Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
21 May 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 10:12 a.m.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 16 April meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the April meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, 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: 18 June, 16 July, and 17 September; no meeting is scheduled in August.
C. The Commission's 99th year and the Shipstead-Luce Act's 79th year. Mr. Luebke reported on the Commission's two historical anniversaries falling in May: the 99th anniversary of the Commission's establishment on 17 May 1910, and the 79th anniversary of the Shipstead-Luce Act which was approved on 16 May 1930. He noted the approaching centennial of the Commission and reported the commemorative events being developed by the staff, including a symposium next May in conjunction with the Charles Atherton memorial lecture which is given annually at the National Building Museum. The staff is also preparing a comprehensive book on the history of the Commission; the symposium presentations would be adapted as essays for this book.
D. Report on the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program for Fiscal Year 2009. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission for the support of Washington non-governmental institutions of national reputation engaged in exhibition and the performing arts. The funds will soon be distributed to 24 recipients, including one new recipient—Hillwood House and Museum—and 23 returning applicants. He noted that the appropriation of $9.5 million was higher than in previous years, resulting in an average grant of approximately $400,000.
At this point, the Commission reversed the order of the next two agenda items to consider item I.F.
F. Confirmation of seven recommendations from the April 2009 meeting after the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action by the Commission is needed concerning seven projects reviewed the previous month without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations which were conveyed in letters sent to the applicants and distributed to the Commission. He listed the projects requiring action:
• CFA 16/APR/09-c, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Garage infill. Final.
• CFA 16/APR/09-3, 2010 Native American One Dollar Coins. Five designs for reverse. Final.
• CFA 16/APR/09-5, St. Elizabeths Hospital, West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. New headquarters building for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard. Concept.
• CFA 16/APR/09-6, Columbus Plaza at Union Station, Massachusetts Avenue between North Capitol Street and Second Street, NE. Revisions to plaza to improve vehicular and pedestrian access and circulation. Final.
• CFA 16/APR/09-7, Naval Research Laboratory, Cooley Avenue, SW. Autonomous System Research Laboratory, new two-story laboratory building. Concept/Final.
• CFA 16/APR/09-9, Stoddert Elementary School, 4001 Calvert Street, NW. Building additions, renovation and landscaping. Final.
• CFA 16/APR/09-10, Columbia Heights Streetscape Project—Public Art. 14th Street and Park Road, NW. Installation of mosaic medallions. Revised design/Final.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission confirmed the actions on these seven projects.
The Commission then returned to agenda item I.E.
E. Report on the inspection of object proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery. Mr. Luebke reported that the Commission had visited the Freer Gallery the previous day to inspect a Japanese 17th-century ceramic tea bowl proposed for acquisition, in accordance with Charles Lang Freer's will. He said that the bowl illustrates the Chinese influence on later Japanese pottery. Ms. Balmori commented that the piece was unusual and interesting, and she said that the Commission members approved its purchase.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item I.G.
G. Report on site inspection of mockups of new pedestrian guide signs proposed for the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Mr. Luebke reported on the Commission's site inspection of mockups for the National Mall signs, including locations near the Lincoln Memorial and the National Air and Space Museum. He noted that this project would be the first presentation on the agenda (item II.B.1); Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the Commission would discuss the site inspection in conjunction with this presentation.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission members have received an updated final draft for the National Capital Framework Plan (approved in March 2009) incorporating changes in response to the Commission's comments. He said that the plan would be published as a final document within the next several weeks. Ms. Nelson asked about distribution of the publication; Mr. Luebke said that the printing quantity would be set by the National Capital Planning Commission and offered to obtain further information.
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 Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported one change to the draft appendix: the recommendation for sidewalk seating at the Woodward Building (case number SL 09-057) has been changed to favorable after working with the applicant to revise the proposed layout. She noted additional minor changes to reflect the receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Four projects with negative recommendations have been withdrawn by the applicants to provide additional time for design revisions. For one project with a negative recommendation (case number OG 09-207), the applicant has subsequently split the project into two submissions; the submission with the problematic proposal has been withdrawn for further coordination, and the recommendation for the remainder of the project has been changed to be favorable. He said that staff is still coordinating with the applicant for another project with a negative recommendation (case number OG 09-234); he requested authorization to finalize the recommendation as favorable after receipt of satisfactory supplemental drawings which are anticipated later in the day.
Ms. Nelson noted the large number of cases concerning improperly installed signs and asked if there was a recent enforcement effort. Mr. Martínez said that community residents have been in contact with the staff concerning improper signs. Ms. Nelson asked if owners are fined for this violation. Mr. Martínez said that enforcement is handled by the D.C. government, and his understanding is that fines are sometimes imposed immediately but usually are deferred until resolution of the review process.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the revised appendix subject to the final processing noted by Mr. Martínez.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 21/MAY/09-1, National Mall and Memorial Parks. Pedestrian Guide Sign Program. Designs for new sign types. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/09-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept submission for the pedestrian guide sign program to replace existing signs on the National Mall. He said that the program includes three categories: operational signs, including regulatory signs; wayfinding signs, including pylons and maps; and identification signs. He reported that the Commission in February 2009 had given overall support to using the National Park Service's existing UniGuide System for consolidation of the signs, and had approved the concept design for the category of operational signs. He said that the final design for the operational signs is now being presented for approval, along with a revised concept design for the wayfinding signs; the identification signs will be presented at future meeting. He added that the separate submission sequences for the different categories is related to the availability of funding, with the National Park Service intending to obligate funds for a portion of the overall program within the current fiscal year.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May of the National Park Service's National Capital Region to begin the presentation. Mr. May acknowledged the Commission's site inspection earlier in the day to see mockups of signs in front of the Lincoln Memorial and near the National Air and Space Museum. He introduced the consultant on the project, Wayne Hunt of Hunt Design, to present the proposal.
Mr. Hunt summarized the presentation to the Commission from the February meeting, illustrating the visual confusion of the current signs and describing the three categories of the proposed program. Ms. Balmori asked what would happen to the enormous number of existing signs when the new ones are installed; Mr. Hunt responded that all signs that are inconsistent with the new program will be removed. Ms. Balmori asked about signs managed by agencies other than the National Park Service, such as the Smithsonian Institution; Mr. Hunt responded that these are beyond the boundaries of the National Mall and outside of the National Park Service's control.
Mr. Hunt presented a table with the number of existing and proposed signs, indicating that there would be a 6 percent reduction in the overall number of signs and a 44 percent reduction in the number of signs at memorials. Ms. Balmori observed that the overall number would not be greatly reduced; Mr. Hunt responded that some of the new signs would be smaller than existing signs and that when the signs have a matching appearance, there will be less visual chaos. He added that one frequent comment in public responses to the National Mall Plan has been the need for new signage.
Mr. Hunt presented the simplifications that have been made in the design of the proposed map signs, a portion of the wayfinding sign category. Ms. Nelson asked whether the temporary fencing commonly used on the Mall would prevent pedestrians from approaching sufficiently close to view the maps. Mr. Hunt responded that the maps need to be at a convenient height for visitors who are standing or in wheelchairs, but this concern is one reason that the design team is trying to make other types of signs somewhat higher. Steve Lorenzetti of the National Park Service also responded that fencing is placed on the Mall on a regular annual maintenance cycle to allow the grass to recover, but the location of the fencing will likely be adjusted to provide necessary access when the new maps are installed.
Mr. Hunt then presented the proposed design for the pylon signs—the second portion of the wayfinding category—including a proposed tall and short pylon design, with two alternative heights for the tall pylons: 10 feet; and 9 feet 2 inches. He said the goal is for the pylons to rise above the abundant street furniture but remain below the tree canopy. He explained the intention to use the fewest possible number of signs and words, along with neutral colors, durable materials, and understated typography. He presented an image of the 1978 program of pictogram icons used on the Mall, explaining that the sign program at the time was built around these icons; he said that these icons are a useful feature, particularly for people who don't read English, and the system would be revived and augmented for the current program. He explained that each icon would appear with text on a square panel, and the panels could be easily organized on the pylons. The tall pylons would be used at the site's perimeter and at some key locations, and the short pylons would be used near structures.
Mr. Hunt discussed how color would be used to indicate the types of features identified on signs, such as distinguishing between museums and memorials. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the rationale for the color variation. Mr. Hunt responded that the variety of colors would make the pylons more interesting and would assist visitors in finding particular types of information; he also said color would work well with the articulation of the panels. Mr. Belle asked whether using a single color would be feasible; Mr. Hunt reiterated that the preference is for several colors to avoid an institutional look and to distinguish between different types of information. He added that the base of the pylons would be gray granite and said that the short pylons may need more design details on the base, such as notching at the corners.
Mr. Belle asked if these signs have been field-tested for a long period in order to assess public reaction. Mr. Hunt responded that long-term tests have not been done, but during brief mockups people quickly gathered around the signs; Mr. Belle agreed that this experience confirms the need for the signs. Ms. Nelson asked if this system would be used in all national parks, and Mr. Hunt said that this proposal is just for the National Mall, though his firm is developing a variation for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. Mr. Luebke clarified that the sign program is generally based the UniGuide system, which has already been approved, and the operational signs are closely modeled on this system; only the pylons are a new element. Mr. Hunt clarified that the operational signs would be used nationwide.
Ms. Balmori said the most important visual component of the system is the icons on the pylons, commenting that these will be effective because they can be read at a distance. She expressed support for refining the height and proportions of the pylons and said that the unified column with a single shade of light gray could be a more elegant solution because the icons provide much of the needed information. She said larger lettering is needed on the short pylons and, to a lesser extent, on the tall pylons as well. She recommended simplifying the design as much as possible, with an emphasis on refining the shape and proportion; she said that the use of different colors would just add to the visual clutter of the urban environment.
Mr. McKinnell supported Ms. Balmori's comments and said that the advice for simplification should extend to the detailing of the pylon base. He commented that, in the image with three alternative designs for the tall pylon, the center version—without articulation—is best because it is the simplest.
Mr. Belle commented that the higher alternative for the tall pylon would be acceptable and agreed that the icons are the most important pieces of information. He said that a monochromatic color scheme would be appropriate for the setting and recommended generally that the color concept be simple. He suggested that the choice of height for the tall pylons be left to the designers, although he said that the higher alternative might be too tall for some locations.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the value of seeing the on-site mockups, which had convinced her of the design team's view that the proposed scale of the tall pylons is appropriate relative to the large scale of the Mall. She said the idea of visitors having a subconscious memory of colors that would help in reading signs quickly might be valid, so she did not object to using color on the pylon panels. She commented that the lower of the two tall pylon alternatives would be easier to read and that the short pylon could be somewhat larger.
Ms. Nelson expressed a preference for the center version of the three alternative designs for the pylons—the version without an articulated base—x commenting that it is more elegant, and appears more like a sign and less like a sculpture; she observed that this would help to prevent the pylons from looking dated. She recommended minimizing the articulation of the pylons while acknowledging the desirability of a sloped profile on top to shed water. She said the use of strong colors for the tile panels could make them resemble quilting or patching, instead suggesting using colors of the same value so that the differences between them would be subtle, commenting that the tiles would therefore meld into a single object when seen from a distance. Mr. Belle asked if this suggestion would mean selecting varied tones of the same color; Ms. Nelson offered that completely different colors could be selected that have the same value so that one tile would not appear lighter or darker than others. Mr. Hunt agreed to study this proposal further.
Mr. Luebke noted that the proposed colors for broad categories are intended to correspond to existing sign systems: the brown color used by the National Park Service indicating memorials; the gold color often used by the Smithsonian would indicating museums; and, for visitor service signs, the blue typically used for directional information. He also noted the presence of audience members who wanted to address the Commission concerning this proposal.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized Caroline Cunningham of the Trust for the National Mall, the authorized fundraising partner of the National Park Service for the Mall. Ms. Cunningham said that this is the first project the Trust has helped to fund. She said the Trust has been working with other organizations to encourage creation of a seamless visitor experience, including coordination of the Mall's sign system with other nearby signage; she said that the proposed color system would help to achieve that goal.
Rick Reinhard, Deputy Executive Director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, reported to the Commission that his organization has endorsed the wayfinding proposal, which he said should help to connect the Mall with other parts of the city. He emphasized the importance of coordinated details such as color and lettering in achieving an integrated system of wayfinding.
Vice-Chairman Nelson said she could support the higher alternative for the tall pylon at most locations and suggested that the Commission formulate a motion. Mr. Luebke then summarized the discussion: Regarding the final design for operational signs in accordance with the UniGuide system, the Commission had commented that the size of the typography could be increased. Several issues regarding the wayfinding signs were addressed, including selection of the height; simplification of the pylon detailing, such as the base and cap; control of the use of color; and the scale of graphics, icons, and typography. He noted the need for a Commission response to the proposed size of the short pylon. He added that one issue that had been mentioned previously but not in the current review was the relationship of the pylons to the maps. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission was not necessarily recommending any specific distance between the two; her impression after the site visit was that the location of maps and pylons should be relative to need, not a fixed distance. She suggested recommending that this would be an additional decision to be made for specific sign proposals.
Mr. Luebke suggested two separate motions to address the two components of the submission. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the operational signs with the suggestion to consider enlarging the typography.
For the more complex issues associated with the wayfinding signs, Ms. Balmori noted apparent differences of opinion and suggested voting separately on questions such as the recommended height of the tall pylons. Mr. Belle said that the Commission does not necessarily need to recommend a preferred height but could allow tall pylons of varying heights to be used at different locations. Ms. Balmori objected that this response would be too open-ended and recommended that the Commission approve one size that could work in all situations, or perhaps two sizes; she emphasized that the pylons should be perceived by the public as having a familiar size. Mr. McKinnell affirmed that the tall pylons should be consistent in height. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she would support the smaller of the two alternatives; Ms. Balmori and Mr. McKinnell agreed, while Ms. Nelson said she preferred the larger alternative.
Mr. Luebke suggested establishing the Commission's consensus on the full range of issues before framing a motion on the wayfinding signs. He noted that the majority of Commission members seem to support the 9'-2" height for the tall pylon; there were also comments about detailing of the pylons with a recommendation to simplify the articulation, minimize the angle of the cap, and simplify the color and graphics. Ms. Balmori expressed the strong opinion that the pylon's sign panels should be light gray to approximate the gray color of the base; she said that the design would then be unified and the lettering and icon in white would be more easily legible. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Nelson agreed, and Mr. Belle said that he only objected to the recommendation of a single height for the tall pylon, which he called unnecessarily restrictive. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed a lack of support for a variety of strong colors, but perhaps a willingness to consider using colors of a single value. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Balmori said that having the pylons entirely gray would be preferable, and Ms. Nelson said she would support this position. Regarding the apparent consensus concerning the location of maps, Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could not comment on the issue or could approve locating the maps in relation to pylons as appropriate. He also reiterated the Commission's comments concerning the color and contrast of the map graphics; Ms. Balmori said the issue included increased contrast so that the destinations would be more legible.
The Commission discussed possible changes to the scale or width of the short pylon. Vice-Chairman Nelson asked if the short pylons were covered in the previous motion; Mr. Hunt explained that the shorter pylons are proposed for operational signs as well as for wayfinding signs. Mr. McKinnell said that some members thought the short pylons could be proportionally wider and taller. Mr. Luebke suggested a recommendation that the design of the short pylons could be studied for a slight increase in scale and legibility of the key information; this could involve an overall proportional increase of the pylon, or an increase in the scale of the graphics. Mr. Belle said that the Commission had seen the mockups of the tall pylon at different locations: the appearance of the tall pylon at the top of a short flight of steps at the Lincoln Memorial was very different from seeing it located under a grove of trees, and he recommended that the height of the pylon should be different in each situation. Ms. Balmori said the Commission would create a potentially problematic situation by directing the National Park Service to make a decision for every pylon installation.
Mr. Luebke noted that the wayfinding signs are submitted as a revised concept; he said that, before finalizing a motion, the Commission might wish to decide whether to see the final submission or delegate its review to the staff. He suggested that, due to the extent of the Commission's comments, it would be difficult to offer final approval for the current submission. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the Commission members have been discussing details but have made their opinions clear; she therefore suggested that review of the final submission be delegated to the staff. Mr. McKinnell agreed and expressed confidence in the staff's review.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the importance of the color issue, noting the difference of opinion among the Commission members. Mr. May of the National Park Service reiterated that the concept behind the use of color is to define different classes of signs and have some visual separation between the sign types; he acknowledged that the proposed color range may be too wide and bright, but he said that the National Park Service would like to pursue other options such as two colors of similar value. Ms. Balmori commented that one problem is that people might not realize that the colors are intended to represent different categories. Mr. May said that a visitor walking through the Mall would become aware, even at a subliminal level, that the sequence of signs for a particular type of destination will be of a certain color.
Vice-Chairman Nelson recommended that the final proposal for color be presented to the Commission for additional review, noting the importance of the issue and the absence of two members, while the remainder of the project could be delegated to the staff. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept for the wayfinding signs subject to the comments that were offered, and delegated review of the final design of these signs to the staff with the exception of the issue of color, which should be brought back to the Commission for review.
2. CFA 21/MAY/09-2, American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, Washington Avenue (Canal Street) and 2nd and C Streets, SW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/JUL/08-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission from the National Park Service—on behalf of the sponsoring organization, the Disabled Veterans for LIFE Memorial Foundation—for the revised design of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill. He said that the last formal review by the Commission had been in July 2008, and the Commission also had a site inspection of mockups in March 2009. He reported that the design team has continued to respond to the Commission's concerns, particularly regarding the height of the masonry wall on 2nd Street and its impact on views to the Capitol.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May of the National Park Service's National Capital Region to begin the presentation. Mr. May introduced Barry Owenby, project executive for the sponsoring foundation, who introduced Gordon Mansfield, former Deputy Secretary for Veterans Affairs and a member of the foundation's board. Mr. Mansfield expressed appreciation for the Commission's visit to the site in March to see the mockups of the glass panels and the staking out of the pools and walls. He said that the design has improved since its first presentation to the Commission in 2004; he added that, since that time, 30,000 more people have become disabled veterans, and he urged the Commission to support the revised design. He introduced landscape architect Michael Vergason, lead designer of the memorial, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Vergason described the site and stressed the importance of the view to the Capitol in the design of the memorial. He summarized changes made to the design since its presentation in July: the reflecting pool has twice been reduced in size; the number of glass walls has been reduced from four to three; the width of the two openings in the stone wall along 2nd Street has been increased; and the height of this wall, which frames the memorial and focuses views on the Capitol, has been studied further.
Mr. Vergason presented the analysis of the stone wall's design, including a section showing its relationship to the pool and to the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters across 2nd Street. He explained that the drawings indicate alternative heights for this wall of ten, twelve, and fourteen feet. He presented photographs to compare these heights with comparable walls at the nearby Botanic Garden, north of the site, and at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which he said is an important precedent for the design team. He provided photographic simulations illustrating how the stone wall at the three alternative heights would affect views of the Capitol, using the base of the Capitol dome's drum as a reference, and how the wall would affect pedestrians' views along 2nd Street. He said the design team prefers a height between 12 and 14 feet high. He said the design team has also studied plan alignments such as the point at which views of the Capitol drum begin to be obscured by the Rayburn House Office Building.
Mr. Vergason discussed the two proposed water bodies—the Star Pool and the Reflecting Pool—both designed to be reflective sheets with the water also flowing down around their perimeters. He said the Star Pool would be 34 inches high and the Reflecting Pool would be 9 to 12 inches high. He showed samples of stones and finishes, and asked that the Commission allow the design team to retain a palette of material choices for the different components, including white marble or granite for the stone wall and gray granite for the pool and paving. Ms. Balmori asked about the finishes inside the fountains; Mr. Vergason responded that the Star Pool would have a polished finish and the Reflecting Pool would have a thermal finish.
Mr. Vergason then briefly described the plantings, which would include a gingko grove in the area with the glass panels and taxodium or cypress for the bioretention area west of the stone wall; various shrubs and groundcovers would also be used. He discussed the lighting program, saying light would be focused on the flame and the glass walls; standard Washington globe fixtures would be used around the perimeter streets, and uplighting would be directed on the stone wall. He added that all supplementary lighting within the memorial has been removed from the design at the Commission's request.
Mr. Vergason indicated the three glass walls that will incorporate 48 glass panels and four sculptural pieces, with two sculptural pieces in the southern wall and one in each of the northern walls; he introduced artist Larry Kirkland to describe these in more detail. Mr. Kirkland discussed the intention for the glass walls to express the veterans' experiences as well as the qualities of glass and light. He presented a maquette of one of the art pieces, indicating the layering and matching of the two images—the photographic image of a face embedded in the glass and the cast-bronze silhouette of a running marine. He said the play of light and shadow would impart a sense of mystery and implied narrative.
Graphic designer Jerome Cloud discussed the use of quotations and the different types and sizes of font. Ms. Nelson asked if the exact quotations have been selected; Mr. Cloud responded that an initial selection of hundreds of quotations has been reduced to a final set of 21 to 24. Mr. Vergason added that the current submission includes the proposal for the general appearance of the text but not the specific quotations. Ms. Balmori asked if the Commission is seeing the actual images that the design team has selected; Mr. Kirkland responded that the team is satisfied with some of the images but will be refining the selection further.
Mr. Cloud invited the Commission to inspect the maquettes and drawings of the wall and other features. He discussed the different heights of text and said that the design team has been consulting with stonecutter Nick Benson, who had worked on the World War II Memorial, concerning the lettering fonts and sizes. He said that larger quotations would be in Trajan font etched on the surface of the front panels and would move horizontally across them, while the rest of the text would be smaller, in Palatino font, and vertically arrayed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if frames would be used for the panels; Mr. Cloud explained that there would be clear half-inch spaces vertically separating the panels but no vertical frames. He said that all the glass walls would have rear panels with a slight frost, and the text would be in front of this. Mr. McKinnell asked about the shading on the drawing of the wall; Mr. Cloud confirmed that this represents light shining through the glass, which will not be tinted. He added that, since glass is reflective and therefore an active field, the intention is to create some quiet zones in the glass.
Mr. Belle asked the design team's opinion of the height for the glass panels, noting that this issue had been discussed at length at a previous Commission meeting. Mr. Vergason responded that the team is satisfied with the proposed height of 8.5 feet and its relation to a 12-foot height for the stone wall, although he added that its proportional relationship to a 10-foot-high stone wall would be a concern. Mr. Cloud said the height would vary somewhat, but that the glass walls would effectively screen the highway and the city views.
Vice-Chairman Nelson expressed the Commission's appreciation for the design team's diligence and thoughtfulness. She commented that the focal point of the memorial should be the artwork of the glass walls, but the design also includes many other features—the stone wall, the glass walls, and the pools with a flame. She suggested consideration of retaining only the triangular reflecting pool and eliminating the Star Pool and the flame, saying this would direct the focus to the art panels. Mr. Vergason responded that elimination of the Star Pool would result in significant loss of the sense of place and the memorial's relation to the view toward the Capitol. Ms. Nelson then suggested an alternative of eliminating the Star Pool, using only the flame in the corner as a marker. Mr. Owenby responded that the star and flame concept has been important to the sponsoring foundation's board since 2004. Mr. Mansfield said that some features would draw more attention than others, and while the flame would send a message it would not detract from the focal point of the glass walls. Mr. Kirkland added that the memorial would have two zones: the large grove of trees where the glass panels would be located and the more public setting of the Star Pool. Mr. Belle said the Star Pool also punctuates the vista to the Capitol and its removal would mean losing a fundamental part of the memorial's connectivity with the Capitol.
Ms. Nelson asked where seating would be located; Mr. Vergason said it would be placed throughout the memorial. Ms. Nelson noted that there would be shaded seating in the grove where people could contemplate the glass panels. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the species of trees currently located on the west side of 2nd Street; Mr. Vergason responded that there are a few different varieties planted irregularly. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested creating a background for the memorial by replicating the line of trees on the other side of 2nd Street, so that the street plays a role as public space and the memorial fits into an urban fabric. She acknowledged that the streetscape is likely another agency's responsibility but said that it should be considered if possible. Mr. Owenby said he anticipates that in July the General Services Administration (GSA) will be submitting its plan for that area to the Commission for review; Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested initiating the conversation with GSA before July, and Mr. Owenby offered to convey her comments to the GSA project team. Mr. Luebke added that staff would also convey this advice to GSA and noted that there is an opportunity for coordination between GSA and the memorial's design team to create a unified streetscape.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she continues to be concerned about the lighting. She expressed support for the current design's increased reliance on streetlighting. She asked about a statement in the submission materials that the flag beyond the star would be lit by fixtures on poles and that there would also be pole fixtures along ramps; she asked for further explanation of the lighting plan. Mr. Vergason explained that the second reference is to a cutoff fixture at the small parking lot and its ramp. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the pole lighting for the flag would be attached to city light poles or if the memorial would have separate poles; Mr. Vergason said there would be separate poles located in the northern corner of the planting bed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that these lights instead be attached to streetlight poles, and Mr. Vergason agreed to study this.
Ms. Balmori asked whether all the artwork panels in the glass walls need to be a doubling of photographic and cutout images, commenting that when these images are spread out they will appear "gimmicky" and commercial rather than having the desired sense of mystery. Mr. Kirkland responded that the entire concept has been to contrast the reality and the ideal of the disabled veteran's experience and said that when the two images are separated, they lose their power. Ms. Balmori said she thought the single image of the face is "incredibly powerful" and Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Vergason said that the combination of the face with the running marine suggests a narrative that is more powerful than the image of the face alone.
Mr. McKinnell observed that Ms. Balmori was raising the issue of whether all the panels would have to be that way. He expressed dissatisfaction that there so few panels are now proposed and instead suggested a screen of glass where the final image of the double representation would be separated, so that a visitor could see clearly the concept of the ideal and the reality juxtaposed with the more complex combination. Mr. Owenby responded that the design team would continue working on the art panels; he said the current submission is intended to obtain the Commission's response to the overall scheme. Mr. McKinnell said he thought the Commission was trying to express a general direction, and that while in general he agreed with his colleagues that simplification would make the project more powerful, in the case of the glass walls he believed that further complexity would make the design more powerful. Mr. Mansfield responded that the images would constantly change depending on the light and time of day; Mr. McKinnell agreed that this is the "brilliant" concept of the proposed artwork.
Regarding the stone wall, Mr. McKinnell said that he understood its role in forming the memorial enclosure, but commented that this design choice includes a decision to keep the street area outside of the enclosure. He expressed appreciation for the design team's examination of views but noted that all of the studied sightlines had been from the west side of 2nd Street; he said that walking on the east side of the street along a 14-foot-high wall of granite would be an almost threatening sensation. He added that 12 feet would be slightly better, being a height a person could better relate to, but acknowledged that some sort of tall wall is apparently integral to the memorial's design concept. He agreed that simplifying the design would improve the memorial. He said he understands the iconic reason for the star and finds it moving, but commented that the star emerges from the ground surface as an object and might therefore conflict with the view of the Capitol; he suggested that it be expressed on the ground surface instead.
Mr. McKinnell recommended that the stone for the memorial be granite due to its symbolism and quality as a tough and enduring material, unlike the more fragile quality of marble; he said that these veterans were tough and should be commemorated in granite. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented on the paving color, suggesting that the pools be dark granite and the pavements light granite which would be appropriate for hot weather, when she expected that the memorial would get the most visitors.
Ms. Nelson asked whether it was for reasons of design or cost that the number of artwork panels has been reduced; Mr. Kirkland responded that the reduction in the number of walls and panels resulted from the design team's desire to simplify the design and increase visibility across the site. Ms. Nelson asked for the design team's opinion about keeping the star at the proposed height or lowering it. Mr. Vergason explained the decision to retain the proposed height of 34 inches so that visitors in wheelchairs can touch the surface of the water; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed that this was a good reason. Mr. Belle asked for the design team's response to the suggestion of using granite throughout the memorial; Mr. Owenby said that this would be feasible and Mr. McKinnell added that not everything should be built with the same type of granite.
Ms. Balmori recommended that one of the artwork images be considered for a different treatment; Mr. Owenby reiterated that the design team would continue to refine the design and respond to on the Commission's advice. Mr. McKinnell said he thought the artists had found a way, in 21st-century terms, to introduce the content of actual human experience into the memorial.
Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission had a direction to offer about the height of the stone wall; Ms. Balmori said that it should be no higher than 12 feet, adding that granite instead of marble should be considered for this wall. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the concept design for the memorial subject to the comments provided.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the next two submissions: a commemorative coin honoring disabled veterans, which will be sold to raise funds for the memorial that was just reviewed; and a revised submission of the permanent new reverse for the Lincoln penny. He explained that the Mint has withdrawn the penny design that the Commission recommended in the previous month's review, depicting a sheaf of wheat, upon realization of its similarity to German coins of the 1920s and 1930s; the remaining seventeen alternatives from the previous month have been resubmitted. He noted the legislative direction to select a reverse design symbolizing national unity, while the obverse with Lincoln's portrait will remain unchanged.
1. CFA 21/MAY/09-3, American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative One Dollar Silver Coin. Nine obverse and five reverse designs. Final. Ms. Budow said that Public Law 110-277 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to issue one-dollar coins honoring the service of disabled veterans. She noted that the memorial's sponsoring foundation—which will receive proceeds from the coin sales—suggested that the coin design include a star shape, which is a universal symbol of the military as well as a central feature of the memorial design.
Ms. Budow presented nine alternative designs for the obverse, noting that the memorial sponsor prefers Designs #1, 6, 7, and 9. Ms. Balmori expressed support for Design #7— depicting the legs and boots of three veterans and the inscription "They Stood Up For Us"—with the comment that it is very moving and the best composed. She said that the other designs include too many features resulting in a confused message. Ms. Budow indicated that this alternative includes an amputee and noted the memorial sponsor's concern with depicting a particular disability; she added that mental disabilities are also prevalent. Ms. Nelson acknowledged that the specific depiction could be problematic; Ms. Balmori noted that several other alternatives also indicate injuries. Ms. Nelson supported Design #2—depicting a saluting soldier and the text "Honoring the Military Service of Our Disabled Veterans"—as a dynamic composition; she commented that it broadly encompasses the many types of disabilities, in contrast to the designs depicting veterans with crutches.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported Design #1, depicting a row of equally sized soldiers. Ms. Nelson added support for Design #6, commenting that the eagle could be removed and the advancing row of soldiers and stars could be enlarged, with their sizes adjusted to be equal; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported these modifications to Design #6. Ms. Nelson said that the result might resemble Design #1, which illustrates the difficulty of including a multiplicity of faces and service branches on a single small coin. Ms. Budow responded that the Mint could incorporate sufficient detail into the design, and she emphasized the relatively large size of the coin with a 1.5-inch diameter; Ms. Balmori said that this size is nonetheless very small for the complexity of the composition.
Ms. Budow suggested that the decision for the obverse could be finalized after considering the reverse designs; she presented five alternatives for the reverse. She noted that Design #5 includes an implied negative-space star shape suggested by the edges of the partial laurel wreath. Ms. Nelson asked if this star shape would be emphasized in relief. Ms. Budow responded that the laurel wreath design would be raised but the star shape would be a flat surface extending into the field of the coin; she suggested that this design is more legible at the actual size of the coin than when enlarged. Ms. Balmori expressed support for this design. Ms. Budow noted that the memorial sponsor prefers Designs #2 and #5.
Ms. Balmori suggested pairing Design #2 for the reverse with Design #7 for the obverse. She acknowledged that Design #7 includes a depiction of crutches that might be objectionable to other Commission members, but commented that she interprets this depiction as a symbol for any type of injury.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged that Design #5 is one of the preferred alternatives for the reverse; she commented that the placement of the text "United States of America" along the rim of this design is awkwardly asymmetrical, while perhaps necessary due to the size of the implied star shape. She noted that a smaller star shape would eliminate this problem but would require shrinking the text of the quotation within the star; she concluded that the amount of text in the design is excessive. She asked if the quotation in Design #2—"Take This Moment to Honor Our Disabled Defenders of Freedom"—is attributed to anyone; Ms. Budow responded that this quotation was created by the artist. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that this text be shortened to eliminate the first phrase, leaving the text as "Honor Our Disabled Defenders of Freedom."
Ms. Balmori suggested a response to Ms. Plater-Zyberk's concern with the text placement in Design #5 for the reverse: the phrase "United States of America" could be moved to the top or bottom of the coin and combined into a continuous arc with the other phrases, "One Dollar" and "E Pluribus Unum." Mr. McKinnell suggested that the well-known quotation from Abraham Lincoln in Design #1 for the reverse—"A Nation That Does Not Honor Its Heroes Will Not Long Endure"—be placed within Design #2 containing a wreath and forget-me-not flower. Ms. Balmori commented that the crescent shapes in Design #2 are objectionable. Ms. Budow said that the memorial sponsor's support for Designs #2 and #5 includes a preference for these quotations. Mr. Belle commented that the quotation in Design #2 contains a specific reference to disabled veterans, a desirable feature which is not present in the Lincoln quotation used in Design #1; Ms. Balmori expressed support for the broad reference to "Heroes" in the Lincoln quotation.
Vice-Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission members vote for specific designs for each face of the coin which may result in a consensus emerging. Mr. McKinnell supported Design #1 for both the obverse and reverse. Ms. Balmori supported Design #7 for the obverse and Design #5 for the reverse. Mr. Belle supported #7 for the obverse and #2 for the reverse. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported Design #1 for the obverse and Design #2 for the reverse. Ms. Nelson supported Design #2 on the obverse and Design #1 on the reverse.
Mr. Luebke tallied the votes and reported a tie for the obverse design—two votes each for Designs #1 and #7—and another tie for the reverse design, with two votes each for Designs #1 and #2. Vice-Chairman Nelson noted that the Commission did not reach the normal consensus recommendation; Mr. Luebke offered to convey the split recommendation, and Ms. Budow said that the Mint would be interested in considering any response such as ranked preferences. Ms. Balmori then changed her vote for the reverse to Design #1, resulting in a consensus for this design. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's recommendation to support both Designs #1 and #7 on the obverse and Design #1 on the reverse.
2. CFA 21/MAY/09-4, Abraham Lincoln One-Cent Coin Redesign Program for 2010. Seventeen designs for reverse. Revised submission—Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/09-4.) Vice-Chairman Nelson noted that the wheat sheaf design that was previously recommended by the Commission has been withdrawn due to its similarity to a coin from Germany in the 1920s and 1930s; she asked whether the decision to withdraw the design under these circumstances is required by law. Ms. Budow said that the Mint can withdraw a design for numerous reasons, including manufacturing concerns, legal issues, and appropriateness. She noted the importance of the penny as a coin with high circulation and emphasized the Mint's desire for an iconic and uniquely American design to be paired with President Lincoln's image. Vice-Chairman Nelson asked for clarification of whether the similarity of the design to the historic German pfennig coin was the reason for withdrawing this alternative; Ms. Budow responded that the director of the Mint has provided guidance to seek an original and uniquely American design.
Vice-Chairman Nelson noted that the Commission had seen the remaining seventeen designs the previous month; she waived the presentation and asked that the combined image of all the alternatives be displayed. Mr. Luebke noted that, in addition to recommending Design #18 which has now been withdrawn, the Commission had commented favorably on the rendering of the eagle in Design #17. Ms. Balmori said that this design is not satisfactory because the eagle is too small and perhaps blurry; she recommended Design #10—depicting a stylized American flag—as appropriately simple for this small coin and very clearly American.
Ms. Nelson suggested consideration of Design #2 with a close-up view of the Capitol dome, which she said would be clearly recognizable; she also supported Design #10, commenting on its strength, symmetry, and "punch." Mr. Belle, Mr. McKinnell, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk also agreed to support Design #10. Mr. Belle commented on the similarity of this design to artwork by Jasper Johns; Ms. Nelson noted that Johns is American. Ms. Nelson summarized the Commission's consensus to recommend Design #10; Mr. Luebke noted that this recommendation supersedes the Commission's action from the previous month.
Following the lunch break, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the proposed artwork at the Farragut North Metro Station.
F. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 21/MAY/09-7, Farragut North Metro Station. South entrance, corner of K Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW. Art installation. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Michael McBride, manager of the public art program at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), to present the proposal. Mr. McBride said that the project is being funded by the D.C. government and the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID). He presented views of the site, an escalator entrance located across K Street from Farragut Square. He indicated the location of the artwork on an existing granite wall, noting the importance of the granite as one of the standard materials used in constructing the Metro system; he said that WMATA typically asks artists not to entirely cover the granite surfaces.
Mr. McBride said that the artist, Jefre Manuel, was inspired by Admiral Farragut and his naval campaign along the Mississippi River during the Civil War. He indicated the stylized representation of the river that would curve down the wall alongside the escalators. The material for this surface would be a specialized tile called Sensitile, which has a surface that flickers in response to movement and light; he presented a sample to the Commission and noted that this material will help to achieve the goal of the BID and the D.C. government to animate the space.
Ms. Nelson asked if the tile would be adhered to the granite; Mr. McBride responded that it will be raised slightly forward to avoid touching the granite. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned whether the flickering effect is evident in the sample; Mr. McBride responded that the sample's small size may limit the effect, and the actual artwork will have a more intense blue color. He presented the other materials including light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and brushed aluminum, adding that WMATA is very concerned about this project's detailing which will be critical to its success.
Mr. Luebke suggested that the applicant provide further explanation of the artwork's pattern as previously presented to the staff; Mr. McBride said the pattern is based on an abstracted aerial view of bends in the Mississippi River. He noted Farragut's famous remark, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" during a Civil War battle, and said that the artist's original intention to include a representation of torpedoes was rejected by WMATA as an inappropriate reminder of war.
Ms. Nelson noted that the rendering is a night view and asked about the daytime appearance; Mr. McBride responded that the tile would always be lit with the LEDs. Mr. Luebke noted that the site is beneath an office building and is somewhat dark even during the day. Ms. Nelson asked about the detailing of the aluminum channel. Mr. McBride confirmed that the channel would be lit; the details are still being refined but the intention is to have a lens within the channel, with the light reflecting onto the tile; the LEDs might also be placed behind the tile. He said that one option being considered is to use bent tubing instead of the channels in order to improve the detailing along the curved outline of the river.
Ms. Nelson noted that the artwork would cover most or all of the granite wall and asked for clarification of WMATA's intention to respect this material. Mr. McBride confirmed that some penetration of the granite would be necessary for attaching the artwork; he emphasized that some of the granite would remain exposed, and confirmed that WMATA considers the artwork to be a permanent installation. Ms. Nelson asked about the durability of the Sensitile and the LEDs. Mr. McBride responded that the LEDs would need to be replaced periodically, which WMATA will do, and the long-term performance of the Sensitile is undetermined because it is a relatively new material.
Mr. Belle asked about the distance between the artwork and people on the escalator; Mr. McBride estimated the distance as 3.5 feet and clarified that people on the escalator would not be able to touch the wall, consistent with typical design standards for the Metro system. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about the edges of the artwork such as at the top of the escalator, where people could have contact with it at the street-level landing. Mr. McBride responded that the configuration of the upper and lower landings provides appropriate areas for finishing the edges of the artwork; he added that WMATA advised the artist to design the upper end to terminate at a high point above the reach of pedestrians. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the electric power for the artwork's lighting would result in visible wiring or transformer boxes which could be visually intrusive. Mr. McBride responded that a channel at the base of the granite provides sufficient room for electrical wiring along the length of the artwork, and this location would not be readily noticeable to the public; he confirmed that the wiring would not be at the height of the handrail.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further clarification on the treatment of edges, noting that the sides will be visible at these locations while the presentation materials emphasize elevation views. Mr. McBride responded that WMATA will ask the artist to provide radius edges to close off the materials at the visible edges of the artwork; he confirmed that this cap will continue to the granite wall surface. Ms. Plater-Zyberk inspected the sample materials and commented that a long curved molding strip might be needed at some locations; Mr. McBride clarified that the sample was assembled by the artist simply to demonstrate the relationship among the components.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the detailing is the greatest concern for the project; Mr. McBride reiterated that WMATA shares this concern and is working carefully to refine the details. Mr. Belle asked if a mockup is being prepared; Mr. McBride responded that the small budget is probably insufficient for a mockup, but individual components have been placed along the wall. Mr. Belle commented that the small budget might make a mockup even more desirable, particularly when using a new technology; Mr. McBride confirmed that WMATA has not used LEDs in artwork but uses LEDs extensively for other purposes, adding that WMATA is trying to depart from the typical use of neon lighting for artwork in stations.
Ms. Nelson noted Mr. McBride's comment on the simplicity of the project's materials and said that the project actually appears quite complex and interesting; Mr. McBride responded that the fabrication will be complex with numerous issues, although the overall design is simple. Mr. Belle expressed concern that the technical issues are not yet resolved, commenting that the concept for the artwork involves unique ideas. He added that the LED technology, although familiar to WMATA, would be used here in a different way. He said that the most helpful advice the Commission could offer would be to emphasize the need for a mockup; Ms. Nelson agreed that a mockup would be very informative. Mr. Belle cautioned that without a mockup to work through the technical difficulties, design problems in the final installation could result in the artwork's technical features being abandoned quickly. Mr. McBride responded that WMATA has been working closely with suppliers and electrical experts but agreed that a mockup would be desirable.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that problems will likely arise from the three-dimensional form of the materials; she offered the example of the tiles which will have to be formed into special shapes by some sort of cutting or molding process that must be determined. Mr. McBride responded that the tile will cover more than 200 square feet out of the entire project surface of 900 square feet; the tile comes in relatively large eight-by-four-foot sheets. Ms. Nelson asked about the cutting method; Mr. McBride said that laser cutting will be used for both the tile and the metal. Ms. Nelson commented that the metal and the tile should be placed at the same distance from the wall.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked for the Commission's consensus on the concept submission. Ms. Balmori expressed support for the comments that were provided; Mr. Belle added that the goal is to make the project work. Vice-Chairman Nelson confirmed that the Commission would like to see a subsequent submission. Mr. McBride asked if this should include a working sample or a scale model; Mr. Luebke offered to coordinate further with Mr. McBride concerning the components of the next submission and the timing of a mockup. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept design.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.D.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 21/MAY/09-5, National Zoological Park. Seal and Sea Lion Support Facility, site renewal, and associated holding facility at the veterinary hospital facility. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/NOV/08-12.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the final design for the seal and sea lion facility at the National Zoo. She said that the Commission had approved the concept design in November 2008 and that the project team has subsequently developed the design and added a proposal for a holding facility in another area of the Zoo. She introduced Harry Rombach from the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Mr. Rombach said that this is one of the first projects to be developed from the Zoo's master plan because the current exhibit is in poor condition. He described the goal of constructing larger holding tanks and exhibit facilities, better healthcare facilities, and more commodious living arrangements for the animals, which may require a larger and "more robust" exhibit including rocky shores, salt water, and waves in the pools. He introduced Alyson Steele of Quinn Evans Architects to present the design.
Ms. Steele discussed the site in the Zoo's Beaver Valley area and quoted the 1973 National Register nomination for the Zoo that referred to the "rugged magnificence of the topography." She described the valley as being shaped like a tilted bowl, with lush perimeter vegetation and steep slopes on the east and west. She said the existing visitor path divides the site into two zones, one for people on the east and one for animals on the west; the existing exhibit building from the 1970s dominates the site. She emphasized that the Zoo wants to meet the current standards for animal care from the Association for Zoos and Aquariums. She described the design goals of integrating the visitor zones with habitat landscaping that will simulate the Pacific Northwest, and of providing accessibility for people with disabilities.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked Ms. Steele to focus on the changes made to the design since concept approval in November. Ms. Steele said the changes are mostly adjustments to details. Ms. Nelson asked about the proposed material for the triangular "sails" over the holding areas; Ms. Steele responded that, for the four sails at each holding area, two would be solid corrugated PVC and two would be canvas. She said the Seal Pool and the Sea Lion Pool would have sea walls that would be the same masonry as the retaining wall adjacent to the visitor path. The building color would be a muted gray so that the building will appear to recede as it steps up the hillside; the roofs would be standing-seam copper. She indicated the simplification of the building's gable ends and the reduction in the number of windows. She presented a sample of the weathering slate tile that has been selected for the building, a blue-gray slate that will be compatible with the stone of Rock Creek and the rockwork that the landscape architect is designing for the exhibit.
Referring to the letter sent by the Commission after the previous review, Ms. Nelson asked if natural rather than artificial stone could be used for the rockwork. Ms. Steele said the habitats would be mostly artificial rockwork shaped to re-create formations that exist on the West Coast. She said some natural rock from the site had been found in the existing exhibit and would be reused along with the natural rock on the site that would be removed by excavations to enlarge the pools. Ms. Nelson asked if the rock arch described in the presentation is an existing feature; Ms. Steele said that it is proposed for construction.
Mr. Belle questioned whether the budget would be sufficient to execute the design or whether lower-cost materials would be substituted for the proposed copper roof, slate, and stone; Ms. Steele said she was confident that these materials would not change. Mr. Belle asked that this assurance be recorded in the minutes; Mr. Luebke also noted that the project is submitted as a final design. He added that the Commission's advice after the previous presentation had been to simplify the exterior and to reexamine the treatment of the rock.
Ms. Nelson expressed concern about the large amount of artificial stone; she said it would be preferable not to have extensive manufactured rock because it is "never quite convincing." Ms. Balmori added that it would look like an amusement park and was not satisfactory. Ms. Steele explained that the character of the rockwork would be based on actual rock formations in the Pacific Northwest, explaining that members of the design team and representatives from the Zoo had visited and photographed rock of the actual habitats. Ms. Balmori said that the artificial material never looks like rock and asked why it would be used so extensively. Mr. Rombach said that a large amount of artificial rock is installed at the Zoo's Asia Trail exhibit; Ms. Balmori said she has seen it and finds it to be problematic. Mr. Rombach said the artificial rock in that exhibit looks "fairly authentic" and explained that this material is being used throughout the Zoo because it can be made into the shape required and can also be used to hide equipment. Ms. Steele indicated proposed rockwork in the seal and sea lion exhibit that would hide a caisson used for making waves in the pools.
Ms. Balmori reiterated her objection to the extensive use of artificial rock. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if Ms. Balmori was suggesting that the rock be combined with straight walls; Ms. Balmori said that straight walls or the actual terrain could be satisfactory but objected to the creation of "this whole fake landscape." Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that artificial rock would be needed for the walls of the pools because these are not being dug out of the rock itself; Ms. Steele added that the walls of the pools would be 16-inch-thick marine-grade concrete. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori restated that artificial rock is never convincing, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked what the alternative would be. Mr. McKinnell said one alternative is the treatment of the penguin pool at the Regents Park Zoo in the 1930s, where the architect Berthold Lubetkin made a concrete spiral for the penguins to walk on. Mr. McKinnell acknowledged that zoos are artificial environments but commented that this "attempt to replicate a natural environment is just awful," adding that zoos "should be made by modern means." He said that the project has a good architect and, with a landscape architect, the design team could make "concrete shelves and cantilevered elements and make it look of our time."
Mr. Rombach explained that part of the intent is to use the artificial stone to portray the habitat, in this case the Pacific Northwest. Mr. McKinnell said he did not think that this could be achieved because the landscape would always look artificial and false, in contrast to the buildings which would be handsome and have a sense of authenticity about them in their materials. Ms. Nelson added that the building materials are authentic products. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the buildings would be referring to the imagery of the Pacific Northwest, and so the design team might set the same standards for the rocks by bringing in the rocks of the locale. She said that if one accepts that the building refers to the imagery of the Pacific Northwest, then one might accept that the landscape likewise emulates it. Mr. McKinnell said that the buildings refer to 20th-century constructions in the Pacific Northwest, while the landscape would mimic natural forms; he commented that there is a "total difference between these two maneuvers" and that architecture routinely refers to other places and buildings. He agreed that the proposed landscape treatment "is just terrible."
Ms. Balmori suggested the design team use all the real rock available and then, for the remainder of the site design, build a real landscape. Ms. Nelson asked about the proposed stone along the path on the outside of the exhibit; Ms. Steele said this would be stone veneer. Ms. Balmori said that unembellished walls would be better than stone veneer at this location. Mr. Belle suggested that the Commission could recommend that the Zoo "should not be overly concerned to accentuate the stone-like quality of many of the walls"; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Belle added that the Zoo could accept high-quality concrete as a surface in many of these cases; he expressed hope that the budget would solve the problem for the designers.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she might be the only one who disagrees, commenting that she considers the exhibit to be a "simulacra and a stage set," adding that the goal is not the purity of the design. She said people would understand that this cannot be the real place but is instead trying to give a sense of it. She suggested that real rock would be desirable to the extent feasible and commented that the exhibit's rockwork should be a high-quality imitation using fine craftsmanship. Ms. Balmori said the problem is that the standard for this kind of work is not very good; it is used in Disneyland, but the Zoo has a different relationship with reality than Disneyland. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed concern about what the concrete would look like; Mr. Belle said people would understand its appearance. Ms. Balmori said aggregate could be added to the concrete.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the Commission should give clear direction rather than just object to the proposed material or suggest the use of concrete. Ms. Balmori recommended treating the exhibit as architecture and treating the site design clearly as a built landscape, using natural materials where possible and straightforward concrete walls where needed; she summarized the advice as "a clear statement of a totally built landscape but that has some design in it that serves the seals." Ms. Nelson observed that the design includes a lot of stone that is not serving the seals but is just part of a border or arch or other features for visitors. Ms. Balmori suggested using the real stones for the seals and treating the rest as clearly architecture; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. Luebke asked if the project team had technical issues that should be considered, and noted that design philosophies change over time regarding what is appropriate for the experience of animals in an artificial environment; he said that we are now probably in a period where it is expected that zoos will replicate natural settings as closely as possible. He said that the Commission is considering strong guidance based on architectural principles while the issues here may be more related to current best practices for zoos.
Ms. Nelson said her husband worked at the Dallas Zoo and she is familiar with many zoos; she commented that there is a typical appearance for zoos and that it is acceptable to have ersatz habitats. Mr. Rombach said that zoo design has evolved from paradigm of the menagerie viewpoint and that this design comes out of the full-immersion movement, relating to the experience of visitors as well as the animals. Ms. Steele added that studies have shown that the way people view animals is affected by the environment in which they are seen.
Mr. Rombach introduced Susan Ades, Director of Exhibits at the Zoo, who explained more about the Zoo's intention. She said that replacing the rockwork with concrete makes her uncomfortable, explaining that concrete was popular in the 1960s and 1970s resulting in widespread concrete-box enclosures; this is not the way that the Zoo now wants to exhibit animals. She said that the Zoo is trying to create a sense of place for the visitors and emphasized the importance of creating a context for the animals to address conservation issues. She said the entire concept is artificial, including the premise of the zoo itself, adding that the animals are there for education. She said that creating a sense of place and of empathy for the animals is important, while seeing animals exhibited in concrete enclosures makes visitors feel bad about themselves, the animals, and the zoo. She concluded by referring to the high quality of the artificial rockwork at the Asia Trail where it is difficult to tell that it is not real.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the point that the walls in areas with people do not need to have stone veneer; where the seals are, the Zoo can use real rocks and slopes with grass, combining a fake and a real landscape.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked for a presentation of the holding facility since that building was not previously reviewed. Ms. Steele explained that the animals would have to be moved while the site is being rebuilt; while the sea lions would be relocated to Pittsburgh for two years, the elderly gray seals would need to stay at the National Zoo. She said that a small 360-square foot holding pool is therefore proposed in the Zoo's research area.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked for the Commission's conclusion on the proposed final design. She expressed support for the design of the building; Mr. McKinnell agreed, adding that the architecture has improved from the previous submission. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the Commission could recommend paying more attention to the transition from the natural landscape to the visitors' landscape. Ms. Nelson commented that people intuitively understand whether a material is authentic and good or not, and that people sense authenticity. She said she would encourage the Zoo to make the design as authentic as possible using real stone around the animal enclosures and some landscape solution where the visitors are, reducing the amount of "hand-painted rock." Ms. Balmori supported this proposal. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final design with these comments.
E. U.S. Department of Education
CFA 21/MAY/09-6, Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW. Installation of photographs on the ground floor. Concept/Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for enlarged photographs of children applied to the ground-floor lobby windows of the Department of Education headquarters, noting that the north side of the building faces the site of the planned memorial to President Eisenhower. He introduced Matt Yale, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Department of Education, to present the proposal.
Mr. Yale said that this project will contribute to reinventing the image of the Department of Education, which has been a priority for the new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, since taking office four months ago; he added that a $100 billion allocation from the recent economic recovery legislation has also helped to highlight the importance of the Department. He said that the goal is to refocus the Department on the core mission of improving the lives of children; the proposal is therefore to place simple photographs of children facing the exterior along the building's two entrance facades. He noted that the front door was closed prior to the new administration, a symbolically inappropriate situation that has been resolved: the emphasis is now on making the building open and accessible to everyone. He described art projects located within the building during the past six years and said that the photographs would provide visibility from the exterior—particularly toward the north where the National Air and Space Museum already draws many visitors including children—that would attract the public to visit the building and see the interior art installations as well as learn about the Department's programs.
Mr. Yale explained that the proposed installation of photographs would not involve permanent changes to the building and could be removed easily in the future. He said that the remaining schoolhouse-style entrance pavilion—one of four that had been placed at the building entrances—is costly to maintain and will be removed soon; the intention is to provide a new image that will "rebrand" the Department in conjunction with this removal. He emphasized the relationship between the Department's policy goals and the treatment of the headquarters building, adding that the Department also intends to respect the building's architecture and the history of the agency.
Mr. Yale introduced Eric Waldo from the Department of Education to describe the proposal in more detail. Mr. Waldo acknowledged the past design efforts in the vicinity of the building, including the Eisenhower Memorial site to the north, where there is a requirement for a fifty-foot setback. He said that the project is intended to call attention to the building without detracting from the appearance of the anticipated Eisenhower Memorial. He said the photograph installations would be placed on 22 windows on each entrance facade, for a total of 44 windows. The photos would depict students; he presented an image of a sample photograph to illustrate the appearance of the perforated vinyl film. He introduced Lauren Lowenstein of the Department of Education to provide further information on the relationship of the proposal to the building's interior.
Ms. Lowenstein clarified that the vinyl would be installed on the exterior of the building. She described the intended perception of the headquarters as a place of activities for students rather than as an anonymous federal building. One example is that a planned nationwide summer reading program will be associated with weekly readings to students on the building's portico, with participation by the Secretary of Education and other high-level officials; she noted that the photograph installation would serve as a backdrop for these readings. She also explained that the lobby serves as an exhibit space with museum-quality materials and framed art by children; these interior exhibits, as well as the proposed photograph installation, are intended to call attention to arts education. She added that the photographs will be representative of the wide range of student populations served by the Department, including special education, adult students, and vocational training. Two photographers on the Department's staff will go into the community to assure that the scope of the Department's work is represented in the photographs. She concluded by emphasizing the temporary nature of the project's installation and its potential for reminding employees coming to work of the children-oriented purpose of the Department.
Ms. Nelson asked if the project team has studied the amount of light that passes through the perforated vinyl. Ms. Lowenstein responded that the existing windows are tinted, and the proposed film will only cover the lower two-thirds of each window; she confirmed that the edges would not align with the window mullions but would simply be cut off. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked how the photographs will be selected. Ms. Lowenstein said that the Department is relying on its two staff photographers to provide professional images; a series of photographs is already available, including the needed authorizations for their use. She added that additional cost for photography is not anticipated, and the overall project cost is estimated at $30,000.
Ms. Nelson asked if black-and-white photographs would be used; Ms. Lowenstein responded that they would be in color. Mr. Belle asked if the material is the same as that used for wrapping buses with displays; Ms. Lowenstein confirmed that this is the same type of material and confirmed that people will be able to see through it. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that, when used on buses, the material allows people within to see out, but the interior is not readily visible from the exterior; Mr. Luebke noted that this effect may reverse at night due to interior lighting.
Ms. Nelson asked about the attention to attract children from the nearby museum; Ms. Lowenstein clarified that the headquarters building already has many visits by children, including occasional classes of children or visits by students whose artwork is being exhibited. She emphasized the intention to attract more children to the building lobby where they will be able to see the artwork by other children, while also making the exterior portico and grounds a more attractive place for visiting families and backdrop for events. She confirmed that security requirements are in place for access to the building's interior.
Ms. Nelson noted that the area north of the building would soon be a construction site. She added that the removal of the schoolhouse embellishments has taken many years and characterized these as being advertising rather than civic architecture; she commented that the proposed photographs also have a commercial character that would be more appropriate for a sports arena or billboard. She said that the Department of Education should be in a civic building that states the permanent name of the institution without the need to be "branded," questioning the intention of this purpose for the project. She acknowledged that each administration can appropriately adjust the image of the Department, but emphasized that its permanence as a governmental institution should also be respected. Mr. Yale agreed, saying that the emphasis on children is fundamental to the Department's purpose and not "a marketing gimmick." He said that the proposal is not intended to "market" the building and emphasized the attitude of respect for the Department.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the photographic images could be placed on banners within the lobby. Mr. Yale responded that the intention is not to displace the artwork that is already exhibited in this area; Ms. Nelson said that the banners could be hung while still leaving the walls available for art displays. Mr. Yale added that some art is also displayed on the exterior of the building, and he noted the image of the Department's seal on the building that provides dignified identification in contrast to the "cheap" appearance of the schoolhouse pavilions. He added that the Secretary of Education has repeatedly complained about the lack of children-related imagery when driving into the building each day. Ms. Nelson cautioned that the building should not have the character of a playground or school and emphasized its identity as a government Department headquarters; Mr. Yale agreed with this principle and reiterated that the project is limited to 44 photographs.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the same criticisms now made of the schoolhouse pavilions might be made of the proposed photographs several years in the future. He expressed support for the goal stated in the presentation of having the building advertise an image of transparency, which could be achieved through architecture; however, he said that the proposed photographs would actually reduce the sense of transparency and would suggest an effort to hide the glass-walled lobby from public view. Mr. Yale responded that people will be able to see through the pictures; Mr. McKinnell retorted that this is untrue, as shown by the difficulty of seeing into buses that are covered with the same material. He suggested that the Department's principle of transparency be expressed through further development of exhibits in the lobby.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that some of the artwork displayed in the lobby could be moved toward the windows where it would be more easily visible from the exterior, particularly with improved lighting to emphasize the displays. Mr. Yale responded that the existing lobby lighting for the exhibits is expensive, and he explained that due to security requirements people are not permitted to come close to the building facades unless they have obtained a badge for admission to the building; the design should therefore be legible at a distance or should be seen by people who have entered the building, rather than provide small objects at the windows that attract people to come close to the exterior facades.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the photographic images could be displayed by projection rather than physical attachment to the windows; the projections could include moving images and could be implemented only at limited times such as during the planned outdoor readings, possibly incorporating images related to the specific events. Ms. Balmori suggested that a screen could display an image of activities happening inside the building for viewing by people on the exterior.
Vice-Chairman Nelson summarized the advice that a better proposal could be developed than the proposed vinyl film images. Mr. Yale agreed but emphasized that the current proposal is temporary and can be achieved immediately, which is important to the Department; he said that the other suggestions could be considered for longer-term implementation, including consideration of the building's relationship to the future Eisenhower Memorial as well as the interim impact of the memorial's construction.
Mr. Belle suggested that the Commission approve the proposal for a specific limited time period, which would balance the Department's desire for immediate implementation with the Commission's concern about the project having the unintended effect of reducing transparency and also remaining in place for a long period. He suggested a time period of three months; Mr. Yale said that this proposal would be acceptable. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson commented that the schoolhouse pavilions were similarly intended to be temporary; Ms. Balmori expressed frustration that promises of temporary installations in Washington cannot be believed. Mr. Yale offered assurance that he and the Secretary of Education would be responsible for compliance with a temporary approval, and he emphasized that a temporary installation would provide time for the Department to think more carefully about how to communicate its activities to people outside the building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the Department's goals provide a good opportunity for creative artists and designers to develop a proposal for the building, likely resulting in a work of art with a deeper sense of communication and identity than would be achieved with the proposed photographs; she added that an artistic project could likely be achieved at a very low cost while being more effective in the long run. She also noted that projects of this nature should be removable with each change of administration; the three-month temporary installation of the photographs could therefore be followed by a three-year installation of a new concept.
Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk that artistic talent should be brought to the project, commenting that the proposed static images may not have a great appeal to young people; he said that kaleidoscopic images are now more popular, adding that young designers can create these with small budgets. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that having students create this project would be appropriate although perhaps risky; she suggested that a national organization of architecture students could arrange a competition for the design. Mr. Yale agreed and expressed appreciation for the Commission's advice, acknowledging that the Department does not have design expertise. He noted that any project would be temporary due to periodic changes in the Department's leadership, while agreeing that the Commission's recommendation would allow for more careful thought about the longer-term installation.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked for a consensus on the time period, suggesting three or six months and noting the difficulty of quick implementation. Mr. McKinnell suggested a conditional approval for six months with the requirement that the applicant return at that time with an alternative design. Mr. Yale said that the appropriate deadline for removing the photographs would depend on how long it takes to install them; he requested that the approval be for six months after completion of the installation.
Ms. Balmori emphasized the Commission's goal of seeing the development of a better idea for the building, reiterating that the current proposal will make the building appear commercial. Ms. Nelson commented that black-and-white photographs would be preferable to the proposed color images; Ms. Balmori agreed that this change would reduce the commercial effect of the installation, and she compared the current proposal to the images often displayed in the windows of a drugstore chain. Mr. Yale responded with assurance that this character is not intended.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the concept for a six-month installation with guidance to minimize the commercial character of the photographs and with encouragement to develop a longer-term concept for making the building more inviting, possibly involving students in the design process. Mr. Luebke noted that the approval could reiterate the Commission's request for removal of the schoolhouse pavilions; Mr. Yale responded that the remaining one would be removed to allow installation of this project. Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered to assist the Department in coordinating with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture in developing the subsequent proposal.
Agenda item II.F. was discussed earlier in the meeting; the Commission continued with item II.G.1.
G. District of Columbia Public Library
Ms. Batcheler introduced the two branch library proposals that are both being designed by the same team of architects for the D.C. Public Library. She said that the first, the Washington Highlands branch, was previously reviewed by the Commission and is submitted as a revised concept; the second library, the Francis Gregory branch, is presented for the first time. She introduced project manager Lisa Deanes from the D.C. Public Library to begin the presentations. Ms. Deanes said that the design team—including Adjaye Associates and Wiencek + Associates—has considered the Commission's comments on the Washington Highlands branch as well as staff comments on both projects. She introduced architect David Adjaye to present the designs.
1. CFA 21/MAY/09-8, Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. New replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/09-9.) Mr. Adjaye said that the Commission's previous comments have helped in the refinement of the design concept. He described the concept that was presented in February 2009 and the three topics of revisions in response to the Commission: integration of the site and building, including parking and landscaping; the treatment of the exterior architectural surfaces; and the width and treatment of the space between the building and the retaining wall.
Mr. Adjaye said that the design team reconsidered the amount and location of parking and concluded that the number of cars could not be reduced, nor could the location be changed due to the topographic constraints of the site. However, the design team has instead pursued the Commission's suggestion to design the parking area as a part of the overall site landscape—which is conceived as a mat or quilt on which the building is placed—rather than as a separate large car-oriented feature. He indicated the proposed site materials which have been coordinated with the building design: multiple tones of tinted concrete; grass; gravel edges; and wood decking near the building entrance. He described the overall site design as an integrated landscape which draws and pulls the visitor into the building. He said that the parking area would be somewhat differentiated as the only rigid geometry in the landscape, while the geometry of other areas would be generated from the building in a loosely radiating pattern. He indicated the proposed bioretention pond and planting area which helps to define the route to the building entrance. He said that the wood decking near the entrance would create an inviting character which would draw people to the triple-height interior space. He indicated the amphitheater adjacent to the entrance and below one of the upper-story projecting pavilions.
Ms. Nelson asked about the configuration of colored concrete panels in the parking area; Mr. Adjaye confirmed that each panel corresponds to a single parking space, eliminating the need for striping, and he indicated the strips of gravel that would provide an edge between the panels and would serve as expansion joints. He also indicated the low wall and planter box located in response to the grade change between the parking area and building; the plantings, including bamboo, would serve to screen the building from cars and headlights. Ms. Nelson asked if the concrete panels would fade; Mr. Adjaye responded that the color would be a dye within the concrete, rather than surface paint, so it will be relatively durable but will nonetheless fade somewhat from exposure to the sun.
Mr. Adjaye described the site treatment along the retaining wall: the ten-foot-wide space would be an ornamental garden. He said that the landscape designer is advising on the different plantings that could be used in this space. He characterized the space as a "discovery garden" that would be seen from different interior locations, and the design would incorporate a radial pattern generated by the building. The plantings would be selected to conceal the retaining wall from view. He presented sections and perspective views illustrating the extensive views from the interior seating and shelving areas to the exterior gardens.
Mr. Adjaye provided further information on the character of the building's projecting pavilions, describing them as tree houses and canopies. He indicated the proposed surface treatment of panel cladding with line motifs corresponding to a faceted pattern. Ms. Nelson asked if the surface would be flat or faceted; Mr. Adjaye responded that a three-dimensional treatment was considered but was too complex, resulting in the proposal for a flat surface. He confirmed that the same surface treatment would continue along the supporting columns of the pavilions and said that lighting would be installed to follow the geometric pattern, creating a striking night-time effect.
Mr. Adjaye described additional materials for the building exterior, including wood window mullions and vertical glazing strips that would vary in width to create striking optical effects. He summarized the overall intention to give the building a playful character that would be perceived both in the massing when seen from a distance and in the smaller-scale details that would provide a special character to each of the various forms of the building.
Ms. Balmori asked if the pavilion facades would be metal; Mr. Adjaye responded that metal had been considered but was tentatively rejected due to environmental concerns; the proposal is for a cementitious board that provides a desirable resistance to graffiti and scratching. He said that the design details would be integral to these boards rather than painted on the surface, providing a durable architectural character, and that the boards would contribute to the goal of achieving LEED certification for the building. Ms. Nelson expressed support for the proposed palette of colors and asked if such subtle tones are available for the proposed materials; Mr. Adjaye responded that the proposed colors could be obtained. He added that the distribution of colors among the various building masses has been revised since the previous submission: the pavilion above the entrance was formerly gray, but in response to the Commission's concern about the apparent darkness of the entrance area, this pavilion would be a brick-red color. Gray would be used for areas that were previously shown as red, and the green color would be located toward the rear to relate to the ornamental garden.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the building identification signage above the entrance would be lit; Mr. Adjaye responded that LED lighting was considered but is no longer proposed, and Ms. Nelson agreed with this decision. Mr. Adjaye said that a night perspective is still being prepared; Ms. Nelson said that this view would be important and would illustrate the building's attractiveness for residents. Mr. Adjaye agreed that a design goal is to create a powerful attraction for the community, which he said is also achieved by locating special functions within the projecting pavilions that will have views across the neighborhood.
Ms. Nelson asked about the retaining wall between the parking area and the street on the east. Mr. Adjaye said that it is currently proposed as a concrete wall and its proposed color has not been determined. Ms. Nelson asked about the location of crosswalks at the corner of the site; Mr. Adjaye said there are none marked, and Mr. Luebke noted that there is only a moderate residential level of traffic at the intersection.
Ms. Balmori expressed overall support for the project, commenting that there are many likeable features. However, she said that the supporting columns of the pavilion above the entrance are excessively large and reduce the entrance's visibility, creating a potentially frightening space; she acknowledged that the distinctive red pavilion would serve to highlight the entrance location. Mr. Adjaye responded that the night rendering will show the special character of this space resulting from the lit geometric patterns of the surfaces. He said that the design team has deliberately avoided the common aesthetic of using simple columns to support pavilions; Ms. Balmori acknowledged this choice. Mr. Adjaye said that the area beneath the pavilion is intended to have some of the character of a room, and the columns are therefore intended to provide a partial sense of containment. He added that the large columns also provide service access to some building mechanical areas that could not easily be reached from within the building. Mr. Belle asked if a staircase is inside; Mr. Adjaye said that an access ladder is proposed along with the shaft needed to reach the mechanical equipment.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the site design and commented that the landscaping will need extensive maintenance; she questioned whether the D.C. Public Library would be able to provide this. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed and said that plantings in areas that receive little daylight might not survive beyond the first year.
Mr. Luebke noted the receipt of letters on this project from two neighborhood groups; these have been circulated to the Commission members. He said that a representative from the community, Chris Otten, was in the audience and available to respond to questions from the Commission. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the Commission does not necessarily address community concerns related to design but asked how the D.C. Public Library takes into account such issues. Jeff Bonvechio, director of capital construction for the D.C. Public Library, responded that all projects, including this one, are presented at a series of community meetings. He said that the concerns described in the letters have been considered by the D.C. Public Library and by the design team, which is working to resolve the issues. He added that the next community meeting would include a response to these concerns. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that some of the response might need to occur before the selection of the design team; Mr. Bonvechio said that the community was involved at that stage also, with two community representatives serving on the architect selection team.
Mr. Otten, representing the District Dynamos and the Library Renaissance Project, asked to address the Commission; he said that these groups have been observing the community involvement in the design process and have also considered the comments submitted by another group, Ward Eight for Practical & Sensible Design. He said that the community had only seen this design once, at a March 31 meeting. A major community concern was parking: library patrons typically park on the street, making the proposed on-site parking unnecessary, and the planned development of a parking garage across the street would further reduce the need for surface parking on the library site. He said that the community therefore wants the parking eliminated and closer coordination with the developer of the nearby garage to provide for future needs.
Ms. Balmori supported the suggestion to eliminate on-site parking. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission's concern with this issue had resulted in the recommendation to design the parking area as part of the overall landscape design, providing a hardscape area that could be useful to the community in multiple ways. She said that the building's distinctive character, different from the context, is appropriate for the neighborhood's civic building. She noted the conventional sidewalks and grass strips along the street edges around the site and suggested instead that the project's distinctive site design concept be extended to the curb line. She acknowledged that the sidewalk areas are beyond the property line and typically controlled by a different local agency but suggested closer coordination, adding that a more unified treatment of the area might lead to an improved design for the retaining wall along the property line at the parking area. Ms. Nelson said that the narrow strips of grass indicated along the curbs are difficult to maintain. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the sidewalk could appropriately extend to the curb in front of this type of building, and trees could be in tree pits rather than within long grass strips. However, Ms. Balmori said that a continuous linear soil area is better for the health of the trees, quadrupling their lifespan compared to trees placed in containers; the linear configuration is therefore useful, although she agreed that the grass strips indicated on the context plan are very narrow. Mr. Belle commented that the grass strips help to reinforce the residential character of the neighborhood; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Mr. McKinnell offered a further suggestion concerning the distinctive surface geometries on the projecting pavilions and their supports. Although these surfaces are proposed as flat rather than expressing the implied three-dimensional faceting, he suggested that slight color variations in the facets would provide an additional sense of depth. Mr. Adjaye agreed to explore this possibility. Mr. McKinnell suggested that the color palette for the pavilions be slightly lighter in order to address his previous concern, also noted in the community letters, that the areas beneath the pavilions could be unpleasantly dark. Mr. Adjaye responded that some color variation is still being studied, but a more saturated color would be excessive for these surfaces. He said that the proposed colors have a special character and offered to return with material samples. He added that the proposed lighting of the surface lines would effectively reverse the apparent pattern when seen at night.
Mr. Belle commented that the library's multiple levels are a key feature that may be difficult to retain as details of design and accessibility are developed. Mr. Adjaye said that the cost has been evaluated and the submitted design can be built. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson asked about the staircase features; Mr. Adjaye responded that these have been designed to meet building code requirements.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised concept. Vice-Chairman Nelson said that the next submission for the final design should include material samples for the Commission's inspection.
[References to the Washington Highlands library continued during the discussion of the following agenda item.]
At this point Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle departed the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum; the action for the remaining agenda item was therefore subject to confirmation the following month.
2. CFA 21/MAY/09-9, Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, 3660 Alabama Avenue, SE. New replacement building. Concept. Mr. Adjaye continued with the presentation of the second branch library proposal. He described the location adjacent to Fort Davis Park and facing the termination of 37th Street at Alabama Avenue, SE; he indicated the nearby Beers Elementary School and emphasized the remarkable character of the park setting. He presented photographs of the context and indicated the existing library building that will be replaced. He described the site as a plateau set among steep slopes.
Mr. Adjaye noted the small size of the site relative to the program, resulting in the design team's rejection of a single-story pavilion concept and the proposal for a two-story building. He said that the proposed massing would nonetheless be a double-height glass pavilion-style structure that would relate to the park while still being appropriately scaled to the residential context. He described the intention of not only creating a glazed pavilion within a park but also using the landscape character as inspiration for the design of the pavilion. The concept includes double-height space along the perimeter and a second story in the center of the pavilion that will contain the children's area and meeting rooms. The double-height perimeter would have extensive window areas but, due to energy efficiency considerations, forty percent of the exterior enclosure would actually be insulated panels of wood on the interior and mirrored glass facing the exterior. The dimensions of these diamond-shaped panels would vary from the street to the park sides of the building as well as from the lower to the upper portions; the pattern would frame specific views from the interior and the mirrored surfaces would provide reflections of the landscape for people on the exterior. The deep roof overhang—twenty feet on the south side, 10 feet on the other sides—would provide shade and eliminate the need for window blinds; the visible framing system would extend the geometry of the building's facades. The pavilion would be set on a plinth with a partial basement containing mechanical and office space; the plinth would help to relate the building to the landscape. Two bioretention ponds would support plantings and would mark the entrance route to the building. He said that the use of glass walls and skylights would give the second-story rooms the character of an "aquarium." The central two-story portion of the building would also provide the primary structural support, allowing the perimeter walls to be free of major structure.
Ms. Nelson asked about the detailing of the windows and panels of the perimeter wall. Mr. Adjaye confirmed that the panels would abut without additional framing; he said that the structural support, including resistance to wind loads, would be accommodated within the opaque panels, resulting in a light character for the overall wall. Ms. Nelson asked about the material for the entrance area; Mr. Adjaye responded that a yellow-colored metal, possibly bronze or brass, would be selected. He presented a night rendering of the building, illustrating the reversal of the wall pattern and a varied rhythm of reflectivity and luminosity.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the design is ambitious and questioned whether it could be achieved within the typical budget for a neighborhood library. She nonetheless expressed support for the effort to create unique designs for the library branches, commenting that they serve as the civic buildings of their neighborhoods and deserve such effort. She expressed support for the proposal, while emphasizing the importance of developing the details and maintaining the overall concept throughout the design process. Ms. Nelson also expressed enthusiasm for the high aspirations of the designs. Mr. McKinnell added his support for the recent design submissions from the D.C. Public Library for neighborhood branches, describing the designs as "absolutely superlative," and recognized the important role of the client as well as the architects. Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that this group of projects might one day be characterized as a golden age of libraries in Washington. Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk that the Commission should encourage the D.C. Public Library to support the realization of these projects, observing that the designs suggest potential opportunities for cost-saving that should be resisted. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed but suggested that the design team be prepared with alternative design options if needed to respond to budget constraints.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the varied geometric pattern which extends through the walls and roof could be studied more carefully to identify a rational basis for the composition beyond the technological processes that may have generated the design. She said that people in the neighborhood will wonder how the forms were generated, and the answer should be more intellectually compelling than just being the aesthetic choice of the architect; she added that this study would add richness to the design and allow the form to be understood on multiple levels, including personal aesthetics, the current culture of design, and the tradition of mathematical logic in architecture.
Ms. Nelson questioned the proposed design of the children's area with only four oddly shaped windows, commenting that this feature is inconsistent with the ordered geometry elsewhere on the building; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the effect might be perceived as patronizing. Mr. Adjaye responded that this area will be studied further, with the original concept of continuous glass now modified to a more manageable balance between walls and windows that is still being developed. Mr. McKinnell observed that both of the library projects incorporate many willful design gestures; he offered the viewpoint that it is these gestures that make the projects "endearing." Mr. Adjaye responded that there is a design relationship between the two projects, with one emphasizing "inside things" and the other emphasizing "outside things," although the paired relationship is not expressed in an obvious way.
Ms. Nelson commented that the design effect of the mirrored surfaces and the glass would require careful maintenance; Mr. Adjaye agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the proposed bioretention ponds, commenting that they are a longstanding feature of site designs even though the name is new.
Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission members "enthusiastically" approved the design concept, subject to confirmation by a quorum.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:22 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: June 26, 2009