Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
22 January 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 20 November meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the November meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Ms. Nelson commented on the thoroughness of the draft. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes without objection. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 19 February, 19 March, and 16 April. He noted that these dates return to the normal schedule of meetings on the third Thursday of each month, following the exception in January.
C. Introduction of the new Administrative Officer. Mr. Luebke introduced Phyllis Roderer, who joined the staff as administrative officer in December. He described her background in administration and management of small non-profit organizations as well as her work as an active artist at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. He noted that the office is now fully staffed.
D. Confirmation of the approval of the December 2008 Old Georgetown Act submissions. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote in public session to confirm the Old Georgetown Board's recommendations that were circulated and endorsed in December, when no Commission meeting was held. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted the December recommendations. [The Commission also made reference to approval of Shipstead-Luce Act cases from December, but there were no Shipstead-Luce submissions processed that month; the January appendix of Shipstead-Luce cases was considered separately as part of agenda item II.A.]
E. Report on the approval of the acquisition of two objects for the Freer Gallery. Mr. Luebke reported that Chairman Powell approved the acquisition of two items for the Freer Gallery's permanent collection: a Japanese nature scene from a woodblock print series of the Edo period in approximately 1831-32, and a 14th-Century Tibetan watercolor depicting a Buddhist saint. Mr. Luebke said that the artworks were offered to the Freer as gifts within calendar year 2008, and the Chairman's approval was therefore given in December. Chairman Powell said that the artworks are now at the Freer.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices of January 2009 cases 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 described a minor change to the draft Consent Calendar, correcting an erroneous date for the receipt of submission materials for one project. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler explained that there were several minor revisions to the draft appendix, along with one that is more substantive: the wording of the recommendation for the American Pharmacists Association building has been clarified concerning the anticipated future submissions related to the project. The Commission members commented on the beauty of the original building designed by John Russell Pope and the large size of the new addition. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several revisions to the draft appendix. Several projects have been removed from the appendix at the request of the applicants and will be re-submitted after further revision. Supplemental drawings are still expected for several projects to conform to the Board's requests; Mr. Martinez requested authorization for the staff to finalize these recommendations in the next few days after further coordination with the applicants. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of this procedure. Mr. Martinez said that these cases involve the Board's recommended approval provided that certain changes are made, and the applicants require some time to adjust their drawings to implement these changes; the staff then confirms that the revised drawings are consistent with the Board's recommendations as listed in the appendix. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked what would happen if the revised drawings are not consistent with the recommendation; Mr. Martinez said that such projects would be removed from the appendix and would be required to undergo further review by the Board.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised appendix including authorization for the staff to finalize the outstanding recommendations. (See agenda item II.F for two additional Old Georgetown Act submissions.)
B. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 22/JAN/09-1, 2010 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for fourth set of four coins: Presidents Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/JAN/08-2, 2009 issues.) Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the obverse designs for the four coins. Ms. Budow summarized the legislation authorizing the coin series, with four one-dollar coins to be issued annually depicting the presidents in the order in which they served; the reverse of all coins in the series depicts the Statue of Liberty. She explained that the current design alternatives, like those for the earlier coins in the series, are based on three primary source materials: official White House portraits, historic prints depicting the presidents, and presidential medals. She provided the Commission members with a reference book of White House portraits as well as several of the coins issued earlier in the series to provide examples of the size and the reverse design.
Ms. Nelson asked if the next set of coins in this series would continue to have a mirror-finish background and matte-finish portrait. Ms. Budow clarified that these finishes will be used for the proof coins, while the circulating coins will not have such a distinction of surfaces. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the choice of source materials is specified by legislation or is determined by the Mint. Ms. Budow responded that this was the Mint's internal decision; she noted that these historic portraits were typically approved by the presidents.
Ms. Balmori asked how the historic images are reproduced in the coin design process. Ms. Budow responded that the engravers use the line-art design selected for the coin in conjunction with the original source material, and the design is subject to final approval by the Secretary of the Treasury. Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of whether the source images are directly transferred to the designs submitted to the engravers—either photographically or digitally—or whether an intermediate design is prepared. Ms. Budow said that the artists prepare the line-art design either by hand or with the aid of computer software, but they do not use processes such as scanning to incorporate the source material directly into the design. Ms. Balmori explained her concern that the coins already issued in the series have a similar appearance, with insufficient distinguishing features in the portrait, and she asked if the production process is causing this similarity. Ms. Budow responded that only a limited range of source materials was available for the earlier presidents, sometimes resulting in a similarity of images, while a wider range of images is available after the introduction of photography. She noted that the artists are able to use other source materials beyond those provided by the Mint; as a result, a greater variety of portraits can be expected for the remainder of the series.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the apparent shift from traditional convex relief to a concave relief for this series would cause the similarity in appearance. She said that the presidential coins tend to have unintended shadows that obscure the faces, resulting in a "grumpy" appearance that was not evident in the submitted drawings, and she asked if the sculptural relief process causes this shift in appearance. Ms. Balmori agreed with the concern and said that the portrait features tend to disappear in the coins. Ms. Budow offered to discuss this issue with the Mint's manufacturing division.
Ms. Budow presented six alternative designs for the Millard Fillmore coin. Ms. Balmori commented that the portraits express a surprising range of age and weight for the subject within a four-year term. She said that Design #5 conveys the most character; Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that Design #5 has a sense of dignity. Ms. Plater-Zyberk also supported Design #5 but questioned the large amount of linework which might result in excessive texture in the resulting coin. Ms. Budow said that many of the lines on the drawings are intended to indicate different relief heights on the coin; she noted that Design #4 resembles the linework of an intaglio print. Mr. Powell joined in supporting Design #5; upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended this alternative.
Ms. Budow presented five alternatives for Franklin Pierce. Ms. Balmori expressed support for Design #1, commenting that the face is better modeled in this alternative and will read better as a coin. Ms. Nelson expressed support for Design #3. Mr. Powell noted the different treatments of the hair; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori said that the hair would be less noticeable when translated into the sculptural relief of the coin. Mr. Rybczynski said that none of the alternatives merits support, commenting that the designs emphasize graphic techniques and are more suited to appearing on currency than on coins. Ms. Balmori agreed and said that this problem may explain the similarity in the coins. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for Design #3 due to the scale of the head, which she said may be too small in Design #5. Ms. Nelson said that the composition of Design #3 is superior. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed, while Ms. Bamlori questioned the treatment of the bow tie in this design. Mr. Belle commented that the linework in Design #3 is consistent with that of the recommended design for President Fillmore. Mr. Powell agreed to support Design #3, commenting that it would probably not be productive to ask the Mint to return with additional designs. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended Design #3 for President Pierce.
Ms. Budow presented the five designs for the James Buchanan coin, noting that they are based primarily on the White House portrait. Ms. Nelson commented on the sculpting of the hair. Ms. Balmori expressed support for Design #2 due to the expression of character; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Belle said that the downward tilt of the head adds interest to Design #2. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended Design #2. Mr. Luebke asked for further comments on the reason for this selection. Ms. Balmori said that the size of the head in proportion to the rest of the body results in a stronger design, in addition to the sense of character. Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that the other designs have a generic appearance. Mr. Powell said that Design #2 has an appealing realism, contrasted with the more abstract quality of the other alternatives.
Ms. Budow presented six alternatives for the Abraham Lincoln coin. Ms. Balmori noted that Design #5 is a frontal pose while the other alternatives are from a slight angle. Ms. Nelson contrasted these poses with the profile that currently appears on the one-cent coin. Mr. Belle commented that the frontal pose of Design #5 is straightforward and very compelling; Mr. Powell agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended Design #5.
Chairman Powell returned the sample coins and book of portraits to Ms. Budow, commenting that the samples are helpful in the Commission's review. Ms. Nelson commented that it the design process is apparent in the resulting coins, with a different effect from hand-carving and from mechanical or photographic reproduction; she emphasized the importance of artistry by hand in the production of relief sculpture such as coins. Ms. Budow said that even hand-sculpted designs are now brought through a digital scanning process, but she offered to convey the Commission's comments.
C. National Park Service
CFA 22/JAN/09-2, West Potomac Park Levee Project. 17th Street, south of Constitution Avenue, NW. Improvements to the flood protection levee system including a new floodgate across 17th Street. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/08-3.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept for the extension of the West Potomac Park Levee and the design of a temporary closure structure where the levee crosses 17th Street, NW, adjacent to the Washington Monument Grounds. He said that the Commission had approved both of the alternative designs that had been presented in November and had encouraged the National Park Service (NPS) to further develop a preferred design. He said that the Olin Partnership had developed the revised scheme to be presented today, a version which employs a pair of symmetrical curved walls—the first time a symmetrical solution has been used—and integrates the walls and walkways into the larger context of the site while concealing more of the concrete structure within berms. He introduced Peter May, the NPS Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources and Planning for the National Capital Region.
Mr. May said that the design team had further discussions with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and other parties about the how the design could meet competing needs, and that today the team would present the result of that process. He introduced landscape architect David Rubin of the Olin Partnership to present the proposal.
Mr. Rubin emphasized the productive collaboration between the many government and private entities involved in the levee design. He presented images of the Mall site, noting its location adjacent to President's Park across Constitution Avenue. He presented the current flood map of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contrasted with the proposed new FEMA flood map which would designate an area including Federal Triangle as a flood zone.
Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the extent of the site. Mr. Rubin indicated that the area of study extends south along 17th Street from the intersection of Constitution Avenue on the north to the beginning of the World War II Memorial on the south; the closure would be located within that zone, an area that is the narrowest gap in the topography where flooding could enter the Federal Triangle precinct.
Mr. Rubin presented the grading and the revised proposal for the path alignments. The top of the levee will be at a datum height of 18.7 feet, compared to the slope of 17th Street with a ground-level datum of approximately 13 feet at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and approximately 8 feet near the World War II Memorial. He explained that the designers have sought to preserve the visual extension of Virginia Avenue which passes through the site: the walls of the current proposal allow for distant views along the avenue's alignment. He said the design team was also considering the broader context of the Mall site and trying to create a comprehensive pedestrian path system that would link monuments and be reinforced by the grading necessary for the levee. He presented images showing current circulation on the Washington Monument Grounds and in Constitution Gardens, illustrating how the proposed new walks would affect these landscapes. He said the current design proposal would use berms on both sides of the levee wall and the temporary post-and-panel wall system would be deployed across 17th Street at approximately the midpoint of the study area—far enough south to avoid obstruction of Constitution Avenue, while not so far south that the walls would be unpleasantly tall in comparison to the descending topography. He compared the proposed alignment of the levee to the alignments of the two alternatives submitted previously.
Mr. Belle asked about the materials of the two curved walls framing 17th Street, which he described as two "eyebrows." Mr. Rubin said they would be clad in a stone appropriate to the vocabulary of stone used in this area of the Mall, perhaps resembling the stone used for the walls on the Washington Monument Grounds, for the Lockkeeper's House, or for the terrace walls in Constitution Gardens. He confirmed that these walls are part of the flood control structure and are included in order to limit the length of the temporary post-and-panel system that would need to be put in place in the event of an anticipated flood. He said the design is intended to provide a balance between the length of the permanent walls and the extent of the temporary post-and-panel system. Mr. Belle asked whether these segments would be permanently visible; Mr. Rubin explained that they are permanent walls, not temporary panels, and would always be visible; the temporary wall system would extend across 17th Street only when necessary due to a flood event.
Mr. Rubin illustrated Phase I of this revised design, its impact on the site, and the regrading necessary to reach the required top elevation. He presented the levee wall with the post-and-panel receiving system, explaining the impact of the new wall on existing trees. He said that the levee wall would be constructed of concrete which would remain exposed in Phase I.
Ms. Balmori asked how much more of the proposed wall would be exposed if the land were not regraded; Mr. Rubin responded by indicating where the 18.7 foot grade is currently located on the site. He confirmed that maintaining the existing grade would result in a taller and longer appearance to the wall. Mr. Belle observed that this is why the berming is proposed; he asked about the height of the wall at its highest point, where it would connect to the post-and-panel structure. Mr. Rubin responded that the height would be eight to nine feet, with the top of the wall at the datum height of 18.7 feet. Mr. Belle asked if the wall would block the view of the Mall for a person moving along 17th Street; Mr. Rubin responded that the grade height at the Constitution Avenue intersection is 13 feet, so a six-foot-tall person would be higher than the 18.7-foot datum height of the top of the wall; 17th Street then descends from this intersection. Mr. Belle commented that this configuration of heights isn't objectionable.
Mr. Rubin indicated a rectangle on the plan that identifies the storage structure for the components of the post-and-panel system, which needs to be stored near the site. He discussed the issues involved in the location and design of the storage structure: it needs to be in a place where a crane can easily lift and position the posts and panels when necessary, and must not be in a location that is vulnerable to the flooding. He said that placing the storage further away would make the installation more difficult. The proposal is therefore to store the posts and panels underground, with a hatch opening that is flush with the ground and could be lifted off so the structural elements could be removed by crane. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked what determines the distance of the storage structure from the levee alignment; Mr. Rubin responded that the crane would need to be able to move the closure elements quickly from the storage structure to the levee location. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether it would make sense to put the storage structure closer; Mr. Rubin said that the goal is to find a suitable location that would not have too much impact.
Mr. Rubin presented renderings of views along 17th Street and of the Phase I structure from various locations: from the Washington Monument Grounds, from the intersection of 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, and from within Constitution Gardens. He then presented views of the wall after Phase II, which includes cladding the wall with stone, completion of the grading, and installation of landscape planting.
Ms. Balmori asked about the extent of grading that would be done in the Phase I; Mr. Rubin responded that the most significant grading, resulting in the 18.7-foot ridgeline, would be done in the Phase I. He confirmed that this initial grading would establish the final height of the earth against the wall. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the regrading needs to extend as far outward as shown; she clarified that her question relates to tree loss and slope, and Ms. Balmori agreed that tree loss is an issue. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether steeper grading might save more trees and therefore could be a more desirable solution. Mr. Rubin said the design team had explored many versions, some with more severe grades. He noted that the first priority of this design is to provide flood protection, but another priority set by NPS is the improvement of soils, which are poor in this area and have not supported adequate tree growth; soil remediation in this area will therefore help to improve the landscape character of the Mall. He confirmed that the new soil will have sufficient structural stability to support the levee. Ms. Balmori asked if trees were not growing well because of the soil or because of sub-surface water; Mr. Rubin said that the problem is apparently with the soil. Mr. Belle observed that this problem is correctable, and Mr. Rubin explained that this improvement is included in Phase I. Ms. Plater-Zyberk indicated a particular grouping of trees and asked if these trees were inferior specimens because of poor soil. Mr. Rubin said that those trees had been planted recently and could easily be moved; he confirmed that they would be preserved for repositioning despite the indication on the drawing. He also noted the requirement that a 92-foot-wide zone along an earthen levee cannot be planted in order to ensure the flood protection strength; trees would be removed within this zone along the earthen levee.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how the proposed berming affects the wall length within the Washington Monument grounds; Mr. Rubin confirmed that without the berming the wall would need to be considerably longer, perhaps double the proposed length; he indicated the 18.7 topographical grade that the wall would need to meet.
Ms. Nelson asked whether it would be possible to build a wall that would retract fully into the earth, rising only on the rare occasions when needed; she noted that such a wall would not need to be symmetrical, and she offered the comparison of retractable bollards. Mr. Rubin said the engineering required for such a structure would be too costly for the Phase I budget. Ms. Nelson continued that a retractable wall would not require berming, cladding, or moving panels into place. Mr. Rubin responded that a wall that worked with only the existing grading would be very large; he said that such a design could conflict with another goal of the project—to incorporate this levee into the daily use of the Mall. Mr. May added that, from an early point in the design process, the Army Corps of Engineers and NPS considered different technologies for closing the gap in the levee. He said the idea of a submerged wall has been used successfully in places, though usually where they are used more frequently than would be the case here. Ms. Nelson asked if the examples are in Holland; Mr. May said that a better example exists at Washington Harbour in Georgetown, where there are permanent posts with wall sections that can rise between them. He said that such a system could be built for this levee, but it would require permanent vertical posts because it would not be feasible for the entire wall to rise from underground.
Mr. Belle asked whether environmental documentation has been done for the project; Mr. Rubin said that there was an environmental assessment that considered a wide range of alternatives. Mr. May added that many of the alternatives were determined to be impractical, but he emphasized that NPS had fully complied with environmental requirements. Mr. Belle acknowledged that the current proposal is therefore based on consideration of alternatives; he asked if the concept suggested by Ms. Nelson had been considered. Mr. May explained that for the environmental assessment NPS did not examine technologies that were not practical. He said that an earlier study from 1992 had examined all potential technologies for the closure, resulting in the conclusion that the post-and-panel system was the most logical solution; the current project reexamined this conclusion and found no new technology from recent years that would be more practical.
Mr. Rubin presented images of the levee closure in Phase II with the post-and panel system in place; he indicated the walkways as well as the storage hatch which would be incorporated into a plaza. He explained that, if funding becomes available, the intention is to move the Lockkeeper's House to a better location where it can serve more effectively to aid in the interpretation of the historic canal system and the modern control of water with the levee.
Mr. Belle asked if the plaza is also necessary for providing a stable place for the crane to maneuver; Mr. Rubin acknowledged this requirement. He presented cross-sections of the levee structure and more views of the site. Mr. Belle said that one of the photographs made him realize that the wall would function as a gateway to the Mall, which he had not appreciated during the site inspection. Mr. Rubin said that this issue was particularly important in conjunction with a wall location closer to Constitution Avenue; he said that the intention is to frame 17th Street in a manner consistent with other locations such as the two Bulfinch-designed piers which frame 15th Street and define entry into the Mall.
Mr. Rubin presented views toward the wall from the plaza in Constitution Gardens, including the wall after Phase I without cladding, and after Phase II with cladding. He said that these views do not include the planting that would be designed for the wall. Mr. Luebke noted that these Photoshop images illustrate the proposed berming. Mr. Rubin also presented images of the new plaza behind the Lockkeeper's House, of the walls with the new path system, and of the completed structure. His final image depicted the Olin Partnership's planting plan for the Washington Monument Grounds.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the requirement to keep trees off the levee, commenting that she understood the prohibition to apply to levees located alongside canals or other bodies of water which would not be applicable at this site. Mr. Rubin explained that the issue in this case is a concern about root systems growing through the earthen levee, damaging it structurally; if a tree were to fall it would pull away a lot of soil, weakening the levee at that point and creating a potential breach. He said that this is the reason that the Army Corps requires that trees within the 92-foot-wide zone along the length of the Reflecting Pool not be replaced. He clarified that, if the levee incorporates a wall structure rather than only earth, planting is permitted beyond fifteen feet from its face; the earthen berm requires the more extensive no-plant zone. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether that meant absolutely nothing could be planted within that zone; Mr. Rubin clarified that trees are not permitted. Ms. Balmori asked for further clarification on the fifteen-foot zone, and Mr. Rubin used the example of Constitution Gardens, where in areas adjacent to the proposed wall, trees could be replanted more extensively, but along the earthen levee, no trees could be planted within the entire 92-foot zone. Ms. Balmori asked why trees were not then shown planted closer to the proposed wall in Constitution Gardens, and Mr. Rubin said it was because they had not yet designed the planting plan; he confirmed that this plan would be included in a future submission.
Mr. Powell observed that the plan shown is a revised concept and not a final design. Ms. Balmori said that the proposal works well with this sensitive site but added that she is concerned about the phasing, commenting that "this is the front lawn of our nation and I don't think you can just put in concrete walls and walk away." She said this is a serious issue that must be addressed; Mr. Rubin agreed and said that the phasing relates to the availability of funding. Ms. Balmori said the problem is that many projects do not implement the later phases.
Mr. Belle said that the Commission should at least consider requesting completion of the documents for both phases at once. Mr. Rubin said this is how the design team proposes to handle the project; they plan to design backward from Phase II so that there is a holistic design with the hope that, by the time the project is put out to bid, funding will be available for the entire proposal. Mr. Belle acknowledged that the Commission does not usually get involved in such issues, but in this case the phasing is a critical issue; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Powell asked Mr. May to comment on this issue. Mr. May confirmed that funding for Phase II is included in the fiscal year 2009 budget that has not yet been approved; he expressed optimism that the funding would be available, perhaps as part of the new economic stimulus legislation. He said that NPS is moving forward with the design and intends to construct it as soon as possible.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to strongly favor completion of both phases as a single project if possible; Ms. Balmori agreed and suggested that this be part of a motion. Mr. Powell reiterated that the current submission is a revised concept and the Commission will see an additional presentation for final approval.
Ms. Balmori asked about the technical advisers on the project team. Mr. Rubin responded that TetraTech Engineers is addressing the water and levee design issues, and the Louis Berger group is working on the environmental review process. He added that TetraTech has worked with the team to present the project to the Army Corps for approval of certification.
Mr. Luebke said that two members of the public wish to address the Commission and that written comments from one of them, Lindsley Williams, have been circulated to the Commission; Chairman Powell recognized Mr. Williams.
Mr. Williams commended the proposal and recommended that the Commission approve it, whether for Phase I or both phases; he said the important issue is the November 2009 deadline set by FEMA. He also commended the work done by the design team in developing a solution that respects the fabric of the Mall and the city's view corridors, particularly along Virginia Avenue. He suggested that the Commission grant the project team the flexibility to design the levee system to rise only to the height required for a 100-year flood rather than a 185-year flood, which would result in a height approximately two feet lower than the system shown on the renderings. He said that some additional system could be developed to allow the additional height to be put in place in the event of the more severe flood. He said that the Commission's permission for this option would allow the project team to pursue it without lengthening the review process. Chairman Powell observed that since this submission is not a final design, the project team already has the latitude to do this.
Ms. Balmori asked for further explanation of Mr. Lindsley's suggested option. Mr. Rubin said that a two-foot height reduction would result in the levee being sufficient for the 100-year flood, but it is likely that the requirement will be increased in the future to the 185-year flood, which would require altering the levee system; it therefore seems more appropriate to design a single project that addresses the 185-year flood level. To protect against this threat, a lower wall would need to be supplemented with sandbags or jersey barriers, creating logistical difficulties for NPS; the currently proposed design allows for a simpler response.
Judy Scott Feldman, chair of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, spoke next; she acknowledged the work of another member of the organization, Kent Cooper, who had been participating in the levee design process but could not be present. She said that they understood the urgency of the problem and reluctantly accepted the need for a solution, acknowledging that the proposed design is probably the best approach. She raised the long-term issue of future flooding and of global warming, commenting that these issues should not be addressed piecemeal in reaction to events. In view of the change of administration and new interest in repairing infrastructure, she said that the Coalition encourages the Commission to advise the President that it is "time for the National Mall to be addressed as a unified entirety." She provided the Commission members with copies of the Coalition's report, "Rethinking the National Mall," which presents two major points: the fragmented management of the Mall that should be addressed by a new commission to coordinate treatment of this area; and that the Mall, rather than being a "completed work of art," should instead continue to evolve. She urged additional involvement of scholars and the general public in envisioning the Mall's future. She also noted an article in the Los Angeles Times by critic Christopher Knight, calling for additional NPS funding to restore the Mall and encouraging political leaders to support the Coalition's idea of a Mall commission.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the testimony and commended the design team on the direction of the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised concept subject to the comments about the importance of Phase II and constructing the entire design.
D. District of Columbia Courts
CFA 22/JAN/09-3, Judiciary Square Historic District. Bounded by 4th, G, and 5th Streets and Indiana Avenue, NW. Master plan, Perimeter security elements. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/07-Admin-E.) Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Belle was recusing himself from participating in the discussion of this case due to his firm's involvement in the addition to a courthouse at Judiciary Square; Chairman Powell noted that a quorum of Commission members would still be considering the case.
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project by summarizing the Commission's past reviews of the Judiciary Square master plan, dating back to the first information presentation from the General Services Administration in 2003. The Commission had requested further study of the perimeter security proposal during reviews in June 2003, July 2006, and November 2007. Signage had also been a concern during past reviews, and the Commission's review of the master plan's first phase in February 2008 included a recommendation for modifying one of the sign types. He said that the current submission addresses the perimeter security design and also incorporates building identification signage into the security-related fence posts which addresses the Commission's concern raised by the previously proposed signage. He introduced landscape architect Roger Courtenay of EDAW to present the design.
Mr. Courtenay summarized the context and indicated the various courthouses and other municipal buildings in and around Judiciary Square. He explained that the buildings to be protected by the current perimeter-security submission are Buildings A and B of the D.C. Courts on the north side of E Street; Building C and the building containing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on the south side of E Street; and, further south, Building D which is currently undergoing a major renovation that includes much of the perimeter security for that block. He indicated the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial between Buildings A and B, explaining that the completion of the perimeter at the edges of this memorial is still being coordinated with the National Park Service and is not part of the current submission.
Mr. Courtenay described the project scope as addressing landscape and streetscape design as well as providing perimeter security. He presented photographs of existing problems and unusual conditions along the edges of the existing buildings. He explained that the master plan calls for parking to be relocated from surface lots to underground garages, which is currently being implemented in phases; however, the surface parking lot on the east side of Building B will remain in the near future until underground parking is eventually constructed, and the perimeter security along this parking lot is designed to be permanent while adapting to the anticipated change in the landscape.
Mr. Courtenay described the proposed treatment at Building C. He explained that the main entrance will be shifted to the north side, facing E Street, where an entrance ramp can also be accommodated; he noted that the entrance to the Armed Forces Court of Appeals was similarly shifted to the E Street facade in a recent renovation. He added that the perimeter security at Building C would be the first phase of the project, to be undertaken in conjunction with the interior and exterior renovation that is currently underway. He indicated the relatively short distance between the building and the existing E street curb, resulting in the proposal to eliminate the curbside parking lane and move the curb 11 feet further from the building. The result would be one lane in each direction for through-traffic on E Street, supplemented only by small lay-bys for the memorial and for the planned National Law Enforcement Museum on the south side of the street. Ms. Balmori asked about the resulting width of the sidewalks in the area; Mr. Courtenay responded that the E Street sidewalk widths, excluding the planting areas, would be 12 to 15 feet on the south side—near Building C—and eight feet on the north near the memorial and Buildings A and B. He also explained that vehicular service access for Buildings C and D as well as for the Court of Appeals building would be provided underground.
Mr. Courtenay explained the overall concept for the perimeter security: creating a barrier system of piers, bollards, and metal fence panels around the outer perimeter of Judiciary Square along 4th, 5th, and F Streets; and a different fencing system to enclose street-tree planting beds proposed along E Street, which extends through the interior of the Judiciary Square complex. He indicated that the alignment of the fencing along 4th, 5th, and F Streets would always be along the edge between the building yards and the sidewalks, leaving the sidewalk and street tree areas unobstructed. Along E Street, the fencing at the street trees would be between the sidewalk and the street curb, supplemented by freestanding bollards between the tree planting areas; several additional bollards across the sidewalk near the corners of the block would protect the transition between these alignments. He indicated the location of light poles which would be hardened to substitute for some of the bollards.
Mr. Courtenay presented the proposed design of the fence panels along the outer streets, with stone piers at fifteen-foot intervals and additional metal-clad bollards that would divide the fence into five-foot segments. He said that this combination of materials would provide articulation and rhythm to the fence and would differentiate it from the all-metal system proposed along E Street, helping to clarify the historic outer edge of Judiciary Square. He also explained that the stone piers would provide the opportunity for signage at the main entrances to Buildings A and B. He described the proposed pattern of the metal fence panels: the middle panel of each group of three would include an anthemion, a classical design feature that is used at the U.S. Capitol and in the existing railing for the terrace of Building C. The metal fence would be composed of one-inch-square and 3/4-inch-square bars of steel or wrought iron, painted black. He also explained that the panel system would allow the grade changes across the site to be accommodated in shifting vertical alignments along the stone piers. He indicated the proposed placement of the bollards along the back face of each fence panel to reduce the visibility of their mass; these bollards would be sheathed in steel painted to match the metal fencing, while the remaining bollards would be encased within the stone piers. Larger stone piers at the entrances to Buildings A and B would highlight these locations and would contain the building identification signage. The piers would be limestone with monolithic granite bases, matching the materials of the buildings.
Mr. Courtenay then presented the design of the fence and bollards along E Street, where the alignment would shift between the street curb and the back edges of the street tree planting panels. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if this back-and-forth alignment could be simplified, with the perimeter instead following a single line at the curb. Mr. Courtenay explained that this shift is intended to provide visual relief and avoid a long continuous line of fencing and bollards, as well as providing a visual sense of protection and enclosure for the trees. He added that the bollards near the curb are set back approximately 1.5 feet as requested by the D.C. government to provide room for people to step out of vehicles; continuing this alignment would place the bollards within the tree planting areas. Ms. Balmori commented that the planting areas could simply be moved slightly away from the street curb to provide a paved area that would accommodate the bollards and fencing along a continuous alignment.
Mr. Courtenay presented the elevation of the security perimeter along E Street, with metal fence panels matching the less ornate of the panels proposed along the outer streets; he explained that the grade change is more pronounced in this area, and the height of the fence panels therefore shifts at each five-foot interval when necessary. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had reviewed an earlier version several years previously which included more ornament in the fencing—the anthemion in each panel along the outer streets, and a circular motif added to each panel along E Street—while the current submission is the result of simplifying the fence design.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the location of stone piers along E Street; Mr. Courtenay explained that there would not be stone piers along this street, except on each end of the block at the corners where they would frame the pedestrian entrance points to the area. Ms. Balmori asked if only the perimeter for Building C is submitted for approval. Mr. Courtenay clarified that the proposal also addresses the other buildings that were mentioned, but the presentation emphasized Building C to provide a detailed example of the overall proposal; he confirmed that the all-metal fencing system is proposed only along E Street.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the treatment of F Street; Mr. Courtenay indicated the alignment of the fence along the building lawn curb, matching the proposed treatment along 4th and 5th Streets to mark the perimeter of the overall square. He explained that the north end of Building A is an exception, with a raised terrace extending to the F Street sidewalk that will provide perimeter security without requiring fencing. He also indicated the retractable bollards along a loading dock ramp leading from 5th Street to the basement of Building A. He said that the redesign of the terrace is being developed as a separate project; the edge wall is currently clad in granite but the proposal will be to reclad it in limestone to be consistent with the pattern of materials throughout the square, and the coursing and detailing will be developed to relate to the stone piers that are proposed for the fencing. He clarified that the terrace's edge wall rises approximately 30 to 36 inches from the sidewalk, comparable to the height of the proposed fencing system.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the perimeter security would be extended in the future to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, even though this connection is not included in the current submission. Mr. Courtenay confirmed that the perimeter security would be extended to both the E and F Street sides of the memorial, but the configuration has not yet been determined. He said that the current intention is to use the curved walls within the memorial to provide protection to the long facades of Buildings A and B facing the memorial, so it will not be necessary to extend perimeter security along these facades; additional elements will only be required between the memorial's curved walls and the perimeter security system that is currently submitted.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the design of the fencing, which she said has been extensively studied, but recommended further study of the relationship between the terrace at the north end of Building A and the adjacent fencing. She noted that the height of the terrace is slightly lower than the fencing; she suggested that the terrace could be raised slightly to match the fencing height which would also improve the alignment of the terrace with the building doorway which currently is a step up from the terrace. She emphasized the apparent lack of coordination between the fence design and the terrace, compared to the careful treatment of shifting heights along the length of the fence system. She also commented that the text of the building identification signage, proposed as part of the stone piers of the perimeter security system, could be designed more clearly: in phrases such as "Building B" the building letter should be larger than the word "Building" and placed beneath it for easier legibility.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the decision to align the E Street fencing in a back-and-forth pattern around the tree planting areas, commenting that a simple linear alignment might be less intrusive. Mr. Courtenay responded that a design was considered using only bollards in a single alignment, without fencing panels, on each side of E Street; however, the conclusion was that this would be visually monotonous, and the protection of the street trees was also considered desirable. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the trees should therefore be protected with fencing on all four sides rather than only on three sides; Mr. Courtenay said that the omission of fencing on the side closest to the curb is a convenience for people exiting cars and a safety measure for people who need to step off the street at these locations.
Mr. Rybczynski supported the design as proposed, expressing agreement that fencing adjacent to the street curb would create an undesirable tunnel-like effect along the street. Ms. Balmori noted that the fencing would only occur at brief intervals where the tree planting areas are located; the rest of the E Street frontage would have freestanding bollards. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated his objection to introducing fence panels along the curb; Ms. Balmori said that a better solution might therefore be to use only bollards throughout the E Street frontage, commenting that a four-sided fenced enclosure of each tree planting area would be excessive, while the three-sided enclosure seems incomplete. She added that bollards would provide a more generous sense of space for pedestrians on the sidewalk. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the repetition of the three-sided fencing at intervals along the length of the E Street frontage is more problematic than suggested by the drawings of a single planting area treatment. She added that the omission of the fence along the street side of these areas gives the impression that the fencing is intended to defend the trees from the pedestrians. Ms. Balmori agreed, reiterating that the proposed design places excessive emphasis on each tree and that a single line of bollards would provide a more spacious sense to the streetscape.
Ms. Nelson asked about the grass strips that are shown adjacent to the trees. Mr. Courtenay clarified that these areas are illustrated in green to indicate that they will be planted, but grass will probably not be used. Ms. Balmori agreed with this intention, acknowledging that these planted areas will serve to discourage pedestrians from stepping near the trees.
Mr. Courtenay returned to a drawing illustrating the locations of the planting beds along E Street, explaining that their dimensions vary according to the conditions at each location; he said that the fencing makes it feasible to make the planting areas larger, typically extending 25 to 30 feet in length and 5 to 6 feet in width. Ms. Balmori expressed support for these dimensions. Mr. Courtenay said that a single line of bollards would probably result in a smaller size for the planting beds because they would not be separated from pedestrians. Ms. Balmori said that pedestrians would nonetheless benefit from the increased sense of space by eliminating the fence panels, and she reiterated that the plantings would serve to protect the areas around the trees from pedestrians. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the lack of special treatment of tree planting areas along the other streets, combined with the special emphasis given by the proposed fencing pattern along E Street, reverses the intended hierarchy of streets in defining the overall extent of Judiciary Square; she reiterated the recommendation to remove the proposed fencing at the planting areas. Ms. Balmori agreed; she added that the other parts of the design appear to be successful, including the combination of metal and stone features to create an overall rhythm, and the treatment of the building entrances to incorporate signage.
Mr. Rybczynski reiterated his support for the proposed design and said that he prefers the fencing at the E Street planting areas to the alternative of using only single lines of bollards; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the bollard alternative be illustrated in order to understand whether new problems arise from this alternative. Ms. Balmori commented that the solution might involve a single alignment of fencing, set slightly back from the curb to correspond with the currently proposed alignment for bollards. Mr. Courtenay added that the perimeter security system helps to guide pedestrians toward the appropriate locations for crossing E Street, which will be particularly important with the elimination of the parking lanes.
Ms. Nelson suggested that pedestrian amenities such as benches might be desirable, particularly at shaded locations beneath the trees. Mr. Luebke noted that benches would need to be quite substantial in size to serve as part of the perimeter security system and had been rejected. Mr. Courtenay added that the D.C. Courts does not want benches adjacent to the courthouses.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to support the proposal except for the treatment along E Street, for which the Commission members had varying opinions. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission request further study and an additional submission for this area to illustrate other options. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the master plan except for the E Street tree planting areas which will require further study. Mr. Luebke noted that the options could include removing the fence panels along E Street while retaining the back-and-forth pattern with bollards, or selecting an alignment for a single line of bollards. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that improved drawings could also demonstrate that the currently proposed design is the best alternative; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Nelson said that other design ideas could be considered, such as introducing gravel around the trees or varying the street curb line.
E. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 22/JAN/09-4, Francis Field, 1200 Block of 25th Street, NW. Master Plan for renovation and improvements and Phase I implementation. Concept. Mr. Luebke said that the renovation of the park is linked to the private-sector redevelopment of several buildings across 25th Street which were previously reviewed by the Commission under the Shipstead-Luce Act; the park itself is a complex area that includes D.C. and federal park areas.
Ms. Batcheler said that the project would be implemented in two phases: a long-term master plan for the overall park, and a short-term Phase I plan for the components that will be implemented by the developer of the nearby parcel. She noted that representatives of a neighborhood group, the Friends of Francis Field, have asked to address the Commission. She introduced Jason Turner, chief of planning and capital projects for the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Turner said that this is one of many D.C. parks being studied for improvement. He added that the Friends of Francis Field group was involved in the project development, acknowledging past miscommunications during the design process. He noted that the associated private development will bring new residential development to the neighborhood. He explained that the proposed Phase I development is a passive recreation area along 25th Street—including plantings, ornamental fencing, benches, and walkways—and the master plan also includes a new soccer field for children. He said that the park is currently used for softball and does not have adequate passive recreation amenities such as seating, while the new design will provide greater benefits for D.C. residents. He noted that funding for the master plan proposals is not yet available but is anticipated in the next several years, while the Phase I proposals can be implemented immediately by the private-sector developer if approved by the Commission. He introduced landscape architect Don Hoover of Oculus to describe the Phase I proposal.
Mr. Hoover described the existing conditions including a fence directly adjacent to the narrow sidewalk along 25th Street and ranging in height from six to eighteen feet, with the tallest fencing at the softball backstop. The overall treatment proposed for the site is to shift the fenced playing field further west, away from the street, in order to maximize the site for the passive recreation area. The softball field would be reoriented so that the high backstop fencing would not be necessary to protect the street; instead, a new three-foot-tall ornamental fence is proposed. He said that the master plan provides for additional improvements to the playing field, as well as further design of an unprogrammed recreational area at the north end of the playing field and the replacement of existing sports-field lights with new lighting. These pole-mounted lights would be more sensitively designed for the neighborhood context, including cutoffs to reduce light spillage outside the park. He clarified that the Phase I improvements include the fence, seating, sidewalks, and tree planting, as well as the replacement of a gravel parking lot with lawn at the north end of the site.
Ms. Balmori asked about the width of the passive-recreation area proposed in Phase I; Mr. Hoover responded that it varies from approximately 25 to 75 feet. Mr. Belle noted that two walkways extend for much of the length of this park area. Mr. Hoover confirmed that one of these paths is the sidewalk adjacent to the street; he said that the other path is intended to create an area for seating, circulation, and enjoyment of the park; while it would be available for bicyclists, it is not specifically intended as a bike path. He also confirmed that the swimming pool would remain to the north of the park.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the proposed fencing location; Mr. Hoover explained that the only fencing would be between the playing field and the Phase I park area, with no obstruction between the park and the street. He added that the chain-link fence on the west side of the site is related to the adjacent National Park Service property along Rock Creek and would remain; this fence would prevent balls from rolling toward Rock Creek. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the Rock Creek area contains a busy road that affects the character of Francis Field. Mr. Hoover explained that there is a dense tree buffer between Francis Field and the creek, and the road is on the other side of the creek; Mr. Luebke added that there is a significant drop in grade from Francis Field to the creek and roadway.
Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed plantings seem "rather sparse" for a passive park with seating, particularly because many of the proposed trees are quite small and because the nearby forest along Rock Creek is much denser by comparison; she said that birds would be unlikely to come to the new park area when the dense forest is nearby. She suggested that the new park instead by treated as a continuation of the forest. Mr. Hoover responded that this could be desirable but the density of vegetation has been reduced during the design process due to concerns about security; the limited vegetation improves visibility into the park. Mr. Turner offered to give further consideration to the amount of planting; Mr. Powell said that the selection of larger trees would also be helpful, and Ms. Balmori noted that larger trees with higher canopies would be preferable for safety and visibility. Mr. Turner said that several elements of the master plan are still being studied, including the amount of planting and the inclusion of lighting; he explained that the existing lighting is shown on the plan and could be replaced or omitted as the design develops.
Chairman Powell recognized Gary Griffith, secretary of the neighborhood group Friends of Francis Field. Mr. Griffith said that this organization had arranged for Phase I to be funded in association with the nearby development. He described the tension between his neighborhood group and the soccer leagues in defining the character of the park. He noted the site's importance at the edge of the L'Enfant Plan and adjacent to Rock Creek. He said that some existing site features were never reviewed by the Commission, including the sports lighting—which he characterized as "gigantic" and "a nuisance to the neighborhood"—and the gravel parking lot adjacent to the swimming pool. He said that his group supports the proposal for passive park space and is opposed to the possible inclusion of stadium-style lighting; he said that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission is also opposed to new lights. He noted that the neighborhood context, once industrial in character, is now shifting from office to residential with the planned development nearby, increasing the importance of a design that is compatible with residential uses. He expressed concern that the submitted plan has reintroduced lights to the design.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the lights are the only objectionable feature; Mr. Griffith said that this is by far the most important concern among several concerns. Mr. Belle commented that the proposed master plan with an active playing field would apparently make lights necessary; he questioned what the primary purpose of the site is intended to be: either a neighborhood park or an active recreation facility. Mr. Griffith said that the increasing residential development is changing the park from a "back yard" to a "front yard." He noted that night-time usage of the park would only serve organized leagues whose members are typically from suburban jurisdictions, resulting in problems of parking and noise; he said that such uses have turned the park into a nuisance rather than an amenity. He asked the Commission to consider a more appropriate design for a residential neighborhood.
Chairman Powell invited Mr. Turner to respond, noting that further design details would be reviewed by the Commission in subsequent submissions. Mr. Turner emphasized the intention to work with the entire community and create a park that serves the public interest. He responded to Mr. Belle's question by explaining that the facility is primarily a playing field for active sports rather than a park—as described by its name, "Francis Field." He said that his agency has no strong position on whether to include lights; he noted that modern lighting technology could reduce many of the problems identified by the neighbors, such as by reducing glare and automatically turning off the lights at a designated time. He added that lights would only be used for several months per year when the weather is warm enough to have outdoor sports at night; and with daylight in those months extending to approximately 8:30 p.m., with children's events likely ending at 9 p.m., the need for the lights would be very limited. He offered to continue to work with the community on the lighting and other issues related to the design of the park.
Mr. Rybczynski asked how the width of the Phase I park area was determined; Mr. Hoover confirmed that the field sizes are the basis for the site design. Mr. Rybczynski commented that this park area seems to be a small strip of land within the context of an urban edge of 8- to 10-story buildings. He questioned whether the park would be successful with such a small size; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle agreed with this concern. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the size of the passive park area could be increased. Mr. Hoover responded that the boundary of the field could not be moved any further; he acknowledged that the resulting park area could be characterized as a "glorified streetscape," and Ms. Balmori agreed with this description. Mr. Hoover added that the streetscape improvement is needed, and the Phase I proposal would give relief to the sports field portion of the site.
Ms. Balmori asked if additional area at the north part of the site could be incorporated into the Phase I park. Mr. Turner clarified that the existing parking area is already proposed for removal. Ms. Balmori referred to a grey area on the site plan, which Mr. Hoover said is the area set aside for some other recreational use that is not yet determined. Mr. Turner said that this area would be developed as part of the park, possibly as an additional passive recreation area. Ms. Balmori commented that this additional area is needed in the design. Mr. Turner reiterated that the larger goal is to improve the site as a playing field rather than to convert the field into a park; the Phase I proposal is intended to provide a buffer for the field and accommodate seating in addition to the sports on the field. Mr. Belle commented that the proposal should be characterized as a "green edge" to an active recreational space rather than as a park; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Powell said that the site should be made as green as possible.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission's concern could be addressed by improving the design at the south end of the Phase I improvements, where the park strip is the widest; Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested a grouping of benches that would be appropriate for a very small urban park, creating a destination where people could interact. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the gate into the playing field at this location would result in a large number of sports players crossing this part of the park; he suggested that only the gate further north be provided, where the park is narrowest, so that the larger area at the south end could be relatively quiet. Mr. Belle supported this suggestion.
Ms. Nelson commented that the programming for the site should be considered as part of the design process in order to address concerns about the site's relationship to the neighborhood, the intended users of the park, and the potential for evening use. Ms. Balmori said that there appear to be two totally different groups of people using the park—one group for the playing field and another for the passive recreation area—resulting in a difficult design problem. Mr. Turner agreed and said that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation is trying to balance the city-wide need for field space with local residential needs at many locations. He added that the increasing residential population in this area should generate more use of the park and the field. Mr. Hoover said that the programming was discussed at community meetings during the design process; one group favored sports fields, suggesting two smaller fields that would leave almost no area for passive recreation, while others preferred more of a park design. He said that various field configurations were considered, including elimination of the softball field which would allow a slight increase in the passive recreation area; the resulting design is a compromise between the varying priorities. He acknowledged that the result is a sports field with a landscaped edge, emphasizing the improved quality proposed for this edge with the elimination of high fences and the addition of trees.
Ms. Nelson asked if people come to watch the sports events. Mr. Hoover responded that parents typically watch the younger children's games while standing along the sidelines; the existing small metal bleachers would be removed, and the side of the field would be configured to provide a large area for parents to stand.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the area west of the site along Rock Creek is also green—although not illustrated on the drawings—with the overall progression from this naturalistic area to the playing field to the urban park strip on the east. She suggested that the wider area of the park toward the south be developed with some sort of geometry, such as a lawn ringed by trees with a walk around it, so that it has a distinct character as an urban park and a social gathering space; she said that the goal should be not just a landscape buffer but also a place for the neighborhood. Ms. Balmori agreed, adding that the area to the north should also be given a stronger design.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the submitted concept while providing the comments that were discussed, with the request that the design be more fully developed in the next submission.
F. District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Old Georgetown Act
1. OG 08-011 (H.P.A. 08-094), Georgetown Park (shopping mall), 3270 M Street, NW. (Square 1200, Lot 67). Alterations and additions for a mixed-use residential/retail building. Revised concept (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/08.) Ms. Barsoum explained that the Commission had not approved the project in its last review in October and had requested a revised submission. She noted that the Commission had granted the applicant's request to receive the revised submission directly, without the usual initial review by the Old Georgetown Board; as a result, there is no Board report for the current submission. She summarized the revisions and outstanding design issues: additional signage is proposed along M Street on the north; the M Street gate at the service alley has not yet been revised to address the Commission's recommendation that the gate be treated as an architectural element; the massing of the upper residential floors has been changed, with the curved profile changed to angular; the residential entrance has been shifted; the windows facing the canal on the south are now configured as bays rather than as punched openings; the length of the south facade is greater; and the top residential floor has been extended southward resulting in an additional story of height above the historic retaining wall along the canal. She said that the revisions result in two increases in the building footprint at the southwest corner of the site, reducing the amount of public space in this popular plaza area. She introduced architect Shalom Baranes to present the design.
Mr. Baranes presented photographs of the site and drawings of the previously submitted design. He explained that the proposal is to alter the west end of the Georgetown Park mall by replacing the facade, which he described as neo-Victorian or neo-Romanesque, and adding residential floors above the southern portion of the building. The base would contain retail stores, and the pedestrian walkway would be maintained to the west of the site along the Dean & DeLuca store [located within the adjacent historic market building].
Mr. Baranes said that the proposal was reviewed approximately five times by the Old Georgetown Board, and the approved scheme was presented to the Commission which had several areas of concern. He summarized the Commission's comments: a request for more integration and less distinction between the metal-and-glass residential volume and the masonry-clad retail base; revision of the windows on the south facade to respond to the large industrial scale along the canal, rather than deriving the scale from the M Street context; and reconsidering the massing along M Street to relate better to the smaller scale of buildings in this area.
Mr. Baranes described the design responses to the Commission's recommendations. He said that the massing is substantially the same as before, with some minor changes and an adjustment from a curved to an angled facade. He said that the most significant change is in materials, eliminating the emphasis on metal and glass for the residential portion; instead, masonry—probably terra cotta—would be used for the entire building. He indicated the revised fenestration along the canal to create large compositions of windows on the upper residential floors that relate to the buildings in this context; the retail area below would remain as a masonry wall with punched window openings. He explained that the bays of residential windows would wrap around the southwest corner, resulting in an approximately two-foot extension of the facade.
Mr. Baranes emphasized the effort to improve the relationship between the different parts of the building. He said that the curve in the upper residential facade did not seem appropriate after the change in materials from steel and glass to masonry, resulting in the decision to propose an angled facade; the angle serves to relate the major retail bay along M Street to the residential massing. He explained that the upper residential floors are required to remain south of an easement line located approximately 40-50 feet behind the primary M Street facade. He presented the west elevation and said that the corners of the residential building relate to the corners of the retail base.
Mr. Baranes presented a series of views along M Street to address the issue of massing and scale for this retail facade. He said that other buildings along the block are not quite as wide as this parcel but there is nonetheless a variety of widths. He presented examples of other buildings within several blocks—including a former Woolworth's, now an Urban Outfitters store—that are of comparable width in the context of narrower buildings, providing precedent for this proposal. He said that these wider buildings express their size without attempting to replicate the scale of smaller buildings nearby. He therefore suggested that the retail space in this proposal be allowed to appear as a single mass, appropriately reflecting its intended use as a department store rather than create the appearance of multiple buildings. He added that the proposal includes signage for the building, but a more specific proposal would be developed when the tenant is identified, and the resulting design would be submitted to the Old Georgetown Board and Commission for approval.
Mr. Luebke noted that horizontal masonry detailing that was previously shown in the elevations has apparently been removed from the design; Mr. Baranes clarified that no design change is intended for this feature, but some of the texture is not clearly shown in the graphic images. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the proposed masonry material; Mr. Baranes said that terra cotta will be used if affordable, otherwise the material will be brick. Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the loss of open space near the historic market; Mr. Baranes explained that there is no change along the main portion of the west facade, but there is a small change of one or two feet at the southwest corner. He explained that the change resulted from the revised detailing of the massing and window patterns, rather than any intention to enlarge the building area.
Mr. Belle noted that he is seeing the project for the first time; he acknowledged the effort to relate to the varying contexts but commented that the design makes excessive use of varied window shapes and sizes to create variety and scale. He said that the proposed larger residential windows along the canal suggestion curtainwall construction rather than the intended industrial character. He recommended that the need for each window type be reevaluated in relationship to the overall design of the project. He commented that one comparable Georgetown building which Mr. Baranes had presented, containing a Barnes & Noble store, has essentially one window type for the entire building; he said that this treatment is more compatible with the Georgetown context than the current proposal. Mr. Baranes said that the window type proposed for the canal facade is seen on many of the existing buildings along the canal; Mr. Belle questioned this assessment. Mr. Baranes added that this project needs to address the contrasting scales of M Street and the canal, while the Barnes & Noble building has a more limited context; he said that the different window types are a response to the Commission's recommendation to improve the project's relationship to the varying contexts. Mr. Belle acknowledged that the canal and M Street elevations might need different window types but questioned the design of windows along the west facade. Mr. Baranes said that these are the same window type as proposed along the canal but pulled forward from the masonry to form a bay; Mr. Belle commented that the result is a different window. Mr. Baranes said that such shifts in window detailing are commonly done; he acknowledged the concern but said that the design is intended to address the multiple contexts of the project.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the simplification of the geometry and exterior materials. He said that this building will be large and can accommodate some variety of design; he noted that the other Georgetown examples that were presented are much smaller in scale and therefore may not be good comparisons. He nonetheless agreed with Mr. Belle that further simplification of the windows could be beneficial. Mr. Belle said that the simplification could occur on the west facade as well as along the canal on the south.
Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed canal elevation is greatly improved from the previous submission; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Rybczynski also supported the large scale of the revised canal elevation and said that further revision should be focused on the west facade. He asked for clarification of the design intention that is illustrated in the drawing; Mr. Baranes said that the windows would read like a vertical bay with similar proportions to the proposed canal facade. Ms. Balmori expressed support for the overall change to masonry in the revised design but said that the problematic area of windows is at the northwest corner, where there is an awkward connection between the M Street facade and the side elevation; she indicated the location of the glass corner with masonry above.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the intended treatment of the service entrance gate along M Street. Mr. Baranes said that this design has not been studied further since the previous review; the intention is to hire an artist to develop this feature. He acknowledged that the gate should be denser than previously shown and said that this guidance would be given to the artist. He added that the intention is to treat the gate as part of the alley rather than having the appearance of a building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked more generally about revisions to the M Street facade; Mr. Baranes responded that it has not changed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this facade is her primary concern, especially due to the long retail frontage along a pedestrian-oriented street and the proximity to smaller buildings such as the historic market; she acknowledged that the other revisions to the design are an improvement and said that the canal facade is sufficiently varied. She said that the two examples of wide Georgetown buildings presented by Mr. Baranes were both consistent with the character of their neighbors, while the proposed facade for this building is different than its context. As a result, she said that the proposed building appears larger and does not contribute to the continuity of the street. Mr. Baranes acknowledged that these comments were made in the previous review but said that he had understood the Commission's consensus to be in favor of the proposed M Street facade. Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's support for the canal elevation but noted the concern with the M Street facade.
Mr. Luebke noted that the building's M Street frontage—excluding the gate—is 123 feet long, which is substantially longer than the other examples that Mr. Baranes had shown. Mr. Baranes said that the Urban Outfitters frontage is comparable, while Mr. Luebke estimated that this shop is roughly 60 feet wide. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the Urban Outfitters storefront is composed of smaller segments that are comparable in scale to the storefronts of neighboring buildings, making it fit into the context regardless of its overall length. She contrasted this example with the proposed facade, which is longer and uses elements of a different scale than the nearby buildings.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed changes are an improvement to the design while questioning whether the bay windows are clearly illustrated in the drawings. She agreed that the M Street elevation needs further study and refinement of scale, commenting that it is too imposing from the pedestrian viewpoint; she emphasized that it will be seen by pedestrians from either directly in front, from the opposite side of M Street, or while moving along the street. She said that the west facade provides an appropriately intimate scale that supports the character of a narrow street alongside the historic market.
Mr. Rybczynski agreed that the M Street facade should be studied further, recommending that its design should catch up to the revisions made elsewhere in the project. Mr. Baranes recalled that Mr. McKinnell had supported the design of the M Street facade at the previous review and reiterated that he had understood this to be the Commission's consensus, with further revision to be focused on the rear of the building and the service gate. Mr. Rybczynski acknowledged this guidance but said that the revisions to the remainder of the building should now be carried through to the M Street facade, which currently does not appear to be well integrated into the overall design. He supported Mr. Baranes' intention to have the facade express the large scale of the department store within but said that the composition should nonetheless be studied further so that it is in the same "spirit" as the rest of the building. Mr. Baranes asked for more specific guidance on composing the elements of the facade. Mr. Rybczynski said that the large vertical elements appear not to be in character with the overall building. Ms. Balmori added that this is particularly problematic at the northwest corner.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to support the revisions toward the south side of the building while requesting further study of the M Street facade. Mr. Rybczynski clarified that the guidance is to relate this facade to the rest of the building rather than to break it up into separate storefronts that would suggest the presence of smaller shops. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the composition needs to recognize the scale of nearby buildings such as the historic market. Mr. Powell agreed with Ms. Balmori that the design of the northwest corner needs further revision and supported the idea of relating the design of this corner to the market building.
Mr. Belle acknowledged the difficulty of receiving varying advice from the Commission members present at each meeting but said that all of the advice is intended to help in improving the design. He said that the Commission's current concern with the M Street facade is a response to the inventive design revisions that have been made elsewhere in the project, resulting in a lack of discipline in the overall design clarity of the project; he compared this to the side elevation of the market building which effectively extends a single window type along the length of the facade. He also cited the example of the Barnes & Noble building which successfully uses large-scale windows with small panes set within a brick frame; he suggested this as a model for the canal facade. He summarized the Commission's guidance as the need to be more restrained in the design rather than exhibit a multiplicity of features.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept except for the M Street facade and requested the submission of an alternative design for this portion of the proposal.
2. OG 08-316, (H.P.A. 08-480), Safeway (retail grocery store), 1855 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. (Square 1299, Lot 1021). New replacement building. Concept. (Previous: OG 08-205, CFA 17/JUL/2008.) Mr. Martinez introduced the project, noting the report from the Old Georgetown Board that has been distributed to the Commission members. He said that the Commission had approved the general concept for massing and site planning in July 2008, including the proposal for a new two-story building with a Safeway grocery store and smaller shops that would directly face Wisconsin Avenue to replace the current grocery store that is located toward the rear of the large lot. He explained that the context in this area on the edge of Georgetown has a variety of building sizes, ages, and siting characteristics, in contrast to the dense commercial character of the Georgetown Park project reviewed previously on the agenda. He said that the Board has worked with the applicant on the detailing of the facade treatment, including the east facade which faces the National Park Service's Dumbarton Oaks Park; the Board is satisfied with the resulting design and has been pleased with the responsiveness of the project team. He explained that the current submission includes several revisions in response to the Board's latest review, including alterations to the entrance tower design and additional landscaping to screen the parking from Dumbarton Oaks Park. He noted that the Board continues to recommend ongoing coordination with the National Park Service and reiterated the guideline that signage for the small first-floor retail stores be no more than twelve inches tall. He introduced architect Brian O'Looney of Torti Gallas and Partners to present the design.
Mr. O'Looney described the site in upper Georgetown at the edge of the Glover Park neighborhood. He indicated the current configuration of the store at the rear of the lot and the parking lot in front along Wisconsin Avenue. He explained that this portion of Wisconsin Avenue is currently an interruption in the street's commercial character, with the Safeway parking lot on the east side and the Hardy School with its parking lot on the west side; he said that the site provides an opportunity to repair this gap by extending the nearly continuous retail frontage on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue south of the Safeway site. He said that the buildings immediately north of the Safeway site are appropriate to this urban design continuity and currently contain a small school and a bank; on the west side of the street, the large school, cemetery, and churchyard prevent the establishment of continuous urban fabric.
Ms. Nelson asked about the neighbor immediately south of the Safeway site; Mr. O'Looney responded that this is the location of a Boys and Girls Club branch that is entered from a side street through a parking lot. He indicated several larger buildings further to the north, including an embassy, an office building, and a hotel; to the south, he indicated the smaller buildings on the west side of the street that are typically retail stores at the scale of a town house, as well as the larger retail buildings on the east side of the street. He said that this project is intended to provide a transition between these scales and knit together the area.
Mr. O'Looney described the proposed site configuration. A driveway on the south side of the site would bring vehicles to an upper-level parking area that would be slightly below the height of the existing store's roof; this would be the entrance level for the Safeway store, which would be on the second story when viewed from Wisconsin Avenue. The first floor along the street would have the line of retail shops, with the enclosed loading dock and additional first-floor parking behind. He indicated the three ways for customers to enter the upper-level grocery store: from the upper-level parking lot; from the lobby adjacent to the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk, providing elevator, escalator, and stair access; or from an additional lobby in the lower-level parking area, also providing elevator, escalator, and stair access.
Mr. O'Looney explained that the Old Georgetown Board had identified several issues for further study: the signage of the Safeway and the smaller retail shops; the overall development of the facades; the site plan; and the relationship of the building to Dumbarton Oaks Park. He said that the current submission responds to these concerns and includes clearer graphics to illustrate the proposal. He indicated the removal of one Safeway sign from the facade, with two signs remaining on the exterior and additional signage to be located behind the windows. He said that the signage for the small retail stores will be provided in a signage band at the Board's request, with the additional potential for signage behind the glass; this signage would be submitted for review by the future tenants and would not include awnings. He explained that the drawings now illustrate more clearly the proposed use of fritted glass in day and night lighting conditions. Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of this feature; Mr. O'Looney indicated the fritted white frames around the clear windows, which is intended to balance the desire for an active evening appearance with Safeway's concern about excessive daylight coming into the store.
Mr. O'Looney described the overall intention to break up the mass of the large building with three related skin patterns; detailed drawings of each facade condition were provided to the Board for review, with the facade concept becoming simpler toward the rear of the building. He indicated the additional planting that is included at the Board's request adjacent to Dumbarton Oaks Park, commenting that the original intention was to leave the 20-foot-wide buffer area undisturbed in its natural state. He noted that the rear foundation of the existing store would be retained to make excavation unnecessary along the park, and that the height of the park facade would be almost identical to the existing building in order to screen the two-story portion of the project from the park. He presented the views and site sections requested by the Board that illustrate the appearance of the project from the park, which would not significantly change from the current condition. He indicated an egress stair that has been relocated at the request of the D.C. government for safety reasons, necessitating the addition of a walkway that will extend through a planted area. He noted that the project has been coordinated with the National Park Service which has provided verbal comment that it has no objection to the project.
Mr. O'Looney said that the building will have a "cool roof" with a white color that will contribute to the energy efficiency of the design. Ms. Balmori asked why the upper roof is not being used as a parking lot. Mr. O'Looney explained that one reason is the building structure: the interior of the grocery store functions better with a long-span structural system over certain areas—specifically the fresh produce and checkout areas. He said that another reason is the aesthetic preference for a two-story height along Wisconsin Avenue to provide the appropriate transition between the shorter and taller buildings in the vicinity. Ms. Balmori asked about the potential for a green roof; Mr. O'Looney responded that this was not considered for the project. Ms. Balmori expressed regret at this decision, commenting that a green roof would be a benefit to Georgetown.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the metal features on the west facade. Mr. O'Looney explained that they were originally part of the solar shading system for the windows and could also serve to hold banners; the Board had recommended simplification of the facades so most of these were removed, but several were retained on the west facade where the solar shading is most critical.
Mr. O'Looney presented the proposed materials; he said that the on-site mockup requested by the Board is currently being erected. He explained that two types of red brick would be used at the Board's request, with the darker one for the lower portion of the building and the lighter brick above. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori commented that the renderings do not adequately distinguish between the two colors of brick. Mr. O'Looney also indicated the darker brick that would be used for accents on the piers. He explained that the facade toward the park would include a reddish cast stone that would not contrast with the brick, in order to avoid drawing attention from the park; other parts of the building would have white cast stone that would relate to the typical materials of Georgetown. Similarly, the mortar would be a traditional white color but with larger sand particles to reflect Georgetown's character. The steel framings of the openings would be painted a flat charcoal color; the mullions and brise-soleil fins would have a more metallic version of the same color to give a more modern appearance.
Chairman Powell asked about the project schedule. Mr. O'Looney said that the design team is currently working on construction drawings and intends to coordinate periodically with the Old Georgetown Board in accordance with the Board's request. Mr. Powell commended the design and suggested that the Commission give final approval to the project; Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that the design is well developed.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the roof-deck lighting be carefully considered and tall lighting poles not be included in the design; she commented that architectural efforts to avoid attracting attention to the parking can be undermined by prominent lighting. Mr. O'Looney said that this issue has been considered, and lighting was part of the study of the project's relation to Dumbarton Oaks Park. He indicated that there are no light posts at the rear part of the parking deck; Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that posts are nonetheless included in the middle of the deck, and she suggested that the height of the posts be lowered. Mr. O'Looney said that these posts would be twelve feet tall, a relatively low height for retail settings, and explained that none of the lighting infrastructure would be visible from the park; the lighting at the east edge of the parking deck would be incorporated into the parapet wall. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if lighting could be provided entirely from bollards rather than from tall poles; Mr. O'Looney said that such low-level lighting is only used in small areas such as the proposed treatment of the eastern edge of the deck. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested the Cranbrook campus design as an example to follow for the lighting. Mr. Powell said that this would be a detail that could be resolved after the concept stage; Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the Commission is also considering a final approval.
Mr. Luebke noted that the final approval could not actually be granted until the building permit application is submitted to the Commission; he said that the Commission could instead choose to delegate the final approval to the staff so that an additional presentation would not be necessary.
Mr. Belle commented that the success of this project is dependent on careful execution of the details; he said that elimination of the subtle detailing, perhaps due to value engineering, could result in the project becoming an ugly box. He advised the Safeway representative in the audience that the Commission would be approving the project on the basis of the quality of details being presented and cautioned that these features should be retained in the final construction to the greatest extent possible. Ms. Balmori asked how the Commission could ensure that the detailing remains in the construction of the building. Mr. Martinez responded that the normal review of construction drawings is intended to address this issue, with the Board examining the documentation of the details; Mr. Luebke added that the staff will also review the construction drawings. Mr. O'Looney said that the client has been very supportive of the design, and the details in the current submission are included in the construction documents that are currently being prepared.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept and delegated review of the final design to the staff, with the guidance that the detailing should be consistent with the concept being presented.
SL 09-010, 4613 Colorado Avenue, NW. (Square 2659, Lot 836). New single-family residence. Concept. Ms. Batcheler explained that the proposal is for a new house on a vacant lot, using modular construction with a cladding of stone and siding. She said that the architect had intended to present the design but was unable to attend; she introduced the contractor, John Moody, to present the design.
Mr. Moody explained that the site is on the east side of Colorado Avenue, across the street from Rock Creek Park. The site is over 5,000 square feet, and the proposed house would occupy less than 40 percent of the lot. He clarified that there was not a previous structure on the site, adding that the proposal has been approved by the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustments with the support of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. He presented the design, including the house and attached garage, and explained that the facade will be a combination of stone at the first floor facing the street and plank siding elsewhere, including the second story of the street facade.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed general support for the creation of housing, particularly single-family housing, within the city. She commented on the importance of avoiding a builder-grade subdivision appearance and recommended several modifications that would improve the design while maintaining the project's affordability and ease of construction. She suggested that the varying sizes of the proposed windows be regularized as much as possible, particularly to use the same proportions in the pane and overall window sizes; she acknowledged that this requires careful selection from among the varying window types offered by a manufacturer. She commented that harmonious detailing would help make the building look less like a product and more like the result of a thoughtful design. She said that this improvement is particularly important for the front facade, but she and Mr. Belle added that this advice should also be applied to all sides of the building. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended that the wing containing the garage and master bedroom be moved further back, which would provide more screening by the main house of parked cars in front and would give a sense of privacy and definition to the back yard; she noted that the proposed design has a setback of only three feet. She acknowledged that the slope of the site might limit the ability to adjust the garage location. She said that these recommendations should not prevent the project from moving forward; Chairman Powell noted that the submission is only at the concept stage.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for further information on the exterior materials. Mr. Moody responded that the siding would be HardiePlank [a pre-painted cementitious cladding material]. The roof would be asphalt shingles and the first-floor street facade would be a stone veneer, with the exact specification not yet determined. Mr. Rybczynski commented that this combination of materials has an undesirable suburban appearance, and he suggested that using only the HardiePlank for the facade would be preferable. Mr. Luebke noted that the houses in the neighborhood are generally masonry, including brick and more elaborate materials, rather than siding. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if brick would be preferable to stone for the base. Mr. Moody said that stone was the client's preference; Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that more options for this material be discussed with the client. Ms. Balmori agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that the stone detail is problematic, and a single facade material would be preferable. Mr. Moody said that one option that was considered included a different Hardie siding product in a shingled pattern for the upper half of the front facade. Mr. Belle discouraged a multiplicity of materials, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the HardiePlank would be preferable to the Hardie shingle siding. Ms. Nelson agreed with the recommendation to unify the design by simplifying the materials.
Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the material for the upper part of the foundation walls; Mr. Moody said that this would be pre-cast concrete from Superior Walls. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the stone be extended down to the ground over these walls, commenting that the proposed separation of the stone from the ground gives a problematic appearance; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Moody said that this option was considered but would be costly; he said that eliminating the stone from the remaining part of the facade, as recommended by the Commission members, would provide a cost saving that could be used to instead place the stone along the foundation walls. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this solution would be preferable to the proposed design, providing emphasis to the HardiePlank facade; Mr. Belle agreed. Mr. Moody clarified that all of the materials have been presented, and there is no brick in the proposed design.
Mr. Moody asked if the corner boards and frieze boards could remain in the design with the change to use HardiePlanks for the full facade; several Commission members supported these features of the design, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that these boards would be needed as part of the modular construction.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept for the house subject to the recommendations that were offered concerning the windows, exterior materials, and setback of the garage; the Commission also delegated the review of the final design to the staff.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:18 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: March 3, 2009