Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
20 November 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 10:05 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 October meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the minutes without objection. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 22 January, 19 February, and 19 March; he noted that no meeting is scheduled in December. He explained that the January date is one week later than usual due to the timing of the Old Georgetown Board meeting, which will be delayed by a week because its customary date conflicts with the New Year's holiday.
C. Report on site inspections. Mr. Luebke reported the Commission's site inspections earlier in the morning at the location of the proposed levee along 17th Street near Constitution Avenue, N.W., and at the West Potomac Park site of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial to view alternative stone samples. He also reported the inspection the previous evening of the proposed lighting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce building on H Street, N.W., facing Lafayette Square. He noted that all three projects are on the agenda for presentation later in the meeting (agenda items II.D.1, II.D.2, and II.K, respectively). Chairman Powell recommended deferring further discussion of the site inspections until consideration of these agenda items.
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. Luebke said that one project on the draft appendix, concerning signs at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, has been moved to the agenda for presentation during the meeting (item II.G) at the request of one of the Commission members. Mr. Lindstrom described two additional changes to the Consent Calendar: a submission on the draft appendix for a fence at the C & O Canal has been withdrawn by the National Park Service for further design revision and will be resubmitted to the Old Georgetown Board and the Commission; and the recommendation for the submission by the American Battle Monuments Commission has been revised to show the date of the supplemental drawings. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler explained three revisions to the draft appendix. Supplemental materials for case number S.L. 09-007 addressed some of the staff's concerns, and the recommendation is now favorable except for the windows and doors. For the roof replacement at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (S.L. 09-009), the recommendation includes delegation of further review to the staff because the skylight mockup and samples of glass types were not available prior to the Commission meeting. The recommendation for the arcade enclosure at the Willard Hotel (S.L. 09-012) has been adjusted to reflect the submission of supplemental materials, with no objection. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See item II.K for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. Recommendation for several projects were adjusted in response to supplemental drawings that have been received. Three projects have been removed from the appendix at the request of the applicants and will be re-submitted after further revision. He noted a proposal for alterations to the public library in Georgetown, a direct submission by the D.C. government that would normally be presented to the Commission; he explained that the scope is small and the design concept is satisfactory to the Old Georgetown Board, so the project is included on the appendix. Supplemental drawings are still expected for one project involving window replacement; Mr. Martínez requested authorization for the staff to finalize the recommendation after further coordination with the applicant. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix including authorization for the staff to finalize the one outstanding recommendation.
B. National Park Service
CFA 20/NOV/08-1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, S.W. Pre-design program. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 21/SEP/06-1, site selection.) Mr. Luebke said that the information presentation was submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and would describe the pre-design program for the memorial, including the program and the characteristics and constraints of the site. He described the memorial site, approved by the Commission in September 2006: a rectangular area immediately north of the Department of Education headquarters and south of the National Air and Space Museum, bisected diagonally by Maryland Avenue and providing a dramatic view of the U.S. Capitol. He said that the Memorial Commission has completed the first stage of a selection competition for the design team. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service, who asked Carl Reddel, Executive Director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Reddel explained that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission was established by federal law and includes four senators, four representatives, and four presidential appointees; he noted that the federal sponsorship is typical for national presidential memorials. He said that the project has benefited from the scholarship of Eisenhower's legacy in the fifty years since his presidency; he recognized the presence of Professor Louis Galambos, who has served for over 25 years as the editor of the 21-volume publication of Eisenhower's papers. Mr. Reddel said that the memorial's site is surrounded by institutions resulting from Eisenhower's leadership as well as being adjacent to Capitol Hill and the Mall; he explained that the task now is to bring together the site and Eisenhower's legacy through the design process. He introduced the Memorial Commission's executive architect, Daniel Feil, to present that process.
Mr. Feil said that the pre-design program, being presented today, is important to convey the Memorial Commission's views to the design teams that are considering involvement in the project. He said that the program has been prepared by the Washington, D.C. office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. He provided a slide presentation to illustrate the site's relation to surrounding buildings: the Air and Space Museum to the north, the Department of Education headquarters to the south, the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters to the east, and the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters to the west. He also presented views illustrating the site's location relative to the Mall on the north as well as the National Museum of the American Indian and the Capitol to the northeast. He said that the site is an urban one enclosed by buildings, unlike other presidential memorial sites located on the "pastoral" grounds of the Mall or on the Potomac River shoreline.
Mr. Feil explained that a 1.5-acre portion of the site is currently a Brutalist-style concrete plaza adjacent to the Department of Education, under the jurisdiction of the General Services Administration. The D.C. government has jurisdiction over two acres of the site currently occupied by Maryland Avenue, which terminates at Independence Avenue on the north. The remainder of the site, on the northwest, is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, including a half-acre of garden plots that are cultivated by permits.
Mr. Feil said that the Memorial Commission is naming the site "Eisenhower Square" and intends to treat it as a new addition to the system of urban squares created by the L'Enfant plan. The memorial to be created at this square will honor the president and celebrate his legacy and its importance to the issues of today and the future. He said that the Memorial Commission has identified Eisenhower's three major roles—as president, general, and world citizen—but the program emphasizes that the memorial should have a single overriding theme rather than a fragmented or diluted design.
Mr. Feil said that the Memorial Commission had developed three volumes of program information. The first volume discusses Eisenhower and introduces the site, and was intended to attract the interest of potential designers. The second volume presents technical information about the site and its constraints. The third volume consists of an encyclopedic history of the project, including interviews and reports such as the past action letter from the Commission of Fine Arts, as well as the requirements that were determined through development of the site's Environmental Assessment. Mr. Feil noted the numerous interviews that resulted in varying advice on what the memorial should emphasize—the person, his accomplishments, events, or ideals—which will need to be considered by the designer.
Mr. Feil characterized the site's current condition as "bleak" and said that the Memorial Commission is open to differing concepts of architectural form and style; however, he said that the memorial design should be within the context of memorial forms that have evolved historically, which are summarized in the second volume of the program. He provided the examples of an ancient Roman triumphal arch and the modern arch in St. Louis as illustrations of the stylistic variety that is possible while making use of traditional forms. He said that the memorial will need to be in the general form of a plaza and will need to incorporate landscaping, resulting in more green space than is currently on the site. He explained the additional elements to be included: a support building up to 2,500 square feet—comparable to the support facility at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and that planned for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial— to possibly contain restrooms, a bookstore, and a ranger support area; and a permanent canopy structure to provide protection to visitors in all weather, scaled for a typical group of 50-60 schoolchildren. He said that the canopy should also function as a welcoming element, inviting people at nearby attractions to come to the memorial.
Mr. Feil discussed the required setback lines along the surrounding streets with respect to the established context, as well as a requirement for a fifty-foot setback from the adjacent Department of Education building for security; this setback would suggest a fourth street bounding the site which would be advantageous in creating the form of an urban square. He said that this setback area along the Department of Education is described as a transition zone rather than an actual street; the memorial's design will extend to include this area, which will have a different character than the memorial plaza. He said the site area would be 2.4 acres after subtracting the setbacks.
Mr. Feil also identified the need for special design consideration of the Maryland Avenue right-of-way which is aligned with the Capitol. He said that the width of special treatment is still being discussed with review agencies—either the width of a typical cartway or the full width of the right-of-way—and would need to be addressed by the designer. He said that the view to the Capitol is prominent and that the perspective has the effect of enlarging the appearance of the Capitol while reducing the apparent significance of the framing buildings; he said that this is an important characteristic for the designer to consider. He presented views from the west terrace of the Capitol to the site, noting that the views to and from the Capitol are the most important, while the view southwest along Maryland Avenue from the site toward the Potomac River is blocked by nearby vegetation and the railroad embankment.
Mr. Feil said that the program's technical documents include information on the illumination of the Capitol, which must remain the brightest structure in the area, and a shadow study of the site, which demonstrated that, for one-quarter of the year, half the site is always in shade—primarily from the Department of Education building—and for one-quarter of the year the memorial site has no shade at all.
Mr. Feil said that the Memorial Commission wants information presented at the site to be directed primarily to schoolchildren—kindergarten through 12th grade—but does not want the site to become overloaded with information. The intention is to create a physical memorial that conveys strong ideas and will be combined with an electronic component providing further information. He explained that the Memorial Commission is developing formal relationships with several institutions—the National Park Service, the National Archives (which operates the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Texas), John Hopkins University where Professor Galambos teaches, and American University's School of International Service—to develop the electronic content and maintain it in the future; he noted that the Memorial Commission will terminate after completion of the memorial. He emphasized the need for an institutional structure to keep the electronic information updated. He said that the National Park Service and the National Archives view this project as a prototype for cooperation of presidential sites and presidential libraries in sharing information.
Mr. Feil described the designer selection process to date. There were forty-four initial submittals and the Memorial Commission selected seven lead designers and their associated firms for the short-list. The Memorial Commission will meet with these seven lead designers in December to discuss their response to the program. The next stage will include a final short-list of perhaps three or four firms that will be paid stipends to present a design vision for the memorial; he emphasized that a concept design would not be requested at that stage and will not be expected until after the contract is awarded. He anticipated returning to the Commission in mid-2010 with design concepts including the Memorial Commission's preference.
Mr. Powell asked whether the elimination of Maryland Avenue would be viable. Mr. Feil responded that the concept of closing it has the support of the D.C. Department of Transportation and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office; the Memorial Commission also obtained a traffic study which demonstrates that removal of this segment of Maryland Avenue would improve traffic in three of the four adjacent intersections by eliminating the non-signalized intersections that are currently located between signalized intersections.
Mr. McKinnell said that the Commission of Fine Arts had often been faced with reviewing additions, often in the form of interpretive centers, to memorials; he asked if the program includes all necessary features so that the memorial will not require future additions. Mr. Feil responded that he had only limited authority to respond, but he noted that there are six Eisenhower "legacy organizations" operating elsewhere, including interpretation at the library and museum in Abilene, Texas; the memorial will not compete with these institutions, and he said that the National Park Service has emphasized its opposition to including a building with the memorial. He reiterated that the Memorial Commission would not exist in the long-term future, but the electronic memorial is intended to accommodate any need for extensive interpretive information. He said that electronic information would ideally be available from computer equipment located at the memorial, but the National Park Service did not want the memorial to have extensive electronic equipment, perhaps due to maintenance concerns. The solution could therefore involve the modern technology of hand-held computer or telephone access to electronic information, which would therefore be available at the site or after visitors return home. He said that the National Park Service has expressed enthusiasm for this approach, which is already being tested elsewhere. He concluded that these options, as well as the National Park Service's opposition to a building, should address Mr. McKinnell's concern.
Ms. Nelson asked Professor Galambos to discuss the feasibility of defining only one overriding concept for memorializing Eisenhower. Professor Galambos acknowledged that this would be difficult; he said that the report on Eisenhower's legacy had identified three areas of his accomplishments—as military leader, president, and public servant—and the design will need to combine these in a way that has not yet been identified.
Mr. Rybczynski said that he found the description of the process encouraging, commenting that it would avoid a premature commitment to a design concept and would provide valuable flexibility for a talented designer. He added that he was impressed by the list of finalists and expressed support for the intention to emphasize a single concept, contrasting it to the excessive tendency of memorial designs to use multiple concepts to fill their sites. He said that the intention to create an urban square is encouraging and should result in emphasis on the space and its urban role, perhaps including extensive landscaping; he offered the example of London's Trafalgar Square which is designed primarily as an urban space, with the commemoration of Nelson being secondary.
Mr. Powell expressed agreement that the presentation was encouraging. The information presentation concluded without a formal action.
(Additional projects submitted by the National Park Service were presented as agenda items II.D.1. and II.D.2.)
C. General Services Administration
CFA 20/NOV/08-2, St. Elizabeths Hospital. West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, S.E. Master Plan for the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/08-1, Information presentation.) Mr. McKinnell recused himself from the project due to his firm's potential involvement in a future phase; he observed the presentation from the public audience. Mr. Luebke introduced the project, explaining that the Commission had seen the master plan as an information presentation the previous month. He summarized the Commission's comments from that presentation, including issues of circulation within and access to the site, and overall concern about how the site would function as a campus for 14,000 workers. He said that, at the Commission's request, the presentation will include comparative overlays of the site with other facilities, such as the Pentagon reservation and major university campuses, in order to facilitate evaluation of the proposed development's scale.
Mr. Luebke said that the project has evolved during the multi-year review process, including the relocation of a portion of the program to the east campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital, further development of historic preservation guidelines, modification of the perimeter security design, and a reduction in the amount of proposed parking. He said that the impact of the project nonetheless remains very large, including a quadrupling of the current building area on the west campus as well as broader visual impacts on views of the site; he explained that the impact on more distant views is primarily due to the proposed Coast Guard headquarters building, a 1.3-million-square-foot development with a nine-acre footprint that would be located along the site's western slope which forms part of Washington's topographic bowl. He noted additional outstanding jurisdictional issues that are expected to be resolved in the next month: the proposed development on the east campus is subject to approval by the D.C. government which controls that area, and the proposed access from the west is dependent on making use of Shepherd Parkway which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. He said that a programmatic agreement to address historic preservation issues is still being developed, with the intention of finalizing the agreement prior to review of the master plan by the National Capital Planning Commission on 8 January. He asked Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA) to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill noted the presence of the project team as well as senior officials from the General Services Administration. He expressed appreciation for the extensive involvement of the Commission staff during development of this project. He said that the presentation would move quickly through a large number of slides to illustrate the complexity and breadth of the master plan, and additional information could be presented on any of the topics at the request of the Commission. He introduced GSA's project executive, Dawud Abdur-Rahman, to present the master plan proposal.
Mr. Abdur-Rahman presented the background, objectives, and planning principles for the project, as well as the proposed next steps to implement the master plan. He summarized the large scope of the project, providing a secure campus for a consolidated headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); the program includes 4.5 million gross square feet of building area plus parking and the master plan now proposes to distribute a portion of the program to the east campus of St. Elizabeths. He said that the overall development budget is $3.4 billion in multiple phases, and the project will result in significant savings in federal costs. He explained that $100 million has already been appropriated for the Coast Guard headquarters building, and an additional $346 million is anticipated in the fiscal year 2009 budget that is still pending. He noted that the master plan submission includes guidelines for preservation, design, and development, as well as a transportation management plan. He said that the lengthy project schedule anticipates full occupancy in 2016, providing many opportunities for additional guidance from the Commission and staff; the master plan is intended to establish a framework for future discussion as the design of project components moves forward.
Mr. Abdur-Rahman acknowledged the Commission's past guidance to place some of the program on the east campus, and confirmed that this feature is now part of the master plan and is being coordinated with the D.C. government; a vote by the D.C. Council is expected in mid-December. He said that other comments by the Commission have also been incorporated into the current master plan proposal. He introduced architect Russell Perry of the SmithGroup to present the design content of the master plan.
Mr. Perry summarized the character and context of the west campus, describing it as an "arboretum setting" with a historic landscape and historic buildings on a plateau, adjacent to the forested slopes on the west descending toward the river. He said that some of the forested areas are original and some areas have regrown. He indicated the historic Civil War cemetery along the west slope, set within one of the historic forested areas. He described the long-distance views from the site toward the National Cathedral, the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office tower, and the U.S. Capitol, along with broad panoramic views toward the Anacostia River and central Washington; he acknowledged the reciprocal views toward the slopes of the site, with the prominent visibility of historic twin powerhouse stacks on the campus. He acknowledged the status of the campus as a National Historic Landmark and said that most of the site's 60 to 70 historic buildings would be retained; only a few greenhouse structures would be demolished. He indicated the most important building on the site, the Center Building, and the group of prominent buildings to the south known as the "letter buildings." He explained that the overall St. Elizabeths site is divided into the east and west campuses by Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. He indicated the surrounding development, primarily residential, and the location of Interstate 295 at the foot of the slopes at the approximate location of the original river shoreline. He noted that the adjacent military facilities are built on filled land within the floodplain.
Mr. Perry then described the planning principles for the site. The master plan is organized around a series of parcels that emerge from the historical development of the campus and the character of the landscape and buildings; he said that the qualities of each parcel are respected in the master plan. He provided the examples of the south lawn, which has a strong geometry of buildings that will be extended to the newly proposed buildings at the edge of the plateau; and the geometry of the central campus that would be extended into new construction on the west. He indicated the promontory known as "the Point" and showed a photo of the sweeping view of central Washington from that location. He described the environmental approach to the site, including several different zones with varying ecological functions; he said that one goal is to restore the ecology of the regrown forest areas.
Mr. Perry said that the strategy for the site is to use some of the historic buildings at the center of the campus as shared-use spaces housing special functions for the entire campus. The Center Building and letter buildings would be used for administrative functions, extending to infill buildings and new construction along the slope. Support facilities and parking would be located toward the perimeter of the campus and in the existing ravine that currently has an industrial character including the powerhouse. He said that development along the south lawn would be five to six floors high, within the category of medium density that would normally allow up to eight floors; new construction on other areas of the campus would have a height of three to five floors. The south lawn and the area around the Center Building would be preserved. He indicated several locations where historic buildings have been removed, resulting in vacant sites or replacement development; new buildings would be located at some of these historic buildings sites.
Mr. Perry presented a circulation diagram, indicating the access points. On the east along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, the two existing historic gates would be retained along with the existing tunnel to the east campus; an additional pedestrian tunnel is proposed to connect the DHS facilities on the east and west campuses. On the west, a new access road is proposed that would connect on the north to Firth Sterling Avenue and on the south through the Shepherd Parkway property to Malcolm X Avenue, which has an interchange with I-295; this western access road would reduce the traffic load at the historic gates. He explained that parking areas would be located underground adjacent to the two gates on the east and in a structure within the ravine near the new western access road.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the diagrammed circulation routes within the campus would be used by employee vehicles. Mr. Perry said that the road system within the campus would be only for shuttle buses and the vehicles of high-level officials, as well as service vehicles. He added that additional parking would be located on the east campus, which would be accessible through the tunnel below Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue.
Mr. Perry presented an illustrative plan and indicated the "modest amount" of infill construction proposed around the existing buildings to improve their usefulness as modern office space. He said that the exact location and configuration of such construction would be subject to further review as part of the historic preservation Section 106 process as well as through review of individual projects in the future. He indicated the different landscape treatments that are proposed. The agricultural landscapes along the northern portion of the site would be reinterpreted as a meadow with native vegetation, including the reestablishment of a stand of trees along the northern boundary, where a former forested ravine has been filled. Much of the slope would have a managed woodland landscape and unmanaged woodlands would be located along the adjacent National Park Service land.
Mr. Perry described the perimeter security for the site; the alignment would generally be located at the boundary of the site, with exceptions to allow for two areas to remain outside the perimeter line: the Civil War cemetery on the west, which would be accessible to the public and would have its own parking area, and a wooded area to the south which contains an eagle nest and an associated protected area adjacent to National Park Service land. He noted that this proposed configuration would improve the contiguity of the forested areas which are currently divided by a fence along the St. Elizabeths boundary. Ms. Nelson asked about the configuration of the fence. Mr. Perry confirmed that a double line of fences is proposed, with an eight-foot-wide clear area between them. He said that the tree canopy would be permitted to grow above the clear area, eventually forming a closed canopy above the fence.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the colors used in the master plan drawing and the overall scale of the proposal. Mr. Perry explained that the brown color indicates existing buildings that will remain; these buildings will accommodate one million square feet of the 4.5-million-square-foot program. He confirmed that the buildings shown in green and yellow are proposed new construction of varying heights; some new development would step down the slope and would rise two to three stories above the existing sloping grade. Mr. Belle asked whether special uses or conventional office space would be located in the historic buildings; Mr. Perry indicated the special shared-use facilities including a library, conference facilities, dining rooms, and an archive; the remainder of the buildings would primarily be office space or parking.
Mr. Perry presented overlays comparing the proposal to other campus settings, as previously requested by the Commission: Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Virginia, both with quadrangles smaller than the St. Elizabeths south lawn; the Arts Quad at Cornell University, comparable in scale to the south lawn; the New Haven Green and Old Campus at Yale University; and the Pentagon.
Mr. Perry provided additional details about circulation as previously requested by the Commission. Seventy percent of employee vehicles reaching the west campus would enter from the new road along the west edge of the site, leading to the parking structure within the ravine; thirty percent would enter through the main gate on the east from Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue leading to below-grade parking; and visitors would enter through the second gate on the east, leading to a below-grade parking area along the historic wall along the street. The existing tunnel would provide emergency egress from the west campus. The new road on the west would also provide access for deliveries to an earth-sheltered warehouse facility at the northern corner of the site. He indicated the primary pedestrian circulation routes, including sidewalks and paths through the campus. He noted that most of the site is within a five-minute walking radius of the shared-use facilities at the center of the campus.
Ms. Nelson asked about the width of roadway at the proposed employee entrance gate on the west side of the campus; Mr. Perry responded that it would be approximately eight lanes wide. Ms. Nelson suggested that potential overcrowding at this gate, which would accommodate seventy percent of employee vehicles, could be addressed by allowing employees to enter at the delivery entrance further north along the proposed access road; more generally, she suggested the desirability of a backup plan for access. Mr. Perry said that access to the campus is the only purpose for the proposed road, so traffic could queue beyond the entrance gate area into the road itself. He explained that the security screening of entering vehicles is a specialized process that has been carefully studied, and it could not easily be performed at an alternative access location such as the delivery facility. Ms. Nelson reiterated that the large number of vehicles entering at this gate could be problematic. Mr. Perry clarified that some employees will be arriving by alternate modes, and the parking structure that serves this entrance would have a capacity of fewer than 2,000 vehicles. Mr. Belle asked whether stacking lanes would be provided along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue at the entrance gates; Mr. Perry said that no additional lanes are proposed in this area, but a previously proposed widening of the street would provide a left-turn lane into the campus.
Mr. Belle asked about the uses of some of the buildings along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. Mr. Perry identified one building adjacent to the entrance gate as the headquarters of a portion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); a small portion of the building would be a day-care center that would be near the gate and would have its own security arrangements. The main headquarters of DHS would be in the Center Building and nearby buildings; other components of DHS would be located around the south lawn and one component would be at the east campus. Mr. Belle asked if employees in the office areas of the site would routinely make use of the shared-use facilities at the center of the campus, and how the employees would move around the campus. Mr. Perry responded that employees would routinely move between buildings and would be walking, reiterating that the central area is within a five-minute walk of most of the campus. Mr. Belle asked about the impact of topography. Mr. Perry said that all of the primary building entrances are on the upper plateau which has a grade variation of twenty to thirty feet; the more significant grade changes on the site are accommodated within the buildings. He indicated the proposed shuttle-bus route within the campus that would link the parking areas to locations near the building entrances.
Mr. Belle asked if the placement of programmatic elements is based on the character of the historic buildings. Mr. Perry responded that this factor was a major influence, resulting in new uses that could be accommodated in the historic buildings; he offered the examples of Hitchcock Hall—formerly a theater—and the old dining hall. He said that while some of the shared-use facilities would be compatible with the large- or small-volume spaces of the historic buildings, there would nonetheless be interior demolition of some portions.
Mr. Perry then described the proposed treatment of stormwater, which would be managed on the upper plateau as much as possible through techniques such as vegetated roofs, swales beside roadways, a large-scale bioswale on the site of a former parking area, and water storage areas below the structures and paving on the western portion of the site. He said that some paved area is being added for circulation near the perimeter of the site, but within the remainder of the site the paving would generally be limited to the existing paved areas, with some additions for service.
Mr. Perry presented a three-dimensional animation of the proposed treatment of the buildings and parking structure that are set into the western slope and ravine; he emphasized the courtyards that would be set within the new construction. The animation included a view of the site from Hains Point in East Potomac Park to illustrate the impact of the proposed development on the horizon from this viewpoint.
Mr. Perry then described the phasing of the proposed development. The first phase would include the central utility plant, to be located around the existing powerhouse; a portion of the parking; the large new building along the western slope; initial restoration of some of the shared-use spaces; and the security perimeter. The second phase would include renovation of the Center Building; construction of several new buildings around the historic core; parking and related work adjacent to the gates along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue; and the development on the east campus. The third phase would include the remaining new construction and parking along with the warehouse and delivery facility.
Mr. Perry concluded by presenting a numerical summary of the master plan proposals, tabulated according to the five overall development parcels identified in the master plan. He indicated the total existing building area of 880,000 gross square feet, and the proposed addition of four million square feet including parking. He indicated the building of 1.5 million square feet proposed for the west slope. A total of five million gross square feet—including parking and below-grade areas—would be located on the west campus, and an additional total of one million square feet would be on the east campus.
Mr. Abdur-Rahman followed with a description of the project status and schedule. He said that the master plan process is nearing completion, with the remaining agreements and approvals anticipated in December and January; this would provide the guidelines for future design of the project components. He acknowledged that there will be extensive ongoing discussion of issues related to historic preservation, transportation, and impacts on the site and local community. He said that GSA has already spent $28 million on stabilization and planning for the site and has awarded contracts for building preservation plans and historic structures reports, which will provide more detailed guidance on historic preservation priorities for individual buildings.
Mr. Abdur-Rahman concluded by highlighting the major benefits that he said would result from implementing the master plan: preservation of the historically important west campus; a solution for creating a headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security; and economic benefits for the community. He emphasized the $2.9 billion in construction expenditures which would provide employment and other economic benefits to the community, while also providing significant cost reductions to the government.
Mr. Powell asked about the timing of construction. Mr. Abdur-Rahman responded that construction awards could begin as early as spring 2009, with complete occupancy of the project scheduled for 2016.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the proposal is best understood by relating it to a typical university campus, which has a mix of large and small buildings. He compared the proposed large Coast Guard headquarters building to the large hospital building that would typically be located on a campus. He said that the challenge for this master plan, as with many universities, is to integrate the campus with the community rather than isolate it; however, the security concerns for this campus make the issue difficult or impossible to address.
Mr. Abdur-Rahman explained that the project team is working with community organizations on such topics as the environmental impact statement, and he added that the historic preservation programmatic agreement includes a provision to establish a citizen advisory council that will formalize the ongoing coordination with the community. He said that the community has accepted that the campus is a federal facility that does not provide routine public access, similar to the nearby military bases and other federal installations in the capital. He noted that St. Elizabeths has historically been a mental institution and never served as a public park. He said that the master plan provides for public access to the portions of the campus that are most important to the community, such as the historic cemetery and the Point, subject to limitations such as security screening and scheduling appointments. He reiterated that such limitations are routinely accepted for access to other federal facilities in the area.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how the proposed design guidelines for the Coast Guard headquarters building would relate to the concepts for this building that were previously presented to the Commission; he commented that the earlier concepts were discouraging while the current master plan proposal shows a more modestly scaled treatment of the building. Mr. Perry responded that the master plan materials include a set of design and landscape guidelines. Mr. Luebke confirmed that this information was provided to the Commission but was received only recently; he referred the Commission members to the executive summary. Mr. Perry said that the guidelines are extensive and thorough, addressing issues such as scale, material, and relationships to the rest of the campus, and would be part of the design process for each new building that is brought forward for review. Mr. Rybczynski commented that this would be particularly important for the Coast Guard building, which is unlike any existing built form on the campus; the other proposed buildings are generally similar to the scale and pattern of the existing historic buildings. He commented that the illustrated form of the Coast Guard building is "quite convincing" and expressed support for the concept of sinking courtyards into the building in order to keep the roofline low; however, he questioned whether this concept would be maintained as the building design is developed. Mr. Abdur-Rahman responded that the initial design work for the Coast Guard building resulted from an earlier appropriation of funds; upon approval of the master plan, the design and construction team will be required to follow the new design guidelines, and all projects will go through a thorough review process to ensure compatibility with the operational needs of DHS as well as adherence to the "spirit" of the master plan and design guidelines.
Mr. Luebke noted that several people in the audience may wish to address the Commission concerning the proposal. Chairman Powell recognized Elizabeth Merritt, deputy general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Ms. Merritt said that the Trust strongly objects to the proposed master plan. She reminded the Commission of the Trust's testimony in 2007 which stated the concern, shared by other consulting parties in the historic preservation Section 106 review process, that the proposed DHS headquarters would "overwhelm and destroy" this National Historic Landmark campus. She said that the consulting parties prepared a consensus document recommending a maximum of 2.5 million gross square feet on the site, and the National Capital Planning Commission had directed GSA to provide an alternative that was within this limit. She acknowledged that GSA and DHS have refined the proposal to site the new buildings more carefully in relation to this historic campus, to reuse a large portion of the buildings that contribute to the site's historic character, and to shift one million gross square feet of program to the east campus. However, she noted that the result is still five million gross square feet proposed for the west campus—3.8 million square feet of building space and 1.2 million square feet of parking, most of which is above ground. She said that this total is five times the site's current density and double the maximum that was recommended by the consulting parties.
Ms. Merritt explained that the national significance of the St. Elizabeths campus is based on the landscape, which was intended to serve therapeutic purposes, as much as on the built structures on the site. She said that the master plan responds to this concern by protecting the major open spaces on the upper plateau and placing the bulk of new construction on the vegetated western slopes, harming a character-defining element of the campus that forms an integral part of the green topographic bowl that frames central Washington. She said that the parking structures and security modifications would have severe negative impacts from a visual and planning perspective on the campus, the neighborhood, and views within and to the site.
Ms. Merritt emphasized that the Trust continues to oppose the proposed master plan even with the modifications that have been made. She said that the National Park Service has concluded that the negative impacts of the master plan proposals could result in the withdrawal of the site's designation as a National Historic Landmark. She recommended that the proposed density on the west campus should be reduced further in order to allow for more appropriate development; if this could not be achieved with the DHS program, she recommended that GSA find another tenant for this site. She said that this recommendation is shared by the Trust, the D.C. Preservation League, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, and the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.
Ms. Merritt raised additional concerns about the master plan. She said that the proposed phasing includes massive new construction in the first phase, including the Coast Guard headquarters and associated parking structure, while postponing rehabilitation of most of the historic buildings and landscape to the second and third phases which have not been funded. She therefore expressed concern that the project would halt—due to economic limitations or a change in the DHS program—before most of the needed preservation and mitigation measures are undertaken, leaving only the first phase with its major negative impacts and little benefit to the site or the community. She said that the Coast Guard could be accommodated on the site in a more appropriate manner but this would be difficult to achieve unless the overall proposed density is reduced. She also noted that the master plan relies on using National Park Service property for the proposed access to the west side of the campus, and she questioned whether the Park Service would cooperate in achieving the destruction of a National Historic Landmark.
Ms. Merritt concluded by emphasizing the importance of the Commission's action on the proposed master plan. She said that this project, like the Pentagon in the 1940s, would have the largest impact on the national capital in a generation. She urged the Commission to determine that the master plan is not yet ready for approval due to the magnitude of its impact and the unresolved questions about the implementation phasing. She also urged the Commission to recommend against the amount of density proposed for the west campus. Chairman Powell asked for copies of Ms. Merritt's testimony for the Commission members; Ms. Merritt and Mr. Luebke offered to provide them.
Rebecca Miller, executive director of the D.C. Preservation League (DCPL), then addressed the Commission. Ms. Miller reiterated Ms. Merritt's support of the consensus document prepared by the consulting parties in September 2007, which incorporated a compromise on historic preservation issues that was considered acceptable due to the likelihood of some losses occurring to the buildings and landscape. Ms. Miller cited the U.S. Department of the Interior's notification to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in October 2007 that the GSA proposal for the west campus posed a serious threat to the National Historic Landmark and was incompatible with the site's character-defining features. She said that the DCPL had supported the Commission's previous request for a revised proposal from GSA that would limit the program to 2.5 million square feet, adding that the National Capital Planning Commission had made the same request. She acknowledged that the master plan has been revised to reduce its negative impacts by shifting some of the program to the east campus, but she said that the changes are insufficient.
Ms. Miller said that the proposed siting of the Coast Guard headquarters is particularly problematic because of its impact on the wooded slope that defines the topographic bowl of central Washington; she cited the policy in the Comprehensive Plan that calls for preserving this natural feature. She noted the building's ten-acre footprint and its visibility from Washington and Virginia.
Ms. Miller explained DCPL's conclusion that the DHS program currently proposed for the west campus cannot be accommodated at this site; instead, DCPL recommends that the west campus be developed with mixed uses through a public-private partnership that would allow for extensive public access. She provided a statement by the developer Randy Alexander of the Alexander Company, which has redeveloped the National Park Seminary at Forest Glen near Washington; Mr. Alexander's statement said that the private sector can retrofit historic buildings more cost-effectively than the government, contributing to the revitalization of cities.
Ms. Miller said that DCPL questions the need to approve the master plan quickly due to the unresolved issues and unanswered questions; she cited the examples of the western access to the site which is dependent on the availability of Shepherd Parkway and approval of the proposed highway interchange, and the lack of approval by the D.C. Council for the planned facilities on the east campus. She also reiterated Ms. Merritt's concern about the lack of funding for the later phases of construction. She concluded by stating DCPL's request that the Commission not approve the master plan at this time and instead instruct GSA to further minimize the density on the west campus.
Don Hawkins addressed the Commission on behalf of the Committee of 100, where he formerly served as chairman. Mr. Hawkins contrasted the process for the Eisenhower Memorial, which Commission members had supported earlier in the meeting, with the problematic process for the St. Elizabeths site. He described the wide consensus that the proposal is too large for the site and said that the process has involved reducing the damage of the proposal while not bringing it down to an acceptable level. He acknowledged the potential value of consolidating DHS operations but said that a different location is needed; he also noted that some DHS operations would not be located at the consolidated headquarters, and he suggested that the overall organization of DHS facilities could be reconsidered. He said that the consensus maximum of 2.5 million square feet should be large enough to accommodate substantial facilities without the need to propose twice that amount. He added that the placement of DHS on the ridge line of the topographic bowl would be inappropriate for the symbolism of the city.
Mr. Powell acknowledged the positive effect of shifting some of the program to the east campus. He commented that any proposal for the site would be based on various assumptions, some of which were addressed in the discussion; he expressed concern that the viability of the current master plan is uncertain and asked about the timeline and coordination for outstanding questions such as use of the National Park Service land. Mr. Abdur-Rahman responded that the D.C. Council approval for the east campus plan is anticipated on December 16, followed by a series of steps to execute the plan; a memorandum of understanding with the D.C. government would be developed to guide further consultation, design, and construction. He noted that the east campus development is included in the second phase which has an anticipated occupancy date of 2014. He also said that it is common with large federal projects that the environmental review process occurs before the federal government has full control of a proposed site; the environmental review is actually a necessary step in the government's acquisition of a site. He said that the process is therefore not unusual in requiring further action concerning the east campus, Firth Sterling Avenue, and the widening of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. He described the additional issues related to the intended use of Shepherd Parkway, commenting on the "somewhat difficult discussions" with the National Park Service. He acknowledged the Park Service's careful evaluation process and the possibility that they will not agree to the transfer, but he explained that the Federal Highway Administration may nonetheless be able to arrange for construction of the western access road using its authority under Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. He said that the review process is continuing among the involved agencies, and no specific timeline can be provided for completion of this process.
Ms. Nelson asked for further explanation of how long the campus has been vacant. Mr. McGill explained that the federal government transferred the east campus to the D.C. government as part of the implementation of home rule; this transfer occurred in the late 1970s to early 1980s, with D.C. taking responsibility from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the provision of mental health services. He said that the federal government had also offered to transfer the west campus at that time but the D.C. government concluded that the cost of rehabilitation would be too high. The D.C. government occupied the west campus temporarily from approximately the mid-1980s until 2004, at which time D.C. returned the site to HHS; HHS in turn offered the site to GSA for disposal. By that date, GSA had identified the need for secure federal facilities in the future—an estimated ten million square feet within ten years—and concluded that the west campus would be an ideal location for such facilities. He said that the result of this history was that some buildings on the west campus were in active use until 2004, others were used for storage until that time, and others had been boarded up. He said that GSA has spent $13 million since 2004 to stabilize and secure the site.
Ms. Nelson commented that unused buildings can deteriorate quickly, and she asked what would happen to the buildings if funds are not appropriated beyond the first phase. Mr. McGill responded that GSA has been following the Department of the Interior's guidelines in mothballing the buildings, taking such measures as disconnecting utilities and providing for ventilation so that extremes of temperature or humidity are not trapped within the buildings. He said that the buildings are fairly stable but acknowledged that they will continue to deteriorate. Regarding the issue of funding the later phases, he explained that GSA has other projects that similarly rely on multiple appropriations over long periods of time. He offered the example of the Food and Drug Administration campus at White Oak near Silver Spring, where construction has been underway since 2001: the seventh building is now nearing completion with four more remaining to be built. He said that GSA has successfully requested each annual appropriation that is necessary to keep the project moving forward, based on the phased master plan. He said that the appropriation could be approved or rejected each year by Congress, but the decision to appropriate the funds for the first phase is a likely indication that Congress will continue to fund the implementation of the entire master plan. He noted that the Coast Guard had expressed concern about being the first agency to move to St. Elizabeths due to the possibility of no other DHS facilities moving to the site; he said that a subsequent Congressional report from 2006 said that the Coast Guard would not be the only agency at the site, which helps to address the concern about stopping after the first phase. He added that GSA subsequently worked with DHS to select this location for the entire DHS headquarters complex. He also explained that the project will include extensive construction costs for infrastructure such as utilities, which will be sized to serve the entire anticipated density; he said it is therefore unlikely that appropriations would be cancelled for future phases after the substantial investment has been made in infrastructure.
Peter May of the National Park Service provided a further response to the potential use of Shepherd Parkway. He said that federal agencies could agree to transfer jurisdiction of land between each other, and GSA had approached the Park Service about such a transfer for this park. However, the Park Service's internal process for such a transfer involves assessing the potential impact of the transfer on the park land, and the Park Service soon concluded that this land was too important to be given over to use as a road; he noted the topography of the park and the damage that would result from cutting a road into it, adding that the Park Service's own plan for the park calls for protecting it by avoiding the placement of trails. He explained that even with the Park Service's refusal to offer a voluntary transfer, the transfer could still occur through the Section 4(f) process, in which the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) can make the decision to construct the road. He said that the FHWA process would include an analysis that the Park Service could comment on, but the final decision would rest with FHWA. He emphasized the importance of the process and analysis under Section 4(f), and he anticipated that the FHWA analysis would be available later in November with the entire process due for completion in March.
Mr. Belle commented on the importance of the project for Washington's future, the competence of the people involved, and the "frighteningly huge" numbers that have been presented. He acknowledged the "rational statements" from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, D.C. Preservation League, and National Park Service, commenting that their concerns were carefully thought out and raised valid questions. He said that he was trying to imagine a scenario in which these differences would be resolved and the project built, in order to picture the impact on the site and the people working there. He said that the resulting question was whether the master plan would offer something unique that would improve the lives of the employees, and he concluded that the master plan lacks such a quality and does not offer sufficient innovation. He characterized the vision for the site's future as "depressing" and without hope; he recommended that a master plan should strive for something different and unique rather than just a larger version of the existing conditions. He therefore concluded that the Commission should not approve the submitted master plan.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the complexity of the project comes from the conflict between the public importance implied by the site's designation as a National Historic Landmark and the site's actual history of having only very limited public access, with use primarily by patients and visiting relatives. He said that its landmark status is therefore different from that of actual public buildings. He said that the proposal to have 14,000 people working on the campus and enjoying the historic buildings would therefore be sufficient. He acknowledged that other uses for the campus could be interesting, such as housing or a college campus, and noted that such uses could allow elimination of the proposed perimeter fence and reduction in the built area. But he said he was not convinced that such an alternative currently exists, and rejection of the master plan to await an unknown ideal use could result in ongoing deterioration and the loss of the buildings. He said that the master plan shows an extensive effort to save buildings, perhaps to excess; he said that the proposal may suffer from the "preservation trap" of trying to save everything with the result of compromising everything. He said that a different approach of demolishing half the buildings on the site might allow for accommodating the Coast Guard headquarters without harming the western slope, although this would be a highly controversial proposal. He said that the master plan instead tries to respond to many concerns and as a result does not make anyone happy. He summarized his conclusions that the proposed use of the site is appropriate, notwithstanding the disagreement of others; that the program is necessarily excessive, since the site is large enough to absorb a lot of additional construction; and that the huge project is an appropriate response to the huge problem of consolidating DHS. He said that forcing the consolidation to move to another site would simply create a huge problem somewhere else, which would not be a helpful solution. He therefore recommended moving forward with the master plan and beginning the process of determining the appearance of the proposed buildings, a subject that is appropriately not covered in the master plan.
Ms. Nelson expressed doubt that any entity other than the federal government would be able to undertake the revitalization of this campus. She therefore concluded that the Commission and the concerned civic groups should accept the scope of the project and should devote their efforts to "try to make this the best big defended castle on the hill that we can get." She acknowledged that the visibility of this high-security agency on the horizon could be uncomfortable but said that this would be a sign of the times that we live in.
Mr. Powell commented that he is sympathetic with the testimony that was provided. He also commended GSA for saving the historic buildings, which he said would be a very positive feature if the project moves forward in accordance with the master plan. He expressed agreement with Mr. Rybczynski that the site is large enough to absorb more construction. He summarized his view that the master plan saves more than it destroys. He expressed interest in seeing how the building designs are developed, beginning with the design of the Coast Guard headquarters, and expressed the hope that the design would be able to address some of the concerns that have been raised.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the master plan; Mr. Belle abstained, and Mr. Powell noted that the implementation of the master plan would be subject to other factors that might prevent it from moving forward.
D. National Park Service (continued)
1. CFA 20/NOV/08-3, West Potomac Park Levee Project. 17th Street, south of Constitution Avenue, N.W. Improvements to the flood protection levee system including a new floodgate across 17th Street. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/08-2, Information presentation.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal from the National Park Service (NPS) for permanent refinements to the West Potomac Park levee and the concept design of a temporary structure to close an opening on 17th Street, N.W. in the event of major flooding. He reminded the Commission of the information presentation given at the October meeting that illustrated the existing levee, which relies on the use of sandbags and earthen fill to close 17th Street. He noted the one-year deadline from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build an improved closure structure before publication of new flood zone maps; failure to address the issue would result in the increase of flood insurance rates in a wide downtown area. He said the concept designs by the Olin Partnership were developed after months of consultation between the firm and various agencies, resulting in two alternative schemes using post-and-panel barriers with new landscaping. Both schemes will affect the historic landscape; he explained that the levee wall in the second scheme would be higher because of the lower ground elevation but, according to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, may have less impact on views to and from the structure.
Mr. Luebke noted that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board would be hearing the case in the afternoon, and that NPS hopes to have a preferred alternative within a month because of the urgency in resolving the flood zone issues. Mr. Luebke added that the Commission had visited the site that morning to examine a mockup of both alternatives. Mr. Luebke then introduced Peter May of the National Park Service, who asked landscape architect David Rubin of the Olin Partnership to present the alternatives.
Mr. Rubin began a slide presentation on the project with an overview of the existing levee, which runs along the north side of the Reflecting Pool and the World War II Memorial, then north through Constitution Gardens to the area where the gap along 17th Street occurs. He noted the project's location in relation to the Washington Monument and the Lockkeeper's House, and said that materials used in some adjacent cultural resources had influenced the two concept designs, called Alternative 4 and Alternative 5. He illustrated significant view corridors from within the site and from outside looking toward the Monumental Core and the major monuments, and called attention to the ridge lines that run through Mall and form part of the levee system.
Mr. Rubin explained that, following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA decided to discontinue its certification of the existing levee system, thereby extending the 100-year floodplain for Washington to encompass much of Federal Triangle and other parts of central Washington. A new closure system is proposed to better address the 17th Street gap and he emphasized the urgency of selecting an alternative. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the 17th Street gap is the only concern or if flooding could also come from the gap shown near Fort McNair; Mr. Rubin replied that this gap in Southwest Washington is also a concern and would be addressed through additional measures.
Mr. Rubin reviewed the site in relation to the L'Enfant and McMillan Plans and presented a plan showing the site after the canal in this vicinity had been filled in, which he said occurred in approximately 1910. He noted the presence of significant trees on the site of the proposed closure. About 75 percent or more are mature specimens; most are elms but there are also black walnuts and a significant sycamore on the Washington Monument Grounds.
Mr. Rubin explained that the new closure structure will need to reach an elevation datum of 18.7 feet; the ground level varies from about 12 to 13 feet at the intersection of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue to 8 to 9 feet on 17th Street near the World War II Memorial. Other graphics illustrated both types of levee system—a wall and a berm—and the requirement for a "no-plant zone": a levee wall would be built in the center of a 30-foot-wide zone in which no trees or shrubs could be planted; if an earthen berm is built, the no-plant zone would be 92 feet wide, or approximately 46 feet on either side of the center line. Mr. Rybczynski asked whether the no-plant zone for a wall would be required whether berms were used up to the wall or not; Mr. Rubin replied that it would, due to the concern that the roots would interfere with the structural integrity of the wall. Ms. Nelson commented that additional trees might not be desirable if they block important views; Mr. Powell noted that a few small trees are shown on the plan, and Mr. Rubin confirmed that some cherry trees would be planted in Alternative 4.
Mr. Rubin presented illustrations of the post-and-panel system. Posts would be erected when a flood is imminent, and panels would then be inserted to create a temporary closure. He described Alternatives 4 and 5, presenting models of each design. In Alternative 4, a wall would be built within Constitution Gardens; the wall would extend to the intersection of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, where it would end in a plaza. The post-and-panel system would extend east across 17th Street to the Washington Monument Grounds, where it would meet another permanent wall. This proposal includes the longest distance for a closure system that NPS is willing to handle in a flood emergency.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of rectangular markings on the drawings. Mr. Rubin responded that these indicate the extent of the underground footings required to stabilize the posts; the visible portion would be small square capped holes at the surface where posts could be inserted. Ms. Nelson noted that the Commission is primarily concerned with aesthetics but asked which alternative would be faster to set up and more effective. Mr. Rubin responded that both are roughly equivalent. He confirmed that the panels would be stored nearby for both alternatives, indicating the location of the storage for Alternative 4.
Mr. Rubin explained that the graphic shows Phase 1, which lacks any aesthetic decoration such as stone facing, presenting just the structural walls; Phase 1 would involve minimal grading. He presented other slides illustrating Phase 2 of Alternative 4, after grading is completed and stone is applied to the wall to make it relate to the context of the Mall. On the west side of 17th Street, the land would be graded so that only the top of the wall would be exposed; he noted that the top of the wall will need some reveal for inspection, but in some areas the exposed wall would not be visible in profile due to the shape of the earthen berms.
Mr. McKinnell asked what the timing would be for Phase 1 and Phase 2; Mr. Rubin responded this had not been determined because there is no funding for Phase 2 yet. Ms. Nelson commented that this is a problem because it would not be desirable for the project to stop after Phase 1; Mr. Rubin agreed. He illustrated how the wall would appear in Phase 2 of Alternative 4, with the stone veneer applied, from different vantage points and under various conditions. He pointed out how the top of the wall would appear at the level of the finished grade.
Mr. Rubin then presented plans for Alternative 5, combining a wall and an earthen berm which would be located further south on 17th Street near the World War II Memorial. A freestanding wall in Constitution Gardens would extend from 17th Street to the Overlook Plaza. Alternative 5 would require grading in Phase 1 to create the berm and also to integrate the wall into the Constitution Gardens topography. Mr. Rubin indicated the notation on the plan for trees that would be removed. Mr. Luebke said that the exact location of the wall in Constitution Gardens is probably flexible and could be moved 15 to 20 feet north, resulting in only two trees being removed rather than four. Mr. Rubin said this location would be possible, though if the wall were moved further north it would begin to interfere with the root system of the significant sycamore; the design team wants to keep construction away from the tree for a distance of about 1.5 times the diameter of its canopy.
Mr. Rubin presented more views of Phase 1 of Alternative 5. He discussed the height of this alternative: at this location, where the ground elevation is 8 to 9 feet, the goal of a barrier reaching to 18.7 feet would require a 9- to 10-foot-high wall at certain points, higher than in Alternative 4. Ms. Nelson asked where the railing would be located. Mr. Rubin replied that this detail would require more design work and may be affected by the location of the panel storage room. Ms. Nelson asked how the panels would be installed; Mr. Rubin confirmed that a crane would be necessary in implementing either alternative.
Mr. Rubin presented slides comparing the existing conditions with Phase 1 of Alternative 5. Another slide showed the view from Constitution Gardens; the no-plant zone here could be designed to emphasize views toward the Washington Monument. Ms. Nelson asked if the only addition in Phase 2 would be stone cladding; Mr. Rubin confirmed that this would be the purpose of Phase 2 in both alternatives. Ms. Nelson then asked about the surface material if the cladding is not applied, and Mr. Rubin said that the concrete wall would be exposed. He presented other views comparing both phases of the two alternatives and passed models of both to the Commission members.
Mr. Luebke noted that the abutment in Alternative 5 illustrated as a broad trapezoidal retaining wall had previously been shown as a small, roughly square structure; he asked Mr. Rubin why this structure had been changed, since it seemed this version would have more of an impact on the site. Mr. Rubin replied that it had previously been explored as both a wall and a structure, but they were now trying to conceal the storage structure within a building resembling other small buildings in the project area. Mr. Luebke asked whether, instead of a structure about forty to fifty feet long, the storage could be configured with a visible face of approximately eighteen feet, therefore having a smaller visual impact. Mr. Rubin said this could be possible, subject to further study by the Army Corps of Engineers and the consultant engineering firms.
Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson asked for clarification on what is and is not funded in this project; Mr. Belle emphasized the importance of the question for the Commission's action. Mr. Rubin referred the question to Peter May of the National Park Service. Mr. May explained that funding for Phase 1 will come from the D.C. government, which has committed $2.5 million and may be able to give more. This funding will pay for the necessary flood protection elements: the bare concrete wall, the post-and-panel system, and minimal grading. Mr. Belle asked whether Phase 1 would include berming against the wall but not cladding it. Mr. May responded that Phase 1 would include only limited berming; the emphasis would be on constructing the wall with minimal necessary grading, or perhaps more if the berm is integral to flood protection. He confirmed that the Phase 1 proposal is the minimum construction needed to provide the flood protection.
Mr. McKinnell asked if the design would be different if the Phase I budget were treated as the total amount that would be available. Mr. May responded that the team had tried to find a solution within the $2.5 million budget and determined that no post-and-panel system would be feasible; he said the only solution that came close involved piling jersey barriers and concrete sewer structures in an arc-shaped alignment. Mr. McKinnell asked if this would be only for the removable closure; Mr. May responded that this would be for the entire extent of the project. The solution could work because it would have to be placed far to the north, where the ground is higher and a structure could consequently be lower, but it could not be built where the elevation is lower. Mr. May said the team had looked at other ways of treating the closure but none would work. He confirmed that this process has resulted in the two alternatives now being presented.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the cost of the various segments; Mr. Rubin confirmed that the movable portion is the most expensive component, while the wall would cost the same in any version. Mr. McKinnell asked how much of the $2.5 million would be used for the temporary closure. Mr. Rubin said he understood that the post-and-panel system costs $10,000 per linear foot. Molly O'Neill of the Olin Partnership clarified that in Alternative 4, the post and panel system would be about 190 feet long and cost $1.9 million; and for Alternative 5, it would be about 161 feet long and cost approximately $1.6 million. Ms. Nelson then asked how much more Phase 2 would cost than Phase 1. Ms. O'Neill replied that there would be no additional cost for the post-and-panel system, and the cost of the wall cladding is not yet known. Mr. Powell commented that Alternative 4 requires more cladding on a longer wall than Alternative 5.
Chairman Powell recognized David Maloney, director of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (DCHPO). Mr. Maloney presented the position of his office on the levee alternatives and said Alternative 5 (for placement of the levee wall closure near the World War II Memorial) had been prepared partly in response to comments from the DCHPO, which had consulted with the National Park Service and advised them to consider a location set back from Constitution Avenue. Mr. Maloney reviewed the reasons for this advice: The first was that this would be a less obtrusive site, not on the "doorstep" of the Washington Monument and Constitution Gardens. The second reason was topography, which is flat near the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 17th Street but more varied further south, near the existing 1930s levee. The third reason was the direction of the levee, which in Alternative 5 would run parallel to 17th Street for only a short distance before running perpendicular to 17th Street, and so would have less impact on views to and from 17th Street. The fourth reason was the structures involved in the levee: it is important to avoid building retaining walls on the Washington Monument Grounds, which is the reason to consider building a structure into the earth levee rather than a retaining wall, and the structure could be similar to other small structures in the vicinity. Mr. Maloney said that Alternative 5 is probably shown too far to the south. He noted that the structure shown on the Washington Monument side could be changed, and that the levee on the west side, in Constitution Gardens, could combine a berm at the top with a retaining wall near the street, with the wall possibly stepped instead of curved. Ms. Nelson asked if Mr. Maloney wants the retaining wall to step down to create a better transition with the walk; Mr. Maloney explained that using one or maybe two steps would soften the height and avoid the construction of a tall wall at this point.
Mr. Luebke said it was important to note that both alternatives were still conceptual and could be softened and changed, giving the example of treating the end of the Constitution Gardens wall in Alternative 5. He also noted that more berming could be added to minimize the exposure of the wall to the street. He said that what appears in the alternatives is the broadest approach regarding impacts as seen from the north or the south, and recommended not focusing too much yet on details. Chairman Powell noted that the presentation was for concept approval. Mr. Luebke said that the design team is looking for direction, and added that the Commission could approve both alternatives or neither; Mr. Powell asked for comments from the Commission members.
Mr. McKinnell asked whether, if they voted to approve either alternative, they could be voting to approve a Phase 1 which might then be permanent; Mr. Luebke said that this is possible. Mr. McKinnell said he would then vote against both alternatives, since the prospect of Phase 1 staying there with Commission approval would be "really horrendous." Ms. Nelson agreed that the funding is a key issue. Mr. Rybczynski added that insurance rates could soar if a design is not implemented; Mr. Rubin confirmed that if FEMA finalizes the enlarged flood zone, insurance rates would rise for many residents and businesses. Mr. May said that funding for all the levee improvements would likely be available soon. He said that funding will come through the Army Corps of Engineers, perhaps within the next funding cycle, and the National Park Service may know by March whether money will be available to implement Phase 2. Mr. Luebke clarified that the funding has already been requested. Mr. May added that it has been requested more than once but is not yet funded; he emphasized that the Park Service does not want the bare concrete wall of Phase 1 to remain on the Mall for long, and would do what it could to ensure that Phase 2 is funded. He added that the project arose at a time when it could not go through the regular funding process.
Mr. Rybczynski said that a factor in favor of Alternative 5 is that it is the more discrete and minimal proposal since more of the concrete structure would be set among trees rather than out on the open lawn. He said that he did not feel strongly between the two, though he might favor the preference of Mr. Maloney and support Alternative 5. Ms. Nelson said that she would like to see further development of Alternative 5, particularly of the mass of the storage structure against the berm and its relation to the street, and noted that it could be the better design.
Mr. McKinnell said that he favors Alternative 4. As the Commission of Fine Arts is "in the business of aesthetics," he said that a curving wall leading toward the Washington Monument from the intersection could be—like all the work from the Olin Partnership—"a very elegant and really quite beautiful intervention." With Alternative 5, he said, the wall blocking the view of the Washington Monument is unattractive. Mr. Belle agreed with Mr. McKinnell, saying that the site visit had convinced him that Alternative 4 is less intrusive than Alternative 5, and he therefore prefers it. He added that the Commission should not approve either without urging that funding be secured before construction begins.
Mr. Powell said he had been favoring Alternative 5 because the wall in Constitution Gardens could be built discretely but shared the concern of Ms. Nelson that the design of the storage structure in Alternative 5 reminds him of World War II ammunition bunkers. He said that this feature would be an interesting challenge for the Olin Partnership. Ms. Nelson noted how the view from cars on Constitution Avenue would be affected, with the wall in Alternative 5 blocking the view toward the Washington Monument.
Mr. McKinnell asked whether any study had been done of Alternative 4 showing the ground bermed to the top of the wall. Mr. Rubin said that the designers had done several versions of Alternative 4 trying to further hide the wall. He said he prefers this alternative because it is important to incorporate a purpose into the levee structure, such as a plaza near the Lockkeeper's House with interpretive elements, in addition to protection from a flood that may never happen. He said this would fit better with the purpose of the National Mall, teaching people about American history. He said that the impact of the wall on the east side of 17th Street could possibly be further reduced to lessen the impact on views of the Washington Monument.
Mr. Luebke said that the position of the staff is that both alternatives are reasonable and ideally the solution should take advantage of interpreting the treatment of water. He noted that Alternative 5 requires removing trees to create the structure, and if this could be minimized, it would create a potential place for redevelopment within the Park Service's plan for the National Mall. He said that the area is currently isolated from the Mall composition, but clearing it would result in a better visual relationship to the major elements of the Mall landscape: the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and other structures to the east. He emphasized the opportunity in this project to reinforce these symbolic connections.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission approve both alternatives and have both developed further for final presentation; Mr. McKinnell agreed that this would be desirable. Mr. Powell said that both options had good features, and the design team could respond to the suggestions that were provided. Mr. Luebke asked Mr. Powell to clarify whether he was asking for development of both alternatives or one; Mr. Powell said both. Mr. May said that NPS somewhat favors Alternative 4 and would appreciate the chance to resolve a preferred alternative, developing it as part of environmental compliance and then bringing the preferred alternative for final approval. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson expressed their support for this proposal. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concepts for both Alternative 4 and Alternative 5 and requested further development of a preferred alternative.
2. CFA 20/NOV/08-4, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W. at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Stone selection and text engraving technique. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/08- 1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service, on behalf of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., of stone samples to be used on the face of the inscription wall in the proposed memorial to Dr. King. He reminded the Commission that the design and layout of inscriptions and selection of stones were issues remaining from the Commission's approval of the memorial design in September. He noted that the Commission had inspected stone panels on the memorial site earlier in the day, and the panels included samples of carved lettering to show the appearance and range of stones and different lettering techniques. He said that the presentation did not include a plan for the quotations nor for signage, which will be submitted in the future. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service, who turned the presentation over to Dr. Edward Jackson, executive architect for the Foundation.
Dr. Jackson said the Commission members had seen eight samples at the site, and the Foundation hoped to get the Commission's endorsement of the Foundation's preferred stone, Atlantic Green granite. He noted that the Commission members had been able to speak with the stone engraver for the project. Chairman Powell expressed support for the Foundation's preferred stone based on the site inspection; Ms. Nelson agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the Atlantic Green granite that was recommended by the Foundation.
E. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the designs for three medals. Before presenting the new design proposals, Ms. Budow provided the Commission a sample of a past three-inch bronze medal to give a sense of the scale for these large medals, as requested by the Commission at the previous meeting; she also distributed copies of the Mint's latest catalogue. Ms. Nelson asked if the sample bronze medal is the same thickness as a gold medal; Ms. Budow responded that gold medals might be slightly thicker, and that the thickness may vary with individual medal designs.
1. CFA 20/NOV/08-5, Congressional Gold Medal for Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow presented a single design proposal for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, which will be produced in accordance with Public Law 108-60 "in recognition of his outstanding and enduring contributions to maintaining the security of all freedom-loving nations." She summarized Mr. Blair's biography and his continuing involvement in world affairs. The proposed obverse depicts Mr. Blair in three-quarter profile with the inscriptions "Our ultimate weapon is not our guns but our beliefs," "Speech to Congress 2003," and "Tony Blair." The quotation is from Mr. Blair's address to the U.S. Congress on July 17, 2003. She presented the proposed reverse which includes the quotation "A staunch and steadfast ally of the United States" in the center; two clasped hands above to represent the strong relationship between the U.S. and the U.K; the flags of the two nations at each side; and at the bottom the text "Act of Congress" and "2003."
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the overall design but questioned the likeness of Mr. Blair. She said that the pose is good but characterized his appearance as "deadening" and failing to convey his vitality, adding that one might have difficulty recognizing that the image is of Mr. Blair. She also questioned the clasped hands that are floating on the reverse. She acknowledged that the image of clasped hands is often used but said that it appears odd or amputated due to the lack of a border. Ms. Budow suggested that some sort of frame might be needed; Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Powell agreed with Ms. Nelson that the portrait isn't recognizable and the hands should be revised, while otherwise expressing support for the overall layout of the medal. Ms. Nelson suggested that the hands could be larger and extend almost to the edge of the medal. She commented further that the proposed reverse has three elements of nearly the same size: the quotation, the hands, and the flags. She recommended that one of the elements, perhaps the hands, should be emphasized.
Ms. Budow acknowledged that Mr. Blair had provided the Mint with photographs and had indicated a preferred image for use by the Mint's artist. She said that the Commission's concerns with the portrait could be addressed during the three-dimensional sculpting process, when more detail can be added.
Mr. Powell asked whether the medals typically include an edge; Ms. Budow responded that there is usually only a lip, as in the sample she had brought. Mr. Rybczynski said that the quotation and flags might be sufficient, and he suggested omitting the clasped hands. Ms. Nelson agreed that this option should be pursued, and she suggested that the quotation could then be moved upward and given more prominence. Mr. Powell agreed with this proposal. Ms. Nelson said that the result would be greater emphasis on the paired flags to symbolize the alliance of the nations. Ms. Budow offered to convey the Commission's recommendation to Mr. Blair.
Mr. Rybczynski emphasized the problem of the poor likeness and said that it results from using a photographic image on a medal; he said that coins and medals should instead use idealized images. He acknowledged the value of the artist using a photograph as a springboard for the design, but reiterated that a medal should not simply reproduce a photograph; he likened the result to an ordinary souvenir-shop medal and said that the resulting design lacks dignity. Mr. Belle suggested that perhaps the Mint was using the wrong photograph, commenting that the image appears to be a likeness of former Senator Tom Daschle; Ms. Nelson agreed.
Chairman Powell asked if the Commission would like to approve the medal subject to the recommended changes, but Ms. Nelson said she would like to see a further submission of a revised design. She asked if an additional submission would be possible; Ms. Budow responded that the Mint could convey the request to Mr. Blair's office and the result would depend on how soon Mr. Blair wants the medal produced. Mr. Luebke said this is an issue that the Commission has discussed previously: the Commission offers advice as part of the review process but the decisions are made by the recipient of the medal. Ms. Nelson reiterated that the image of Mr. Blair is not as "sparkling" as he is in person, and instead makes him look dead.
Chairman Powell said that the Commission could convey its comments to the Mint, and the discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 20/NOV/08-6, Medal for Henry Merritt Paulson Jr., Secretary of the Treasury. Design for a bronze medal and duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow presented a single design proposal for the medal honoring Mr. Paulson, explaining that the Mint has historically struck a medal to honor each Secretary of the Treasury. She gave an overview of Mr. Paulson's tenure and duties as Secretary of the Treasury, and she described his long-term commitment to conservation and advocacy for birds of prey, particularly the peregrine falcon.
Ms. Budow presented the proposed obverse design, which includes the inscriptions "Secretary of the Treasury" and "Henry M. Paulson Jr." and an image of Mr. Paulson based on his official portrait photograph. She then presented the reverse design, which depicts a peregrine falcon in the center, flanked by the seal of the Department of the Treasury on the left and the Great Seal of the United States on the right; in the background is an image of the U.S. Treasury Building with the inscription "July 10, 2006," the date his service as Secretary began.
Mr. Powell asked about the symbolism of the falcon; Ms. Budow said that it simply refers to Mr. Paulson's involvement in the conservation of this species. She clarified that it is not a symbol of the Treasury Department and that Mr. Paulson wanted the falcon as a prominent element on the medal. Ms. Nelson said that the three sets of images will make the reverse of the medal difficult to read, commenting that the falcon appears to be holding the U.S. seal in its beak. Ms. Budow responded that the reverse may be sculpted to make the falcon in higher relief and more prominent than the seals. Ms. Nelson questioned whether the two seals are necessary; Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Nelson said that the Treasury Building and the falcon alone may be enough for the design. On the obverse, she commented favorably on the likeness of Paulson but commented that she has never seen him without his glasses on; she said that his bald head works well with the lettering as a design element.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposed inclusion on the reverse of both the eagle of the U.S. Seal and the falcon would be confusing: people might think the falcon is an eagle, and conclude that there are two eagles. He agreed with Ms. Nelson that eliminating the seals would improve the design.
Ms. Budow said that the medal for a previous secretary had two seals and that Mr. Paulson had seen and liked that idea. Mr. Powell said the design should be simplified. Ms. Nelson said that the medal was like the state coins that tended to have too many elements; she said that the medal needs to have a main idea, and the falcon is important to Mr. Paulson's life. She supported the idea of expressing his conservation leadership on the medal.
Mr. Belle supported the recommendation to revise the reverse design to avoid creating a confused image. Ms. Budow asked whether the specific proposed revision is to eliminate the seals; Mr. Powell said that this would be the best solution since Mr. Paulson feels strongly about the importance of the falcon. Ms. Nelson suggested that the elements could be retained if the composition is revised, such as by placing the seals on the right and moving the falcon to the left; Mr. Belle agreed that various solutions could be explored and suggested that the Mint study the design further.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission that there are too many elements and something should be removed; Mr. Belle agreed. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
3. CFA 20/NOV/08-7, Medal for Edmund C. Moy, Director of the United States Mint. Design for bronze medal and duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow presented several design alternatives for the proposed medal honoring the director of the U.S. Mint, Edmund C. Moy, explaining that the Mint has historically struck a medal to honor each director. She gave a brief biography of Mr. Moy, including his accomplishments at the Mint. She noted in particular noted his goal of achieving artistic excellence and "a new Renaissance" in the design of coins and medals. She emphasized that Mr. Moy has requested the preparation of a variety of alternatives and wants to receive the Commission's comments before he makes a recommendation on the final design. She said that Mr. Moy sees this medal as an artistic opportunity to suggest the future direction of coin and medal design.
Ms. Budow presented four designs for the obverse of the medal, all featuring a right-facing "beveled" portrait head of Mr. Moy. She explained that the highest point of the relief will occur at the front of the face in the center of the medal, with a gradual reduction in height toward the left. Rake marks or hatch marks on the surface of the portrait are intentional and, according to Mr. Moy, depict him as a "work in progress." Ms. Nelson observed that all four designs use the same portrait but differ in their lettering. Ms. Budow clarified the differences among the inscriptions: #DM-O-01A, has "Edmund C. Moy" and "38th Director" on two lines; #DM-O-01B has both inscriptions in smaller lettering and on a single line; #DM-O-01C has only "Edmund C. Moy" in larger lettering; and #DM-O-01D has "Edmund C. Moy" and "38th Director" in two lines, as in 1A, but in larger lettering. She noted that three of the four designs have a textured field while 1D is shown with a flat field; either treatment could be used for any of the proposed lettering configurations. She also indicated the incised line along the profile of Mr. Moy's face; Mr. Powell said this feature creates a distorting effect, causing the image to appear out of focus. Ms. Budow explained that the highest point of relief would be 15-20% higher than is typical for a medal.
Ms. Nelson expressed enthusiasm for the design of the obverse and the dynamic quality of the high-relief profile. She supported #DM-O-01C as having the best appearance; she noted that this alternative has less text by providing only Mr. Moy's name, but she observed that the missing text is the phrase "38th Director" which does not directly refer to the U.S. Mint and therefore does not convey substantially more information than his name alone. She said that the boldness of the simple inscription on #DM-O-01C is in keeping with the boldness of the portrait, while the text on #DM-O-01B appears undersized.
Mr. McKinnell said that the phrase "38th Director" is problematic because it does not refer to the U.S. Mint. Mr. Powell agreed that the phrase is irrelevant by itself; he suggested that the solution might depend on what text is included on the reverse. Ms. Budow said that there is no reference to the Mint proposed on the reverse alternatives that will be presented. Mr. Powell supported Ms. Nelson's recommendation for #DM-O-01C as the simplest design and noted the Commission's consensus in favor of this alternative. Ms. Budow asked for a recommendation on the textured or flat field. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell supported the textured field due to the additional tactile quality.
Ms. Budow then presented the five designs for the medal's reverse. #DM-R-01 includes a female figure of Liberty holding a torch with abstracted rays of light that shine into the 21st century, represented by 21 stars. The image of the figure striding into the 21st century also represents the Mint's desire to move forward into the future. Ms. Budow presented three related alternatives based on a symbolic torch of liberty illuminating the darkness; the varying gradations of texture in the field would suggest a fading from light to dark. Ms. Budow said that the design represents the ideals of enlightenment and liberty, and also Director Moy's desire for his tenure at the Mint to represent "transparency and enlightened management." #DM-R-02A includes two inscriptions in Latin: along the upper rim is the inscription "Tua Lux et Libertas Seculor Seculorum" ("Thy Light and Liberty Forever and Ever"), and along the lower rim is "In Deo Speramus" ("In God We Trust"). #DM-R-02B places both phrases along the lower rim, and #DM-R-02C has no text, with only the torch and textured field. Ms. Budow then presented the final alternative for the reverse, #DM-R-03, which shows a standing female figure representing the Beauty of Design, pushing out with both hands the edge of excellence along the rim of the medal. This design is intended to represent "extending the possibilities of coinage and commerce" and also symbolizes the Mint; the athletic quality of the figure indicates the energy needed to reach new heights of excellence. The inscriptions include "The Edge of Excellence" along the upper rim and "In Deo Speramus" along the lower rim.
Ms. Nelson said she liked the three alternatives that depict the torch's light against the textured background, commenting that this concept could be effective in the actual medal. She asked if this would be a similar texture as that proposed on the obverse; Ms. Budow responded that it would probably be somewhat different. Ms. Nelson said that the dynamic obverse should be accompanied by a contemporary reverse, such as the alternative with only the flame and no inscription, which she called an interesting way to organize the medal. Mr. Rybczynski agreed with Ms. Nelson that the flame designs for the reverse are best, commenting that the torch is a nice symbol.
Mr. Belle asked why the text would be in Latin; Ms. Budow responded that Mr. Moy had requested this. Mr. Rybczynski commented that it would be odd and mysterious not to have the name of the U.S. Mint appear on the medal; in time, people will not remember who Mr. Moy was and a more complete identification of his position would be more appropriate than a Latin inscription. He noted that the previously presented medal honoring Mr. Paulson clearly identifies him as the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Powell agreed, commenting that a phrase such as "Director of the U.S. Mint" should appear somewhere on the medal, without using Latin.
Ms. Budow commented on the difficulty of graphically depicting the three-dimensional texture of the medal's surface. Mr. Powell said that the Commission members understood the proposed texture and commented that it would be successful.
Mr. Belle agreed to support #DM-R-02C, showing the torch surrounded by open space, which he described as and interesting composition with strong symbolism. Ms. Nelson added that the resulting medal would have a very minimal design, with just Mr. Moy's name and portrait on one side and the torch on the other; Mr. Powell commented that this would be "a real art medal." Mr. Belle suggested a motion to recommend this simple design. Mr. Luebke said that the additional text discussed by the Commission could be edge-incused in order to avoid adding elements to the obverse and reverse; Ms. Nelson added that the edge could easily accommodate text because the medals are quite thick. Ms. Budow clarified that the incusing process would require a raised field on the faces of the medal; she offered to have this option studied further. Ms. Nelson commented that the medal honoring Mr. Moy's predecessor clearly identifies the title of 37th Director of the Mint on the reverse; Mr. Powell noted the prominence of this text in the design of that medal. He suggested that the Commission could recommend one of the other torch designs for the reverse with text included, and the proposed Latin text could be replaced by the identification of Mr. Moy's title. Mr. Belle supported this suggestion; Ms. Nelson commented that the result would not be as minimal as the design that the Commission was considering. Mr. Powell agreed that the clear field would be desirable although the text may be necessary. Mr. Belle suggested that the title could appear with Mr. Moy's name on the obverse, but Mr. Rybczynski said that this would result in an excessive amount of text on that face, and Mr. Powell noted that the portrait would take up half of the obverse. Mr. Belle commented that the large size of the medal results in sufficient room for the text on the obverse; Ms. Nelson said that even Mr. Moy's date of appointment could be included. Mr. Powell recommended placing the text along the rim of the reverse with the torch at the center. Mr. Rybczynski said that the medal should convey information rather than emphasize excessive novelty. He noted that the medal for Mr. Moy's predecessor includes the date of the Mint's establishment which is interesting information; in contrast, he characterized the proposed elimination of all text on the reverse as "pretentious." Mr. Powell reiterated the compromise of including English text along the rim; Mr. Rybczynski supported this proposal. Ms. Nelson said she would agree to this if the text is kept near the rim so that the effect of the varying texture and light is clearly visible across the central portion of the reverse. Mr. Belle characterized this proposal as a compromise that he would support.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission recommended #DM-O-01C for the obverse and a version of #DM-R-02B for the reverse with the Latin text to be replaced by a listing of Mr. Moy's title as 38th Director of the U.S. Mint.
Chairman Powell returned the sample medal to Ms. Budow. Mr. Luebke said that the Mint has expressed interest in discussing with the Commission members the coins and medals issued in the past two years; he said he would arrange a time in the coming months for the Commission members to meet with the Mint representatives.
F. Department of State
CFA 20/NOV/08-8, International Center. Embassy of Morocco, International Drive, Lot #4. New chancery building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/SEPT/07-4.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the design for the Kingdom of Morocco's new chancery at the International Center. He explained that the Commission had reviewed the original concept in 2007 and had requested that the facade feature of three separate archways be reconsidered because only the central archway would be an entrance to the building. He said that the design team has responded with a revised facade design; the overall massing and footprint of the building remain generally the same as in the initial submission. He asked Donna Mavritte from the Department of State to begin the presentation; she introduced Eric Morrison of Morrison Architects to discuss the design.
Mr. Morrison provided an overview of the project. He indicated the steep slope of the site with access from International Drive at the upper level and the intersection of Reno Road and Tilden Street at the bottom of the slope. He briefly presented the previous design, summarizing the Commission's concern with the mix of older arches with modern windows as well as the concern about the presence of three arches, noting that the Commission had supported the overall volume of the proposed building at that time. He explained that the Commission's comments were provided to the embassy staff which sent them on to Morocco; the response from the Moroccan government included sketches of proposed design solutions which he has considered in developing the current revised concept. He said that the Moroccan officials consistently supported the importance of three arches on the facade as a cultural reference, but the configuration is now adjusted to more closely frame the main entrance.
Mr. Morrison presented the proposed design of the facades and described the materials, which are similar to those previously submitted. He noted that the cast stone would have texture in the lower portions of the building and a smoother finish above. He presented a rendering of the proposal in the context of the adjacent chancery buildings, explaining that the new building will be similar in size and shape.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the direction of the design as it is being developed. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised concept.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the Watha T. Daniel Neighborhood Library and the associated outdoor sculpture (items II.H and II.I). Mr. Lindstrom introduced the two submissions, explaining that the Commission had reviewed the concept for the library in February 2008; the final design for the library is accompanied by a separate submission from the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) for an outdoor sculpture at the library site. He said that the submissions from the D.C. Public Library and DDOT indicated different locations for the sculpture. He noted that the National Capital Planning Commission had reviewed both proposals and declined to choose between the two locations, instead referring the question to the Commission of Fine Arts. He introduced architect Peter Cook of Davis Brody Bond Aedas, artist Craig Kraft, and Jeff Bonvechio, director of capital projects for the D.C. Public Library.
H. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 20/NOV/08-10, Watha T. Daniel (Shaw) Neighborhood Library, 1701 8th Street at Rhode Island Avenue, N.W. New replacement building. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/08-7.) Mr. Bonvechio said that the design has been through many revisions and now satisfies the D.C. Public Library's program and goals; he asked Mr. Cook to present the design. Mr. Cook reminded the Commission of the library site's context. He indicated the boundaries of the triangular site—Rhode Island Avenue, 8th Street, and R Street—and the location of 7th Street along the apex of the site. He noted the Metro station entrance across R Street from the site. He explained that the previous library building has been demolished but the basement level has been retained and will be incorporated into the new building, resulting in some adjustments to floor heights. He presented views of nearby buildings, including row houses and high-rise apartment buildings, with a mix of older and newer buildings.
Mr. Cook noted that the library site occupies the entire block and therefore the building will have no immediate neighbors; the concept therefore involves establishing an identity for the library within the broader urban context. Due to the importance of 7th Street, the library entrance is located at the eastern point of the site. A circulation spine brings people from the entrance to the heart of the building. The southern orientation of the Rhode Island Avenue facade results in the inclusion of solar screening in the design. He presented the plans, with meeting spaces one floor below the ground-level entrance, children's areas on the ground floor, and a loft-like upper level with shelving, tables, and study rooms. He presented the elevations, including extensive areas of glass, a translucent skin, solar screening, and a large concrete panel on the south that would contain large-scale text such as the word "library"; a similar panel on the north facade was shown with the text "Shaw." He indicated the fritted glass areas and the clerestory windows that would bring north light to the upper level. He explained that the screen along the south facade was previously shown with louvers and is now proposed as perforated metal; the new design is much lighter while providing the desired solar control.
Mr. Cook presented the site plan and indicated the bicycle racks near the entrance, the location of wild grasses, and dogwood, magnolia, and willow oak trees. He also indicated the project team's proposed location for the outdoor sculpture, within an area of low planters at the southwest corner of the site near the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 8th Street.
Ms. Nelson asked if people ascending from the Metro station will have a view of the building. Mr. Cook responded that the Metro escalator brings people west to 8th Street, and the library becomes visible as people turn to the south toward R Street.
Mr. Belle requested further information on the proposed facade materials. Mr. Cook responded by indicating the Cal-Wall [a translucent insulated fiberglass system] panels—a material that he was initially reluctant to use but has determined to be durable and to have the desired lighting effect—as well as areas of curtain wall and exposed concrete, including some concrete remaining from the previous building's lower level which rises approximately two feet above grade. Mr. Belle asked about the configuration of rooms and furniture on the interior behind the curtain wall. Mr. Cook indicated the large open space on the upper level, with a sixteen-foot height, and the sequence of public and staff areas on the ground floor.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the material of the sunscreen; Mr. Cook responded that it would be a silver-colored aluminum sheet with holes punched to provide approximately fifty percent screening. Mr. McKinnell asked about the distance between the screen and the upper-level glass wall of the building. Mr. Cook verified that the distance shown in the plans is slightly less than 18 inches. Mr. McKinnell questioned how the glass wall would be cleaned behind the screen; Mr. Cook said that the distance should be sufficient for a person to fit between the screen and the glass for maintenance, and a walkway would be provided. Mr. McKinnell commented that maintenance in public buildings tends to be minimal and should be as easy as possible; he said that the architect is responsible for providing a design that is easily maintained, and he emphasized the seriousness of this issue. Mr. Belle agreed, commenting that the proposed skin is "very sophisticated" but may be beyond the ability of the client to maintain over the life of the building. Mr. Bonvechio said that the D.C. Public Library has considered this issue in reviewing the design and is now satisfied that maintenance concerns have been addressed. He said that the library system will contract for maintenance and cleaning services that are more extensive than the normal level of public building maintenance, in conjunction with the energy-efficient design certification that is being obtained for new library buildings. He acknowledged that this library design will have ongoing maintenance requirements.
Chairman Powell recognized a member of the audience who wished to address the Commission. Chris Otten said that he is with a group called District Dynamos which was founded by Ralph Nader to provide oversight of the D.C. public library system. Mr. Otten acknowledged the Commission's careful attention to details. He said that he has attended all of the public design meetings but was seeing some of the images for the first time at today's presentation; in particular, he said that the elevation and landscape images have not been presented to the community, and the information about retaining the previous building's lower level was not previously discussed. He acknowledged the skill of the project team but said that the public has largely been left out of discussions about the library design. He said his group has had concerns about maintenance, similar to the questions raised by the Commission, and has also been concerned about security. He said that the community had previously been shown a design that more closely resembled the Brutalist style of the previous library building, resulting in community pressure to provide more extensive glass in the design. He expressed support for the resulting exterior facade materials but said that the community has not been able to give sufficient attention to other issues such as landscaping and a green roof, which he noted was promised to the community but is no longer included in the design. He said that rain runoff remains a concern, particularly because D.C. buildings must now pay fees associated with runoff. He concluded by summarizing his objection to particular design issues as well as to the lack of public involvement in the process.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the letter that Mr. Otten provided to the Commission from the Shaw Library Study Group. Mr. Cook responded to the testimony by explaining that a planted roof was discussed early in the design process but was not promised; he said that the sustainability of the design has been considered more broadly, and the design now includes a highly reflective roof that is part of the overall effort to meet the silver LEED standard for the project.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's comments in the previous review were mostly directed at the entrance area and further development of the landscape design. Ms. Nelson noted that the project is submitted as a final design and asked if the Commission would have the opportunity to see material samples; Mr. Powell said that there would be no such opportunity if the Commission approves the submission. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could include such a request in its action, including a request for further review by the Commission or a delegation of the further review to the staff. Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of choosing high-quality materials for the project.
Chairman Powell noted that the Commission has favorably reviewed the design at the concept stage and has commended the D.C. Public Library for the quality of its recent design submissions. He therefore offered a motion that the Commission approve the design, subject to further review of the materials by the staff. Upon a second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted this motion.
Comments on the library continued during discussion of the next agenda item.
I. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 20/NOV/08-11, Watha T. Daniel (Shaw) Neighborhood Library, 1701 8th Street at Rhode Island Avenue, N.W. Public art installation. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced artist Craig Kraft to present the proposed artwork. Mr. Kraft said that he had been selected as the artist three years ago but the project has been delayed. He described the intention to create a sculpture that captures the spirit of jazz which has deep roots in the Shaw neighborhood including associations with Duke Ellington and continuing to the present. He provided a model of the sculpture which he said would be made of powder-coated rolled aluminum, neon lighting, and a stainless-steel base. He explained that he has over ten years of experience working with these materials, including monumental works in Washington and around the nation and world. He said that the sculpture relates to the theme of jazz by suggesting improvisation while having an underlying structure, and by being colorful and lively. He said that the work is called "Vivace" which suggests vivacious movement and a musical directive.
Mr. Kraft said that he created the design for the original proposed location at the main entrance to the library, where it would more prominently express the theme to the Shaw community. He said that the sculpture is intended to be bold and to serve as a focal point, as directed by the D.C. Council on the Arts and Humanities which commissioned the work; he added that the sculpture makes a statement about the importance of the Shaw community to the rest of the city and beyond. He expressed hope that a location at the library entrance could still be available. He acknowledged that the line between the public right-of-way and the library property is confusing at this site, but he said that some locations should be feasible adjacent to the building entrance, either within or beyond the library's property line. He said that he had not studied closely the architect's site plan and was surprised to learn that the architect's proposed location for the sculpture is in the "back" of the site; he added that this location is inappropriate for the character of the sculpture and is unfair to the process of developing the design and to the people of the community who have supported the originally intended location at the main entrance. He therefore requested that the Commission reinstate the sculpture location to the entrance area.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the placement of neon lighting. Mr. Kraft explained that the neon would be contained within small wires on the surface of the aluminum; the wires will be shielded where they would come in close contact with the public. He noted the durability of his sculptures using such materials at locations in Silver Spring, Rockville, and Arlington. Mr. Belle asked if the neon is intended to highlight the sculpture's shape at night; Mr. Kraft responded that the neon would correspond somewhat to the sculpture's shape but would also be configured to create slightly different geometric effects through a process of subtle variations. He said that the neon would sometimes match the color of the aluminum finish and sometimes contrast with it. He also emphasized that the sculpture's appearance in daylight is as important as its night appearance; he said that the powder-coated finish produces deep iridescent colors even without the neon. Ms. Nelson asked if the neon would always be lit; Mr. Kraft responded that the neon's power source could be controlled by a timer so that it would only be activated at night.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the long process for the artist and the intended location by the entrance but she said that the building has multiple prominent sides and corners; she asked the artist to try to visualize the placement of the sculpture at the location proposed by the architect. Mr. Kraft remained skeptical of the prominence of this location. Ms. Nelson emphasized that all sides of the site are along streets, rather than lesser locations such as alleys. She said that the library entrance could be an inferior location because the sculpture would have to compete with the multiplicity of building materials that converge at this location, as well as potential library signage that could compete with the lighting effects of the sculpture. She said that the location at the southwest corner of the site could therefore provide a more dramatic setting for the sculpture. Mr. Kraft urged the Commission members to visit the site in order to understand the lesser importance of the southwest corner. Ms. Nelson noted the location of the Metro entrance near the west end of the site; Mr. Kraft responded that the entrance is north of the library site, and the library building would block any view of the sculpture from the Metro entrance.
Mr. Belle asked about the maintenance or replacement of the neon lighting. Mr. Kraft said that the tubes would be configured in a flat pattern and could be re-fabricated when necessary, using the pattern that he creates or an inventory of extra tubes that he or the client could store. He said that he uses standard colors and very high-quality but widely available materials. He noted that the expected life of the tubes is twelve to eighteen years, and they would not all deteriorate at the same rate. He said that regular cleaning would extend the life of the neon system, including a simple annual checking of the electrical connections, and he would provide a maintenance schedule to the client. He added that the neon system is longer-lasting than incandescent, fluorescent, or halogen lights.
Mr. Rybczynski asked whether the Commission is asked to vote on the location. Mr. Powell said that the submission is for approval of the concept for the sculpture, and the location issue can be addressed separately.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the building has the form of a ship's prow, as at New York's Flatiron Building, and it is unusual to place something in front of the prow end of such a building because there is too much going on at that location. He said that a sculpture in such a situation would normally be integrated with the building or a column. He commented that the sculpture does not appear to have been designed for placement at the library entrance and doesn't appear to work well at that location due to the high amount of energy of both the building entrance area and the sculpture. He said that the architect's proposed location might not be better but certainly provides a contrast with the artist's preference. Mr. Kraft responded that the sculpture design was based on the direction to create a stand-alone piece that would be separate from the building. Mr. Rybczynski said that the resulting design is what must be evaluated, and locating the sculpture at the main entrance would create a bad situation along a public street. He said that a sculpture attached to the prow of the building could be viable, comparable to artwork attached to the prow of a ship, but placing a freestanding sculpture at the prow would be problematic. He concluded that the architect and artist need to work together to resolve the design issues.
Mr. Powell agreed, expressing support for the proposed sculpture and recommending that the siting be resolved by the various designers and project teams. Mr. Kraft reiterated his support for a location at the entrance which was the originally intended location that was supported by the community.
Ms. Nelson commented that the sculpture had initially appeared to be hanging from a cantilever; she only later realized that it is resting on a base. She asked if it would be appropriate to raise the base of the sculpture in order to remove it from easy reach by the public; Mr. Kraft agreed that it would be desirable to place the sculpture at a safe level. She commented that the raised planter at the southwest corner of the site would provide some of this additional height. Mr. Kraft acknowledged that this might be helpful and would be subject to coordination with the landscape architect to integrate the sculpture base with the building and site design; he said that he has not had the opportunity to work with the architect and landscape architect.
Mr. McKinnell offered a motion to approve the concept for the sculpture. Mr. Powell seconded the motion and asked whether the Commission wanted to address the issue of the sculpture's location, acknowledging Mr. Rybczynski's comments as providing helpful guidance to the designers.
Mr. Bonvechio said that he was involved several years earlier in the selection of Mr. Kraft's sculpture, which was originally associated with a different project. He said that the D.C. Public Library and its architect are committed to working with Mr. Kraft to determine how the sculpture should relate to this building, and he offered to take into consideration the comments of the Commission as well as those of the National Capital Planning Commission. He said that the D.C. Public Library meanwhile intends to move forward with the building design and will seek building permits; any needed modifications could be made later to accommodate the artwork at the location that is selected.
Mr. Rybczynski questioned the architectural proposal for large-scale graphics set in the concrete panels on the north and south facades, commenting that the graphics would be "corny and dated"—which would be particularly unfortunate because one of the panels would be readily visible to people emerging from the Metro. He suggested that the sculpture could instead be located along this flat concrete panel on the north facade, where the sculpture would benefit from the visibility near the Metro entrance. He said that the sculpture at that location would serve as a sign for the library. Mr. Powell commented that the sculpture is very lively and will attract people, creating the expectation that its location will be at an entrance to the building. He reiterated his recommendation that the artist, architect, and project team resolve this issue; Ms. Nelson agreed. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
The Commission then returned to the order of the agenda with item II.G.
G. Department of the Army
CFA 20/NOV/08-9, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, N.W. Interpretive Signs for the WRAMC Centennial, Final. Mr. Lindstrom explained that the proposed program of interpretive signs is intended to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1909. He introduced Don Chory of the Walter Reed staff to present the proposal.
Mr. Chory began by presenting the proposed signage outside Building 1, the first building to open at Walter Reed. He said that the three-panel vertical sign configuration at this location, informally called a "kiosk," would be the centerpiece of the signage program. The remainder of the program would encompass ten single-panel signs at scattered locations on the Walter Reed campus describing the buildings, functions, and history of the installation. Each of these signs would include a campus plan indicating the location and would be set at an angle in a tilted "table-top" configuration; he said that this configuration is routinely used by the National Park Service so that a viewer can see the sign as well as the building or feature beyond. He presented views of each of the sign locations.
Mr. Belle asked about the proposed materials; Mr. Chory responded that the supports would be tubular aluminum and the sign panels would be printed on fiberglass. Ms. Nelson asked if the signs would be temporary due to the anticipated closure of the Walter Reed campus; Mr. Chory said that the signs are primarily intended to celebrate the centenary in 2009. He said that the Army will close the campus in 2011, and it is unknown whether the State Department would retain the signs upon taking over the property at that time.
Ms. Nelson commented that the large amount of text and the large number of signs could be excessive. She suggested that the information could be conveyed through other means such as an audio tour which could be provided through cell-phones, with small signs directing people how to obtain the information. Mr. Chory responded that consideration was given to creating a walking-tour leaflet for distribution to visitors, or providing a kiosk inside a building lobby; the conclusion was that the large number of people coming to Walter Reed made the logistics of such methods infeasible. He said that the sign program would be the best solution to allow the large number of temporary visitors to pursue self-guided tours. Ms. Nelson said that the sign design is unappealing from a distance and would not attract people. Mr. Chory said that the available photo-montage images do not represent the proposal well; he explained that a mockup was not available. He expressed confidence that the completed signs would look better than suggested by the presentation materials, and he offered the example of historical signs on the streets of Adams-Morgan as having the high quality that is intended for this proposal. He added that Walter Reed's historic features are not well known and are in need of publicizing. Ms. Nelson said that the kiosk configuration is particularly unattractive and appears to be overscaled for the amount of information that would be displayed as shown in the rendering. She suggested that the proposed kiosk could se replaced by a two-panel version of the table-top configuration. Mr. Chory offered to explore this suggestion and to develop better graphics to illustrate the proposal.
Ms. Nelson recommended that the proposal could be improved and should not be automatically approved by the Commission without revision. Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission could approve the proposal as a concept and delegate further review to the staff. Mr. Belle asked if Walter Reed has a graphic designer on its staff; Mr. Chory said that this project has been subcontracted to an outside firm, which is part of the reason for the limited design information. Mr. Belle commented that the standard of design is too low, both for the graphics and the overall construction of the sign system. He said that the signs should be attractive and well designed within the landscape setting, befitting their intended value as an interpretive program for the campus, and this standard has not been achieved.
Chairman Powell concluded by recommending better design talent and further coordination with the Commission staff. Mr. Chory asked for clarification of the specific design recommendations; Mr. Belle said that the best solution would depend on the quality of the design, and Mr. Powell said that the Commission's general guidance is to improve the proposal. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
Agenda items II.H and II.I were seen earlier in the meeting; the Commission continued to agenda item II.J.
J. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 20/NOV/08-12, National Zoological Park. Seal and Sea Lion Support Facility and site renewal. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced Harry Rombach of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation of the concept design for a new seal and sea lion facility at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. Mr. Rombach noted that the project was included in the Zoo's master plan that was reviewed by the Commission in July 2008. He introduced Alyson Steele of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.
Ms. Steele discussed the site conditions and proposed design. She described the Zoo's context of Rock Creek Park and said that the site for this project lies in an area known as Beaver Valley, characterized by steep hillsides on the east and west and a sloping floor that she described as a "tilted bowl," with a drop of about two-and-a-half stories. She said this site is typical of the Zoo, with vegetation growing around the perimeter of the hillsides and screening the buildings, and open sky above the exhibit areas. She said that the pedestrian walk through the site runs straight along one side of the two existing exhibit pools, and explained that visitors are kept on one side of the site and animals and their support facilities on the other.
Ms. Steele said the current support building dates from the 1970s. She explained that advances in animal care require an improved facility; the building and its holding areas need to be enlarged to support new systems and to meet current standards of care. Improvements will include: adding salt water and waves to the exhibit pools; more closely integrating the public area with the animals' environment; and improved handicapped accessibility. She said the building will be enlarged with an L-shaped addition. Lower spaces will be placed toward the front, near the public area, and taller spaces will be placed to the rear against the hillside.
Ms. Steele noted that the site poses difficulties for compliance with accessibility requirements. The current path through the public area is about 400 feet long, with a drop of about 30 feet, and does not meet accessibility standards. The improved path with landings will extend over 800 feet. The designers have attempted to contain construction in the center of the valley, at the bottom of the bowl, to protect the character of the landscape. She explained that this approach will also promote sustainability, with less need for cut and fill and less removal of perimeter trees. The design will use vegetation native to the mid-Atlantic region and will include raingarden features to help manage stormwater.
Ms. Steele described the concept design of the building in more detail. It will be kept low in the center of the valley and then will gradually step up the western hillside; the mass of the building will be broken up where space permits. The existing structure will be reused to conserve materials and the mechanical systems will be energy efficient: for example, most water will be recycled and reused internally. The only public section of the support building will be a trellis reminiscent of Pacific Northwest timber framing that will shelter the path running between the two exhibit pools. A new cafe building will be added nearby.
Ms. Steele emphasized that a major goal of the design is to create a more diverse and varied environment that will be better for both animals and visitors. The redesigned site will offer a variety of places to view animals: from an overlook, at water level, and underwater. The amphitheater will be reoriented so that the sun will be at visitors' backs, and the pools will be reshaped to provide a more interesting relationship with the visitor paths.
Ms. Steele explained that rock work will be integrated into the visitor area. The north and south elevations will have masonry cladding above a concrete base. The design team intends to incorporate the character—seen elsewhere in Rock Creek Park and the Zoo—of masonry walls receding into space when viewed across valleys. Ms. Nelson asked whether real rocks would be used. Ms. Steele responded that it was not yet certain this would be possible, though she noted that much rock would have to be removed below the amphitheater, and this rock may be available. Ms. Nelson commented that the use of real rock would make a difference; Ms. Steele said that their goal was some combination of real and artificial rock.
Mr. Powell asked whether seals and sea lions are compatible. Ms. Steele responded that they are, adding that the pools would contain a mix of harbor seals and gray seals. She also confirmed that the pelicans would remain.
Mr. McKinnell commended the team for the proposed treatment of the site, commenting that the design is very rich. He said that the accessibility needs have contributed to good design by requiring the design of the attractive new walkway. However, he advised the team to simplify the building wherever possible and to minimize the number of design gestures; Mr. Powell agreed with this recommendation. Upon a notion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the concept design.
Chairman Powell departed the meeting at this point and Vice-Chairman Nelson presided for the remainder of the meeting.
K. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead-Luce Act
S.L. 09-002 (H.P.A. 08-506), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, N.W. Building lighting. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the project, noting that several members of the Commission had visited a demonstration of alternative lighting designs the previous evening. She asked Anne Adams from the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman to begin the presentation. Ms. Adams expressed appreciation for the Commission's site inspection the previous evening as well as the previous month, adding that the informal comments from the first inspection were helpful in refining the design. She expressed hope that the resulting proposal is now satisfactory to the Commission. She introduced lighting designer George Sexton of George Sexton Associates to present the design. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Rybczynski commented that a presentation might be unnecessary since several members of the Commission had seen the on-site demonstration. Mr. Sexton said that he could present some technical drawings but the demonstration had conveyed the most important information.
Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the Commission members had come to a consensus regarding the design at the site inspection. She said that the demonstration of the lighting in two bays might need further consideration when extended to the 22 bays on the building's street facades, but she said that the lighting had a soft character that was successful. Mr. Belle offered a motion to approve the previous evening's demonstration; Mr. Luebke suggested more specificity in the action. Mr. Sexton presented an image of the two lighting colors that were demonstrated for the Commission, with a warmer color in the left bay and a cooler color to the right; he acknowledged that the photograph does not fully capture the actual lighting colors. He said that the Commission members had expressed a preference for the lighting shown in the left bay, and Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Sexton said that further modifications were made to the lenses during the site inspection at the Commission's request in order to achieve a softer lighting effect, which is not shown in the photograph. He clarified that the lens modifications involved masking and changing the position of the fixture, which the design team documented to a precise location of 34.75 inches forward of the building facade and centered between the columns.
Mr. McKinnell said that he could support the proposal based on his site inspection the previous month although he was not present for the most recent demonstration. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle expressed enthusiasm for the resulting design. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the lighting design in accordance with the site inspection. Mr. Luebke noted that the submission is for the concept design and asked if the Commission would like to delegate approval of the final design to the staff. Ms. Nelson said that this would be acceptable and incorporated the delegation into the motion, with the concurrence of the Commission.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:07 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: February 3, 2009