Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
16 July 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 10:13 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 June meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the minutes. 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: 17 September, 15 October, and 19 November; no meeting is scheduled in August.
C. Report on Position Announcement. Mr. Luebke announced that the Commission has publicized a listing for a temporary, full-time position for an architectural historian/writer/editor to support the Centennial project. He said the job is posted on the government website, USAJobs.
Mr. Luebke noted the presence of four Commission members, providing a quorum for the meeting. He also reported that the Commission had just returned from site visits related to two cases on the agenda, and suggested to the Chairman that these be discussed during the review.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported two additions to the draft appendix. The agenda had listed the concept design for the Metropolitan Police Department Evidence Control Facility. With the Chairman's agreement, this has been moved to the Consent Calendar with a favorable recommendation. Mr. Lindstrom suggested that the Commission may wish to delegate final approval of the forthcoming construction documents to the staff; Chairman Powell supported this delegation.
Mr. Lindstrom also noted the addition of a staff approval under delegated authority for the final submission of the Union Station perimeter security project; this has been added to the report of delegated actions at the end of the appendix.
Mr. Lindstrom noted that the first item on the appendix is submitted by the District of Columbia Courts, and Mr. Belle has recused himself from some D.C. Courts submissions in the past due to his firm's work on the Old Courthouse renovation; however, the current submission concerns Building C which has not involved Mr. Belle's firm, and no recusal would therefore be necessary.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar, as well as delegated authority to the staff for final review of the Evidence Control Facility.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported the changes to the draft appendix. The three negative recommendations in the draft—concerning two sign proposals and the renovation of a historic building at George Washington University—have been changed to favorable recommendations after further consultation with the applicants. Upon motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See item II.I for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martínez reported that two projects on the draft appendix have been removed due to requests by the applicants for additional time. Recommendations for several projects were also adjusted in response to supplemental drawings that have been received. Supplemental drawings are still expected for two projects, one involving a parking pad and another involving window replacement; Mr. Martínez requested authorization for the staff to finalize these recommendations after further coordination with the applicants. Upon motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix subject to the final processing noted by Mr. Martínez.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/JUL/09-1, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, Square 580, Washington Avenue (Canal Street) and 2nd and C Streets, SW. Architectural site design (Final); inscriptions and artwork (revised concept). (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/09-2.) Mr. Luebke summarized the submission which includes the final architectural and landscape design, as well as a revised concept for the artwork for the glass walls and the proposed text inscriptions. He said that the design has been developed since the previous review and includes detailed proposals for planting and lighting, including the elimination of some previously proposed lighting poles. He noted the Commission's inspection of a mockup of the proposed artwork earlier in the day at the sponsoring foundation's offices, including options for including or omitting some of the bronze cutouts and for varying styles of graphics and attributions for the proposed text. Chairman Powell commented that the inspection of the artwork was productive and informative; he thanked the project team for arranging the display.
Mr. Luebke introduced Doug Jacobs, the Deputy Associate Regional Director for Lands, Planning and Resources for the National Park Service, to begin the presentation. Mr. Jacobs emphasized the value of the artwork inspection in understanding the proposed design; he asked Barry Owenby from the Disabled Veterans LIFE Memorial Foundation, the sponsoring organization, to introduce the design team. Mr. Owenby said that landscape architect Michael Vergason would present the overall memorial design, while the artwork and text would be presented by sculptor Larry Kirkland and graphic designer Jerome Cloud.
Mr. Owenby introduced Gordon Mansfield from the foundation's board of directors to provide opening remarks. Mr. Mansfield thanked the Commission for its past advice, commenting that the memorial's design has been improved by the changes that have been made in response to the Commission's recommendations.
Mr. Kirkland presented the revised concept for the glass art walls, which he said have been named "The Voices of the Veterans." Noting the Commission's familiarity with the proposal from the inspection of the mockup prior to the meeting, he summarized the overall goals of the artwork. He said the design team has refined the text and visual elements to ensure that all disabled veterans, as well as those associated with them, will be able to "see themselves in this memorial," adding that the artwork is intended to acknowledge, with "eloquence and emotional resonance," the service of the veterans, their struggles and difficulties, and the nation's responsibility.
Mr. Vergason provided further details of the proposed final design. He summarized the proposed lighting, with fixtures to provide highlights within the memorial supplementing the ambient lighting provided by streetlights around the perimeter of the site. He presented photographs generated through an imaging technique to illustrate the luminosity of surfaces, explaining that these photographs describe the brightness of the context and proposed memorial. He clarified that the proposed lighting would have a warm white color, not well illustrated in these photographs. He indicated the proposed lighting of the silhouettes along the glass walls, describing the dramatic shifting effect as the viewer moves through the area. He listed the range of fixtures proposed, including metal halide and LEDs, and emphasized that the memorial's flame as well as the Capitol dome would be the most prominent features at night.
Mr. Vergason described the various stones proposed for the memorial: Bethel white granite for the stone walls; "Virginia Mist" granite for the paving; and "Absolute Black" granite for the fountain features, using a combination of flame, honed, and split-face finishes. He described the gentle grading of the site and the drainage into shallow infiltration swales around the perimeter of the project. He provided additional information on the proposed plantings, including the mixture of shrubs forming a hedge on the south end of the site to screen views of the highway ramps as well as provide a pleasant fragrance across the site. He said that the design includes ample soil volume for healthy growth of the proposed ginkgo trees, noting the complication of subsurface design due to the highway tunnels beneath the site.
Mr. Vergason presented construction details of the glass walls and the stone walls; the stones would be large to emphasize the solidity and permanence of the walls, and the horizontal joints would be raked slightly to emphasize the long, low lines of the memorial. He indicated the water supply and drainage details of the water features; the fountain's water storage component is designed with additional capacity to accommodate rainfall which can be used to replace the evaporative loss of water from the system. Falling water at some locations would provide an ambient noise for the memorial. He described the details of the proposed flame at the center of the star-shaped pool: the flame would be fueled by natural gas and would rise through the upper two inches of water, creating motion through the movement of the fuel and the wind conditions. The flame would be maintained at a diameter and height of approximately three feet during typical visitor hours, varying by season, and at one to two feet during non-peak hours in order to reduce fuel consumption. He concluded by presenting stone samples for the Commission's inspection.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the proposed hedges on the south. Mr. Vergason responded that a linear hedge of osmanthus, a fragrant evergreen, would be clipped to a height of four feet. Behind this hedge, in an area not readily accessible to the public, would be curved lines of informal plantings including calycanthus and clethra; these would provide additional fragrance within the memorial, sited to take advantage of summer breezes from the south. No grass would be included in this area. He indicated the pedestrian walkway across the southern portion of the site, maintaining a frequently used connection between nearby office building areas; pedestrians along this walkway would be "partially engaged" in the memorial and would animate the design by providing a shifting backdrop behind the glass walls.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about detailing the tops of the monumental stone walls, including the shedding of rainwater and dirt. Mr. Vergason responded that the walls are internally drained and would not have water washing over the sides.
Ms. Nelson asked if solar studies had been prepared, including consideration of the summer temperature at the memorial. Mr. Vergason emphasized that sunlight is an important feature of the memorial's design, since it will create the backlighting of the glass walls and provide a character that varies with the time of day and year as well as weather conditions. He noted that the east face of the stone walls, toward the memorial's plaza, would be in shadow during the afternoon, and the ginkgo trees would grow to provide extensive shade. He added that the building to the west, the headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services, would provide additional summer shade in the late afternoon; overall, the memorial would benefit from abundant sunlight at most times while having stronger shading late in the day.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the desirability of obtaining tall ginkgo trees for installation; Mr. Vergason responded that they would have an initial height of 20 to 22 feet, with the lower 9 feet clear of limbs. He said the specified "Princeton Sentry" trees are relatively compact but would grow to provide a continuous canopy at the tree spacing proposed in the site design.
Mr. Belle asked for a description of the typical route of a visitor through the memorial. Mr. Vergason responded that the pedestrian circulation is not controlled, but most people are expected to come to the memorial from the National Mall, arriving first at the star-shaped pool; other visitors will arrive by bus along 2nd Street, where they will have a view through the gap between the stone walls toward the star and the Capitol building. After visiting the star, people would be drawn southward toward the glass panels, which will have a distinctive glow in daylight or from night lighting. The grove of trees around the glass panels would provide visitors with an opportunity for reflection before exiting; they would probably depart in the same direction from which they arrived. Benches would be provided at many locations throughout the memorial.
Mr. Powell commented that the illustration of lighting for the west walls suggests a scalloped effect from below; he asked if this depiction is accurate. Mr. Vergason said that fixtures would be located at six-foot intervals and are intended to provide a soft continuous light.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell expressed support for the final design. Ms. Nelson commented that many people are likely to arrive by Metrorail and will enter the memorial from the south near the grove of trees. She also emphasized the importance of providing shade in conjunction with benches, observing that people will sometimes improvise a seating location in the shade rather than use sunlit benches. She said that people might therefore sit against the stone walls if that is the most attractive shaded area, and asked if this would be an acceptable result. Mr. Vergason responded that such improvised seating would normally be a welcome feature but might be unwanted at this memorial due to the desire to maintain "a certain dignity and decorum." He said that benches were previously proposed along the stone walls but have been removed from the design to avoid interference with visitors reading the quotations inscribed on the walls; other benches are proposed nearby, providing views across the plaza toward the inscriptions. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle supported this revision.
Mr. Belle commented that the memorial appears to be characterized by a linear sequence of features and inscriptions that the visitor will want to follow, and the design should therefore encourage the appropriate direction of moving through the space.
Ms. Nelson asked about the winter treatment of the water features. Mr. Vergason responded that the intention is to drain the reflecting pool in winter, and to slightly reduce the depth of water in the star-shaped pool to allow recirculation of the water surrounding the flame without overflowing into the reflecting pool.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the final overall design for the memorial.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission continue with a discussion and separate motion concerning the revised concept for the artwork and inscriptions. Chairman Powell confirmed the Commission's support for the concept seen in the inspection earlier in the day; Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that the revisions to the inscriptions have improved the proposal. She said that she and other Commission members, upon viewing the mockup, were commenting favorably on the proposed quotations and wanted to see more information included on the source: the proposal includes names but not dates nor an identification of the speaker's role such as "nurse," "senator," or "marine." Mr. Owenby responded that such additional information should be made available in a brochure that would be distributed by the National Park Service; he said that this solution, while not fully addressing the Commission's concern, would allow the memorial design to better achieve the objective of timelessness. He said that an additional reason not to include such information in the inscriptions is the desire not to create excessive distraction from the quotations themselves. The project team had considered omitting even the names of the speakers but concluded that this limited information would be appropriate for inclusion. Ms. Nelson said that history is not timeless but has a time and place, with the speakers having a specific lifespan; she reiterated the comment that inclusion of such information would be desirable.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that, after viewing the mockup, the Commission members had discussed several issues related to the relevance of including dates. The demographic profile of disabled veterans has been changing in recent years due to improved survival rates from injuries; this affects the decision to construct the memorial in our current historical period. She added that many of the issues involved are timeless, and visitors would be interested to observe that quotations from many decades ago remain current. She commented that the physical form of the memorial will necessarily reflect the current period in which it is designed, and the intention of making the memorial "timeless" should therefore not be an important objective.
Mr. Cloud responded that the research for the quotations had resulted in little relevant material from earlier historical periods—such as the Revolutionary War and Civil War—because of the low survival rates at those times. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that this is part of the memorial's story. Mr. Cloud added that much of the source material is from World War II and later, while the proposal does include some older quotations to convey the continuum of the issues. The decision to omit additional identifying information is intended to avoid an implied bias toward any particular conflict or branch of the military, instead emphasizing the universal meaning of the quotations; he emphasized that future visitors should feel that the memorial reflects their own experiences rather than a particular past historical era.
Chairman Powell acknowledged these concerns and agreed that the brochure with additional information would be a satisfactory solution; he encouraged simplicity in the memorial design in order to emphasize the universal experiences of war rather than specific conflicts. Mr. Owenby added that visitors could easily obtain further information about these quotations through internet searches. Ms. Nelson commented that visitors would primarily experience the quotations by standing in front of them, and would be quite literal in viewing the memorial, perhaps concluding that the people depicted in the artwork are the source of the quotations. Mr. Cloud added that a "virtual experience" will be an important aspect of this project, particularly because many disabled veterans will not be able to visit the memorial. The sponsoring foundation is therefore considering development of a website to experience the memorial, and the website would be able to provide more data, including recognition of additional people, that would go beyond the content included in the built memorial. Mr. Powell reiterated his support for the combination of a simple memorial and the availability of more extensive historical information in other forms.
Mr. Nelson commented that the combination of lighting and typography on the glass walls would give the lettering a "mysterious and evocative" effect that would differ with each viewing, especially at night. She said that the artwork would also provide a thoughtful experience for the significant number of commuters who will routinely use the walkway through the site.
Mr. Owenby said that the sponsoring foundation is satisfied that the current proposal for artwork and text will be the final design, although submitted as a revised concept. He confirmed that the choice of images and quotations has been finalized, and any unanticipated changes would be brought back to the Commission for review. Ms. Nelson noted that the decision whether to add coloring to the lettering on the stone has not yet been made; Mr. Cloud confirmed that a proposal would be determined after cutting sample lettering into the stone.
Mr. Owenby suggested that the artwork and text could be approved as a final design, although submitted as a revised concept; Mr. Belle and Chairman Powell supported this suggestion. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposal is not fully documented nor have all proposed design decisions been identified, as would be typical in a final design. He suggested that the Commission could approve this part of the submission as a revised concept while delegating approval of the final design to the staff, including additional guidance to the staff if desired, or could request that a final submission be presented to the Commission.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the artwork and quotations as a revised concept, and delegated the approval of the final design to the staff. He added that there do not appear to be any significant outstanding issues that would delay the project from moving forward. Mr. Owenby acknowledged that this action would require submitting technical documents to the staff for review. Chairman Powell noted that any significant changes that arise would be brought back to the Commission for review.
2. CFA 16/JUL/09-2, Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and Grounds, West Potomac Park. Rehabilitation of pool, landscape improvements for Elm Walks, and installation of security barriers for east plaza of the Memorial. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/08-3, temporary security barriers.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service for the rehabilitation of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and Grounds in West Potomac Park, explaining that this work includes legislatively mandated physical security for the memorial. He noted that proposals to address perimeter security for the memorial have been seen multiple times in the last five years—most recently in September 2008, when a proposal for a temporary line of security barriers at the memorial's east front was reviewed. At that time, the Commission encouraged the National Park Service to develop a permanent solution as soon as possible; this project now has funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He asked Doug Jacobs of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. Jacobs said one component of this project is replacing the temporary perimeter security barriers on the east side of the circle around the Lincoln Memorial. He introduced landscape architect Alan Ward from Sasaki Associates.
Mr. Ward presented the general design alternatives developed for the project; the Elm Walks, other existing walkways, and the Lincoln Memorial Circle are included within the site boundary. He said the proposal would integrate a vehicle-barrier system with a new handicapped-accessible route between the memorial's east plaza and the level of the plaza at the west end of the Reflecting Pool. He said that the terracing at the pool's west end is a constructed land form that has softened and been altered over the years; this project can restore the original terracing. The proposal also includes replacement of the temporary lighting along the Elm Walks and installation of new walkways parallel to the Reflecting Pool. He said that the major issue is preserving the power of the Mall axis.
Mr. Ward presented slides illustrating a computer analysis of grade changes, including the flood-control levee on the north; he indicated the relation of the terracing to the steps and landings at the west end of the pool, and described how the grades have changed.
Mr. Ward discussed the history of the site and how that has influenced the proposal. He said the McMillan Plan proposed a formal geometric scheme for West Potomac Park, including a cross-axis extending north and south of the area into the flanking open spaces; the site now has an overlay of picturesque design because of the construction of Constitution Gardens, with curving walkways linking the area to the Vietnam and Korean memorials. He said the design team had considered what geometry would be appropriate in the zone beyond the Elm Walks, and had drawn a comparison of the Elm Walks to the features of French gardens. He explained that architect Henry Bacon's early renderings for his Lincoln Memorial design, as well as later designs for the area by others, showed a walkway along the Reflecting Pool separated from the pool by a narrow strip of lawn. In Bacon's original design, a lawn wrapped around the west end of the pool; various sloped walkways and paved areas have been added over the years. He noted that the National Park Service's 1999 Cultural Landscape Report for the Lincoln Memorial and Grounds identified the site's contributing features and that the lower plaza is a later feature.
Mr. Ward described several issues involving the Reflecting Pool. Although the coping is stable, the bottom of the pool is not well supported and has been leaking due to subsidence; poor water quality and algae growth is also a concern. He said that the project team is considering how to improve sustainability by providing more stable fill beneath the pool and finding alternative sources of water rather than using water from the D.C. drinking supply.
Mr. Ward discussed the issue of accessibility and the many studies the design team explored to provide barrier-free routes. He explained that many of the existing walkways, both historic and non-historic, have slopes exceeding the modern regulatory limits for accessibility. Options that have been considered include extending ramps along the Elm Walks, or moving sloping walkways further to the north and south, into or beyond the zone of the Elm Walks.
Mr. Ward said the project team examined a variety of concepts for completing the perimeter security of vehicle barriers around the memorial. Permanent bollards at the location of the existing temporary barriers, while a simple solution, would be visually too prominent across the Mall axis, as would combining bollards into planting zones on the lower level. One alternative would be to lower the west end of the Reflecting Pool to a depth of three feet and use its coping and foundation wall as a barrier, connecting to lines of bollards in various configurations; this option would not visually interrupt the axis. He described other options using "tiger traps"—areas of fill which compress when driven on by vehicles—combined with low walls; the tiger traps, however, would pose a risk to maintenance vehicles and might not achieve the desired level of security. He said another option could combine a wall with bollards buried in plantings following the east-west line of the pool coping, but this would interrupt the composition of landings and steps in the landscape.
Mr. Ward said that the design team then refined the alternatives to develop three options that would address both accessibility and the vehicular barrier. Option 1 uses simple curvilinear walkways or ramps to the north and south that lead to the existing walkways; the new walkways are symmetrical and oval in plan and have a 1-in-12 grade with a wall along the edge, as well as new grading, low walls and bollards, and a new pair of stairs with landings and handrails. He indicated that, in this option, bollards would not be located in the zone of the central axis; instead, the grading would be lowered at the west end of the pool to create a three-foot high wall and curb. Option 2 is similar but moves the walls and new grading further to the north and south, and uses a continuous line of bollards along the inside curve of the walkway or ramp, instead of the combination of walls and bollards in Option 1. He confirmed that Option 2 would, like Option 1, not require bollards across the Mall axis. In Option 3, the intention is to avoid placing bollards at right angles to the Reflecting Pool near the Mall axis; the proposal is to place bollards along a continuation of the east-west lines of the pool coping so that the bollards are aligned with the axial view rather than perpendicular to it. He said that all options include parallel walkways adjacent to the Reflecting Pool; for ease of maintenance, no strip of lawn is proposed between the walkways and pool. He said that the pair of curving walkways or ramps, similar in the three options, are shaped like a slightly depressed oval to blend in more easily with the picturesque curvilinear geometry of Constitution Gardens.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that Option 2 differs from Option 1 by including continuous rows of bollards along the curved walkways without placing bollards across the walkways. She suggested that this configuration could also be incorporated into Option 1; Mr. Ward explained that the walls and bollards could be interchanged on any of the options. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the full length of the curving walkways appears to be necessary to achieve the necessary grade change; Mr. Ward confirmed this grade constraint. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the depth of the retaining wall proposed in Option 2, where the grade is depressed near the pool. Mr. Ward responded that a security analysis study is underway that will assess the appropriate height, but the current height shown on the plans is 36 inches on the side requiring security. A six-inch curb would be included along the side facing walkways, acting as a warning for pedestrians and reducing the apparent height of the walls. At some locations, the wall height facing walkways could be lower to function as seating. He said the proposal would be between the heights of recently built walls at the Washington Monument (30 inches) and on the other portions of the Lincoln Memorial Circle (42 inches). Mr. Belle asked if skateboard barriers would be placed on the tops of walls. Mr. Ward responded that the proposal has not yet been developed to that level of detail; Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the other recently built walls do not have such a feature.
Mr. Ward described the proposed alterations at Lincoln Memorial Circle. A walkway would be shifted to allow replanting a portion of the double row of elm trees intended for the circle. He indicated four trees near the circle that, in each option, would be removed due to the proposed additional walkways. He explained the intention to coordinate the proposed walkways with the existing walkways leading to the nearby Vietnam and Korean memorials and the goal of creating an integral compositional element.
Ms. Nelson commented that walls would serve to discourage people from going into certain lawn areas, while bollards would be a signal that the barrier is porous and visitors would be welcome on the lawns. Mr. Ward said that the National Park Service could put chains between bollards if a barrier is needed to protect the lawn areas. Ms. Nelson emphasized that walls would provide a clear direction that people should not enter the lawn areas.
Mr. Ward explained that the Elm Walks currently have temporary light standards located on the inner edges of the walkways, and a row of trash receptacles and benches on their outer edges; the proposal is to place all site furnishings toward the outer edges. He said the design team has been studying the best scale for the lights, concluding that they should extend into the tree canopy so that the trees would mask the fixtures. Low-level lights would shine over the walkways and would be configured with baffles to avoid undesirable reflections in the pool, in order to strengthen the power of the Washington Monument's reflection. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the lights could instead be placed on the inner sides of the walkways where they could shine away from the Reflecting Pool. Mr. Ward said this would address the issue of lighting reflections but would also add unwanted elements between pedestrians and the pool; the intention is therefore to solve the reflection problem through down-lights and baffling.
Ms. Nelson questioned whether the width of the walkways is sufficient, commenting that busloads of visitors arrive in this area during the day. Mr. Ward confirmed that the large number of visitors extends into night tours; he said that this is the reason the National Park Service wants to provide lights in this area, even though they were not part of the original design. He said the goal is to minimize the visual impact of the lights while providing for safety. Mr. Belle commented that the monumental scale of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial could support wider walkways, noting the difficulty of crossing where people frequently walk three or four abreast. Mr. Ward said the project team has discussed the width extensively, including the tendency of joggers to create a path on the nearby dirt rather than use a paved walkway, regardless of width; one possibility is therefore to extend the walkways with a softer surface that provides a transition to the ground surface. Additional width could also affect the roots of the nearby elm trees, but he said that the trees should be able to withstand this. He noted that the width of the Elm Walks relates to the width of the stairs as the route continues west to Lincoln Memorial Circle. Mr. Belle suggested a subtle curb to more clearly define the landscape edge. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposed new walkways along the Reflecting Pool would draw many visitors away from using the Elm Walks; Mr. Ward acknowledged that the Elm Walks currently have an unattractive modern asphalt surface instead of the original scored concrete. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the length of the proposed walkways along the Reflecting Pool; Mr. Ward responded that they would extend the full length of the pool, with a slight deflection at the east end, although the presentation emphasizes enlarged plans for the pool's west end.
Ms. Nelson commented that bollards would be an intrusion on the landscape, having the appearance of "teeth," whereas seating would be a welcome amenity in this area; she therefore supported the use of low walls. She said that the recent low wall around much of the Lincoln Memorial is handsome, and its 42-inch height is apparently greater than needed in the Reflecting Pool vicinity; Mr. Ward confirmed the proposed height of 36 inches or possibly less, depending on the security analysis.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about alternative configurations of the bollards, walls, paths, and grade changes at the west end of the Reflecting Pool, raising the possibility of having a wall or bollards in a continuous line on the inside of the curved path, and moving the depressed area further outside so that the area in front of the pool could be flat, with no depression. She suggested that the depressed areas could be placed near the next walkway, or that another combination of slopes, bollards, and walls could be used. She agreed with the desirability of additional seating provided by the retaining walls but expressed concern about people falling into the depressed areas and emphasized the desirability of a uniform grade for the entire landing area of lawn and pavement. Mr. Ward said some of these concepts are included in Option 1 and reiterated that some options for bollards and walls are interchangeable.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's guidance over the past four years has emphasized the desire not to have barriers stretch across the central visual axis between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. He said Option 1 therefore uses a depression located with a wall, and Option 3 includes a depression while also aligning bollards to avoid intruding in this vista. He noted the advantages of creating the depression, including the provision of seating as well as the avoidance of visual intrusion when seen from a distance. He said that the design needs to balance these various issues, adding that these areas are already depressed to accommodate drainage. Mr. Ward noted that the proposed interventions affect areas that are currently awkwardly graded, do not have a clear relationship to the levels of the more prominent terraces, and exhibit extreme wear from their frequent use by service vehicles; however, the interventions would not disturb the historic character of the nearby terraces.
Ms. Nelson commended the project team's careful thinking and encouraged treating the site furniture as part of the overall design of a "gracious" landscape. Mr. Ward responded that currently the site furniture is limited to the Elm Walks, with the exception of two trash receptacles at either side of the Reflecting Pool. Ms. Nelson observed that there are many available trash receptacles around the Lincoln Memorial; Mr. Ward said that these are successful in controlling litter.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Nelson asked about the "messy" vendor stands within the view, including some very close to the Lincoln Memorial steps. Steve Lorenzetti, Deputy Superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks, explained that the vending is a First Amendment activity that is considered permissible by the courts in certain areas of the Mall.
Chairman Powell expressed satisfaction that this area is now getting the attention it deserves; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed. Mr. Powell asked if the project team prefers a particular option; Mr. Ward said the sequence of options shows the evolution of the team's thinking, with a preference for Option 3. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson commented that every removal of a bollard is a victory. Mr. Ward noted that some bollards are added in the proposals but in less prominent locations; Mr. Powell said that the Commission members support the effort to make the bollards more discreet. Mr. Luebke said that some details must still be resolved, such as the configuration where bollards and retaining walls meet, but overall there has been a productive collaboration among agencies.
Chairman Powell reiterated his support for the project, commenting that it is moving in a positive direction. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the drawings in the next submission be more clear, such as through the use of color, in depicting the subtle three-dimensional proposals for the topography; Ms. Nelson suggested preparing a physical model. Mr. Ward acknowledged the diagrammatic nature of the computer-generated graphics used in this early stage to explore options; as the plans are developed further, he said that more accurate renderings will be created. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept subject to the comments that were discussed.
3. CFA 16/JUL/09-3, West Potomac Park Levee Project, 17th Street, south of Constitution Avenue, NW. Phase II, Landscape design and material selection for levee walls. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/09-01.) Mr. Luebke said that the first phase of the West Potomac Park Levee Project—including the location and configuration of the levee components—had been approved in April with the understanding that the second phase would soon follow. The current submission of the second phase includes material selections and details of the stone facing, along with the final landscape design. He noted that the Commission members had visited the site earlier in the day to inspect a mockup of the wall showing two types of stone and a proposed coursing, adding that the revised wall design no longer requires an extensive expression of the concrete superstructure. Doug Jacobs of the National Park Service said that the design team has also resolved more of the technical and structural details of the project, allowing for a more accurate design of the infrastructure; he introduced landscape architect David Rubin of OLIN to present the design.
Mr. Rubin summarized the issues and past alternatives for the levee. He illustrated the site's relation to its surroundings, including the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and Constitution Gardens, and views along the Virginia Avenue and 17th Street corridors. He described the required datum height of 18.7 feet for the top of the levee, the current and proposed walkway alignments, the proposed work included under Phases I and II, the required zone without substantial plantings along the crest of the levee, and the proposed grading, planting, and materials. He said proposed materials include seeded asphalt concrete unit pavers; two types of granite; cast-in-place concrete; and an end post receiver that could be made of Cor-Ten steel, bronze, or stainless steel, with the design team's preference being bronze.
Mr. Rubin discussed the options for tree planting to frame views of the Washington Monument along the alignment of Virginia Avenue in Constitution Gardens. Planting Option 1, he said, is to place lower plantings in the foreground, with the Washington Monument rising above them to give a sense of its scale; Planting Option 2 is to use taller trees in the foreground to frame the corridor and monument beneath the high limbs. He said there are several additional options for the plantings: one approach would be to reflect the current design, in which allees of evenly spaced trees are placed along the walkways leading to the plaza; another would use a more even distribution of canopy and flowering trees; and a third option would be a modification of the second, using fewer canopy trees and more flowering trees. He listed the proposed tree types, mostly native species that would provide texture, color, and flowers throughout the seasons.
Mr. Rubin presented two alternatives for the stone material. One alternative is the blue-gray granite used for the barrier walls at the Washington Monument. The other alternative is the weathered American granite used for the nearby Lockkeeper's House and the terrace walls in Constitution Gardens, also similar to the stone walls of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. He described the detailing at the junction of the end of each wall and the metal receiver as well as the typical expression of the expansion joints. He said the options for stone coursing include varying the base courses to accommodate the grade which differs on each side of 17th Street, along with a gradually tapered top cap designed to discourage people from walking along the top of the walls.
Mr. Rubin presented five alternatives for the stone coursing. Coursing Study 1 uses progressively shorter coursing widths toward the top of the wall, with identical widths for the east and west walls, and a varying height for the base course. Coursing Study 2 uses different dimensions of graduated heights for the east and west walls, allowing for similar base course dimensions on each wall; he confirmed that this coursing was shown in the mockup earlier in the day. Coursing Study Option 3 uses a more limited number of different coursing dimensions, with three taller courses on one wall to make up the 9 1/8-inch difference in grade. In Coursing Study 4, this grade difference is accommodated entirely within the two taller bottom courses of the taller wall. Finally, Coursing Study 5 would have graduated courses of matching dimensions except that the base on the east side would be higher than on the west. Mr. Rubin said the design team prefers the options shown in Coursing Study 2 and 5.
Ms. Nelson asked about the use of veneer or solid stone. Mr. Rubin explained that solid stone would be used on either side of the receiving posts and at other key locations; the rest would be veneer. Ms. Plater-Zyberk requested clarification on the difference between Coursing Study 2 and 5. Sophie Robitaille of OLIN said the difference is that Coursing Study 2 has graduated stones, with the stones on the east shrunk proportionately to make up for the 9 1/8-inch grade difference; in Coursing Study 5, the dimensions of the graduated course heights are identical for both walls with the difference in height made up in the base course. Mr. Powell asked for further clarification of the design team's preference. Mr. Rubin favored Coursing Study 5, because the wall coursing would appear the same on both sides of the street and would give the appearance that the grading had exposed more of the base of the west wall, suggesting an archaeological sensibility.
Mr. Rubin presented further illustrations of the proposed tapering treatment at the top of the wall. Mr. Belle asked if there is a precedent for this solution; Mr. Rubin responded that the design team invented this solution and he has not seen it used elsewhere. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson said this feature might present an inviting challenge that would encourage some people to try climbing along the top of the wall, and Mr. Belle suggested exploration of further alternatives. Mr. Rubin said the intention is to avoid having to build a barrier on the wall, and instead create a surface that would be difficult for people to balance on. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the proposed solution seems effective and "pretty clever"; she added that the illustration is too simple to be convincing and requested a better rendering. Mr. Belle observed that the steepest part of the top edge would occur where the wall is closest to the ground, so it would be the most accessible to someone wanting to attempt the challenge of walking on the wall. Mr. Luebke noted that an alternative would be a flat cap, which would require some sort of barrier; Mr. Powell commented that such an alternative would cause additional problems. Ms. Nelson said the Commission is supporting a design for the cap that would not require a barrier such as fencing or bushes; Mr. Belle agreed. Mr. Rubin responded that the proposed design is intended to achieve that goal, and he offered to refine the cap design further, such as by increasing the steepness of the peak.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned whether Cor-Ten would be sufficiently durable for this long-term infrastructure construction; she suggested avoiding this material for the end post receivers and using bronze instead. She also questioned the proposal to surround the Lockkeeper's House with pavers that extend up to the building walls, commenting that this would not have been the historic condition; she suggested the addition of some landscaping between the building and the paving. She asked whether the use of flowering trees would be appropriate or if it would be an intrusion into a green landscape; Mr. Powell and Mr. Rubin responded that there are many flowering trees in the vicinity.
Ms. Nelson asked if the Commission would be acting on the landscaping options. Chairman Powell confirmed that the submission is intended as a final design; Mr. Rubin clarified that the project team would have additional meetings with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office involving further coordination of the trees and the alignment of the walkways.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's preference of weathered American granite with brown-to-tan highlights for the stone selection. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Nelson reiterated the discussion at the site visit of selecting stone with a more limited range of color than was shown; Mr. Rubin confirmed that this could be achieved in selecting the final stone.
Mr. Rubin noted the difficult design and engineering work for the end condition of the walls and asked the Commission to confirm its support for the proposal. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson expressed support for the design. Mr. Rubin suggested that any adjustments related to the cap design could be coordinated with the staff; Chairman Powell agreed.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final design of Phase II. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission for any guidance on the landscape and trees. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell recommended planting groups of both tall and flowering trees along the walkways west of 17th Street, with the greatest number of trees feasible within the engineering limitations of the levee; Mr. Rubin said that trees will be added to match the amount removed. Ms. Nelson expressed enthusiasm for the design with taller trees shown in Planting Option 2; Chairman Powell recommended that the plantings be as large as possible at the time of installation. Mr. Luebke said that the staff would follow this guidance during the remaining process of coordinating the design with other review agencies.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 16/JUL/09-4, Medal for Edmund C. Moy, Director of the United States Mint. Revised reverse design for bronze medal and duplicates. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/08-7.) Mr. Luebke introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the revised design for the medal honoring the Mint's director, noting that the design was previously reviewed in November 2008. Ms. Budow summarized the Mint's tradition of striking a medal to honor each director; she gave a brief overview of the Mint and biography of Mr. Moy.
Ms. Budow presented the proposed obverse, describing Mr. Moy's portrait emerging from a varied textured background. She indicated the contrasting simplicity of the raised text for Mr. Moy's name. Chairman Powell noted that the Commission had already approved this obverse design; Ms. Budow clarified that the Commission had approved this design from among several alternatives at the previous review, and the only significant change is the lettering font.
Ms. Budow presented the four new alternatives for the reverse design, each incorporating Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing of the Vitruvian Man—a symbol of Renaissance artistic achievement—along with a more modern figure that is symbolically striving to reach beyond the geometrically contained Renaissance figure. She said that the modern figure "strives to break free of his boundaries and reach out towards new heights of excellence," suggesting the 21st century as a new artistic renaissance. The alternatives would place the border and modern figure on the top plane; the square field of the Renaissance drawing would be recessed, and the Renaissance figure would be scribed into the surface or created with low relief. She noted that this multi-layered relief would relate to the obverse design. She indicated the differences among the alternatives, with different stylized treatments of the modern figure including its hair, trunk, and drapery; the stylization would "accentuate the stylistic difference between the bold contemporary vision the Mint attempts to realize today versus one which passively continues to recycle the classical style of the past."
Mr. Powell expressed strong opposition to the reverse designs, criticizing the concept of overlaying modern images on Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing; he suggested continued consideration of the reverse design previously approved by the Commission, which had depicted a torch. Ms. Nelson agreed and said that the torch design had more dignity than the new alternatives, which she said have the confusing appearance of a person with four arms and four legs. Ms. Budow confirmed that the previous review included the torch design but said that Mr. Moy wanted to pursue the new design concept after concluding that the previous alternatives did not have sufficient strength and force in depicting the Mint's goal of "pushing out the limits of artistic excellence."
Chairman Powell reiterated his opposition to the modern overlay on Leonardo's artwork, emphasizing that the new alternatives are not an improvement; he suggested that the Mint continue to search for a design concept. Mr. Belle and Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed. Chairman Powell noted the Commission's continuing support for the obverse design.
D. Federal Reserve System
CFA 16/JUL/09-5, William McChesney Martin, Jr. Building, 2000 C Street, NW. Additions and alterations for visitor screening and conference center. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom noted that the submission involves the modern north building of the two-building Federal Reserve complex. He introduced Fay Peters, Director of Management at the Federal Reserve Board, to being the presentation.
Ms. Peters said that the proposed conference center will support the Federal Reserve's need for frequent contact with international peers, the financial community, and the public. Current facilities, such as dining rooms and small conference rooms, are inadequate and therefore such meetings are now frequently held off-site. The visitor screening facility is proposed in response to U.S. Secret Service vulnerability assessments from 2001 and 2005 as well as studies by outside consultants; these reports recommended that security screening occur before visitors enter the building lobby. She said that the proposal is intended to address the Federal Reserve's operational needs while maintaining the integrity of the existing architecture and supporting the visual quality of the nation's capital. She introduced architect Enrique Bellini of Karn Charuhas Chapman & Twohey to present the design.
Mr. Bellini said that the proposal addresses almost all of the Federal Reserve's program needs. He described the context, including the Federal Reserve's historic Eccles Building to the south, the National Academy of Sciences to the southwest, the Department of State to the west, and the Interior South building to the southeast. He indicated the open space areas on the Martin Building's block—a park to the north and a fountain to the east, an original and attractive part of the building's design. He noted that the building's north entrance has been closed for security reasons; the operational entrance faces south toward C Street, along with an entrance to the parking garage beneath the building. Another parking entrance leads to the garage beneath the open space on the north; he noted that both garage entrances already have adequate security and are not part of the current proposal. He indicated the trees and bollards that were installed in 2004 in the first phase of a perimeter security project.
Mr. Bellini described the configuration of the Martin Building, a modernist tower rising on pilotis from a podium set six feet about the sidewalk. When originally completed in 1974, the building reached the podium only with a core and monumental columns; four years later, the original architects were asked to add office space at the podium level. He indicated the strong visual form of the pilotis, particularly the corner columns, and noted the small lobby area that is now occupied by a security screening station. He said that the new visitor screening facility would provide adequate space for visitor queuing and would be outside of the existing building's structure in order to reduce the security risk. He indicated the terrace-level air intake area at the west end of the podium; he said that this intake would be raised above grade for security reasons. Two additional air intakes on the south are set within the landscaping; one would be eliminated and one would be incorporated into the new visitor screening facility.
Mr. Bellini presented the proposed additions: the 11,000-square-foot single-story screening facility on the south, and two one-story pavilions of 5,000 square feet on the east and west ends to provide conference facilities. The existing first-floor space would also be renovated and expanded slightly to accommodate additional conference facilities. He said that structures extending beyond the existing building line would have green roofs; the screening facility would also have a skylight above a small central atrium. The remaining terrace areas could be used for outdoor sculptures. The existing stairs between the fountain and the terrace, no longer open to the public, would be eliminated, and the site's landscaping would be extended along the west side of the fountain. On the west side of the terrace, the new ventilation shaft would rise along the facade of the conference center; a new fountain is proposed that would incorporate the long wall of the ventilation shaft, providing a small-scale reference to the fountain on the site's east side.
Mr. Bellini described the configuration of the screening facility. The structure would be symmetrical, and the main entrance would be on the centerline of both Federal Reserve buildings. The facility would serve as the main entrance serving both buildings, accommodating 1,500 employees daily and 40,000 visitors annually; an existing tunnel beneath C Street would provide access from the screening facility to the Eccles Building. Inside the new main entrance, a vestibule would separate visitors going to the left and employees going to the right; after screening, visitors would have access to the conference center and employees would have access to the upper floors or the tunnel leading to the Eccles Building.
A small entrance area at the southeast would accommodate screening of package deliveries. The screening facility facade would include glass along with marble walls where needed to conceal security areas and along ventilation shafts; the materials would match those of the existing Martin Building, and the facade would be canted outward. The screening facility's columns, clad in opaque spandrel glass, would align with those of the existing building. The spandrel above the screening facility would be recessed by one foot to create a shadow line. The Martin Building's existing lobby area would continue to have exterior views to the north and south.
Mr. Bellini indicated that the new structures would be built below the overhang line of the Martin Building's upper floors, retaining the original architectural concept of the building above the base of pilotis, and the perimeter columns on the north side would remain exposed to the exterior at the podium level. The configuration of the new conference facility additions would leave the existing corner columns exposed and have facades of clear glass and spandrel glass. The material for the proposed fountain on the west would be the granite pavers that were removed from the Eccles Building courtyard during a past renovation; their coarse surface beneath the flowing water would generate noise and splashing. Mr. Bellini concluded the presentation with a video animation depicting the proposal.
Ms. Nelson asked if the green roofs would be visible from ground level; Mr. Bellini responded that they would only be visible from the upper stories of surrounding buildings. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the conference facilities were added to the short east and west ends of the podium, rather than at the long north facade. Mr. Bellini responded that the open-space area to the north is controlled by the Department of the Interior, not the Federal Reserve, and was therefore ruled out as an expansion area. The project team clarified that this area is subject to an agreement between the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Interior concerning the use of the land and the garage below. Mr. Belle asked about changes to the exterior walls of the Martin Building's upper floors; Mr. Bellini responded that these original walls will not be changed, and the proposed work includes only the podium and street levels.
Mr. Belle raised several concerns with the proposal. He described the Martin Building as a classic example of the modern style of a building elevated on pilotis above a recessed ground floor; creating a ground-floor addition is therefore difficult unless it somehow repeats the concept of the overall building. He observed that the proposed facades include thin curtain walls that conceal the new structural system; he suggested that the new facades could instead express the rhythm and solidity of the structural system. He also observed that the proposed curtain-wall glazing is oriented horizontally, in contrast to the vertical orientation of the existing facades, and he recommended reconsideration of this decision. He said that both of these suggestions would improve the proposed additions by making their design more sensitive to that of the original building; he said that the current proposal detracts from the Martin Building's "very simple strength." Mr. Luebke noted that the main building columns are distant from the facades of the proposed additions, and Mr. Belle's suggestion would therefore involve an expression of the structural module rather than direct exposure of the main building columns.
Mr. Powell agreed with Mr. Belle's recommendations, which he said would improve the coherence of the project; he described the current proposal as "a box pushed in underneath" the existing building. Mr. Luebke noted that the project team's earlier designs had proposed a more solid treatment of the additions, and the staff had encouraged a more subtle and minimalist design for the additions that would respond to the existing building's recessive elements. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that either direction could be appropriate as a design concept, but the current proposal is weakened by being a hybrid of these two approaches. For example, the proposed roof edges echo the original building through their thickness—necessitated by the green roof—and their visual separation from the walls below; the curtain wall, however, is designed to contrast with the original building. She suggested clarifying the contrast by creating a thinner roof edge, which would involve reconfiguration of the green roof areas. She acknowledged the proposal's sensitivity to the original building's design by leaving the large corner columns exposed; she suggested extending this gesture by pulling the new construction further away from these columns.
Mr. Bellini responded that the existing building's monumental columns are appropriate to the heavy appearance of the building that they support, while such an expressive structure would be more problematic visually for the proposed one-story pavilions. He added that a thinner roof profile would make a strong expression of columns even less appropriate. Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged that a glass-box design concept might be most appropriate for the additions; Mr. Bellini confirmed that the design team had reached this conclusion. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the thick roof profile and the use of marble wall panels apparently contradict this design concept. Mr. Bellini said that the opaque areas are programmatically necessary, and the choice of marble is intended to recall the materials of the existing building; however, the detailing makes clear that the stone is a simple screen that does not have a load-bearing appearance. He agreed to further study of the roof edges, adding that the concept of sustainability in the roof design could be achieved with thin photovoltaic cells located near narrower roof edges instead of the thicker roof planting and edge design that is currently proposed.
Chairman Powell supported the project team's decision to pursue a lighter design character rather than suggesting a heavy structure for the one-story additions. He agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk that the current proposal looks too heavy; he characterized the additions as arbitrary in appearance. Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated the difficulty of adding to a building of this design character and summarized her concern that the design should consistently follow a design concept. She provided an additional problematic example of the receding glass corners of the new pavilions, which present a lightweight contrast to the existing monumental stone columns, whereas the roof is more directly similar to the existing building.
Mr. Powell commented that the north elevation appears well designed; Ms. Nelson clarified that this elevation is retaining the existing architecture. She reiterated the need for further consideration of the massing concept with two end pavilions and the front screening facility, which she characterized as a "drawers coming out of the building," while the viewer wishes to see the original building without the open drawers. She said that the footprint might be unavoidable to achieve the desired program unless underground construction were feasible; however, she said the proposal is not successful in creating a coherent overall building. She offered the goal of designing additions that would enhance the older structure, and questioned whether this could be achieved using the proposed footprint. Mr. Belle observed that no alternative siting appears to be feasible; Mr. Bellini confirmed this constraint. Mr. Belle and Mr. Powell said the design challenge therefore involves detailing rather than the general location of the program. Mr. Belle reiterated the suggestion for a vertical orientation of the new curtain wall elements, improving the relationship of the new facades to the upper-floor windows of the existing building.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus that the proposed concept requires further study and review to refine the detailing of the proposed additions; he emphasized that the project's overall program appears necessary and acceptable. Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered a further suggestion on the concept for the addition—wrapping a structure around the entire first floor, rather than creating three separate additions that relate independently to three first-floor facades; she noted that this solution would involve enclosing the existing corner columns. Alternatively, she suggested that the proposed concept—leaving the corner pilotis exposed— could be strengthened to expose a second piloti at each end of the south facade, which would require reducing the length of the proposed screening facility; this solution would further clarify the separation between the addition and the existing building. She acknowledged that any of these design approaches could be pursued.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's guidance to clarify the concept while not recommending a specific direction for the design. He emphasized that the current proposal does not create a comfortable relationship between the existing building and the proposed additions, and he encouraged exploration of Ms. Plater-Zyberk's suggestion to reduce the length of the screening facility.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that some of the renderings are drawn from a slightly elevated height to illustrate the separation between the existing building's upper mass and the roofs of the proposed additions; however, this separation would not be readily visible to pedestrians, even from across the street. Although this separation is intended as part of the design concept, she said that the feature that will actually be apparent to pedestrians will be the appearance of the roof edge against the wall of the existing upper floors. She suggested that the viewpoint of the renderings be adjusted to improve the understanding and presentation of this design condition. Chairman Powell concluded by suggesting that the design team respond to the Commission's comments with a revised concept submission.
E. National Archives and Records Administration
CFA 16/JUL/09-6, National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Building identification, directional, and exhibition signs. Revised design/Final. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/09-7.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised submission of exterior signs for the National Archives building. He said that the proposal is now limited to directional and exhibit signs; in response to the Commission's previous comments, the four building identification signs previously proposed at the corners of the site have been deleted from the project. He introduced project architect James Stokoe to present the proposal.
Mr. Stokoe said the design team is trying to treat the proposed signs as small additions that would defer to the building, adding that the review process has improved the design. He indicated the two signs proposed near the two south entrances to the building, which are not significantly different from the previous submission; these would be vertical signs mounted on granite platforms on the sidewalk, and would identify the general exhibit entrance and the entrance for special events and scheduled visits. The structure of the vertical sign would be assembled from bronze extrusions that would echo John Russell Pope's architectural details for the building.
Mr. Stokoe described the changes to the wall signs proposed along the ramp leading to the general exhibit entrance, responding to the Commission's previous concerns: these signs have been reduced in size and revised to a square rather than vertical format. The new dimensions are derived from the decision to attach the signs to mortar joints instead of directly to the stone wall. He said that the graphics for these signs have been changed in response to the Commission's comment that the previously proposed graphics were too busy and commercial. The revised proposal reduces the number and changes the type of images used, pairing images of documents with images of objects found in the Archives or architectural details from the building. He noted that only the sign panel for the temporary exhibit space would need to be changed regularly. He said that the signs would employ a standard grid format, with colors related to a wayfinding system used throughout the building; signs would include the name of the "National Archives Experience" above text and images.
Mr. Stokoe presented the revised location for two signs near the research entrance facing Pennsylvania Avenue, providing information about access for research and directing exhibit visitors to the south side of the building. He acknowledged the Commission's previous recommendation to eliminate one sign from the closely spaced pair that was proposed to flank the entrance, including a concern—shared by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office—that the signs would obscure the architectural features around the doorway. He said the revised proposal continues to include two signs but places them farther apart, at the ends of the ramps on each side of the research entrance, which would put sufficient distance between the signs and the architectural details around the entrance and would be an improved location for providing necessary information to visitors approaching from the direction of 7th and 9th Streets. He said the graphics of these proposed signs have not changed.
Ms. Nelson commented that the design team has responded sensitively to the previous comments, and she said that the distance between the two revised sign locations at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance would be satisfactory. She asked about the actual size of the square signs along the ramp; Mr. Stokoe confirmed that the mockup was at full size. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that all the revisions are positive. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised design.
F. District of Columbia Office of Planning
CFA 16/JUL/09-7, New York Avenue Public Art Program. Exhibition of sculpture on the median of New York Avenue between 9th and 13th Streets, NW. Infrastructure, typical art installation and program operation. Concept/Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for an outdoor sculpture program, which he said was submitted by the D.C. Office of Planning in cooperation with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. He introduced Chris Shaheen of the D.C. Office of Planning to begin the presentation.
Mr. Shaheen said that the Commission's approval is sought for both the initial installation of the sculptures and for the process to be used for selecting future artwork. The proposal includes a series of sculpture locations along the median of New York Avenue, NW, between 9th and 13th Streets; he indicated the location of the National Museum of Women in the Arts at the corner of 13th Street. The program would involve periodic rotation of the artworks on display. He said that the proposal will advance the goals of several planning efforts—including the Monumental Core Framework Plan, the CapitalSpace project, and the D.C. Comprehensive Plan—calling for public art and distinctive downtown settings. He introduced several people involved in the project: Rick Reinhard of the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District; landscape architect Sunny Scully; and Susan Fisher Sterling, director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Ms. Sterling described the mission and history of the museum, including its role in revitalizing the neighborhood in past decades; she said the museum would again contribute to place-making through its involvement in the new proposal for the New York Avenue median. The project would extend the museum into the streetscape, enliven the neighborhood, and reach out to the community and world. She acknowledged the prevalence of traditional public sculpture in Washington but added several concerns: she said that there is no such artwork in the vicinity of the museum, and little of the artwork is modern nor created by women. The museum and its partners propose to improve the neighborhood with this public art program which will provide Washington with major sculptures by world-class contemporary women artists. She said the various agencies that the museum was working with had agreed that the neighborhood around the museum needs "the infusion of the creative energy and contemporary beauty that this project will provide." She described the fortunate combination of the museum's "desire to create this cultural oasis on New York Avenue" with the larger local-government plans for redevelopment of the Mount Vernon Square area.
Ms. Sterling said that the installations would be in place for one to three years; the project would also include four phases of site and infrastructure improvements for the beautification of the avenue. She presented an example of the proposed signage that would be associated with the project. She said the first phase, scheduled for 2009 and 2010, would include refurbishment of the 20-foot-wide median between 12th and 13th Streets in front of the museum, including four pads for sculpture along with landscaping, lighting, and signage. The first installation would be works by the late artist Niki de Saint Phalle; Ms. Sterling described the artist's "wonderfully playful, colorful, and visually accessible" works that "celebrate women, children, heroes, cultural diversity, and even love." She said that recent outdoor installations of the artist's work in Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis have had widespread acclaim. The sculptures selected by the museum for the New York Avenue installation are 12 to 15 feet high, constructed of fiberglass encrusted with mirrors, colored stones, and mosaic glass; she said these sculptures would bring "just the right amount of whimsy and a bit of panache" to the project's first phase, scheduled for opening in the spring of 2010. Future phases would extend the project to 9th Street, reaching Mount Vernon Square and the Carnegie Library building, which would create a corridor of sculpture islands.
Ms. Sterling said that the selection of the initial artist was based on the museum's consultation with the D.C. Office of Planning, Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District, and D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and informal consultation with other cultural and city agencies. For future selections, the museum intends to formalize these relationships with an advisory group that will be convened for consultation meetings.
Mr. Reinhard presented the infrastructure and maintenance aspects of the proposal. A total of twelve pads would be constructed for the rotating sculpture exhibits. He said the location is suitable because the median is wide and in need of improvement. He noted that the traffic closure in front of the White House has resulted in low traffic volumes along this portion of New York Avenue. He described the existing and proposed dimensions: the median width is twenty feet from curb to curb, including a sixteen-foot-wide landscaping area; the proposed sculpture pads would be eleven-foot squares and their surface would be two inches below the top of the median planter walls. The pads would be covered with a fine blue-gray gravel which would conceal attachment hardware for the sculptures as well as the pads when sculptures are not installed.
Mr. Reinhard said that the project has been coordinated with the agencies responsible for below-grade infrastructure, which includes a 78-inch storm drain and a Metro tunnel with two vent shafts. The existing planting, which he described as unkempt and overgrown, would be replaced; the new planting would provide seasonal color and would be relatively low to ensure that sightlines across the medians are not blocked. The existing irrigation system, not currently functioning, would be repaired.
Mr. Reinhard said that the sculptures are intended to be viewed from the sidewalks, not from the median, and are not intended for climbing. The lighting fixtures would be LEDs that are small and unobtrusive while providing focused beams; the number of lights would vary depending on each sculpture installation. The proposed signage would be patterned after the sign programs already approved by the Commission for this area: the downtown pedestrian wayfinding signs and the Discover D.C. Cultural Tourism Heritage Trail signs. He explained that the National Museum of Women in the Arts would be responsible for maintenance of the sculptures while the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District would be responsible for enhanced maintenance of the median. Mr. Shaheen concluded by emphasizing the ongoing cooperation of many agencies and organizations in developing this project over the past two years.
Chairman Powell expressed support for the proposal. Mr. Belle asked if information about the sculptures would be available to pedestrians who do not walk to the median. Mr. Reinhard clarified that the proposed signs would be on the avenue's sidewalks, not on the medians; he emphasized that people will not be encouraged to go to the medians. He indicated the plan of proposed sign locations, with two or more per block. Mr. Powell commented that sculpture installations on New York's Park Avenue include a sign on the median at the crosswalks; Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Mr. Powell noted that this such signs are convenient for pedestrians who are waiting at the median between traffic signal phases. Mr. Powell said that the sculptures are "attractive and engaging," and people will want to go to the median to view them more closely; he therefore suggested consideration of identifying information on the medians. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposed corner locations for the signs would be sufficiently convenient for pedestrians. Ms. Nelson noted that many people seeing the sculptures will be traveling by car; Mr. Powell said that the sign information would not be provided for these viewers. Mr. Shaheen responded that the project is being coordinated with the D.C. Department of Transportation which has been concerned about the treatment of the medians; the sign locations are therefore carefully chosen and the sculptures will be located at least forty feet away from the street intersections. He said that interpretive signs in the median have not been discussed and would likely raise concerns about obstructing sightlines for turning vehicles. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell acknowledged this concern; Mr. Powell clarified that he was not suggesting additional signs of the type proposed but only some limited identification information. Mr. Shaheen said that this suggestion could be accommodated.
Mr. Luebke requested further information on the existing signs in the area and the maintenance of the proposed signs. Mr. Shaheen responded that the design of the proposed signs has been coordinated with the design of the existing sign systems in the vicinity. Ms. Sterling said that the each sign will include one side with a standard panel about the museum, and the other side would change for each installation of sculpture. She noted that similar signs in the neighborhood have been in place for several years and appear to be sufficiently durable. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposed content includes information about the sculptures on one side and, in effect, advertising for the museum on the other side, which would be repeated on twelve signs along the avenue. Ms. Nelson noted the existence of limitations on the installation of advertising signs.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed median plantings, with the intended emphasis on seasonal color, might detract from the sculptures—particularly the strong and colorful character of the proposed initial installation. She suggested low green plantings that would allow the sculptures to be the most prominent features, while acknowledging that no sculptures would be present during some periods. Mr. Powell suggested rose bushes at the base of the sculptures to discourage climbing. Mr. Shaheen responded that the landscaping will be a permanent design rather than being reconfigured for each sculpture installation. Ms. Nelson noted that the color provided by the seasonal flowers would be intermittent. Ms. Scully, the landscape architect, responded that the seasonal flowers would be located only at the tips of the medians toward the cross-streets; the central portion of each block would have evergreen or other low green plantings that are intended to cover the infrastructure.
Ms. Nelson noted that many of this artist's outdoor sculptures are located in warmer climates and asked if cold weather would cause the tiles to separate from the sculpture's surface. Ms. Sterling responded that this issue has been discussed with the Nikki Foundation that owns the artist's work; the sculptures are sufficiently durable for a limited period of outdoor display in Washington; a colder winter climate such as Minneapolis would be more problematic. She emphasized that the artist's sculptures have been displayed outdoors extensively in a variety of locations and added that the Nikki Foundation will provide insurance for the sculptures.
Chairman Powell characterized the project as "worthy," and Ms. Nelson said it would be a "real contribution to the city." Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested further discussion of the signs. Mr. Luebke noted the previous agenda item for signs at the National Archives, on that agency's own property, compared to the current proposal for signs concerning the museum that will be outside the museum's property; he said that this proposal for signs could set a problematic precedent, regardless of the merits of the art installation. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the Commission's past concern about the proliferation of signs and other intrusions on the streetscape, as well as the lack of information about the existing context of signs in the area. She suggested that the Commission limit the number of new signs to two per block, located at the diagonal corners of intersections.
Ms. Sterling said that the museum would consider limiting its name to inclusion among a list of groups involved in the project, for signs located beyond the museum's block. She offered to work further on a signage design that would not have the appearance of advertising for the museum. Mr. Shaheen added that the signs are subject to review by the D.C. government's Public Space Committee, which would examine the same concerns that are being raised by the Commission. He acknowledged the need to maintain a distinction between advertising and education, and said that the Public Space Committee would visit the site and consider this issue, with an additional goal of minimizing the amount of clutter on the sidewalk.
Ms. Nelson asked if the National Museum of Women in the Arts would have the entire curatorial responsibility for the program, and if this would result in only works by women sculptors being exhibited. Ms. Sterling acknowledged that a single curatorship would not be appropriate and emphasized that an advisory board is proposed, including the organizations that were discussed as well as public art experts who would likely be chosen from both Washington and elsewhere.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the proposal subject to further coordination of the signage and other details, which they delegated to the staff.
G. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 16/JUL/09-8, Adams Morgan Public Art Project, Plaza at 18th Street and Columbia Road, NW. Installation of sculpture, decorative paving, and streetscape elements. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed outdoor sculpture and distributed a letter from a community member concerning the project. He asked Rachel Dickerson, manager of the public art program for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Dickerson said that this project began in 2007 as a result of an initiative by members of the community; the call for artists resulted in 140 responses from which five finalists were chosen, leading to the selection of James Simon as the artist. She presented illustrations of the Adams Morgan neighborhood context and the site at the corner of 18th Street and Adams Mill Road. She introduced artist James Simon to present the proposal.
Mr. Simon discussed the diversity of the Adams Morgan neighborhood with people from many countries. He noted the prevalence of bicyclists and the neighborhood's extensive nightlife, including music venues, which provide inspiration for his proposed sculpture of a large-scale figure playing music while on a bicycle. He said the bicycle is artistically exciting because it is an interesting sculptural image and suggests movement, helping to create a "joyful, fun atmosphere" for the neighborhood. The proposal for the plaza includes a ribbon pattern of red brick pavers that would relate to the sculpture, along with two benches and a tree. He provided the Commission with samples of the proposed pavers.
Ms. Nelson asked if the plaza is used for programmed events such as musical performances; Mr. Simon responded that he believes such events do occur here. He noted the extensive involvement and opinions of residents and businesses in neighborhood affairs; he said that adjacent business owners prefer that the plaza be designed with extensive open space to encourage programmed events. The proposed design is therefore relatively open, with only the tree and two small benches.
Mr. Simon described details of the sculpture, indicating the figure playing a guitar while riding a bicycle. The basket on the back of the bicycle would include elements relating to the neighborhood or otherwise of sculptural interest, such as pineapples bananas, and chickens, suggesting the various markets in the neighborhood. He presented details of the proposed paving, which would have a herringbone pattern with the ribbon motif winding around the various plaza elements.
Mr. Simon showed photographs of other examples of his work, including large-scale musical instruments in downtown Pittsburgh; he said this sculpture had "generated a lot of excitement" and is now a well-loved landmark. His project in Braddock, Pennsylvania, includes a park with mosaics and curving river-like paths similar to the proposed plaza design. He said that the design of the benches would be developed in collaboration with a master ironworker from Pittsburgh, with the option to include a decorative back; he presented photographs of other benches produced from this collaboration. The benches are intended to be elegant and functional with a strong appearance; the curved shape and relatively short length of four feet would make them difficult to sleep on in response to neighborhood concerns.
Mr. Simon said that some of his projects include sculptures of small animals and several members of the artist selection panel encouraged him to include some in this project. The proposal therefore includes several animals—some combination of armadillos, turtles, and a "friendly rat"—placed under or on the benches to provide "a little bit of a surprise in the plaza."
Mr. Simon indicated the existing kiosk located in the plaza, describing it as an important neighborhood feature. He said the proposal includes updating the kiosk with fresh paint and perhaps a decorative edge to relate it better to the proposed plaza design. He confirmed that the kiosk is a popular gathering place where people post and read notices.
Mr. Simon discussed the fabrication method for the artwork, beginning with a clay model and resulting in a fiber-reinforced architectural concrete sculpture that is very strong. He provided the Commission members with a sample piece from one of his previous sculptures, illustrating the proposed finish which would be a jade color giving the appearance of stone with some richness.
Ms. Nelson asked if spectators would be expected to stand during outdoor performances, commenting that the two small benches do not provide a significant amount of seating. Mr. Simon reiterated the guidance to emphasize open space, explaining that even the two proposed benches might be controversial. He described the proposed seating as a compromise and said that he has not been asked to provide sufficient seating for performances.
Ms. Nelson commented that the ribbons of red pavers, as depicted in the renderings, contrast sharply with the plaza's buff color, possibly detracting from the prominence of the sculpture. Mr. Simon responded that the red pavers would not be as bright as depicted in the renderings; he indicated a representation of the lesser contrast that is intended, which he described as having "an antique soft feeling." Mr. Simon confirmed that the adjacent sidewalk is concrete.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the tree proposal. Mr. Simon responded that one existing tree would remain, and one additional tree would be added. Ms. Nelson observed that the tree would provide shade at the sculpture; Mr. Simon added that the bench would also be placed at a shaded location. Mr. Simon said that, based on consultation with the Commission staff, the tree spacing would correspond to the existing pattern of street trees in the area.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the design seems to fill each part of the site with some sort of feature, a kind of horror vacui that is generally unnecessary in cities due to the presence of people and activity in the spaces. She said that extensive embellishment of the ground plane, as proposed in this project, typically results in problematic conflicts with utility infrastructure—particularly in a location where this infrastructure is already in place. She added that the proposed thin pavers also pose a maintenance problem because they tend to loosen. Instead, she suggested that the ground plane be simplified to serve as a background to the many above-ground features—including the kiosk, benches, trees, lamps, and utility equipment—rather than be treated as an active part of the design.
Mr. Simon clarified that the actual pavers would be bricks of normal thickness, although the sample he provided is much thinner. He said that the proposed depth of bricks would not conflict with existing utility infrastructure. He acknowledged the recommendation to simplify the design and said that this revision could be made; Ms. Nelson supported this recommendation. Mr. Simon indicated the potential locations for a more limited range of special features in the paving. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the building frontage on the plaza contains retail space, and retailers prefer that the focus of attention be on the retail windows rather than on the ground plane; she added that emphasis would also be appropriate for the kiosk and sculpture as other important features of the plaza. Mr. Simon agreed that the path system could be simplified but said that some treatment of the base is needed around the sculpture. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the elements of the plaza will be tied together three-dimensionally through people's perspectival perception of the space, including its edges and its occupants; she said that the sculpture's success in defining to the space will not be achieved through the ground-plane treatment. She noted the large size of the proposed sculptural elements, which she said will themselves be space-defining and provide sufficient action for the site. Ms. Nelson recommended a solid-colored ground plane as most appropriate for tying together the various elements.
Mr. Belle asked if the unusual sidewalk configuration shown in the proposal is a change from the existing condition. Mr. Simon explained that the existing sidewalk is very wide at this location. Mr. Luebke clarified that this intersection was recently reconfigured; the kiosk location was formerly a traffic island, but a turn lane was eliminated to create the expanded sidewalk area that now encompasses the kiosk location. He said that these changes were made to improve traffic flow and safety at this complex intersection. Mr. Belle noted the value of the generous sidewalk space, regardless of the artistic treatment of it; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed.
Mr. Belle asked about the location of building entrances along the plaza; Mr. Simon confirmed that they are currently located as depicted in the rendering. Mr. Belle commented that this configuration provides a significant frontage without doorways, resulting in greater opportunity for the treatment of the plaza. Mr. Simon agreed, noting that the distance from the building face to the curb is nearly fifty feet. Mr. Belle said that this generous open space is a valuable asset for the neighborhood; the question is how much space to devote to people and how much to art. Ms. Dickerson responded that both should be accommodated. Mr. Simon responded that many of his outdoor sculptures are in locations filled with people, including a large-scale sculpture in a small plaza area in Cleveland that has been very successful. Ms. Dickerson emphasized that this project was initiated through a request from the community for the installation of artwork on this plaza.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized a member of the public who asked to address the Commission. Adam Eidinger, a neighborhood resident and owner of the Capitol Hemp clothing store business across the street from the plaza, confirmed the neighborhood's request for artwork. He said this request was made in conjunction with the effort to remove the turn lane which had been the site of fatalities, and he said the reconfiguration has been successful in improving safety at the intersection. He described the site as a popular gathering place due to the reconfiguration, which has increased the popularity of all sides of the interesection, and said that the neighborhood business association has begun to sponsor musical events on the plaza during the summer. He said that the proposed location for the sculpture would displace a seating area, and the sculpture would not allow the corner to thrive from the perspective of a business owner. He supported the installation of temporary rather than permanent art for such a location, questioning the merit of investing public funds in a permanent sculpture that would need to withstand the weather conditions of seasons when fewer people are present on the plaza. He therefore opposed the placement of artwork on this plaza and emphasized the importance of the open public space in this densely populated neighborhood. He said that sculptures in a nearby park are in poor condition after thirty years and are disliked by many people who would instead prefer having additional open space.
Mr. Eidinger offered additional suggestions if the sculpture proposal goes forward for this location. He recommended moving the bicyclist as close as possible to the curb in order to increase the amount of contiguous space available for events; he said the currently proposed location would obstruct viewing of events such as those being staged this summer. He confirmed the popularity of bicycle riding with many neighborhood residents, including himself, and said that the sculpture would be sited at a particularly dangerous location for bicyclists due to cars turning the blind corner; the large bicycle sculpture at this location would therefore have the advantage of reminding drivers to be aware of bicyclists. He acknowledged the public controversy over the proposed animals that are being considered as an addition to the sculpture; he expressed support for including them, commenting that sculptural rats would add humor to the neighborhood and publicly acknowledge that it has a rat problem.
Mr. Eidinger concluded by noting the project's context in a residential neighborhood, not in an area of national interest such as the Mall, and questioned the appropriateness of seeking approval from a federal panel of presidentially appointed members. He recommended that the Commission not comment on the project, and said that the Commission's role is undemocratic because its authority is based on legislation from the Congress which does not include representation for District of Columbia residents.
Mr. Simon responded that an adjustment to the sculpture's location would be feasible, instead of the central location that is currently proposed. Chairman Powell recommended that Mr. Simon consider the Commission's comments and propose adjustments to the design—including the placement of the sculpture and the design of the ground plane—in a subsequent submission for review. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission prefers the revision to be submitted as a revised concept or as a final design; Chairman Powell responded that this would depend on the extent of revisions and further community comments on the proposal. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed and said that it is difficult for the Commission to respond to apparent community concerns; Chairman Powell noted that community organizations, such as the Kalorama Citizens Association, have provided comments. Ms. Dickerson added that the project has been presented to the Adams Morgan community at an open house, and the three leading proposals were publicized through an on-line survey.
Mr. Simon asked for clarification of whether a different paving color would be appropriate around the base of the sculpture; Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle said that this would be an unnecessary feature. Mr. Simon responded that matching the existing paving at the sculpture location could be problematic, and a similar but slightly different-colored paver might be a more feasible solution. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the presentation did not clearly depict the existing material, with only a single slide to illustrate the overall project. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's clear guidance not to highlight figural patterns in the ground plane. Ms. Nelson asked if the paving beneath the animals is proposed for highlighting; Mr. Simon responded that a continuous ground plane material would not be problematic at these locations.
The discussion concluded without a formal motion.
H. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 16/JUL/09-9, Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Addition and renovation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JUN/09-6.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept for the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, noting that it had been submitted once before as a revised concept and that the current submission is intended to address the Commission's concerns. She distributed a letter to the Commission members from a citizen, and the staff noted the presence of community members who wished to address the Commission. Ms. Batcheler introduced project architect Henry Myerberg of HMA2 Architects to present the design.
Mr. Myerberg summarized the previous submissions and the current revised concept. The design team had first considered placing an access ramp at the front of the historic library and a glass addition at the side; the second version located the addition in the rear with the ramp at the side, which remains the proposed concept. He said that for the current submission, the design team considered how to make the addition more deferential to the existing building by restudying its massing, colors, and materials. The new stonework at the front facade is now designed to blend in with the limestone of the original structure; the protruding angular corner has been eliminated from the addition; the color of the addition's facing has been changed to terra cotta; and banding has been added to reflect the belt courses of the historic building.
Mr. Myerberg presented the plans and perspective views of the proposal, including an interior view of the proposed entrance gallery; he indicated the proposed staircase within the gallery and the existing arch on the building's rear facade that would be used to provide access between the gallery and the original main library rooms.
Mr. Myerberg confirmed the extent of the proposed revisions and acknowledged that the ramp design is unchanged. He clarified that the presentation included a photograph of an earlier model showing a ramp leading to the existing building's front entrance, but this solution is no longer under consideration. Ms. Nelson asked how barrier-free access is currently provided; Mr. Myerberg indicated the ramp descending near the front entrance to a lower-level door.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the difficulty of adding to this type of building on such a restricted site, but said that she still thinks the solution is wrong. She suggested that the problem may be too much program, resulting in a proposed addition with very few windows in a context of buildings with windows. She acknowledged that the current proposal is "kinder" to the existing building, but she questioned the creation of a second entrance area for handicapped access in the rear—grand enough to be the main entrance—that would be approached by passing the rear of a residential building. She said that the client may have given the architect a program that is leading to a "regrettable result" and that the design team is being asked to do things that are too demanding for this building and site.
Mr. Belle asked why the front location for the ramp is no longer under consideration. Mr. Myerberg responded that the community was strongly opposed to the ramp and to the glass-box addition, and that the Commission had also rejected it; Ms. Nelson recalled the Commission's advice that the front ramp would compromise the symmetry of the classical building.
Mr. Myerberg said that, after the rejection of this initial concept, the design challenge was to restore the existing facade and also create an alternative entrance that would be of comparable importance and bring all visitors to the same point within the building, rather than the current solution of bringing some visitors down to the lower-level entrance. He emphasized that the goal for the ramp is not only accessibility, but also bringing everyone to the same place and providing the new entrance with a sense of importance to match that of the existing entrance. He said the intended solution is to design the side garden to extend toward the street in a similar way to the grand steps of the front entrance, and to make the side entrance into an added amenity as well as an access route. He acknowledged that the client is asking for a lot on a small site but said that the program reflects current practice in library design, and this community should have a standard contemporary library program.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the apparent programmatic issue is the need to move walls out to the property line, resulting in the creation of blank walls. She also expressed concern that the library staff would close the front door and direct people to the side entrance. Mr. Myerberg said that this would not be likely due to the configuration of the proposed internal plan for the library.
Mr. Belle suggested further discussion of the proposed plans. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that two grand spaces would be in the back of the building; Mr. Belle said that this arrangement is not necessarily a drawback. Mr. Myerberg said the design intent is to complement and celebrate the original plan, not detract from it. He explained that the addition would allow for the removal of outdated mechanical equipment and its replacement by new mechanical systems, so that the original library rooms can be opened up and restored to their original grandeur; he added that the new entrance at the rear would be key to freeing up the central axis of the historic building.
Mr. Belle agreed that the spatial layout appears to be appropriate for both the new and historic spaces, but said that he is still trying to find a way to have the original entrance work. Mr. Myerberg emphasized several advantages of the proposed configuration. He said that the meeting room has become an important function in libraries, comparable to the reading areas; the current proposal creates a gallery space that can also serve as a pre-function area for the proposed meeting room, and this area could easily be available for after-hours use. The proposed addition would therefore become a central feature for the community. As another example, the side-yard terrace would also accommodate events and community gatherings; he said that, with this garden becoming a new public amenity, the accessibility function could be understood as an additional bonus rather than being the main reason for the side garden's existence.
Ms. Nelson asked about access to the garden when the library is closed; Mr. Myerberg said the garden would be closed after library hours, similar to some other urban parks, and he indicated the proposed gate that would provide access control. Mr. Powell said he thought the remaining issue is whether the design of the addition's exterior could be more interesting and more compatible with the original building.
Mr. Belle asked whether, apart from the issue of providing barrier-free access, the proposed meeting room would work as well if people arrive through the original entrance; Mr. Myerberg said it would, and the creation of the new entrance will not prevent the use of the old one. Mr. Belle commented that a configuration using a single entrance serving both the meeting and library functions would likely be advantageous for the library's organization and staffing. Mr. Myerberg acknowledged this advice and emphasized that the multiple iterations of the design have involved a process of juggling the various competing priorities and establishing tradeoffs; he noted the design team's ongoing response to a variety of comments including extensive input from the community.
Mr. Powell expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the proposed exterior design of the addition. Mr. Myerberg suggested that livelier fenestration could address this concern; Mr. Powell agreed and suggested consideration of a design that is more compatible with the historic building. Mr. Myerberg responded that there are two schools of thought about relating new construction to historic architecture, and his firm prefers to emphasize retaining the integrity of the historic features. Mr. Powell acknowledged the competing philosophies; nonetheless, he described the original library building as modest and elegant, and suggested that the addition could be a more exciting modernist statement instead of the "bland and boring" design that is depicted. He said he is satisfied with the other aspects of the proposed concept.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that an addition to a historic building does not have to appear to be designed by the original architect. She said the problem with the proposal is that the addition should be subsidiary to the existing building, which then creates difficulty in establishing a strong independent character for the addition. Mr. Powell agreed, commenting that the addition should be visually interesting instead of just a blank wall with four glazed punctuations.
Chairman Powell recognized a member of the public who asked to address the Commission. Chris Otten, representing the District Dynamos organization, said that there had never been a design charrette with the community and that the current design had been posted on the D.C. Public Library website only two days ago. He said the District Dynamos encourages the Commission to request more options for the addition's exterior and the ramp; he noted that one problem with a ramp ascending seven feet to the first floor is that it would be three times as long as the existing one descending to the lower level. He said that the D.C. Public Library is inappropriate in asking the Commission to give an opinion on the ramp proposal before coordinating the project with D.C. officials involved with accessibility for the disabled. He said an option is to keep the existing ramp and improve the condition of the lower level to make it more inviting.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission could approve the concept while requesting more options; he acknowledged the need for the project team to resolve questions of the most suitable accessibility solution. Mr. Myerberg responded that he expects the ramp in the current proposal to be in compliance with accessibility requirements, and said that it has been reviewed by many community groups which have been pleased with the concept.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she was not willing to offer a motion. Chairman Powell asked Mr. Belle to comment. Mr. Belle said he remains unconvinced that the earlier version of a ramp at the front of the building would be infeasible. He commented that spending a large amount of the budget on the back of building and potentially not allowing people to enter the new space through the historic library at the front would be a lost design opportunity.
Mr. Powell acknowledged that the design team has prepared many versions of concepts for this project and suggested preparing another for the Commission's consideration. Mr. Myerberg responded that when the project was last presented to the Commission, he was told that the plan was "ingenious," and he is now confused at the apparently different direction being given by the Commission. Mr. Luebke said it was the consensus of several members at the last review that the planning was excellent and honored the axial plan of the building, but issues remained about the articulation of the addition; the Commission had also advised that the character of the ramp proposal needed development which has not been addressed extensively in this submission. He said there seems to be a fundamental issue about whether the barrier-free entrance should be at the front of the building, which would involve retaining an undesirable lower-level entrance or raise difficult issues of historic preservation if inserting a ramp up to the first floor. He suggested that community concerns about the best use for the open space on the site's west side should be resolved through a community process rather than being brought to the Commission.
Mr. Otten commented that the sequence of the past and current schemes is confusing because of the limited availability of the schemes for public review. Mr. Luebke noted that the current proposal is fundamentally the same as the last scheme submitted.
Chairman Powell concluded that there is no consensus among the Commission members yet. He said he does not object to the proposed ramp, while acknowledging the concern about its length; he said his primary concern is with the proposed facades. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said there might be consensus on the idea that each Commission member is in some way pushing for more compatibility between the historic library and the proposed addition, whether on the exterior, the planning of the front and back entries, or the ramp.
Mr. Myerberg requested that the Commission support the proposed plan so that the design team could focus on fenestration issues in the addition's facades, even while acknowledging that there are alternative ways to handle the ramp and entrance issue. Chairman Powell recommended that the design team give another round of consideration to these alternative configurations, adding that the facade issues are not fundamental to the design concept. Mr. Myerberg said that fenestration was one of the main topics that the design team was asked to address in this submission, along with massing and materials; Mr. Powell reiterated that he is satisfied with the massing and the resolution of the program.
Mr. Luebke suggested a consensus by the Commission that the concept needs more study. He noted the community objections to the proposed side ramp and suggested that the project team reconsider the various design issues in a subsequent presentation, where additional Commission members present might lead to a more unified recommendation.
Jeff Bonvechio, director of the capital construction program for the D.C. Public Library, said that the project team has met with community groups twelve times to work out issues such as the ramp and the location of the program elements; he emphasized that the program is needed to provide the best library services, and it requires an addition of this size. He expressed appreciation that the previous design concept was generally accepted by the Commission at the previous review; the new guidance is a concern because the project team has gone through so many versions and, while the design has improved, the project is now behind schedule. He said the project team could still look at features, but the D.C. Public Library is pleased with the design, including its provision of comparable entry experiences at both entrances and its resolution of the issues, particularly after the decision to reject the placement of the addition on the side of the existing building. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell suggested deferring to the client's opinion. Mr. Powell reiterated his concern with the proposed facades, acknowledging that others are concerned about the ramp and terrace proposals for the side garden, but suggested the possibility of approving the concept for the rest of the design.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk recalled hearing the suggestion in previous meetings to create a grade-level entrance to provide barrier-free access near the front of the building; she suggested further exploration of this possibility. Ms. Nelson asked if this would involve entering from the side garden. Mr. Myerberg responded that this solution had been considered in an early scheme, but the client wants everyone to enter at the same level. He added that the lower level has a relatively low ten-foot ceiling, and placing the second entry at this level would consume valuable interior space; he said that the D.C. Public Library also opposed any solution that would require additional staff to control a second entrance on a different level. Mr. Bonvechio reiterated that the revised concept would give everyone a comparably dignified entrance experience, even with the two entrances located at opposite ends of the building, due to the new entrance that the architects have developed; he said that a lower-level accessible entrance would be a diminished experience.
Mr. Belle recalled the earlier proposal for a front ramp leading up to the main entrance door. Mr. Myerberg confirmed this earlier scheme and said that it was rejected by the community and for historic preservation reasons. Mr. Luebke added that the Commission had questioned whether this earlier proposal would have too much of an impact; Chairman Powell confirmed this. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the tradeoff with the requirement to have everyone enter on the same level is the circuitous entry route, and she therefore suggested that this decision be reconsidered. Mr. Myerberg responded that it would be difficult to revisit this issue, considering the program and operational difficulties that would be nearly impossible to overcome. Ms. Nelson concluded that there was no perfect solution and suggested that the Commission request an opportunity for further review.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's consensus to acknowledge the excellence of the planning, the desirability of having a single entrance, and the need for more compatibility with the original building, along with the request that the applicant present other options for the front entrance. Mr. Powell said he thought the ramp, not the front or the exterior, is the major issue; Ms. Nelson said that it is the ramp's length and design; Mr. Belle added that the location of the entrance point is also an issue.
Chairman Powell suggested a motion to approve the concept and design, with the request that the architect restudy the ramp to see if there is another alternative or if that is where the entrance must be; Mr. Belle expressed supported for such a motion. Ms. Nelson said she had not been present for the last vote, but asked if that recommendation was the same as the previous action. Chairman Powell asked Mr. Myerberg if this motion would be helpful; Mr. Myerberg responded that it is, but agreed that it is almost a repeat of the previous recommendation. Ms. Nelson reiterated that the massing is acceptable but the entrance and ramp should be studied further. Mr. Powell said if the current proposal is the only solution, the Commission will support it; he added that it would not be fair to prevent the progress of the project due to just one aspect of the design.
Mr. Myerberg asked if the Commission sees the side garden and its relation to the historic side stair as a valuable amenity. Ms. Nelson said that this proposal would work programmatically; Mr. Myerberg said that this feature has influenced the proposed configuration of the ramp. Chairman Powell deferred to the client's opinion on the usefulness of the amenity. Mr. Luebke noted that the garden could be developed whether or not the ramp is included to lead to a rear entrance. Chairman Powell said he did not sense that anyone on the Commission opposed or supported the garden; the concern is with the ramp. He added that he would like to be convinced that the fenestration is the best that can be achieved but concluded that he would stand by his previous motion, which Ms. Nelson then seconded.
Chairman Powell clarified that the Commission would be directing the architect to reconsider the ramp and come back with an alternative or a convincing argument that this is the only viable solution. Mr. Belle emphasized that it is not only the Commission that has a problem with the ramp, but the community also. Chairman Powell commended the D.C. Public Library for its support of the project and its commitment to creating a successful library. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's request that the design team should also look at the treatment of the exterior; Mr. Powell reiterated the goal of trying to improve the facade, which he included as part of the motion. The Commission voted to adopt the motion, with Ms. Plater-Zyberk voting against.
Chairman Powell departed the meeting at this point and Vice-Chairman Nelson presided for the remainder of the meeting. Mr. Luebke noted the loss of a quorum for the one remaining agenda item, and said that the recommendation of the three Commission members present will be reported to the Commission for adoption by a quorum at the September meeting.
I. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 09-090 (HPA 09-323), 224 2nd Street SE (Square 762, Lot 07). Watterston House (National Indian Gaming Association). Rear addition, building alterations, and landscaping. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 09-001, February 2009.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept from the National Indian Gaming Association for an addition and alterations to its headquarters building at 224 2nd Street, SE. She said the submission addresses some of the Commission's concerns from the previous review in February. She introduced architect Rich Markus to begin the presentation.
Mr. Markus said the presentation would emphasize changes made since the previous review. He summarized the proposal for a three-story addition to the existing historic building, with the location and massing of the addition approved previously. He said that the current focus is on improving the relationship of the building to the landscape. He indicated the slight adjustments to the proposed shape and materials of the addition; the connecting piece between the addition and existing building has also been reduced in size, allowing more of the existing rear facade to remain exposed. He introduced landscape architect Sandy Clinton of Clinton and Associates to present the landscape design.
Ms. Clinton described the goal of creating a beautiful setting for the building while using materials that would blend into the vernacular landscape design of Capitol Hill. She said that many existing architectural and site features would be retained, including the front fence, the fenestration, large trees, and the front entrance stairway; a second stair would be added at the entrance leading to the back garden. She explained the intention to keep the front yard as a formal space, while treating the rear as private space with a stone terrace, a small water feature, and additional trees and shrubs. Plantings across the facade of the addition would grow from planters placed at several levels; the second and third floors of the addition will also incorporate a green wall. She indicated the small balconies with planters at the third floor of the addition. Green roofs are proposed for the two rear buildings on the site. She noted the unusually advantageous site with a long south facade toward the garden, providing abundant light although with concern about heat gain which is addressed by the proposed clusters of trees to provide shade.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the green roofs would be replanted if they fail; Mr. Markus said that they would be replanted but don't often fail. Ms. Clinton confirmed that the plantings would be drought-resistant and said that the soil massing and layering are important to the success of such roofs; she cited her extensive experience in designing green roofs in Washington. Mr. Belle asked about the risk of water leaks; Ms. Clinton assured that these roofs are designed not to leak.
Ms. Nelson asked about the provision of barrier-free access. Mr. Markus indicated the one-story garage that will be constructed by excavating below the existing buildings at the rear of the site, extending under the rear garden and addition; an elevator would connect the garage to the building as a barrier-free access route. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the grade-level door at the front of the building; Mr. Markus clarified that multiple sets of steps are required to reach this door due to the raised height of the garden. He noted the difficulty of providing access to the building—dating to 1820—and the challenging site topography. He acknowledged that the barrier-free entrance is reached by vehicles, which would enter from the rear alley.
Mr. Belle and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information on the alley elevation. Mr. Markus responded that the two buildings are existing garage structures with two doors each, and the space between them—the location proposed for the ramp—is currently an open-air parking space with its own garage door; a new garage door, not clearly indicated in the elevation, would be placed in the same location to control access to the proposed underground garage.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the treatment of the historic railing. Mr. Markus said that all of the existing railing, dating to 1910 or earlier, will be retained; Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported this proposal. She commented that the design for the front of the site has been improved and is now appropriately formal, corresponding to the geometry of the streetfront which was the Commission's previous concern. Ms. Nelson agreed, characterizing the appearance from the street as "inviting," and commented on the progression toward informality as one moves toward the rear of the site due to the variety of terraces and spaces.
Vice-Chairman Nelson requested a motion, noting that any action would require confirmation by a quorum at the Commission's September meeting. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission members present recommended approval of the proposed design.
Mr. Markus asked if a presentation would be required in September; Mr. Luebke said that none would be necessary unless requested by another member of the Commission, and the likely outcome would be a routine confirmation letter after the September meeting. He confirmed the requirement to file the final design for approval or, if substantial changes are made to the design, to submit a revised concept as needed. He suggested ongoing coordination with the staff, particularly due to the forthcoming review of the project by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:36 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: September 25, 2009