Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
16 April 2009
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, N.W, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 10:00 a.m.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Ms. Nelson commented on the thoroughness of the draft. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes without objection. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 21 May, 18 June, and 16 July.
C. Report on the 14 April 2009 Charles H. Atherton Memorial Lecture. Mr. Luebke reported on the presentation the previous Tuesday of the annual Charles Atherton memorial lecture, given at the National Building Museum in honor of the Commission's long-serving Secretary. He said that Robert Campbell, architecture critic of the Boston Globe, presented a lecture titled "Beauty and Barricades" discussing the impact of security design on our visual environment. He said that a recording of the lecture is available on the National Building Museum's website.
Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's site inspection of Judiciary Square prior to the meeting. He said that the Commission members viewed several projects at various stages of review: perimeter security for the D.C. Courts, previously reviewed; the D.C. Recorder of Deeds building, the subject of an agenda item later in the meeting (item II.G); and John Marshall Park, the subject of an anticipated future submission. He suggested that comments concerning the Recorder of Deeds be discussed with that agenda item; Vice-Chairman Nelson said that this project was the focus of the Commission members' comments.
Mr. Luebke reported on the centennial of ceremonies honoring Pierre L'Enfant, the designer of Washington's city plan in the 1790s. He explained that L'Enfant died in poverty and was buried on an estate in Prince George's County; his reputation was rehabilitated in the early 20th century as a result of the McMillan Plan, and in 1909 L'Enfant's remains were disinterred and transferred to a new gravesite at Arlington House overlooking the city's monumental core. The April 1909 ceremonies included a military escort and laying in state at the U.S. Capitol. Subsequently, a 1911 ceremony to dedicate the grave monument was attended by President Taft, who in 1910 had signed the legislation creating the Commission of Fine Arts.
Mr. Luebke noted the presence of a quorum that would likely be lost by mid-day. He said that the agenda order might therefore be adjusted to facilitate voting on critical cases, and the recommendations for the remaining cases would be forwarded for confirmation by a quorum at the May meeting.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Mr. Belle said that he is recusing himself from voting on the garage infill project at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History due to his firm's involvement in the project. Mr. Luebke said that another case involves temporary paving of Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, noting that a more permanent solution will be developed and submitted to the Commission. Mr. Lindstrom added that the National Park Service is pursuing such a solution and is establishing a working group for the project. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar, subject to Mr. Belle's recusal from the National Museum of American History project.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported two changes to the draft appendix. The case number has been updated for the Recorder of Deeds project, which the appendix notes is to be reviewed as a direct submission rather than as a Shipstead-Luce case; she explained that the project will be presented later on the agenda (item II.G). The recommendation for 2042 Pierce Mill Road, NW (case number SL 09-053) has been changed to be favorable based upon the submission of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported one change to the draft appendix: a proposal for a sign was withdrawn and will be resubmitted in a future month. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/APR/09-1, West Potomac Park Levee Project, 17th Street south of Constitution Avenue, NW. Improvements to the flood protection levee system including a new floodgate across 17th Street. Final. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/09-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the levee project, including final plans for the first phase and concept options for the second phase. He said that in January 2009, the Commission had approved two options for a general concept design for the levee enclosure, with the request that the National Park Service return with its preferred scheme more fully developed and a preferred location. He said that the preferred location will place the levee's opening across 17th Street at the extension of the Virginia Avenue, NW alignment. He explained that Phase I would include a pair of symmetrical curving walls, with most of the concrete structure concealed within berms; Phase II would include cladding the walls with stone facing as well as final grading and landscaping. He introduced Peter May, the National Park Service's Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources and Planning for the National Capital Region, to begin the presentation.
Mr. May explained that the proposed Phase I will address the urgent need to provide flood protection to meet a deadline set by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. He said that the National Park Service intends to construct both phases but would like approval to move forward with Phase I immediately. He introduced David Rubin of the landscape architecture firm Olin to present the proposed design.
Mr. Rubin summarized the history of the project and the previous alternatives. He presented the project team's preferred alignment and the relationship of proposed new walkways to the existing walkway system. He presented the proposed planting plan and paving materials for the walks, which would be the same exposed-aggregate concrete used in Constitution Gardens. He also described the appearance of the concrete footing which will support the post-and-panel system that will extend across 17th Street when needed.
Mr. Rubin presented options for coursing the stone cladding of the walls, which were based on several models: the new security barriers in the Washington Monument grounds, the Overlook Terrace walls in Constitution Gardens, the walls of the nearby Lockkeeper's House, and the walls of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in Georgetown. He said the options would use different lengths, widths, and surface treatments, based on the historic models to varying degrees. He said that the proposal is to batter the walls, and the design team is still considering the treatment of the end abutments of the walls at the transition to the post-and-panel system. He added that the Army Corps of Engineers requires that the tops of the walls and the expansion joints between wall sections remain accessible for regular inspections.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the exposed material on either side of the expansion joints; Mr. Rubin responded that the joints would be concrete, with a width of 3.5 inches exposed on each side of the joint. Ms. Nelson commented that brown-colored stone would make the exposed concrete more prominent than gray stone; Mr. Rubin said that the concrete could be colored to address this concern. He clarified that the wall cladding is part of Phase II that will be submitted for further review, while Phase I is submitted as a final design for the Commission's approval; the Commission's comments on the wall cladding would nonetheless be welcome as part of the current review. Mr. Rybczynski asked whether the grading in Phase I includes completion of the berm around the walls. Mr. Rubin responded that most of the berm would be included in Phase I; Phase II may include additional grading to the south in conjunction with relocation of the walkways.
Mr. Rybczynski said that, because of their proximity, the Overlook Terrace walls would be the most appropriate reference for the levee walls. He said that the Lockkeeper's House is a house, not a wall, and the Washington Monument security walls are some distance away. Ms. Plater-Zyberk disagreed, saying that the levee wall will be a "prominent and formal structure" that is not part of Constitution Gardens. She said that the Washington Monument walls are an addition to the National Mall responding to modern needs and suggested overall consideration of whether there will be additional earth retention structures on the Mall. Mr. Rubin said that the design team has been considering the more formal gray stone used in the walls of the Washington Monument grounds in the center of the Mall, which has also been used at the Capitol, suggesting a possible logic for using it at the levee. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the importance of finding a design principle; she added that the visibility of the concrete along the edges and joints suggests that an "urban and formal" treatment might be appropriate; Ms. Nelson agreed that a rustic design vocabulary might be problematic for the levee.
Ms. Nelson commented that the view from the White House's Truman Balcony should be considered in designing the configuration of walkways; she said that the view is now marred by a walk that was recently created on the Washington Monument grounds which appears out of character with the overall walkway system in the area. Stephen Lorenzetti of the National Park Service responded that this walkway replaced the parking lot that was removed from this location and is intended for people crossing to the Washington Monument grounds from the Ellipse.
Mr. Luebke asked that the Commission provide guidance to the National Park Service on key issues such as the proposed location for the levee wall and the color and pattern of the cladding for Phase II. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the cladding option based on the C&O Canal walls would be the least appropriate because it would add another reference to the area that would not be understood; Mr. Belle agreed. Mr. Rubin said that the history is complex, with the canal historically extending to this location; the design team also considered what other types of structures had been built to control water. Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged these factors and suggested that the walls of the Lockkeeper's House would then be the least appropriate model.
Mr. Belle said that a more refined treatment of the wall might be preferable because of its location and its completely new function; he said that the wall should honestly express its modern purpose and not imply an inaccurate relation to historic features. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the design team has a preference; Mr. Rubin said that he prefers a progression of the coursing from rough-hewn below to more refined above. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the proposed battering but commented that the progression of coursing would appear "mannered" and is not how walls are typically built; he described this coursing concept as "arty" and not the result of engineering needs. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the levee walls would be the highest in the area and compared them to the Overlook Terrace walls, which Mr. Rubin said are approximately 42 inches high. Mr. Belle requested that a mockup be provided of a section of the wall so that its character can be understood.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the wall would be capped. Mr. Rubin responded that the design team is still studying this issue; a cap would be preferable aesthetically but visual inspection of the wall is also necessary. Mr. Luebke clarified that any cap would need to be removable. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle suggested that the wall could be built without a cap, but Mr. Rybczynski said that the wall might look unfinished. Mr. Rubin said that either the cladding would be capped or the structural wall would protrude above the cladding. Mr. Belle commented that a design without a cap could be successful if the stone for the top course is carefully selected.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that the progression of coursing would be unusual, describing it as "a contemporary approach to speaking about the nature of stone," and suggested that the Commission offer guidance on what the character of the wall should be. She said that a building wall might be the correct model, adding that the details of the wall's assembly will be critical. She emphasized the role of the wall in spacemaking and as a gateway, which she said has not been sufficiently recognized. Mr. Rubin said that the gateway expression might come from the treatment of the wall's abutments. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the treatment of the expansion joints and abutments should all reflect one concept, whether the concrete is a frame for the stone or is simply behind the stone, and that this concept may affect the selection of the stone.
Vice-Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission take an action on the Phase I proposal in conjunction with the comments provided for the Phase II concept. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final design for Phase I of the West Potomac Park Levee Project.
(Ms. Plater-Zyberk departed the meeting during discussion of the following agenda item, resulting in the loss of a quorum for the remainder of the meeting. The Commission's actions on the remaining agenda items were therefore subject to confirmation by a quorum at the subsequent meeting.)
2. CFA 16/APR/09-2, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/07-1.) Mr. Luebke said that the design of this underground facility has been revised to further reduce its impact on the site, in response to the advice of the Commission and other review agencies. He said that the revisions include raising the building slightly, shifting it to the northwest, and rotating it to align with the Lincoln Memorial. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service, who asked architect James Polshek of Polshek Partnership Architects to make the presentation.
Mr. Polshek expressed his appreciation for the comments received from the Commission in the previous review in October 2007 as well as from the staff in subsequent meetings. He said that the resulting revisions appear subtle but have a significant effect on the design. He particularly noted that raising the building and grade by 42 inches has a large impact on reducing the visibility of the building and its entrance as well as allowing for shorter entrance ramps and an improved configuration of berms. He said that additional details have been changed, such as the skylights, which are now proposed as flush with the grade; a non-reflective screen on the glazing; and reduced lighting of the building and site. He noted the elimination of one program element, a resource center that was previously shown in the lower level; this has allowed a slight reduction in the overall size of the building as requested by the Commission. He introduced Tom Wong of Polshek Partnership Architects to provide a more detailed presentation of the design.
Mr. Wong indicated that the slides and design booklets contain comparisons of the 2007 submission with the current proposal. He described the effects of raising the grade height, explaining that the new grade would be created through a gradual shift in the existing topography while maintaining the level of the existing sidewalks. The result is a reduction of 3.5 feet in the required descent of the entrance ramps from the sidewalks; at the proposed slope of 1:20, the maximum permitted without introducing handrails and landings, the length of ramping is reduced by approximately 60 feet. He explained that many comments by review agencies related to the relationship of the building to the sidewalks, trees, and the food kiosk to the north; the reduced ramp length provides flexibility in the siting of the building, which has now been rotated and shifted by 55 feet to improve the site relationships. He explained that the rotation of the building is based on a more refined alignment of the three parallel exhibit walls with the Lincoln Memorial, improving the relationship of the project to the context. Additionally, the staircase leading to the main entrance will now be aligned with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial flagpole, which may be visible above the topography and trees as visitors exit the building; this helps to fulfill the design goal of relating the new building to the existing Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The flexibility also allowed simplification of the ramp configuration, with segments parallel to 23rd Street and Henry Bacon Drive rather than at differing angles. The lower ramp is now angled away from the building face, allowing the extension of a berm to reduce the visibility of the facade from Henry Bacon Drive. He presented elevations and sections to illustrate the visibility from the sidewalk, explaining that the sightlines are reduced even though the building wall would be higher.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the location of human figures shown standing on the building's roof in the section drawings. Mr. Wong indicated on the plans the lawn areas between the skylights, part of the openly accessible landscape that would extend over the building. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the guardrail locations adjacent to the sunken courtyard. Mr. Wong explained that there will be two types of protection: a sunken ha-ha, and a semi-transparent architectural screen that will serve as a guardrail; each will provide the necessary 44-inch-tall barrier. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if these features would prevent people from being on the roof of the building; Mr. Wong clarified that they are only intended to prevent people from falling into the sunken courtyard, while the roof areas would be accessible in the landscape. He described the revised placement of the skylights at grade level and their reduced length, along with the resulting topographic adjustments that will provide the needed protection height while reducing the extent of visible vertical surfaces. Mr. Rybczynski asked for further explanation of the grade adjustments in relation to the light monitors and courtyard; Mr. Polshek acknowledged that some of these details have not yet been resolved.
Mr. Belle asked if the skylights could be eliminated from the design. Mr. Polshek said that this would eliminate the soft daylight that is intended for the visitors beneath, making the interior "a much dingier place." He acknowledged that the amount of light was minimal but nonetheless psychologically important; he added that the skylights are the exterior expression of the building's three major exhibit walls, creating a subtle but important presence. He emphasized that the surface of the skylights would be flush and non-reflective, and people could walk directly on them.
Mr. Wong described the relationship of the skylights to the adjusted topography. Mr. Belle observed that the design will require a complex skylight construction extending 3.5 feet into the ground; Mr. Wong acknowledged that the detailing would involve extensive waterproofing elements. Mr. Belle noted the general difficulty of constructing skylights and questioned whether this proposed feature would be worthwhile. Mr. Polshek said that the details have not yet been studied.
Due to her impending departure from the meeting, Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered several comments before the conclusion of the presentation. She complimented Mr. Polshek for the design of the Newseum and expressed support for bringing the same project team to this project. Nonetheless she expressed concern about the proliferation of interpretive centers in Washington and suggested that they could be consolidated into a larger facility. She also questioned the effort to conceal a "supermarket-sized building" and expressed hope that this would not become a common design situation around the city. She acknowledged that the design of this project is greatly improved and responds to the Commission's comments; she also noted the quality of the presentation.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended two further refinements to the design. She said that the entrance staircase descending along a wall is too similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and should somehow be differentiated; one solution might be to eliminate the staircase and use only ramps, but other solutions might be possible. She also said that the effort to reduce the visibility of the building would result in an increased need for signage, which might be treated in an architectural manner as part of the building's entrance sequence. She agreed with the concerns of other Commission members about the design of the skylights.
Mr. Polshek noted the requirements imposed on this project by the client and the authorizing legislation, which requires the building to be underground; Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged that the design team is not responsible for the program size, and agreed that the underground design approach is appropriate in this situation. Mr. Polshek explained that the design concept would be the same regardless of the legislative requirement; he said that the alternative of an entrance pavilion would not be desirable due to the presence of the food kiosk nearby in the landscape. He also said that the staircase could not be replaced with a ramp due to the grade difference at that location; however, he emphasized that the wall along the staircase would be screened with extensive plantings hanging from above; both the wall material—very narrow pieces of Vermont green slate—and the landscaping would suggest a "green wall." He said that this wall and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall would therefore have very different characters. He added that some relationship between the two would be desirable to reinforce the meaning of each; he said the issue is important but subtle and reported having discussed it at length with Maya Lin, the original designer of the memorial. As an example, he said that the staircase reinforces the memorial's concept of inverse monumentality by leading down into the ground rather than up. He also responded that the desirability of the skylights has been discussed extensively with the exhibit designer and the client; he expressed confidence that his firm could handle the technical issues of minimizing water leaks.
Mr. Wong continued with the presentation of grading, skylight, ha-ha, and guardrail screen details. Mr. Polshek added that the design revisions have reduced not only the visibility of the building but also the technical complexity of the detailing, addressing Mr. Belle's concern about the feasibility of the proposal. Mr. Wong said that the guardrail screen concept is still being developed, but it would be semi-transparent to allow views to the grass beyond, helping to emphasize that the building is part of the landscape rather than protruding into it. The amount of transparency would be studied further to provide adequate solar screening for the courtyard windows below as well as provide some degree of privacy for the people experiencing the emotional exhibits within the building. Ms. Nelson asked if people standing above the building would be able to look down into the bottom of the courtyard, which is labeled as a "meditation garden," suggesting a place for emotional reflection. Mr. Polshek confirmed that the garden is accessible to visitors and is intended as a serious place; he acknowledged that people above would be able to look down into it but said that this wouldn't necessarily be negative. He indicated the images of other buildings that use screens and meshes for dramatic visual effect. He said that the likely development of this concept will be a very fine non-reflective rigid mesh, possibly a non-greening copper. He said that material samples and additional details would be provided in a future submission.
Mr. Wong noted the removal of the resource center from the program, explaining that the client, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, has decided that the entire exhibit area should serve as a resource center, and groups can meet in various areas of the overall facility rather than in a separate room. He indicated how this change has allowed a more generous scale to the exit area at the end of the exhibit sequence, while also allowing for a slight reduction in the building's footprint. He described the resulting adjustments to the plans of both levels. Mr. Polshek added that a further plan adjustment is still being considered, involving the elimination of the upper-level bridge across the courtyard by placing the circulation route directly against the courtyard's west wall to connect the entrance lobby to the beginning of the exhibit sequence. He said that the feasibility of this potential revision is still being studied, adding that it would improve the sense of spaciousness in the courtyard. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for developing a proposal for this revision, commenting that removal of the bridge would help to simplify the design which is important for the character of an underground building. He said that the building's facade should be minimal to avoid creating a strong architectural character, so features such as berms would be appropriate; the courtyard itself would be reasonable to experience after entering the building, but its design should be simple. Mr. Polshek offered to continue studying this idea, and he noted that the drawings indicate complex lighting effects that would not actually be seen during the daylight hours when the building will normally be open.
Mr. Wong indicated the new location of the bookstore on the lower level. Ms. Nelson asked about its size; Mr. Wong said that the requirement is for a few hundred square feet, and it would have information on the memorial and the Vietnam War era rather than emphasizing souvenirs.
Mr. Wong presented photographic simulations of views toward the project, comparing the current proposal with the 2009 design. He noted that the presentation omits some viewpoints from which the project would not be significantly visible. He emphasized the effect of lowering the skylights, raising the grade, extending the berm, and placing landscaping along the entrance wall. He indicated the proposed elm trees that will be added to implement the historic planting plan for the area. He also presented the initial concepts for lighting the site and building, noting that the lighting design has not yet been developed; he said that indirect lighting will be used and safety lighting will be needed at the exterior stairs and in the courtyard. He indicated the streetlights around the perimeter of the block that will provide ambient light.
Mr. Wong concluded by presenting a context plan with the existing sidewalks and crosswalks, which he said would be sufficient to support the project. He acknowledged the potential of adding a mid-block crosswalk between the building and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but he said that the project relies on the existing crosswalks at the signalized corner intersections, and any additional crosswalks would be based on consultation between the National Park Service and the D.C. Department of Transportation. He presented a plan showing existing trees and the historic planting plan; he said that a more detailed tree and site survey will be undertaken to more clearly establish the tree-root zones near the building site in accordance with the National Park Service's calculation methods, but the current plan is based on field data. He added that questions have been raised about the potential need for perimeter security, but based on consultation with the National Park Service, this will not be required.
Mr. Wong noted the issue of recreation use of the open space and asked Stephen Lorenzetti of the National Park Service to discuss this concern. Mr. Lorenzetti said that this location formerly had three softball fields; two were eliminated when the food service kiosk opened. He said that the remaining field would be eliminated when this project is built, to avoid the problem of softballs going into the new courtyard; the area would instead be designed to include a smaller multi-purpose field that could support a variety of sports.
Mr. Polshek concluded by commenting that the design of a below-grade building inherently involves great attention to small details; he expressed hope that the Commission would appreciate how the design has moved forward during the process.
Vice-Chairman Nelson expressed appreciation for the structure of the presentation, noting the careful comparison of the current and previous proposals. She invited comment on the project from the other Commission members.
Mr. Belle said that the project's development continues to raise questions that are difficult for the Commission to discuss in a positive way. He acknowledged the reduction in the building's program, footprint, and visibility, but said that the apparent impact of the building nonetheless appears to increase with each design revision. He contrasted this with the stated intention of designing an underground facility that would not have the appearance of a building; he said the building "appears to become more visual and less underground each time we see it." He said that the area of the triangular park to be enclosed by guardrails is a significant loss of open space, and the impact of the building within the open space appears to be increasing. He reiterated his concern about the technical feasibility of the skylights and said that modern technology provides other ways of introducing the desired soft light to the interior exhibit areas. He added that the skylights result in additional intrusions on the ground plane of the site, with no significant benefit. He acknowledged the difficulty of the design problem and the worthiness of the facility, emphasizing that the design concerns are not intended as criticisms of the project's purpose. He suggested that the design team continue its efforts to reduce the program size and the facility's impact on the ground surface; he added that "an oversized underground museum" is not necessary to honor the subject of the project.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed agreement with Mr. Belle's comments. He said that he was initially skeptical of the proposal to raise the grade level but is convinced by the presentation that this change will produce many beneficial results. He said that this landscape-based solution to the design problems should serve as a model for further addressing the project's issues; he offered the examples of berming and the green wall, suggesting that these ideas be extended further. He predicted that the skylights would eventually be eliminated from the design due to the substantial technical problems in detailing them; he said that the skylights are an architectural intrusion into the landscape and their elimination would dramatically shrink the above-ground impact of the building. If they are not completely eliminated, he suggested that another improvement might be to reduce their length.
Ms. Nelson commented that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the best example of a landscape solution, and this building could be treated differently; more generally, she said that the project's overall relationship to the site needs further study. She expressed concern about the project's impact on the overall context of the Lincoln Memorial; she acknowledged the photographic simulations and the proposal to plant trees that would provide further visual screening from the Lincoln Memorial, but she said that this building will contribute to the increasing number of distractions from the Lincoln Memorial's setting. She offered the suggestion of relating the building's entrance paths with the apron of the nearby food service kiosk; beginning the entrance sequence near the food kiosk would also improve the relationship to the crosswalk at the southern end of Henry Bacon Drive, which people otherwise would be unlikely to use. She suggested further work on the project, including further study of the revised ramping configuration.
Mr. Polshek reiterated the recent reduction in the program and said that some further reduction might be possible; he said that this will involve further coordination with the client and the exhibit designer. He also offered to explore further development of the green wall and berm, as Mr. Rybczynski suggested. He said that signage—a concern raised by Ms. Plater-Zyberk—would likely be minimal and would be coordinated with the National Park Service. He said that the issue of skylights involved philosophical questions of the desired character of the interior; he said that earlier concepts were more cave-like, which the design team concluded was inappropriate. He said that the building's substantial size—30,000 square feet of public space—suggests that some mark on the landscape would be reasonable, to provide the public with an indication of the building while approaching or departing; he added that the three skylights, expressing the three exhibit walls, would remind departing visitors of what they had seen. He emphasized this as the philosophical purpose of the skylights, and said that the technical issues could be solved. He said that the replacement of the separate guardrails with the architectural screen wall results in a simplification of the building's visible elements. He said that the design team would explore the issues raised by the Commission, adding that the next submission will also include details of paving, planting, and the building skin. He said that the landscape architect, Hargreaves Associates, will become more closely involved in the project, and he said that this firm has done successful work with tilted planes of grass. Ms. Nelson asked about the extent of the landscape architect's involvement until this point. Mr. Polshek responded that the firm has been actively involved and has been preparing sketches and drawings to the extent feasible; they would have further involvement in exploring the ideas suggested by the Commission.
Vice-Chairman Nelson noted the lack of a quorum for taking action on the project. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could provide comments on the concept without the need for any formal action. Mr. Belle asked about the schedule for the next submission; Mr. Wong said the timing would depend on the impending review by the National Capital Planning Commission, and on whether the next submission is a final design or a further concept revision. Mr. Luebke said the format of the next submission would depend on whether the design team feels that the outstanding issues have been thoroughly resolved, as well as on whether the project has been developed into the construction documents phase. Mr. Rybczynski summarized the consensus of the Commission members: "We are supportive, but we are not ecstatic at this point." He said that the Commission continues to have questions that should be addressed in the next review. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters (item II.D).
D. General Service Administration
CFA 16/APR/09-5, St. Elizabeths Hospital, West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. New headquarters building for the Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/08-2, master plan.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the presentation for the first phase of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters at the west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital, in accordance with the master plan that was approved by the Commission in November 2008. She said that the initial proposal is the concept design for a new building that will be the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard. She indicated the site, a prominent location along the slope of the escarpment that frames central Washington, and noted the program of over one million square feet of office space and a 1,000-vehicle parking garage. She introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill said that the master plan included design guidelines and documentation of compliance with environmental and historic preservation regulations. Nonetheless, due to the historic sensitivity and importance of the site, he said that each construction project—including the Coast Guard headquarters proposal—will involve additional meetings with consulting parties and review agency staffs to ensure that the designs are acceptable and compatible with the existing landscape. He said that funding for this Coast Guard project was provided for fiscal year 2009, and groundbreaking is anticipated within the remaining half of the fiscal year. He asked Harry Debes, the project executive from the General Services Administration, to introduce the project team.
Mr. Debes introduced several representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration. He also introduced the presenters of the design: principal Aki Knezevic and design manager Paul Clinch from the lead architecture firm of Perkins + Will, and landscape architect Tom Amoroso from Andropogon Associates.
Mr. Clinch said that the presentation would include comparisons of the proposed design to the development envisioned in the master plan. The proposals include the Coast Guard building, the parking garage, the access road along the west side of the campus, and associated landscaping which he said is integral to the project.
Mr. Clinch illustrated the site context including its relationship to the Anacostia River, the L'Enfant Plan, and the topographic bowl defining the central part of the city. He presented views from the site toward the Capitol, Washington Monument, and Reagan National Airport. He described the master plan proposal for the Coast Guard building, with low building heights grouped around courtyards and the main entrance at the top of the hill, near the historic Center Building. The proposed design maintains this massing and the generally two-story height of the building relative to the surrounding grade, but the courtyards are 3-5 stories deep to provide daylight to additional portions of the building. He indicated the master plan's 28-acre site area for this phase, including the parking deck and access road, and explained that the current proposal encompasses 30 acres due to a revised configuration of the parking structures and its access road. He indicated the separate parking area for the day-care center and the Civil War cemetery on the side of the hill. He explained that the plans show two parking structures, each containing 1,000 spaces; one structure would be built as part of the Coast Guard headquarters project and the other would be built in conjunction with further development of the campus. He noted the 120-foot grade change across the site and the retaining pond at the bottom of the hill that would contribute to stormwater management.
Mr. Clinch then presented a series of simulated views of the project with comparisons to the massing that was shown in the master plan. He emphasized the headquarters building's subordinate relationship to the Center Building, with open space between the structures and with related design features such as vertical windows and brick facades. He showed additional renderings with the landscaping removed to illustrate the relationship of the buildings. He noted that the proposed building height is lower than the massing that was proposed in the master plan, and he emphasized the effort to work within the historic preservation guidelines and respond to the site constraints. He said that the view from I-295 shows a wall that has not yet been designed, but the intended height of 12-15 feet is illustrated diagrammatically. He also presented a more distant view from Hains Point, noting that the reduced massing as well as the planting along the facade would reduce the building's visibility against the hillside; he indicated the 120-foot grade change across the site.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how the reduced massing was achieved. Mr. Clinch confirmed that the building has been pushed down further; he then clarified that the building has been spread out slightly beyond the master plan proposal, with the courtyards less deep than in the master plan, in order to accommodate the program with lower heights for the building's many wings.
Ms. Nelson noted that the main entrance is not closely related to the parking garage; she asked how workers will typically enter the building. Mr. Clinch indicated the three additional entrances along the side of the building facing the parking garage, corresponding to the garage elevator locations; employees would cross the landscape at grade between the garage and the entrances. He indicated an additional entrance toward the top of the hill that would provide convenient access to the remainder of the campus including food facilities. Ms. Nelson asked where the security control would be located. Mr. Clinch explained that a security fence would encircle the campus, and entering cars would pass a control point; the degree of inspection at the control point would vary depending on the current security level. He confirmed that anybody in the parking garage would already have cleared security, but additional magnetometers and searches might be necessary at the building entrances.
Mr. Belle asked about the impact of the facility's traffic on nearby highways at peak times. Mr. Clinch indicated the proposed access road which will serve only the campus. Mr. Belle noted that this is limited to a single road; Mr. Clinch added that this road would eventually connect to both Firth Sterling Avenue and Malcolm X Avenue with direct access to I-295. He explained that most visitors arriving by car will come to this access road; those arriving by bus, as well as a smaller number of people arriving by car, will enter from Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. Mr. Belle asked if these entrances would be connected; Mr. McGill and Mr. Clinch clarified that roadways within the campus would provide emergency vehicle access that would connect to both the access road and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue entrance, but there would not ordinarily be any vehicular connection between these points. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson commented on the large amount of parking—2,000 vehicles—within the two parking garages when both are eventually constructed. Mr. Belle emphasized the need to rely on mass transit.
Mr. Clinch provided additional illustrations of the proposed massing for the building wings; he indicated the bridges that will connect various wings to facilitate circulation through the building. He said that one main bank of elevators would connect all of the building's floors, and the design team is working to simplify the wayfinding within the building.
Mr. Knezevic presented more details of the facade designs. He said that the materials, proportions, and fenestration are intended to relate to the existing buildings on the campus, as called for in the master plan's design guidelines, and these precedents would be interpreted "to develop something new and unique." He added that an additional inspiration was the existing ice house building which is made of local stone, which will be used as a material in the Coast Guard building's facades. He presented the preliminary studies for the design and the three variations that have been developed. He summarized the primary materials of stone at the base, and brick and glass above; he confirmed that metal would not be used. He added that the expression of glass on the courtyard facades would be different than on the facades facing outward, where the historic context and scale would be emphasized. He presented a view of the relatively small portion of the building's elevation that would be visible from I-295 and from across the river; he said that the rest of the building would be obscured by the landscaping, and he noted that the Center Building and other historic buildings would remain visible at the top of the hill. He added that the building heights permitted by the master plan would not have preserved these sightlines, but they remain due to the lower height of the proposed Coast Guard building.
Ms. Nelson asked where the west elevation would be visible from; Mr. Luebke said that it could be seen from Reagan National Airport and from I-395 near the Pentagon, where the highway curves to provide a direct view toward the project site. Mr. Clinch emphasized that the elevation drawing compresses multiple facade planes that would not be seen simultaneously from some locations. Ms. Nelson asked about the view from the airport; Mr. Knezevic confirmed that a significant portion of the building would be visible from that location but he noted that the distance is substantial and the building would be difficult to identify. He reiterated that the closer view from I-295 would encompass much less of the building, particularly due to the retaining walls and landscaping.
Mr. Knezevic said that the massing of the parking garage is very close to the master plan guidance. He said that green walls with climbing vines would be used to soften the appearance of the facade, particularly when seen from the adjacent Coast Guard building. He explained that the garage's green wall facing the Coast Guard would curve gently, following the massing of the garage buildings and the curve of an internal access road alongside the garage, further helping to reduce the impact of the garage and blend it into the landscape. Mr. Belle asked about the number of parking levels; Mr. Knezevic responded that there would typically be two levels below grade and five levels above. Mr. Belle asked how people would move from the garage to the rest of the campus; Mr. Knezevic said that employees could walk to buildings or ride a shuttle buses that would circulate through the campus. He said that approximately two-thirds of the campus employees would park in this garage complex.
Ms. Nelson asked what vines would be used to "camouflage" the parking garage. Mr. Knezevic responded that the palette of plants and materials is still being developed, with specialized consultants included in the design team. He added that the orientation of the walls would be taken into consideration, with some facing north, south, or west; and native climbing plants are being considered, although their growth would be relatively slow on the north-facing facade. He said that intermediate planters could be used in order to accelerate the mature appearance of the green walls.
Mr. Knezevic described the need for a retaining wall along a portion of the boundary near I-295; in some areas the grade difference is minor, while in other areas the difference is nearly 12 feet. He said that the larger grade difference would be handled with a series of smaller retaining walls and landscaping, noting that there is sufficient room to implement this design.
Mr. Amoroso then presented the site conditions and proposed landscape design. He noted the steep slopes, some greater than 15 percent, and the drainage pattern of the campus through several ravines. He said that because the Coast Guard project is located toward the low point of the campus, stormwater control is an important feature of the design. He said that the woodlands along the western slope of the campus appear healthy but have actually developed only in recent decades; he presented a 1963 photograph showing that most of the land was cleared during construction of the adjacent highway. He also presented a 1965 photo which showed that the ravines were cleared and filled with fly-ash and other debris, so some of the soil in this area of the campus is of poor quality. He said that a close inspection of the site reveals highly eroded soils and invasive plants; he therefore characterized the existing landscape as generally not worth saving. A goal of the landscape design would therefore be to restore this area as a native woodland. He also indicated a nearby eagle habitat which results in a series of circular zones of limited activities at different times of year.
Mr. Amoroso said that the landscape concept has been developed into a study of the different geological formations in the region, ranging from the piedmont to the coastal plain. He said that the progression of geological formations would be related to the descending sequence of courtyards within the Coast Guard building, with each courtyard representing a particular native eco-region. This concept would be used to generate the plantings as well as the materials for paving, benches, and other elements within each courtyard, and would also guide the handling of stormwater from the project site. He noted that the pond at the bottom of the hill, located apart from the courtyards, would only handle stormwater from other parts of the campus; this water would reach the pond through a series of rain gardens and check dams. He added that the pond would be a permanent feature and would require capping the poor-quality soil at this location, with a series of injection wells that will bypass this soil to connect the pond to the aquifer below.
Mr. Amoroso described the geen roofs, which will vary from 9 to 24 inches in depth. He said that these roofs would handle approximately 30 percent of the stormwater from a two-year storm; the overflow would be channeled through the facade into the courtyards, where it will flow into rain gardens and cisterns that will hold the water for re-use as irrigation. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the extent of green roofs; Mr. Amoroso confirmed that green roofs would be used throughout the building and on the garage. Mr. Rybczynski asked if people would have access to these roofs; Mr. Amoroso said that there would be limited access to a few locations where employees would be able to enjoy the extensive views.
Mr. Amoroso provided more details about the proposed design of the courtyards. He noted that some areas are directly on grade while others are above building space, which has an impact on the landscape design. He explained that the overall appearance of the landscape, when viewed from the west, is intended to emphasize the woodland context that frames the site on the north and south; as the plantings within the courtyard mature, the overall woodland silhouette will become more apparent. At the top of the hill, the entrance court would primarily be paved to be used for special events and vehicular arrival by dignitaries; some landscaped space would be included. The paving pattern and design details are intended to unify the entrance court and two-story glass-walled lobby as a single space. Water in this area would be treated as a formal aesthetic element, in addition to cisterns below. He indicated the clerestory windows that will allow long-distance views from the entrance court toward the courtyards and the river. He said that some of the walls framing the entrance court could contain information related to the Coast Guard, such as quotations or dates. He said that plantings in this area would use native species and would relate to the historic landscape around the Center Building, including shade trees.
Mr. Amoroso then described the proposed design of the three main courtyards within the building. The upper courtyard would include the woodlands character with native hardwood and shade trees as well as native ground covers and shrubs. A plaza would provide a series of seat walls with views of the rain garden; the flow of water from the roofs into the garden could be celebrated with scuppers or other features. Weir walls and cisterns would provide additional stormwater management. The west portion of this courtyard would contain a cafe space and seating, with vending machines nearby within the building. The second courtyard, considered the main courtyard, would represent the piedmont area and fall line of the east coast's geology. This courtyard would have a permanent water system that would be designed to shut off during a storm. A portion of the paving would be darker to suggest a river bed. The ground plane would be varied through a series of rolling mounds reaching heights of up to three feet. The plaza in this courtyard would accommodate the Coast Guard's larger group activities. The lower courtyard, surrounded by building wings on all four sides, would represent the river pattern of the Potomac. A boardwalk would be suspended above; the material would be recycled black locust. This courtyard would provide additional areas for gatherings as well as pavilions or other simple structures. At the foot of the hill would be an extensive area of herbaceous wetland plants and larger pine and shade trees.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the larger courtyards and looser configuration of the massing compared to the master plan; he also supported the project's emphasis on the landscape design. He commented that the realization of this large building was of some concern at the master-planning stage but he is reassured that the design is developing well. He noted that the western portion of the building, toward the bottom of the hill, is remote from the historic buildings of the campus and could therefore be designed with a more varied architecture; he asked whether it was important that the building's architectural vocabulary remain consistent throughout. Mr. Knezevic responded that the design already incorporates some transition in architectural vocabulary, with more glass toward the bottom of the hill. He added that the treatment of the facades facing the courtyards has not yet been studied closely. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the water features provide an additional opportunity for design expression; Mr. Knezevic emphasized that the proposal includes a progression of water features at the sides of the building, comparable to the landscape transition within the courtyards, and he indicated the wetlands character toward the bottom of the hill. He summarized the intention to use many design tools to break down the scale of the project while accommodating the large floor plates required for the modern office building; he reiterated the examples of green walls, selection of materials, the prominent landscaping, and the organization of the upper portions of the program into separate wings.
Mr. Belle commented that the proposed design is a good start. He said that the next step should be to study the scale of the proposed design elements, particularly in relation to the substantial population of workers at the site; Mr. Knezevic confirmed that 3,500 employees would work in the building. Mr. Belle offered the examples of the scale of the open spaces and the routes through the building: he predicted that the design team would find that some areas will be more heavily used than others, which could be useful information in developing the design further for the next submission. He suggested that the sensitive response to the site conditions be extended to develop a sensitive response to the needs of the building's worker population. Mr. Knezevic agreed and noted the special consideration in such secure government facilities of limitations on movement in and out of the building; Mr. Belle acknowledged this concern and the effort to overcome it through the design. Mr. Knezevic gave the specific example of configuring the building wings to effectively provide a secure fence around the courtyards, which would have access only from the interior of the building; simple card-readers would therefore be sufficient for access control from the courtyards, so employees could easily use these outdoor areas for lunch or meetings. Ms. Nelson supported this approach, commenting that the opportunity to move between indoor and outdoor spaces provides a more human scale. She noted an earlier comment about budget limitations for the landscaping and expressed hope that the landscape design would be implemented, emphasizing its importance to the success of this large project. Mr. Knezevic agreed and cited the historic landscape as an inspiration.
Ms. Nelson asked how long the restrictions related to the eagle would be in effect. Mr. Knezevic responded that eagles may live for 30 to 40 years. Ms. Nelson questioned whether the eagle might relocate as a result of this proposed construction in the vicinity of its nest; Mr. McGill suggested that the nest might instead remain longer, due to successive generations of eagles.
Due to the absence of a quorum, Vice-Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission recommend an action on the submission subject to confirmation at the next meeting. Mr. Luebke said that the design development could also continue based on the comments provided, without need for a formal action until the next submission. He asked whether the project team had any preference or schedule constraints. Mr. Debes from the General Services Administration requested a formal action—to be followed by confirmation at the next meeting—due to the scheduling pressures and the sequence of steps for implementation of the project, including the need to prepare design documents for the awarding of a design-build contract. He said that the next submission might include the design-build contractor, who would demonstrate to the Commission that the project's design concept would be retained; the Commission's formal approval would be useful in the General Services Administration's negotiations with the design-build contractor. Mr. Luebke acknowledged this solution while noting that several outstanding issues have been identified by the Commission and that several features were not well developed in the presentation; he said that these could be addressed in the next submission, and the Commission could choose to approve the overall concept as currently submitted.
Mr. Belle suggested that the Commission approve the concept design for many of the elements while noting that some site-related elements require further development and review; he listed the campus site circulation and connections among buildings, particularly due to the proposal to concentrate parking at this corner of the campus. Vice-Chairman Nelson also noted that the design of the retaining wall and vehicular access have not yet been developed. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission members recommended approval of the concept design subject to these concerns which should be explored further and addressed in a revised concept submission.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.C.1.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the alternative designs for new reverses of two circulating coins: the 2010 continuation of the Native American One Dollar Coin series of reverses, and the permanent new reverse for the Lincoln penny. He noted that the obverses of both coins will not change.
1. CFA 16/APR/09-3, 2010 Native American One Dollar Coin. Five designs for reverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/JUN/08-3.) Ms. Budow provided the Commission members with a sample of the 2009 one-dollar coin with a reverse depicting Native American agriculture. She explained that Public Law 110-82 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to issue one-dollar coins in commemoration of Native Americans and their contributions to the development and history of the United States, with a new reverse design to be issued each year. She said the obverse will continue to depict Sacagawea with several standard inscriptions; additional inscriptions will be edge incused, and the reverse will have the text "United States of America" and "One Dollar."
Ms. Budow said the reverse design for 2010 will be based on the theme of "Government, the Great Tree of Peace," referring to the democratic self-government of Native Americans such as the Iroquois Confederacy. She summarized the history of this confederation and explained that the treaty which formed it was accompanied by the symbolic burying of weapons at the foot of a pine tree, known as the Great Tree of Peace. She presented the five alternative designs proposed for the reverse. Designs #1 through #4 depict the Great Tree of Peace with an eagle at the top of the tree, a war club at the base, and four exposed roots representing the four directions of the wind. Design #5 depicts a belt of wampum wrapped around five arrows; the belt, representing friendship and cooperation between Native Americans, was a visual record of the creation of this confederation and the bundle of five arrows symbolized strength and unity among the Iroquois. Ms. Budow indicated the additional inscriptions in Designs #3, 4, and 5. She added that the Mint had consulted with the National Congress of American Indians, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Congressional Native American Caucus of the House of Representatives; all three organizations recommended Design #5.
Ms. Nelson expressed her preference for Design #5, commenting that it is the strongest design at the small scale of the coin. She said the depiction of the tree is too small to be effective in the other designs, even with text labeling it as "The Great Tree of Peace," and the public would have difficulty understanding the additional elements associated with the tree unless already familiar with the historical details. Mr. Belle and Mr. Rybczynski agreed to support Design #5. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, in conjunction with the action on the next Mint submission (agenda item II.C.2), the Commission members recommended Design #5.
2. CFA 16/APR/09-4, Abraham Lincoln One-Cent Coin. Eighteen designs for reverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/JAN/08-3.) Mr. Simon noted that the Mint had revised the proposal after the initial submission was distributed to the Commission members, with one alternative removed and several others added; he said that the revised submission has just been distributed to the members.
Ms. Budow said that Public Law 109-145 requires that the reverse of the one-cent coin be redesigned beginning in 2010 to symbolize President Lincoln's preservation of the United States as a single and united country. She said that the obverse will still bear the familiar likeness of President Lincoln, while the reverse will have the required inscriptions "United States of America," "E Pluribus Unum," and "One Cent." Ms. Nelson asked if this would be a permanent change; Ms. Budow said it would be, and the design would not change again until directed by legislation.
Ms. Budow presented the 18 alternative designs proposed for the reverse. Eight alternatives provide images of the U.S. Capitol; others depict the flag, a shield, an eagle, the Capitol's Statue of Freedom, and other emblems from Lincoln's presidency. Design #18 depicts thirteen strands of wheat, representing the original colonies, bound into a sheaf, symbolizing Lincoln's vow that the nation could survive only if it remained united.
Mr. Belle and Ms Nelson commented that the selection contains good ideas. Mr. Rybczynski said that Design #18 works well graphically at the small scale of the penny. Ms. Nelson commented that Design #18 includes the inscriptions "One Nation" and "1¢" in balanced positions, creating an inappropriate equivalence. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission could recommend using the text format from another alternative, such as Design #8.
Ms. Nelson said that if the Capitol were depicted it would need the boldest image, such as Design #2, but emphasized the difficulty of depicting the building on such a small field; she expressed support for Design #18. Mr. Belle agreed, while also supporting Design #17, commenting on the skillful depiction of the eagle; however, he acknowledged that Design #17 would be problematic at the coin's small size.
Ms. Nelson suggested that Design #18 be modified by writing out the denomination as "One Cent." Ms. Budow said that this change could be considered, subject to appropriate spacing of the design's elements. Mr. Luebke suggested that the two words could be separated around the sides of the wheat sheaf using larger type, comparable to some of the other alternatives; Mr. Belle suggested Design #3 as the model. Ms. Nelson clarified that removal of the phrase "One Nation" would be part of this recommendation; Mr. Belle agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission members recommended Design #18 with these modifications; the motion also incorporated the recommendation for the reverse design of the Native American one-dollar coin (agenda item II.C.1).
Agenda item II.D was presented earlier in the meeting; the Commission continued with item II.E.
E. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 16/APR/09-6, Columbus Plaza at Union Station, Massachusetts Avenue between North Capitol Street and Second Street, NE. Revisions to plaza to improve vehicular and pedestrian access and circulation. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/08-5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed final design for the reconfiguration of Columbus Plaza and Columbus Circle in front of Union Station to improve access and circulation. He said that in the previous review of September 2008, the Commission had requested further study of the materials for the new areas of the plaza. He introduced David Ball of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, who asked Gary Burch of the engineering and construction firm Parsons to present the design.
Mr. Burch said the design team has determined that the existing brick paving and lawn panels were original to the design by Daniel Burnham and the current project will retain these materials; damaged paving would be replaced with original or very similar bricks. He summarized the proposal to remove the inner circulation road and extend the area of walkways and grass, along with creating an intersection with a traffic light at E Street. He noted that an earlier design included an asymmetrical plaza but this shape had raised concerns and was revised to a symmetrical configuration which received concept approval from the Commission in September 2008. He indicated the one-way counterclockwise flow of traffic and the three vehicle lanes in front of Union Station, providing separate access for taxis, buses, and private vehicles.
Mr. Burch said the design team studied pedestrian circulation across the plaza to identify the most heavily used routes and crosswalks. Some crosswalks will be raised to slow traffic. Mr. Belle asked how the large crosswalk area in front of the station would be identified; Mr. Burch said it would have different paving from the road. Mr. Burch said Massachusetts Avenue would be widened and shifted slightly north to have larger medians. He said that walks will be extended from the original plaza over the new paving following the same alignment, and two new walks will be added for symmetry and balance in the design.
Mr. Belle asked about the four small green areas shown on a traffic island near the west end of the station at First Street. Landscape architect Eric Baugher of Lee + Papa and Associates responded that these areas would be grass. Mr. Belle said that this would be out of character with the rest of the design. Mr. Burch clarified that the drawings are probably indicating a special type of paving since this island would be heavily used by pedestrians and bicyclists. He said that, if the green areas did represent grass, they would be changed to pavement; he acknowledged that small areas of grass would be difficult to maintain.
Mr. Burch said that the paving of the new perimeter plaza area would be brick of a similar color and the same herringbone pattern as the paving of the historic plaza. He noted the Commission's request in September for additional brick options; he presented several samples and the Commission chose the sample identified as option A.
Mr. Burch said that the Commission in September had asked for more information about the paving at the edges of the planting beds. The design team examined historic photographs and determined that what exists today is original, and he said that this pattern would be replicated. Granite curbs would be retained to delineate the boundary of the historic plaza.
Mr. Burch said that the additional street lighting proposed in front of the station would be provided by eight new Twin-20 lights which will be placed in locations that are compatible with the architecture. He confirmed that the light posts would be hardened to serve as part of the perimeter security system. Ms. Nelson asked whether further information about the perimeter security would be presented; Mr. Burch explained that the perimeter security had been submitted as a separate project which the Commission approved as a concept in September. He said that the bollards will be installed at the same time the plaza is rehabilitated.
Mr. Luebke noted the outstanding issue of the Commission's request to consider incorporating the lighting elements into the design of some of the proposed stone plinths, which would be more in character with the existing light fixtures on the balustrades which flank the station; this recommendation was provided in the Commission's review in September 2008 of the perimeter security project. He said the final approval of that project was delegated to the staff, but that no further design information has been presented. Mr. Ball said that discussions with other review agencies have resulted in comments discouraging the combination of lights with the stone plinths; Mr. Burch nonetheless acknowledged that further consultation with the Commission staff is needed on this issue. Mr. Belle said that the Commission's recommendation remains appropriate and should be considered since some type of additional lighting remains a goal of the project. Mr. Rybczynski said that he does not agree that the lights should be placed on the stone plinths. Mr. Luebke clarified that this issue is related to the separate project for perimeter security and is not part of the current submission; he said that, when a final design for perimeter security is submitted, the staff would consider the various viewpoints pursuant to the Commission's delegated authority.
Mr. Belle asked whether repair of the Columbus Fountain is within the scope of the project. Mr. Burch responded that the project includes rebuilding the fountain's mechanical and electrical features; rehabilitation or conservation of the fountain itself is not part of the project but would be handled separately by the National Park Service. Perry Wheelock of the National Park Service said that conservation of the fountain is needed and funding has been requested but is not yet available; the conservation work would therefore occur after the mechanical improvements. Mr. Belle emphasized the importance of restoring the fountain as part of the overall work on Columbus Plaza; Ms. Wheelock agreed and said that the National Park Service will continue to seek funding.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission members approved the final design for the rehabilitation of Columbus Plaza and Columbus Circle, noting that the approval does not include the lighting associated with the separate perimeter security project.
F. Department of the NavyCFA 16/APR/09-7, Naval Research Laboratory, Cooley Avenue, SW. Autonomous System Research Laboratory. New two-story laboratory building. Concept/Final. Ms. Batcheler introduced Richard Owen of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, who asked lead architect Bob Mayberry and project manager Bob Bibee of Wiley & Wilson to present the proposed design. Mr. Mayberry described the context of the Naval Research Laboratory located toward the southern tip of Washington between the Potomac River and I-295; the new building would be located along the installation's central boulevard, Cooley Avenue, near the main entrance to the campus. Mr. Mayberry described the four-acre site which is mostly paved and contains three buildings, constructed during World War II as temporary laboratories, that would be demolished. The new building would occupy the center of the site. Mr. Mayberry said the proposed building would be used to develop devices that can operate autonomously in different environments. The building would contain large laboratories, approximately 25 feet high, to simulate desert, jungle, and salt- and fresh-water coastal environments, as well as a room for flying a small robot. The laboratories would require large overhead doors for moving equipment. He said the proposal is a two-story structure containing about 47,000 square feet, with a single story of smaller labs and staff office areas at the front of the building; the project will be designed to obtain a LEED Silver certification. Mr. Mayberry said that the building's front facade would be formally organized with references to the design of the older buildings on the campus, and the offices in this area would have windows. The remainder of the building would have a more industrial character; the exterior walls would be precast concrete panels with slightly contrasting colors to give visual relief, with the exterior doors painted in a color similar to the concrete panels; and the interior laboratory surfaces would be concrete to provide durability for the simulation and testing activities. Most of the laboratories would be windowless but would have skylights. Mechanical equipment would be located on the roof, primarily toward the rear of the building; the remaining roof surfaces would have a white reflective surface to reduce heat gain. Ms. Nelson asked whether the exterior concrete panels would have changes in plane or only in color; Mr. Mayberry said there would be a single plane but V-shaped reveals where the concrete changes color and also joints between the concrete panels. Ms. Nelson asked if this building would replace existing facilities. Mr. Bibee responded that experiments are now done outdoors in scattered locations that provide the necessary climates but are remote from the fabrication shops; the new building will allow much greater efficiency by combining the fabrication and initial testing facilities at a single location. Ms. Nelson commented that the site configuration would be an improvement over the existing condition. She expressed support for the industrial appearance of the back of the building, commenting that it expresses the character and purpose of the facility; she recommended against painting the large exterior doors and suggested that the metallic surface remain exposed to further express the industrial character. She described the front portion of the proposal as "fussy," with too many small design features on the roofline, and questioned its relationship to the greenhouse-type laboratory on the west end of the building. She also questioned the red-colored edge of the rooflines along the building's central axis and recommended that this building establish its own character based on its industrial use. Mr. Rybczynski asked if there is a setback requirement for the siting; Mr. Mayberry responded that the building must be set back at least 82 feet from the street due to security guidelines, and the design exactly meets the minimum requirement. Mr. Luebke noted the redundancy of a setback requirement within a campus that already has rigorous entrance screening. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposed design appears straightforward and said he has no concerns with the design; Mr. Belle agreed.
Mr. Luebke explained that the applicant has requested both concept and final approval. He asked whether the Commission wants to request any changes in the design; upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission members approved the submission as a concept and final design.
G. District of Columbia Office of Property Management
CFA 16/APR/09-8, Recorder of Deeds Building, 6th and Indiana Avenue, NW. Building renovation and three-story rooftop addition. Concept. Mr. Simon introduced architect Suman Sorg of Sorg Architects to present the proposed renovation of and addition to the historic Recorder of Deeds Building.
Ms. Sorg said the building was designed by Nathan Wyeth in 1942. She described the location on D Street at the corner of 6th Street, NW, across from a D.C. Courthouse and near Judiciary Square; directly to the east are two older houses, and to the north and west are buildings from the 1970s and 1980s that rise to 90 or 110 feet. She described the Recorder of Deeds Building: three stories plus basement, with the upper two stories configured as a U-shape with a courtyard opening to the rear; 46 feet high plus a ten-foot penthouse that is set back from the main facades; and containing 44,000 square feet with a 44 percent efficiency. She noted the interior murals as a special feature of the building. She said that the building is in poor condition, with rusting steel windows and exterior stone that needs cleaning and restoration; the D.C. government also wants to expand the usable space of the building and provide exhibit space that would highlight the important archival records that are housed here.
Ms. Sorg presented massing studies of preliminary concepts as well as the current proposal, which would add a three-story glass structure above the existing building and raise the height to 74 feet; the courtyard would also be filled in while retaining the original courtyard walls, and a full-height addition on the east side would provide additional office space and egress stairs. She said the project will be designed to obtain a LEED Gold certification and she explained that the architecturally important interior spaces, including the lobby, would not be affected by structural support for the new construction. Various configurations of materials were studied, resulting in a proposal for a glass cube above, a masonry penthouse, and glass for the side addition. Images from the interior murals would be etched onto the exterior windows of the new upper floors in order to publicize the building's artwork and records while also providing solar screening. She said that the Commission's approval is requested for the massing and the selection of glass as the primary material.
Ms. Nelson expressed interest in the proposal dated 25 March 2009, which was included in the presentation but not in the submitted materials that were distributed in advance. Ms. Sorg confirmed that all of the alternatives for materials include masonry for the penthouse; she said that the penthouse would be set back and its walls could match the color of the existing building's limestone walls or its slate spandrels.
Mr. Belle commented that the Recorder of Deeds Building is a small building that relates well to the Judiciary Square historic district, adding that the building has a dignified character that has aged well. He expressed surprise that the proposed addition would have a different palette of materials, questioning how the glass curtainwall would relate to the existing building. Ms. Sorg responded that the intention is for the addition to "speak for its time" and provide "a lighter touch," rather than to add a masonry cube on top of the existing building. She emphasized the lightness and minimalist character of the proposed addition.
Mr. Belle said that the context of the Recorder of Deeds Building's site includes many buildings that have a glass curtain wall on their upper floors, none of which suggest that this solution would be good enough for this addition. Ms. Sorg agreed to consider a masonry facade; she noted that weight would not be a constraint. Mr. Belle said that the possible design vocabulary of the new construction is readily suggested by the attractive features of the existing building, such as the verticality of the window openings, the delicate stone carving at the windows, and the color of the stone. He added that "it is a very nice background building, and there is nothing wrong with a very nice background building."
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the building is protected by historic preservation regulations; Ms. Sorg said it is not listed individually but is part of the Judiciary Square historic district. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the historic district results in constrains on the design; Mr. Luebke said that the addition would be subject to review by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Mr. Rybczynski also asked if the proposed setback of the upper floors was necessary for structural reasons; Ms. Sorg responded that it would be feasible to extend the building directly along the plane of the existing facades or with a setback. Mr. Rybczynski concluded that the logic of the massing is not apparent, commenting that it is needlessly complex. He contrasted the proposal with a nearby addition designed by Richard Rogers [at Louisiana and New Jersey Avenues] which is very successfully massed as a beautiful, simple glass box; he suggested this design vocabulary as a potentially successful way of treating the Recorder of Deeds Building. He added that the presentation was confusing, with unclear renderings of undetermined materials, but emphasized that the complex massing proposal is itself unclear. He offered the problematic example of proposing a delicate box above the existing building but cladding the new penthouse in stone, which would emphasize a heavy weight; he suggested consideration of glass cladding for the penthouse. Ms. Sorg responded that other designs for the penthouse massing had been explored, including a continuation of the addition's exterior walls; however, the penthouse setback was selected in order to avoid emphasizing the height of the addition, which could potentially overpower the scale of the existing building. Mr. Rybczynski indicated scheme #5 on one of the boards presented, which did not include setbacks, commenting that this massing has some potential; he emphasized that such a proposal would at least have a clear intent to which the Commission could respond, unlike the current proposal.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the concept of adding more stories to this building to make it more usable. She opposed the introduction of trees on the roof of the historic structure, as indicated in the renderings, and agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that a continuous vertical addition without setbacks should be explored. Ms. Sorg agreed to study this option further, possibly with a small setback of five feet; she emphasized that this massing would be structurally feasible but would give prominence to the height of the addition when seen from the street. Ms. Nelson noted that, due to the nearby topography, the penthouse would be visible regardless of the proposed setback. Mr. Belle asked if the large setback is required by zoning; Ms. Sorg responded that a much greater height is permitted in the area, so the setback is not a requirement. Mr. Luebke noted that the adjacent building on the north appears to reach the height restrlction of 110 feet, but the Recorder of Deeds site may have different zoning and would also be subject to the Historic Preservation Review Board.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the height of the addition is limited by the existing structure; Ms. Sorg responded that the constraints are primarily cost and aesthetics. Mr. Rybczynski noted that the D.C. government's goal is apparently to maximize the amount of usable space, so he questioned why the proposal doesn't extend to the maximum allowable height, which Ms. Sorg said would be 90 feet. Ms. Sorg agreed that this option could be explored and would please the client, but she emphasized the issue of an appropriate scale for adding to the existing building. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated his concern with the lack of a clear logic for the proposal, commenting that "I am trying to grab this project and it is like jelly."
Mr. Rybczynski expressed surprise that the structure of the 1942 building could support as many as six additional floors. Ms. Chung of Sorg Architects responded that the structural engineering has been developed for a three-story addition which involves adding some columns but not in historic spaces, along with cantilevering the addition from the original column structure. Ms. Chung clarified that new columns would be inserted on the upper floors, while the cantilevering would be used to eliminate intrusions into the architecturally significant spaces on the first and second floors. She said that the suggestion of extending the addition to align with the existing exterior walls would also be structurally feasible.
Vice-Chairman Nelson commented that the project has potential and could be exciting; she encouraged the design team to return with additional concepts. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission does not need to take any action if the intention is not to approve the proposed concept. Ms. Sorg summarized her understanding of the Commission's suggestions for further study: adding a simpler cubic form on top of the original building, and basing the facade material and fenestration pattern on the existing building's design. She acknowledged the suggestion to use stone for the facades but said that she might continue to study glass as an alternative. Mr. Belle emphasized the importance of considering the building's context. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
H. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 16/APR/09-9, Stoddert Elementary School, 4001 Calvert Street, NW. Building additions, renovation and landscaping. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAR/09-3.) Mr. Simon introduced the proposed final design for the expansion of Stoddert Elementary School. He summarized the Commission's previous reviews of the concept in February and revised concept in March, which was approved with a request for more study of several issues including the effect of the proposed parking lot on the sloping site and the trees. He introduced architect Sean O'Donnell of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn to present the design.
Mr. O'Donnell said the presentation would focus on three issues: the retention of trees, particularly in the parking lot area; the development of the new building elevations; and the scale of the proposed porch. He described the hierarchy of trees on the site, including prominent individual trees to the east and the woodland to the west and north which acts as a buffer along Davis Place. He said that the new construction would generally be sited within the cleared and largely paved area around the existing building, so the project will not have a lot of impact on trees. He indicated some trees that would be removed, many of them relatively small, and a large tree near the proposed construction that will be saved if possible.
Mr. O'Donnell noted the Commission's previous concern that the parking lot would require large retaining walls. He explained that the adjustments to topography will actually involve more cutting than filling, and the site design—including the bend in the parking lot's plan—is intended to respond to the existing topography and avoid any need for large retaining walls. He said that no wall would be needed along Davis Place, and the height of the retaining wall to the west would be 30 inches.
Mr. O'Donnell described the proposed facade materials: the proposed color for most of the brick would be darker than that of the existing building, and a lighter brick matching the existing color would be used at the far ends of the new construction and for special highlights; the transition areas between the existing and new construction would be glass. He said that the brick will be used in a more modern way than in the 1932 building. The proposed rain screen would be made of Ipe wood louvers suspended in front of some solid walls, layered with "DensGlass" gypsum sheathing and possibly an additional metal panel backing, and in front of some windows; he said the screens would animate the elevations by introducing wood to the palette of brick and glass. He clarified that the screen would act as a parapet in some locations. Ms. Nelson asked whether the wood color will change due to weathering; Mr. O'Donnell responded that it would become more grey, emphasizing the wood's notable durability and its use for piers and at a historic bridge in New York's Central Park.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the function of the wood screens; Mr. O'Donnell said that they act as a rain screen and a sun shade, and also screen mechanical equipment in some locations. Mr. Belle and Mr. Rybczynski questioned their effectiveness for these purposes; Mr. O'Donnell added that the screens would provide a lightweight visual accent and outer wall surface that would require less structural support than masonry. Mr. Belle said the Commission members' questions suggested that the presentation of the screen's technical functions was not convincing even if the system works aesthetically as an enclosure. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the system has been used effectively, including at the top of exterior walls. Mr. Luebke said the confusion may arise because the screens are used in several locations: in front of blank walls, in front of windows, and as a brise-soleil along the porch arcade.
Mr. O'Donnell provided further details about the porch, where the screen would provide shade and reduce the scale of the two-story exterior columns. He indicated the wider spacing of the wood louvers toward the top of the porch where the roof overhang provides additional solar shading. Mr. Belle asked what the distance would be between the screens and the enclosing walls behind them; Mr. O'Donnell responded that the distance would be eight feet at the porch and approximately four to six inches at other locations.
Mr. O'Donnell provided more information about the different elevations and grade changes, particularly the grades at the rear parking lot. Mr. Belle noted the large size of the existing trees; Mr. O'Donnell added that there is a high tree canopy but also many smaller trees. He said that the low elevation of the parking area in the rear of the building would keep cars out of view from the school interior, so that students will look into the tree canopy.
Ms. Nelson asked about the status of the construction drawings. Mr. O'Donnell said that the permit application for foundation work has already been submitted, and the full building permit application will be submitted shortly; he emphasized that the project was on a fast track, with construction scheduled to begin in mid-June. He explained that, because of the screen system, the building could be constructed more quickly than if it were all brick. Ms. Nelson asked for clarification; Mr. O'Donnell said the screens are manufactured off-site and can be quickly installed on the building. Vice-Chairman Nelson noted that the Commission's action would need to be ratified at the May meeting due to the lack of a quorum; Mr. Luebke said that any remaining questions could be delegated to staff.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission members approved the final design.
I. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 16/APR/09-10, Columbia Heights Streetscape Project—Public Art, 14th Street and Park Road, NW. Installation of mosaic medallions. Revised design/Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAR/09-2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised design for the public art component of a streetscape improvement project along the 14th Street corridor in Columbia Heights. He emphasized that this submission from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities includes only the public art component, not the rest of the streetscape which is a separate project administered by the D.C. Department of Transportation. Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the extent of the art project; Mr. Lindstrom confirmed that it includes the pavement medallions and fountain, but not the seating and tile work. He introduced Rachel Dickerson of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities; artist Jann Rosen-Queralt; and architect Otto Condon of Zimmer Gunsel Frasca Architects, the designer of the D.C. Department of Transportation streetscape project.
Ms. Rosen-Queralt said she would summarize the project as presented to the Commission in March and explain subsequent changes to the proposal. She described the location of the streetscape project in the recently redeveloped neighborhood and the proposed placement of the medallions which reproduce various textile patterns; the intention is that the medallions will unify the streetscape corridor and provide a sense of entrance and gateway. She said the images are details of textiles from different cultures, many of which are represented in the population of Columbia Heights. She explained that her concept originated with the image of how a drop of water disperses, and the textile fragments are also examples of taking a tiny fragment of a whole, enlarging it, and making it available for people to examine.
Ms. Rosen-Queralt indicated on the site plan numerous red dots representing a second phase of the project, in which she will guide the design of additional medallions by artists lacking experience with public art; this phase will be included to involve more community members in the project. She also indicated the blue dots which designate the medallions she is proposing in the current submission. Ms. Nelson asked if the second phase would involve students; Ms. Rosen-Queralt said that these artists might be students or professionals. Ms. Nelson asked whether the additional medallions would be made of the same tile as the initial medallions; Ms. Rosen-Queralt said she expects that they will be. Ms. Nelson asked what the timeline would be for the second phase; Ms. Rosen-Queralt said the schedule is not determined, and Mr. Luebke clarified that the second phase is not part of the current submission.
Ms. Rosen-Queralt presented full-size plans of the revised proposal for larger-scale medallions, which will have diameters of 18, 24, 32, and 36 inches. Mr. Luebke noted that the renderings illustrate the previous concept for the medallions and fountains. Ms. Rosen-Queralt presented samples of the exterior tiles, manufactured by the Dal-Tile Corporation, to demonstrate a sense of the slip-resistant surface and also of the quality of the photographic images that will be used.
Ms. Nelson asked if the prominence of the grout lines could be reduced; Ms. Rosen-Queralt agreed that this would be preferable aesthetically, but the width of the grouted joints is related to the slip resistance of the overall surface; she said they are shown as 1/4-inch wide, but they could be reduced to a 3/16-inch joint. Ms. Nelson said that minimizing the width of the grout lines would be desirable so that they are less prominent in the design.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the extent of proposed tile artwork on the site plan; Ms. Rosen-Queralt indicated the proposed tile areas for the current submission, the fountain nozzles, and the second-phase medallion locations. Ms. Nelson asked what surface is proposed for the areas surrounding the tiles. Mr. Condon responded that the ground surface would have eight-inch-square Belden clay pavers, and the benches would be black granite. Ms. Nelson asked about the vertical wind sculptures; Mr. Condon confirmed that they were designed as part of the streetscape plan and are not part of the current submission.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the action requested and the Commission's previous comments. Mr. Luebke said that approval is requested for the final design of the tile artwork; the Commission's previous guidance included increasing the delicate scale of the tiles to respond to the larger context. Mr. Belle asked Ms. Rosen-Queralt's opinion of the modifications to the tile proposal in response to the Commission's previous comments; Ms. Rosen-Queralt said she had no objection and wants to build it. Ms. Nelson asked if Ms. Rosen-Queralt had used this photographic process on tile before. Ms. Rosen-Queralt said she had not but that it has been used in prominent locations; she added that she and Mr. Condon had both spoken with the manufacturer to obtain satisfactory information concerning slip resistance, which Mr. Condon said meets the appropriate ASTM standard.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the response to the slip resistance issue but asked about the durability of the finish on the tiles. Ms. Rosen-Queralt said the dyes would be enamel pigments fired to 4,000 degrees, adding that the colors are sun-resistant and should not fade. Ms. Nelson contrasted the method to porcelain tile in which the color extends through the tile; she asked whether the surface of these tiles would hold up to foot traffic and water. Ms. Rosen-Queralt said it was her understanding that the surface would be durable. Ms. Nelson offered the comparison of the durability of porcelain enamel on steel; Ms. Rosen-Queralt said that these tiles will use the same firing process but with a ceramic rather than steel substrate, making use of newer manufacturing methods.
Mr. Belle asked about community involvement in the project; Mr. Luebke and Ms. Dickerson responded that community involvement has been extensive. Ms. Rosen-Queralt added that there have been many workshops with the community, and the public's suggestions have influenced the design. She said the project appears to have community support, and Ms. Dickerson added that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission has given its support. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission members approved the revised design.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:14 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: May 29, 2009