Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 September 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 10:15 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 17 July meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes without objection.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 16 October, 20 November, and 22 January; no meeting is scheduled in December. He noted that the January date is scheduled one week later than usual due to a holiday conflict.
C. Report on the inspection of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery. Mr. Luebke reported that the Commission had visited the Freer Gallery earlier in the day to inspect five Japanese paintings from the Edo and Meiji periods. Mr. Powell said that the Commission members expressed enthusiasm for the paintings and approved their acquisition by the Freer for its permanent collection.
Mr. Luebke also reported two changes to the lobby of the Commission's offices: the display of medals from the Army Institute of Heraldry has been updated, and one of the portrait paintings has been temporarily removed for conservation.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I — Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Mr. Luebke introduced Sarah Batcheler, who joined the Commission in the summer as the Shipstead-Luce architect, to present the appendix. Ms. Batcheler reported several revisions to the draft appendix. Two recommendations have been changed to be favorable in response to supplemental materials and design changes; she confirmed that both cases involve projects on Oregon Avenue. She also reported the addition of three projects with favorable recommendations. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised Shipstead-Luce appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. Dates have been adjusted in response to supplemental drawings that have been received. Several projects have been added with the response that they are not visible from public space; he explained that these projects were submitted for the October meeting but can be included on the September appendix since they do not require further review. He also reported the removal of a project from the appendix at the request of the applicant. Mr. Luebke added that an additional case, concerning the concept design for a large-scale project at the Georgetown Park shopping mall, has been removed from the agenda to allow time for a site visit by the Commission in a future month. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised Old Georgetown appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 18/SEP/08-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, S.W. at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/MAY/08-1.) Mr. Luebke said that this final submission responds to the Commission's previous requests in recent reviews for a comprehensive presentation of the memorial's components and an updated maquette of Dr. King's statue and the Stone of Hope. He said that the topics to be reviewed include inscriptions, configuration of the entry plaza, signage, tree placement, the overall landscape design, and the auxiliary building, as well as the sculpture. He noted that additional information about the inscriptions would be submitted for further review and is not being presented fully in the current submission. He explained that the submission also includes perimeter security bollards, a new feature that has been added at the request of the National Park Service. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the perimeter security design would be included in the design presentation, and the National Park Service could respond to any questions that arise. He introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, executive architect of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., to present the design.
Dr. Jackson said that the presentation would include three components: a prepared statement, an animated video tour of the proposed memorial, and a PowerPoint presentation. He distributed copies of the written statement, which he also read to the Commission, providing a summary of the memorial's components and its current status as a final design submission. The statement reiterated the vision for the memorial that was formulated in 1998, emphasizing commemoration of Dr. King's message and its meaning for the future of the nation and world as well as at the level of the individual and family.
Dr. Jackson played the video animation and then presented slides illustrating the design, which he said correspond to the images in the submission booklet that was distributed to the Commission members in advance of the meeting. He summarized the site context including the nearby memorials and park areas. He indicated the revised proposal for the realignment of West Basin Drive, which is now shown with a slight curvature rather than a straight north-south alignment. He identified the main features of the memorial including the forecourt which provides the primary entrance and the two secondary entrances to the northeast and south; bollards are now proposed at each of the entrances. He indicated the indirect lighting that is proposed along the sides of the forecourt. He presented photographs of the maquette for the Stone of Hope with Dr. King's statue and the Mountain of Despair, explaining the grid lines that correspond to the stone blocks that will be used to fabricate these elements: 37 blocks for the Stone of Hope and 114 blocks for the Mountain of Despair. He indicated the stone sample provided to the Commission and illustrated on the slide, a beige mottled granite from China, designated "G681."
Dr. Jackson presented a series of comparative images illustrating the modifications to the proposed design of the Stone of Hope and Dr. King's statue. In response to the Commission's previous comments, the area of rough stone had been raised higher along Dr. King's legs. Dr. Jackson explained that the images include photographs of an earlier maquette and computer-generated modifications to these photographs; meanwhile, the artist has prepared a new maquette that illustrates this change along with additional revisions such as the replacement of the pen in Dr. King's hand with a scroll of paper. Dr. Jackson provided the previous and new maquettes for the Commission's inspection. He presented photographs of the artist's full-size sculptural study for Dr. King's head, saying that the selected version has the support of Dr. King's children. He presented additional photos of the artist's earlier mockup of the full statue including views looking upward from eye level.
Dr. Jackson then discussed the inscription walls, explaining that the details of the inscriptions—including the font which was previously presented, the size of the font, and the text—would be presented in a future submission that could include discussion of "the rhythm of the language." He noted that the list of quotations, as selected by the memorial foundation's council of historians, is included in the submission booklet.
Dr. Jackson presented additional images illustrating the waterfalls between the inscription walls and the Mountain of Despair, as well as the overall plaza including the landscape islands. He described the proposed configuration of curved benches and the selection of granite that will relate to the forecourt; a darker band of paving would provide a transition to the inscription walls, and he indicated the alignment of the in-ground lighting fixtures along the walls.
Dr. Jackson described the site plan and architectural design of the proposed auxiliary building on the west side of West Basin Drive; stone paving within the street would provide a connection between the building and the memorial. He indicated the location of benches and presented a night rendering to illustrate the proposed lighting. He presented the palette of colors and materials that are proposed for the auxiliary building.
Dr. Jackson described the proposed landscaping. Elm trees would line the streets, with several trees newly added to the design which will provide additional shade to the forecourt area. A large grove of cherry blossoms would be provided; a total of 182 cherry trees would be added to the existing trees near the Tidal Basin, along with seven crape myrtles. He indicated the existing areas of groundcover and lawn that would not be altered. He presented shadow studies to illustrate the amount of shade provided on an August afternoon at the forecourt and within the plaza, explaining the new adjustments to the tree locations in order to increase the amount of shade for visitors. In response to previous suggestions to provide further shade, he offered an alternative design that would add six maple trees framing the forecourt. He indicated the moderate amount of additional shading that would be provided by the maple trees, as illustrated in the shadow studies, and said that the design team's preferred alternative is to omit these trees in order to retain the clarity of the grove of cherry trees framing the forecourt in contrast to the elm trees along the streets. Dr. Jackson concluded by presenting the lighting proposal, including primarily indirect lighting as well as pole-mounted lights for the Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for further information about the cover for the in-ground lighting along the inscription walls; architect Ron Kessler from the design team responded that the cover would be translucent with two layers of laminated glass and a finish that would prevent scratching. Ms. Nelson asked for further discussion of the entire palette of proposed materials. Mr. Kessler provided detailed information on the proposed stones, including the contrasting finishes proposed for the inscription walls and the waterfalls. Ms. Nelson asked how these finishes would relate to the sides of the Mountain of Despair; Mr. Kessler responded that a honed finish will be used on the inner parallel walls of the Mountain, as well as on the inscription walls, while the remainder of the Mountain would be sculpted. Mr. Kessler presented the various materials proposed for the auxiliary building, including stone walls and floors along with wood and metal accents within the bookstore. He indicated the pattern of translucent glass that would provide daylight to the restrooms and clarified that the exterior glass would be configured in 4.5-foot square panels.
Ms. Nelson asked how the appearance of the granite would change over time and requested a sample or photograph of the aged granite. Dr. Jackson confirmed that the color will darken due to pollution, which can be somewhat addressed through maintenance. He indicated the varying texture of the stone for the faces and sides of the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the stone proposed for the inscription walls and waterfalls. Dr. Jackson showed a sample of green-colored granite, "Mountain Green," for the inscription walls and said that additional alternatives for this stone would be submitted as part of the future review of the inscriptions; he confirmed that that this stone is intended to contrast with the stone used for the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope. He also showed the sample of the stone and finish for the waterfalls, confirming that the stone will appear darker when wet. At the request of Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson, Dr. Jackson placed together the stone samples for the inscription walls, the waterfall, and the Mountain of Despair to suggest their combined appearance in the memorial design.
Ms. Nelson asked if the stone would be obtained from the United States or from China. Dr. Jackson said that the sources vary; the "Mountain Green" stone is supplied by an American company, while some of the proposed granite selections are not available domestically.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the change to the proposed road alignment from straight to slightly curved. Dr. Jackson acknowledged that this change resulted from a recommendation during the Section 106 historic preservation review process. He said that the adjustment required careful study to maintain the desired size for the entrance to the forecourt.
Ms. Nelson expressed appreciation for the comprehensive presentation of the memorial's components, assisting the Commission in assessing the relationship among the parts. She also acknowledged the usefulness of providing the Commission the maquettes illustrating the changes to the proposed sculpture. Dr. Jackson responded that the maquettes illustrate how the texture of the mountain would be extended to Dr. King's trousers and the lower part of his coat. Ms. Nelson said that the sculpture design is still problematic, commenting that the rougher finish and the highly detailed finish are "fighting with each other." She criticized the abrupt change in finishes and suggested that the more detailed surfaces be slightly rougher and less literal, which she said would help to relate Dr. King more closely to the strength of the mountain. Dr. Jackson responded by reiterating the statement from earlier presentations that the memorial's concept is that Dr. King helped to move the nation away from the Mountain of Despair, and the sculpture is intended to suggest Dr. King freeing himself from the mountain rather than being part of it; he said that the Stone of Hope is a part of the mountain so the sculpture of Dr. King should contrast with it. He emphasized that an image of Dr. King being embedded in the stone "would give the impression that he has not freed himself from the Mountain of Despair and [that] he is not the symbol of hope, of freeing himself from that."
Ms. Nelson said that the original concept drawings for the memorial had a stronger emphasis on the mountain imagery, with the sculpture more integrated and unified with the stone, which she said gave strength to the proposed design. She added that the intended interpretation would not be explained at the memorial, while the sculpture's visual qualities would be readily apparent to future generations of visitors. Dr. Jackson noted the proposed inscription on the side wall: "Out of a Mountain of Despair comes a Stone of Hope." He said that the power of the composition is more readily apparent in the full-scale mockup that he has seen; Ms. Nelson said that such a mockup would be useful for the Commission to view. Dr. Jackson added that it is difficult to assess the sculpture from a small-scale maquette because a viewer will actually be looking at the sculpture from a low angle; Ms. Nelson acknowledged this factor and noted that a child's viewing angle will be even lower. Dr. Jackson said the intention is for Dr. King's image to be recognizable from the visitor's viewing point, where "hopefully, the image is clear enough that you can actually identify the individual that you are looking at."
Mr. Belle commented that the lack of a full-scale mockup has been problematic; he emphasized the importance of this issue and asked if an on-site full-scale mockup could be created. Ms. Nelson supported this request and suggested that the mockup could be fabricated as an impression in resin. She noted the historical precedent for this request, with a full-scale mockup used for developing the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. McKinnell said that the animated video makes him appreciate that the memorial will create "a very nice place to be," in addition to serving the project's memorial purpose. He agreed with the concerns about the finishes of the sculpture and the need for additional samples that would replicate at least a portion of the finished work. He noted that the transition of finishes is not only vertical—from the rougher texture below to the smoother finish above—but also horizontal with the smoother finish of Dr. King's figure coming forward from the rougher stone. Mr. McKinnell expressed concern that the horizontal transition could be as problematic as the vertical transition that has been discussed. He further requested a sample of the transition area behind Dr. King's sculpture before granting final approval, adding that the important symbolic expression will be "how that man comes out of the mountain in physical, real, existential terms in the stone." He noted that the Commission has not had the opportunity to look closely at this transition and said that "it is absolutely crucial to the success of this monument."
Dr. Jackson presented the submitted photographs of the full-size mockup; Mr. McKinnell said that these photographs, along with the small material samples that have been submitted, are insufficient for assessing the success of the three-dimensional project. He said that the proposed texture of the mountain may be insufficiently rough, with a cleft surface possibly being necessary to convey the sense of rock.
Chairman Powell supported the request for a full-size sample of the sculpture showing the transition of finishes; he suggested the submission of whatever amount would be logistically feasible. He acknowledged the progress in the design of the sculpture and said that the details such as the transition would be important. Dr. Jackson agreed to provide a sample. Mr. Powell then summarized his sense of the Commission's overall support for the sculpture. Mr. Rybczynski commented on the novel conception of the sculpture—different from the major monumental sculptures of American history—and said that, while this novelty may be admirable, it makes the sculpture difficult to assess, resulting in the Commission's request for additional submission information.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the shape of the coat and trousers would be particularly important, commenting that the photograph suggests that the coat is flaring outward, possibly the result of poor shaping of the suit or perhaps due to the lighting angle in the photograph. She requested additional samples of the sculpture to show the transition area in the lower half, noting the prominence of this area when the statue is viewed from below. She emphasized the importance of resolving these issues to avoid the creation of distracting details in the finished memorial design. Mr. Powell agreed that the bottom of the coat appears very thick in the clay model. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the detailing of the joints between blocks of stone will be another factor that requires careful study and further review; she noted that the joints can be concealed or treated as an important feature of a sculpture, and she requested further information beyond the diagrammatic illustration of joints that was presented. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that the additional sculptural samples should be at a larger scale and show the proposed textures. Dr. Jackson acknowledged the importance of these issues; Mr. Powell suggested that the sculptural details could be presented to the Commission in conjunction with the intended submission of inscriptions.
Chairman Powell requested comments from the Commission members on the option of introducing maple trees to frame the forecourt. Dr. Jackson confirmed that the only purpose in adding these trees would be to provide shade, and he said that the design team prefers not to include them. Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Powell agreed with this preference; Mr. Rybczynski commented that the maple trees would add new forms that would conflict with the overall composition. Sheila Brady, the landscape architect for the project, agreed that the addition of the maple trees would "dilute the strength" of the design for the forecourt area, with little benefit from additional shade. She emphasized that the addition of several elm trees near the streets will help to address the issue of shade that the Commission has identified. Chairman Powell confirmed that the Commission supports the preferred alternative that was presented for the landscaping of the forecourt area.
Ms. Nelson noted the proposed location of benches in the memorial plaza and at the auxiliary building; she asked if seating could also be provided in the forecourt area for people who might be waiting. Dr. Jackson said that benches are not provided in this area, and it is not intended as a gathering place. Ms. Nelson commented that the animation illustrated a large number of people in this area, suggesting that it would be a good place for seating and for learning about Dr. King; Dr. Jackson responded that seating would be provided in the memorial plaza, with benches sited to offer shade. He said that the National Park Service has discouraged extensive seating, placing greater emphasis on the ability to accommodate large numbers of people for visits of shorter duration. Mr. Belle suggested that the edge of the Tidal Basin would be another place where people would want to have seating; Dr. Jackson responded that the path along the Tidal Basin is outside the memorial's site and is not being altered in the proposed design. Ms. Nelson reiterated her concern that the amount of seating is insufficient. Mr. Rybczynski noted that one of the photographs showed people sitting on the ground under the existing cherry trees.
Ms. Nelson expressed concern about the proposed bollards, commenting that they constrict the entrance areas which are already narrow. She suggested that the bollards be eliminated if possible, or otherwise placed near the curb so they would not interfere with the experience of entering the memorial. She clarified that her concern includes the bollards at the two secondary entrances as well as at the forecourt. Mr. Belle asked what the bollards are protecting. Mr. May responded that the need for perimeter security would normally have been resolved earlier in the design process. He said that the initial conclusion for this memorial—based on potential threats involving international terrorism—was that perimeter security would not be necessary. More recent consideration of security issues, including the placement of cameras and lighting, resulted in further concern about potential threats from domestic groups; as a result, the current advice from the Department of the Interior and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is that the perimeter security is necessary. He acknowledged the aesthetic concern and the late addition of this programmatic element but emphasized the importance of incorporating this protection into the design.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the landscape character of the memorial design causes every element to have symbolic significance. He acknowledged that the bollards will serve to keep threats away from the memorial but said that the symbolism of keeping people out is contrary to the significance of Dr. King. Mr. Powell agreed, commenting that the bollards at the secondary entrances are not a problem but the proposed row of bollards across the forecourt should be reconsidered to develop another concept for protecting this entrance.
Dr. Jackson responded that alternative designs were discussed by the National Capital Planning Commission which rejected the proposed bollards. He said that the memorial foundation has no position on the necessity for the bollards because the National Park Service has not shared its threat analysis; as a design issue, he said that the foundation agrees that the bollards are "alien to the concept of what this memorial is all about." Mr. Powell suggested consideration of a location closer to the street; Dr. Jackson responded that such a location would result in increasing the number of bollards, adding to the aesthetic concern. Ms. Nelson suggested that a seating wall or retaining wall could be used instead of bollards. Mr. May responded that a variety of options was studied and discussed with the staffs of various review agencies, resulting in the current proposal which was considered the least problematic. Dr. Jackson explained that one option was to place a raised planter in the forecourt, possibly including a tree, but the conclusion was that open space is necessary to emphasize the symbolic entrance sequence through the Mountain of Despair to the Stone of Hope. Mr. Luebke noted that the original concept design included trees in the forecourt. Ms. Nelson said the proposed alignment of bollards is too close to the passage through the Mountain of Despair. Mr. May said that moving the security perimeter closer to the street would be desirable from a security standpoint because of the increase in distance from the central area of the memorial.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the bollards are part of a more comprehensive plan for security. Mr. May responded that the bollards protect against threats from vehicles; by addressing this concern, resources can be focused on other threats such as suspicious people or packages which can be handled with cameras or security patrols. He noted the extensive training of National Park Service staff on these issues, extending to rangers and maintenance personnel as well as the park police. Ms. Nelson noted that perimeter security is not provided for the bookstore in the auxiliary building; Mr. May responded that the main area of the memorial has the symbolic importance that requires protection.
Chairman Powell recommended further study of this area and, as needed, the submission of alternatives, noting that the Commission has extensive experience in evaluating perimeter security designs and is not satisfied with the current proposal. Mr. May asked if the Commission would encourage the introduction of a planter or other landscape solution despite the potential impact on the forecourt; Mr. Powell said that the aesthetic goal should be that the forecourt is as open as possible. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that bollards near the street, even if undesirable, would be perceived as part of the existing design vocabulary of the city. Mr. Powell noted that the Smithsonian Institution has developed perimeter security solutions that could serve as models; Mr. May said that these have been considered.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to exclude the bollards from an approval, adding that the memorial foundation would apparently support such an action. Mr. May said that this exclusion would create complications for the National Park Service in determining the completion of the design approval process. Mr. Powell reiterated the request for study of other options for any necessary perimeter security.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the misalignment of the pedestrian crosswalk between the auxiliary building and the forecourt across West Basin Drive. Dr. Jackson explained the need for a traffic stacking area near the stoplight on the north end of West Basin Drive, adjacent to the forecourt; he explained that a minimum distance is normally required between the intersection, which has an additional crosswalk along Independence Avenue, and the crosswalk proposed at the auxiliary building. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that pedestrians would not be concerned with such requirements and would simply ignore the crosswalk, despite the special paving that is proposed, and cross the street where convenient. Dr. Jackson said that the change in material and color are intended to suggest the preferred crossing location to visitors but acknowledged that people may cross elsewhere. Mr. May added that there was extensive study of the location for the crosswalk as well as for the auxiliary building; one alternative was to locate the building closer to Independence Avenue, which would provide a more direct relationship with the forecourt, but this option was problematic. He said that the currently proposed alignment is a balance among various factors and is close enough to the forecourt to be useful for visitors.
Ms. Nelson offered further suggestions on the supplemental submission for the sculpture and stone construction. She suggested that the sample area of the statue be made of the actual proposed material and be created by the artist. She also requested photographs of the stone joints in other sculptures that are similarly assembled from pieces, so that the Commission could be convinced of the visual quality of joints proposed for this memorial. Dr. Jackson agreed to both of these requests.
To assist in finalizing the action, Mr. Luebke provided a summary of the Commission's comments and expectations for further review:
• The Commission supports the proposals for lighting, paving, benches, the auxiliary building, and the landscape design, recommending the design team's preferred alternative for the landscape along the forecourt.
Mr. Rybczynski emphasized the recommendation to reduce the "clash between the figure and the stone," suggesting that the artist better relate these two components. He questioned Dr. Jackson's statement that the memorial's power is derived from Dr. King emerging from the stone, commenting that the stone is itself moved a substantial distance from the Mountain of Despair which expresses the sense of power: "It is not just that he is coming out of the stone, he has actually moved that stone . . . and that is always the concept that has appealed to me the most about the memorial, that this man could move the stone. . . . That is a powerful image."
Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of physical examples for the review process. Dr. Jackson agreed and confirmed his intention to submit samples of the inscription wall and the joints of the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope.
Mr. Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to approve the final submission with the request for further information and details on three topics—perimeter security, inscriptions, and the sculpture and stone treatment. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission adopted this action.
Ms. Balmori entered the meeting during the following agenda item.
2. CFA 18/SEP/08-2, Memorial to Victims of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933. Site selection. Proposed location in National Park Service Reservation #196, at the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and First and F Streets, N.W. Final. Mr. Luebke said that the memorial was authorized by federal law in 2006 and the sponsor, the Ukrainian government, has studied many potential National Park Service sites in Washington leading to the two alternative sites that are now submitted for approval. He said that the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission has considered the site selection three times and, at its last meeting on July 9th, decided to recommend the two sites from among the four that were proposed by the Ukrainian government. He explained that the sponsor has identified one site as preferred—the National Park Service's Reservation #196 at the intersection of New Jersey Avenue and F and First Streets, N.W.—and is submitting the second site as an alternative, at nearby Reservation #78 at Massachusetts Avenue and North Capitol and F Streets. He noted that the National Capital Planning Commission has deferred its review of the site selection in order to address objections from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), an organization whose headquarters building is adjacent to the preferred site; he said that members of the association were in the audience and may wish to address the Commission. He also reported that the Commission members had visited the two sites earlier in the day. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May emphasized the extensive search process that led to the multiple reviews by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission and to the preferred site that is now submitted for consideration. He introduced the Ukrainian government's representative, Olexandr Aleksandrovych of the Ukrainian embassy, to make a statement.
Mr. Aleksandrovych explained that the ambassador was unable to be present due to travel but had provided a letter to the Chairman concerning the memorial, which Mr. Aleksandrovych read to the Commission. The ambassador's letter emphasized the importance of the memorial to his government and the Ukrainian people, noting that this year is the 75th anniversary of the 1932-33 famine in which seven to ten million people died of starvation due to the actions of the communist government. He acknowledged the support of the U.S. Congress and president for the authorization of the memorial and the subsequent cooperation of the National Park Service in selecting a site. The letter noted the goal of holding a groundbreaking for the memorial later this year. Mr. Aleksandrovych then introduced planner Alan Harwood of EDAW to present the sites.
Mr. Harwood described the iterative search process that included the study of 24 sites that were initially identified by the Ukrainian government and the National Park Service. He noted that the sites were in the central part of Washington but outside of Area I as designated in the Commemorative Works Act. He explained that eleven sites were studied more closely, with initial preferences for sites at Pennsylvania Avenue and 19th Street, N.W.; E and 19th Streets, N.W.; New York Avenue and 12th Street, N.W.; and Massachusetts Avenue and 23rd Street, N.W., where a statue is located honoring the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. He said that most of the sites initially considered were too large, resulting in further study of the city's smaller triangular "bow-tie" parks, typically about a quarter-acre in size; the two sites currently submitted are both bow-tie parks of approximately one-tenth of an acre. He noted a potential concern that some of the sites that were studied are included in the Memorials and Museums Master Plan, while others are not; he explained his understanding that memorial sponsors are encouraged to consider sites in accordance with the overall principles of the master plan in addition to the sites that the plan specifically lists. He said that the two sites currently submitted are consistent with the master plan's goal of encouraging memorials within the general urban fabric.
Mr. Harwood explained that the two submitted sites have been analyzed for context, views, site conditions, and the character of the pedestrian experience in reaching the site. He described the preferred site's context, explaining that F Street is currently interrupted by Interstate 395 a block to the west but might be reconnected as a result of proposed air-rights development above the highway. He said that the site vicinity has been an overlooked part of the city but is becoming increasingly prominent, a trend which could be accelerated if F Street is reconnected to the west. He noted the good views from the site toward Union Station and the post office building to the east, and along New Jersey Avenue to the Capitol on the southeast. He indicated the Georgetown University Law Center's buildings to the west across First Street, the hotels and office buildings to the east and south, and the NAR office building immediately south on the same block as the reservation. He noted that the reservation is actually closer to one of the Georgetown buildings than to the NAR building. He characterized the neighborhood as having institutional, hotel, and commercial uses, with one residential building nearby.
Mr. Harwood explained the existing conditions of the preferred site. The landscaped reservation encompasses 3,500 square feet, bounded by sidewalks. A large oak tree toward the south end covers more than half the site. He said that the central portion of the site has the feeling of being closely associated with the adjacent sidewalks, while the northernmost portion is associated with the intersection of streets. He indicated the alignment of the street rights-of-way that define the edges of nearby buildings, explaining that the reservation is within the right-of-way corridor of New Jersey Avenue and partially within the right-of-way corridor of First Street. He said that the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission had noted the thematic advantages of the site's visual relationship to the Capitol on the southeast, the Victims of Communism Memorial a block to the north, and the law school on the west, particularly the school's international law center. He added that nearby Massachusetts Avenue has become "the international corridor" for Washington, appropriate to this memorial, while previously considered sites were associated with less appropriate thematic groupings such as Pennsylvania Avenue's emphasis on "the American story" and Virginia Avenue's memorials to South American leaders. He added that Massachusetts Avenue leads toward Chinatown and, further west, to the Shevchenko memorial and embassy row.
Mr. Harwood said that the type of memorial envisioned would be at the scale of a landscape element or memorial marker, rather than a building or significant structure. He said that the various memorials between Arlington National Cemetery and Memorial Bridge, such as the Seabees Memorial, would be examples of the anticipated scale.
Mr. Harwood then described the alternative site that was also recommended by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, at Massachusetts Avenue and North Capitol and F Streets. He indicated this reservation's relationship to the Victims of Communism Memorial along Massachusetts Avenue and the lively context with broad views to the Postal Museum and Union Station. He reiterated that the potential reconnection of F Street to the west would provide a direct connection to downtown. He described the site's position generally within the right-of-way corridors of Massachusetts Avenue and F Street, noting that the view to the Capitol along North Capitol Street is available adjacent to but not within the reservation. He described the existing conditions as relatively flat with landscaping limited to only grass. He noted the lack of street trees along the reservation, contributing to its sense of exposure to the adjacent streets; he said this openness could be excessive for the memorial, providing inappropriate exposure to two restaurant-bars located across F Street to the south. He showed a photograph of the small building immediately west of the reservation at the apex of the block, designed by the architect of New York's Chrysler Building [William Van Allen]; he said that this building could be used in conjunction with the reservation for a combination of a memorial and a small museum, but that program is not necessary for the Ukrainian proposal. He concluded by acknowledging the limitations of this site along with the desirability of including an alternative for the site selection process.
Ms. Nelson asked for images of memorials in other cities that have been created on the Ukrainian famine. Mr. Harwood said that the projected images were not available but printed images have been submitted; the staff circulated the images to the Commission members. Ms. Nelson asked about the size of such memorials and the potential need for a gathering space, such as for an annual event; Mr. Harwood responded that no event space is needed. He said that the memorials within the Ukraine typically include a religious motif; he characterized two memorials in Canada as "a little more figurative." He emphasized the modest scale that is envisioned, citing the typology of a memorial marker.
To clarify the limited scale that is anticipated, Mr. Harwood explained that the preferred site is a reservation of approximately 3,500 square feet, of which 2,000 square feet is within the drip line of the large tree. He confirmed that the tree would not be removed for the memorial and offered to have that intention included as a provision of the site approval. He added that the large size of the tree provides a strong separation between the northern part of the reservation and the NAR building with its surrounding plaza. He showed a photograph of the reservation from the north, with the large NAR building almost completely obscured by the tree. He said that one next step with this site would be to consider the amount of impervious surface that will be appropriate to introduce as part of the memorial design.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the National Park Service has a preference between the two submitted sites. Mr. May said that the Park Service agrees with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission in preferring the New Jersey Avenue site. Mr. Belle asked if a proposal for the memorial design is available as part of the site review; Mr. Powell said that the decision at this stage is limited to selection of a site. Mr. May explained that a design will be developed, incorporating any constraints or guidelines resulting from the site approval process, and then presented to the Commission for design review.
Mr. Belle expressed concern at the request to approve the site without information about what the site would be used for. Mr. May emphasized that the process occurs in two stages, with design review following the site selection process. He said that the best guidance at this stage is to cite other examples of memorials that would be representative of what is envisioned for this site; he said that the memorial would be modest in scale, comparable to the Victims of Communism Memorial, and due to the narrow angle of the preferred site there would probably be less plaza space than is provided at the Victims of Communism Memorial. He anticipated that the memorial would be placed at the northern end of the preferred site. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission could choose to include direction or principles for the design as part of the site approval process; Mr. Powell said that such guidance would not be necessary at this point in the process.
Chairman Powell recognized Richard Rosenthal, who has served as the project manager for the development of the National Association of Realtors building over the past five to six years. Mr. Rosenthal introduced two other people attending on behalf of the NAR: Harry Robinson [a former chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts], who served on the design selection jury for the building; and Sheila Brady, a landscape architect with Oehme van Sweden & Associates which was the firm responsible for the landscape and site design for the NAR building.
Mr. Rosenthal explained the NAR's opposition to the selection of Reservation #196 for the memorial. He described the group's initial search for a new headquarters site shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, a period in which he said the construction of a new office building in central Washington was rare. He described the site's condition at that time, with an abandoned building and a gas station. He said that Reservation #196 was, according to the National Park Police, the worst site within the park system, requiring daily police presence; he said that the police had asked the NAR to put construction fencing around the site for crime control even in the absence of any construction activity.
Mr. Rosenthal said that the NAR studied the site and decided that it could be a viable location due to the opportunity to develop the entire block with the single development project; accordingly, they approached the National Park Service to request an arrangement to allow the NAR to design, construct, and maintain improvements to Reservation #196. An agreement was reached after extensive negotiations, and he emphasized that the Park Service's cooperation was critical to the decision by the NAR to move forward with the $50 million development of the office building, since the poor condition of the reservation would have detracted from the image that the NAR sought to convey to their members visiting Washington. He said that the NAR hired Oehme van Sweden & Associates to design the federal reservation and the extensive areas around the building that are within the public space controlled by the D.C. government, as well as to coordinate these site areas with the building which occupies the entire property owned by the NAR. He said that the project required approval from the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment, which required a commitment from the NAR to design the public spaces to provide amenities for the neighborhood. He described the design decisions resulting from the agreement with the National Park Service, including treating the reservation as a "view park" with no public access and fabricating the fencing for the reservation using the molds of historic fencing. He said that the NAR invested $350,000 in improvements to the reservation and provides $25,000 worth of landscape maintenance annually for the site as well as providing security; the NAR also replaced the D.C. sidewalks around the reservation. He summarized the aesthetic quality that the NAR has created through the improvements to the reservation and the design of the building and public space.
Mr. Rosenthal expressed concern that the NAR was not advised of the potential placement of the memorial on this reservation, learning of the proposal only accidentally from the National Capital Planning Commission staff through attendance at an unrelated meeting. He said that the NAR believes that the memorial would be an inappropriate use of the reservation and emphasized that the reservation is now already improved and is subject to the public-private partnership agreement with the Park Service. He said that the many reservations without such agreements show a lack of maintenance due to the Park Service's funding limits, while the NAR has taken responsibility for the long-term maintenance of this reservation. He urged the Commission to reject Reservation #196 as the memorial site.
Mr. Robinson then addressed the Commission to discuss several reasons for not approving Reservation #196 as the memorial site. He said that the reservation is now designed as part of a "holistic composition" in conjunction with the entire block, and any change to one of the block's various elements would harm the balance of the composition. He described one of the block's qualities as the counterpoint between the natural quality of the reservation, particularly emphasized by the large tree, and the strong architectural statement of the building; he characterized these elements as being in "perfect balance" and "perfect harmony." He described the unique design features of the block such as "the cadence of the pavers" and the unusual role of a private entity taking responsibility for the streetscape and landscaping. He said that the reservation, as currently configured and maintained, provides a quiet oasis in the built environment and moderates among the varied building styles and types in the vicinity. He described the reservation as being "at its carrying capacity, both visually and physically," and said that it did not have the physical and metaphorical room to accommodate an additional symbolic element. He emphasized the reservation's role as a "view park," as described by Mr. Rosenthal, and he said that such a thoughtful composition is not found elsewhere in the city.
Mr. Robinson commented that other sites considered for the memorial are more in need of improvement; he said that one principle of the Memorials and Museums Master Plan is to improve sites where needed. He added that an intervention in the reservation would harm the oak tree and emphasized the importance of this tree in defining the edge of New Jersey Avenue and as a node in the city. He said that an increase in pedestrian circulation at the site would harm the oak tree as well as harming the existing patterns of pedestrian movement. He characterized the improved quality of this site as "a memory in this precinct of the city" that should remain. He added that the reservation's role as a natural edge would become even more important when F Street is reconnected nearby; he concluded that another vertical element at this location, or another "place of memory," would be a mistake. He described the experience of sitting at the outdoor tables beside the restaurant at the north end of the NAR building to enjoy this "wonderful place in the city" and said that this quality should be replicated rather than harmed.
Ms. Balmori noted Mr. Rosenthal's comments about creating a pedestrian-friendly area with amenities such as benches, while also describing the agreement to prohibit public access to the park; she asked for clarification. Mr. Rosenthal responded that the pedestrian amenities are located in the hardscape area within the public space of the street rights-of-way; the restriction against public access relates only to the park reservation, which is now fenced. He said that the amenities in the public space include seating areas and a water feature. Mr. Robinson added that the plantings in the reservation are watered through a surface irrigation system, because the National Park Service did not allow the NAR to construct an underground irrigation system due to the potential for damage to the oak tree. Mr. Rosenthal clarified that the surface irrigation system is covered with mulch.
Mr. Rybczynski said he was not persuaded by the arguments that this reservation is unique or integral to a larger design concept. He said that the reservation is already set apart by the fencing and the contrast between the landscaping and the nearby hardscape, and it would therefore be easy to imagine a small statue being located there. However, he also acknowledged that the site is well maintained, agreeing that it would be wasteful to disrupt this site for the placement of a memorial while other park reservations in the city are not sufficiently maintained by the National Park Service. He therefore expressed opposition to approving Reservation #196 for the memorial and recommended that another park site be considered; Mr. Powell noted the alternative site that has been submitted.
Mr. May responded by describing the factors considered by the National Park Service in the site selection process, including requirements of the Commemorative Works Act. One factor is a relationship between the memorial subject and the setting, including themes of nearby memorials and the urban activities in the vicinity. He said that the preferred site's relationship to the nearby Victims of Communism Memorial is one advantageous feature. He explained that such considerations can sometimes outweigh the desire for efficiency in the development and maintenance of sites; the Park Service places more priority on the long-term implications of the site selection for the city than on any short-term maintenance problems that might exist.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that Reservation #196, if not approved for this memorial, would likely be considered for another memorial in the future, and the NAR would likely object again; he acknowledged that future review bodies would then have to decide on the long-term role of this reservation, but he said that this decision does not need to be made now.
Mr. Powell recognized Ms. Brady, the landscape architect for the site. Ms. Brady explained that her firm was hired by the National Association of Realtors and coordinated with the National Park Service in preserving the oak tree and improving the reservation. She said that the NAR undertook extensive construction measures to avoid damage to the tree. She confirmed that the design of the overall block, including the reservation, was conceived "as an integral whole."
Mr. Powell recognized Mr. Aleksandrovych, the representative of the Ukrainian embassy. Mr. Aleksandrovych said that his government is following the standard procedure identified by the National Park Service to complete the site selection process and then develop a design. He said that a design competition will take place and offered to include in the competition any conditions that the review agencies provide. He reiterated that there is no intention to affect the tree, and he offered to be as flexible as possible in accommodating any design parameters.
Mr. Powell again recognized Mr. Rosenthal, representing the NAR. Mr. Rosenthal reiterated his recommendation that the preferred site not be approved. He said that approval of a memorial at this site would, under the terms of the NAR's agreement with the National Park Service, constitute a default by the U.S. government and would grant the NAR the option of ending its maintenance responsibilities at any time. He said that the NAR wants to continue the current quality of the reservation but would be reluctant to take responsibility for maintaining a memorial that is unrelated to the NAR. Mr. Luebke read to the Commission the relevant section of the agreement, which includes a statement that all parties recognize that all federal reservations are potential sites for future memorials, in addition to the default language cited by Mr. Rosenthal.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk referred to an analytic plan of the preferred site that includes a small asterisk symbol at the northern apex; she asked Mr. Rosenthal if a memorial element with a footprint the size of this asterisk, with a corresponding adjustment to the fence alignment, would be objectionable to the NAR. Mr. Rosenthal said that the objection is to the siting of a memorial in the reservation; he declined to comment on whether a particular intervention would be acceptable. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that size would be an important issue in deciding on the appropriateness of the site. She said that the discussion was addressing the public space, the tree, and the landscaping of the reservation, while the actual memorial area could apparently be limited to a small portion at the north end of the reservation. She said that this scale and location for an intervention would not be disruptive and would not destroy the good design features that have been implemented throughout the block. Mr. Rosenthal responded that Mr. May's example of a small memorial was the Victims of Communism Memorial, which Mr. Rosenthal said would constitute a major intervention if placed on this reservation; he added that the vertical dominance of that memorial also makes a strong statement and such a design at Reservation #196 would detract from the improvements that the NAR has made to the site. He reiterated his opposition to the proposal.
Mr. McKinnell said that the issue should not be the particular design of a memorial but rather a general strategy for achieving improvements in cities. He said that joint efforts of private interests and the public sector are necessary to achieve our vision for cities. He emphasized that this park is already cared for by its immediate neighbor, a precedent which should be encouraged rather than overturned. He acknowledged that a memorial might add beauty to the reservation but stressed the greater importance of the strategic need to foster the spread of public-private cooperation in improving the urban environment. Mr. Powell agreed with Mr. McKinnell's comments.
Ms. Nelson commented that the alternative location, Reservation #78, should not be treated as inferior. She said that this site has great potential, with many people nearby including commuters. She noted its proximity to Union Station, the adjacent historic retail building, and the short walk to obtain a view of the Capitol. She said that a memorial at this location would make many more people aware of the subject.
Mr. Aleksandrovych commented to the Commission that the legislation authorizing the memorial provides for the maintenance to be the responsibility of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian community in the U.S.; he confirmed the commitment to meet this responsibility.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission reach a conclusion. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the alternative site, Reservation #78, for the memorial. Ms. Balmori, who arrived during the discussion of this agenda item, abstained from the vote.
3. CFA 18/SEP/08-3, Lincoln Memorial Circle. Perimeter security barriers on east side of plaza. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/07-2.) Mr. Luebke summarized the status of perimeter security at the Lincoln Memorial: the north, west, and south sides are protected by a circular plinth wall; the Commission has approved the alignment for barriers flanking the eastern plaza to tie into the plinth wall; and the central portion of the memorial's east side was excluded from that submission to allow for further development of a final design for perimeter security at this location, which is part of a comprehensive design study encompassing the memorial plaza and the landscape extending eastward from it. He said that the current submission is for a temporary barrier to be installed while the permanent design is being developed; the National Park Service would like to install this temporary barrier in time for the celebration of the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in 2009. He described the proposed barrier as a north-south line of 43 precast concrete cubes.
Ms. Balmori asked why a permanent design is not being presented, commenting that temporary solutions often end up becoming inappropriately permanent. She said that the proposed temporary solution appears very "heavy-handed" compared to the permanent designs that the Commission has approved for the remainder of the perimeter. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Powell responded that the permanent design for this area was not implemented by direction of the Secretary of the Interior in 2007, with the support of the Commission, resulting in the need for a temporary solution.
Steve Lorenzetti of the National Park Service offered to clarify the project for the Commission. He said that the Park Service is currently preparing the contract for a designer to study a range of issues, such as sidewalks, lighting, and security, in the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool in accordance with the goals of the Secretary of the Interior. He said that the design study is not yet funded but the Park Service hopes that the contract can be awarded in the coming fiscal year. He said that the existing barrier in this area is unsightly Jersey barriers that will be especially inappropriate during the upcoming celebration of Lincoln's bicentennial, which is the motivation for the current proposal to replace the Jersey barriers with a more acceptable temporary barrier.
Mr. Lorenzetti explained that none of the options developed so far for this east side has been acceptable to the Park Service and the Secretary of the Interior, noting the importance of developing a successful design for this prominent site. The intention to broaden the design study is part of the effort to reach a better solution that would treat the perimeter security as part of an overall improvement to the area rather than as an additive element. He said that the study will consider such features as the memorial's east plaza, which was constructed in the 1970s and could now perhaps be more sensitively designed. He said that the decision to take time to pursue a high-quality design for this area has resulted in the desire for a temporary solution to address the problem of the Jersey barriers during the 2009 Lincoln celebration. He said that the current proposal has been developed through extensive consultation with review agency staffs and interested individuals and organizations.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the need for protection from vehicles approaching the areas on the landscape stairs. Mr. Lorenzetti explained that these stairs, constructed in the 1910s, are very shallow and can be reached by vehicles from many access points.
Mr. Lorenzetti presented the proposed temporary solution of installing a row of concrete aggregate barriers, approximately thirty-inch cubes, on the plaza at the top of the stairs. He showed the Commission samples of the proposed texture and color for the concrete; the color is intended to relate to the approved bollard color, to the color of the pavers currently being installed in this area, and to the color of the Lincoln Memorial.
Ms. Nelson asked if the barriers need to be so large. Mr. Lorenzetti responded that the size is close to the minimum necessary for a freestanding block to meet crash-resistance requirements; he said that there is some concern that the barriers need to be slightly larger. He explained that the entire block is the structural security element, which means that the maximum spacing of four feet can be provided between the faces of the barriers rather than having to allow for non-structural sheathing that typically narrows the opening.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed cubes are not a significant improvement over the existing Jersey barriers and suggested that the barrier would be less obtrusive if placed at the bottom of the steps. Mr. Lorenzetti said that this location was proposed in the previous submission, but the problem was how to continue the perimeter security along the sides of the stairs. One proposal had solved this problem by placing the barrier within shrubbery, but there was not a consensus among the various agencies to support that design; subsequently the new Secretary of the Interior concluded that the impact of that solution on the landscape would be excessive and the result was the proposal for the broader design study. Mr. Lorenzetti presented images showing the appearance of the proposed row of blocks and said that the Park Service believes that this proposal will be a significant improvement over the Jersey barriers. Ms. Nelson commented that the security priorities may change with the next Secretary of the Interior and expressed reluctance to approve the placement of these large blocks at this time. Mr. Lorenzetti said that he is optimistic that the study for the permanent design will be funded in the coming months.
Mr. Belle said that the Commission had offered extensive comments in its previous review of perimeter security for this area; he questioned why the advice is not reflected in the proposal. Mr. Lorenzetti responded that the Commission has previously approved an alignment for perimeter security at the location that is now proposed, while there has not been an approval for the design of the actual security elements. Mr. Belle expressed concern that the proposed temporary solution would actually become a permanent installation. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposal is at least an improvement over the Jersey barriers. Ms. Nelson said that it would be preferable to leave the Jersey barriers in place, because their ugliness would serve as an incentive for the Park Service to move more quickly to a thoughtful permanent design solution, while the proposed blocks might be tolerated for an indefinitely long period. Mr. Powell disagreed with this viewpoint and supported the elimination of the Jersey barriers as soon as possible.
Mr. Lorenzetti responded that the factors that affect the timing of funding can be difficult to predict. He said that the Park Service finds the Jersey barriers ugly and in need of removal, but the proposed interim solution is also not acceptable to the Park Service for the long term. He said that the Park Service would seek an improved solution regardless of whether the temporary proposal is approved, while the temporary proposal would at least provide an improved appearance for the 2009 Lincoln celebration. Mr. Powell expressed confidence that the funding process for the design study would be successful, leading to the implementation of a permanent design and assuring that the temporary solution would indeed be only temporary.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the importance and beauty of the memorial, commenting that the proposed design harms the memorial's setting. She criticized the effect of a wall at the top of the stairs, while acknowledging that the blocks will appear somewhat less like a wall than do the Jersey barriers. She expressed a preference for locating the temporary barrier toward the lower part of the stairs. Mr. Lorenzetti offered to present the renderings of various alternative locations; Ms. Nelson encouraged an alternative alignment along the first landing of the stairs.
Mr. Lorenzetti presented a series of images illustrating alternative locations for the blocks and their impact on views of the memorial. He said that the alignment near the top of the steps is somewhat screened from visitors at the bottom of the stairs, but the blocks have a greater impact on views as people ascend the stairs. He said that the impact is minimal on views looking outward from the memorial because the eye is drawn to the Washington Monument.
Ms. Balmori characterized the proposal as a "Maginot Line" made of enormously scaled elements. Mr. Lorenzetti acknowledged the concern but said that the actual scale of the blocks, along with the generous spacing between, causes them to "tend to disappear into the landscape." He clarified that the row would include 43 blocks.
Ms. Nelson asked if the sloped tops of the blocks are designed to discourage placement of drinks. Mr. Lorenzetti said that the slant is intended to prevent rain from pooling as well as to discourage placement of drinks; he said that the blocks would be convenient for people to sit on, and the Park Service has no objection to this use.
Mr. Powell asked what the difficulty would be in moving the barriers lower on the stairs. Mr. Lorenzetti responded that people have commented that the blocks become more obtrusive at that location because the eye is drawn to them. Ms. Balmori questioned this conclusion, saying that the lower alignment would remove the blocks from the direct view of the memorial; Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of removing the blocks from prominence in photographs that people will take of the memorial. Mr. Lorenzetti reiterated that an additional problem with the lower alignment is the need to continue the perimeter security along the sides of the staircase, which has been difficult to solve despite many attempts dating to 2001. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the risk involves someone driving a vehicle on the grass panels beside the stairs; Mr. Lorenzetti confirmed this problem and said that the best solution might involve altering the grass panels so that they could not accommodate a vehicle. Ms. Balmori supported exploration of such a solution, possibly involving terracing of the grass panels. Mr. Lorenzetti said that this would be part of the anticipated broad study of the area.
Chairman Powell asked if the proposed temporary installation is the best possible solution for the moment; Mr. Lorenzetti responded that it uses the fewest elements and is intended to be the least visually intrusive. Mr. Powell expressed support for the proposal.
Mr. Belle asked why a past proposal was eliminated that called for barriers across the bottom of the steps and security cables embedded within planting along the sides. Mr. Luebke responded that after extensive discussions, many Commission members did not support that solution, resulting in the Commission's recommendation in 2007 to restudy the entire design for this area. He emphasized that the current proposal is simply an effort to improve the area for 2009, and he noted that the proposed precast blocks would have no foundations nor connection to the plaza so they would be relatively easy to install and remove.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell asked why the funding of the design study is uncertain. Mr. Lorenzetti said that a continuing resolution is anticipated for spending after October 1, and the exact wording of the continuing resolution would affect whether the funds become available at that time. He said that typically, under continuing resolutions, expenses for planning can be incurred while expenses for construction are limited, but this pattern can vary.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that there will be plenty of advocates for a permanent design solution at such a prominent location, and she expressed confidence that the temporary proposal would be superseded as intended. She asked how the Commission could state its approval of the proposal while emphasizing the need for it to be temporary. Mr. Luebke said that the approval could include a reasonable time limit; Mr. Powell suggested a duration of one year. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this limit could be based on the understanding that funding would be available for a permanent design; Ms. Balmori objected that the funding isn't actually authorized. Mr. Powell clarified that the funding is included in the coming year's budget, but the agency's funding may be provided through a continuing resolution rather than through approval of the budget. Mr. Lorenzetti explained that the design funding is programmed, but he agreed that construction funding has not yet been authorized.
Mr. Luebke asked if the earlier scheme, which was eventually abandoned, had been funded for construction. Mr. Lorenzetti said that the project was funded for construction during that fiscal period, and those funds are no longer available.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered a motion to approve the proposal with the understanding that it is temporary and that there is a design process underway, or soon to begin, for development of a final design for this area. Mr. Belle suggested amending the motion to recommend that the current design proposal be modified to more clearly give a temporary appearance to the blocks, which he said are too permanent-looking as currently designed. Mr. Lorenzetti said that the Commission could also specify that the alignment of the temporary perimeter will not necessarily be the alignment of the permanent design, since the Park Service expects this alignment to change. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that the motion should state that the Commission does not support the temporary alignment as the location for the permanent aligment. She reiterated her confidence that the blocks would not remain for a long time.
Mr. Powell restated the motion: to approve the barriers as a temporary measure, subject to funding in the 2009 budget. Upon a second by Mr. Rybczynski the Commission adopted this motion, with Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori voting against it. Ms. Balmori explained her vote against the proposal, saying that the location is inappropriate for either a temporary or permanent solution, the shape is inappropriate, and the proposal harms the Lincoln Memorial; she also expressed a lack of confidence in the intended temporary duration of the installation. Mr. Lorenzetti responded that the National Park Service shares the concern about the duration of the installation and will endeavor to develop a permanent design.
The Commission then considered the next two agenda items related to the south side of Union Station—the perimeter security proposed by Amtrak and the alterations to Columbus Plaza proposed by the D.C. Department of Transportation—in the reverse of the order listed on the agenda.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
1. CFA 18/SEP/08-5, Columbus Plaza at Union Station, Massachusetts Avenue between North Capitol Street and Second Street, N.E. Revisions to plaza to improve vehicular and pedestrian access and circulation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JUN/08-5.) Mr. Lindstrom said that the project was previously presented in June when the Commission had given guidance to revise the shape of the plaza and the materials chosen for the walks. He introduced David Ball, president of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Ball provided an overview of both projects at Union Station and said that the design has been coordinated with the staffs of the Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission. He noted that the proposal for the plaza is submitted as a revised concept design, and he introduced the project consultant, Gary Burch of Parsons, to give the presentation.
Mr. Burch presented an aerial photo illustrating the existing conditions of the plaza and indicated the historic plaza area. He reminded the Commission of the previous plan for the plaza's reconfiguration, presented in June, which the Commission had found to be too asymmetrical and amorphous. He said that the Commission had also expressed concern about the proposed change in the width of the walks where they were extended beyond the historic plaza, and the different size, shape, and color of their pavers. In response, the current design has a more symmetrical plaza, maintains the width of walks through the plaza extension—including the tapering of some walks—and moves the circumferential sidewalk to the curbline, with no intervening grass strip. For the brick pavers, he presented two samples of alternative colors that differ slightly from the historic brick. The new pavers in the extended plaza would be laid in a herringbone pattern, matching the historic plaza; he presented a drawing comparing the existing pavers with the samples. He said that the revised design would still meet the needs of transportation and safety.
Mr. Belle asked if the rose beds would be removed; Mr. Burch responded that the National Park Service had requested that the landscaping not be changed, and therefore the rose beds would stay. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended elimination of the existing hedge around the perimeter of the plaza so that views would not be blocked; Mr. Burch agreed.
Ms. Balmori questioned the necessity of retaining a small traffic island at the northwest end of the plaza. Mr. Burch responded that the designers examined modifying and removing traffic islands, but that many, including this one, need to be kept because of the speed and volume of traffic and the complexity of the numerous turns. Ms. Balmori asked why this island needs to be separate from the adjacent island to the south. Mr. Burch said the gap is needed to allow for left turns onto Delaware Avenue, and he said that accommodating the needs of traffic in transportation projects often requires the sacrifice of other design goals.
Mr. Belle asked whether the existing brick is historic. Mr. Burch said that the National Park Service believes that most is original brick laid in the 1910s. The intent of the project is to retain all intact historic brick; some bricks may be reset while others might be replaced with similarly color brick that retains the same essential appearance.
Mr. Belle asked whether the brick currently meets the planted areas and granite borders as it had historically, or whether there had been raised curbs between the different areas. Mr. Burch replied that he did not know, and also did not know whether the rose beds had been added later, but believed they could date from the 1970s; Mr. Belle agreed that they could be an addition. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the edges of the brick areas appear uneven, adding that the level of the historic brick plaza appears to have been raised because the stone base of the flagpole bases is now embedded in the brick. Mr. Burch said that such problems would be repaired as part of the project. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the Commission had assumed this was not part of the proposal, reiterating her expectation that careful examination would reveal that the historic brick was not at its original level and would need to be relaid. Mr. Burch said this could probably be done, and that the project's goal is to restore the plaza "as best we can to its original condition." Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that granite edging was used elsewhere on the plaza except at the planting beds, noting the poor condition of the bricks which are falling into the adjacent beds; Mr. Belle said a new granite curb may need to be installed. Mr. Burch said this would be coordinated with the National Park Service.
Ms. Balmori asked what the thinking was behind the two sample colors of brick that were presented. Mr. Burch said they are examples of possible colors that would be similar to, but distinct from, the existing paving. Ms. Balmori mentioned that the sample with more variable color was more interesting. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission could indicate whether the lighter or darker sample is preferred; the members expressed varying opinions, resulting in a consensus in favor of the lighter color with a request that further alternatives be provided.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept.
C. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
CFA 18/SEP/08-4, Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E. Perimeter security. Revised design. Revised concept/Final. (Previous: CFA 19/JUN/08-6.) Mr. Ball, in his earlier introduction to both projects at Union Station, explained that the design team has responded to the Commission's request by developing different ideas for the end of the bollard line along the south facade of the station. He said that the perimeter security is designed to be compatible with the visual landscape of Union Station as well as with its practical functions—the picking up and dropping off of passengers from taxis and private vehicles, and pedestrian access to the station and the retail areas. He noted that the perimeter security is submitted as both a revised concept and final design, and he introduced historical architect John Bowie to present the proposal.
Mr. Bowie reminded the Commission of the previously submitted concept which included a combination of bollards and a reinforced steel railing along proposed planting beds. He summarized the Commission's response to that proposal, including the recommendation to articulate the ends of the lines of bollards to create a design consistent with the scale and character of Burnham's design. He said that the new submission is based on examination of the plaza's historic features, specifically the rostral columns with their pedestals and balustrades, constructed of the same stone as the station. He presented examples of similar pedestal details that are used in many areas around the station.
Mr. Bowie said that the proposed design adapts these historic pedestal features at a slightly reduced scale to create two new types of stone pedestal, which he referred to as "type A" and "type B," to create a visual termination for the ends of the bollard rows. The type A pedestals would align with the engaged columns on the two end pavilions of the station's facade; the type B pedestals would provide a point of intersection for the transverse line of removable bollards that would extend across the taxi lane. He explained that the rounded ends of the new pedestals would allow a steel bollard to be enclosed within the stone; the steel would provide the necessary protection for the station again fast-moving vehicles that might shatter the stone. He explained further details of the design and spacing of the perimeter security elements and their relation to the design of the station; he noted that the spacing between bollards would vary in some locations in response to the width of the opening to be protected. He said that the stone pedestals would be 36 inches high to enclose the 30-inch-high steel bollards; this scale is reduced from the 44-inch height of the historic pedestals. He described the details of the visible bollards, which would include a decorative cap and a six-inch plinth base to provide a sense of scale and consistency with the stone pedestals. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the width of the sidewalk adjacent to the face of the station would be altered; Mr. Bowie replied that the sidewalk would be extended outward from the building by six feet.
Mr. Belle asked to see again the overall plan for the front of the station, shown in the presentation of Columbus Plaza, in order to see the proposed location of the pedestals and bollards. Mr. Bowie noted that this plan also shows the double-globed streetlights that would be added in front of the station. Mr. Powell asked why the row of bollards on the traffic island overlaps with the bollard line near the station facade. Mr. Bowie explained the goal of avoiding bollards along the inner taxi lane in the very busy passenger loading area at the main entrance to the station; as a result, the bollard line shifts to the first traffic island in this area. He said that the configuration provides an overlap to address a potential vulnerability to high-speed vehicles approaching the building obliquely. He clarified that the bollards extending across the taxi lane, from the island to the main sidewalk, would be removable and would normally be in the lowered position; they could be raised during periods of heightened security alerts.
Mr. Bowie presented two samples of granite proposed for the new pedestals. The first was "Bethel White" granite from the Rock of Ages quarry in Bethel, Vermont, the stone used to construct the station. He noted that the only difference between the sample and the original stone was that the original had a bush-hammered finish, which the quarry no longer recommends because of flaking during freeze-thaw cycles; instead, a flamed finish is proposed. He said that the design team had considered the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and decided to propose an alternative stone that would be distinguishable from the original. This second sample, "Arctic White" granite, has the same level of whiteness for the base color but has more black grains; he said that this stone is somewhat more reflective and grainy on close inspection, but at a short distance has a more harmonious and uniform appearance. Mr. Belle said that an observer might think, if the second type were used, that the designers had been unable to match the original stone; he suggested that the differentiation could be achieved by subtly altering the detailing of the stone to make it clear that the structures were built at different times. Mr. Bowie said that the design team has already been trying to vary the scale of the pedestals and the stone detailing, including the reduction in height by eight inches compared to the historic pedestals.
Mr. Belle said that several Commission members, during the site inspection earlier in the day, had supported the modulation of the bollard rows with the new pedestals that relate to the historic design context; the members had further considered the possibility of adding vertical elements to these pedestals, consistent with the placement of the rostral columns and light fixtures in the historic design. He and Ms. Plater-Zyberk indicated several examples of these features in the photographs of the existing conditions. Ms. Plater-Zyberk explained the Commission's concern that the streetlights would appear inappropriate if placed in front of the building's main entrance, while the precedent of placing light stanchions on stone pedestals is already prevalent at the station. Mr. Bowie acknowledged the existing examples and said that he had reluctantly excluded the taller vertical elements from his study of the historic pedestals because the purpose of the project is to provide security rather than lighting. Ms. Nelson noted that the lighting proposal is also before the Commission; Mr. Luebke clarified that the lighting is part of the D.C. Department of Transportation proposal for the plaza, and the selection of standard light fixtures would be less expensive than designing custom fixtures to place on the pedestals.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission should promote the best solution that comes from the overall design process for the project. Mr. Burch, the consultant for the Columbus Plaza project, said that his design could be adjusted to include custom-designed lights for placement on the pedestals, in keeping with the historic examples, subject to the agreement of the D.C. Department of Transportation to authorize the slightly higher cost. He noted that this solution would result in an adjustment to the spacing of the light fixtures that was submitted. Ms. Nelson suggested a potential placement for two lights to frame the central arches. Mr. Burch said that further study would be required to consider the desired lighting level and the location of the proposed pedestals in relation to the existing architecture; he emphasized that a solution should be feasible and any extra cost should be relatively minor in comparison to the overall scope of the project. Mr. Belle suggested that a light be placed on each of the four proposed pedestals, with potential modification of the pedestal locations.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the submission as a concept design, with the recommendation to include light fixtures on the stone pedestals and to adjust the pedestal locations as necessary. Mr. Bowie explained Amtrak's desire need to continue the design process and coordinate the security issues with other agencies; he asked for clarification of whether the overall location of the security perimeter is approved. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission was approving the location of the bollards and was allowing for adjustment to the location of the pedestals in response to the lighting requirements.
Mr. Luebke noted that the applicant has requested that the submission be approved as a final design; he asked if the Commission would like to delegate final approval of modifications to the staff, which Mr. Bowie said would be helpful for the design team. Mr. Powell suggested a restatement of the motion to incorporate this delegation. Mr. Luebke repeated the original motion with the added provision to delegate the further review to the staff. The Commission adopted this revised motion. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the Commission had determined the choice of stone color and whether an additional motion is needed on this issue; Mr. Luebke offered to resolve this at the staff level based on the Commission's guidance.
The Commission then returned to the order of the agenda with item II.D.2.
D. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
2. CFA 18/SEP/08-6, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, Two pedestrian and bicycle bridges over the CSX Railroad Track. North of Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. Concept/Final. Mr. Simon said that the submission is part of the long-term project to create continuous recreation trails along both sides of the Anacostia River; the current proposal is for bridges and associated ramps that would bring the trails over the freight railroad tracks that cross the river on a low alignment upstream of Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. He noted that the technical constraints on the project such as the required clearance above the tracks and the need to enclose the bridge in order to protect the tracks from projectiles. He introduced Allen Miller, the project engineer with the D.C. Department of Transportation, to present the design.
Mr. Miller said that the presentation is an update to an ongoing program of multiple projects. He described the extent of the Anacostia Riverwalk system which connects the Tidal Basin to Maryland; the west bank trail is currently under construction between Benning Road and the Washington Navy Yard; the proposed west bridge will be part of this trail. He said that the east bank trail would be developed in conjunction with the National Park Service's planned reconstruction of Anacostia Drive; the road will be placed on a new alignment away from the river's edge, and a portion of the existing road will be used for the trail. Another trail segment on the east side will extend from Benning Road to Bladensburg, where it will connect to the regional trail system in Maryland. He said that the trail will also be part of a national trail system along the east coast, extending from Maine to Florida. He indicated the connections to the Southwest Waterfront and to crossings of the Potomac River to tie into the Virginia trail system, and the connection to the Kennedy Center and the C & O Canal which is part of a system that continues to Pittsburgh.
Mr. Miller explained that the freight railroad tracks are the biggest barrier to completing the proposed trail system. He said that an at-grade crossing of the tracks was initially planned, but this raised safety concerns with the CSX freight rail company that operates the tracks, as well as with the D.C. Department of Transportation; the result is the current proposal for bridges.
Mr. Miller presented photographs of the existing conditions of the riverfront area and the railroad tracks. He said that the required clearance of the bridges above the tracks is 23 feet, requiring long ramped approaches which have been reduced by coordinating with existing variations in the topography where possible. He said that the approaches would be supported on embankments for the lower elevations and on piers supporting girder spans for the taller portions above ten feet in height, in order to maintain a human scale for the embankments while providing sufficient headroom for the open spans. Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of how the heights relate to the topography; Mr. Miller indicated the renderings of the proposal.
Mr. Miller explained that the approaches follow a curved alignment in order to provide sufficient distance to ascend to the necessary height while maintaining a maximum grade of five percent, which is shallow enough to eliminate the need for landings. He said that the result is an evenly rising trail that has a lively alignment that relates to the course of the river.
Mr. Miller said that the spans over the tracks would be trusses, which relate to the character of the railroad infrastructure and allow for placement of the cartway along the bottom of the truss which minimizes the height needed to maintain the required clearance and therefore minimizes the length of the approaches.
Ms. Balmori asked why the lower portions of the approaches are placed on embankments. Mr. Miller responded that the transition must happen eventually, and it is best to keep the girders away from the ground and plants in order to avoid corrosion. He said that the material will be Cor-Ten steel which will have a brown color that is consistent with the palette used by the National Park Service. Ms. Balmori commented that the embankments result in a significant loss of transparency in the design. Mr. Miller said that the embankment is much more economical to build than the pier and girder system, and the cost of an all-pier system would make this option unfeasible. Ms. Balmori then suggested using perforated steel sheets to provide enclosure while maintaining an open character; Mr. Miller responded that perforated steel is difficult to use adjacent to the dirt of an embankment, and ease of maintenance is a concern in the design.
Mr. Belle asked about the width of the bridge; Mr. Miller responded that the cartway is fourteen feet wide and accommodates only pedestrians and bicycles. He said that the standard width for such a trail is twelve feet plus two-foot shoulders on each side; since the shoulders are eliminated on the bridge spans, the slightly more generous width of fourteen feet is provided.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented on the surprisingly large scale of the project and reluctantly acknowledged that there may be no other way to resolve the crossing of the tracks. She requested an image of the proposed support piers for the approaches. Mr. Miller responded that no detailed image is available but they are illustrated in the renderings and would be T-shaped structures; he confirmed that the piers would be cast in place and there would be some flexibility is possible in the design of these piers. He said that the surface treatment of the concrete would be determined during the construction process but would be more aesthetically interesting than a flat concrete finish; he welcomed suggestions for this selection, such as a brick pattern. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the surface treatment should be determined as part of the design process rather than during construction. She cited the illustrious history of engineering structures with aesthetic quality that is derived from the engineering purpose rather than applied as a standard surface pattern. She suggested that the design team be more ambitious in developing the elements of the project. Ms. Nelson said that a rounded form could improve the design of the piers.
Mr. McKinnell asked who is designing the project. Mr. Miller responded that T. Y. Lin International, an engineering firm, is preparing the design; he confirmed that no architect is involved. Mr. McKinnell said that the lack of architectural design is the problem that the Commission is identifying; Ms. Balmori agreed with this concern.
Mr. Powell suggested a motion conveying the Commission's concerns. Mr. Luebke noted that the design is submitted for both concept and final approval; he said the Commission might choose to withhold final approval and ask to see the project again. Mr. Belle said that the concerns and criticisms are beyond the scope of minor adjustments, requiring consideration of how the bridge relates to the landscape. He said that people can readily recognize the grace, beauty, and simplicity of a well-designed bridge. He acknowledged the thoughtful consideration of operational and user needs such as the cartway width but said that its form is very rudimentary and functional and does not add beauty to the landscape. He described the existing landscape setting as extraordinary and said that a bridge introduced into that landscape should have beauty. He suggested further research of precedents and further study of the design.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the project is not merely two bridges but also involves very large and lengthy causeways that can be seen across large open areas. She emphasized the need for a good design and said that even repeated elements in the project can be designed to be graceful. Ms. Balmori said that the curved alignment in plan has the potential, with careful design, to result in a very graceful structure. She said that additional study is needed of all components including the piers and spans.
Mr. Powell suggested that the Commission offer this advice and request an additional submission when the design is further developed; he expressed support for the general concept for the bridge and suggested that the staff work further with Mr. Miller. The discussion concluded without a formal motion.
E. U.S. Department of Agriculture / U.S. National Arboretum
CFA 18/SEP/08-7, National Arboretum, Flowering Tree Walk Plaza on Meadow Road, north of the Administration and Visitor Service Building. New promenade plaza. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/SEP/04-Admin E.) Mr. Lindstrom said that the project is the second phase of a two-phase plan to construct the Flowering Tree Walk. This phase will develop a plaza linking the Arboretum's headquarters and visitor service building to the bonsai collection and national herb collection. The first phase, trails connecting the azalea collection with the Capitol Columns across the Great Meadow, has been completed. He introduced botanist Kevin Tunison of the Arboretum who asked the landscape architect for the overall project, Scott Rykiel of Mahan Rykiel Associates, to present the design.
Mr. Rykiel noted that his firm is working with the landscape architecture firm of Reed Hilderbrand on this phase of the project. He summarized the master plan for the Arboretum, pointing out the relation of buildings with the route of the Flowering Tree Walk and indicating the area where the plaza will be built, currently a part of Meadow Road. He said that this area is adjacent to several feature gardens and currently lacks any distinction between pedestrian and vehicular circulation. In this phase of the project, a 20-foot-wide, 228-foot-long pedestrian plaza is proposed and traffic will be restricted to trams and emergency vehicles only.
Mr. Rykiel explained that the proposed plaza will be composed of a field of gray "Eurocobble" pavers overlaid by the scored, colored concrete route of the 7-feet-wide Flowering Tree Walk. He noted that Eurocobbles, granite cobbles that come in preset 19- by 19-inch modules, have already been used in the Arboretum at the plaza and drop-off area near the Capitol Columns. Bands of concrete would frame the plaza's cobble field and break it into approximately 30-foot-long sections. The Flowering Tree Walk would meander through the plaza, indicating that the walk itself is a destination. The existing asphalt road would narrow to a single lane at the plaza.
Ms. Balmori asked about the color of the concrete and whether the concrete would be mixed with the cobbles. Mr. Rykiel said that the concrete would have the same beige tone used for the existing portion of the walk, and the plaza would have the same combination of concrete banding and cobbles as the plaza at the Capitol Columns. Ms. Balmori asked why two bands of cobbles of different widths are proposed within the plaza. Mr. Rykiel responded this was an effect of the concrete Flowering Tree Walk passing through the plaza and, in effect, being overlaid on the panels of cobbles. He said that the intention is to treat the Flowering Tree Walk as a continuous loop rather than having it end at the plaza.
Mr. Luebke noted that the segmented pattern underlying the circulation system is odd, indicated on the drawings as 18.4 modules long, creating a rhythm that results in awkward connections to existing paths. Mr. Rykiel explained that the cobbles were made in Italy and hence the module is determined by the metric system. Mr. Luebke responded that it still seems arbitrary and raised the concern for the Commission that the number of modules in each panel does not generate a satisfactory pattern with existing elements.
Mr. McKinnell asked Mr. Rykiel whether he thought the concrete edging and the cross striping of concrete bands were essential to the design; Mr. Rykiel responded that he felt an edging of some sort along the cobbles is necessary, though it could be a different width or different stone. He said he did not think the cross-striping is necessary, but something is needed to break up the linearity of the 228-foot-long plaza so that it would not look like a long raceway or appear that an asphalt street had simply been replaced by a cobbled street.
Ms. Balmori commented that using the cobbles with an edging gives a generous feeling of space, but she did not understand the rationale for breaking up the plaza into so many small sections. She said the plaza would feel more spacious if kept simpler, especially without the walk running through it or the horizontal bands of concrete; Mr. Rykiel agreed to eliminate these bands of concrete.
Ms. Nelson suggested that, since the submission is for concept approval, the Commission approve the design with these comments and see the revision in the next submission. Mr. Rykiel requested comments about the expression of the walk passing through the plaza pattern. Ms Nelson said that this configuration makes sense; Mr. Rybczynski commented that it is odd to run a walkway through a plaza. Ms. Plater-Zyberg agreed with Mr. Rybczynski and recommended that the plaza should be designed as an entity. She asked whether the walkway treatment is a requirement for handicapped access or for driving purposes; Mr. Rykiel responded that there is no requirement, and he agreed to submit additional design alternatives for the Commission's review. The discussion concluded without a formal motion.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
The Commission considered the two Shipstead-Luce Act cases in the reverse of the order listed on the agenda.
2. S.L. 08- 131 (H.P.A. 08- 463), Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500-530 17th Street / 1700 New York Avenue, N.W. New seven-story office building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler said that this design had come before the Commission twenty years ago as an addition to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran School of Art. It is now proposed as a separate office building for the American Enterprise Institute. She said that the original design is being presented; however, because of regulatory changes over the intervening twenty years, changes for access have to be made at the entrance and the loading dock, and these do not yet appear on the drawings. She introduced Warren Cox of Hartman-Cox Architects to present the design.
Mr. Cox said that the original project had been for an income-generating building to be owned by the Corcoran. It had received approvals and a building permit, but the Corcoran could not obtain a loan for construction and the project was put on hold. A subsequent design for an addition by Frank Gehry [approved by the Commission in 2003] was also not built. Mr. Cox was recently contacted by the American Enterprise Institute, which is interested in building the proposed design of the late 1980s. He said that only minor changes to the design are anticipated.
Mr. Cox said that the Corcoran's original structure, designed by Ernest Flagg, dates from 1897, with additions made by Charles Platt in 1927. He presented slides of the exterior of the existing gallery and of the proposed building's site, which is now a parking lot. He also showed images of nearby buildings, including the adjacent United Unions, Inc. office building to the west. He mentioned that many monumental institutional buildings are located to the south, including the American Red Cross headquarters and the Organization of American States.
Mr. Cox then presented the floor plans and elevations for the new office structure. The building would have floor setbacks similar to those of the Corcoran Gallery, and the floor elevation would continue the level of the Platt addition to the gallery. There would be a curved corner at the northwest corner, similar to the Corcoran's curved corner at 17th Street and New York Avenue. He said that the proposed building was designed to complete the existing complex in a sympathetic way, adding that the massing is meant to complement the gallery and is set back to avoid overpowering it. The same marble cladding is proposed, although it will not be possible to match the color precisely. He presented renderings of how the new building will step back from New York Avenue, and of the rear elevation including new service openings in the existing gallery building. He also showed a photograph of the large model of the 1980s proposal, which was stored at the Corcoran Gallery and has since disappeared.
Ms. Nelson inquired whether this new structure would ever become part of the Corcoran. Mr. Cox replied that he thought this unlikely; the Corcoran plans to sell the site or establish a long-term ground lease for the new building.
Mr. Cox said that he had looked at the 1965 edition of the AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, which he co-authored, and under the Corcoran entry found a quote from Geoffrey Scott's Architecture of Humanism, which he felt was appropriate for this design: "For whatever has once genuinely pleased is likely to be again found pleasing; art and the employment of art continue in the condemned paths undismayed and criticism is left to discover a sanction for them, if it can, in some new theory as simple, as logical, and as insufficient as the first."
Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's procedures require that this design be considered a new submission; he noted that the previous approval has expired and that the Commission has also approved an intervening design for the site.
Mr. Rybczynski asked whether any recent changes in technology would affect the building's design. Mr. Cox replied that the mechanical system would probably have to be redone to meet current engineering codes, the handicapped access would have to be updated, and the structural system might have to be changed, but none of these would significantly affect the appearance. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed the hope that the front ramp would not just be an asymmetrical long ramp at the side, given the strong formal character of the building. Mr. Cox replied that it might be difficult to do anything except replicate a ramp on the opposite side of the entrance; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the building's design may require this symmetrical solution. Mr. Belle suggested providing handicapped access through the areaway; Mr. Cox responded that he had considered bringing people down to enter the building and then up into the lobby, but said that this solution did not meet the spirit of the handicapped accessibility requirements.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered a motion to approve the concept, to encourage making any adjustments necessary because of the passage of time, and to support the formal character of the design. With a second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission adopted this motion.
1. S.L. 08-135, 800 17th Street, N.W. New 12-story office building. Final. (Previous: S.L. 08-015, November 2007.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a new office building at the corner of 17th and H Streets, explaining that the Commission had approved the design concept in November 2007 with the recommendation that the architects study further the detailing of the curtain wall and lobby. She introduced Daniel Karchem, Senior Vice President of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, to begin the presentation. Mr. Karchem noted that the building will be the regional corporate headquarters for PNC Bank, which will occupy the top floor and about 60,000 additional square feet. He then introduced the building's architect, David Epstein of Gensler, to present the design.
Mr. Epstein noted that the submission is for final approval of the project. He presented renderings illustrating the project, explaining that the design was inspired by the site and the views toward the monuments to the south and Farragut Square to the north. He said that the design is intended to achieve LEED Platinum certification.
Mr. Epstein summarized the building design and described the changes that have been made since the previous review. He said the concept had been presented with a diagram illustrating the building as a "folded box," protected on the east and west sides and open to the south, where clear glass shielded by sun shading would be used as an architectural gesture to emphasize the south views. He described how the glass skin along 17th Street on the east will wrap around to the alley facade on the west, which will be a wall of glass and precast concrete. He explained that the south elevation will still have deep, horizontal, custom-made aluminum sunscreens instead of window shades so that occupants' views are not blocked; the sunscreens will be angled to block the sun while allowing light to be reflected onto ceilings through gaps between the sunscreens and the wall. He described the glass of the proposed east facade which will incorporate a graduated frit that will be darker on the lower part of each floor and lighter above in order to provide the ample views desired by tenants while concealing the clutter around office desks and providing some control of solar heat gain. He said that these features will make the building "a glass box that works."
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the frit will be continued on the south façade; Mr. Epstein said that it will only be used on the east. Ms. Plater-Zyberk then asked whether the clear glass of the south façade will allow views of office clutter, and Mr. Epstein responded that the design team is hoping that the occupants will take care of this issue.
Mr. Epstein described the ground floor and lobby design. He explained that the columns are set back from the facade resulting in a cantilever of approximately 15 feet, making the building seem lighter and lifted above the street. He said that the glass-walled lobby, at the corner of 17th and H Streets, will appear to float in the zone beneath the building and will be recessed to protect it from the sun. Inside the lobby, on the west side, will be a glass wall enclosing a stainless steel mesh system covered with trickling water that will flow into a cooling pond beneath the lobby floor. A branch bank will be located behind this wall. In summer, the temperature of the water will be kept at 55 degrees to help cool the lobby. On the right side will be a green wall that will add oxygen to the air. He said that the lobby will not be as cold in summer or as warm in winter as the typical Washington lobby. Materials will come from nearby sources: floors will be made of Vermont marble, and Virginia granite will be used for the exterior paving beneath the entrance overhang.
Mr. Epstein said the building will have a green roof, including the penthouse. A deck will be accessible by tenants and will allow views to the south. A retail space will be located at ground level along 17th Street, faced in clear glass with doors recessed in alcoves and a stainless steel strip to hold lettering or signage.
Ms. Balmori asked if there are security issues regarding the open sidewalk around the building. Mr. Epstein said the bank, being a private company, is not requiring perimeter security. Mr. McKinnell commented that he believes the building would be a sophisticated addition to the city; his only caveat was that he thinks the projecting glass on the south facade would be an overstated gesture toward the view. Ms. Nelson inquired how the green wall would be kept green; Mr. Epstein replied that it uses a German product that is made in blocks and irrigated by the building's water; if a block turns brown, it is simply replaced. He said that this will be the system's first use in the U.S.
Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final submission.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:50 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: October 24, 2008