Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 June 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 10:08 a.m.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 May meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes without objection. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 16 July, 17 September, and 15 October; no meeting is scheduled in August.
At this point, the Commission reversed the order of the next two agenda items to consider item I.D.
D. Proposed year 2010 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2010: the Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month, with no meetings in August and December; the Old Georgetown Board would meet the first Thursday of each month, except for January and August. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the 2010 schedule. Vice-Chairman Nelson asked if the Commission could add a December meeting in response to a large caseload; Mr. Luebke confirmed the flexibility of meeting dates, preferably with advance notice of at least four weeks.
The Commission then returned to agenda item I.C.
C. Confirm the reappointment of Stephen Vanze, AIA to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve the reappointment of Stephen Vanze to the Old Georgetown Board for a second three-year term, noting that Mr. Vanze's service began in September 2006 and includes serving as the Board's chairman for one year. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved an additional three-year term for Mr. Vanze to begin in September 2009.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item I.E.
E. Confirmation of one recommendation from the May 2009 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action by the Commission is needed concerning one project reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in a letter sent to the applicant and distributed to the Commission. He listed the project requiring action:
CFA 21/MAY/09-9, Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, 3660 Alabama Avenue, SE. New replacement building. Concept.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission confirmed the action on this project.
Mr. Luebke provided an update on preparations for the Commission's centennial in 2010, noting that the recently enacted federal appropriation includes funding for a temporary full-time architectural history writer and editor on the Commission staff. He said that the job listing is being finalized and would soon be announced on the government's "USAJOBS" website. The additional staff member would work on the symposium events scheduled for May 2010 as well as the planned publication on the Commission's history which would be completed in approximately 2012; the duration of the position would likely be at least two to three years.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Mr. Lindstrom reported the changes to the draft appendix: several related submissions by the George Washington University (case numbers SL 09- 075 through 079) were initially lacking some documentation which has now been supplied; the recommendations for these projects have therefore been changed to be favorable. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. One project was withdrawn by the applicant to provide additional time for design revisions and resubmission to the Old Georgetown Board; another project involving window replacement was withdrawn because the applicant now proposes to repair the existing windows. Three projects have been added: a long-inactive project being closed out (case number OG 09-127) and two projects newly submitted for the next review cycle that can nonetheless be handled expeditiously—one involving primarily repairs, and another that is not visible from public space. He said that other recommendations have been updated to reflect the receipt of supplemental drawings; one similar case has not yet been resolved, and he requested authorization to finalize that recommendation as favorable after receipt of satisfactory supplemental drawings that respond to the Old Georgetown Board's advice. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix subject to the final processing noted by Mr. Martinez.
Mr. Luebke noted that another project in Georgetown, the renovation of the Georgetown Library, was included on the Direct Submission Consent Calendar. The building was heavily damaged by a fire two years ago, and the renovation design has gone through an extensive review process with the staff and the public, resulting in a well-resolved design. He also noted that the Eastern Market building—also damaged by fire on the same day—has also been renovated and will open later in the month; Mr. Lindstrom added that the exterior market area is already in use.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the order of the first two presentations—both by the National Park Service—be reversed to accommodate a request by Mr. Belle, who was not yet present at the meeting. Vice-Chairman Nelson agreed, and the Commission next considered item II.B.2.
B. National Park Service
2. CFA 18/JUN/09-2, National Mall and Memorial Parks. Pedestrian Guide Sign Program. Color selection for new pylon signs. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/09-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission of color-scheme options for the proposed pylon-style wayfinding signs, a component of the National Mall Guide Sign Program. He summarized the Commission's request in the previous review that the National Park Service consider a variety of options for color treatments on the panels of the pylon signs, ranging from monochrome to different tones of matching value. He noted that the Commission had delegated review of the final design for these signs to the staff, except for the color issue, and the staff review would be completed soon. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service's National Capital Region; Mr. May acknowledged the Commission's familiarity with this project and asked consultant Wayne Hunt of Hunt Design to present the color alternatives.
Mr. Hunt summarized the sign program and presented slides and material samples to illustrate the alternatives his team has developed for the pylon sign colors; he acknowledged the sensitivity of color as an issue in sign design. He said the new alternatives use different combinations of the same colors that were previously presented, responding to the Commission's concern that the pylons could have a patchwork appearance.
Mr. Hunt emphasized how important he believes color is to the function of the signs. He said that sign design professionals use colors to help people sort information and sense continuity among multiple sign locations; color is also often used to separate primary information about destinations from secondary information about restrooms or food. He presented slides illustrating how color is used on other signs and objects on the Mall, and on the additional example of buses.
Mr. Hunt discussed how the design team has tried to limit the number of colors seen on any one side of a sign. He described his preferred design, Option A, which designates memorials and monuments with brown, Smithsonian museums with gold, and sites off the Mall with blue; he noted that the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) staff requested that the new Mall wayfinding signs relate to the existing system of blue signs that was developed by the BID for the downtown area. He explained that the placement of the blue panels has been revised so that they would not appear on the same face with other colors but would only be seen on perimeter pylons on the side facing visitors who are looking away from the Mall. He said that a fourth color, green, would indicate ancillary facilities and would be used on only three pylons to indicate restrooms; directions to such destinations would otherwise be placed on other types of signs. He acknowledged that green can be a "hot" color that contributes to a patchwork appearance but emphasized that it would be used in very few locations, and never in combination with the gold or blue colors. He said that the more typical colors on a single pylon would be all brown, all gold, or a combination of these colors on pylons toward the center of the Mall.
Mr. Hunt said that the proposed range of colors in Option A is relatively modest compared to the wide range of colors around the Mall, sometimes beyond the National Park Service's control; he offered the example of numerous buses each with 400 square feet of color—compared to a maximum of 4.6 square feet of color on a pylon sign. He said the pylon proposal is not intended to be "colorful" but only uses color to differentiate information. He noted that the pylon colors would also relate to the colors used on the map signs.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the photograph of a mockup provides an accurate illustration of the proposed gold color; Mr. Hunt explained the difficulty of illustrating the correct shade and said the sample does not show the intended richness of color. He provided a simulated sample of the proposed porcelain enamel material. Ms. Nelson commented that visitors at a distance would be drawn to the signs initially by the gold color; Mr. Hunt responded that the pylons would often be difficult to see from a distance due to trees, shadows, and the dark color of the pylons themselves.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if a visitor would need to walk around a sign to see all the information on it. Mr. Hunt responded that each sign would be oriented to be read from any direction, and the side facing an approaching visitor would only provide information about what lies ahead; he said there would therefore be no need to walk around the sign. Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered the example of a visitor looking for a restroom; Mr. Hunt said that most signs would not have restroom information but acknowledged that visitors might need to see multiple sides. He said that restrooms are being treated as an "attractive nuisance" and the system avoids identifying them on the pylons located toward the edge of the Mall, reserving this information instead for visitors who are already within the Mall.
Mr. Hunt presented the additional design options that would reduce the preferred range of colors shown in Option A. Option B eliminates the gold color for museums, and instead combines museums with memorials in a single brown color. Option C.1 additionally eliminates the blue color and combines museums, memorials, and off-site destinations in the brown color, supplemented by green at some locations. Option C.2 maintains the blue color but eliminates the green by combining the ancillary facilities with museums and memorials in the brown color. Option D.1 has all of the panels in brown, and Option D.2 has all of the panels in a gray color that matches the background color of the pylons. Mr. Hunt emphasized the design team's strong preference for Option A, with the widest range of colors, which he said would have an "integrated and architectural" appearance without being too colorful.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the design team's thorough study but noted another option that she wanted to see: different tones of gray, such as 75 percent, 50 percent, and 25 percent. Mr. Hunt responded that such a solution could be problematic because sufficient contrast is necessary between the lettering and background. Ms. Nelson described the icon images on the proposed panels as "strong, clean, and well-designed." She noted the difficulty of exactly reproducing proposed colors; Mr. Hunt assured the Commission that the design team would continue to generate samples and is getting closer to the desired colors.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for Option D.2 with monochrome gray, describing this design as "legible and incredibly elegant." She acknowledged the effort to study color tones, which she said avoid excessive contrast, but emphasized that the monochrome solution is best. She suggested placing restroom information on more of the tall pylon signs because of the visitor's need for this information. Mr. Hunt clarified that restrooms would be identified in plain text toward the bottom of many pylons, where secondary information is placed; the panels with icons, which identify more prominent destinations, would be located on the upper part of the pylons and would be limited to a maximum of three on any face of the pylon.
Ms. Nelson questioned whether visitors would understand the relationship between the blue color of the pylons and the different blue color of the Downtown BID sign system. Mr. Hunt acknowledged the difference between the blue colors but said visitors would nonetheless understand the "gesture of connection" to destinations outside the Mall.
Mr. Rybczynski said that he mostly agrees with Ms. Balmori and described Option D.2 as "dignified." He expressed skepticism about the design team's intended use of color, comparing it to the color system of parking garages, and questioned the "pseudoscience" of signage which he said would result in a different proposal in ten to fifteen years by an equally persuasive expert with a different theory. He said the important goal is maintaining the dignity of the Mall, which is best achieved with Option D.2. Mr. Hunt responded that elimination of colors makes the information difficult for visitors to sort; he noted the particular importance of providing a distinct color field for the arrow at the top of each pylon face. Ms. Balmori said that the icons are very effective in communicating information to visitors.
Mr. McKinnell asked if light-colored lines would be used as a separation between the panels; Mr. Hunt responded that none are proposed, and the lines appearing on the renderings illustrate the shadow in the reveal between the panels. Mr. McKinnell said he agreed with other Commission members that the monochrome gray of Option D.2 is superior. He commented that the photograph that was presented of a red, white, and blue sign on the Mall [for the Tourmobile service] demonstrates the advantage of avoiding color. Mr. Hunt said that this image was intended to show the appropriateness of the proposed colors; Mr. McKinnell said that, instead, it made the case that a single unified color would be more elegant and dignified for the proposed sign system, which he said should have the appropriate character for this national place rather than that of a commercial venture. Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that the monochromatic option is "timeless."
Mr. Hunt responded that the single color might be more dignified but would be less functional. He said that the materials of the signs would be of such a quality that they would have an architectural, rather than commercial, appearance. Ms. Balmori said that there is already too much colorful signage and emphasized the Commission's goal of defending the dignity of Mall and assuring that the signs are well-designed. She congratulated the design team on its successful resolution of the remaining issues in the design, which she said has convinced her to support the project in past reviews despite her initial skepticism. Mr. Hunt suggested that the desirability of using color may become more apparent upon further consideration; Ms. Balmori assured him that she has considered the question extensively.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the use of color, citing Mr. Hunt's discussion of visitor perception, but acknowledged the preference of the other Commission members for the monochrome gray option. Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the decision would be determined by the Commission's vote, adding that the elimination of the gold color is especially helpful in the other options that were presented; she nonetheless supported the monochrome option as the most supportive of the Mall's character.
Mr. Hunt said the design team had also developed an additional option: eliminating the small number of green panels, which he said could appear somewhat commercial. The blue color would only be used at a limited number of locations, and the remainder of the pylons would be brown, gold, or gray, which he characterized as "architectural" colors. Ms. Nelson said that in several years there might be different colors that are considered architectural. Mr. Hunt clarified that he thinks architectural colors have a lot of gray and black, with specific relationships on the color wheel. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that brown is used for road signs which could perhaps suggest another color connection; she reiterated Mr. Hunt's assertion that visitors will make connections with colors that they have seen previously, while acknowledging the view of other Commission members that this analysis could be questionable.
Mr. McKinnell noted the design team's insistence on using colors to distinguish between functional groups; Mr. Hunt said the primary distinction is to treat museums separately from memorials. Mr. McKinnell characterized this as an arcane distinction that would mean little to visitors; more important would be to distinguish between visitor attractions and physical necessities, such as restrooms. Ms. Balmori agreed; Mr. Rybczynski added that visitors perceive the Mall as part of the overall city, without concern for bureaucratic boundaries, and the intention to use the sign system to separate the various categories of attractions would be artificial and inappropriately commercial.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized Judy Scott Feldman, chairman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, who said that her group welcomes improved signage on the Mall. She said that the key characteristics of the signs should be simplicity and dignity, echoing the guidance for the Mall from the McMillan Plan. She noted the multiplicity of jurisdictions around the Mall and the resulting variation in sign systems, including an additional new system being designed by the Smithsonian Institution, and recommended a more unified treatment of signs. She asked the Commission members to talk with the National Capital Planning Commission, the President, and Congress about the need to create an identity for the National Mall as a unified place that is larger than the individual jurisdictions. She recommended that the Commission help to bring together all of the involved agencies to work jointly rather than independently on this issue, with the goal of improving visitor understanding.
Mr. Luebke asked the Commission members if they wanted to discuss some limited use of color variation, such as to distinguish between visitor necessities and attractions. Mr. Rybczynski summarized the majority support for the monochrome option. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori said that if there is one color, it should be gray rather than brown. Mr. Hunt asked the Commission to consider using gray with the addition of brown to distinguish the arrow icon from the other panels, saying that the design team is worried that the gray alone would be too subtle. He discussed different ways these two colors might be used on the panels, in combination with the base which would be stone that is nearly black in color. He acknowledged the Commission's desire to keep the signs dignified, but reiterated that color could help visitors to sort information.
Mr. Rybczynski reiterated the consensus for Option D.2. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved Option D.2; Ms. Plater-Zyberk voted against the motion, and Vice-Chairman Nelson abstained.
The Commission then returned to agenda item II.B.1. Mr. Belle entered the meeting at the beginning of this presentation.
1. CFA 18/JUN/09-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, SW, at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Perimeter security. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/08-4.) Mr. Luebke introduced the alternative concept designs for perimeter security at the planned memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He summarized the Commission's previous review of the project in November 2008, when the final design was approved with several exceptions—including the perimeter security, which had not been included in earlier submissions, as well as the memorial's inscriptions, signage, and the modeling of the central sculpture. He said the proposed security at that time included a line of bollards across the memorial's forecourt near the entrance through the "Mountain of Despair." The Commission rejected this proposal and instead recommended, if the security requirement could not be eliminated altogether, that alternatives be developed such as placing the barrier closer to the street or further developing the site design's proposed berms and retaining walls; he said that the current submission provides such alternatives. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the National Park Service has a need to provide for visitor safety and is committed to incorporating the security features into the memorial's design in a graceful manner; the current submission includes several alternatives for accomplishing this. He introduced Dr. Ed Jackson, Jr., executive architect of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., who asked Ron Kessler of the design team to present the alternative concepts.
Mr. Kessler said that the exploration of security in the forecourt included consideration of the pedestrian experience and the desirability of a landscape solution, resulting in three concepts which have been illustrated with drawings and animations. He summarized the approved memorial design and the previously submitted perimeter security at the forecourt, which he said was rejected for two apparent reasons: the proposed line of bollards was shown inappropriately close to the Mountain of Despair and would not protect visitors in most of the forecourt area. He also noted the Commission's past interest in providing shade in the forecourt area, which would also create a separation between the memorial and the nearby road traffic. He said that the design team agrees that placing a landscape element near Independence Avenue will create a better sense of entry to the memorial. The alternative concepts therefore include various landscape features near the street edges and are designed to minimize the number of bollards by relying on landscape features for much of the security barrier. Detailed design considerations include the alignment of the linear walls framing the forecourts; the pedestrian arrival paths from the National Mall on the north and from the drop-off area and bookshop on the west; and the palette of materials in the current design of the memorial.
Mr. Kessler presented the first set of alternatives, collectively labeled "Conceptual Option A," which includes various configurations of a single large raised landscaped island planter along the sidewalk at the corner of West Basin Drive and Independence Avenue. The perimeter protection would be provided by the low planter walls, with necessary additional security height provided by depressing the ground level within the planter.
Mr. Kessler described the next set of alternatives, Conceptual Option B, which proposes a series of benches in the forecourt. The benches would be lower than the required height for a single barrier, but the concept would be to combine the benches in a configuration that provides the required protection from vehicles; he said that the design team has chosen not to pursue this option further because of questions about the sufficiency of this configuration to address the security requirement. Ms. Balmori said that additional height could be provided by including backs on the benches; Mr. Kessler responded that including backs would make the benches appear too massive and therefore the design team did not pursue this approach.
Mr. Kessler presented the third set of alternatives, Conceptual Option C, which proposes narrow planters with a height of 3.5 feet to conceal three-foot-high structural bollards. He said that these planters—shown with a length of twelve feet—appear to create an excessive barrier, and the design team is not recommending this solution. He noted that the height of visible bollards is also a design consideration: beyond the minimum structural height, the provision of additional height for the outer sleeve would allow for a tapering profile that the design team prefers.
Mr. Kessler summarized the design team's preference for Conceptual Option A. Ms. Nelson asked if other concepts were considered, such as boulders instead of bollards; she noted that boulders could be also used for seating. Mr. Kessler said that this was considered but rejected because boulders would be too similar to two of the memorial's key features—the Mountain of Despair and the Stone of Hope—and the appropriate size of the boulders would create a much larger barrier than the slender profile of bollards. Mr. Belle asked about the type of trees that would be in the proposed planter; Mr. Kessler responded that cherry trees are proposed, similar to those intended for other locations in the memorial.
Mr. Kessler presented the various alternatives of Conceptual Option A. The varying shapes proposed for the landscaping island would result in two to four bollards at each of the two openings to the sidewalk—one opening toward Independence Avenue and one toward West Basin Drive. He described the proposed design of the bollards, with a bronze exterior having a tapered profile and slight detailing such as a reveal at the top and bottom. The location of trees within the planter would also vary among the alternatives, including the possibility of locating the trees on the centerline of the forecourt or slightly to one side. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the design team has a preference among the alternatives for Conceptual Option A. Mr. Kessler said that they are generally similar and there is no preference; he later clarified a preference for the first three of the four alternatives shown.
Mr. Kessler described the proposed design of the planter walls, which would vary in height from 15 to 27 inches; a tapering profile is proposed that would be similar to the previously approved walls framing the sides of the forecourt. He clarified that the portion of the wall with the 27-inch height would, in conjunction with a one-foot depression inside the planter, provide the necessary three-foot security barrier; the 15-inch height for other parts of the wall is chosen to relate to other proposed planter walls but could be adjusted to a different dimension. He said that the transition in wall heights would be achieved by a gentle slope; he also noted that the maximum height of 27 inches was measured from the adjacent forecourt surface, which is descending toward the memorial, and would be equivalent to 24 inches above the level of the Independence Avenue sidewalk.
Ms. Nelson asked if the design intention is to have visitors perceive the Mountain of Despair from the street or discover it as they move around the planter. Mr. Kessler responded said that the intention is evolving; the previous concept was to have an open vista from the street with a clear view into the memorial, but the design team is now favoring the separation of the memorial from the roads and the enhanced sense of arrival at the memorial. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the profile of other landscaping walls be used for this proposed planter; Mr. Kessler said that other nearby walls would include varying profiles including sloped transitions between various heights.
Ms. Balmori commented that the cherry trees are incorrectly rendered in the animations; they actually have low branches that will interrupt pedestrians' views across the planters. She said that the tree pruning indicated in the animations would not be appropriate for cherry trees, and suggested the selection of taller trees with larger canopies. She noted her request in past reviews for additional trees in the forecourt area, which had been rejected by the design team due to the desire to maintain an open view into the memorial. She acknowledged that the design team has changed its thinking on this issue, but said that the specification of taller trees would be better for maintaining partial views, if desired, as well as superior shade. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the selection of trees would therefore relate to determining the design intent—to maintain views from the street and sidewalk across the planter into the forecourt and memorial; or to design the planter as a visual barrier similar to other visual barriers around the memorial, with the memorial's key elements being revealed as visitors move around the planter into the forecourt. She said that treating the island as part of the memorial's overall sidewalk edge would suggest a simpler wall profile matching those edges rather than the canted profile that is proposed; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Kessler clarified that the proposed wall is similar to the overall treatment of site walls elsewhere along the memorial's edges. Dr. Jackson responded that the view toward the memorial remains an important design consideration; he said that the design team would consider Ms. Balmori's advice and select trees that would maintain this view.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the planter concept, resulting in two separate openings between the forecourt and the sidewalk, suggested the possibility of realigning the West Basin Drive opening in relation to the bookshop across the street. Ms. Balmori added that the planter configuration would define the two entrances as being equal or having a hierarchy. Dr. Jackson responded that the entrance widths are related to the expected proportion of arrival directions for visitors; one alternative has equal-sized openings along the two streets, while other alternatives have a larger opening toward the bus drop-off area. He requested the Commission's response to the various entrance widths and configurations that are shown.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the issues raised by the Commission suggest that the memorial's relationship to the city has changed due to this security-related design revision, and he said that the change is an improvement. He described the earlier design's wide-open relationship to the street intersection with a funnel-shaped forecourt as "simplistic," while the new submission suggests an entry sequence leading initially to the Tidal Basin area and then to the memorial. He said that the design features that define this sequence are subtle, including the placement of the bollards near the sidewalk where they relate to the city environment rather than to the memorial which avoids the problem of affecting the memorial's message. He agreed with the design team that Conceptual Option A is preferable, commenting that in future decades visitors will enjoy the inspiring experience of moving past large full-grown trees toward the memorial's "magnificent" Mountain of Despair. He agreed that this experience would require selecting a larger type of tree than the proposed cherries. He summarized his reaction to the proposed planter as an improvement over the previous design for the memorial, emphasizing that this improvement has remarkably emerged from the imposition of a perimeter security requirement.
Mr. Luebke noted that the original competition scheme for the memorial included trees in the forecourt area; the change in the design to include the proposed planter is therefore consistent with a return to the original design intent. He also noted that the planter will help to address the Commission's longstanding concern about the need for additional shade in the forecourt. He said that the Commission had also expressed concern in past reviews about the memorial's unresolved geometric relationship to the street corner, which will be much less problematic with the introduction of the planter in this area. He added that the staff had suggested an alternative with two islands resulting in three openings for pedestrians, although such a scheme has not been developed for presentation to the Commission. Mr. McKinnell commented that two islands would not be desirable because they would result in one of the entrances being in the middle, providing undue emphasis on the street intersection; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that three openings might be beneficial by allowing more careful alignment with the crosswalks whose locations have been determined by safety considerations.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the canted walls around the planters are becoming problematic in the design of the forecourt, more than when the walls framed only two sides of the space. With the walls increasing in extent and protruding more directly into sightlines, he said that the wall profile is becoming a distracting and inappropriate design motif. He acknowledged the intention to design the planter with wall profiles used elsewhere in the memorial rather than introducing an entire new design element, but he recommended that the form of the walls be reconsidered. He suggested that a more ordinary profile be used, commenting that the unusual canted profile introduces a powerful visual element at an inappropriate location. He compared the proposed design to the TWA terminal at Kennedy Airport, which has a plasticity that is not appropriate to this memorial's design. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed; Ms. Nelson added that adequate seating is an important consideration, and the animations—with all visitors shown standing—illustrate the lack of attention to this need. Mr. McKinnell commented that a proposal with a more conventional wall profile might cause the Commission to suggest some modification to soften its appearance.
Dr. Jackson responded that the size of the island—varying among the alternatives shown—would affect the perceived prominence of the wall profile. Ms. Balmori said that the presence of this wall at the street corner would make it the first feature seen by visitors, and the canted profile at this location would establish a style that does not relate to the powerful design of the memorial's central features. Mr. Rybczynski said that the canted profile apparently evolved as a continuation of the sloped berms alongside the forecourt, which had a design logic that is not applicable to the proposed island; Dr. Jackson affirmed that the same profile is used on the islands within the memorial's central plaza, and the design team wanted to maintain the vocabulary of the existing design. Ms. Balmori said that the canted profile should be reconsidered throughout the memorial. Ms. Nelson reiterated the need for seating; Dr. Jackson clarified that seating is provided along one side of the islands in the central plaza, and additional seating may be added along these islands. He acknowledged that this limited seating capacity would not address the large number of visitors anticipated for the memorial.
Mr. McKinnell suggested that the proposed island at the forecourt be treated differently from the other landscape features that are more directly associated with flanking the memorial, allowing a different profile along the island that would provide seating along its entire perimeter; the other walls would more appropriately continue the sloped edges of the berms. Dr. Jackson responded that the proposed island is prominently located at the front entrance to the memorial, and a large amount of seating visible from the street corner would not be desirable; he said that seating toward the forecourt might be more acceptable, where seated people would be less prominently visible from the street and sidewalk. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle asked for further justification of this design criterion; Dr. Jackson responded that the height of a seating wall would create a visual barrier at this location. Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification of the currently proposed height; Mr. Kessler responded that the height facing the sidewalk would be 15 inches, which Mr. McKinnell said would be adequate for seating. He noted that people routinely sit on steps such as at the Lincoln Memorial, and the provision of a back is not necessary. Dr. Jackson said that the provision of seating would also require the provision of alcoves for wheelchair-users in accordance with National Park Service requirements; Mr. May said that this requirement might apply to specifically designed seating but not to a general-purpose surface, such as a site wall.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked how the seating is designed along the edges of the central plaza's islands; Dr. Jackson said that that edge is treated as a modification of the canted-profile configuration, and Mr. Luebke said that this design detail—part of the approved memorial design—is not included in the current submission materials. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the slot shown beneath the wall in one of the sections; Mr. Kessler responded that it accommodates a continuous lighting tube along the forecourt edges leading toward the Mountain of Despair. He acknowledged that this detail could be refined further; Mr. Belle recommended that this refinement include consideration of a seating edge. Mr. Rybczynski commented that people will sit on anything, including the canted profile that is shown, but the goal is to make the seating a nicer experience.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized Judy Scott Feldman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall. Ms. Feldman offered her reaction to the proposal, noting that she has not consulted with her organization's board; she agreed that the proposed design revision may result in an improved entrance configuration for the memorial. She also agreed with the concern that cherry trees would be too low at this location, commenting that views from passing cars might not need to be a major design criteria but the view of pedestrians should be considered; a taller tree would therefore be desirable. She discussed the memorial in the larger context of the Mall and Tidal Basin, with many visitors walking between this site and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial to the south, the Lincoln Memorial and Korean War Memorial on the northwest, and other locations on the east. She supported the concept of creating a sheltered area at this memorial's forecourt to provide a destination for seating and relaxation; she strongly encouraged additional seating at this location, particularly on the side of the island facing the forecourt which would provide a more contemplative experience. She compared the setting to the transition spaces of a church or mosque, bridging between the urban and contemplative environments.
Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the Commission could recommend a particular alternative or give more general guidance on the concepts that were submitted. Mr. Kessler said that the choice among the alternatives in Conceptual Option A includes the trade-off between the width of openings for pedestrians and the number of bollards. Ms. Balmori said fewer bollards would be better; Ms. Nelson agreed with this general principle but said the difference in number would be minor compared to the importance of shaping the appropriate view of the Mountain of Despair for pedestrians entering the memorial's forecourt. She asked Dr. Jackson for his preference; he said that alternatives A.1 and A.4 are of greatest interest. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that A.4 includes a progression from the sidewalk to the forecourt that is not present in the other alternatives. Mr. May said that the curved wall along the forecourt in A.3 is a significant attribute; Mr. McKinnell said that this gesture is subtle, but Mr. May said that it would nevertheless contribute to forming the space.
Dr. Jackson noted that alternative A.4 places the bollards furthest away from the street which would make them less intrusive. Ms. Nelson commented that this configuration integrates the bollards into the design rather than treating them as street furniture. Mr. McKinnell agreed and said that this should be a reason for rejecting A.4, preferring the other alternatives which associate the bollards with the street rather than with the memorial; Mr. Belle and Ms. Balmori concurred.
Mr. Belle summarized the Commission's consensus for alternative A.1. Ms. Balmori commented that the generous size of the planter in A.1 makes a strong statement about the importance of the landscape, compared to the undersized planters in the other alternatives. She offered a motion to recommend alternative A.1 with a recommendation for larger and more numerous trees in the island, and a recommendation that the edge of the island accommodate seating; Mr. Rybczynski clarified that "sitting" would be a better term for the recommendation. Ms. Balmori said that the recommendation should note that A.1 is also preferred because it has the fewest number of bollards—two along Independence Avenue and three along West Basin Drive—and should offer congratulations to the design team on developing good solutions to this problem, noting that security-related modifications often detract from projects. Upon a second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission adopted Ms. Balmori's motion.
Following the vote, Vice-Chairman Nelson asked about the status of the memorial's central sculpture. Dr. Jackson responded that a visit to the sculptor's studio in China is scheduled for August, when 80 percent completion is anticipated; the design team will look closely at the sculptural details and provide advice based on the Commission's past guidance. He reiterated that the artist will perform the final sculptural work at the memorial site, providing the opportunity for further involvement by the Commission. Mr. McKinnell asked if the design team is satisfied with the sculpture to date; Dr. Jackson described the work as "fabulous." Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's past request for a full-scale mockup showing the treatment of the sculpture's surfaces, which Dr. Jackson said will be provided.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if discouragement of skateboarding needs to be a design consideration. Mr. Luebke responded that this continues to be a routine consideration for public spaces and is addressed through such techniques as the treatment of surfaces and the placement of obstacles. Mr. McKinnell commented that the placement of intermittent seats within the planter wall would accomplish this; Ms. Balmori agreed, and Mr. Belle commented that all of these considerations should be part of the detailing for this wall.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.C.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 18/JUN/09-3, 2010 Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Program. Designs for one-dollar silver coin. Final. Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the design alternatives for the commemorative coin honoring the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America. Ms. Budow summarized the authorizing legislation and the history of the Boy Scouts. She described the organization's theme for its centennial—"100 years of scouting: celebrating the adventure, continuing the journey"—which provides the text for some of the coin design alternatives. Other text, in addition to the typical wording for coins, would include the dates "1910" and "2010," the motto "Be Prepared," and the title "Boy Scouts of America." She clarified that the proposal is for a commemorative coin that would not be in general circulation.
Ms. Budow presented seventeen alternative designs for the obverse. The first five include portraits of three scouts representing the diversity of the three major divisions of scouting—Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the Venturing Program, which includes girls. The remaining twelve alternatives include a modern-day and 1910 scout to illustrate the continuity of the scouting tradition. She distributed artwork and photographs to the Commission members illustrating the various historic and present-day scout uniforms, used as source material for the coin designs; she clarified that the designs are not intended to depict specific people. She explained the details present in many of the designs, including the differing salutes of the various scouts. She indicated the depicted settings and activities, including a camping environment, orienteering, story-telling at a campfire, hiking, fire-building, and flag-raising. She said that some of the designs are simpler due to omitting one or both theme phrases—"continuing the journey" and "celebrating the adventure" or similar wording—but the Boy Scouts of America prefers that these phrases be included.
Vice-Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission discuss the numerous obverse alternatives before considering the reverse. Ms. Balmori commented that the quality of drawings for all alternatives is poor, particularly the depiction of the human figures; she recommended that the Mint find better artists to design the coins and prepare the drawings. Mr. McKinnell questioned whether the designs that do not include a girl would be acceptable in representing the organization; Ms. Budow clarified that the coin does not commemorate the Girl Scouts, a separate organization, but could include a girl as part of the Venturer program. Mr. McKinnell asked about the importance of girls in the organization; Ms. Budow responded that the Venturing program began in 1998. She emphasized that the first five designs illustrate the diversity of modern scouting, while the remaining twelve designs relate present-day scouts to their 1910 counterparts. Ms. Nelson commented that these twelve designs are difficult to appreciate because the differences in uniform are subtle and the coin is small; the most noticeable difference is that, in many of the alternatives, one scout is not wearing a hat. She suggested a different design concept that would be more legible on a coin; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed. Ms. Budow acknowledged that the uniforms are similar and are primarily distinguished by color; she said that many details of the uniforms are significant such as the shoulder patches. She added that the Boy Scouts of America prefers the modern-day diversity theme of the first five alternatives, and has particularly supported Designs #1, 2, and 5.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that Design #12 is superior compositionally due to its simplicity and strength. He agreed that the distinction between historic and modern uniforms is too subtle for the coin but said that the depiction of the traditional Boy Scout hat is a good design feature; he expressed regret that it has been replaced by a baseball-style hat in modern scouting. Ms. Balmori agreed that Design #12 is the best composition.
Ms. Nelson commented on the difficulty of depicting children in artwork, noting the different proportions of facial features compared to adults, and agreed that the depictions in these designs are unsatisfactory. Mr. Belle questioned why the Mint chose to submit seventeen "mediocre designs" and said that a smaller number of well-executed designs would be preferable for the Commission's review; he emphasized that the Commission has previously offered this guidance to Mint officials. He concluded that the quality of submission from the Mint has unfortunately not improved during his tenure on the Commission; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Belle observed that the Commission's comments appear not to be having an impact on the Mint.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged that the Commission is not familiar with the design criteria that the Mint likely uses in generating the alternatives, and she suggested that the Commission have an opportunity to comment on these criteria for future coins in order to improve the quality of submissions. She suggested a potential improvement that would be applicable to the current design: developing a distinction in the treatment of commemorative text compared to the standard text of coins. She said that some of the alternatives group the phrases appropriately, while others mix up the categories. She agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that Design #12 has a strong composition but suggested that the phrase "In God We Trust" be placed in a closer relationship to "Liberty" and separate from the "1910-2010" text that specifically commemorates the Boy Scouts. She indicated Designs #4 and #10 as having a better grouping of text. Ms. Budow said that the Mint gives the artists flexibility in configuring the text, and for this coin there was added flexibility to include or omit some of the phrases.
Mr. McKinnell asked for further clarification of whether the depiction of modern-day diversity is a necessary feature of the design; if so, the Commission could limit its consideration to the first five alternatives. Ms. Budow responded that the Boy Scouts of America has supported both of the themes that were used to develop the alternatives; after reviewing the resulting designs, the organization's top preferences were several designs showing the modern diversity, but also expressed lesser support for other alternatives. She noted that the Boy Scouts of America would not make its final recommendation until after consideration of advice from the Commission as well as from the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for Design #4 due to its simple depiction of three saluting scouts without additional elements such as a flag or landscape. She acknowledged that the text from the centennial theme adds to the wordiness of this alternative, but she said that it adds to the meaning of the design. Mr. Rybczynski encouraged minimizing the amount of text and noted that Design #12 has very little text, which may be the reason for this alternative's simplicity and strength. He suggested that a third figure could be added to Design #12 to express the modern-day diversity theme rather than the contrast of a current and historic Boy Scout; the figures could be slightly smaller to fit well within the composition. Ms. Nelson agreed with this suggestion.
Mr. Belle expressed support for Design #6 which he described as classical in its pose, showing the two figures in profile engaged in orienteering in front of a mountainous landscape; Mr. Rybczynski said he could support this alternative. Ms. Budow noted that the range of submissions was intended to include action scenes such as this one. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the special rendering on Design #6 of the phrase "In God We Trust," which Ms. Budow explained is an indication of incused lettering within the raised surface; Ms. Nelson expressed support for the subtle effect of this method.
Ms. Nelson noted that Design #6 does not include phrases from the centennial theme; Ms. Budow said that this design would therefore likely not be supported by the Boy Scouts of America. Mr. Belle asked if these additional phrases should be considered a requirement of the design. Ms. Budow said that the Mint's director has encouraged a reduction in the amount of text on coins, which is part of the effort to respond to the Commission's advice by encouraging simplicity of design and uniformity among the alternatives developed by different artists. She said the Mint intends to develop a three-dimensional simulation method for future submissions, which will help to reduce the variation of artistic rendering methods such as shading. She emphasized that the submitted designs should serve as guides for the sculptural process rather than be beautiful illustrations in themselves. Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that the coin is a small relief sculpture that does not involve linework.
Vice-Chairman Nelson summarized the Commission's support for Design #6 but the concern that its theme would not be acceptable in comparison to the alternatives illustrating modern-day diversity. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could address the topic of the two different themes or could comment solely on design issues, and it could recommend a single design or more than one. Vice-Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission consider the reverse design alternatives before resolving these questions.
Ms. Budow presented five alternative designs for the reverse, all including the Boy Scouts of America name and fleur-de-lis logo with the motto "Be Prepared" in addition to standard coin text. She noted the graphic depiction of a textured surface proposed for some of the alternatives and the ribbon motif that is sometimes used as a setting for text. She clarified that the logo would be raised above the flat field of the reverse. She said that the Boy Scouts of America prefers Design #2, 4, and 5 for the reverse.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for Design #5, commenting on its graphic strength. Ms. Budow responded that this design would be even more attractive with the mirrored finish that will be used for the field of this coin. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented favorably on the composition of Design #5 but said that the text configuration is problematic due to the symmetric placement of the phrases "Be Prepared" and "E Pluribus Unum." Ms. Nelson also criticized the lack of hierarchy in the composition of the paired mottoes. Mr. Rybczynski said that the scrolls are "pompous" and inappropriate on a coin honoring this youth-oriented organization; he supported Design #5, commenting that the other reverse designs have a military character. Ms. Budow said that the Commission could offer a recommendation that includes removing the scroll from a design. Ms. Nelson suggested that Design #4 could be modified to eliminate the scrolls, but she reiterated her support for Design #t due to the strength of the larger fleur-de-lis logo. Ms. Budow responded that eliminating the scrolls on Design #4 would create a problem of separating the multiple phrases of text in the lower portion of the reverse; she acknowledged that the scroll does not serve that purpose in the upper portion.
Vice-Chairman Nelson suggested a consensus for Design #5 on the reverse; Ms. Plater-Zyberk remained skeptical but acknowledged that the other Commission members may not share her concern. Ms. Balmori agreed to support Design #5 on the reverse but declined to support any alternative for the obverse. Vice-Chairman Nelson requested a vote on the obverse designs that were favorably discussed: Design #4, 6, and 12. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Nelson voted for Design #4; Mr. Belle and Mr. Rybczynski voted for Design #6; and Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Balmori declined to vote for an obverse design. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's vote of split support for Designs #4 and 6 on the obverse, and the consensus for Design #5 on the reverse.
Ms. Balmori reiterated the request that the Mint select artists who can provide better depictions of people, which she said was the reason she did not vote on any obverse design. Mr. Luebke noted that the Mint's Artistic Infusion Program has attracted participants with varying levels of skill; Ms. Balmori said that this situation is problematic. Mr. Luebke said that historically the Mint had sometimes commissioned prominent sculptors such as August Saint-Gaudens, and also had trained artist-engravers on its internal staff; the Mint's current practice is to seek outside artists, resulting in uneven design quality. He said that the Mint has been advised repeatedly of the Commission's dissatisfaction with the current design process. Ms. Budow noted that the Mint still relies on in-house engravers and sculptors for some parts of the design process. Ms. Balmori suggested a design competition for selecting the artists. Ms. Budow responded that a competition was used to select the artists for the Artistic Infusion Program; she noted that another competition is anticipated soon. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that, as part of the announcement of the next competition, the Mint contact arts organizations such as the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America; Ms. Budow welcomed suggestions for informing artists of the competition. Ms. Nelson also recommended that the Mint pursue a different rendering technique or three-dimensional representation method to replace the line drawings that have typically been submitted, and Ms. Budow confirmed that this is the Mint's goal.
D. American Battle Monuments Commission
CFA 18/JUN/09-4, Honolulu National Memorial. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii. Alterations for handicap accessibility and additions for new interpretive areas. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced General William Leszcynski, Executive Director of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), to begin the presentation of the proposed alterations and additions to the memorial at Hawaii's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
General Leszcynski described the memorial, which was constructed in the 1960s and designed by the San Francisco firm of Weihe, Frick & Kruse. He said the memorial includes eight open-air "Courts of the Missing" framed by walls inscribed with the names of Americans killed in or missing from battles in the Central and South Pacific regions and Asia during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. At the upper level of the sloping site, the memorial's gallery arcades have mosaic maps of the battle areas, with the exception of Vietnam; the current project proposes adding a small gallery containing battle maps interpreting the story of the Vietnam War. He said the project also includes improved barrier-free access to all levels of the memorial.
General Leszcynski introduced architects Christopher Hall and Barry Eiswerth of H2L2, who presented drawings, photographs, and a study model to illustrate the proposal. Mr. Eiswerth said the memorial and cemetery are located in the crater of a dormant volcano. He described the memorial's organization along a central axis, with a stairway of seven sets of ten steps leading up to a memorial forecourt that fronts a central chapel flanked by map galleries; the Courts of the Missing are grouped in four pairs flanking every other landing of the central stairway. Driveways provide vehicular access at the upper and lower ends of the memorial.
Mr. Hall explained the proposed system for providing barrier-free access to the Courts of the Missing, noting that the site's topography is steeper than the 1:12 maximum slope for accessibility permitted under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said that four pairs of lifts would connect each level of courts on each side of the central stairway, enabling disabled visitors to travel on either side to reach the courts or the lower driveway or the chapel and galleries at the top. Mr. Eiswerth noted the challenge of keeping new construction away from the row of mature trees lining each side of the memorial outside the court walls.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the proposed system would require disabled visitors to return from each level of courts to the lowest level in order to use a lift to a different level of courts; Mr. Luebke clarified that the lifts would be configured sequentially to allow direct movement between adjacent levels. Mr. Rybczynski asked whether the lifts involve movement along railings. Mr. Hall and Mr. Eiswerth responded that the lifts are open-air vertical-movement platforms that are commonly installed in public places; their construction would primarily be metal with transparent doors. Mr. Eiswerth said that the platform can accommodate one wheelchair per operation and can be operated without an assistant.
Mr. Hall confirmed that the lowest pair of courts would be at the grade of the lower driveway. He indicated on the plan how a person would enter a lift, ascend, follow a walkway along the edge of the memorial, enter a Court of the Missing, and then exit the court to another lift and walkway, continuing this cycle to the top of the memorial; at each level a visitor could cross the stair landing to the opposite court and could continue to the lifts on the opposite side. Mr. Eiswerth added that the lifts would be placed along the exterior face of the court walls where they would not be prominently visible and would intrude only minimally into the landscape, which includes trees and gravesites in close proximity to the memorial.
Ms. Balmori described a rail system that she had seen in Japan—using a sloping rail system with stops at several levels—and asked if the architects had considered such a system. Mr. Hall and Mr. Eiswerth said that the grade is too steep at this site; Ms. Balmori noted that the grade of the Japanese system is steeper than at this memorial. Mr. Luebke noted another complicating issue in this case is that each memorial court is offset from the next, so there is a stepping geometry in plan; a continuous rail would therefore result in a diagonal path on each side that could alter the memorial's character. Mr. Rybczynski added that such a system would also have less capacity, with only a single platform available for the entire length of the memorial; Mr. Eiswerth confirmed that the proposed system would have eight lifts that could all be in use simultaneously.
Mr. McKinnell asked the architects to indicate the existing perimeter walls and to describe existing and new materials. Mr. Hall explained the proposal to use some existing openings in the court walls and to create some new openings by moving portions of the existing walls. Mr. Eiswerth said the existing walls are constructed of tufa, a volcanic stone, on the exterior and travertine facing the courts; the new walls would use the same materials with the goal of matching the new construction with the old. Mr. Belle asked about the vertical rises of the lifts; Mr. Eiswerth responded that they would range from three to eight feet per level to ascend the thirty-two-foot-high grade change; he added that the topography is shallower toward the bottom and steeper toward the top. Mr. Rybczynski asked if parallel sets of walkways and lifts are intended for a one-way system of ascending and descending sides; Mr. Eiswerth responded that the lifts on each side could be used in either direction.
Ms. Nelson asked about maintenance of the lifts, noting the typical problems with machinery in outdoor settings; General Leszcynski responded that the American Battle Monuments Commission would be responsible for maintenance, as at all of its facilities. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that such lifts occasionally malfunction and require a staffperson to be available on request through an alarm button; she asked where the person responding to such needs would be located. Mr. Eiswerth indicated on the map the location for such personnel at the small museum and office structure at the other end of the crater, several hundred yards from the memorial. Mr. Luebke noted that an earlier proposal presented to the staff had only a single system of lifts that involved a zig-zag route across the courts and landings; the current proposal with two parallel routes provides redundancy at all levels in case a lift is not functioning. Mr. Eiswerth added that the design team explored a simpler solution of providing ramps, but the necessary size of a ramp system would have conflicted with the location of trees and gravesites beside the memorial.
Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the proposed access would be a valuable addition to the memorial. Mr. Eiswerth noted the dramatic site and large number of visitors to the cemetery, with many arriving on tour buses. Ms. Nelson commented that the proposal maintains the beautiful symmetry of the original memorial design. Mr. Eiswerth said the design goal is for the memorial to appear as if all the work was done at the same time.
Mr. McKinnell noted that the Commission has been looking closely at signs, which can harm a setting; he recommended that any necessary new signs associated with the added access be handled very sensitively. Mr. Eiswerth said that the design team would work with guidelines established by the American Battle Monuments Commission for signs; he confirmed that the design team would prepare designs for the signs as part of the next submission and he acknowledged the Commission's concern with this issue.
Mr. Eiswerth then explained the proposal for a new map gallery at the upper plaza level. He said the challenge was in adding to a memorial design that already has a sense of completeness. The proposed solution is to add two new freestanding pavilions to frame the plaza symmetrically, with their design based on the existing gallery's end pavilions; one new pavilion would be used for the needed interpretation of the Vietnam War, and the other would serve as an entry pavilion for orientation. Visitors would be able to follow a chronological sequence from the entry pavilion to the World War II and Korean War pavilions and then to the new Vietnam War pavilion, with the chapel at the center of the sequence. He said this proposal results in moving the two flagpoles closer to the centerline of the plaza, they would be placed in planters near the stairways, where they would more closely frame the chapel and emphasize the memorial's central axis. The new pavilions would be faced with travertine to match the existing memorial, with the intention of making the pavilions appear to be part of the original construction. Ms. Nelson commented on the desirability of matching the weathered appearance of the existing stone.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the interior dimension of the new pavilions; Mr. Eiswerth responded that the interior would be approximately fourteen feet square, with an exterior dimension of sixteen by sixteen feet. He explained that the new pavilion housing the Vietnam gallery would have two walls available for maps and text and two walls with openings to admit natural light; the new entry pavilion would be similarly configured. He described the detailing of the two new pavilions, including at each opening a sculptural relief of a wreath flanked by stars; Mr. Hall said that the wreath design will be replicated from the existing court walls at the bottom of the memorial.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the design is a beautiful and appropriate response to solving several difficult problems, adding that the architects have made it look easy. Mr. Eiswerth said the design team has been fortunate in having the original contract documents and shop drawings available. Mr. Rybczynski described the proposal as an "exemplary solution."
Mr. Belle commented that this complicated system of lifts may be used by very few people, with most visitors probably arriving by vehicle at the upper plaza and staying at that level. Mr. Eiswerth said he has studied how visitors use the space; while buses arrive at the upper level, other vehicles park at the lower level—at a significant distance from the memorial—and visitors would often visit a gravesite and then ascend the memorial steps to experience the overlook view or visit the galleries, then return to the lower level.
Mr. Belle commented that the crater is such a large-scale natural phenomenon that the architecture should not try to compete with it; Mr. Eiswerth agreed. Mr. Belle asked why the design team selected such a monumental and symmetrical solution; Mr. Eiswerth said it was a design choice based on having the most appropriate relationship to the existing memorial, with the goal of having the alterations appear to be part of the original design. Ms. Balmori asked if the design team had considered adding gallery space by extending the two ends of the existing galleries; Mr. Eiswerth said this was considered but the result appeared heavy and detracted from the character of the existing design. Mr. Hall noted the additional problem of trying to match materials if the new galleries were a directly abutting extension of the existing construction.
Ms. Nelson asked about seating at the memorial. Mr. Eiswerth indicated the benches at various locations throughout the memorial, including the courts; he said that he did not observe anyone sitting on the stairs, which are heavily used, and there is no problem with skateboarding. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the areas between the stairway and the courts. Mr. Hall and Mr. Eiswerth indicated the landscaped "pockets" in these areas with relatively low plantings; the rows of trees along the outer edge of the memorial define the overall landscape character of the memorial's setting.
Vice-Chairman Nelson summarized the Commission's satisfaction with the proposed concept. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission could delegate approval of the final design to the staff. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that further problematic issues could be resubmitted to the Commission if necessary; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson offered the example of potentially intrusive signs. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept and delegated final review to the staff, with any unresolved issues to be brought back to the Commission.
E. Department of Veterans Affairs
CFA 18/JUN/09-5, Veterans Affairs Medical Center Washington, DC, 50 Irving Street, NW. Site selection and design for a new residential building: Fisher House. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal to construct a guesthouse at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center campus adjacent to North Capitol Street. She said that the submission includes three siting options, with the request for the Commission's final approval of one of the options, as well as a concept design for the building. She introduced architect Muhammadali Sami, a consultant to the medical center, to present the proposal. Mr. Sami asked David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation, to begin with an explanation of the Fisher House program.
Mr. Coker said that the Fisher House Foundation is an organization that works to improve the quality of life for military and veterans' families. The main activity of the foundation is the creation of a network of lodging facilities—currently numbering 43 throughout the country and two abroad—that provide housing for families that are coping with a medical crisis. He said that six Fisher Houses already exist in the Washington area. The foundation works with government officials to identify the best locations for new buildings, and the V.A. medical center in Washington was identified as one of the top ten priority locations. He said that the Fisher House fills an important need because the Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for assisting veterans but not their families; the donation of a Fisher House allows for the provision of family support at the hospital campuses. He said that the proposed Fisher House involves a donation of approximately $6 million, and the building will help 800 families per year and save them over $1 million per year in commercial lodging costs.
Ms. Nelson asked if patients stay in the Fisher Houses. Mr. Coker responded that this sometimes happens for outpatient treatment, as determined by each medical centers; he said that a patient might stay with family members who serve as caregivers. Ms. Nelson noted that the building must therefore be easily accessible for use by ill patients.
Mr. Sami described the context of the medical center, indicating its relationship to the U.S. Capitol and the North Capitol Street axis as well as to the grouping of several hospitals in the immediate vicinity. He said that there is no current master plan for the medical center, but the conceptual framework for new projects involves patient care and medical expansion toward the north side of the existing hospital building and future administrative expansion toward the south; the siting options for the Fisher House are therefore in the northern part of the campus. He said that the alternative labeled "Site Plan Option 3" was the first one considered, placing the Fisher House northeast of the hospital building and away from the heaviest traffic areas of the campus; the location was considered appropriate for the contemplative and relaxed atmosphere intended for the Fisher House. After further discussions, the city's grid system became a more important design consideration, and Site Plan Option 2 was developed with the building placed on an orthogonal orientation facing south toward the hospital building. The most recent alternative is Site Plan Option 1, based on consultation with the staff of the review agencies, which maintains an orthogonal orientation but rotates the building ninety degrees to face west toward the main entrance to the campus, with the rear facade facing the more isolated and landscaped area of the campus. Mr. Sami also indicated the perspectives and elevations of the Fisher House building, which would be the same in any of the siting options. He noted the photographs of the site that are also included in the submission materials.
Ms. Balmori asked about other factors affecting the siting alternatives, such as the relationship to the street system and site access, and commented that the lack of a master plan is problematic. Mr. Sami indicated the main public entrance gate to the medical center toward the northwest and the main entrance to the hospital building nearby; an additional gate to the southwest that is primarily used by staff; and a northeast gate adjacent to the potential Fisher House sites, currently unused but potentially reopened upon completion of the Fisher House. Site Plan Option 3 was therefore initially developed with consideration of a relatively quiet access gate in close proximity to the Fisher House for the convenience of the guests. He also indicated the buffer areas and setbacks that are required, including zoning limitations. An additional factor was to minimize the building's adjacency to the surface parking lots in the vicinity. Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the building restriction line shown on the site plans; Mr. Sami said that the setback line is 150 feet from Irving Street on the north as requested by other review agencies. He also noted technical constraints such as the difficulty of extending utilities to some areas of the campus due to topographic considerations; he said that utilities to serve new buildings are not available along Irving Street.
Ms. Nelson commented that Site Plan Option 1 appears to offer the most flexibility for future master planning of the campus. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that the proposal for a building before preparation of a master plan is problematic but acknowledged that Site Plan Option 1 is most likely to be compatible with future planning. She said that a master plan should consider the entire grouping of hospitals and should promote a mix of uses and walkability among the hospitals in a more urban manner; the siting of the Fisher House could support a future system of courtyards and gardens. She noted the indication in the submission materials of a potential future parking garage at the south end of the hospital and commented that this location terminates a long vista from the south; she recommended more careful consideration of the aesthetic treatment of this location and suggested that a garage could be surrounded by administrative expansion to improve the appearance.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information on the character of the existing hospital. Mr. Sami said that it was designed in the late 1950s and completed in the early 1960s; the facade is white brick. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the Fisher House could therefore have white brick in its facades. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that more broadly, the Fisher House should be designed to support the future development of the campus rather than be treated as a routine domestic building in a suburban landscape; she questioned whether white brick would be appropriate in the facades. Mr. Sami responded that the Fisher House design is used throughout the nation so that people will readily understand it as a residential complex.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the proposed building is "not unattractive" but has a generic character. He acknowledged that the design is predetermined but suggested consideration of helping the building fit in with its context; he agreed that white brick might be too simplistic a solution but said that the Fisher House should also not be starkly out of character with its neighbors. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this building could also establish a broader palette of materials for future development on the campus and suggested consideration of a facade composition of red brick for the lower portion of the building, up to the first-floor window sills, with different materials above which could include white brick.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked the Commission members for more guidance on the design of the building, commenting that the context is essentially urban. Ms. Balmori recommended that the treatment of the site be developed further, with consideration of additional landscaping; Ms. Nelson added that a garden would be a welcome amenity for the visiting families. Mr. Coker responded that the Fisher House Foundation typically allocates $150,000 for landscaping, with the intention that it have a mature appearance. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested a focus on place-making for this building instead of merely emphasizing a peripheral buffer for the campus, recommending that the Fisher House garden be conceived as part of a master-planned concept for a system of courtyards and garden spaces at the medical center. Ms. Balmori said that such an approach would also provide more landscape amenities for the Fisher House itself.
Mr. Coker said that one precedent for the colored brick is the nearby National Rehabilitation Hospital which is visible across the parking lot from the Fisher House site; Mr. Sami indicated this building on the context plan and said that it was constructed in the 1980s. Ms. Balmori asked about its brick color; Mr. Sami said that it is dark beige. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the Fisher House be designed with a unifying choice of materials related to the context. Mr. Belle and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information on the materials in the proposed design. Mr. Sami said the roof would be shingles; Mr. Coker said that the typical brick selection is a Norman brick in a Carolina Rose color, but this could be adjusted to relate to the context. He added that the shingle roof is intended to last for fifty years, with the goal of minimizing the maintenance requirements for the building. He said that the columns would be made of wood, and the windows are of a very durable construction designed to meet the standard security requirements of military bases where many of the Fisher Houses are located.
Vice-Chairman Nelson summarized the Commission's encouragement to give careful consideration to material selection, the relationship of the Fisher House to its context, and the landscape design. She suggested that the landscape include interactive spaces where people could sit or walk through. Mr. Belle suggested consideration of a working garden for use by the residents; Ms. Nelson agreed, citing the therapeutic value of gardening. Mr. Belle also suggested a sustainable landscape as a design consideration. Mr. Coker noted that the design includes a patio adjacent to the family room at the rear of the building, with families typically gathering in this garden setting. He said the goal is to provide a place that has a domestic character in contrast to the sterile environment of the typical hospital. Mr. Belle agreed with this goal and said that it is an important part of the recuperation process; however, he said that the submitted rendering suggests a sterile landscape design that could instead be much livelier and more therapeutic. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the availability of research demonstrating that contact with the landscape can accelerate healing.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered a motion to approve Site Plan Option 1, subject to the Commission's comments for further development of the design including the materials, the landscape, and the relationship to the proposed master plan within the larger context. Mr. Belle suggested that the motion include a recommendation for a sustainable landscape; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed. With a second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted this motion.
Mr. Luebke confirmed that this action concludes the issue of siting the building, and the next submission would focus on design considerations. He said that the staff has been working with the design team on adjustments such as the scale of the architectural features, possibly including an increase in the size of the porch to better relate the domestic scale of the Fisher House to the large-scale hospital building. Vice-Chairman Nelson encouraged this design development in preparation for the next submission.
F. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 18/JUN/09-6, Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Addition and renovation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/09-10.) Ms. Batcheler said that the submission is effectively a new concept for the expansion of the historic branch library building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, responding to comments from the previous Commission review as well as from the public. She introduced Chris Wright, project manager from the D.C. Public Library, who noted the additional meetings with the community subsequent to the previous review. He asked architect Henry Myerberg from HMA2 to make the presentation; Mr. Myerberg also introduced Dale Stewart of CORE Architects, the local firm collaborating on the project.
Mr. Myerberg described the project's purpose, including the addition of more space and the provision of barrier-free access equivalent to the current pedestrian entrance at the library's raised main level. He also described the organization and key historic features of the historic library building. He presented slides and material samples to illustrate the new concept his team has developed, which would place the addition to the rear of the building rather than in the open space to the side as previously proposed. The new concept would maintain the open space as a garden which would include ramped access to the addition as opposed to the previous proposal to introduce a ramp adjacent to the front stairway, and the civic presence of this grand entrance stairway would remain unaltered. He also indicated the historic stairway on the north side which was originally built for children to reach the second floor and would connect to the new side-entry sequence. Mr. Rybczynski asked for further information on the neighboring buildings; Mr. Myerberg described them as apartment buildings ranging from three to six stories, with two- to three-story buildings to one side and a taller building of approximately twelve stories across 16th Street.
Mr. Myerberg described the proposal to convert the open-space service area on the north to a garden with an entry ramp leading to a new glass entrance gallery placed between the original building and the addition; the new entrance would supplement the original entrance at the top of the historic front stairway, with both entrances leading toward the circulation desk. Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the new proposal in comparison to the previous concept. Mr. Myerberg indicated the previously proposed site on the north side for a triple-height addition containing two levels of space, plus a one-story lower-level addition at the rear that would have retained the existing sunroom on the main level; the sunroom would be removed in the current proposal for a three-story rear addition. He said the proposed floor area of the new concept remains approximately the same as in the previous submission.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the proposed ramp route; Mr. Myerberg indicated the access point from the sidewalk, the seven-foot ascent through the garden with an adjoining public patio space, and the main-level entrance into the new gallery. Ms. Nelson asked how long the ramp would be and how long it would take to traverse; Mr. Myerberg responded that the ramp would be approximately eighty feet long and estimated that walking it would take less than a minute. He added that the rise would be 1:12 for most of the ramp's length but would be only 1:20 for a short distance to avoid the need for a railing. He indicated a fence and gate that would allow the ramp to be closed at night.
Mr. Myerberg described the proposed changes to the original street facade, including insertion of a new double-door entrance and new handrail sympathetic to the historic building, as well as the removal of an existing access ramp descending from the sidewalk to the lower level, allowing restoration of a lower-level window. He said the garden would be surrounded by a metal picket fence and would have masonry features—possibly sandstone, brick, or slate—and quartzite paving. He described the intent to relate the color scheme to that of the existing building of limestone with a terra cotta roof. He said the historic children's stair would become a focal point of the new garden and would provide access between the children's floor and the patio.
Mr. Myerberg explained how the new design would preserve and update the existing floor plans, and indicated that the expansion would allow services presently in the historic building that disrupt the spatial flow and block daylight—such as an elevator—to be moved to the new addition. Ms. Nelson asked about daylight for the staff rooms to be located in the addition; Mr. Myerberg indicated the rear and side windows for these rooms.
Mr. Myerberg described the exterior of the proposed addition. He said it would be clad in a terra-cotta rain screen, with a sandstone or red slate coping and a bronze-faced entrance canopy; he presented samples of the materials being considered. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about the proposed rain screen system; Mr. Myerberg and Mr. Stewart said that it would include a structural wall with a waterproof membrane behind a grid of closely-spaced terra cotta panels attached by metal fins, allowing the wall system to breathe while providing protection from wind and rain; most of the wall would be opaque but there would be openings for windows. Mr. Myerberg confirmed that this wall system is widely used in Europe but said that the design team expects to use an American manufacturer.
Ms. Nelson asked if the design intent is for most people to use the new entrance. Mr. Myerberg responded that the presentation focuses on this entrance only because it is new, but the existing entrance would remain as an attractive option marked by the grand stairway for those who could use it; he said the new entrance is designed to have comparable importance. Mr. Belle asked why the accessible entrance isn't proposed to be adjacent to the front stairway; Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that this is the current location. Mr. Myerberg responded that a lower-level accessible entrance like the existing one would be at a different level than the historic entrance, creating operational problems for the library staff; an entrance at the lower level would also lack the "spirit" and "grandeur" of the high-ceiling main-level entrance. Mr. Stewart added that the proposed new rear entrance would also provide access to the meeting room that could be available when the rest of the library is closed, providing an improved amenity to the community. Mr. Myerberg noted that the proposed additional entrance at the main level would be more convenient for strollers and other needs in addition to handicapped users.
Mr. Myerberg concluded by presenting the proposed fenestration patterns, joint details, materials, and details of the rain screen's extension above the roof level. He explained how the angle of the addition's projecting angled wall at the north is derived from an angle of the existing building's hip roof.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized two community members who requested the opportunity to address the Commission. Faye Armstrong, president of the Historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood group, said her group is delighted with the design team's response to the concerns that were previously raised. She said that her group supports the new concept and will continue working with the team on the development of the design; she referred the Commission to the written comments submitted a week earlier.
Gregg Edwards, representing the All-Ways Mt. Pleasant neighborhood group, said the revised concept is "ugly and a confrontative" design that would block pedestrian paths leading between apartment buildings, and the ramp would give its users second-class status and an unpleasantly long entrance route which he characterized as "an avenue of pain.". He also said that the proposal would have a negative impact on utility services and emergency vehicle access to the adjacent apartment buildings. He criticized the architecture of the proposed addition as "jumbled, lopsided, and sprawling" and he supported placement of the accessible entrance route at the front of the building. He noted that the local elected Advisory Neighborhood Commission, of which he is Vice-Chairman, voted against the new design concept earlier in the week. Ms. Nelson asked about the membership of All-Ways Mt. Pleasant; Mr. Edwards responded that the group includes participation from neighborhood building associations.
Mr. Belle enthusiastically acknowledged the community's respect for the historic building and interest in its restoration. He expressed support for the new design concept which he said is "inventive" and would provide the community with an up-to-date facility, including an improved barrier-free entrance; however, he expressed regret that the proposed new entrance fails to honor and reflect the uniqueness of the library's central axis. He said the problem remains that the historic front entrance is not universally accessible, and he suggested developing an alternative solution that would bring all visitors to the main entrance, such as an elevator adjacent to the main steps as currently provided. He said that such an arrangement would be a simple solution, but acknowledged that such an arrangement may not be feasible. Ms. Nelson acknowledged the potential difficulties experienced by those with disabilities in getting to a building entrance, but she said that these problems would be present with any entrance configuration.
Ms. Balmori said she does not object to the new entrance design, but commented that the garden wall and fence would be out of character with the original building. She said that the proposed plan functions well, and the ramp could work if it were designed to be more compatible with the existing building. Mr. McKinnell agreed, observing that the original building is "lovely." He said the design team has demonstrated that the library's needs can be accommodated with an addition to the rear, and he supported this solution as the basic concept for the project. He described the remaining question as whether the proposed design for the addition is the right architectural solution, and he said that it is not; he characterized the design as an "exercise in architectural self-indulgence," describing it as an aggressive object that is not sympathetic to the existing building nor to the function of a library. He recommended an additional attempt to solve the problem of providing barrier-free access at the main level, which he said is an important characteristic of the original building. He said that even a contrasting transparent modern structure could work if it respects the geometry of the existing building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she agreed with the comments of the other Commission members. She said that, while libraries do not necessarily need to be classical buildings, in this case it would be appropriate to design an addition in the style of the original. She suggested further exploration of incorporating the sunroom or some of its features into the design of the addition, particularly the atrium space, and designing the addition as a "prismatic and symmetrical shape" like the existing building.
Mr. Rybczynski also said he agrees with the other Commission members. He described the planning as an "ingenious" solution but expressed disappointment with the architecture of the proposed addition. He said the addition's form does not appear to result from the plan and criticized the angled prow extending to the right of the proposed new entrance as unneeded leftover space. He recommended that form of the addition should be quieter and more sympathetic, commenting that the proposed terra cotta cladding is questionable but might be successful. He said that using a long ramp rather than an elevator is a reasonable solution to providing a barrier-free entrance, and he supported the placement of the ramp to the side leading to an entrance to the rear rather than adding a ramp to the front of the building; however, he recommended further study of the ramp's design. He acknowledged the effort to give a strong design to the new entrance, commenting that it does not have the appearance of a back door or basement entrance.
Mr. Luebke noted that Vice-Chairman Nelson had departed the meeting but a quorum remained. He summarized the comments of the Commission members: first, an apparent consensus to support placement of the addition in the rear; second, a difference of opinion about whether handicapped access should be provided at the front of the building or through the proposed side route leading to the addition; and third, a consensus to recommend reconsideration of the architectural treatment of the addition.
Ms. Balmori said that the side access route is an acceptable solution. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that if the addition were in the character of existing building, it might be possible to relate the configuration and materials of the side ramp to the historic children's staircase. Mr. McKinnell disagreed, reiterating his support for the proposed plan and clarifying that his criticism of the architectural design was not intended to suggest a recommendation to replicate the style of the original building; he agreed that the design team should make one more attempt to provide barrier-free access at the front of the building. As precedents for modern additions to traditional buildings, he cited the examples of new entrance pavilions designed by Beyer Blinder Belle at the historic D.C. courthouse and by Ann Beha at the Christian Science complex of buildings in Boston.
Mr. Stewart responded that the design team had studied adding a lift at the front of the library, but the community opposed any addition that would change the main facade's appearance. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission appears to remain divided on the desirability of restudying this issue; he suggested taking a vote on whether to recommend a location for the accessible entrance or to ask the architects to study both alternatives. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the solution might emerge from the process of redesigning the addition. Mr. Luebke noted that numerous consultations with the architects, the D.C. Historic Preservation Office staff, and others had led to the conclusion that trying to create an accessible entrance at the front presented great difficulty. Mr. McKinnell acknowledged this consultation but said that the preparation of alternatives would be a reasonable requirement in the review process for a public project, even if only to demonstrate why some alternatives are not successful. Mr. Luebke noted that the previous submission in March provided such an alternative.
Mr. Edwards interjected his understanding that the D.C. Historic Preservation Office staff supports a solution that provides an accessible entrance at the front of the building; he said that a solution at this location would be feasible such as by providing an elevator.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested a motion stating that the Commission acknowledges the rear addition as appropriate and the preferred location, recommends that the appearance of the addition be more compatible with and supportive of the existing historic building, and requests that the alterations to the accessible entrance route be considered as the addition is being redesigned. Ms. Balmori suggested a clarification to the motion that the addition does not have to replicate the style of the original building, but should be quieter and more deferential than what is proposed. Mr. McKinnell restated the motion as the Commission's acceptance of the concept that the addition will be placed behind the existing structure, with the request that the Commission's comments on style, material, and appearance be taken into account. Mr. Luebke clarified that this motion would not provide a specific recommendation at this stage concerning the location of the accessible entrance route. Ms. Plater-Zyberk seconded Mr. McKinnell's motion, which was adopted by the Commission.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:42 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: July 24, 2009