types of markers, ranging from two inches to a maximum of six inches. He presented the three alternatives:
• Alternative #1, a traditional shield design with stars and stripes to signify the strength of the nation, with a laurel branches signifying the sacrifice, integrity, and honor of the veterans.
Ms. Balmori commented that the forms in alternative #1 are better resolved than in the other designs. She characterized #1 as graceful, while the triangular form in the other designs is weakening the image of the laurel and eagle. Mr. Belle also supported alternative #1, commenting that the shield is a familiar symbol. Ms. Nelson agreed, describing it as elegant and commenting that this design suggests an American veteran. She acknowledged the significance of the triangular folded flag but said that it could be difficult to understand in bronze at the scale of two inches.
Ms. Nelson asked how the medallion would be attached to a gravestone. Mr. Mugno responded that the need for these objects to withstand constant exposure to the elements is unusual for the Institute of Heraldry, which typically creates medals that are worn on uniforms or displayed indoors. He explained that the material will be chosen to weather well and not to stain the stone. Color is also an issue to ensure legibility, since the medallion might be attached to light- or dark-colored stone. He said that the Institute of heraldry would work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and specialists in the grave marker industry to select the best material—possibly oxidized aluminum or a bronze or brass finish—as well as the best attachment method, which might include a prong behind the medallion that would fit into a hole drilled into the stone, using an epoxy resin to create a seal.
Ms. Nelson asked how families would know that the medallion is available. Ms. Lenox of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will administer the program, responded that two-thirds of the standard government-issued grave markers now produced by the Department are for placement in private cemeteries. The medallion would be for families that instead choose to obtain a private marker. The program provides limited retroactivity to include veterans who have died from November 1990 onward. She said that the program is being publicized as much as possible, including news releases and website information. Ms. Nelson expressed support for the program.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the shield and flag motifs of alternative #1 are commonly used for commercial purposes, such as for security guard uniforms, and may be inappropriate for grave markers. He expressed support for alternative #2 due to the symbolism of the folded flag and the simplicity and legibility of the design. Ms. Balmori said that the familiarity of #1 is an asset; Mr. Powell agreed that #1 is the more traditional design. Mr. Mugno characterized #1 as indicating strength while #2 indicates emotion because of the relation of the folded flag to the funeral ceremony.
Ms. Nelson summarized the apparent consensus to support both #1 and #2; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Powell suggested that the prevailing consensus is for #1, and Mr. McKinnell acknowledged the desirability of the traditional design of #1. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission supported alternative #1 due its superior resolution of forms and the familiarity of its images. Mr. Powell noted Mr. Rybczynski's preference for alternative #2.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 19/JUN/08-4, 2009 Native American One Dollar Coin. Designs for reverse and edge-incusing. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the proposal. Ms. Budow explained the legislative requirement for the Mint to issue one-dollar coins commemorating Native Americans, including the contributions of Native American tribes and individuals to the development and history of the United States. The legislation requires the commemorative design on the reverse of the current Sacajawea one-dollar coin, with a different design each year beginning in 2009. She said that the series would likely continue for twelve or thirteen years.
Ms. Budow explained that the text on the coins, based on a sequence of legislative requirements, will include "Liberty" on the obverse, "E Pluribus Unum" incused on the coin's edge, and "In God We Trust" on one of the coin's faces. She presented the proposed treatment of the edge incusing, with the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" and the minting year and mint mark, along with thirteen stars to separate these items. She said that this design matches the revised edge treatment that will be used beginning in 2009 for the presidential one-dollar coin series. The Mint proposes leaving the phrase "In God We Trust" on the obverse in keeping with the current design which has been produced since 1999; as a result, the only change to the obverse will be the removal of the minting year and mint mark.
Mr. Belle commented that the edge lettering will be difficult to read due to the thinness of the coin; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Belle added that the diameter of the coin is too similar to that of the quarter. Ms. Budow responded by providing the precise diameters of these coins: 24.26 millimeters for the quarter and 26.5 millimeters for the Sacajawea one-dollar coin. Ms. Nelson asked if the edge-incused lettering tends to become illegible quickly through wear on the circulating coins; Ms. Budow responded that the Mint only began production of edge-incused coins in 2007.
Ms. Budow described the proposed theme of agriculture for the 2009 reverse—specifically, the Native American practice of planting three different crops in the same mounds to produce a beneficial enhancement of as much as thirty percent to the productivity of each plant. The three crops—corn, beans, and squash—became known as the "Three Sisters." The practice began in central Mexico, with the corn stalks providing support for the bean vines which added nitrogen to the soil, while squash provided ground cover which discouraged weeds. She explained that the productivity of Native American agriculture benefited the early European settlers, through trade and the sharing of agricultural expertise, which resulted in American agricultural products becoming widespread in Europe.
Ms. Budow said that the theme and design alternatives were developed through consultation with a Native American group, House of Representatives and Senate groups, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian. She presented the fifteen design alternatives that have been developed to represent the Three Sisters. She noted that the National Congress of American Indians has recommended design #12, with a second choice of design #2, and with the additional recommendation to use designs that are more national in scope rather than depicting specific tribes or regions. She added that the chairs of the relevant Senate committee both preferred design #12, with one Senator supporting #2 as a second choice. In the House, the Congressional Native American Caucus supported designs #2, 9, 12, and 15, without further ranking.
Ms. Nelson expressed a preference for design #2, commenting that the sun and the "$1" text are balanced well. She added that the "$1" text is difficult to incorporate successfully in the design alternatives. She said that design #9 is also well composed, particularly concerning the placement of the text. She commented that many designs include small features that will be difficult to read at the scale of the coin; she provided the example of the tiny seeds that are being planted in design #12.
Ms. Balmori questioned the treatment of the agriculture theme in the Native American context. She said that the concept of planting in mounds has been misunderstood in the designs. She suggested further study of depictions in historic manuscripts from the 16th and 19th centuries, some of which have recently been displayed at the New York Botanical Garden. She commented that these historic images are superior in quality to the alternatives proposed for the coin. She said that the only design with satisfactory legibility would be #2 but reiterated that its depiction of agricultural history is incorrect.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for design #2, agreeing with Ms. Nelson's comments; Mr. Powell also supported #2, based solely on its design quality without commenting on its historic accuracy. Ms. Nelson questioned the uneven shaping of the plants; Ms. Budow said that some of the images have been stylized in the design and were adjusted to the irregular profile more common in the historic period being represented.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission recommended design #2 with the reservations that were discussed; Mr. Belle abstained.
The following two projects, submitted by separate agencies but both related to the south side of Union Station, were presented and discussed jointly.
E. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/JUN/08-5, Columbus Plaza at Union Station, Massachusetts Avenue between North Capitol Street and Second Street, N.E. Revisions to plaza to improve vehicular and pedestrian access and circulation. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEPT/07-1.)
F. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
CFA 19/JUN/08- 6, Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E. Perimeter security. Concept.
Mr. Lindstrom explained that the Commission reviewed the Columbus Plaza proposal in September 2007 and had asked the design team to research further the historic configuration and materials of the plaza. The Commission had also requested that the anticipated perimeter security measures at the edge of the plaza—a proposal being developed by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (known as Amtrak)—be jointly submitted for review. The current submissions address these concerns. He introduced David Ball, president of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Ball explained that his organization is working jointly with the D.C. Department of Transportation as the client for the Columbus Plaza proposal. He introduced their project consultant, Gary Burch of Parsons, to make the joint presentation of the proposed plaza design and Amtrak's perimeter security proposal. He also introduced architect John Bowie, representing Amtrak, and landscape architect Eric Baugher of Lee + Papa and Associates, Inc. Mr. Burch added that the projects are also being coordinated with the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the plaza.
Mr. Burch summarized the history of the plaza, which began when the entire area was elevated for the construction of Union Station which was completed in 1908. He presented early photographs of the station and plaza; initially the plaza was very simple, with unlandscaped traffic islands in Massachusetts Avenue; the Columbus Fountain was added in 1912. He presented early design drawings from Daniel Burnham's firm showing brick paving and grass panels, along with photographs showing the implementation of this design. He said that the plaza's historic configuration was essentially complete in 1914, with an additional narrow traffic island inserted along Massachusetts Avenue between 1936 and 1954 to define the inner circulation roadway.
Mr. Burch described the modern conditions of the plaza, with heavy use by pedestrians, automobiles, bicyclists, and buses including Metro buses and tour buses. He characterized the plaza as "a very active and somewhat inefficient transportation center" and said that the current project is intended to improve access and circulation. He presented the preferred design that was selected from the options that were developed. The design eliminates the internal circulation roadway and replaces it with additional green space; the traffic circulation would be shifted to a new signalized intersection that would be created toward the west end of the plaza at Massachusetts Avenue near E Street. He said that pedestrian movements have been carefully studied and accommodated, with larger traffic islands and crosswalks. Connections are also provided to the regional bicycle path that leads north from the west end of the plaza; he indicated the location of the proposed bicycle station to be built on the west side of Union Station.
Mr. Burch described recent revisions to the design, some of which respond to review agency comments. The curb line at the southeast edge of the plaza has been adjusted to be more nearly symmetrical while still responding to traffic flow patterns. The distinction between the historic plaza and the proposed enlarged plaza has been emphasized by retaining the historic curb and changing the paving materials at the transition; within the historic plaza, the existing brick—some of which may be original—will be retained or restored, while different but compatible pavers would be used on the new extensions of the radial paths. He explained that these new paths would reinforce the relation of the plaza to the converging streets. The enlarged medians in Massachusetts Avenue would be paved, not landscaped, in keeping with the historic design and open character of the space; he said that landscaping would detract from the views of the arc of flagpoles on the south side of Massachusetts Avenue and toward the Capitol to the south. He clarified that the arc of 56 flagpoles would not be affected by the project. Curved road alignments and raised crosswalk platforms are proposed to help to slow traffic and improve pedestrian circulation, particularly at the congested area on the east end of the plaza; existing curb lines would be retained in the enlarged sidewalk pavement where significant to the design setting of existing features such as the flagpoles. Streetlights would be added adjacent to the station's facade on the north side of the plaza; eight of the standard D.C. twin-globe fixtures would be placed to align with the architectural features of the station. He explained that two of the fixtures would be placed at the edge of planting beds that would be created as part of the perimeter security proposal; these fixtures would be hardened to provide part of the security. He concluded the plaza presentation by providing samples of the various pavers that are proposed and presenting an overlay comparing the existing and proposed design of the plaza.
Mr. Burch then presented the proposed perimeter security improvements sponsored by Amtrak. Planting beds are proposed along the station facade with bollards embedded within the fencing system; an additional line of bollards would be placed along the first median in front of the center of the station, with additional bollards toward the east and west ends of the building. He said that all of the bollards would be painted black, spaced five feet on center and typically two feet six inches high plus railing attachment caps at the planters; they would have a constant top height resulting in slightly taller bollards across a depressed portion of the traffic island. Four removable bollards would be installed only in emergencies to close off the roadway lane closest to the station facade; several other bollards could be removed when necessary for maintenance and service needs. The proposed light fixtures, as previously presented, would also be incorporated into the design of the planters as part of the security system; he clarified that these light poles would be located within the railings rather than in the planted areas.
Ms. Balmori commented that the multiple irregular traffic islands and curb lines create "floating urban pieces" that are "a mess" and suggested eliminating some of the islands if possible. Mr. Burch responded that the proposal retains and enlarges the existing islands, while replacing the concrete surface with the same pavers used for the extended plaza. Ms. Balmori agreed with the proposal to enlarge the islands and the decision not to landscape them, but she said that the resulting shapes are unrelated to the classical building and the classical organization of the historic plaza. She commented that the shapes appear to result from traffic considerations, rather than "creating an elegant urban space which this building deserves."
Mr. Rybczynski said that he is not convinced that the historic plaza merits the design efforts to preserve its form. He observed that cities change over time and the demarcation of each addition would give the effect of a jigsaw puzzle. In the long term, the earlier design would not seem significant and the new plaza itself would be seen as historic. He commented that the change in widths and paving materials for the extension of the radial paths is "very disturbing" and appears arbitrary and jagged; he suggested that these extensions be consistent with the existing paths so that the plaza "would feel like one piece." Mr. Burch offered to consider this change.
Mr. Baugher, the landscape architect for the project, said that the earlier design included matching brick and continuous alignments for the extended walkways; these details were changed at the apparent request of the Commission and the staff. Mr. Rybczynski said that the Commission had requested further understanding of the history—such as whether the brick was the original paving material or a later change—as part of the development and review of the design. Mr. Burch said that the design decision, reached in conjunction with the National Park Service, was to differentiate between the historic plaza and the extension; the change in paving material was agreed upon as a way to separate the extension from the original plaza. He added that the curved walkway along Massachusetts Avenue would be constructed of poured concrete with a stamped pattern suggesting the paver pattern of the extended radial walkways, due to the difficulty of installing individual pavers along the curved alignment; he suggested that the proposed contrasting color of the concrete could be adjusted to match the color of the pavers. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that a differently colored brick be used for the extensions rather than change to pavers; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Rybczynski added that bricks could more easily be installed along the curvature than the larger pavers.
Mr. McKinnell agreed with the criticism of designing the plaza to create a record of which areas are original and which are added, calling this approach pedantic and didactic. He said that the design criterion should be what looks good or, in this case, "What would Burnham do?" if he were designing for this modern road system. He said the change of materials along the paths would not meet this standard. He characterized the proposed design as inconsistent with the architecture of Burnham and said that it creates a jumbled place; he recommended greater consistency in the design. Mr. Burch offered to work with the National Park Service in responding to these comments.
Mr. McKinnell suggested that the perimeter security design be improved by creating a special feature, such as a large granite piece, at the end of each row of bollards; he said that this solution would be more in keeping with Burnham's design aesthetic and would emphasize the symmetry. He also commented that the proposed planting beds in front of the building are not in the character of the architecture; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Nelson suggested that instead of creating a green barrier, the perimeter security be redesigned to respond to the building architecture, such as by placing pieces of granite at the center of each arch in the arcade.
Mr. Bowie, the architect for Amtrak, expressed appreciation for the comments and described the design process that resulted in this proposal. He said that the perimeter security elements were deliberately kept as small as possible to avoid creating a distraction from the building facade and drawing undue attention to the space between the facade and the curb line. Similarly, the incorporation of many bollards into the planter railings was intended to reduce the visual intrusiveness of a large number of bollards; the plantings would further help to blend with the facade and the monumental space. He said that the proposed position of the planters along the side arcades was intended to clarify the pedestrian circulation pattern by emphasizing the center portals to the building.
Mr. Powell asked for the Commission's consensus, noting that the plaza is submitted as a final design while the perimeter security is submitted as a concept. Ms. Nelson suggested that both projects should be revised and submitted again. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's comments and Mr. Powell asked for a consensus on each.
Regarding the revision of the walkways to include a more consistent use of materials, Mr. Rybczynski said that the concern of the National Park Service—involving the differentiation of new and old features—should not be paramount and is resulting in "bad urban design." He requested the submission of an alternative that does not segregate the historic plaza from the remainder of the space. He acknowledged that the shape of the traffic islands is a result of traffic patterns so the complete reconstruction of the historic perfect semi-circle may not be feasible; Ms. Balmori suggested that the bumps could nevertheless be softened. Mr. Rybczynski suggested adjusting the layout of walkways to reinforce the semi-circle; Ms. Balmori agreed. Steve Lorenzetti, a deputy superintendent with the National Park Service, responded that the design intention for the new walkways was to make them "slightly different but very sympathetic" to the original walkways. He offered to work with the project team to develop an even more sympathetic design.
Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Balmori reiterated the suggestion that both projects be revised and submitted again, with no approval given to the current submissions; Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Powell noted the Commission's consensus to recommend elimination of the proposed planters; Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Luebke asked if there is a consensus by the Commission to recommend granite features for the perimeter security; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson said that this could be one option to consider. Ms. Balmori said that options should be developed as part of the elimination of the planters.
Mr. Ball of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation requested further clarification of the Commission's guidance for the perimeter security, commenting that the various review agencies have been providing different viewpoints. He said that the simple dark metal bollards and the planters were intended to minimize the visual impact of the security. Ms. Balmori said that the long lines of planters would clearly be undesirable because they impede pedestrian circulation. Mr. Ball responded that the planters were deliberately designed to channel pedestrians toward the crosswalks. Ms. Balmori said that this causes people to feel "fenced in," which is not appropriate at the front of the station. Mr. Ball responded that people could walk within the colonnades alongside outdoor tables while being protected from the elements; he added that the spacing of the bollards was increased to accommodate pedestrians with luggage.
Mr. Ball reiterated his request for clear guidance to move the project forward. Mr. Rybczynski said that the character of the station is very urban, so the placement of hedges in front of it would be inappropriate; he said that a hardscape solution is best for this setting, observing that the plaza, appropriately, has no trees. Mr. Ball said that the planters could be eliminated but the result would be a proposal for visible rows of bollards. Mr. Rybczynski accepted the presence of more freestanding bollards, suggesting that their design be refined to be more sympathetic to the "tougher urban quality" of the station. Mr. Ball agreed to consider these comments, including the suggestion to break up the row of bollards with granite blocks. Ms. Balmori emphasized that the goal is not to create the feeling of a wall; she criticized the tendency toward more fences in the urban landscape, commenting that bollards are more acceptable because they provide the most transparency.
Mr. Bowie responded that Amtrak would be satisfied with either bollards or planters; the proposal for planters was a response to a request to soften the appearance. He said that creating more monumental features such as stone blocks would involve much more substantial design interpretation in adding to and perhaps compromising the historic architecture compared to the minimal visual impact of simple bollards; he asked for the Commission's guidance on this concern and the potential for confusion of the new features with Burnham's original design. Mr. Rybczynski said that Burnham was not a great architect—in the sense that Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan were—but was a great organizer with a team of people working for him; there is therefore less need to worry about changing the visual character of the building since it should not be considered a work of art by a great individual artist. Mr. Powell added that the special features to terminate the rows of bollards do not need to be monumental but could instead involve more modest gestures such as a change in materials; Mr. McKinnell suggested possibly a larger scale for certain bollards. Ms. Nelson added that the goal is to establish a relationship between the bollards and the building rather than to create significant new architectural elements with the bollards. She said that the minimal perimeter security proposed at the corners of the building, with bollards located within the arches, is a successful solution and should not be revised.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's comments. The discussion concluded without a formal motion.
G. Department of the Navy
CFA 19/JUN/08-7, Construct Operation Facility (ConOps), Bolling Air Force Base, Duncan Avenue, S.W. New one-story building. Final (revised design). (Previous: CFA 17/APR/08-b.) Mr. Lindstrom explained that the Commission had removed this project from the Consent Calendar at the April meeting and disapproved it due to disappointment with the quality of the design. He said that the Department of the Navy has modified and resubmitted the design; he introduced Harry Martin of the Navy to begin the presentation. Mr. Martin that the Navy is responsible for the design and construction of this facility although its location will be on Bolling Air Force Base. He introduced Captain Jacob Kremmel of the Air Force and and architect Rob Smedley of the Onyx Group. Captain Kremmel later clarified that the facility is for the Department of Defense, with the Navy executing the contract for construction on an Air Force base.
Mr. Smedley said that the project began three years ago as a conventional design and construction project, which would normally have involved a more thorough design and review process. After 60 to 65 percent completion of the design process, the project was changed to a design-build delivery process that was offered to bidders for completion of the design work and construction of the project. The original proposal was for a two-story building, but the second floor had been eliminated during the bidding negotiation process. Nevertheless, the building retains the character that was established by the original design firm for a two-story building along with further development based on consultation with the staff. He said that his design-build team is working within a fixed construction budget as well as the installation design guidelines for Bolling Air Force Base. He summarized the Commission's recommendation from April as a request for "a little more charm in the building" which he said is achieved in the current submission.
Mr. Smedley presented the context plan for Bolling Air Force Base, explaining that this project is located in an area of historic buildings that is subject to special design guidelines and has evolved over the years with a variety of architectural styles. He indicated the site near the end of a dead-end road. He said that the proposed design is based on architectural features of the historic buildings in the vicinity. The proposed materials have also been selected for compatibility with historic buildings: a synthetic slate roof, brick walls, and cast-stone accent elements; some ground-face concrete masonry units (CMUs) would also be included on the facades. Ms. Nelson asked if some of the apparent windows would actually be walls made of CMUs; Mr. Smedley confirmed this feature of the design, explaining that the building will contain operations "of a very secure, sensitive nature" and will not have glass in the facades. Nonetheless, he said that the facades are designed to allow for future conversion to a more conventional building with windows, resulting in the opportunity for varied materials that create a rhythm across the walls.
Mr. Smedley said that the site plan, which was determined by the original design team, includes parking with a setback to protect against blasts; he noted that the amount of parking was reduced by approximately half when the second floor was eliminated. He explained that a further blast protection feature is the elimination of reentrant 90-degree angles between the building wings; to accomplish this, the plan includes a 45-degree wall where the building wings come together. Mr. Powell questioned the purpose of this feature. Captain Kremmel explained that 90-degree reentrant corners are particularly vulnerable to damage from blasts; he said that the ideal building shape would be circular to minimize the surface exposed directly to any particular blast source.
Mr. Smedley presented further details of the facades. The corner entrance doorway would be highlighted by framing elements of cast stone. Using details from nearby historic buildings, paired brick pilasters have been added to the walls, brick quoining is included at the corners, and a light-colored CMU water table would extend around the building. The scale of the large gable ends has been broken down with a pattern of projecting brick headers. He concluded by emphasizing that the building will not be highly visible to the public and will house important military operations; he acknowledged that a high-quality design is nonetheless important for the benefit of the military personnel who use it.
Ms. Balmori asked whether the pitched roof is necessary. Mr. Smedley said that this was a requirement that is typically for the purpose of avoiding leakage problems. Captain Kremmel said that the sloped roof is required for this building as a protective measure to prevent creating a location where explosives could be placed; Mr. Smedley added that this policy includes a prohibition on parapets. Mr. Powell expressed sympathy for the complex design requirements. Captain Kremmel said that the safety-related concerns included site design constraints that temporarily led to the cancellation of the project until the setback requirements could be resolved.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the blank windows have a long architectural history and are not necessarily problematic. He said that the design of these windows on the east elevation, where they are placed on top of the water table, is better than the west elevation where they extend to the ground, giving the appearance of patio doors that are too large. Mr. Smedley said that these issues were considered, and the elongated shape was chosen to avoid creating square blank windows on the west facade. He suggested that these blank windows could be shortened to remain above the water table, possibly split into pairs to provide satisfactory proportions; he said that one design concern was having a series of square blank window panels that would resemble the side of a train car. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated that the east elevation is straightforward and is the most successful; Mr. Powell and Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Nelson noted that the east facade does not include the pilasters, resulting in exposed downspouts.
Mr. Belle expressed concern that the project is being submitted without information about the program. He said that the trend in public architecture in the past half-century has been increased responsibility to the public as the constituents of the design. He expressed reluctance to act on the appropriateness of the design for a building whose function he doesn't know, emphasizing the continued validity of the principle that form should follow function. Captain Kremmel responded that the function is the primary determinant of the building's form and siting but that further details could not be provided. Mr. Belle declined to comment further.
Mr. McKinnell said that the project has improved since the previous submission based on the further consultation with the staff. He offered a motion, adopted by the Commission, to approve the project with the agreement that the design team would continue to work with the staff on the detailed design; Mr. Belle abstained. Mr. Luebke noted that the project is submitted as a final design so no further consultation would be required after approval unless there are specific requests from the Commission. Mr. Powell said that Mr. Rybczynski's comment on the relationship of the west windows to the water table should be addressed. Ms. Nelson added that the successful rhythm of the east facade should be extended to the west facade.
H. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 19/JUN/08-8, Howard D. Woodson Senior High School, 5500 Eads Street, N.E. Replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 15/MAY/08- 9.) Mr. Simon said that the submission would address the unresolved issues from the concept design that was reviewed favorably the previous month, particularly concerning the entrance areas to the proposed building. He introduced architect Chester Bartels of the SHW Group to make the presentation.
Mr. Bartels summarized the project location and the intention to demolish the existing high-rise school on the site. He indicated 55th Street which is intended to remain as the primary access along the east side of the site. To the south, Eads Street provides dead-end access to the site, with a portion of Marvin Gaye Park immediately further south; he said that Eads Street would be resurfaced in a pedestrian-friendly manner to provide a more appropriate edge to the school property and extend the character of the park toward the school. He indicated the site's limited relationship to two major streets: Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue on the north and Division Avenue on the west. He said that nearby parcels to the northwest along these streets are likely to be redeveloped soon to establish a new town center for the neighborhood. He emphasized the importance of the school's association with Marvin Gaye Park, which provides extensive linear connections to the east and west. The proposed building includes a three-story classroom wing on the south, facing the park, and special-use rooms toward the north; a north-south circulation spine would connect the uses. The western portion of the site would be playing fields.
Mr. Bartels described the Commission's concern at the previous meeting with the proposed entrance plazas along 55th Street, including the main student entrance toward the south and a public entrance on the north, adjacent to the proposed parking lot, which would provide after-hours access to the special-use facilities such as the gymnasium, natatorium, and theater. He explained the design revision to reduce the size of the north entrance plaza so that it would not compete as strongly with the main student entrance; the parking area is correspondingly expanded and the plaza's frontage along 55th Street has been eliminated. To the south, the landscaping of the student entrance plaza and of the corresponding courtyard on the west has been developed as an extension of Marvin Gaye Park. He said that dropoff from cars for students has been considered further with an improved path between the parking area on the north and the student entrance, but he explained that dropoff is not common for students and arrival on foot or by Metrobus is far more prevalent. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the direction of arrival for these students; Mr. Bartels said that pedestrians arrive from all directions while the buses operate on 55th Street. He clarified that students are required to use a single entrance due to the security requirements for student access to the school. He added that the entrance atrium could accommodate access from both the east and the west if the security screening could be provided on both sides; he said that such an arrangement would strengthen the project but has not yet been accepted by the D.C. Public Schools.
Mr. Belle suggested that the north entrance could be used as the main student entrance to provide more convenient access from the parking lot. Mr. Bartels responded that the three-story classroom at the south end of the building, along with the administrative area toward the center, make the north entrance less appropriate for daily student use. Mr. Belle then asked whether a vehicular dropoff area could be provided near the proposed student entrance. Mr. Bartels responded that an earlier scheme placed the entire parking lot along 55th Street but this was rejected as inappropriately suburban within the context of this urban street grid. The building is therefore now proposed for the eastern edge of the site to reinforce the urban pattern. He confirmed that 55th Street does not have a heavy volume of traffic and clarified that the school will accommodate 1,300 students. Mr. Belle expressed concern at the logistical problems of bringing such a large number of students through the single entrance location. Mr. Bartels responded that bringing this number of students through a single entrance is a common situation in urban schools; he emphasized the large entrance atrium where the students would arrive.
Mr. Belle expressed disappointment that this aspect of the plan has not been well considered and said the proposed entrance design is "not very convincing" due to the lack of relationship between the vehicular areas and the actual student entrance. He said that the design conveys confusion about which entrance is primary. Mr. Bartels responded that this was the issue that the revised proposal is intended to resolve through modifications to the north entrance plaza. He presented additional images of the proposed student entrance courtyard, including extensive landscaping and a low seating wall to replace the canopy that was shown in the previous submission. He said that the details of the proposed landscaping in this courtyard were still being studied to address issues such as security and visibility. Ms. Balmori said that this area is more of a hard plaza than a landscape; she acknowledged that this could be the desired result for accommodating the arrival of 1,300 students but said that it would not meet the stated goal of relating to the nearby park. She suggested that the design be modified to provide additional shade to the student entrance plaza. Mr. Bartels indicated the proposed trees while acknowledging that they would be on the north side of the courtyard and therefore would contribute little shade.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the orientation of the school's entrances ignores the presence of Marvin Gaye Park and misses the opportunity to make the park a part of the daily experience of the school. Mr. Bartels indicated other buildings between the school and the park that interrupt the continuity; he said that the stronger relationship with the park is toward the southwest, where a pedestrian connection is provided between the park and Eads Street. He added that the western courtyard, which has the closer relationship to the park, would include outdoor learning gardens. Mr. McKinnell said that the park's presence is significant throughout the southern side of the site, and its effect will be heightened by the proposed landscape design for Eads Street, so further consideration should be given to strengthening the relationship of the entire south side of the school with the park.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the possibility of opening a second entrance for students. Mr. Bartels responded that the proposal is to allow students to enter from the west, which is accessible to pedestrians due to the open connections between the playing fields and the neighborhood streets and park; he said that student use of the north entrance at the parking lot is not being considered. Ms. Nelson commented that the walking distance from the parking lot to the student entrance would be daunting in the rain. Mr. Belle commented that the building plan suggests that the north entrance would be desirable. Ms. Balmori noted the statement that primarily staff, not students, arrives at the parking lot. Mr. Bartels said that the driving issue is whether additional security staff and equipment could be made available to allow for the operation of multiple entrances. He emphasized the existing and anticipated activities on and near the site that will make the site part of a vibrant, active area of shops and recreation; the issue remains whether such connectivity to the neighborhood can be achieved during the school days.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's continuing concern with the entrance areas despite the revisions that have been made. He asked the Commission to discuss whether the overall building concept remains acceptable or is in need of reconsideration due to the difficulty in resolving the entrance issue. Ms. Balmori supported Mr. McKinnell's suggestion to provide a student entrance on the south toward the park, commenting that this would improve the overall relationship of the building to the site and context; Ms. Nelson agreed that this should be studied further. Mr. McKinnell said that the internal organization of the building is not fatally flawed and could easily be adapted to accommodate some of the entrance changes that have been suggested. Mr. Bartels responded that an earlier scheme with a south entrance was rejected due to the presence of student learning spaces immediately adjacent. He explained that the classrooms are grouped as a series of learning communities that are located in the three-story wing on the south, and it would be desirable to have this area be as calm and controlled as possible. Ms. Balmori said that a simple passageway through this wing could connect the south facade to the atrium, or else some internal functions could be relocated. Mr. Belle asked if there would be demand for vehicle queuing space near the building entrance at the end of the school day, which could have a negative impact on an entrance that is associated with green space; Mr. Bartels said that vehicular queuing would be very limited at this school.
Mr. Powell noted that the project is submitted as a revised concept but some of the major issues are still being studied. Mr. Bartels said that the building diagram is clear even though some operational issues are unresolved. Ms. Balmori responded that the resolution of the entrance is unsatisfactory. Ms. Nelson supported this concern, suggesting that the Commission's comments be used to convince the D.C. Public Schools to support a second student entrance.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's concerns and asked if an entrance on the south would be viable guidance since this frontage is a small dead-end service street along the park, compared to having a presence on the regular urban grid at 55th Street.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the most suburban aspect of the scheme is the resemblance of the organizational diagram to a shopping mall, which typically has multiple entrance points without any hierarchy among them. He contrasted this to urban schools which typically have a street facade with a clear entrance. He said that the school's security requirements prevent the shopping mall concept from functioning here, resulting in a conflict between the building diagram and its actual use. He emphasized the resemblance of the building to a shopping mall, including the internal focus and the lack of a strong relationship to the street; he commented that the building would actually work well with six entrances but is less successful with only one or even two. Mr. Bartels responded that the values of the project include relating to the park and the community, with an emphasis on approachability and access. He acknowledged that an urban school might function best with only one front door and toughness of materials without a lot of glass; he acknowledged the potential conflicts between these operational concerns and the more open design intention for this project.
Mr. McKinnell said that the current massing of the building suggests that the front door would be in the center of the south facade on alignment with the central organizing axis and relating the building to the park. He suggested that the idea of the school and the park should be much more thoroughly integrated; Ms. Balmori added that this goal should be addressed even if the entrance is not moved to the south facade, concluding that the building diagram needs further study. Mr. Belle commented that the north-south axis is a strong design feature but terminates in a minor room on the south; it should instead be expressed through the building.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed design has many good elements but does not provide a strong hierarchy; she suggested that a revised scheme be submitted, perhaps informed by a decision on whether a second secured student entrance will be feasible. Mr. Powell said that he remains enthusiastic about the architectural design; he suggested further work on the entrance issues and consideration of a south entrance or an explanation of why this would not be feasible. He also suggested consideration of additional trees as suggested.
Mr. Bartels responded that the "H" diagram for the building suggests the desirability of entering at the shared central area rather than along one of the faces. He mentioned the concept for an open theater within the building that would become part of the shared student experience of the entrance atrium; he said that this concept requires distance between the entrance area and the classrooms to provide sufficient acoustic separation. He summarized the importance of separating the entrance area—which he acknowledged would be very intensely used at peak times—from the learning areas that should be quieter. Mr. Belle said that these concepts are useful for organizing spaces within the building but do not address the question of where the entrance is located. Mr. Powell acknowledged that an entrance on Eads Street could be problematic because it is far from most arrival locations. Mr. Bartels added that an Eads Street entrance would also be problematic because the design team does not have control over the street and adjacent areas. Mr. McKinnell asked that the option of a south entrance at least be studied to see which of the issues could be resolved with such a solution; Mr. Bartels agreed to do so. Mr. Powell summarized the desire for further study of the questions that were raised. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
I. District of Columbia Public Library
Ms. Barsoum introduced the next two submissions, both of which are revised concept designs for neighborhood branch libraries by the same architecture firm, the Freelon Group. Both were initially reviewed by the Commission in February 2008. She introduced architect Richard Kuhn of the Freelon Group to present the designs.
1. CFA 19/JUN/08-9, Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library, 4450 Wisconsin Avenue at Albemarle Street, N.W. New replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/08-4.) Mr. Kuhn briefly reviewed the site analysis that was previously presented, resulting in a design concept that expresses the convergence of multiple geometries and grids. The presence of a party wall on the west side of the site suggested the metaphor of a book for the library design, contrasting a solid circulation spine on the west with the open rooms of the library on the east. He said that energy conservation and daylight are important factors in the design, with a goal of a silver LEED rating; the large rooms therefore open primarily to the north and east rather than the south.
Mr. Kuhn described the overall layout of the library which is generally unchanged, with popular adult services near the entrance and a second floor with the main book and periodical collections and public meeting rooms that can be used even when the other library areas are closed. In response to the Commission's previous concerns, the children's library area on the ground floor has been reconfigured to limit its exposure to the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk, and the entrance vestibule and lobby staircase have been reconfigured to provide more exposure to Wisconsin Avenue and more prominence to a display wall. The roof would contain a deck accessible to the public, possibly including a green roof if feasible within the budget, and parking for nine cars would be included at the south end of the site. He said that the overall massing is unchanged; he described the revisions to the facades including adjustments to the second-floor vertical fins to provide additional emphasis for the corner entrance below and removal of the vertical pylon from the entrance facade. The revised building signage would extend horizontally along the Wisconsin Avenue facade just above the ground floor. He explained that some of the facade details are still being studied, particularly the vertical fins that will control daylight within the building. He presented a night rendering of the building that was prepared in response to the Commission's concern about the building's civic presence after dark.
Mr. Kuhn described details of the exterior and interior materials and finishes. The structure would be exposed in much of the building to gain additional ceiling height and improve the distribution of daylight. He indicated the use of color to provide additional emphasis and vibrancy to interior spaces, using light and dark blue in conjunction with the exterior colors of copper and silver. He said that signage and graphics will be studied further as the design develops, with a graphic design firm recently added to the project team.
Mr. Powell commented that the project is well developed for the revised concept stage; Ms. Nelson agreed that the progress is impressive. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission would prefer to delegate approval of the final design to the staff; the Chairman said that this would be acceptable, and Ms. Nelson agreed.
2. CFA 19/JUN/08-10, Anacostia Neighborhood Library, 1800 Good Hope Road at 18th Street, S.E. New replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/08- 5.) Mr. Kuhn continued with a presentation of the Anacostia Neighborhood Library. He said the focus since the previous submission has been on the landscape and the further development of the plan. He summarized the site context which includes the nearby Frederick Douglass House and Anacostia River. He noted the constraint of building around the existing temporary library building that will later be removed, providing the opportunity for a substantial green space on the site. He introduced landscape architect Eric Davis of Lappas + Havener to present further details of the site design.
Mr. Davis described the major physical characteristics of the site. There is a fifteen-foot grade change from the high point at the southeast to the low point at the northwest. Two large willow oak trees on the site will be retained, providing a sense of scale to the building. A bioretention garden is proposed for the site to handle stormwater. The front plaza for the library would face Good Hope Road to the south, with stepped terracing generated by the topographic change to provide an opportunity for seating. The plaza would also provide level areas for tables and chairs or the movement of library activities to the exterior. Parking for 21 cars would be provided with access from the alley on the east; the parking would be set several feet below the level of the building entrance. Ms. Balmori asked about the extent of the open space on the west side of the site; Mr. Davis responded that the distance from Good Hope Road to U Place is approximately 300 feet, providing a substantial open space setting for the building. Ms. Balmori expressed appreciation for the design to handle stormwater on the site.
Mr. Kuhn discussed the plans for the library, including the main upper-level entrance from the proposed plaza and a secondary lower-level entrance on the north where the public meeting room would be located. A vertical glass tower is proposed along the plaza to mark the main entrance and relieve the horizontality of the building. As at the Tenley library, the main entrance foyer would be partially defined by a display wall that serves as a divider between the foyer and the book areas. He presented sections to illustrate the high ceiling volume over the main reading space. A children's program area and the young adult area would project west from the upper level toward the open space. He described the evolution of the color scheme resulting in a green ceiling and roof that would relate the building to the landscaped site and stand out from other buildings in the area; color would also be used to identify the circulation spine extending along the upper level. Solar control is again a major goal of the design, with perforated sunscreens and careful attention to orientation.
Ms. Balmori asked if the exterior would be lit; Mr. Kuhn responded that some exterior lighting would be provided and the details are still being studied. Ms. Nelson expressed support for the landscape, particularly the intention to use it as a teaching tool as well as a place of beauty. She questioned the proposal for the glass tower and suggested that the design also be illustrated without the tower. Mr. McKinnell agreed with this concern, commenting that the vertical element weakens the strong horizontals rather than balancing them; he said that the tower is unnecessary and commercial in character, suggesting that the design rely instead on the strength of the horizontal emphasis.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed his support for both of the library designs, commenting on their high quality. He said that the geometry of the Tenley library is used to solve problems and create interest, resulting in an urban building that fits its site. He compared this to the geometry of the Anacostia library, which he said is less compelling. He expressed support for the tower as an element that goes beyond the utilitarian, but questioned the unusual angles throughout the library as being possibly unnecessary. He commented that the Anacostia library appears to be an object building that does not relate well to the site. Mr. Kuhn responded that the design evolved from the site constraints, including the existing temporary library and the desire to place the parking in a location that would not detract from Good Hope Road. Mr. Rybczynski said that he was not convinced that these constraints are generating the geometry of the proposed building; he offered the example of the tower that is of unclear importance to the overall design of the building, and he agreed that it should be reconsidered.
Mr. Belle asked if the availability of the alley for parking access was in question; Mr. Kuhn responded that this is not a problem based on meetings with the D.C. Department of Transportation. Ms. Balmori reiterated her support for the siting of the building and the creation of a substantial open space that extends the depth of the block, which she said makes the space more usable and public in character. She therefore supported the design solution as a response to the site constraints; Mr. Belle joined in expressing support for the design. Ms. Balmori noted the long bench proposed along the street and suggested that the street trees in this area be selected to provide adequate shade. Mr. Davis responded that existing street trees would be preserved and an additional double-row of maple trees would be added along the west edge of the site to provide a shaded walkway.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept with the comment that it is a good design and the recommendation to eliminate the glass tower. The Commission delegated approval of the final design to the staff. Ms. Nelson concluded by complimenting the quality of the recent library designs.
J. D.C. Department of Transportation and Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 19/JUN/08-11, Dr. Carter G. Woodson Memorial, Reservation 157, Rhode Island Avenue and 9th and Q Streets, N.W. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom said that the proposed memorial is submitted jointly by two D.C. government agencies, the Department of Transportation and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The memorial would honor the noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson; the site is a triangular park reservation that is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. government, not the National Park Service. He introduced Christopher Ziemann from the D.C. Department of Transportation, who asked artist Ray Kaskey to present the design.
Mr. Kaskey explained the background of the project: it was initially sponsored through a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; his design was chosen in a design competition in 2005, but the Trust's program was not carried out in the following years so he has been trying to revive the project in conjunction with the D.C. government. He said that the submission is based on his competition drawings from 2005 and subsequent minor refinements developed through further consultation with the competition jury members. He said that the Trust's guidelines for the program called for projects that would highlight the history of historic neighborhoods and create gateways to historic districts, with emphasis on meeting community needs, encouraging public use of the site, and reflecting the preservation of a neighborhood's historic assets. He said that the design is intended to accomplish these goals as well as honoring Dr. Woodson.
Mr. Kaskey summarized Dr. Woodson's biography; he lived from 1875 to 1950 and is known as the "Father of Black History." Dr. Woodson's house is several blocks south of the site on 9th Street, N.W., and is now owned by the National Park Service; it is expected to become a museum.
Mr. Kaskey presented photographs of the site, a small triangular park that is minimally improved with paving, neglected plantings, and an apparently historic fence (although no information is available on its history). He explained that Rhode Island Avenue on the north is a busy arterial street with an unsightly abandoned building on the north side, while Q and 9th Streets have the character of neighborhood streets. He said that the three large trees on the site—two street trees and one within the park—would be retained in the design; they frame a central area where the memorial sculpture would be located.
Mr. Kaskey described the proposed memorial, a stepped exedra of Indiana limestone with a bronze sculpture of Dr. Woodson set within a small plaza. He indicated the proposed paving pattern that would relate the plaza to the angles of the adjacent streets and create a dynamic setting for the exedra. The remainder of the site would be grass, and the existing fence would be reconfigured to provide a backdrop and gateway toward the rear of the memorial along Q Street. Two groups of low trees, such as fruit trees, would be planted along the perimeter to further define the site, making use of the existing planting beds; he noted that the limited budget would not support extensive site alterations. Lighting would be placed on a pole with additional ground-level lights to illuminate the inscriptions on the south side of the exedra, which would be approximately 6.5 feet tall. He noted that the intended inscription, a quotation from Dr. Woodson, is not shown on some of the earlier design drawings. He described the twelve-inch-high stepping of the exedra which provides seating as well as a base for the sculpture; the ends of the exedra would be oriented to relate to the surrounding street pattern resulting in an open angle that would invite people to approach the sculpture. He summarized the overall goal of making the memorial both monumental and intimate.
Mr. Kaskey described the sculptural treatment, which will be further developed with a quarter-size model before execution in bronze. He said that he is still gathering images of Dr. Woodson to use in refining the likeness. Dr. Woodson would be shown seated with a closed book in his hand, and his contemplative pose would suggest his thoughtfulness after reading the book. The south side of the exedra would be configured as shelves with sculptures depicting the eighteen books written by Dr. Woodson; the sculpted books would frame the quotation and would convey his achievements without the use of lengthy text. He acknowledged the need to securely attach the sculpted books to the exedra. Ms. Nelson expressed support for the composition of the south side with the gold-colored books framing the quotation.
Mr. Kaskey noted that he had prepared the landscape design himself since no landscape architect was involved. Ms. Nelson asked if a landscape architect would be brought to the project; Mr. Kaskey responded that this was still undetermined and might be handled through the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation which would arrange for a landscape architect and construction documents for the site work.
Ms. Nelson commented that grass might not grow well in the indicated areas due to the heavy shade; Mr. Kaskey said that this issue has not yet been studied, but he observed that the trees are pruned up to a height of thirty or forty feet and many similar triangular parks in Washington have grass. Ms. Balmori noted that the large magnolia tree at this location provides very heavy shading. Ms. Nelson suggested that the color of the pavers be chosen to contrast with the planted areas.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the concept. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the proposal.
K. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/JUN/08-12, Metropolitan Branch Trail, Rhode Island Avenue, N.E., at CSX rail line. New pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 25/JAN/05- 15.) Mr. Simon introduced the submission for a pedestrian bridge across the CSX rail tracks to connect the Rhode Island Avenue Metrorail station with the Metropolitan Branch Trail that is currently under development. He noted that the Metropolitan Branch Trail will terminate two miles to the south at Union Station's Columbus Plaza—the subject of the Commission's review earlier in the day—where a bicycle station will soon be built. He introduced Heather Deutsch, project manager for the Metropolitan Branch Trail at the D.C. Department of Transportation, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Deutsch summarized the context for the project. The Metropolitan Branch Trail will extend from Union Station to Silver Spring, sharing a transportation corridor with the Metrorail red line and the CSX rail tracks. She said that the trail would take on different forms along its length with primarily hard surfaces of varying types. A million users per year are anticipated; it is intended to accommodate people walking or with bicycles, wheelchairs, in-line skates, and strollers, and will serve for both recreation and transportation.
Ms. Balmori asked how much of the trail has been implemented; Ms. Deutsch responded that about one-third of it exists but the pieces are disconnected so the trail segments are not heavily used. She said that a connecting segment will soon be built that will improve the usefulness of the partial trail. She explained that this proposed bridge would be another major component in improving connectivity by contributing to the goal of linking the trail conveniently to each of the Metrorail stations along its length. This goal can be difficult because of the presence of CSX tracks along the corridor, typically aligned between the trail on the west and the Metrorail on the east. She said that convenient crossings of the CSX tracks were generally implemented as part of the Metrorail construction but the connection at the Rhode Island Avenue station is poor, with complicated changes in level between the street and the various tracks. The CSX tracks and the Metro entrance are at approximately the level of the neighborhood while the Metrorail tracks are elevated above and the street descends to an underpass. She noted that the underpass is uninviting for pedestrians and there are not adequate sidewalks along Rhode Island Avenue. The trail at this location is accessible from the neighborhood on the west at several points; people using the trail, or those crossing the trail right-of-way from the neighborhood, often cross the CSX tracks at grade to reach the Metrorail entrance, an unsafe situation that people nonetheless find preferable to using the Rhode Island Avenue underpass. The proposed bridge would provide an overpass across the CSX tracks, and people would descend on the east side to enter the station; within the station, they would ascend again to the Metrorail platform which is at approximately the level of the proposed bridge.
Ms. Deutsch summarized the three alternative bridge designs that were presented to the Commission in 2005; the design has subsequently been developed as an arched truss. She introduced engineer Adam Mateo of Ammann & Whitney to present additional information about the bridge design.
Mr. Mateo said that the truss was chosen in response to the Commission's preference for a simple design in the 2005 review. Some of the truss elements have subsequently been removed to simplify the design and the top chord is now arched to suggest the image of a railroad bridge. He explained that the bridge will create a three-level crossing, with the CSX tracks immediately below and the Rhode Island Avenue underpass further below. He noted the requirement for 23 feet of clearance above the CSX tracks. He described the combination of ramping and steps that would provide alternative routes to bring people up from the trail to the bridge, with convenient access from a variety of approach directions. The stairs and ramp on the east side have a simpler configuration leading directly to the Metrorail station entrance. He explained that the landing platform on the west side is located and designed to encourage enjoyment of the view south toward the U.S. Capitol.
Mr. Mateo said that CSX requires shielding of the bridge above the tracks to prevent the throwing of objects onto the tracks and trains. He said that a dense chain-link mesh or solid shielding would be required; the proposed solution is a special type of glass that would encase the sides of the bridge.
Mr. Mateo said that the design of the support for the ramping and stairs on the west side is still under consideration and he requested the Commission's advice; the options are freestanding columns or a continuous wall. He said that the columns would result in a lighter design character but many separate elements, while the wall would be visually simpler and could be faced in stone that could relate to other sections of the trail. He presented photographs of the large-scale stone walls further south on the trail near Union Station, with additional photographs of examples from Philadelphia of pedestrian walkways using both types of support. Ms. Deutsch added that the open character of the columns might be desirable but would require fencing between the columns to prevent access to the CSX tracks, which would nonetheless be visible and unsightly due to the poor landscape maintenance of the CSX right-of-way; trash would likely collect on the back side of the fence where the D.C. government would be unable to provide maintenance, and a screening hedge would not be feasible because CSX routinely sprays herbicides along the right-of-way. Mr. Mateo added that safety is also a concern, and the selected design should not provide hiding places. He noted that the wall solution would provide visual screening from the trail of the CSX tracks.
Mr. Belle asked if the type of walkways seen in the Philadelphia examples would have to be shielded to meet the requirements of CSX; Mr. Mateo responded that the shielding is not necessary on the sides of the track area where the ramping and steps would be located, only on the bridge immediately above the tracks.
Ms. Balmori expressed overall support for the effort to connect the trail to the station, and she recommended the simpler truss design that was shown in the previous review. She suggested further investigation of a more handsome steel fence that could be placed between the columns, which she said could be selected to provide openness without the need for plantings to provide screening; she said this solution would be cheaper than a large stone-faced concrete wall. She also suggested that steel columns and framing be considered instead of concrete to provide a lighter character for the ramps and stairs and to relate better to the bridge itself. She discouraged the massive appearance that is suggested by the drawings of a wall as the support for the ramps.
Ms. Deutsch noted that one of the Philadelphia examples uses low walls to support the portions of ramp that are closest to the ground and switches to columns for the higher portions; she said that this solution might be easier for maintenance. Ms. Balmori agreed that this would be a viable solution; she said that there are successful examples with solid triangular walls near the ground and with a fence continuing to the ground level with gravel rather than planting at the base. Mr. Rybczynski commented that concrete would be more durable than steel and would not require painting or other maintenance. Mr. Mateo confirmed that concrete would be cheaper, and he noted that steel columns would likely need to be paired to provide the necessary stability. Ms. Balmori said that concrete columns would be acceptable aesthetically as long as they were not causing a safety problem by creating hiding places; nonetheless, she said that steel provides the sense of lightness that would be desirable. Mr. Belle said that a solid structure might be perceived as a barrier that is not welcoming to the public, while the steel structure from Philadelphia illustrates a light and welcoming design. Mr. Luebke said that the staff could work with the design team to combine a low wall with columns for the upper portions; Mr. Powell suggested delegating the final review to the staff.
Mr. Rybczynski objected to the proposed glass sides along the bridge; Ms. Balmori agreed, describing them as out of character with the project. She reiterated that attractive metal meshes are now available that would address the problem of shielding the tracks. Ms. Deutsch cautioned that the design flexibility is very limited in the bridge directly above the tracks due to the CSX requirements; she said that a mesh would need to have a maximum of one-inch diameter openings and might create the effect of a cage that people are walking through. Ms. Balmori said that attractive meshes with sufficiently small openings are now available. Mr. Powell suggested further study of this option. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the glass solution could produce an uncomfortable build-up of heat, which Mr. Mateo acknowledged could be a problem.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept with the recommendation to develop the design as a very light structure, using either steel or concrete to support the ramps and stairs, and to consider replacing the proposed glass with a mesh; further review was delegated to the staff.
L. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead-Luce Act
1. S.L. 08-094, Nassif Building (Constitution Center, formerly U.S. Department of Transportation Headquarters), 400 7th Street, S.W. Perimeter security. Concept. (Previous: S.L.07-054, 17 May 2007.) Mr. Lindstrom explained that the office building is being renovated for potential new tenants after being vacated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The renovation includes new facades that were approved by the Commission in May 2007; two alternative streetscape designs were also reviewed; the Commission approved the design with a lower level of perimeter security and withheld approval of the design providing greater perimeter security since no tenant had been identified that would require such a high level of protection. He said that the current submission is a request for conditional approval of a high-security streetscape design that would be implemented only if the building is leased to a tenant requiring such security. He introduced Timothy Jaroch, the representative for the building's owner, and architect David Varner of the SmithGroup to present the proposal.
Mr. Varner acknowledged the Commission's comments in the previous review concerning the negative impacts of perimeter security on the urban landscape and the desire to avoid such security unless required by a specific tenant. He said that several potential federal tenants with high security requirements are currently being pursued although their funding is uncertain. Meanwhile, as construction proceeds on the renovation of the building—the new facades are approximately one-third complete—it will soon be necessary to begin construction of the streetscape. He said that the owner's goal is to attract a high-security tenant, and the construction of a less secure streetscape would result in a wasteful expense if it needs to be removed and reconstructed for the future tenant. The current submission is therefore intended to determine an acceptable design that can be implemented if necessary.
Mr. Varner summarized the site, a full block with prominent frontage on 7th Street, S.W., and a public escalator beneath the building along D Street leading into the L'Enfant Plaza Metrorail station. Entrances to the underground parking garage for employees are located on D and E Streets with the loading dock entrance on 6th Street. The perimeter security is intended to extend as far from the building as feasible in order to reduce the potential damage from a blast.
Mr. Varner described the conditions at several key locations around the perimeter. Metrorail ventilation grates are set in the sidewalk along 7th Street adjacent to the building's main entrance, posing an inconvenience for pedestrians and an obstruction to the potential perimeter security. The proposed solution is to adjust the curb line and widen the sidewalk to provide space for inserting bollards. Two existing flagpoles would be relocated to frame the main entrance and placed in stone bases that would mark a transition in the alignment of the bollards. He said these bollards would be fourteen inches square and 3.5 feet high. Ms. Balmori asked if they could be thinner, but Mr. Varner said that the structural pipes within have an eleven-inch diameter. Ms. Balmori said that other bollards in Washington are thinner, including those around the White House. Mr. Varner said that the dimension was set by specifications from the State Department and the blast consultant on the project team based on the potential size and speed of a vehicle. He said that the bollards at the main entrance and Metrorail entrance would be clad in stainless steel with a square profile, while those used on the remainder of the perimeter would have a cylindrical painted-metal cladding.
Mr. Varner presented the design for D Street, where a low concrete wall faced in stone would provide protection; bollards would only be required at the Metrorail entrance and parking garage entrance, which would have operable bollards. He noted that D Street is heavily used by Metro buses; benches and street trees would be located away from the curb to provide maximum flexibility for the loading and unloading of buses. Ms. Nelson asked if the benches would be hardened as part of the perimeter security; Mr. Varner responded that they would not be, since the low wall behind them would provide the required protection. Mr. Varner presented the streetscape along 6th Street with a row of bollards near the curb, explaining that the bollards would always be at least three feet away from the curb to provide room for access to vehicles. He said that in areas where grade-level planting strips are proposed near the curb, the walkways across the planting strips would be protected by bollards that are set back from the general alignment of bollards in order to provide some visual relief. He indicated the treatment of the corners of the site where the bollards are returned toward raised planters to provide unobstructed public space at the corners.
Ms. Nelson asked if the square bollards are larger than the round ones; Mr. Varner responded that both are fourteen inches wide but the square bollards appear bulkier. He reiterated that the size of the structural pipes in the bollards is a result of the high security rating that is of great interest to potential tenants. Ms. Balmori said that the design would be acceptable but she recommended further study of whether the width of the bollards could be reduced. She also questioned the decision to use a different bollard profile at the two special locations, recommending that a single bollard design throughout the site would be preferable. Mr. Powell suggested that a simple design would be best; Ms. Balmori said that the White House bollards are an attractive example and apparently meet the highest possible security rating. Mr. Varner noted that the building will have stainless-steel doors and storefronts at the main entrance which suggested the design of bollards with stainless-steel cladding at this location while also providing some visual relief. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson expressed support for the variations in use of bollards on other parts of the site, including the corners and along the planting strips; Ms. Balmori agreed that the planting strips are well designed. Mr. Varner noted that the bollards along the planting strips, when seen from near the curb, will typically be set against the planted background, while pedestrians on the main portion of the sidewalk will not need to be immediately adjacent to the bollards.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's recommendation for a simple and coherent design. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the concept with the recommendation to reexamine the bollard size and reduce the variety of types. Mr. Jaroch, representing the building owner, said that the goal is to bring the design to the D.C. government for approval while postponing any above-grade construction of the design features until a tenant has been finalized with high security needs. He said that having such a conditional final approval would shorten the schedule by four to five months. The Chairman acknowledged this concern but said that the concept approval requires that the proposal be resubmitted as a final design after a tenant has been finalized.
2. S.L. 08-098, Tregaron (The Causeway), Intersection of Woodley and Klingle Roads, N.W. New single-family dwelling on lot parcel #3. Concept. (Previous: S.L. 04-081, 21 September 2004—Plan for planned unit development.) Mr. Lindstrom said that the submission is the first specific design proposal to result from a 2004 master plan for limited development of the Tregaron estate. He introduced architect Craig Curtis of the Miller Hull Partnership, the original architects for the master plan, and architectural historian Andi Adams from the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
Ms. Adams provided an overview of the planning for the twenty-acre Tregaron estate which involved extensive reviews and many involved parties with a gradual reduction in the number of new houses proposed. Mr. Curtis said that a cultural landscape report was prepared in 2006 that identified several special areas of the property and resulted in a complex exchange of sites. Ten acres has been given to the Tregaron Conservancy, a newly formed group dedicated to the goal of rehabilitating the site and restoring the historic landscape design by Ellen Biddle Shipman. A total of eight houses would be developed in order to support the Conservancy's restoration; the houses would not be within the viewsheds of the historic mansion and the historic planting and trail system. He presented photographs of the heavily wooded estate.
Mr. Curtis said that the initial site plan for the currently submitted house was configured with the house pushed to the west edge of the property in order to protect a large oak tree that has subsequently died. The new site plan therefore would relocate the house toward the center of the site, which allows the driveway to be placed on the west side leading to a lower-level garage, resulting in a desirable separation of cars from the pedestrian walkway to the house's main entrance. He said that the revised site plan also allows for retaining an existing tree that was to be removed and will improve the screening of the house from Klingle Road by existing trees, which has been an important issue for the neighbors. He noted that the footprint of the house is slightly smaller than what was shown in the master plan.
Mr. Curtis presented the plans and elevations of the proposed house. He said that it would be terraced down the hillside to provide at-grade access to the outdoors from two levels. The exterior materials would primarily be stone veneer, wood, and glass. The scale of the house would be kept low along the south where it is visible from Klingle Road, while the three-story height would be apparent on the north facade. He emphasized the beauty of the views of the landscape from the house.
Mr. Luebke clarified that the submission is a moderate revision to the concept design that was previously approved as part of the master plan for the overall estate. Mr. Curtis said that the project received delegated approval from the staff of the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board earlier in the day. He acknowledged that there could be further revisions to the design—probably minor—as the project moves forward to construction documents and a cost estimate from a contractor.
Ms. Balmori asked about the restoration process for the landscape. Mr. Curtis said that the Conservancy, formerly a group called the Friends of Tregaron, is already working on clean-up of the site including removal of invasive species and dead or dying trees. Their work will move forward to improvement of the trails, new plantings, and restoration of the pond. He explained that the purchase of the property for this house, which has not yet occurred, will result in a significant cash donation to the Conservancy from the owner of the overall estate in accordance with the agreement for the implementation of the master plan; the sale of this lot and the other development parcels will therefore provide the source of funds for the landscape restoration work. Ms. Balmori asked about the treatment of a specific garden near Macomb Street that is associated with Ellen Biddle Shipman. Mr. Curtis responded that the restoration of each area of the Conservancy property will be linked to the funds received from the sale of the parcels in nearest proximity, so the area near Macomb Street will be restored when two lots are sold from that area of the estate.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept design and delegated further review to the staff including minor modifications, with the requirement that the project be presented again to the Commission if subsequent design changes are substantial.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:03 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: July 18, 2008