Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 February 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 10:20 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 22 January meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, 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: 19 March, 16 April, and 21 May.
C. Proposed policy update for additions and site alterations to structures in Georgetown. Mr. Luebke requested the Commission's consideration of the staff's proposed text for an updated policy concerning additions and site alterations in Georgetown, applicable to projects to be reviewed by the Old Georgetown Board. He explained that the policy would be a non-binding guide for applicants and would be made available to applicants and the public as part of the review process. He said that the Old Georgetown Board has been involved in the development of the policy update and voted to support the proposed text in its meeting of 5 February. He noted that the policy would replace the current policy which was most recently updated in the 1980s.
Mr. Luebke read the proposed text. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the policy without objection. Mr. Powell commented that the policy would not address painting of structures. Mr. Luebke said that the topic of paint color is not covered by a policy and confirmed that this can be a controversial issue.
Mr. Luebke noted that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has withdrawn the submission for Francis Field in the 1200 block of 25th Street, NW to allow time for further coordination with the National Park Service, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, and neighborhood groups. [The project was listed on the draft agenda but has been removed from the final agenda.]
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 reported that there were no changes to the draft Consent Calendar. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler explained that there were several revisions to the draft appendix. The proposal at 1820 Clydesdale Place, NW (case number SL 09-037) was postponed until the following month to allow for the submission of additional information. For the window project at George Washington University's Smith Center (case number SL 09-035), the recommendation has been revised to delegate the window frame color selection to the staff because the selection could not be finalized prior to the Commission meeting. For the doors and canopies of the CVS store at 1201 Maryland Avenue, SW (case number SL 09-036), the recommendation has been changed to be favorable based on supplemental information that has been received, subject to additional information that must be provided. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Mr. Luebke noted that an additional Shipstead-Luce case would be presented later in the agenda (item II.K).
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martinez reported that there were several minor revisions to the draft appendix to reflect supplemental information that has been received. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 19/FEB/09-1, National Mall and Memorial Parks. Draft Master Plan. Information Presentation. Mr. Luebke introduced the information presentation by the National Park Service for the draft of the National Mall Plan; he explained that the plan results from 2003 legislation—the amendments to the Commemorative Works Act—that directed NPS to plan for the future of the Mall. He said that the draft plan is intended to strike a balance between protecting resources and accommodating visitors. He introduced Peter May, the NPS Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources and Planning. Mr. May emphasized that the presentation describes the preliminary preferred alternative for a National Mall Plan rather than a master plan. He introduced Susan Spain, the National Park Service's chief planner for this project.
Ms. Spain distributed a draft newsletter for the project and presented the major points of the plan. She stressed the importance of the Mall as the nation's premier civic space, as was demonstrated in the recent inauguration which drew approximately 1.8 million people. She emphasized that the National Mall is a designed historic landscape and has a unique role for the nation. She reviewed described the range of activities which occur on the Mall, including national celebrations such as the Fourth of July as well as events authorized by permits, of which there are about 3,000 each year. She said that NPS has the responsibility of leaving the Mall in better condition for the future and explained that the current levels of use have huge impacts on the Mall's resources, particularly its historic landscape.
Ms. Spain said that the plan has several goals, including creating a sustainable civic space worthy of the Mall's symbolic value and providing for high levels of use. She discussed four educational themes underlying the plan: civic space, the history of the city, the meaning of memorials and monuments, and sustainability and NPS stewardship. The plan proposes to create support facilities for events in certain areas through such changes as increased or modified paving and improved utilities. She outlined the need for additional or improved facilities such as toilets, food service, circulation, lighting, and utility connections, as well as an emphasis on sustainability. She also said that the plan calls for restoration of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and the D.C. War Memorial. She said that the draft plan would be released in the summer of 2009 and the final plan is scheduled for approval in 2010.
Ms. Spain described the proposals for several areas in greater detail: Union Square; the Washington Monument Grounds; Constitution Gardens; the D.C. War Memorial and Ash Woods; and the Tidal Basin. Union Square, for example, could be redesigned to provide permanent visitor amenities and a large staging area for events, with the reflecting pool potentially replaced by new water elements that are less of an obstacle to pedestrian circulation. The corners of the Washington Monument grounds would provide event support space while the Sylvan Theater would be redesigned as an improved multi-purpose facility with better pedestrian connections. The nearby service lodge would provide services and parking for people with disabilities and could also accommodate bicycle rentals; the park rangers who currently use the lodge for office space would be relocated. Constitution Gardens would be rejuvenated to achieve the vision of the 1970s planning for this area, including construction of a restaurant overlooking the east end of the lake and a new location and use for the historic Lockkeeper's House. The Tidal Basin would have improved pedestrian circulation including wider paths. She said that many areas throughout the National Mall would have improvements to amenities such as seating, refreshments, restrooms, and wayfinding, as well as greater protection of the landscape.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether changes to Constitution Gardens would affect the new additions to the Potomac Park levee; Ms. Spain responded that the plan could accommodate the proposed levee construction. Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the number of new and replaced visitor facilities in the plan. Ms. Spain indicated that there are six of each, including restrooms, food service facilities, places to provide information, and event support. Mr. Belle asked about the two facilities indicated on Jefferson Drive. Ms. Spain explained that these are proposals for a welcome plaza at the Metro station, where information would be provided, and a restroom facility near the existing food kiosk; she confirmed that these new facilities would be located under the trees. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the size of these facilities; Ms. Spain said that there is a need for relatively large facilities in this heavily used area.
Ms. Balmori observed that the plan should be based on a conceptual vision for the Mall. She said that the Mall should not be treated as a site for additional construction, commenting that the existing facilities are intrusive and not aesthetically pleasing. Ms. Balmori listed the main issues: what is the Mall, and what belongs on it; and is it a place for building more facilities. She said it is already overbuilt, and added that anything constructed there needs to be of a high aesthetic quality. Ms. Spain agreed and said the Mall probably requires two levels of aesthetics—smaller facilities that would be low-key and timeless, and multi-purpose structures that would provide an opportunity for a unique design. Ms. Balmori said planners could consider going beyond the Mall itself to make use of surrounding facilities. Ms. Spain said that adjacent museums already provide support services for visitors.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the National Mall has two levels of use—routine visitors such as families, and huge crowds for special events such as inaugurations—and these two types of groups have different needs. He offered the example of ordinary wayfinding signage, which is useful for casual visitors but not important for large crowds at special events, and the different trash-collection needs for these groups. He recommended that the needs of these groups therefore be considered separately. Ms. Spain agreed and described the layered features of the plan that would address these two levels of use.
Mr. Powell said that with about 3,000 permitted activities a year, the area of the Mall in front of the museums is often overused and cluttered with tents; he asked if there are provisions in the plan to move such activities off the Mall. Ms. Spain said that demonstrations do not typically bring in many structures or last long, while there are greater difficulties involved in managing the impact of special events. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the question of whether events or proposed construction could occur in other locations. Ms. Spain said that this issue is being addressed in the National Capital Framework Plan [a joint initiative of the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts]. Mr. Powell said it seems that there is no rehabilitation of the Mall landscape after high-intensity events, and the Mall is left as a "dirt plateau." Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the presentation suggests that NPS needs to "accommodate absolutely anything that anybody wants to do." Ms. Spain responded that demonstrations and national celebrations need to be accommodated, but special events do not, and the plan will call for mandatory recovery times following events. Mr. Powell expressed support for the recovery times; Ms. Spain said that such regulations would better balance the needs of general users with the needs of special events.
Ms. Nelson questioned the proposal to accommodate handicapped accessibility by concentrating services at a single location that is based on arrival by car; she said that support facilities should be dispersed to correspond to people's needs. Ms. Spain said that wheelchairs would be available in different locations, as they are now, but one particular location would be designated as a reliable facility for assistance. She said that universally accessible design would be the standard throughout the area, affecting issues such as the gravel walkways which create difficulty for mobility and breathing.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the presentation paradoxically gave equal weight to recreation, entertainment, and the symbolic value of a national civic space. He said that NPS would have to decide which is the most important function; he suggested that entertainment and recreation are of lesser value. Ms. Spain agreed.
Ms. Nelson referred to the image in Ms. Spain's presentation showing the panel of golden stars at the World War II Memorial, each star representing 1,000 American soldiers who died in the war, and observed that children play in the pool in front of this panel. Ms. Spain agreed that finding a means of maintaining a proper level of respect at memorials should be part of the plan. Ms. Nelson also mentioned how disturbing the noise levels could be at memorials; Ms. Spain agreed, mentioning that water is used successfully at the Franklin D. Roosevelt and World War II Memorials to deaden the sound.
Mr. Belle asked whether the areas shown in purple on the plan between the Washington Monument and the Grant Memorial indicate proposals for permanent facilities. Ms. Spain clarified that many of the graphic symbols represent improved paving or utilities, emphasizing that nothing would be visible down the center of the lawn. Mr. Luebke asked for further clarification; Ms. Spain said that perhaps some areas would be paved to support facilities such as a stage or portable toilets. Ms. Balmori asked if these areas would be in the center panel of the Mall. Ms. Spain confirmed this location and explained that stages are often placed in the center lawn panel; providing the paved areas for stages would therefore lessen damage to the lawn.
Mr. Luebke noted one aspect in the master plan representing the biggest change would be the design of Union Square; he indicated the Commission's wall hanging of the original McMillan Plan rendering for the treatment of the square. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the proposal for this area has been widely discussed; Ms. Spain responded that it had appeared in the range of alternatives developed last year and confirmed that the proposal for this area generated great public interest; she added that increased use of this area is essential to protection of the Mall. She also confirmed that the current design of Union Square dates to the 1970s. Mr. Luebke added that Union Square could provide a venue for staged activities or spontaneous gatherings; Ms. Balmori commented that the provision of such a venue would be justified if it would eliminate the placement of activities in the center lawn of the Mall. Ms. Spain agreed that this is the goal: to remove pressure from the area of the Mall that gets the most use and protect its historic landscape.
Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the presentation and offered the Commission's continued involvement as the plan is developed further.
2. CFA 19/FEB/09-2, National Mall and Memorial Parks. Pedestrian Guide Sign Program. Designs for two new sign types. Concept/Final. Peter May of the National Park Service continued with the introduction of the next NPS submission, a pedestrian guide sign program for the National Mall, which he said is a proposal that was common to all of the alternatives that were developed for the National Mall Plan alternatives. He introduced the consultant on the project, Wayne Hunt of Hunt Design, to present the proposal.
Mr. Hunt said that the sign program is part of a comprehensive project to improve the experience of visitors to the Mall. He presented photographs of existing Mall signs, which include many mismatched or redundant signs installed at different times; he said that the Lincoln Memorial has 44 mismatched signs. He said that the project included an inventory of every sign on the Mall, and he noted that visitor surveys consistently state the desire for better signs and maps.
Mr. Hunt defined the term "wayfinding" as self-guiding by visitors through a coordinated system of elements. In response to Mr. Rybczynski's comment on the National Mall Plan, Mr. Hunt agreed that wayfinding is intended to guide individuals and small groups rather than the very large crowds at special events. He said that the program calls for placing most signs at the edges of the National Mall, particularly at corners and intersections, with only minimal signage in the interior of the park. He defined four categories of signs: greeting signs, signs that give directions, signs identifying buildings, and regulatory signs. He said the program uses the smallest feasible number of signs and proposes that the signs be made of durable materials in neutral colors. He noted the National Park Service's existing UniGuide graphic system for information, and said that some of the proposed signs conform to the UniGuide standard while other signs will be newly designed.
Mr. Hunt said that the design team is developing new maps with fewer words and incorporating "dimensional" graphics, such as buildings rendered in perspective, which will be easier for people to understand. Ms. Balmori asked about the width of the two maps shown in the presentation. Mr. Hunt said the widths would be six feet and four feet, noting that the larger one would be set in a landscaped area that is at least 100 feet wide.
Mr. Hunt discussed a system of graphic signs developed by the Smithsonian Institution in 1978 that relied on visual icons to identify sites, explaining that he hopes to revive and adapt this type of system; he said that the program would include such signs for certain important destinations beyond the Mall as well as those within.
Mr. Hunt said that the design team has developed a pylon-shaped sign in two heights, ten feet and five feet nine inches. The larger pylons would be used primarily at the edges of the Mall, and the smaller ones would be placed at internal intersections. Individual sign panels would be attached to the sides of the pylons. The larger pylon would have an articulated granite base. He said these sign pylons would be easy for new visitors to find but virtually invisible to regular visitors, and that his team had placed mockups throughout the Mall to demonstrate this. Ms. Nelson asked about the material of the smaller pylons; Mr. Hunt responded that they would be painted metal, noting that granite could be used but would likely be too costly. Mr. Hunt confirmed that a mockup was placed in front of the Lincoln Memorial and presented a photograph of the pylon. Ms. Nelson asked about the location in relation to the memorial; Mr. Hunt said that the pylon would be no closer to the memorial than shown in the mockup. Mr. Luebke clarified that the proposed design includes two of the smaller pylons on the inside circle along the memorial.
Mr. Belle asked whether a distinction should be made between a sign providing information about a destination and a sign giving information about an amenity, such as a restroom, saying that the proposed system seems to treat them in the same way. Mr. Hunt said that most signs would feature the destinations, such as memorials, and that ancillary destinations such as bookstores would be listed in a specific area of the pylon. He noted that restrooms are the most requested destination of visitors. Mr. Belle clarified that he was not suggesting omission of signs for restrooms but that there should be a distinction between types of signs. Mr. Hunt said that the program calls for such a distinction through the separate location area on the pylons for ancillary destinations. He then discussed details of material and color.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how new buildings would be handled in the sign system; Mr. Hunt replied that the panels on the pylons can be changed. Mr. Rybczynski asked whether that would mean the signs might need to be made smaller so that additional panels would fit on the pylons; Mr. Hunt said that the size of the panels would not change, and new signs might require removal of existing signs based on evaluating the priorities for information at each location. Mr. Rybczynski said that the frequency of construction of new memorials makes this an important issue that needs to be addressed. Mr. May of the National Park Service explained that under the Commemorative Works Act, much of the Mall lies within the area known as "the Reserve" which includes limitations on construction of additional memorials; he acknowledged that outlying portions of the National Mall may be developed as sites for new memorials but said that there is more room for flexibility with the sign system in these areas. Mr. Rybczynski said there might nonetheless be new signs for restrictions or activities that had not yet been thought of, comparable to the signs in recent years to forbid smoking, and that the system would therefore have to be flexible. Mr. Hunt reiterated that the panels are changeable and the system is adaptable, but the intention is not to add many more signs. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that each pylon sign would apparently not be intended to tell someone how to get to everything on the Mall, but would address only what is nearby, since map signs would also be available for more wide-ranging orientation; Mr. Hunt agreed.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the project phasing. Mr. Hunt described the areas of the three phases proposed for procurement: the west end of the Mall; the east end and the Washington Monument Grounds; and the southern area including portions of East and West Potomac Parks.
Mr. Hunt indicated the sites for signs on the east end of the Mall, noting that the distance between intersections is 300 to 400 feet. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the ten-foot-tall pylons would often be located near a proposed map; Mr. Hunt said they would be located at the same intersections but across the street from each other, within sight of each other but without causing a cluttered concentration. Ms. Balmori questioned the proposal for both a pylon and map at each intersection around the eastern part of the Mall; Mr. Hunt noted that the intersections are very far apart, adding that pedestrians typically need to have information confirmed at distances of a couple of hundred feet. Ms. Balmori commented that many buildings have signs above their entrances, and that each pylon could only carry a small number of signs.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned whether the pylons are necessary in conjunction with the maps. She said that the Commission members' questions indicate a concern about the proliferation of signs, and that there are already other types of signs on the site such as traffic signs. She commented that there is nothing wrong with stopping other visitors and asking them for directions, and that this might even be a good thing, while the idea that a person should be autonomous through using only signs and maps might be "a bit extreme." Mr. Hunt said some people prefer to ask while others prefer to have maps, and that "confident visitors like to be oriented."
Mr. Hunt again indicated the plan for the Lincoln Memorial vicinity with the proposed sign program for the area, which he described as modest. Ms. Balmori pointed out that there would be nine pylon signs around the memorial and said that signage at the main entrance would be enough to direct people to other places. Mr. Hunt explained that the two entrance signs will need to carry a large amount of information and that they would be placed adjacent to side stairways. He illustrated the single five-foot pylon sign that would give directions at the memorial. Ms. Nelson asked about the relation of this sign to the retaining wall behind it; Mr. Hunt said that some new wall signs would replace existing wall signs. He reiterated that the proposed program would reduce the number of signs at the Lincoln Memorial, but Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori commented that there would still be too many regulatory signs interfering with the experience of approaching the memorial. Mr. Hunt illustrated the monument-type identification sign for the memorial which would be next to a low retaining wall, explaining that there are some visitors who do not recognize this building. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the name could be incised in the wall. Mr. Hunt asked whether it would be desirable to add language to existing fabric, and Mr. Luebke and Ms. Balmori pointed out that the wall is only two years old. Ms. Nelson commented that famous buildings do not need to be labeled. Chairman Powell said the objection may not be to the concept of the signage but to the number of signs and the prominence of information that will be needed by only a few people; he agreed with the suggestion to incise the identifying text into the wall rather than install a monument-type sign.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that there is a parallel between this issue and the addition of facilities proposed in the National Mall Plan. She said that these are being treated as independent efforts, but that perhaps these new features could be imagined in an integrated rather than layered way; she asked whether new facilities could be placed in existing buildings. Chairman Powell noted that the sign program is funded separately from the other facilities-related projects.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested three recommendations for the sign program: elimination of new signs to identify buildings; using only the lower height for the pylon signs; and using either a map sign or pylon sign—but not both—at any location. Mr. McKinnell agreed with these recommendations and said that a tall pylon, requiring people to raise their heads to read it, would conflict with the experience of viewing memorials. He explained that "there is an essential contradiction here between whether these are signs and subservient to the idea of the Mall and the monuments or whether they are becoming objects in themselves that are sort of self-satisfying."
Stephen Lorenzetti, Deputy Superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks for the National Park Service, confirmed to the Commission the observation that many people do not recognize the buildings and memorials on the Mall, and that this is therefore important information to communicate. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that she has been asked by foreign visitors about where things are located, and finds this to be a nice interaction. Mr. Lorenzetti agreed but said with four million visitors per year and perhaps three rangers stationed at each site, a large number of questions could not be handled. Mr. Belle pointed out that other visitors can provide such information; Mr. Lorenzetti agreed but said they could also provide the wrong information. Mr. Hunt said some visitors like to use maps while others do not and might be unwilling to ask questions; he said that the best solution is therefore to have a combination of signs, maps, and helpful staff and visitors.
Mr. McKinnell said the point was the form in which the information is conveyed, and he reiterated that the tall pylon is obtrusive. Mr. Rybczynski agreed, and said he also agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk's comments; he said that the tall signs would be a "blot on the landscape" and that the short pylon would be the solution. Ms. Nelson added that using granite makes the tall pylon look more like a column. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that low structures, like bollards and trash cans, tend to be less noticed. Ms. Balmori reiterated that there need to be fewer signs.
Mr. Powell asked for a motion to address the requested approval of the concept and final design. Mr. Luebke reviewed the parts of the proposed program—the existing UniGuide design program; the two new types of pylons; and the three phases of implementation—and suggested that these could be addressed separately. He noted that even though the proposal had been submitted for both concept and final approval, the Commission could take whatever action it chooses.
Mr. Powell and Mr. Belle said that Ms. Plater-Zyberk's earlier recommendation was appropriate, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk stated it again as a motion: building or memorial identification signs should be omitted; only low pylons should be approved; and a low pylon or a map could be used at an intersection, but not both.
Mr. May asked the Commission to leave open the question of whether identification signs are needed, explaining that the proposal for such signs is based on extensive experience within the National Park Service; he said that NPS has often found such signs to be necessary, and he said it would be unfortunate to have a direction from the Commission that this is inappropriate. He said that NPS would prefer to have the opportunity to return to the Commission to demonstrate why such signs might be necessary.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission has a clear consensus against the tall pylon and against the low UniGuide identification sign at some sensitive locations but that these signs could be considered on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Powell said that the Commission would be open to an NPS request for identification signs where there is a particular need but generally discourages their use. Mr. May said that NPS would like to study the matter further in order to establish a framework for making these decisions. Ms. Nelson commented that, where a map is in front of a building, the name of the building could be given on the map.
Chairman Powell suggested treating Ms. Plater-Zyberk's motion as an action on the concept rather than as a final design, with NPS to return with further information on the proposal. The Commission concluded by adopting the motion.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 19/FEB/09-3, National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Project progress update. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/05-2, Information presentation on site selection study.) Ms. Balmori recused herself from commenting on this presentation due to her firm's potential involvement in the project. Mr. Luebke introduced the information presentation by the Smithsonian Institution on the status of the design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will be located on a site at the northeast corner of the Washington Monument Grounds. He said that the project team has undertaken preliminary studies and has developed a process for the design competition to choose the building's architects. He noted that the Commission staff has been involved in the project including participation in the Section 106 historic preservation process. He introduced Curtis Davis, the project executive for the museum in the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Facilities, Engineering, and Operations, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Davis described the museum's mission to help all people to understand the African diaspora and its effect on American culture. He summarized the long process involved in the site selection and said that the Smithsonian has determined that the program will require a museum building of 350,000 to 400,000 square feet. He introduced Sharon Parks, Chief of the Smithsonian Institution's Architectural History and Historic Preservation Division, to continue the presentation.
Ms. Parks explained that the design team has been pursuing concurrently the review processes for environmental and historic preservation issues. She discussed the historic development of the National Mall in relation to the site. She explained that archeological analysis has not revealed any African-American artifacts on the site but it is known that slaves were kept on the farm that included the property. Elements of the picturesque Victorian landscape remain at the site. She noted that historic plans have envisioned a building on this site as part of the overall development of this area.
Ms. Parks said that, as part of the environmental review process, the design team has prepared massing diagrams that examine how a building could be configured on the site, establishing a range of potential sizes and setbacks. She said that, in addition to the four facades, the roof will form a fifth public face of this building since it will be visible from vantage points such as the Washington Monument and the Old Post Office tower. Mr. Rybczynski asked if all of these massing diagrams depict preferred alternatives. Ms. Parks responded that the diagrams are intended only to guide rather than restrict the architects in the design competition, and she confirmed that the architects will have great flexibility in proposing a building configuration.
Ms. Parks said that the design team has developed a set of design principles and identified three general areas of concern: the relation of the building to the National Mall; its relation to the Washington Monument Grounds; and its relation to the context of the larger city. She described the site as a "hinge point" at the end of a line of buildings along the Mall and at an open site in front of the Federal Triangle. She stressed the importance of respecting the character, landscape, views, and other buildings of the Mall in the design development.
Mr. Davis then continued the presentation by discussing how the design team is addressing specific urban design issues. He said his team had studied the National Capital Park and Planning Commission's 1927 proposal as one source of planning guidance. The team examined the role of the site and the museum within the city; scale relationships with other buildings, particularly the National Museum of the American Indian; and the diagonal views from the site to the Washington Monument and the White House. The team also considered the site's relation to the axis of the Mall and analyzed topography, water issues, available transportation, parking needs, and the pedestrian experience. They analyzed existing trees, including the allees of elms on the Mall and the more informal grove on the site itself, and considered how these shaped space. They looked at the different ways people now use this site and the numbers of people attracted by different events on the Mall, including the recent inauguration. He discussed the museum's program and the decision to move as many functions as possible off site.
Mr. Davis listed the participating design teams: Phil Freelon and David Adjaye (with Max Bond, who had died the day before); Devrouax and Purnell with Pei Cobb Freed; Diller Scofidio with KlingStubbins; Moody Nolan with Antoine Predock; and Moshe Safdie with Sultan Campbell Britt & Associates. He emphasized that the competition will be used to select a designer, not a design; after selection, the architect will be asked to develop three concepts for the building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that this project offers a great opportunity; she asked whether National Park Service (NPS) programming for new facilities in the National Mall Plan could be integrated with the new museum to avoid building an additional structure nearby. Mr. Davis responded that the Smithsonian is consulting with NPS as part of the historic preservation review process; he said that the new museum would accommodate public use in a manner similar to other Smithsonian museums, but the museum's mission is specific enough that it may not meet the planning needs of the National Park Service. Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged that the Smithsonian museums along the Mall have facilities open to the public but noted that people need to go through security to use them, and she proposed that such facilities could be placed in the African American Museum so that they open directly to the exterior and would not require security screening. Mr. Davis responded that such a use is not within the program but could be considered. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that NPS is considering construction of a new food facility within a block, and that an outward-facing restaurant at this museum could be an alternative solution that would provide a welcome amenity and also bring in more business. Mr. Davis reiterated that the Smithsonian would be consulting with NPS and would try to complement and support the NPS proposals.
Mr. McKinnell asked if there are any proposals for the equivalent site on the south side of the Mall. Mr. Davis replied that this has been a debated subject, and some people have suggested that a structure with a similar purpose should go there. Mr. Luebke said that the southern site is part of the enacted Reserve, so a proposal for this site might require amendment of the Commemorative Works Act; and because of the shift of the Mall's axis, the southern site is considerably smaller than that of the museum. He added that the only project seriously considered for the site has been a visitor amenities center, and even that is not likely.
Mr. Powell commented that an interesting design challenge posed by the museum's site is that it has four primary facades; Mr. Davis added that the visibility of the roof makes a total of five. Ms. Nelson commended the design team for the careful analysis. Chairman Powell concluded by noting the great talent of the designers working on the project.
D. General Services Administration
CFA 19/FEB/09-4, Southeast Federal Center (The Yards), between 2nd and 5th Streets, SE. Phase II designs for 5.6-acre waterfront park. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/JAN/08-5.) Mr. Lindstrom said that the submission is forwarded by the General Services Administration (GSA) at the 35 percent design phase for the waterfront park, and he introduced Mike McGill of GSA to begin the presentation. Mr. McGill described the unusual background of the project as a mixed-use development that GSA was authorized to pursue in accordance with site-specific legislation enacted in 2000. GSA selected Forest City Washington as the development company, arranged the zoning of the site to accommodate the proposed development, and negotiated agreements concerning design review with the Commission as well as with the National Capital Planning Commission. He said that GSA will continue to oversee the project's implementation in the coming decades and will bring each phase of the developer's designs to the Commission for comment.
Mr. McGill explained that the current submission is the second presentation to the Commission for the 5-acre waterfront park located within the 42-acre development area that has been named "The Yards." He said that the Commission has approved the overall park design in concept; the presentation will cover several specific elements that were not reviewed, including a sculptural feature and the three retail buildings on the edge of the park, including one historic building. He introduced landscape architect Rick Parisi of M. Paul Friedberg and Partners to present the context of the park design.
Mr. Parisi summarized the features of the park, including a bridge, overlook, retail pavilions and a vertical sculpture. He described several revisions that have been made after the Commission's last review of the park: the pedestrian bridge has a less heavy appearance while retaining an industrial character, and the overlook area has a metal and canvas structure to provide shade and changing shadow patterns. He indicated the location of the vertical sculpture which will reinforce the alignment of 3rd Street, SE, and will also be prominently visible from the Anacostia River bridges and the Riverwalk that is being developed. He summarized the purpose of the vertical feature to be a focal point for the park and draw people to the waterfront; the design goals include an emphasis on verticality, reflectivity that varies with daylight conditions, legibility at night, a changing or interactive design, and a strong identity. He said that in the previous presentation a year earlier, the expectation was to select an artist to work on this feature; designer James Carpenter of James Carpenter Design Associates has now been selected. He introduced Mr. Carpenter to present the sculpture proposal and architect Jordan Goldstein of Gensler to present the proposal for the retail pavilions.
Mr. Carpenter described the character of his work which uses glass and other materials to explore the qualities of reflectivity, absorption, or transmission of light. He emphasized the intention to create projects that are animated by people and by the movement of the sun, taking advantage of the dynamic qualities of light existing in the context. He said that the sculpture at The Yards would be approximately sixty feet tall, rising from the lower portion of the sloping park; he explained that the top of the sculpture would therefore be at approximately the height of the proposed adjacent building. He presented several long-distance views of the sculpture to show its height in the context of the river and proposed development.
Mr. Carpenter described the historical precedent of tower structures used for navy communications, and he presented photographs of vertical elements in the vicinity, such as a pair of smokestacks. Ms. Nelson asked about the height of the smokestacks; Mr. Carpenter estimated that they are 110 to 120 feet and very prominent. He presented a view from South Capitol Street crossing the Anacostia River, where the proposed sculpture will be seen nearly in alignment with the taller smokestacks. Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed sixty-foot height might be insufficient and asked if the sculpture could be taller. Mr. Carpenter said that this question has been discussed; the concern is to avoid overwhelming the park with a large-scale element and to keep it in reasonable proportion to its small footprint. He said that the height was selected to be slightly higher than the nearby buildings. He added that the forthcoming details of the sculpture's design might affect the discussion of the appropriate scale.
Mr. Carpenter said that the sculpture would be constructed of extruded stainless-steel triangular prisms that run vertically up the column; the spacing of the prisms would be wider in the upper part of the sculpture, with the top portion having nearly fifty percent transparency to emphasize the sky. He said that the sculpture would therefore not be perceived as a monolithic volume but would have a tapering quality with varying degrees of reflectivity. He described the light sources for night use: a small amount of light at the base, some of which will spill out into the surrounding area, and another source of light shining upward toward a series of reflectors; the result would be a lit object distributing light into the landscape rather than a beacon of light extending into the sky.
Mr. Carpenter presented the design details: the prisms would have an equilateral triangular profile and would be welded to a frame. He provided a sample of the stainless steel for the Commission's inspection. Mr. Belle asked about the expression of the horizontal joints. Mr. Carpenter said that their visibility is deliberate; the continuous thicker corner pieces would connect to the horizontal members to form a vertical truss which would be braced by the prisms. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the movement of air; Mr. Carpenter confirmed that air would flow through the structure, particularly in the upper portion where the spacing is wider. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the sculpture will generate sound. Mr. Carpenter responded that sound is not anticipated but could be a good feature.
Mr. Powell described the proposal as elegant. Mr. Belle asked for further information about neighboring building heights. Mr. Carpenter said that the nearby Lumber Shed, which would be presented momentarily, rises approximately forty feet from a ground elevation that is eight feet higher than the sculpture's base; the sixty-foot-tall sculpture would therefore rise approximately ten feet above this building. He reiterated the concern about potentially overwhelming the historic and new buildings in the vicinity; Mr. Belle commented that this does not appear to be a problem and suggested that the sculpture's height could increase. Ms. Nelson agreed, and Mr. McKinnell said that the Commission's reaction indicates support for the beauty of the proposal and the desire to see more of it. (Later in the discussion, a nearby proposed building was identified as being planned for a height of approximately ninety feet.) Mr. Carpenter said that the height could also be a concern for viewers who are very close to the sculpture. Mr. McKinnell suggested following Mr. Carpenter's judgment on the appropriate height; Mr. Powell supported this conclusion. Ms. Balmori joined in supporting the proposed design.
Mr. Goldstein then presented the design of the retail buildings. He explained that the previous submission had included diagrammatic footprints of two new buildings along with an indication of the historic Lumber Shed that would be converted to retail use; the current submission provides the details of these proposals. He said that while the allowable development is 397,000 square feet, the proposal totals only 57,000 square feet. He presented photographs of the context and explained that the non-historic corrugated metal cladding on the Lumber Shed would be removed. The historic concrete structure, originally open-air, would be retained along with the wood-trussed roof extending over the double-height central volume of the two-story building. Mr. Goldstein noted the simple elegance of the structure, originally used for drying lumber, and the industrial character that is unusual in Washington. He indicated the cantilevered slabs extending beyond the column line to create a sense of floating planes. He noted the potential for views through and from the building. He described the challenge resulting from having public accessibility on each side of all three retail buildings; the Lumber Shed has the additional challenge of creating enclosed retail space in a building that was designed as an unenclosed structure. He noted that the historic concrete is "severely dilapidated" and will be restored.
Mr. Goldstein said that the design goal is to create simple buildings with a simple palette of materials and a contemporary vocabulary that refers to the area's industrial history, which he noted is also incorporated into the character of park elements including the proposed vertical sculpture. He described the proposed tenant configuration of each building: four tenants in the new two-story east building; one tenant in the new two-story center building; and six tenants in the Lumber Shed, with two of these tenants using the double-height central space and extending into the two separate second-floor retail areas that frame the central space. He added that much of the retail space is intended for restaurants.
Mr. Goldstein emphasized the importance of visibility for the retail tenants and the difficulty of providing service access; he indicated the service and core areas on the plan of each building as well as the location of rooftop mechanical areas. He noted that one service area is a utility room for the entire park. He indicated the second-floor setbacks on the new buildings that would provide the opportunity for elevated dining terraces, noting that this amenity is rare in Washington. He indicated the frontage along Water Street, where additional retail space is anticipated in the future development on the north side; dining terraces would overlook this urban edge as well as the waterfront to the south.
Mr. Goldstein presented the proposed elevations, indicating how the facades of the new buildings are generated from the lines and horizontality of the Lumber Shed despite their differing plan geometries. The concrete Lumber Shed structure would be clad in glass, and the new retail buildings would also have a vocabulary of concrete and glass with additional wood cladding and metal panels for opaque wall areas.
Mr. Belle asked about access to the second-floor retail areas. Mr. Goldstein clarified that vertical circulation would occur within the buildings, with no exterior stairs; the two-story tenants in the Lumber Shed would have monumental staircases to connect the first and second floors.
Mr. Goldstein described the evolving proposal for enclosing the Lumber Shed, explaining the extensive consultation with several review authorities and the issue of obtaining regulatory approval for preservation-related tax credits. He presented the initial proposal to place a continuous glass skin immediately outside of the concrete to maintain the purity of the historic structure. The historic preservation review agencies instead requested that the edge of the slabs be exposed, so the second proposal locates the enclosure recessed back from the slab edges, leaving the tapered beams beneath the slabs partially exposed. He said that the enclosure would include operable glass doors which could be folded to open the retail areas to the exterior, further emphasizing the historic open-air configuration of the Lumber Shed. He presented several variations of wall alignments currently under consideration: the glass set back to the column line on the first floor and set further forward on the second floor; or setting the glass back on both levels, creating a balcony space on the second floor which would be protected with a railing. One of these alternatives could be selected throughout the building, and another option would be to use each of these two configurations for half of the building exterior. He presented a detailed section of the options, noting that the existing slab is cantilevered approximately four feet from the column line.
Mr. Rybczynski asked why the initial proposal was abandoned; Mr. Goldstein responded that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service encouraged exposing the slab edge and recessing the skin as deeply as possible. Mr. Rybczynski said that the initial proposal seems preferable for functional and commercial purposes. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the existing concrete slab edges can withstand continued exterior exposure. Mr. Goldstein reiterated that the concrete is in poor condition and will need to be restored regardless of the choice of enclosure alignment; however, exposed concrete will need to be specially designed to respond to issues such as drainage, weathering, and salt.
Mr. Powell asked how the Lumber Shed had come to be designated as historic. Pat Daniels, the project manager with the General Services Administration, responded that the determination was made many years earlier when designating buildings that contribute to the historic importance of the overall site. She said that GSA inherited six such designated buildings when the site was transferred to GSA.
Mr. Powell commented that the initial proposal for enclosing the building is more attractive than the later alternatives that have been developed; Ms. Balmori and Mr. McKinnell agreed, and they described the initial proposal as elegant and clear. Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the difficulty of receiving differing opinions from various review boards. She emphasized the importance of protecting the concrete and suggested an alternative of extending the second-floor skin downward over the slab and using the operable doors to expose the slab from the lower level. Of the alternatives presented, she supported the initial proposal and commented on its simplicity.
Mr. Luebke explained that the different recommendation of the historic preservation agencies would cause a problem in qualifying for tax credits; he said that coordination of the review processes is important, but it might be problematic to re-open the discussion of this issue. He offered to discuss the Commission's preference with GSA. Mr. Rybczynski said that the Commission's role, as acknowledged by Mr. McGill in his introduction, is to comment on the aesthetic qualities of the project, and the Commission's response on the Lumber Shed enclosure is that the initial proposal was a good one and has become worse as it is revised; he said that the Commission should offer its best judgment and GSA could respond to whatever extent it chooses. Chairman Powell agreed with this approach; Ms. Nelson agreed that the Commission should comment on aesthetics rather than tax credit regulations.
Mr. Powell offered enthusiastic support for the design. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept, including the two new buildings that are proposed, with a preference for the initial proposal for enclosing the Lumber Shed.
E. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the designs for two Congressional gold medals. He explained that there would be only one proposed design for each, as is customary with medals.
1. CFA 19/FEB/09-5, Congressional Gold Medal for Edward William Brooke III. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Simon noted that the proposed reverse of the medal honoring Edward Brooke includes an extensive text quotation and no citation of the source, which are issues that the Commission has raised in past reviews.
Ms. Budow summarized Edward Brooke's biography as a World War II veteran, lawyer, attorney general for Massachusetts, civil rights pioneer, and U.S. senator from 1967 to 1979. She presented the proposed obverse with his portrait and name, along with the reverse containing a three-part quotation from one of his books and depictions of the U.S. Capitol and Massachusetts State House. She distributed corrected images of the proposed reverse, which the Mint has revised since the initial mailing to Commission members to add detail to the base of the Capitol. She noted that the medals will have a three-inch diameter, as shown in full size on the printed images.
Ms. Nelson commented favorably on the obverse portrait but questioned the amount of text on the reverse. She recommended omitting the first portion—"America's greatness lies in its wondrous diversity"—and using only the remaining two portions, which she said would strengthen the design. Ms. Budow noted that the quotation is already slightly shortened by extracting three portions of a longer sentence; she read the original source material to the Commission. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the source; Ms. Budow explained that Senator Brooke wrote the quotation in his autobiography and says that he has used the quote on several occasions. Ms. Balmori concluded that omitting the first portion would not detract from the authenticity of the quotation, and she agreed with Ms. Nelson's recommendation. Mr. Belle and Mr. Powell noted the duplication of meaning in the first and third portions and agreed with Ms. Nelson's recommendation. Ms. Nelson added that the size of the lettering could remain unchanged but the position and spacing could be adjusted to re-center the text.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the proposed obverse and recommended revising the reverse by deleting the first portion of the quotation and adjusting the remaining elements accordingly.
2. CFA 19/FEB/09-6, Congressional Gold Medal for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow summarized the biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, a political activist and peace advocate in Burma who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and is currently under house arrest. Ms. Budow presented the proposed obverse design with a portrait based on a 2003 photograph, and the reverse featuring a peacock—a symbol of freedom in modern Burmese history—and the inscriptions "Dedicated to promoting freedom and democracy in Burma" and "Act of Congress 2008."
Ms. Balmori commented that the image of the peacock is weak; Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Rybczynski noted that the peacock is depicted atop a Western classical column and asked about its significance. Ms. Budow responded that the artist included the column as a graceful setting for the peacock; she said that other designs that were considered included the peacock with fanned tail and no column. Mr. Rybczynski said that the column seems "odd" and has a symbolism of its own; Mr. Belle noted its iconic connection to Greek civilization.
Ms. Nelson said that Ms. Suu Kyi's achievements deserve the highest quality for the medal, requiring revision of the reverse design. She commented that the word "Burma" in the inscription is important but is not prominent due to the adjacent tail of the peacock; she suggested further study of the composition. Mr. Luebke asked if the concern is with the typography; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson emphasized that the peacock and column are the problem. Ms. Nelson suggested reconfiguration of the text; Mr. Powell agreed.
Ms. Budow said that several design options had been developed including a variety of positions for the peacock; the submitted design is the preferred alternative. Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to support the obverse and request further alternatives for the reverse. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated that the classical column makes no sense in the design because it has no relation to Burma nor to Ms. Suu Kyi; Mr. Powell and Ms. Balmori agreed that it is a confusing design element. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the obverse and requested the preparation of a revised design for the reverse.
F. National Archives and Records Administration
CFA 19/FEB/09-7, National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Building identification, directional, and exhibition signs. Concept/Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for an exterior sign system at the main building of the National Archives facing Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues. He introduced Maria Stanwich, Director of Public Programming for the National Archives, and project architect James Stokoe of Arch Etal.
In addition to representing the Archives, Ms. Stanwich said she was also representing the Foundation for the National Archives which is funding the project. She explained that the Archives proposes to install new perimeter signage at several points around the building. She said that the Archives has approximately 1.2 million visitors every year; surveys suggest that the visitors have difficulty finding the Archives and think that the current signage is not clear. Ms. Stanwich described the existing deteriorating plastic signs at the corners of the site. She said the project for new signs is integrated with the new interior signage, the redesigned website, and a new advertising campaign. She then turned the presentation over to Mr. Stokoe.
Mr. Stokoe explained that, since the recent renovation of the Archives building, the exhibit and special event entrances are now situated below the south portico facing Constitution Avenue; the research entrance is on the north. He said that visitors have difficulty finding the correct entrance. He said that also the Archives' programs have expanded beyond the display of the founding documents to include programs and exhibit galleries, and the goal of the sign program is to inform visitors about their options and direct them accordingly.
Mr. Stokoe presented the three types of proposed signs. Located diagonally at each of the four corners of the site would be a horizontal building identification sign in a classically detailed bronze frame and set on a granite base. At each of the entrances would be a vertical sign explaining events and giving hours and other information; two symmetrically placed signs are proposed at the north entrance because the building is strongly symmetrical. The third type would be a series of six building-mounted signs providing information about Archives events and activities along the queuing ramp leading to the exhibit entrance. These signs would be aluminum panels in bronze frames and would be coordinated in color and format with interior signs; they would be attached to mortar joints rather than to the stone.
Mr. Powell asked how many new signs there would be; Mr. Stokoe said there would be four at the site's corners, four at the entrances, and six along the ramp. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the building already has its name on it, and Ms. Stanwich confirmed that the name is incised in the portico frieze. Mr. Stokoe said that this identifies the building but is not sufficient for the typical visitor. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented favorably on the design of the signs but said that many of the projects which have been presented to the Commission have had "sign proliferation," including multiple layers of signs being put in front of buildings. She recommended using only one sign at each door telling visitors what can be found there, using an arrow directing people to the other entrances as needed, and omitting the corner signs. Mr. Rybczynski agreed and said that, while he understands the need for signs, he still thinks that they are "effectively a billboard" which fail to improve building or sidewalk. Mr. McKinnell agreed that the signs act as billboards and commented on their extremely large size, with a width of seven feet; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson agreed with this concern. Mr. Stokoe said that the size could be reduced, but due to the large scale of the building there is a risk of the signs looking trivial if they are too small.
Ms. Balmori expressed appreciation for the design of the signs, but said that the diagonal placement of the signs at the corners of the site has an uncomfortable relationship with the classical building. Ms. Nelson opposed the placement of signs on the building wall along the queuing area, suggesting that the information be provided to visitors in a brochure after they enter the building. Ms. Stanwich responded that the National Archives has a similar interior sign system in place and is trying to provide information to waiting visitors, who often do not know that the Archives has public galleries and exhibits other than the founding documents. Ms. Nelson emphasized that the Commission's role is to protect the visual environment, and she reiterated her concern about an excessive number of signs.
Mr. Luebke noted the issue of whether the signs at the research entrance might interfere with the view of the bas-reliefs on the nearby walls. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that if there is adequate space between the sign and the sculpture on the building, visitors walking through the area would hot have a problem seeing the sculpture; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated that any necessary information at an entrance should be put on a single sign.
Mr. Powell expressed support for the signs along the queuing area, agreeing with the design team that people need to be informed about what is inside the building. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that she does not object to these signs being attached to the walls, but Ms. Balmori said that these signs resemble advertisements and detract from the building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered three recommendations for the Commission's vote: to omit identification signs at the corners; to place one sign at each entrance explaining what happens in that part of the building and directing people to other entrances; and possibly to revise the signs along the entrance ramp, which she said does not yet seem to have a consensus among the Commission members. She suggested that the motion be to eliminate these signs, and the Commission could then vote whether to adopt this position. Ms. Balmori said that some sort of information signs along the entrance ramp could be appropriate, but the signs should have a temporary character and should not have the poster or advertising aesthetic that is proposed. Chairman Powell suggested that the third recommendation should therefore be to alter the proposed design of these signs to look more informational and less like commercial advertisements. Mr. Luebke asked whether the method of attachment to the building wall is a problem for these signs; Ms. Balmori and Chairman Powell said that the attachment is satisfactory and only the graphic design of the sign is problematic. With a second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission adopted these recommendations.
G. District of Columbia Courts
CFA 19/FEB/09-8, Judiciary Square Historic District. Bounded by 4th, G, and 5th Streets and Indiana Avenue, NW. Master plan, Perimeter security elements—Alternative designs for E Street. Final. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/09- 3.) Mr. Belle did not participate in the discussion of this case due to his firm's role as architect for the adjacent D.C. Courts project. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised proposal for portions of the perimeter security for court buildings in the Judiciary Square Historic District. He said the project had been presented the previous month, when the Commission had approved the perimeter fences and security barriers with the exception of those along E Street, requesting alternatives for this area along with further study of several features. He noted the presence of Davis Buckley, the architect for the National Law Enforcement Museum proposed at Judiciary Square, in case questions arise concerning the coordination of the projects. He introduced landscape architect Roger Courtenay of EDAW to present the proposal.
Mr. Courtenay summarized the concern about pedestrian needs along E Street: more people may visit the courts after renovations are complete because the buildings will be more accessible and used for more court functions than previously. He also noted that E Street—one of the only through-streets between downtown and Union Station—may have an increasing volume of traffic, while the proposed elimination of the parking lanes will result in the sidewalks being adjacent to moving traffic. As a result, there is a concern about pedestrian safety and control along both sides of E Street. He noted that some existing features, such as stairs and piers, limit how much room is available for sidewalks and trees.
Mr. Courtenay presented revised drawings for the E Street streetscape to illustrate the design team's preferred option, identified as "A1," and three additional alternatives that respond to the concerns raised by the Commission in January 2009. He said the design team has studied at how the new barriers on E Street would work with the street tree planting areas. The preferred scheme places the trees in long planting areas which would be narrow on the north side but would allow for adequately sized sidewalks on both the north and south sides of the street. In Option A1, the bollards are aligned on the sidewalk side of the tree planting areas and adjacent to the curb in other areas; bollards would be incorporated into fences on three sides of the planting areas. He said that the in-and-out pattern would provide variety instead of the monotony of a single alignment of bollards.
Mr. Courtenay provided some of the proposed dimensions for the north side of the street: the tree wells would be 4.5 feet wide, probably narrower than is preferable, which would leave a seven-foot-wide sidewalk; two existing piers projecting into the sidewalk at Building A would be repositioned to maintain a consistent sidewalk width. He said that the design is intended to balance the needs of the historic fabric, trees, and pedestrians. Ms. Nelson asked what would be planted around the trees; Mr. Courtenay responded that the planting would be a low, robust, and possibly perennial groundcover. He said that the design team will be working with D.C. government agencies involved in regulating open space to finalize the selection of the planting.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the dimensions of the street; a member of the design team responded that it is 35 feet wide between curbs, accommodating one lane in each direction plus a bicycle lane. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the parking lane would be removed. Mr. Courtenay explained that the removal will provide a greater security setback for the U.S. Military Court of Appeals. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the 35-foot width seems excessive; Mr. Courtenay said the design team is following the requirements of the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Mr. Courtenay presented the alternative configurations of fencing and bollards. Option A2 has bollards in a continuous line that follows the inner edge of the planting areas, several feet back from the curb; the size of the planting areas would be the same as in Option A1. He presented several views of this proposal, commenting that the unbroken line of bollards would be visually monotonous but would provide a more controlled pedestrian environment. Option A3 would retain the in-and-out pattern of bollards and would reduce the length of the planting areas to provide a larger sidewalk area for pedestrians; this configuration would result in a greater number of bollards placed closer to the street curb. He commented that this option would provide more unobstructed pedestrian space but perhaps at the expense of the tree health and with some loss of passive pedestrian control. He noted that Options A2 and A3 would include fence panels only at the inner side of the planting areas, while the short ends would be open.
Mr. Courtenay said that an additional category of alternative that was considered would use only bollards without fence panels. He said that a continuous alignment of freestanding bollards was rejected by the design team as being too monotonous, but he presented Option B1 which uses the bollard and planting area configuration of Option A1 while omitting the fence panels.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the goal of emphasizing the amenities of pedestrian spaces, and she therefore favored a reduction in the size of the tree wells in some locations, such as near entrances, so that paved areas could be increased. She also supported consolidating the bollards into a single alignment but asked why Option A2 places that alignment toward the buildings rather than at the curb, resulting in a decrease in unobstructed sidewalk area; Ms. Balmori agreed that an alignment near the curb might be preferable. Mr. Courtenay responded that this option was considered but rejected because the bollards would have to be set two to three feet back from the curb, which would result in the elimination of the fence panels and an unrelieved continuous line of freestanding bollards. He also noted that a solution involving fence panels would provide desirable protection for the planting areas. Mr. Luebke clarified that the bollard alignment cannot be placed immediately adjacent to the curb due to a D.C. prohibition on obstructions within eighteen inches of the street. He added that an unbroken line of bollards placed at this distance would extend through the middle of the planting areas, which would be unsuitable for the trees as well as an aesthetic problem; the alignment of a continuous line of bollards therefore typically tends to be along the inner face of planting areas.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the perimeter security line is between the sidewalk and the building yards on the other sides of these blocks, while E Street is shown with a different configuration; Mr. Courtenay confirmed that this is the design intent. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the monotony of a single alignment of bollards would not be a problem because a street is typically animated by many other features that are present, such as streetlights, tree trunks, and street signs; she said that repetition along a street does not result in boredom. She supported a single alignment of bollards placed the minimum required distance back from the curb, even if the alignment extends through planting areas, but several Commission members reiterated that trees would not be compatible with this configuration.
Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Nelson commented that Option A1 emphasizes the planting areas by including protective fencing on three sides, rather than emphasizing overall perimeter security. Ms. Nelson added that this solution would require careful maintenance to remove trash collecting against the corners of the fencing. Mr. Rybczynski supported Option A1 and A2. Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered support for Option A3 due to the additional sidewalk space that would be available for pedestrians; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori supported this choice. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Courtenay clarified that the differences between Options A1 and A3 are the elimination of fence panels on the short ends and the decreased length of the planting areas. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the reduced length would occur only in the mid-block planting areas, not near the corners. Ms. Nelson commented that Option A3 has a nice rhythm and variation. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission supported Option A3.
Mr. Courtenay then presented the proposed treatment of the existing low granite-faced wall on the north side of Building A, facing F Street, which will be used as part of the perimeter security; the Commission had asked the previous month for further information on the proposal for this area. He noted that the wall supports the edge of the building's north entrance terrace, with an underground loading area below. He said the proposal is to reface the wall with the same limestone that will be used for the piers and other elements of the new perimeter security, and the wall will be set on a granite curb similar to that used for the new security features. He said the existing granite piers on either side of the stairs descending from the terrace would remain. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the granite wall is original to the building or if the loading area and terrace were added later; Mr. Courtenay said he believed they were additions. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether replacing the granite with limestone would be successful when seen in conjunction with the granite terrace paving and planter edges behind the wall. Mr. Courtenay replied that the design would be appropriate because the other features are sufficiently far back, with enough stone features remaining to convey the integrity of the terrace. Mr. Powell acknowledged the satisfactory response to the Commission's request for further information on the design for this area.
Mr. Courtenay then presented a response to the Commission's recommendation for enlarging the lettered building names on the proposed granite piers at the entrances to Buildings A and B; he noted the Commission's concern about the visibility and size of the lettering as seen from the street and the sidewalk. He presented the elevation of the previous proposal and three new options with different treatments of the lower two lines of text. He noted that the administrators of the D.C. Courts are considering the possibility of giving new names to the buildings, which would affect the text and layout; Ms. Nelson commented that the names should be short in order to work well with the proposed pier signage. Ms. Plater-Zyberk, Ms. Balmori, and Ms. Nelson expressed a preference for the third option, labeled Alternate 3; Ms. Nelson commented that it is the "cleanest" of the proposals.
Chairman Powell concluded the discussion by confirming that the Commission's adopted motion for the E Street treatment would be extended to include the consensus for approval of the terrace wall treatment on the north side of Building A and the proposed Alternate 3 for the pier signage.
H. District of Columbia Public Library
Ms. Batcheler explained that two library buildings are on the agenda: the Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library and the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library. She introduced Ginnie Cooper, Chief Librarian of the D.C. Public Library, to begin the presentations. Ms. Cooper discussed the many District libraries being renovated or replaced, with a typical branch library program of 20,000 square feet that is planned to accommodate needs for the next 50 years. She said that flexibility of space is the major need and that the goal for all of the buildings is silver LEED certification.
1. CFA 19/FEB/09-9, Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. New replacement building. Concept. David Adjaye, an architect and principal of Adjaye Associates, presented the design for the Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library. Mr. Adjaye discussed the analysis of the Washington Highlands neighborhood, which he described as primarily residential including semi-detached two-story houses with porches set in a hilly landscape, along with a commercial character nearby along South Capitol Street. He presented photographs of the existing library building and its corner site that provides two street elevations; he noted that the site is cut into the base of a hill and is bordered by a retaining wall. He said that a three-story building would be appropriate for the site and could maintain the scale of the residential neighborhood.
Mr. Adjaye said that the proposed library includes a major horizontal volume with three attached smaller volumes, which he referred to as "pavilions." He said that the building is sited close to the retaining wall to allow for landscaping, including a small amphitheater, and parking at the front. The entrance walk would lead under two of the pavilions, which would act as a sort of portico to the entrance. He said that plant material growing on the retaining wall will create a green view from inside the building, and the building is intended to relate to the city at the front and to nature at the rear.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the use of the space between the library and the retaining wall, and Mr. Adjaye said it would be a space for circulation. Mr. Rybczynski asked where it would lead; Mr. Adjaye explained that it would be an intimate, visual court and that people would not enter, though it would provide egress from the fire escape.
Mr. Adjaye said he developed the building forms from the non-orthogonal geometry of the site. The main building would be glazed and covered with deep timber mullions or fins, while the three pavilions would be opaque and clad in fibrous cement panels. A stairway and a slot of space adjoining the elevator shaft would create vertical volumes rising through the center of the building; the folding form of the stair would be expressed on the facade.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for more details about the materials; Mr. Adjaye indicated the timber mullions and powder-coated aluminum cappings. The pavilions would be covered with the cement fiberboard resembling stone; the pigment is integral to the board. He said the boards are rigid, and the pavilions would therefore be treated as faceted shapes. Mr. Belle asked about the color of the pavilions; Mr. Adjaye said that verdigris greens, reds, and grays would be used.
Mr. Belle acknowledged the care taken in siting the building and relating it to nearby houses, but he commented that the choice of colors does not seem as sensitive to the context. Mr. Adjaye responded that the library is intended to be distinct as a public building, but the colors relate to the greens of the landscape and the red brick of the neighborhood houses; he added that the colors also reflect the transition between the landscape and urban contexts.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the placement of the parking in front of the building near the intersection; she said this location would make the parking too prominent, especially if most users of this neighborhood library would arrive as pedestrians. A member of the design team responded that other options were considered but the proposed location is the best way to accommodate the number of spaces required. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that, if the parking must be in this area, it could be moved further south and all three proposed pavilions could be grouped to the north, so that the building, rather than the parking, would front the intersection. Mr. Belle suggested reconsidering the location of the entrance in order to improve its relationship to the parking. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the concern about the parking lot could be addressed by treating the ground plane in a manner similar to the building, using a "topography of material" to define different elements without using standard features of parking lots. She said that the parking area could even be used at times as a public space. Chairman Powell noted that the presentation is a concept submission and summarized the Commission's consensus that the parking and entrance locations should be studied further.
Mr. McKinnell said that he supports the concept for the pavilions and described the design as "a potentially very joyful building." However, he said he was concerned about having the entrance on the northeast, where it would receive little sunlight beneath the two pavilions, contradicting the building's joyful character. He also commented that a pavilion might best be a light structure, like a folly, but the proposed pavilions are like enclosed capsules carried on heavy pylons, further contradicting the building's character. He encouraged further consideration of the concept in developing the entrance area and the form of the pavilions, commenting that a wonderful building could result. Mr. Adjaye responded that the pavilions are intended to contrast with the main glass volume and also reinforce the building's geometry. He emphasized the playful, "toy-like," and surprising quality that is intended in the design.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the parking is not necessarily a problem because the neighborhood has a suburban character. He expressed concern about the "pit" surrounding the building since it would not be accessible and, again, contradicts the intended architectural concept; he said there would also need to be something to prevent people from entering this area, and the introduction of gates can create an unwanted change in the character of a public building.
Mr. Rybczynski said he had assumed the pavilions were solid concrete—like a "Marcel Breuer shape stuck onto the building"—but they would actually be steel-framed structures that are "pretending to be concrete bunkers." He suggested that the pavilions should instead express their lighter steel construction so that they could be "toy-like" rather than massive and heavy. Mr. Powell agreed, complimenting the proposed concept but affirming that the pavilions have a "hulking quality"; he suggested that the problem may be with the color palette rather than with their overall design.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the concern about the dark spaces underneath the two north pavilions, commenting that anything that could be done to lighten this area would be beneficial. In addition, she recommended that the architectural concept of creating a variety of intimate spaces be extended to the landscape design. She expressed support for the overall concept of the project.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to support the concept and interest in seeing its further development. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the concept subject to the comments that were offered.
2. CFA 19/FEB/09-10, Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Addition and renovation. Concept. Chairman Powell recognized architect Henry Myerberg of HMA2 Architects to present the design. Mr. Myerberg said that his firm is working on this project with the D.C. firm CORE Architecture + Design. He provided an overview of the project, involving a 1925 building that is one of 2,500 libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie. He discussed Carnegie's belief in the importance of libraries in making a difference in people's lives and his support for access to knowledge. He said that Carnegie believed that libraries should also look important, and the construction program resulted in libraries that are typically "very civic but very compact" structures; they incorporated traditional architectural styles and included grand spaces and special features. He said that the Mt. Pleasant library is a particularly extraordinary example of a Carnegie-funded library with high-quality materials.
Mr. Myerberg said that the current challenge is to update the library for modern needs—no longer emphasizing solely books—while also celebrating the historic building. He described the modern role of libraries as destinations with a diversity of uses. He described the historical separation of children from the adult users of the library, reflected in the location of the children's area on the second floor with access from a beautiful but separate staircase located on the side of the building. He contrasted this design with the modern use of libraries for pre-school learning and parental involvement. He noted that after-school programs for older children are also important, and he noted the present-day importance of social activities and working in groups at the library. He said that library use is increasing nationwide as economic conditions worsen, with libraries serving as a place to develop job skills and obtain free information and entertainment.
Mr. Myerberg said that the program calls for expanding the 17,000-square-foot building by 5,000 square feet while also addressing the existing interior layout which includes some areas that are underused or difficult to access; he provided the example of the book stack mezzanine which was historically common in libraries but lacks elevator access. He described the site and context, observing that the library is both an urban building and also set within a garden. He noted the residential neighborhood context—including medium-sized apartment buildings as well as smaller homes, typically with porches—as well as the site's proximity to busy 16th Street and active urban areas. He noted how the library's geometry is generated by the unusual angles of the site, respecting and celebrating the geometry of the street pattern and adapting it to the building design. He presented images of the existing site treatment including modest side and rear yards. He indicated the small elevated sunroom at the back of the building, providing a domestic-scaled feature, and the little-used service drive on the west side of the site. He also noted the unattractive fencing that blocks access to the rear portion of the site and, on top of the sunroom, mechanical equipment that is prominently visible from the interior stairs.
Mr. Myerberg said that one of the design goals is to provide barrier-free access to all parts of the building, including an entrance that would be used by all people; he contrasted this with the current ramp leading to an unstaffed lower-level entrance, while the main entrance is at the top of a flight of stairs. He said that this cascading staircase and the Palladian-style entrance portico are such an important part of the building that the main entrance should remain at this location; the problem is therefore how to provide barrier-free access to this entrance. The proposed solution is a shallow sloping walkway that rises through the front building yard to connect the sidewalk with the portico. He emphasized that the walkway would be closely related to the landscape through such features as a bermed edge; it would not have railings along its length.
Mr. Myerberg described the interior features and proposed alterations. The lower level would be treated as a "terrace level" rather than as a basement, and would be extended toward the rear beneath the sunroom; it would include a green roof that would serve as a first-floor garden setting. The elevated first floor would retain the high ceilings, plentiful windows, sunroom, and fireplaces with tile finishes, as well as the overall axial configuration of two major rooms flanking the center hall. On the second floor, the children's level would be expanded and two alcoves would remain with murals painted by noted children's artist Aurelius Battaglia soon after the building's completion.
Mr. Myerberg said that the existing meeting room is a lower-level low-ceiling space divided by columns; the program includes a new meeting room that will be larger and more attractive to serve as a major focus of the library. This room would be accommodated in the addition to the west, which he said is designed not to be an imitation of the historic building; the addition would have a double-height meeting room as well as second-floor library space for the young adults area. He indicated the proposed detailing of the transition between new and old construction, emphasizing that the distinction would be clearly visible; he described the architecture of the addition as deferential to the historic building while relating to some of its alignments. He also presented details of the front entrance, including a glass railing at the top of the walkway; the main staircase would mostly remain, and a new entrance would be created in the center opening of the portico. He presented the proposed elevations and emphasized the vertical glazed corner of the addition which he said would reduce its visual impact along the property line of the adjacent apartment building. He explained that the historic building's west exterior wall would become an interior facade of the new meeting room, retaining the historic exterior children's staircase as a feature within the new room; additional steps would be added at the base of the staircase to reach the lower-level floor of the meeting room.
Mr. Myerberg presented the proposed materials for the new construction, including a limestone facade and granite base; the glass would have a fritting to reduce glare and relate to the limestone finish. The sloped exterior walkway would have a dark paving to blend in with the landscape. He concluded by noting comments from the community suggesting different architectural treatments of the proposed addition, explaining that the design team has considered a more solid edge around the street facade to suggest a framed window that would adjoin a glass reveal along the historic building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the concept of the sloped walkway that is treated as part of the landscaped building yard, but she said that the upper arrival of this walkway at the portico becomes more of a building feature as emphasized by the inclusion of a railing at this location. She noted the strong symmetry of the front facade and suggested that the new landing at the right side of the entrance could be balanced with a similar new feature on the left side, possibly serving as an overlook or seating area. She questioned the use of an asymmetrical design to add an access ramp to a symmetrical building as well as the proposal to shift the entrance from flanking doorways to the center opening, commenting that the detailing of the new doorway will never match the rest of the historic building. She suggested that the addition is the more appropriate place for entirely new architectural features and commented that the alternative proposal for the new addition, using different facade treatments for the main volume and the reveal, would be preferable to the all-glass proposal; she said that it would be appropriate for the recessed area to have a distinct design treatment.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori asked about the treatment of the lower part of the new meeting room's street facade. Mr. Myerberg clarified that this would be wood paneling extending downward approximately ten feet from the exterior grade level; it is not intended to block views from the street. He said that this paneled wall serves to screen a stair and small pantry, while also celebrating the glass wall.
Ms. Balmori commented that she usually is a strong advocate of green landscaping, but in this case is concerned that the planting proposed along the sloped walkway might be inappropriate; she indicated the rendering of the proposed bermed topography which results in an intrusive triangular wedge of landscaping that detracts from the proportions of the historic building. She said that a more architectural treatment using limestone would be appropriate in this area. Mr. Powell agreed and recommended further study of this feature.
Chairman Powell recognized Fay Armstrong, president of the Historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood association. Ms. Armstrong noted that her group's written comments have been provided to the Commission members. She expressed support for Mr. Myerberg's statement of respect of the historic building but opposition to the resulting design, particularly the proposed addition on the west. She added that her group also has concerns about the proposal for the sloped walkway and she agreed with the Commission members' comments on this feature. She said that Mr. Myerberg was correct in describing the importance of the building's original setting with open space on all sides; however, the proposed addition would entirely fill the open space to the west, which would be "an injustice to the original design." She said that the library is a small building serving a large population; while acknowledging that some improved use of the space could be achieved, she suggested that the long-term library needs of the local population cannot be accommodated on this site. She said that her group wants to discuss alternatives to the site and prefers to protect the integrity of the historic building by not creating an addition. She added that any substantial addition, if necessary, should be placed at the rear of the building which is the more appropriate solution for historic districts, minimizing the visibility of the addition from the street. She said that sufficient space is available at the rear of the site to accommodate the proposed additional program; she acknowledged that the proximity to adjacent buildings would be a concern and emphasized the importance of retaining scarce open space in the neighborhood.
Chairman Powell noted the many issues that have been raised concerning the proposed concept; he summarized the Commission's consensus that an addition to the west, if approved in concept, would need further study of the design treatment. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that there is apparently a need for further discussion between the community and the library system, and she said that the results of this discussion should be available at the next review. Mr. Powell said that further information on the possibility of placing the addition at the rear would be of interest, commenting that this would appear to be a viable idea. Mr. Luebke noted that an addition at the rear could result in compromising other key features of the historic building, such as the sunroom and access to daylight in the reading rooms. Mr. Powell acknowledged that the architectural problem is challenging.
Mr. Belle commented that the intended barrier-free access to the building is dependent on the dimensions of the new upper landing at the top of the ramp, which appears to be a very constricted area; he recommended careful study of this landing to make sure that it is sufficiently sized. Mr. Myerberg responded that its dimensions are the minimum required to be sufficient, and he added that the building yard dimensions are just sufficient to allow for a sloped walkway that does not need railings. Mr. Belle recommended double-checking these calculations.
Chairman Powell suggested a consensus to approve the general concept while requesting further development of the design and further response to the community's concerns. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the Commission's position on the design of the proposed addition. Chairman Powell said that the design for this area appears unfinished and more options should be presented; Ms. Nelson agreed that more development of the design is needed.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered a general comment that alterations to historic buildings might best be handled by architects who can design in the building's historic style, suggesting said that this library addition could be designed to appear as an extension of the historic building that is consistent with its date and style. Ms. Balmori commented that it should also be possible for a historic building such as this one to have a modern addition; she acknowledged that this requires extensive work and sensitivity.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to request additional options for treating the glass addition. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle reiterated that locating the addition to the rear should also be studied; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Nelson suggested that these studies should be submitted as a revised concept. Chairman Powell agreed and concluded that the Commission is not yet willing to approve the concept.
The discussion concluded without a motion. Chairman Powell offered a general commendation to the D.C. Public Library on the quality of the projects that have been submitted recently; he added that the commendation also extends to the D.C. Public Schools submissions.
At this point the Commission departed from the order of the agenda; item II.I was presented as the last agenda item.
J. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/FEB/09-12, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, Two pedestrian and bicycle bridges over the CSX Railroad Track. North of Pennsylvania Avenue on the west side of the river and north of Anacostia Drive on the east side of the river. Revised design—Final. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/08- 6.)
The Commission delegated authority for review of this project to the staff after the publication of the final agenda; no presentation was made.
K. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 09-001 (HPA 09-001), 224 2nd Street SE (Square 762, Lot 07). Watterston House (National Indian Gaming Association). Rear addition, building alterations, and landscaping. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for changes to a historic building on Capitol Hill, noting that the property is a D.C. historic landmark and listed on the National Register. She introduced architect Rich Marcus to present the proposal. Mr. Luebke noted that the project will also be reviewed by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board; Ms. Batcheler explained that the board's staff is currently preparing its report on the proposal.
Mr. Marcus explained that the project is for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA); he introduced the group's executive director, Mark Van Norman. Mr. Van Norman said that NIGA is an association of 184 Indian tribes that are involved in the use of gaming to raise revenue. He said that NIGA has quarterly meetings in Washington, which in the past have required rental of meeting space; the proposal is to expand the group's facility to accommodate these meetings as well as provide additional office space due to the group's ongoing growth. He said that the proposal is intended to protect the integrity of the existing building and contribute to the neighborhood's character.
Mr. Marcus described the site context, indicating the proximity of the Library of Congress' Madison Building; he explained that the U.S. Capitol and the commercial area of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE are also nearby, as well as the residential context including some apartment buildings. He said that the NIGA building was built as the house of George Watterston, the Librarian of Congress from 1815 to 1829. The original structure dates from 1810 and was two stories tall; additions have been made to the side and rear, and a third story has also been added. He indicated the two smaller buildings that have been added at the rear of the site along the alley: a two-story stable building from 1908 and a one-story building from 1916.
Mr. Marcus said that the intention is to restore the main structure as much as possible; he indicated the historic balcony that will be retained across the front facade. The proposed addition includes a three-story structure to the rear of the site, designed to appear separated from and deferential to the main house. An existing small ell addition at the rear of the main house would be removed and replaced by a new connection to the proposed addition. The two smaller buildings on the site would be renovated, including the addition of a second story to the one-story building in order to provide additional offices above the garage space. He said that a surface parking area toward the rear of the site would be excavated and reconstructed as underground parking with a garden above that would supplement the side garden on the property; he indicated the grade changes and parking ramp, noting that no surface parking would remain at the garden level. He presented the proposed design of the three-story addition, which would include a large first-floor meeting room with a curved facade projecting into the rear garden. He said that the curved wall would be a rough stone, while the flat walls of the addition are currently proposed as having a limestone veneer. Wood is proposed for the exterior doors to the terraces and for the third-floor trellis. The addition to the one-story structure would be brick to match the existing building, with a soldier course and corbel to provide a slight visual separation. He confirmed that the exterior of the existing main house is red brick, with parging along the side facade and in the lower portion of the front facade. He presented a view of the site from the street, indicating that the addition would be partially visible through the side garden.
Mr. Belle asked about the apparent driveways across the site; Mr. Marcus clarified that these are curved paths in the garden and would not be driveways. He explained that some of the renderings omit the proposed plantings, but the intention is to provide a pedestrian path through the landscape along the side of the site, with vehicular access provided only from the alley at the rear of the property. He added that this site is the only one on the block with a side yard, which he confirmed would remain.
Mr. Belle asked whether the entire exterior would be subject to review by the local historic preservation board. Mr. Luebke confirmed this review process, explaining that the Commission's review is due to the Shipstead-Luce Act. He noted that the house is an unusually early surviving example of the neighborhood's development, pre-dating the construction of larger, denser buildings in the area.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the front of the garden be more urban in character, corresponding to the urban setting of the streetscape; she commented that the proposed curved paths might not be appropriate. She expressed support for the general siting of the proposed addition but questioned its form in relation to the rear garden, commenting that the garden has the appearance of a leftover space. She suggested that a more appropriate design approach for the addition would be to use the historic style of the main house, particularly due to the context and the jurisdiction of the local historic preservation board. She said that the garden could be a beautiful space, suggesting the precedent of Charleston side-yard houses. She supported the inclusion of balconies and terraces overlooking the garden and the placement of parking below grade, while reiterating that the proposed curved facade is problematic. She commented that the overall concept is a good start for the project. Mr. Belle commented that the landscape is the glue that holds the project together; he agreed with the proposed underground parking solution and the recommendation to further develop the site design concept. Ms. Nelson agreed that the garden, not just the building, should be designed as a deliberate shape.
Mr. Marcus responded that the circular form of the proposed meeting room is derived from the cultural traditions of Native Americans, who own the building, and the shape has conceptual and symbolic meaning related to the meetings that will occur there. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that an appropriate design could result from such a concept, but the proposal does not carry this out; she noted that the meeting room is an incomplete circle with the additional intrusion of the staircase, likely resulting in a conventional seating arrangement, and the circular concept does not extend into the garden design. Mr. Powell agreed that the relevance of the circle wasn't clear and suggested a consensus that the project's concept should be developed further; he said that the aesthetics of the circle should be consistent and harmonious with the main house. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission could approve the general concept with a recommendation to consider the articulation of the exterior in response to the comments that were provided.
Mr. Marcus requested some expression of the Commission's support for the overall direction of the design; Chairman Powell said that the Commission supports the overall concept. Several Commission members requested that the design be revised and submitted for further review by the Commission or the staff. Mr. Luebke offered to draft a letter expressing the Commission's support for the general design approach while requesting additional study of the project's relationship to the street and the rear garden.
Mr. Van Norman, the association's executive director, said that the review process has resulted in conflicting guidance; he requested sufficient guidance to allow the project to continue. Several Commission members responded that their recommendations should provide clear guidance that will help move the project forward. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the general concept subject to the recommendations that were discussed.
At this point, the Commission returned to consideration of item II.I. Chairman Powell departed the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum for this agenda item; Vice-Chairman Nelson chaired the remainder of the meeting. Mr. Luebke noted that the recommendation for the next project would need to be adopted with a quorum at the next Commission meeting.
I. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 19/FEB/09-11, Stoddert Elementary School, 4001 Calvert Street, NW. Building additions, renovation and landscaping. Concept. Mr. Simon said that the project involves the major expansion of the Stoddert Elementary School; he noted that the existing building is actually only one wing of a larger building that was originally proposed for the site. He introduced architect Sean O'Donnell of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn to present the design.
Mr. O'Donnell said that this project is an appropriate conclusion to the afternoon's agenda involving several neighborhood-scaled civic buildings. He said that the scheduling goal is to begin construction in summer 2009 with completion in summer 2010. He described the context in the Glover Park neighborhood to the west of Wisconsin Avenue and the Naval Observatory, with a mix of smaller-scale row houses, semi-detached houses, and apartment buildings in the immediate vicinity and larger-scale buildings nearby such as embassy buildings along Wisconsin Avenue. The existing building, built in 1932, encompasses 17,000 square feet; the proposed program is approximately 52,000 square feet, which will provide adequate facilities for the existing number of students without any proposed increase in enrollment. He noted that the site also includes two modular buildings that provide additional school space as well as a small building used by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR); these buildings will be removed. He explained that the 6.5-acre site is used jointly by the school and DPR, with the school building effectively dividing the site into a level recreation field on the east and a woodland on the west that relates to the nearby stream-valley park. He also noted that the center of the site terminates the alignment of 40th Street on the south, providing the opportunity for an urban feature related to the street. He explained that the original 1932 design was intended to create a U-shaped building complex terminating the 40th Street axis with a central multi-purpose entrance pavilion flanked by two classroom wings; the existing building is one of the classroom wings.
Mr. O'Donnell presented a rendering of the overall proposal, noting that this preferred concept has been approved by representatives of the school and the community. He said that the design relates to the 1932 concept for the larger building on the site. The addition at the terminus of the 40th Street axis would contain the school entrance and the DPR facilities, including an early childhood program; the adjacent gymnasium would be larger than usual for an elementary school and would be shared by the school and DPR. He said that the building would therefore have the character of a community center at this prominent location on the site. He indicated how the academic areas of the building toward the west could be closed off from the community and DPR facilities which could be available for after-hours use.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of access to the school. Mr. O'Donnell explained that the primary access is from the south side of the site, with many arriving from 40th Street. Other pedestrians arrive from various directions in the neighborhood. He said that the school also serves special student groups, including embassy students who arrive by van and students from Bolling Air Force Base who arrive in buses. He indicated the existing parking location which results in cars being visible along the 40th Street axis, with a driveway that is approximately aligned with 40th Street. He said that the proposed parking lot on the northwest side of the site would be an improvement and would reduce conflicts between pedestrian and vehicular circulation, including conflicts involving pedestrian access to the recreation field; he added that the topography and site conditions effectively limit the access locations to the middle of the north or south edges of the property. The proposed parking entrance would be on the north from Davis Place, and a drop-off area for students would be on the south along Calvert Street near the entrance plaza; Mr. Belle expressed support for this configuration.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the treatment of the existing community center building. Mr. O'Donnell responded that this small DPR building would be demolished; he said that it is a 1960s building without special character and its program would be accommodated in the new construction.
Mr. O'Donnell said that the presence of large trees—recognized by the community as a valuable asset—now precludes completion of the building and courtyard configuration envisioned in 1932. The proposed site plan therefore responds to the topography and trees by placing the new academic wing to the west, close to the heavily wooded area, while creating a modified entrance courtyard to the east of the existing building. He described the edge conditions of the site, including the varying topography and the very limited views of the existing building. A new courtyard to the southwest would be framed by the two academic wings and the woodland. He presented the interior plans, indicating the monumental stair on the east that would overlook the recreation field and provide a central interior feature.
Mr. O'Donnell provided a more detailed description of the proposed entrance; the small entrance on the existing building, with a portico and staircase, does not relate to any significant interior space and would no longer be used. He explained that the bay window in the proposed entrance facade, prominently visible along the axis of 40th Street, relates to the off-center bay window of the existing building. He said that the entrance plaza would slope gradually upward to the new front door, providing accessibility without need for handrails. The plaza would have extensive seating which is useful for parents, teachers, and children before and after the school day.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed enthusiastic support for the site planning and overall concept for the project but questioned the architectural character of vertical striation shown in the rendering that was included in the project booklet. Mr. O'Donnell presented an updated version of this rendered perspective of the new academic wing. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the appearance is "forbidding" and suggested that the staff should work further with the architect in refining this treatment. (Ms. Plater-Zyberk departed from the meeting at this point.)
Mr. O'Donnell then described the two-story entrance lobby with interior windows to the administrative offices and media center. He indicated the windows behind the monumental stair providing views to the recreation field on the east as well as the view along the proposed corridor to the woodland on the west. He presented images of precedents from school buildings around the world, explaining that the lobby would serve as a central plaza that forms the heart of the school community. He described the site features to the east, including an amphitheater adjacent to the stage area of the proposed gymnasium, small gardens, and an outdoor space for the early childhood program classroom.
Mr. O'Donnell explained the connections to the existing building. The new east-west corridor would run along the north face of the 1932 building; the axis of the existing north-south corridor would be terminated by the new dining and multi-purpose room on the north at the first floor and multi-purpose room above, providing views to daylight and trees on the north to correspond with the views through the windows on the south. He noted that the proposed parking area to the north would not be prominently visible from the building's interior due to the falling topography.
Mr. O'Donnell then presented the exterior rendering of the new academic wing that was briefly discussed earlier. He explained that the proposed south facade between the corridor and the courtyard would be primarily glass with some bays having wood infill panels that relate to the location of classroom entrances on the north. He said that the interior wall could also incorporate seating and playful elements scaled for the children while still providing extensive views of the landscape. The courtyard would be sloped to provide an outdoor theater area and could also have seating. He explained that the placement of masonry and glass facades is intended to avoid the immediate adjacency of new masonry walls with the masonry of the 1932 building, resulting in less concern about potential color differences.
Mr. Belle commented that the design of the exterior wall might be too inefficient in its energy consumption. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the energy use will be modeled for further study, and additional shading is under consideration, possibly with vertical fins. Mr. Belle said that such a feature would significantly change the appearance of the building; Mr. O'Donnell responded that the rendering is beginning to incorporate this design element and will be studied further. He said that the south-facing corridor is intended to create an enjoyable microclimate that will encourage the children to go outdoors.
Ms. Nelson commented that the design should be considered from the perspective of a small child: the two-story wall of vertical fins will seem extremely tall, and she suggested breaking up the height or revising the design near the ground to relate better to the children. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the design team is beginning to look at horizontal features, additional design opportunities along the wall, and the relation of this exterior wall to the interior classroom wall on the north side of the corridor. He reiterated that the wood infill could provide a relationship between the south wall and the classroom configuration, possibly with reference to the punched window openings of the north facade, but this concept is not consistently depicted in the renderings. He agreed with the need to study the scale further. Mr. Belle noted that horizontal elements would conveniently serve both to screen the sunlight and to relate the scale of the facade to the small children. Mr. O'Donnell agreed and added that another issue being studied is passive ventilation including operable windows, allowing the cool air of the woodland to be drawn into the corridor and classrooms. He said that this feature has not yet been modeled but is part of the sustainable concept for the building, which is intended for LEED certification at the silver level or higher. He noted that additional sustainable features are under consideration such as green roofs and geothermal energy.
Mr. O'Donnell described the site treatment at the north side of the building, including the parking area and driveway as well as a ramp leading to a rear entrance. Mr. Belle cautioned against a design that would channel water toward the dining room; Mr. O'Donnell explained that the ramp would be above the surrounding landscape and would be used for food deliveries as well as additional handicapped access.
Mr. Belle agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk's support of the site planning, commenting that the site itself has many good qualities which the proposed design uses well. He also supported the proposed plan of the building. He questioned the vertical emphasis in the facade of the new wing, characterizing it as "agressive"—particularly in contrast to the handsome existing building. He commented that additional vertical fins would soften the effect of this facade. Mr. O'Donnell said that operable panels would also be helpful; Mr. Belle agreed.
Ms. Nelson emphasized the need to develop the design of the entrance plaza to provide areas for children to sit or climb, commenting that the plaza is very large for children. Mr. O'Donnell agreed and said that there are a variety of opportunities for development of play areas and seating areas in the plaza, which will be studied further. Mr. Belle commented that the configuration of the adjacent building wings provides some degree of protection to the plaza, reducing the problem of excessive scale.
Mr. Belle asked why no green roof is included. Mr. O'Donnell responded that this has not yet been studied; the roof may instead be a highly reflective material. He said that one opportunity for a green roof, subject to budget constraints, is above the early childhood classroom which is lower than the other parts of the building and could have access or at least visibility from the media center.
Mr. Luebke said that the comments of the three Commission members could be treated as a recommendation that would be ratified at the next Commission meeting on 19 March. He said that the two remaining Commission members could recommend approval of the concept subject to the comments about the site and facade. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed to offer this recommendation. Mr. Luebke summarized the guidance that the concept needs further revision and review before a final design could be submitted. Mr. O'Donnell noted the difficult schedule for the project, explaining that the final submission is anticipated for the Commission's April meeting at which point the construction documents will be underway; he offered to return with a revised concept at the March meeting if necessary to still allow an April submission of the final design. Mr. Belle expressed concern that the revision would be based on the advice of only a small number of Commission members; Ms. Nelson said that nonetheless it would be best to review a revised concept in March. Mr. Luebke summarized this recommendation and proposed scheduling, which was agreed to by Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:38 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: March 27, 2009