Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 November 2009
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:15 a.m. (The starting time of the meeting was published as 9:00 a.m., one hour earlier than usual, due to the anticipated length of the agenda.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 October meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 21 January, 18 February, and 18 March; no meeting is scheduled in December.
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. Luebke noted the unusually large number of direct-submission cases—more than thirty—and the resulting length of the Consent Calendar as well as the agenda for presentations.
Mr. Lindstrom reported several changes to the draft consent calendar. Based on additional historical research in recent days, the recommendation on the concept for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing alterations has been revised to request consideration of restoring the entrance plaza to its original curved configuration as well as to further refine the detailing; he said that the staff will work with the applicant in developing the design. He noted the two submissions for the former Congress Heights School, one of which was listed as roof repairs and window replacement; the anticipated additional information on the window proposal has not been provided, and this project listing is therefore revised to include only the roof repairs. He said that the window proposal, as well as the final design for the overall renovation of the building, would be submitted in the near future. He added that the many D.C. government submissions are on tight schedules and said that, for those projects submitted as concepts, the Commission may wish to delegate approval of the final designs to the staff; Ms. Nelson supported this suggestion.
Mr. Lindstrom noted that Mr. Belle's firm is involved with one project on the consent calendar—a National Park Service proposal for Arlington House—and this project would therefore require Mr. Belle's recusal, which could be arranged through a separate vote on this project. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the Arlington House recommendation, with Mr. Belle not voting. Upon a further motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission—including Mr. Belle—approved the remainder of the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar with the additional provision to delegate approval of final designs to the staff for the various concept submissions from the D.C. government.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Two projects involving fence replacements (case numbers SL 10-008 and SL 10-014) have been withdrawn until January to provide sufficient time for revisions and further information. The proposal for St. John's Church and Parish House (case number SL 10-021) was listed as including steeple repairs but this component has now been removed from the project. The recommendation for the Smith Center at George Washington University (case number SL 10-023) has been modified to note that the landscape and sign proposals were not part of the final submission; the favorable recommendation applies only to the other components of the proposed renovation of the building. Additional minor changes were made to dates and numbers.
Ms. Nelson asked whether the rooftop tent at the American Pharmacists Association (case number SL 10-012) has been removed; the unfavorable recommendation in the appendix notes that it was installed without a permit. Mr. Luebke and Ms. Batcheler said that the removal has not yet been formally ordered; the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board may be addressing this project at its meeting today.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Minor updates were made in response to supplemental information, all of which has now been received. Four projects have been added with the response that they are not visible from public space, and one project was added involving only the repair of an existing sign; he explained that these projects were submitted for the December meeting of the Old Georgetown Board but can be included on the November appendix since they do not require further review. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Mr. Martinez noted that the Old Georgetown Board will hold its customary meeting in early December, while the Commission will not meet later in the month to adopt the resulting recommendations. As in past years, the staff anticipates circulating the Board's December recommendations to the Commission members for response in order to allow a timely report to the D.C. government on the submitted projects. He added that the staff might request delegation of authority if supplemental drawings remain outstanding when the recommendations are being circulated. Mr. Luebke noted that the recommendations would be subject to confirmation at the Commission's January meeting.
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 19/NOV/09-1, National Museum of African American History and Culture. Project progress update. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 19/FEB/09-3.) Mr. Luebke introduced the Smithsonian Institution's information presentation on the development of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the competition-winning design team, the consortium of Freelon / Adjaye / Bond in association with the SmithGroup and landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. He noted the previous presentation to the Commission on this project, a briefing on the progress of the design competition last February, and said that the staff has been participating in the Section 106 historic preservation review process, resulting in design principles to guide the project. He said that the presentation would describe the design that was developed for the competition, while the environmental review process requires the consideration of alternative designs which will be presented in the spring.
Mr. Luebke introduced Harry Rombach of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation, noting that Mr. Rombach will be retiring in January as the Smithsonian's Associate Director for Facilities Master Planning and long-time liaison to the Commission for Smithsonian projects. Mr. Rombach expressed appreciation for the Commission's advice during his twenty years of bringing projects for review, commenting that the result has always been an improvement to the project designs.
Mr. Rombach discussed the environmental review process of developing diagrammatic alternatives and design guidelines for the new museum. He said the guidelines set out standards for such issues as height, depth below grade, and massing, and have also led to the definition of certain principles including respect for the context of the Mall and the Washington Monument, and treatment of all sides of the museum—including the roof—as public facades. He said that the Smithsonian has also been pursuing the Section 106 historic preservation review process, involving regular meetings with the Commission staff and other parties, resulting in a refinement of the design principles. He added that the Smithsonian will return to the Commission in April 2010 to present three more concepts from the selected design team, and construction of the museum is anticipated to begin in 2012. He asked architect Phil Freelon to begin the presentation; Mr. Freelon said he believes this museum may be the most important project built in Washington in this century, and he introduced architect David Adjaye to present the competition proposal.
Mr. Adjaye discussed the site context and the evolution of the design. He said the site will allow the building to act as a hinge between the informal Washington Monument Grounds, the formal Mall landscape, and the urban edge of the Federal Triangle. He also discussed the building's role as the terminus of the northern line of Mall buildings and described several of them—the National Gallery of Art's West Building, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of American History—as temples on podiums that display an evolution in style from classicism to modernism. He added that the East Building of the National Gallery introduced a different language that includes access on the ground plane. He said the site will allow the new museum to be a free-standing object with its composition resulting from the junction of the two systems.
Mr. Adjaye said that, in developing the competition design, he had considered the history of the African-American people over the last few hundred years, including their movement from central and western Africa to the American South and the subsequent northern migration. He selected several African images to guide the design—the veranda, the palace and shrine architecture of the Yoruba culture of West Africa, and a 19th-century African caryatid, consisting of a body and a base, which he thought fell in the tradition of a semi-classical architectural language. He said this image also reflected a tradition of deep spirituality in African-American culture and had led him to work with the form of the human body in space to convey the idea of praise and celebration; he presented the image of a figure with upraised arms as an additional inspiration. He also cited the agrarian landscape as represented in African-American art and quilts—with their strong patterning and the idea of coastal edges—to suggest where people came from and their arrival and immersion into the American landscape.
Mr. Adjaye said he then created a diagram of the structure as a building held within a building; the inner building will hold the content of the museum and will be a form suspended both above and below the visitor. He said the building would be raised on a podium—a reference to the stairways of the Mall museums and also to the porch of the African-American tradition, adding a note of democratic accessibility at the junction of the building and the landscape. He explained that the podium would appear to dissolve and float, and that people would pass beneath it to enter a great central room with diagonal views across the space and out to the landscape. Above the podium, the building would be contained in a bronze "corona," and the double skin and the articulation of the corona would help to create a building that will alternately reveal and screen itself.
Mr. Adjaye noted that the museum would be a transitional building, set back from the line of other buildings along the north side of Mall to reveal the Washington Monument grounds. He said the porch would project beyond this line in the same way as the steps and terraces of the Mall buildings; he added that the museum would appear as a low building to contrast with the hard edge of the Federal Triangle on the north.
Rodrigo Abela of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. then presented the landscape design from the competition entry, describing the intention of integrating the building with its site and context and providing a transition in scale between the museum and the Washington Monument grounds. He said that the landscape is envisioned as organized into three levels: the ground plane, the terrace level, and the roof level, explaining that the roof will be important because it will be visible from the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office Tower, and nearby airplanes. He said the idea of the agrarian field would be a unifying element in the landscape that would refer to the agrarian beginnings of the African-American experience in the U.S.; this field would be a means of creating a narrative of movement and change, overlaid with markings indicating metaphorical or literal intersections of histories with the land. He said water features would range from a marsh garden to a channel recalling Tiber Creek; water would mark a visitor's arrival at the Mall entrance, where a reflecting pool would symbolize optimism. He said the site design would also emphasize sustainable features of the landscape.
Mr. Adjaye said water would be used as a device to guide a visitor through the building. He discussed how sustainability would be achieved in the way the building manages energy, light, and water; the design goal is an environmental rating of LEED gold. He then presented the building's interior organization and the plan of each level. Four massive piers would support the museum and represent the four key metaphorical pillars supporting the institution, as articulated by museum director Lonnie Bunch. The basement would house services. The level above the basement would contain galleries and a great central room with a grand staircase; it would have water features with bridges, and terraces facing Constitution Avenue and the Washington Monument Grounds. Above the great room would be a ceiling made of suspended timbers that will create the effect of stalactites or a reverse vault in section. The upper floors would contain gallery spaces. He described the proposed ramp placed between the interior structure and the exterior skin, spiraling around the building and incorporating small areas that allow views of key monuments along the Mall. He then presented an animation depicting passage through the proposed building.
Mr. Powell asked for clarification of the material proposed for the outer perforated skin. Mr. Adjaye responded that it would be bronze with gauze-like perforations, opened up so that the building would combine a "totemic quality" with a 21st-century articulation of the fenestration. Ms. Nelson asked how the different densities of skin would be joined. Mr. Adjaye responded that he is considering an expanded mesh that would open up in three dimensions, appearing as a screen when cut in a limited way and appearing more transparent when pulled further apart; he added that the design team would have to develop this idea further. Ms. Nelson asked if the material would weather to a brown color as bronze does; Mr. Adjaye said it would start as gold and then change to brown, adding that the changing colors of the building's materials over time will lend atmosphere to the galleries. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the material of the brown inner wall behind the corona; Mr. Adjaye responded that this would be clad in wood.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about the three additional designs that are being developed as part of the environmental review process. Mr. Adjaye said the design team would use development of these alternatives to address issues such as setbacks and sightlines and to ensure that the design has been thoroughly considered. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked what ideas have arisen since the design competition from interaction with various groups; Mr. Adjaye responded that the design team had the first such discussion only the previous day.
Observing that the porch would extend over the walk, Ms. Balmori asked if it would go beyond the established setback lines. Mr. Adjaye responded that the porch would extend beyond the building setback line and would be in line with the monumental stairs of the other museums on the north side of the Mall, while the inhabited upper volume of the building would conform to the setback. He acknowledged that the porch is a contentious issue but emphasized that he wants it to be a device through which the ground plane will enter the building, connecting the museum and its landscape edge. He noted that the Mall's allees of trees do not extend to the south edge of this site, exposing the building to the sun; the porch canopy will therefore provide needed shade as well as a welcoming gesture, and the proposed water in this area will serve to provide additional cooling.
Mr. Belle asked how visitors will enter the building from the Mall and how water will be used. Mr. Adjaye said that from the Mall there would be a clear, uninterrupted sightline through the building on the ground plane; from Madison Drive, a visitor would follow a ramp into the building between uplifted reflecting basins. Mr. Abela added that the site is actually ten to fifteen feet lower than the main level of the Mall, and a visitor approaching from the Mall would therefore see the terrace landscape first and then move down onto the site. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the retaining walls for the reflecting pools; Mr. Abela explained that these would be 30-inch-high walls with benches; the adjacent ramping would lead up to the porch, which would be slightly higher than the sidewalk.
Mr. McKinnell offered several comments. He said his initial worry was that the building extends beyond the setback line, but he is now more concerned with whether people would see what the designers say they will; he recommended that the design team thoroughly investigate the sightlines. He said the design for the landscape carries too great a weight of meaning and symbolism; the effort to convey so many ideas in such a limited amount of landscaping could result in a "dangerously fussy" design. Finally, he noted that the client is often not involved in the conceptual stage during competitions, and the designer therefore faces the danger that an "extraordinarily striking and compelling solution" will be compromised in subsequent development.
Ms. Balmori commented on the difficulty of imposing formal ideas on a series of edges. She observed that the intended ideas are not legible and asked the design team to consider some way to integrate the landscape ideas vertically because the horizontal expression of the ideas would become fussy.
Ms. Nelson commented that the terraces would be wonderful gathering spaces and could attract large crowds; she therefore recommended that their design be simple, without many layers. She said that the proposal gives too much emphasis to the building's relationship to the Mall museums, while its relationship to the Washington Monument would actually be the most important. She commented that the design would result in an exuberant and joyful building, but requested more careful consideration of night lighting so that the museum would look like it belongs on the National Mall, rather than in Las Vegas. She acknowledged the difficulty of the site and concluded by reiterating the importance of the terraces.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the design team's effort, commenting on the beauty of the idea and the thoughtful, varied spaces of the interior. She said the porch would create a wonderful connection to history and expressed appreciation for Mr. Adjaye's thoughtful explanation of how he had arrived at these forms. However, she said that the projecting porch would be perceived as a volume—unlike the stairs on the other Mall buildings—and the design team will need to convince people that the building is not trying to make itself more important than its neighbors or intrude on its context. She said that the proposed garden on the side of the building would need to be treated as part of either the Mall or the museum; if part of the museum, it would need some spatial delineation and perhaps direct access from the museum. She added that if its design remains ambiguous, it might invite people to walk up to the building only to discover that they can't enter that way. She questioned the proposed use of wood, which she described as a rural rather than an urban material. She acknowledged the possibility of emphasizing the site's rural aspects but said that wood is not a good material for catching and reflecting the light coming through the outer corona screen. She asked the design team to consider more carefully the relationship between the materials of the corona and the cladding of the inner building.
Chairman Powell congratulated the design team and said that the Commission looks forward to seeing the alternatives in the next submission. The information presentation concluded without a formal action.
C. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 19/NOV/09-2, Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW. New replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAY/09-8.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept submission, noting that the Commission had approved the initial concept in May 2009 but changes are now proposed in response to comments from the community and the client; she said that the changes primarily involve the materials. She introduced project manager Lisa Deanes of the D.C. Public Library. Ms. Deanes said that the community expressed concern with the character of the pavilions, which have therefore been revised. She introduced architect David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates, noting that the architecture firm Wiencek and Associates is also part of the project team.
Mr. Adjaye described his concept for the library, with common functions contained in a large main building from which pavilions would project; this configuration responds to the corner site's difficult sloping topography as well as the northern orientation and the varied scale of the context. The main building would be sited deep within the excavated site and the pavilions would be located toward the street, establishing a relationship to the smaller scale of the adjoining houses.
Mr. Adjaye compared the current and previous designs, describing the original concept of the main building as a transparent form, with the pavilions treated as enclosed rooms covered with a patterned material. He said the pavilions now would be covered with a wood cladding material similar to that used on the main building, emphasizing changes in form between the main building and pavilions rather than changes in material. He said this would create a primary geometry and then smaller geometries, highlighting the different heights, shapes, and window forms of the pavilions. Wind bracing and shading elements expressed on the skin would augment the wood cladding; the main entrance would be highlighted by a vault set within the children's room above.
Ms. Balmori asked about the proposed treatment of the parking lot, a typology that she described as "the big undesigned American landscape." She said that the effort to use small gestures such as the pavilions, relating to the domestic-scaled context, could also be extended to the parking lot which has a much larger scale. Mr. Adjaye said that he has responded to the Commission's earlier advice to develop the landscape further to mitigate the expanse of the parking lot, and has articulated the parking spaces with varying colors of asphalt. Ms. Balmori agreed that this feature would help to break down the scale of the parking but asked whether there could be planting as well. Mr. Adjaye indicated some planting toward the rear of the site, which Ms. Balmori said would not benefit the parking lot. Mr. Adjaye added that planting is proposed to screen the offices and to provide an edge to the parking lot; Mr. Powell described the planting proposal as minimalist.
Ms. Nelson noted that only one handicapped-accessible parking space is proposed and asked about the accessibility of the site for people not arriving by car. Mr. Adjaye responded that the entire site would be accessible since there would be no steps; the grade would be treated as a gentle ramp leading up to the building, and all of the pavilions would be accessible from the interior levels of the building which can be reached by elevator.
Upon a motion by Chairman Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept. Chairman Powell commended the D.C. Public Library for its commitment to high architectural quality in the recent proposals for new neighborhood libraries.
D. National Park Service
CFA 19/NOV/09-3, John Marshall Park. Fourth Street corridor between Pennsylvania Avenue and C Street, NW. New landscape design. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/JUN/07-2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept design for the refurbishment of John Marshall Park, submitted by the National Park Service (NPS) on behalf of the John Marshall Memorial Park Foundation. He said that in the previous reviews of this project in January and June 2007, the Commission had questioned the extent of visual and text display information, and had requested that the park be treated as a public landscape without an extensive program of elements. He noted the additional issue of whether the proposal requires specific authorization, which is being studied by NPS and may result in legislative action; meanwhile NPS has requested the Commission's review of the revised concept. He introduced Peter May of the National Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the design has been revised in response to the Commission's comments from 2007, including a reduction in the scope of interpretive elements. He acknowledged the unresolved issues concerning authorization but asked for the Commission's response to the revised design, noting the desire of NPS to improve the park as well as the funding source from the John Marshall Memorial Park Foundation. He introduced landscape architect Carol Johnson of Carol R. Johnson Associates to present the design.
Ms. Johnson noted that her firm had designed the original park in 1983. She described the park's context including courthouses, the Canadian Chancery, and the National Gallery of Art. She described the problems to be addressed with the existing park: poor maintenance, lack of a focus on John Marshall, and some details that are not satisfactory. She presented the proposed design, noting that the layout is similar to the submission from 2007 but some details have been revised. The tree spacing near the streets is now proposed at forty feet in accordance with NPS requirements; lacebark elm is proposed instead of a disease-resistant American elm, following advice from NPS. In response to the Commission's comments, the interpretive walls—previously proposed as glass—are now proposed to be granite, and the amount of text on the interpretive panels has been reduced by half. The porcelain enamel panels will be inset within the granite walls which will be configured as four interpretive rooms presenting key themes of Marshall's legacy: protection of private rights, judicial review, federalism and states' rights, and Marshall's life. A quotation from Marshall will be placed in each room; the location has been revised to a central granite panel along the back of each room's wall, flanked by the interpretive panels. She said the proposed design of the Constitutional Pillar—a shaft with three sides representing the branches of the federal government—has been be simplified and reduced in height; the lettering is now proposed to be incised in black granite panels that will be set into the gray granite pillar, which will reduce the maintenance requirements for the lettering. She noted that the sponsoring foundation intends to provide an endowment for the park's maintenance, but the design is nevertheless intended not to have high maintenance requirements.
Ms. Johnson said that the John Marshall statue would be given a new base recreating the original, which was white granite with gold lettering. She described a slight shift in the proposed relocation of the statue to avoid an awkward sightline in relation to a major column of the Canadian chancery building. More planting would be added, and a security wall would be placed along Pennsylvania Avenue. She described the proposed seating walls, which are now proposed to include low projections to discourage skateboarding. She said these changes to the proposal will make the layout clearer and will make the park more lively, reflecting John Marshall's convivial character.
Ms. Johnson said the proposed lighting is simpler and more subdued than in the previous submission, using mostly pole lights and some up-lights for trees. Ms. Balmori asked the number of lumens intended for the park's lighting; Ms. Johnson said she would obtain that information.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the revisions and commented that the park would be a usable and popular place. Noting that accessibility standards emphasize entering a space on a main path, she asked how a visitor using the ramped walkways would realize the need to turn a corner to enter the main space of the park; Ms. Johnson responded that signs will be provided.
Ms. Balmori recommended minimizing the heavy framing of the granite quotation walls and suggested that a graphic designer could improve the lettering on the Constitutional Pillar. Ms. Nelson said a graphic designer could also improve the layout of the porcelain enamel text panels, which she said still have a large amount of text that discourages people from reading it; she acknowledged that visitors would be free to read the text or simply read the main quotations from Marshall and view the sculpture and the Constitutional column, providing a variety in levels of engagement.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the path alignments are asymmetrical on the east and west edges of the park, with a linear west path and a shift in the east path. Ms. Johnson responded that this is an existing feature of the 1983 design; the shift is intended as a response to the west entrance of the federal courthouse facing the park, in recognition of the building's importance. She said that straightening the walk would require removing some trees planted in the 1980s. Ms. Plater-Zyberk also expressed concern about the asymmetry in the lighting plan around the central oval space, with two light poles on the east side flanking a path to the courthouse but only one pole on the west side. She commented that, at night, the space would be defined by the lights, resulting in an irregular character for this central space. She added that the pole lights should have a clear relationship to the streetlights, including the design and the quality of light that is generated; she noted that this context may be different along the two street edges of the park.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk also commented on the detailing of the seat walls and interpretive walls, recommending a differentiation among the bases, tops, and vertical members; she noted that they would probably be constructed from veneer slabs rather than solid blocks and should express this construction. Ms. Johnson agreed to study this further, adding that she and the design team have recently inspected the existing stone details of the park, which have generally been successful, and intend to apply the same design effort in further refining the new proposal.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised concept. Chairman Powell then asked for further information about the NPS dissatisfaction with disease-free American elms. Steve Lorenzetti, Deputy Superintendent of National Mall & Memorial Parks, responded that NPS has recently been having increasing success with such trees on the National Mall and continues to try new species; however, such trees may not work in John Marshall Park because of their size. Ms. Balmori asked whether the Mall elms are treated with annual injections; Mr. Lorenzetti responded that this is done for some of the historic elm trees, but the new ones have not yet needed this treatment.
E. Department of the Army / Institute of Heraldry
CFA 19/NOV/09-4, Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery / State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery. Two medals. Designs for obverse, reverse, neck ribbon, and service ribbon. Final. Mr. Simon said that the submission includes design alternatives for two medals: one for federal law-enforcement officers and another for state and local officers. He introduced Charles Mugno, director of the Army Institute of Heraldry, to present the design alternatives.
Mr. Mugno summarized the authorizing legislation that was enacted in July 2008, authorizing the medals and designating the Department of Justice to oversee the program; medals would be presented by a member of Congress—an unusual provision for medals—or by the Attorney General. He said the medals are proposed to be suspended from a ribbon around the recipient's neck, in recognition of the great significance of the award.
Mr. Mugno presented two design alternatives for the first medal, honoring federal officers. The central motif of the obverse is based on a federal law-enforcement badge; the reverse would include an eagle depiction and a space for inscribing a serial number and the recipient's name, and the suspension ribbon would attach to a star-shaped segment above. The alternatives vary primarily in the use of color and in the treatment of the suspension device.
Ms. Balmori supported the use of the gold color in Option A. On the reverse, she said that the ribbon configuration fragments the eagle, making the design illegible. She recommended simplifying the ribbon; Ms. Nelson suggested shortening it, and Mr. Belle suggested also reducing its width. Ms. Nelson questioned the scalloped treatment of the edge, acknowledging its relation to existing badges but commenting that it is distracting and recalls a bottle cap. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved Option A for the federal medal, subject to further study of the border and the reverse ribbon motif.
Mr. Mugno presented the two alternatives for the medal honoring state and local law-enforcement officers. He said the proposed ribbon is similar to the federal medal but with the colors reversed, helping to relate the two medals. The central cross motif is a traditional symbol of valor and bravery; the Congressional seal is also used on the federal medal, while the ring of fifty stars relates this medal to the states. The laurel wreath above is symbolic of honor and integrity. The reverse, as in the federal medal, would accommodate the serial number and recipient's name. The two alternatives vary in the treatment of the wreath element—Option A includes a banner citing bravery, and Option B includes the Capitol dome to relate the medal to Congress.
Ms. Nelson commented that the two medals do not appear closely related in design; the proposed state and local medal has the delicate character of jewelry, while the federal medal has a more traditional heavy appearance. She suggested simplifying the state and local medal by eliminating a layer from the design so that its appearance is less delicate. Ms. Balmori said the problem may result from the use of two elements above the main component of the medal; she suggested eliminating the uppermost suspension bar and attaching the ribbon directly to the laurel wreath. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed, commenting that this change would relate the design more closely to the federal medal. Mr. Powell supported this suggestion. Ms. Balmori added that Option B is preferable due to its depiction of the Capitol on this Congressional medal. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved Option B for the state and local medal subject to elimination of the uppermost bar. Chairman Powell emphasized the Commission's appreciation of the worthy service to be honored by the medals.
F. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 19/NOV/09-5, 2011 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. New obverse designs for the fifth set of four coins: Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, and James Garfield. Final. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/09-1.) Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the alternative obverse designs for the next four coins in the one-dollar Presidential series; he noted that the reverse depiction of the Statue of Liberty will continue for all coins in the series. Ms. Budow summarized the legislation authorizing the coin series and said that the current portrait alternatives, as with the previous coins, are based on three primary source materials: official White House portraits, a series of intaglio prints, and Presidential medals; she added that the Mint's artists may also use available photographic portraits to enhance their designs.
Ms. Budow presented five design alternatives for the coin honoring Andrew Johnson. Ms. Balmori supported Design #1, commenting that the size of the head has the best relationship to the overall coin design. She added that the near-profile pose of this design is preferable to a more frontal view for coin designs, as the Commission has stated in previous coin reviews. Mr. McKinnell and Ms. Nelson agreed with this preference; upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission recommended Design #1 for the Andrew Johnson coin.
Ms. Budow presented five alternatives for the Ulysses Grant coin. Ms. Balmori expressed disappointment no profile views were included; she commented that the size of the head in relation to the coin is better on Designs #1 and #4. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell supported Design #4. Mr. Powell commented that none of the images looks like familiar photographs of Grant in uniform. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended Design #4 for President Grant.
Ms. Budow presented five alternatives for the Rutherford B. Hayes coin, adding that the Mint has urged the artists to provide very bold portraits in accordance with the authorizing legislation. Ms. Nelson commented that Hayes' mouth is difficult to depict due to the heavy beard. Ms. Balmori reiterated that profiles are more successful for coins. Ms. Nelson supported Design #4; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Powell noted that this pose is closest to a profile, consistent with the Commission's ongoing preference for profile portraits; Ms. Nelson added that Design #4 is a strong composition within the circular form of the coin. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended Design #4 for President Hayes. Ms. Budow added that the Mint seeks variety in the alternative poses that are submitted but acknowledged the Commission's preference for profiles.
Ms. Budow presented five design alternatives for the James Garfield coin. Ms. Balmori expressed general dissatisfaction with the alternatives but supported Design #2 as the closest to a profile and the best composition, commenting that the beard in this design is short enough that Garfield's neck and shoulders can be seen. Several members commented unfavorably on the appearance of Garfield's hair in Design #3; Ms. Budow responded that this detail, as well as the beard, could be revised. Mr. Powell supported Design #2, commenting on its elegance; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed, noting that the pose is less tilted than in the other alternatives. Ms. Balmori added that the larger size of the portrait in Design #2 is preferable, consistent with the response to the previous coins. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended Design #2 for the James Garfield coin.
G. General Services Administration
1. CFA 19/NOV/09-6, St. Elizabeths Hospital, West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. New headquarters building for the Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/09-5.) Mr. Luebke introduced the final design submission for the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters, submitted by the General Services Administration (GSA) on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a site on the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital. He said that the submission includes the headquarters building and the associated parking garage and landscape design. He summarized the Commission's request, in its review of the concept, for further information on the proposed cladding system and on pedestrian and vehicular circulation. He described the other related design proposals that are still being considered through the historic preservation consultation process, and would be presented in a future submission; these include the garage's access road which involves National Park Service property; and the treatment of perimeter security and public access at the historic cemetery near the Coast Guard site, which also relates to access for the day-care center within the headquarters building. He noted the staff's support for the revised configuration of the thousand-space parking garage, reducing its greatest above-grade height from six levels to four, which he said would better balance the mass of the headquarters building. He introduced Mike McGill of GSA to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill noted that the submission constitutes the first phase of the overall development of the DHS headquarters at St. Elizabeths. He acknowledged the staff's extensive involvement in the process of developing the proposal. He explained that the project will be constructed through a design-build arrangement, resulting in different architects for the concept and final design phases; the firm of Perkins and Will prepared the concept, while the architecture firms on the design-build team—HOK and WDG Architects—are developing the concept into construction drawings. He introduced Shapour Ebadi, GSA's project executive, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Ebadi described the recent achievements in refining the design proposal. He said the lowering of the parking garage would keep it below the tree line so that it will not be an "eyesore" and will not be visible from campus access points. The building is also being designed to achieve an environmental rating of LEED gold, more stringent than the previous goal of a LEED silver rating. He emphasized that the design-build team has retained or improved on the concept plan, avoiding the potential for loss of design quality thru the design-build process. He introduced the design-build team to present the proposal.
Bill Hellmuth of HOK introduced landscape architect Brandon Hartz of HOK and architect John Lowe of WDG who will join in making the presentation. He said that the changes to the concept design by Perkins and Will have been very limited: the landscape design in some of the courtyards, the west elevation of the headquarters building, and the parking garage height.
Mr. Hellmuth began the presentation with an aerial view of the proposal, indicating the historic main hospital building on top of the hill and the proposed water feature at the bottom, which will serve as part of the stormwater management system. He described the prominence of the site on the edge of the topographic bowl framing Washington's monumental core. He summarized the concept of the headquarters building cascading down the hillside around a series of courtyards, with the adjacent parking structure set into the hill. He said that this concept was developed through an extensive consultation process and reduces the potential prominence of the building.
Mr. Hellmuth indicated the proposed parking garage entrance gate for employees at the lower end of the site, with a small adjacent parking area for visitors. The upper end of the headquarters building—approximately 100 feet higher on the site—would have a main entrance with a "celebratory" character. This entrance would be used by all visitors and would be the drop-off point for the shuttle bus to the Anacostia Metro station; the visitor parking area would also be served by a shuttle. He indicated additional building entrances for employees arriving from the parking garage.
Mr. Hellmuth discussed the proposed massing. The headquarters building would be lower than the historic main hospital building and would not project forward of the historic front facade. The courtyards of the headquarters building would be lower than the existing grade, bringing daylight to the extensive below-grade portions of the building; this concept was developed to reduce the building's overall profile in relation to the existing campus. He presented the stepped sequence of floor plans, indicating the courtyards, staggered elevators, and connecting corridors.
Mr. Hellmuth described the proposed extensive use of green walls and roofs; he noted that the roofs of the lower wings will be visible from the upper portions of the building. He described the two types of proposed green walls: a trellis system for vines along the parking garage, which allows for ventilation; and an irrigated wall system with "high-tech dirt" along portions of the headquarters building facades. He said that this building wall system has been used before, primarily in Europe, and described the effect as "quite stunning."
Mr. Hellmuth emphasized the intended sensitivity of the headquarters design to views through the trees from the historic cemetery. He presented views of the north facade without the proposed landscaping to illustrate the building mass, and with the landscaping to illustrate how the mass will largely be concealed by vegetation. Similarly, the visibility of the buildings from across the Potomac River would be reduced by the proposed vegetation. He indicated the proposed stone base of the headquarters building facades, the organization of the windows into bays, and the intermittent use of curtainwall.
Mr. Hellmuth described the reduced profile of the parking garage proposal, which would be achieved by deeper excavation to place more of the parking below the sloping grade. He noted the concern that the upper end of the parking garage would be too similar in articulation to the adjacent upper wing of the headquarters building, which would contain the ceremonial entrance and possibly the commandant's office. He said that this problem had been addressed by substantially reducing the height of the garage and by extending the green-wall trellis system to wrap around the garage's upper facade, more closely relating the garage to the nearby forest.
Mr. Hellmuth presented details of the garage facades. He said the vines on the wire trellis system would grow from the ground as well as from irrigated planters at some locations; he noted that this system has been used elsewhere such as at the Finnish embassy in Washington. Ms. Nelson asked what vines would be planted; Mr. Hartz responded that it would be a native species that can succeed on the shaded north and west facades, such as Virginia Creeper, Cross Vine, and Dutchman's Pipe.
Mr. Hellmuth provided an overview of the landscape proposal, indicating the expanded proposal for a system of pools and ponds; some would be maintained at a constant water level, while others would rise and fall due to rain as part of the stormwater management system. He asked Mr. Hartz to describe the landscape design in more detail.
Mr. Hartz summarized the three main themes of the landscape concept design that was developed by the firm Andropogon working with Perkins and Will. The movement of water includes collection of run-off from most of the St. Elizabeths West Campus, involving a series of check dams, rain gardens, weir walls, and the stormwater pond at the lower end of the site. Vegetation is another important theme, relating the Coast Guard project to the adjacent forests. The third theme involves treating the cascading sequence of courtyards as a metaphoric representation of the geomorphic regions of the area—Piedmont, Fall Line, and Coastal Plain.
Mr. Hartz said that the final design maintains these themes and develops them further. The largest courtyard, related to the Fall Line, has been extensively reconfigured while maintaining the same elements. Smaller changes include refinements to the proposed vegetation and a realignment of the stainless-steel boardwalk to more closely follow the shape of the pond. He indicated the proposed locations of large trees in the courtyards—sited where no built areas are located beneath—and the revised shape of one water feature to an orthogonal path that better relates tot he building geometry. Small berms would represent rolling hills; slices through the berms would be lined with Cor-Ten steel to give visual and textural interest. He indicated an area along the north facade of the headquarters building that would be regraded to accommodate the flow of stormwater; screen of the facade is important at this location due to the sensitive views from the nearby cemetery, and the proposal therefore includes reforestation of this area extending to the edge of the building.
Mr. Hartz described the proposal for green roofs, including extensive portions of the headquarters building and the entire roof of the garage. The planting depth near the edges would be six inches to accommodate sedum; toward the center of the roofs, soil would be mounded to as high as eighteen inches which would accommodate shrubs and other plantings to provide visual variety to the large roof areas as well as biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Mr. Hellmuth contrasted this varied design to typical green roofs that have a fixed soil depth and are limited to color varieties of low plantings. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson asked about the extent of this design feature; Mr. Hartz confirmed that the varied plantings would be used on all of the green roofs, including the parking garage roof.
Mr. Lowe of WDG presented further details of the proposed building materials and provided samples for the Commission's inspection. He emphasized the sensitivity in the material selection to the existing context of the campus—including the stone, brick, and glass—and said that the materials are fully consistent with the concept proposal developed by Perkins and Will.
Mr. Lowe described the curtainwall system, which would be used primarily on the courtyard facades; the proposed gray tint to the glass is intended to relate to the existing glass on the historic buildings of the campus. Mr. Hellmuth clarified that the historic glass is clear but often appears black during daylight, depending on the surface behind; the intention is to avoid the green or blue tint of many modern reflective glasses, which would not be consistent with the historic character. Mr. Lowe emphasized that the proposed glazing will have good energy performance while having low reflectivity, avoiding the problem of a prominently shiny building. He also indicated the metal mesh proposed as part of the curtainwall system, creating an irregularly spaced vertical fin system that would provide visual interest and some solar control.
Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the location of these fins. Mr. Lowe said they will be on the courtyard facades, as indicated in the submitted architectural drawings, but are difficult to see on the overall renderings due to the large scale of the building. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why this emphasis is on the vertical direction; Mr. Lowe responded that it is an aesthetic choice that came from the Perkins and Will concept. He clarified that the fins will be stainless steel mesh with a depth of approximately eighteen inches. Ms. Balmori asked if the fins are part of an overall solar shading system; Mr. Hellmuth responded that the fins will provide some degree of shading but their design is not optimized for this purpose.
Mr. Belle asked about the impact of the fins on views outward from the building. Mr. Hellmuth responded that their placement perpendicular to the facade will have only a minimal impact on views from the interior but will be more significant for oblique views along the exterior facade. Mr. Belle suggested the more conventional placement of horizontal fins above eye level; Mr. Hellmuth emphasized the purpose of providing visual relief. Mr. Belle expressed regret that the design intent is purely aesthetic rather than addressing environmental concerns. Mr. Hellmuth responded that the vertical mesh would provide screening of east and west sunlight, and offered to consider a denser mesh to improve the extent of solar screening. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the visual variety introduced by the proposed contrasting tone of spandrel glass along vertical and horizontal alignments; Mr. Hellmuth emphasized that the only projecting elements are the fins.
Mr. Lowe and Mr. Hellmuth presented details of the vegetated wall system for the headquarters building, noting that the technology for such walls has been improving significantly in the last few years. Ms. Nelson asked about the climate of existing examples; Mr. Lowe and Mr. Hellmuth responded that it has been used in hot climates comparable to Washington's as well as in Chicago and Seattle. Mr. Hellmuth noted that this wall system would provide a useful layer of insulation for the building. Ms. Nelson asked about irrigation for the plantings; Mr. Hellmuth responded that the water and fertilizer are provided in a hydroponic system, and reclaimed water would be used in keeping with the energy-efficiency goals of the project.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the wall material behind the growing surface. Mr. Lowe said that the growing surface would be attached by clips to a metal frame; Mr. Hellmuth said the back-up surface would be a masonry system which, if necessary, could be faced with another material such as spandrel glass or masonry. Mr. Lowe later clarified that the proposed back-up surface is spandrel glass. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the vegetated layer, clips, and frame could be removed to expose the wall surface behind; Mr. Hellmuth confirmed that this could be done.
Mr. Lowe said that the vegetated wall system would cover 12,000 to 15,000 square feet of the headquarters facade and would be oriented toward the south and west. Mr. Belle noted that this type of wall construction is a recent innovation and asked about the appearance of the facades if the system fails. Mr. Hellmuth expressed confidence in the system, and Ms. Balmori noted that it has been used extensively.
Mr. Lowe described the proposed use of stone, which he said would be a distinctive feature of the headquarters building's facades. The proposed variety of Carderock blue stone is based on the existing stone at the Ice House on the campus, with a mix of blue and brown colors. The stone would be used for retaining walls, feature walls at the main entrance, and as a base course below the brick walls. He presented a sample panel of the proposed brick, which will be the predominant facade material; he said that the color and form of the bricks is chosen to relate to the historic buildings on the campus.
Ms. Nelson asked if the wide range of facade materials would be seen simultaneously. Mr. Hellmuth responded that such views might exist in limited locations, but most views—including views from the cemetery and at the entry court—would encompass only a limited portion of the material palette.
Mr. Belle asked if mockups of the materials would be prepared for the benefit of the Commission and the design team. Mr. Ebadi of GSA noted that the staff has made this request and said that a mockup with an approximation of the final materials might be feasible, but the final material selection is subject to the award of subcontracts in the design-build process as well as logistical problems related to the large volume of materials to be procured. Mr. Belle recommended overcoming these problems to prepare a mockup. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission could establish further requirements in acting on the submitted final design, and questioned GSA's assertion that the project's large scale prevents a thorough review of the facade materials. Mr. Ebadi said that GSA has already agreed to construct mockups of selected features for staff review, and could include an additional mockup subject to schedule constraints. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's inspection of mockups could be a requirement that is subsequent to the approval of a final design. Mr. Belle emphasized the importance of a mockup in establishing the architect's intention, particularly for a project of such large scale. Chairman Powell suggested requiring the mockup and delegating its review to the staff.
Mr. Lowe described one additional facade material for the headquarters building: zinc panels that would be used at the main entrance alongside a cable-stayed curtainwall glazing system. He clarified that the zinc would also be used in a very limited amount at other locations on the building.
Mr. Hartz presented details of the landscape materials. The stainless-steel boardwalk would generally be 1 to 1.5 feet above grade; a stainless-steel guardrail would be included where the height above grade exceeds 2.5 feet. The edges of the boardwalks would include zinc matching that of the main entrance area. He also provided a sample of the Cor-Ten that would be used at the edge of the berms in the main courtyard; to control staining, a pebble-lined trough would be placed at the base of the Cor-Ten walls; the troughs would be edged in black granite that would also be used elsewhere in the landscape design. The walking surfaces within the courtyard would be large granite pavers, approximately two by five feet, in a random pattern of two alternating tones. Low walls within the landscape would be extensions of the Carderock stone on the headquarters building facades, capped by granite matching the color of the adjacent pavers. He said the few occurrences of pier and fence—such as near the child play area—would have a steel fence, with the pier design corresponding to the wall materials. The entrance court would be paved in granite with accents of dark granite extending into the lobby.
Mr. McKinnell asked how close the general public could get to the Coast Guard facilities. Mr. Hellmuth responded that the entire area within the campus perimeter fence will be closed to the public, with the possible exception of access to the nearby cemetery which is still being discussed; Mr. Luebke added that public access to the elevated overlook point is also under consideration. Mr. Hellmuth noted that the relative ease of restricting access to the campus is advantageous for the DHS headquarters program; he noted that the design of the anticipated perimeter fence is not part of the current submission.
Mr. Belle asked if circulation within the campus by employees would be restricted; Mr. Hellmuth responded that workers would be able to walk freely throughout the campus. He noted the anticipated campus population of 14,000 workers, which Mr. Belle said is a substantial number of users for the open spaces; Mr. Hellmuth clarified that 3,500 people would work in the Coast Guard headquarters building. Mr. Belle asked if the East Campus and West Campus of St. Elizabeths would be connected; Mr. Ebadi said that there would be a connection and noted the ongoing master-planning process for the East Campus. Ms. Nelson raised the issue of transportation bottlenecks for such a large number of workers; Mr. Powell noted that large facilities such as the Pentagon use staggered work hours to reduce transportation congestion. Mr. Ebadi said that the transportation management plan was part of the approved master plan for the West Campus.
Mr. Belle asked about the provision of additional facilities that are commonly part of large projects, such as day care, medical services, and convenience shopping. Mr. Hellmuth responded that the Coast Guard project includes a health clinic, day-care center, and food vending; other facilities would be elsewhere on the campus. Mr. Ebadi clarified that GSA's first phase for he campus includes both the Coast Guard project—the current submission—and a set of shared-use facilities that would be built while the Coast Guard project is under construction. These facilities would include a cafeteria, gymnasium, and recreation area; GSA will submit the adaptive re-use design for these facilities at a later date, with a much smaller scope than the Coast Guard project. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the substantial distances involved in reaching facilities elsewhere on campus—in addition to possibly ten minutes needed to move through the Coast Guard building itself—and recommended that more amenities be provided within the building. Mr. Hellmuth acknowledged that sufficient demand might emerge to support further services within the building, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the interior of the building could change to accommodate such needs.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered several comments on the proposed exterior. She questioned the appropriateness of the materials in relation to the large scale of the building, commenting that the proposed material use would be more appropriate for a small-scale building while the depiction of brick resembles wallpaper, with insufficient attention to details such as support and flashing. She recommended a design more appropriate to a very large building with an institutional maintenance program; she offered the example of a durable planting design that would accommodate uneven growth and maintenance. She emphasized the need for a mockup to resolve how the materials come together. She supported the use of brick, glass, and stone for the headquarters building but questioned the green wall system, describing it as "flimsy" and commenting that its attachment by clips to a thin metal frame would be vulnerable to deterioration. She said the green wall would likely not help with energy efficiency and acknowledged that it serves only to give the building the appearance of blending into the hill, adding that the controversial issues of the building's size and site are no longer under consideration and should not be determining the design treatment. She said the fins are a specific design gesture more appropriate to a smaller building than becoming part of the pattern of this large building, which would already have a gridded pattern of spandrel glass. She described the proposed planted wire mesh at the garage as merely decorative, acknowledging that the open-air design of the garage eliminates such design issues as water intrusion and mold.
Ms. Balmori agreed with the concern about the selection and use of materials. She questioned the very limited use of the steel fins, zinc, and Cor-Ten steel as decorative elements, contributing to an excessive range of materials. She supported the green wall system proposed for the parking garage, commenting that it is a reliable system that would be especially appropriate for Washington's climate. But she discouraged the use of green wall areas at the headquarters building, describing it as an inappropriate layer added to the glass facades. She recommended further effort to clarify the design intent and eliminate extraneous gestures, particularly the fins and green wall on the headquarters building.
Mr. McKinnell acknowledged the criticism that the project has received for such issues as its size and access to the site, commenting that the Commission now needs to accept these outcomes. He complimented GSA for the responsiveness of the design process in addressing the project's challenges, including the willingness to use new types of exterior materials and to undertake the expense of pushing the garage further below grade. He also cited GSA's willingness to undertake the maintenance requirements of this unusual design.
Mr. McKinnell noted that most people will see the building only from a great distance, and its size will be perceived primarily at night from the appearance of interior and exterior lighting; he therefore requested that a night rendering of the building be presented for review. He expressed support for the overall appropriateness of the architectural approach, including the emphasis on horizontality; but he criticized the proposed vertical element near the upper entrance of the headquarters building for interrupting the design, describing this feature as "architectural narcissism" and recommending revisions of this proposal.
Mr. Ebadi noted that the design-build contract includes an option to eliminate the green wall system on the headquarters building and use curtainwall instead. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the extent of the green wall, which is limited to the south- and west-facing walls and primarily to the upper levels. Mr. Ebadi estimated the extent as five to eight percent of the building's total skin. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had previously requested a revised concept submission but has instead received a final design submission, even though significant design questions remain unresolved. Chairman Powell said that the request for a mockup would be important in addressing this. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposed brick color and texture has not been considered in relation to the historic brick of the campus, and would benefit from further Commission guidance. Ms. Nelson agreed with this concern and suggested that the mockup be of sufficient scale to enable evaluation of the appearance of the proposed vast extent of brick walls. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's comments and said that the Commission could request further review, or delegate some or all of the remaining review to the staff.
Chairman Powell agreed with Mr. McKinnell in criticizing the proposed vertical element and in complimenting GSA on the overall design process. He reiterated that the remaining issues could be addressed through review of the mockup, aside from the request to address the vertical element. Mr. McKinnell added that the design-build process can result in a diminution of the original architectural intent, and he commended the design-build team on its effort to translate the concept by Perkins and Will into a final design.
Chairman Powell suggested a motion to approve the final design subject to revision of the vertical feature near the upper entrance, and with review of the mockup delegated to the staff. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested adding the Commission's concern about the maintenance requirements and longevity of the green wall system; Chairman Powell agreed, summarizing the recommendation that the amount of green wall be reconsidered on the basis of long-term maintenance feasibility. Ms. Nelson suggested that the mockup include the proposed fins to allow consideration of an alternative material or denser mesh; Ms. Balmori agreed. With a second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission adopted this motion. Chairman Powell noted recent examples of green walls in Europe; Ms. Balmori agreed that consideration of such case studies would be helpful.
2. CFA 19/NOV/09-7, Federal Office Building #8 (formerly Food and Drug Administration), 2nd and C Streets, SW. Plaza and streetscape design for building modernization and renovation project. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/SEPT/07-3.) Mr. Lindstrom summarized the Commission's previous review in July 2007. At that time, only the building renovation concept was submitted for approval; the site design was shown only as an early study with no request for action. The Commission requested a further submission of the site design when sufficiently developed, resulting in the current concept proposal. He said that the General Services Administration anticipates submitting a final design encompassing both the building renovation and the site design in the coming months. He introduced Mike McGill of GSA to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill noted that one side of the site faces C Street, SW, which is defined in this vicinity by a series of buildings administered by GSA: Federal Office Building #8 (FOB-8), the focus of the current submission; the Cohen and Switzer buildings; and the Humphrey Building which is the headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services. He described the C Street corridor in this area as "very wide and homely," and said that GSA is continuing a longstanding effort to improve the character of this vicinity; a coordinated landscape design is being developed that will be implemented as each building along the corridor is modernized, and the FOB-8 site will be the first. He noted that the site design for FOB-8 includes perimeter security which he characterized as subtle. He emphasized the proposal to eliminate surface parking areas and instead provide more extensive open space and landscaping; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori expressed support for this change.
Mr. McGill asked Tony Lopacki, the project executive from GSA, to introduce the project team. Mr. Lopacki introduced landscape architect Dennis Carmichael of EDAW and architect James Yonkos of Boggs & Partners to present the design.
Mr. Carmichael summarized the context, which he described as "gray in every aspect" and not welcoming for pedestrians. He noted several positive features in the immediate vicinity: the Metrorail station is adjacent; the nearby U.S. Botanic Garden has opened its National Garden in recent years; the National Museum of the American Indian is another recent nearby addition; the Eisenhower Memorial is planned to the northwest; and the memorial to disabled veterans is planned immediately to the northeast. He said that the future attractions would add significantly to the pedestrian activity in the area, and the site is therefore designed for visitors as well as for local workers. He discussed the relationship of the proposal to the area-wide urban design plan that GSA has developed, explaining that the GSA plan proposes a unified streetscape for the neighborhood and addresses street trees, site furniture, and paving; the FOB-8 proposal would be the first to implement these standards.
Mr. Carmichael indicated the wide area on the north side of FOB-8 along C Street, currently used as a surface parking lot and proposed for conversion to a garden and plaza. He noted the generous width of this area—one hundred feet from the face of FOB-8 to the curb—and the constraint of underground parking that will remain as well as a slip-ramp that provides underground vehicular access from 2nd Street. He described the much narrower sidewalk along D Street on the south, approximately twenty feet wide and interrupted by areaways; the proposal includes foundation planting against the building and the areaways as well as a sidewalk. He said the existing railings along the areaways are insufficient and will be modified to meet modern building code requirements. He noted that a building entrance previously proposed along D Street for employees has been eliminated, affecting the streetscape design along D Street and bringing all building access to the plaza facing C Street.
Mr. Carmichael discussed the proposed treatment of 2nd and 3rd Streets. Along 3rd Street, the width of 42 feet between the building and curb would include 22 feet of building yard, interrupted by the existing sunken courtyard extending to the basement level; this courtyard would remain, and the railing around it would be updated. The width along 2nd Street is the narrowest, and would include a small amount of building yard as well as street trees along the sidewalk. He indicated the multiple vents for the Metrorail tunnel beneath D Street, providing an additional constraint to the design.
Mr. Carmichael described the north plaza design in more detail. The pedestrian walkways in the C Street plaza have a curving approach toward the main entrance pavilion that will be convenient for those walking from the Metro entrance on the southwest, with similar curves on the east to accommodate those approaching the entrance from 2nd Street. He indicated the proposed street trees along C Street and the low bermed areas of landscaping; he explained that the berms are necessary to provide sufficient soil depth for the proposed flowering trees above the underground parking. He said that this topography would add a "lyrical" serpentine quality that would contrast sharply with the area's current character. The berms would have grass areas that are intended as a space for people to sit in. He also indicated the proposed lower plantings and trees along the north face of the building. He presented pavement samples of the proposed paving—a warm-colored exposed-aggregate concrete—and noted that in some areas the material is required to be selected from the paving systems that are approved by the D.C. government; the same material will be extended into the plaza in order to provide design unity. A pattern of banding within the plaza would be a green-colored pressed-concrete paver made with recycled glass, providing a sparkling quality while not having sharp edges; this material would also be used as paving for the elliptical base area of the proposed glass entry pavilion at the center of the plaza. He indicated additional small elliptical planting areas at the east and west ends of the plaza, helping to define the much larger elliptical shape of the walkways. He said the plaza materials relate to the building's materials of glass and limestone, and the overall goal of the material selection and landscaping is to humanize the unwelcoming context.
Ms. Nelson asked why the shape of the berms in the north plaza is irregular; Mr. Carmichael responded that the goal is a playful form to contrast with the context, and Ms. Nelson agreed that this would be preferable to a more regimented character. Mr. Belle asked if the plaza would be used as part of the pedestrian route between the Metro station and the memorial to disabled veterans; Mr. Carmichael responded that this route is likely and the design is intended to encourage it, providing a shortcut for pedestrians and helping to bring the plaza into the civic life of the neighborhood. Mr. Belle asked if the vehicular ramp alongside the plaza is intended for trucks as well as cars. Mr. Carmichael responded that it could accommodate small vans but not large trucks due to the limited height of the underground area; a GSA representative clarified that trucks could traverse the ramp but such use is not anticipated.
Ms. Nelson asked if the plaza paving materials would extend around all four sides of the building. Mr. Carmichael responded that the exposed-aggregate concrete would be used on all sides, while the green pressed-concrete pavers would only be used for highlights in the north plaza. He characterized the streetscape details on the other three sides as straightforward and "workmanlike" to serve the purpose of moving pedestrians through a gracious setting. Ms. Nelson observed that the unattractive vehicle ramp would be prominently visible to pedestrians approaching the plaza from the memorial to disabled veterans, discouraging the use of this route; she asked if the walls along this ramp could be faced in a more attractive material such as glass tile or glazed brick. Mr. Carmichael responded that the intention is to re-clad these walls in light-colored precast concrete that would match the existing limestone of the building facades.
Ms. Balmori asked why different street trees are proposed for each side of the site—white oak, red maple, London plane, and bald cypress. Mr. Carmichael responded that the intention is to encourage biodiversity and avoid monoculture. He said that there is a reason for the choice along each street—for instance, the bald cypress along 2nd Street is proposed to match the same species that is proposed for the memorial across the street, resulting in a balanced framing of the street. Ms. Balmori asked how these tree selections would extend to the other blocks in the precinct, emphasizing her support for the intention to provide overall design unity for this area of the city. He said that this project will establish the standard trees for each street, and he anticipates that GSA will extend these selections to the adjacent blocks when implementing future improvements; Ms. Balmori supported this strategy.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the trees proposed near the north face of the building along the plaza. Mr. Carmichael responded that these would be honey locusts, which could provide shade, although this is not important on the north side of the building; their further purpose is to provide softened, filtered views of the building elevation through their light foliage. Mr. Belle asked if these trees would survive in this shaded location; Mr. Carmichael responded that these trees can tolerate this condition, with some periods of direct sunlight at the beginning and end of summer days.
Ms. Balmori questioned the proposal for crape myrtle trees along the south and east facades of the building, commenting that their dense foliage might be inappropriate adjacent to windows; she suggested using honey locusts at these locations. Mr. Carmichael responded that the planter sizes at these locations are relatively small—approximately five by eight feet—and might not support the growth of larger trees. He indicated the photographs of existing crape myrtles at some of these locations, commenting that they appear to be thriving; he noted the intention that the crape myrtles will be perceived as subordinate to the larger street trees. Ms. Balmori acknowledged the trade-offs involved and expressed overall support for the proposed plant specifications.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the distance between the proposed entrance pavilion and the nearby edge of the plaza; Mr. Carmichael estimated twelve to fifteen feet. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that this dimension seems too constrained, particularly considering the intention to encourage the general public to cross through the plaza; Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the protrusion of the entrance pavilion could obstruct the diagonal views across the plaza that would encourage people to walk across it, as illustrated in one of the perspective renderings. Mr. Carmichael responded that the overall design concern was to balance the extent of pavement with the extent of planted area; he acknowledged that the dimensions in this area could be adjusted by several feet, but said that a substantial change such as ten additional feet would create problems with the berm dimensions and desired soil depths within the desired slopes. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the desirability of the berms, commenting that they tend to deteriorate—a process that could be accelerated by the presence of impervious surfaces below. She acknowledged the design goal for the area but suggested a simple raised planter area. Mr. Carmichael responded that such a design would be feasible but would reduce the intended accessibility of the lawn; he indicated the lower edge of the berms which would be only the height of a typical curb. He indicated the other proposed planting areas nearby which have a seating-wall edge that discourages people from entering the planting area; the berms are intended to balance the design by providing a more welcoming landscape gesture.
Mr. Carmichael presented the proposed design for perimeter security, which he said is a necessary design feature for this GSA building. He indicated the irregular alignment of the barrier which is partially in response to the varying conditions on each side of the site, and said that variety is itself a design goal to contrast with the "relentless" character of existing streetscapes in the vicinity. The wall along the vehicular ramp would provide part of the barrier on the north; the north edge of the garden berms provides the remainder of the alignment, using the garden design to provide the security. He said that this solution, along with the plantings, will emphasize the welcoming character of the garden rather than suggest a fortress. The security perimeter would step back at the entrances to the plaza on the northwest, north, and northeast—further emphasizing the intended welcoming character and providing variety and hierarchy in the streetscape. Various transition areas in the perimeter would make use of the elliptical plan of the planting area edges. Along 3rd Street, the barrier would be between the sidewalk and building yard, or along the railing of the sunken courtyard. Along D Street and 2nd Street, which have narrower streetscape widths, the barrier would be near the curb, with some modifications to respond to ventilation shafts and crosswalks; the client requirement is for a minimum perimeter distance of twenty feet from the building whenever possible. He said that the appearance of the streetlights, planters, and street tree planting areas would be the same regardless of the presence of the perimeter security line.
Mr. Carmichael presented perspective views of the proposed streetscape, indicating the low wall and bollard configuration that would have the appearance of a garden fence adjacent to planting area; the wall height—slightly less than two feet—would be convenient for seating at many locations and consistent with the overall design intention of combining perimeter security requirements with other functional purposes. Some bollards along 2nd and D Streets would be incorporated into benches and bicycle racks. He said that the masonry used for perimeter security elements would be light-colored precast concrete matching the building's limestone, and the steel elements would be painted the same color so that the composite fence would read as a unified element. Where the composite fence serves as a guardrail to the sunken courtyard along 3rd Street, glass would be inserted into the barrier openings for safety.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk indicated the lengthy deflection of the security barrier away from the curb to avoid the Metro vent along D Street, and asked if this alignment could be used for the entire length of the street frontage. Mr. Carmichael responded that the client has discouraged any exceptions to the twenty-foot minimum distance unless unavoidably necessary. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the varying alignments of the streetlights; Mr. Carmichael responded that they would always be adjacent to the curb, and acknowledged that some of the renderings do not depict this accurately.
Mr. Luebke noted the difference between the proposed lighter color of the masonry and steel components along the building yard and the dark color of the bollards and rails along the planters near the curb. He said the staff has worked extensively with the design team and is generally pleased with the simplification of the design. One concern has been that metal elements tend to be less obtrusive when painted a dark color, and form more of a visual barrier when light-colored; this design places both colors in close proximity. Mr. Carmichael acknowledged that other color choices are possible but the proposed solution is carefully considered: the dark color near the curb-side planters works well in reducing the visibility of the bollards, while combining dark metal with light-colored masonry near the building resulted in an inappropriate combination. He noted the additional color choices that are necessary for the occasional isolated bollards where the perimeter security line crosses sidewalks. He noted that both the dark and light colors are in the gray range, resulting in a related color palette; he summarized the design goal of having the perimeter security be as unobtrusive as possible while allowing its necessary function to occur.
Mr. Yonkos of Boggs and Partners presented the proposed design of the guard booth adjacent to the vehicular ramp entrance along 2nd Street near C Street. He said the booth is intended to appear as another element of the perimeter security system. The booth would use light-colored precast concrete, treating it as part of the perimeter elements extending outward from the building in contrast to the darker-colored elements near the curb; the height of the masonry would match the height of other low masonry landscape and perimeter elements, and the facades above would be butt-jointed glass. The design would also relate to the nearby proposed entrance pavilion for the building but would be much smaller, intended as only a minor feature in the landscape.
Chairman Powell commented that the proposed streetscape would be a substantial improvement for the area; Ms. Nelson agreed. Ms. Balmori recommended that all of the materials be given a light color rather than trying to differentiate the elements near the curb. Mr. Luebke asked whether the proposed light color is the best selection or whether alternatives should be considered, perhaps including a medium gray; Ms. Balmori said that the proposed light color is appropriate in the context of the building facades. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the concept with the recommendation to extend the lighter color to the streetscape elements near the curb. Chairman Powell and Ms. Nelson expressed enthusiasm for the implementation of the project.
Following the vote, Ms. Plater-Zyberk added a suggestion that the horizontal rails be removed at the tree boxes so that only vertical bollards would be present; the tree box edges would therefore be part of the overall series of bollards within the streetscape. Mr. Carmichael responded that this option was considered but had the appearance of excessive bollards; he offered to provide the drawings of this alternative, but said that the proposed design addresses this problem by grouping some of the bollards into garden fences. Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated that other configurations might be preferable at the tree boxes, such as adding a horizontal piece at the bottom rather than the top, and requested further study of this area based on the recommendation to use the lighter color. She and Ms. Nelson suggested that a slightly raised curb or footing might be appropriate. Mr. Luebke said that the review of the final design could be delegated to the staff, although there may be sufficient remaining issues to require further review by the Commission. Ms. Nelson commented on the project's importance in setting the standard for streetscape improvements to nearby blocks, and Mr. Lindstrom noted that a combined final submission of the building and streetscape proposal is anticipated.
(Chairman Powell departed at this point, and Vice-Chairman Nelson presided over the remainder of the meeting.)
H. Federal Reserve System
CFA 19/NOV/09-8, William McChesney Martin, Jr. Building, 2000 C Street, NW. Additions and alterations for visitor screening and conference center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/09- 2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised concept for three additions to the Federal Reserve's Martin Building: a security screening pavilion on the south, facing C Street, and pavilions on the east and west to accommodate a conference center. He noted the Commission's request in the previous review to see additional options for the concept. He introduced Fay Peters, director of the Federal Reserve's management division, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Peters expressed appreciation for the Commission's insights from the previous review and said that the new concept is intended to respond to all of the Commission's recommendations. She introduced architect Enrique Bellini of Karn Charuhas Chapman & Twohey to present the design.
Mr. Bellini noted the Commission's previous suggestion to place the conference facilities below the podium level but said this would not be feasible. He indicated the parking access ramps and critical office space that would conflict with such a configuration within the podium, as well as the infeasibility of other below-grade configurations due to the ventilation shaft on the west and the separate underground parking structure on the north, controlled by the Department of the Interior.
Mr. Bellini summarized another suggestion from the Commission—to lower the connections between the existing building and the east and west pavilions by creating "hyphen" elements. He presented the new design concept that incorporates this suggestion, with the main blocks of these pavilions slightly taller than in the previous concept in order to align with the soffit of the existing recessed lobby level. The connecting wings would be lower and would be further distinguished from the existing building through cladding in polished granite—a material not used in the Martin Building but visible in the spandrels of the Federal Reserve's Eccles Building across C Street.
Mr. Bellini presented the revised concept for the south pavilion, including the extension of the south elevation's column and panel pattern to the pavilion's east and west facades. He indicated the proposed skylight toward the rear of the pavilion, explaining that it would not be readily visible from the street although it appears in the elevations and model.
Following the Commission's inspection of the model, Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the proposed materials. Mr. Bellini indicated the columns and spandrels of white marble, the primary material of the existing building; the polished granite hyphens; and glass for the remaining facade surfaces. Ms. Nelson supported the use of the polished granite, commenting that it would recede visually; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed, supporting the revised design's aesthetic of three distinct pavilions attached to the building rather than the previous concept's appearance of extensions flowing outward from the building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the strong form of the existing building and commented that the revised design is the best solution for adding to it. Vice-Chairman Nelson commended the design team for its exploration of alternatives and supported what she characterized as a graceful proposal. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised concept and delegated review of the final design to the staff, provided that significant changes or new issues would be brought to the Commission.
I. District of Columbia Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization
CFA 19/NOV/09-9, Woodrow Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake Street, NW. Building renovation and additions. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/02-13.) Ms. Batcheler introduced Chris Graae of Cox Graae + Spack Architects to present the initial submission for the renovation of and additions to Wilson High School.
Mr. Graae described the history and design of the existing school, built in 1935 and arranged in a U-shaped configuration of buildings on the crest of the sloping site. He said that the four original Georgian revival buildings remain, including the main academic building in the center; the original gym at one side, now serving as a media center; the auditorium; and the power plant. He said these buildings were treated as separate pavilions connected by a circulation spine of curving arcaded corridors; the smaller buildings respond to the site by stepping down from the main academic building. He indicated several later alterations to the building and site: the recently constructed swimming pool building that replaced the pool built in the 1970s; a new gymnasium built in the 1970s, which he described as a Brutalist mansard-roofed building that is not well liked; and the outdoor stadium area that was built in the same period. He noted a courtyard area that was formerly a rose garden, which would be restored and would include a reading terrace.
Mr. Graae said that the school is long overdue for renovation, and the D.C. Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization requested a preservation-oriented approach to the project. He said that the resulting proposal is intended to unify and clarify the campus, including relocation of the gymnasium facilities into the 1935 auditorium building and conversion of the 1970s gym building into a visual and performing arts center. He said these changes would establish an arts center at the east end of the campus, an athletic center at the west end, and the academic center in the middle, improving on the current problem of scattered locations for related facilities.
Mr. Graae said the main entrance to the academic building originally faced Nebraska Avenue on the southeast, but due to security issues the building is now entered from the rear, or northwest, side near Chesapeake Street. He described the large and underused courtyard at the center of the academic building as resembling a "prison yard" and said the proposal is to make this an atrium that will serve as the core space of the campus. He indicated the three existing raised entrances on the northwest elevation, and the proposal to create one new central entrance on the partially sunken ground floor, approached through a shallow bowl forming an entrance plaza. This configuration would improve accessibility and allow greater use of the ground floor, including a new double-height entrance lobby. He indicated the proposed new location of the cafeteria to an open space on the north, with a new underground parking garage beneath. He added that the project would also include new landscaping and signage.
Mr. Graae said that the renovation of the current media center—originally the gymnasium—into the visual and performing arts center would include the addition of a new skin and an infill lobby area. He explained that the historic power plant building is too small to accommodate a gym and would be razed to provide space for an auxiliary gym to be adjacent to the recently built natatorium and the existing auditorium (proposed for conversion into the main gymnasium).
Ms. Balmori questioned the entrance configuration of descending front steps and a side ramp; Mr. Graae responded that this is a result of the grade rising more quickly on one side. Ms. Balmori observed that there is a large space available in this area, and asked if the transition to the entrance grade could be more gentle. Mr. Graae replied that the design team is considering a decrease in the depth of the bowl by raising it approximately two feet, reducing the number of steps and accommodating the addition of an additional switchback ramp; however, this change introduces additional complications and requires further study.
Mr. Luebke provided background information on the proposal. He said that the Commission staff has been in consultation with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (HPO) and, while the HPO acknowledges the good planning in this proposal, it has identified some issues that need to be addressed—particularly the proposed demolition of the power plant and smokestack. He said that HPO is requesting that the design team consider alternatives, which the Commission staff encourages, and include further study of the proposed new entrance, potentially including the option of adding an entrance pavilion that could be entered at grade. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that this should be considered. Mr. Luebke added that the proposal includes much disruption of the well-detailed historic school, and the new construction should respect these historic details.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Balmori expressed concern about the small size of the proposed tree planting areas within the pavement. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that there is sufficient space around the proposed main entrance to provide more generous planting areas, notwithstanding the need to accommodate the grade change. She expressed regret at the proposed demolition of the power plant, commenting that the community would likely prefer to retain it. She acknowledged that the variety of buildings on the site adds to the difficulty of treating the exteriors; since some would be reskinned, she suggested creating a dominant proportional system to tie the disparate structures together, perhaps using a system established by the horizontals and verticals in the existing buildings. She added that the plan appears close to a resolved design, and the challenge is now to refine the surfaces. Mr. Graae responded that the designers had tried to refer to features of the existing buildings through materials and proportions; Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged this effort. (At this point, Ms. Plater-Zyberk departed the meeting.)
Ms. Balmori cautioned that relocating a power plant is typically too costly, and she has seen many projects in which a proposed relocation is abandoned and the utilitarian facility remains in its original location. Mr. Graae responded that the design team has tried to use the power plant building to accommodate the program, but its location is the only feasible site for the auxiliary gym and the power plant is too small to accommodate this use. He added that, contrary to Ms. Plater-Zyberk's speculation, the neighborhood does not want to retain the power plant.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the overall planning and the reorganization of the functions, but commented that the treatment of the ground plane is unsatisfactory. She said that the proposed handling of grades and stairs, including the arts center terrace as well as the main entrance, should be treated as a more flowing circulation system. She suggested that the entrance grade could be resolved within a lobby structure and said that the proposed exterior canopy is too weak for the large scale of the building. She questioned the small size of the landscape areas near the entrance, acknowledging that this treatment has become common but emphasizing that sufficient area is available to provide a larger, more coherent landscape at each side, leaving the front entrance open; she said that such a solution would give more weight to the entrance. She concluded by questioning the proposed design for the rose garden, which she said is a well-developed landscape typology but appears here as a primarily hardscape courtyard; she recommended redesigning it to be more like a garden.
Mr. Belle acknowledged the challenges of the project and the desire to create a more coherent image for the school but cautioned against losing the "almost idiosyncratic individuality" of the buildings that are "linked together like a series of railroad cars." He commented that this variety gives Wilson High School a desirable sense of scale, unlike the many high schools that are simply oversized brick boxes.
Mr. McKinnell supported Ms. Balmori's comments about the treatment of the landscape and entrances and agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk's recommendation to develop a proportional system to unify the structures; he said that the attractive vertical proportions of the existing buildings' Georgian style could be used successfully in modern construction. He added that the configuration of distinct volumes would be sufficient to differentiate the new and old construction, while the proportional system could serve to unify the campus.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the site planning of the campus; however, she commented that the football field appears too prominent and detracts from the beauty of the Georgian buildings, and she suggested converting the football field into a simple lawn. Mr. Graae responded that the D.C. government has recently spent $2 million dollars to refurbish the football field.
Mr. Luebke noted that an audience member wishes to address the Commission, as well as the imminent loss of a quorum which would require that any subsequent action be confirmed at the January 2010 meeting. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the concept subject to the comments offered by the Commission members. Mr. Graae then presented an animation of the design, acknowledging that some proposed features have changed subsequent to the preparation of the film approximately six months earlier. (At this point, Mr. Belle departed the meeting.)
Vice-Chairman Nelson recognized Matthew Frumin, who explained his multiple interests in the project: he is the father of a child attending Wilson High School; a representative on the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission for an adjacent area; and part of the Wilson Management Corporation, an organization concerned with modernization of the school. He said that the community is generally pleased with the design and the architect, but has concerns about the school's functionality—particularly the existing school's multiple levels that respond to the grade changes of the site, and the difficulty of fitting the modern program into the historic building spaces. He recommended that the number of level changes in the school be reduced, requiring the removal of some existing buildings. He confirmed that the community has no desire to preserve the power plant building, and said that the older buildings are not particularly outstanding examples of architecture of their period; he said that the Wilson Management Corporation questions the need to save any historic portions other than the main academic building, which he described as particularly beautiful. He acknowledged the potential need for compromises in the design process but said that functionality should be given the highest priority. For example, he said that the relocation of the gymnasium to the existing auditorium would be an improvement, but the auditorium building is not actually large enough to accommodate a gym that would meet the standard specifications for a school of this size; and some of the proposed spaces would be more difficult to supervise than spaces designed as part of entirely new construction. He expressed support for the development of additional design alternatives and said that his group believes that new construction can achieve the grandeur and character of the old while achieving better functionality.
Vice-Chairman Nelson thanked Mr. Frumin; she and Ms. Balmori suggested that his comments be addressed in the Commission's action letter. Ms. Balmori commented that the difficulty of the changing grade is obvious, but the solution does not necessarily require demolition of existing buildings; she recommended that the ground be treated as an elastic element that moves with the grade changes and joins the buildings using ramps. She acknowledged the difficulty of accommodating the modern program within the historic buildings and suggested that the architects study this issue further.
Mr. McKinnell emphasized the importance of a good relationship between the architect and the client, including sensitivity to the concerns of the broader community of users. Mr. Graae agreed, noting the ongoing consultation with the community and effort to address the issues raised. He said that the design goal is for barrier-free access to the entire campus—interior and exterior—whereas four levels of the school do not currently have such access. He said that the proposal includes additional arcaded corridor connections to provide multiple barrier-free routes between buildings rather than the single routes that now exist. Ms. Nelson questioned the proposal to retain exterior stairs leading to entrances that would no longer be used; Mr. Graae said that these doorways will continue to function as emergency exits, and the stairs will therefore continue to serve a purpose.
Vice-Chairman Nelson noted the Commission's action taken earlier in the discussion. Mr. Luebke said that the staff would coordinate the next submission, which may be a revised concept if there is substantial change to the proposal.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: February 2, 2010