Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 September 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 9:08 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 16 July meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 15 October, 19 November, and 21 January; no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Report on the publication of the Final Monumental Core Framework Plan. Mr. Luebke reported that the Monumental Core Framework Plan, a joint effort of the Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission, has now been published. He said that the final document has been recently issued, incorporating responses to the Commission's comments from the March 2009 review. A desk copy is available at the Commission; additional copies are available from the National Capital Planning Commission, and the publication is also available online. Mr. Luebke said that the National Capital Planning Commission is already moving forward with some of the plan's proposals, including the establishment of a task force to study the 10th Street, SW corridor and the Banneker Overlook.
D. Confirmation of one recommendation from the July 2009 meeting after the loss of a quorum: SL 09-090 (HPA 09-323), 224 2nd Street SE (Square 762, Lot 07). Watterston House (National Indian Gaming Association). Rear addition, building alterations, and landscaping. Revised concept.
Mr. Luebke said that a formal action by the Commission is needed concerning one project reviewed the previous month after the loss of a quorum: the application under the Shipstead-Luce Act for an addition to the Watterston House at 224 2nd Street, SE, and related alterations and landscaping. He noted that the members present had made a recommendation which was conveyed in a letter sent to the applicant and distributed to the Commission. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission confirmed the approval of the revised concept.
Mr. Luebke introduced Mary Konsoulis, who will soon be joining the Commission staff as a temporary full-time writer and editor to support the Commission's centennial projects. He noted her master's degree in planning and her significant experience as a planner at SOM and as a curator at the National Building Museum; she is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland. He summarized the planned centennial events including a symposium and exhibit in May 2010 and a history book in approximately 2012.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported that there were no changes to the draft. Mr. Luebke noted that the concept submission from the National Park Service for the D.C. War Memorial has been placed on the Consent Calendar because much of the proposal is repair work; he acknowledged the request from one Commission member for the opportunity to discuss the landscape design proposal, which can be presented as part of the next submission of the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported three changes to the draft appendix. The first project, case number SL 09-085, was removed and will be held until October to resolve outstanding issues. For two projects, case numbers SL 09-096 and SL 09-097, the staff had recommended against internally illuminated signs; the designs have been revised and the staff now has no objection to the issuance of permits for the signs. Upon motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See items II.K.1 and II.K.2 for two additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Minor updates were made to listings in response to supplemental drawings that have been received. The negative recommendation for case number OG 09-304 has been changed to a favorable recommendation based on the receipt of supplemental drawings conforming to the comments of the Old Georgetown Board. Two projects, case numbers OG 09-299 and OG 09-308, have been postponed until the October meeting of the Board and are removed from the appendix. Of the new submissions received for review at the Board's October meeting, the staff has already determined that four projects will not be visible from public space and are therefore outside the Commission's jurisdiction; these projects have been added to the appendix and are listed as being returned without action. One additional project was withdrawn by the applicant and has been added to the appendix with this notation. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Mr. Luebke said that, in consideration of the lengthy agenda, the Commission members had suggested that three cases could be acted upon without a presentation based upon the Commission's review of the submission materials and the responsiveness of the submissions to the Commission's previous comments. He suggested a separate vote for each project.
H. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 17/SEP/09-8, Francis Field, 1200 Block of 25th Street, NW. Master Plan for renovation and improvements and Phase I implementation. Final. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/09-4.) Mr. Luebke listed the submission of the final master plan for the playing field. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final master plan and delegated to the staff the review of any subsequent development of the landscape design.
I. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 17/SEP/09-9, Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Addition and renovation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/09-9.) Mr. Luebke noted that this case has been reviewed extensively and he acknowledged the work of the D.C. Public Library and its design team. He listed the submission of the revised concept and noted that the Commission may wish to delegate further review to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised concept and delegated review of the final design to the staff; Ms. Plater-Zyberk opposed the motion.
K. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
2. SL 09-103, Hay-Adams Hotel, 800 16th Street, NW. New rooftop enclosure. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 07-050.) Mr. Luebke said that the submission includes modifications to the previously reviewed design, including a height increase due to elevator equipment needs. He noted that the project is also subject to review by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept.
The Commission then continued with the review of the remaining projects on the agenda.
B. National Park Service
CFA 17/SEP/09-1, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Independence Avenue, SW, at the northwestern rim of the Tidal Basin. Perimeter security. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/JUN/09-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission for a final perimeter security design at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. He summarized the Commission's review in June 2009 of the alternative concepts for security at the memorial's main entrance, approving a design that included a minimal number of bollards and a large, low planter. He said the Commission had recommended using larger trees in the planter instead of the cherries as proposed so that the views of pedestrians would not be obstructed, and had asked for further study of the design for the stone barrier encircling the planter, possibly to accommodate informal seating. Mr. Luebke noted the other outstanding design issues for the memorial that will be addressed in future submissions: the surface modeling of the statue of Dr. King and the final selection and layout of quotations for the memorial walls.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May of the National Park Service's National Capital Region to begin the presentation. Mr. May began by introducing to the Commission the new superintendent of the National Mall & Memorial Parks, John Piltzecker. Mr. May then introduced Dr. Edward Jackson, executive architect of the memorial's sponsoring foundation, who asked project architect Ron Kessler of McKissack & McKissack to summarize the design.
Mr. Kessler summarized the information that had been presented in June about the landscape island that will serve as a security barrier in the forecourt. He said the three cherry trees previously proposed in the planter would be replaced by American elms to relate to those planted along Independence Avenue and West Basin Drive.
Mr. Kessler said that the design team has restudied the profile of the landscape island's barrier wall, which would have a similar character to the forecourt walls. He presented a section of the proposed wall and said that it would accommodate informal resting or perching rather than seating; the section has been modified for greater comfort compared to the original slope. He said the wall would be higher on the forecourt side—two feet three inches above the pavement—and a foot lower on the Independence Avenue side; the taller dimension, in conjunction with the sunken planting bed, would provide the three-foot barrier necessary for security purposes. He said the section of the barrier wall is now closely aligned with that of the forecourt wall so that these walls will all have the same character; visitors would be able to rest comfortably on the walls. He added that the material for the walls would be honed green granite.
Mr. Kessler presented an elevation of the proposed 42-inch-high bronze bollard and summarized the Commission's consensus at the previous review that it would be better to use fewer bollards. He said that the proposal is for two bollards at the plaza entrance facing Independence Avenue, which will be thirteen feet four inches wide between planter walls, and three bollards at the entrance facing West Basin Drive, which will be eighteen feet wide.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the spacing between the elm trees; Mr. Kessler responded that the distances would be thirty to forty feet. Mr. Powell asked whether the largest available size of elm trees would be planted. Landscape architect Eric Groft of Oehme, van Sweden Associates said that five-inch-caliper trees are specified, while elms as large as eight inches are available. Ms. Balmori noted that small trees would take a long time to achieve volume in their canopies, and requested that larger trees be planted. Dr. Jackson said the project team's primary consideration has been the ultimate size of the trees rather than their initial size at the time of planting. Mr. Powell said that the presentation has illustrated mature trees, and the Commission would like the initial appearance of the memorial to include trees that are as large as possible. Ms. Balmori added that this issue is particularly important at the entrance forecourt. Dr. Jackson asked the Commission to recommend a range of sizes for the elms. Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle recommended a minimum size of eight-inch-caliper trees; Mr. Powell observed that this would provide a three- to four-year start on the landscape appearance.
Ms. Nelson noted that the submission is listed as a final design and asked if there would be additional submissions concerning quotations and the surface treatment of the sculpture; Dr. Jackson responded that these features would be submitted as soon as the National Park Service authorizes construction to begin. He said the sculpture is 80 percent complete, with the surface already somewhat textured, and will soon be shipped to Washington from the artist's studio in China; the Commission will then be able to view the sculpture in progress and meet with the artist. He added that mock-ups are being made of the inscriptions and the Commission will be able to see these on site. Ms. Nelson said that her concern is particularly with the appearance of the joints on the Mountain of Despair; Dr. Jackson responded that he has inspected the progress of the sculpture, and these dry joints are hardly visible. Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the sculptural finish work that will be performed locally; Dr. Jackson confirmed that the last 20 percent of the sculpting would occur on site.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the final design for the forecourt landscape design incorporating perimeter security with the request that the elm trees be installed at the largest possible size, with a minimum caliper of eight inches.
C. Federal Reserve System
CFA 17/SEP/09-2, William McChesney Martin, Jr. Building, 2000 C Street, NW. Additions and alterations for visitor screening and conference center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/09-5.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission of two alternative concept designs for additions and alterations to the Federal Reserve Board's Martin Building to provide a security screening facility and two pavilions for a conference center. He noted that the Commission had seen the initial concept submission in July and had acknowledged the difficulty of making additions to this type of formal modernist building on pilotis. He said the Commission had accepted the general disposition of the plan while requesting that the design be further developed and that alternatives be explored. The Commission had decided the project could go in one of two directions: relating the additions more directly to the existing architecture in their material and pattern, or giving the additions a more recessive or minimalist treatment.
Mr. Luebke introduced Fay Peters, director of management for the Federal Reserve Board. Ms. Peters said that the design team has addressed the Commission's recommendations. She summarized the need for the project: recent vulnerability assessments indicated the need for a hardened screening center, and currently conferences and many meetings have to be held off-site. She introduced the project architect, Enrique Bellini of Karn Charuhas Chapman & Twohey, to present the design.
Mr. Bellini said that the submission includes two new options in addition to the concept presented at the July meeting. He summarized the existing conditions and context, indicating the proximity of the site to the Federal Reserve Board's Eccles Building, the State Department, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Department of the Interior's South Building. He noted that the project will not affect the landscaped areas to the north and east—both of which are National Park Service properties that are maintained by the Federal Reserve—nor the underground parking. He indicated two existing vents that will be extended upward for security reasons.
Mr. Bellini presented the proposed site plan that is applicable to all the options. He said the visitor screening facility would be on the south, and pavilions on the east and west sides would house the conference center; all three additions would project beyond the footprint of the building and would have green roofs. He said that entrance to both the Eccles and Martin buildings will be through the new security structure. The west conference pavilion would incorporate the extended vent shaft into the exterior wall which would form the backdrop to a water feature. On the east, the existing steps leading from the building podium down to the fountain would be replaced by landscaping.
Mr. Bellini summarized the previously submitted concept. On the entrance pavilion, marble-clad walls would screen the security-related areas requiring privacy and serve as backgrounds for monumental art. The glass walls of the central five bays framing the entrance would be slightly angled to match the angle of the existing pilotis, approximately 85 degrees.
Mr. Bellini presented the new Option 1 proposal, which would be almost identical in plan to the previous submission. The exterior of the new pavilions would be almost entirely glass. The height of the visitor screening facility would be one foot lower than in the previous proposal, and the roofs of all three additions would have a thinner edge to create a lighter appearance. The proposed connecting links between the existing building and the east and west pavilions have been lowered while the height of the pavilions has been slightly raised so that they will read as two distinct elements, separate from the existing building. The proposed fenestration more closely resembles that of the existing building, and the proposed water feature on the west elevation would be a simple pool. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether the glass would be slanted in this option; Mr. Bellini responded that, as in the previous submission, the central five bays would be canted to emphasize the entrance.
Mr. Bellini then presented the new Option 2, which uses the angular design of the existing pilotis as an aesthetic form as well as a structural element. The geometry would be carried into the visitor screening facility and both pavilions as a faceted column, with two faces meeting at a center line. He said the height of the east and west pavilions would be raised as proposed in Option 1.
Mr. Bellini said the three alternatives represent three different philosophical approaches to the design. The previously submitted concept combines elements of the existing building, expressing the different functions of the conference center pavilions. In the new Option 1, the glass pavilions contrast with the existing building, while in the new Option 2, a specific reference to the original building is made through the use of the angular pilotis.
Mr. Belle said that he prefers Option 2 because it respects the original building, commenting that the design of the new pavilions could be developed as sensitive additions and noting the difficult design problem of enclosing the area between the pilotis. He said his objection to Option 1 is that the full expression of the glass facades in the new pavilions provides too sharp a contrast with the stone building above. He said that more thought is needed about the details of how the glass wall could meet the pilotis, and this should be done in way that does not diminish the strength and solidity of the pilotis.
Ms. Nelson asked if consideration was given to different locations for the proposed program. She acknowledged that the security screening has to be done at a ground-level entrance but asked if the conference facilities could be placed elsewhere, such as in the penthouse or in the corners of the site, rather than the proposal for pavilions that are "shoved under the building." Mr. Bellini responded that using the podium level for the conference facilities is essential because of the required height, and the facilities will have to extend beyond the footprint of the building because of the need for column-free space. He also noted that an important security issue is to contain visitors to the conference facility without allowing them to enter either building. He said that his firm had solved this problem in a similar manner at the State Department.
Ms. Balmori agreed with Ms. Nelson's concern and characterized the proposal as not well integrated, with the whole building having the appearance of sitting on top of a box. She said she did not think the new concepts succeed in addressing this concern, and asked if there is any other space that could be used so that the mass of the additions would not be so large.
Mr. Belle commented that one benefit of the design review process is that the Commission has the ability to think "outside the box"—or, in this case, "under the box." He said that the site plan clearly shows which areas of the site could accommodate an expansion, while recalling the explanation that these areas are not available because they lie outside of the Federal Reserve Board's jurisdiction. Mr. Bellini confirmed that the property line is adjacent to the building podium's edge and that, under a directive from the Federal Reserve, the design team is not considering use of the parkland on the north or east. He reiterated that, while the entire site is maintained by the Federal Reserve, the parkland belongs to the National Park Service. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked whether some agreement could be reached to extend into the National Park Service sites since all of the areas are federally owned. Mr. Bellini responded that the Federal Reserve has discussed this issue and determined that these sites are not available.
Mr. Powell acknowledged the necessities of security but asked if the conference center could be placed underground, where visitors could remain in a separate area from the two buildings. He noted there is already a tunnel between the Martin and Eccles buildings and said that in the National Gallery East Building, the conference centers and the auditorium are below grade. Mr. Bellini explained that certain facilities of the Federal Reserve are already below grade, such as underground parking garages, one level of which has already been converted to office space. Charles O'Malley, assistant chief of security at the Federal Reserve Board, said the park property to the north has a parking garage beneath it. Mr. Powell asked about below-grade opportunities to the east and west. Mr. O'Malley said that subsurface conditions could be a constraint, noting that there is no garage beneath the Eccles Building because of the water table. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the uses below the Martin Building's podium; Mr. O'Malley confirmed that a parking garage is located in this area. Mr. Bellini said the only other below-grade option would be to place facilities under C Street, but he noted the presence of a large sewer beneath the street, which results in an awkward alignment for the existing tunnel between the buildings.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if all the alternatives include slanted glass walls; Mr. Bellini clarified that in the new Option 2, all the walls between pilotis would be straight, while the previous submission and the new Option 1 would include five bays of sloping walls on the entrance pavilion.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she thought that, of the three alternatives, Option 2 is the most respectful of the building, particularly due to the orthogonal walls, but she reiterated the concern that the additions would look like drawers coming out from under the building. She suggested that the east and west pavilions could be even taller so that they would appear to be responding to the existing building in a different way from the south pavilion. She acknowledged that this suggestion would place the new roofs closer to the office windows of the upper stories but said that the proposal for green roofs would make the views acceptable. She also commented that the green roofs will have significant depth, and the proposed treatment of the roofs as thin planes will not be feasible; the facades should instead express the support of the heavy roof structure. Mr. Powell supported Option 2 and agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk's comments, including the concern that the proposal has the character of drawers being pulled out. He supported the proposed design of the entrance pavilion.
Mr. Rybczynski said he finds the elevations very convincing while the perspective views are unconvincing, and he said he was unsure which impression is correct; he recommended that models be constructed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the different perceptions may result from the joints not being prominent visible in the perspective views. Ms. Balmori said the problem is that the pavilions extend too far outward, which is apparent in the perspective views but not in the flat elevations.
Mr. Belle offered a motion to encourage the applicant to proceed with Option 2 and, in collaboration with the Commission staff, to further refine the architectural details of the additions; Ms. Balmori added that their apparent depth should be minimized. Upon a second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission adopted this recommendation. Ms. Balmori emphasized her recommendation to reduce the impact of the pavilions; Mr. Luebke said that this concern would be included as part of the Commission's comments. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell acknowledged the difficulty of the project. Mr. Bellini asked for clarification of whether the revised concept is approved; Chairman Powell said that the Commission approved Option 2 for further development, and the proposal should be submitted for further review as a revised concept.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the next two submissions involving series to be issued in 2010: the fourth set of First Spouse non-circulating coins and related commemorative medals; and the first set in a new series of scenic reverses for the circulating quarter, with the familiar portrait of George Washington to remain on the obverse. He noted that this program will follow the state quarters series which is currently concluding. He added that the current submission incorporates a proposed overall template for the new program.
1. CFA 17/SEP/09-3, 2010 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Designs for the third set of First Spouse $10 gold coins and bronze medals: Abigail Fillmore, Jane Pierce, James Buchanan's Liberty, and Mary Lincoln. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/MAY/08-4, third set of four presidencies.) Ms. Budow provided a copy of a White House reference book containing the official portraits of the First Ladies which were used as source material for the proposed designs; she also provided a recent Mint catalog that includes images of recently issued coins and medals in the First Spouse series.
Ms. Budow reviewed the legislative requirements for this series, including an obverse portrait of each President's spouse and a reverse image representing the life and work of the spouse. For Presidents who served without a spouse—including Buchanan for the 2010 coins—the obverse will have an allegorical image of liberty from a coin issued during the President's historical period and the reverse will depict a theme of the presidency. The bronze medals and gold coins would have similar designs except that some wording for coins would be omitted from the medals, resulting in slight reconfiguration of the design elements.
Ms. Budow presented four alternative obverses depicting Abigail Fillmore, noting that sources in addition to the official portrait were considered for the details of hair, clothing, and jewelry. Ms. Budow noted that the hair styles have been carefully reviewed by White House historians. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of the reliance on existing familiar portraits; Ms. Budow reiterated that the White House official portraits are the primary source material while the Mint also allows the artists to consider additional sources, which she noted become more prevalent with the widespread use of photography, particularly from Mary Todd Lincoln onward. She added that some of these additional portrait sources may be from before or after the subject's White House period. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the images "represent our desired memory" of a person whose visual image was not extensively recorded; she suggested that the selected image should suggest a person who modern viewers feel they can relate to, rather than rely on strict adherence to a historic painting or photograph. She therefore supported the friendlier image of #2 rather than the more severe expression in the other alternatives, noting the consistency of #2 with a description of Mrs. Fillmore's kindness toward guests.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori agreed that the portraits of Mrs. Fillmore are greatly varied; Ms. Budow said that the artist tried to provide different alternative images while staying true to the official portrait. Ms. Nelson supported #4, commenting on the strong image. Ms. Balmori expressed support for #1 and also supported #4, as recommended by Ms. Nelson, but declined to support #2. Ms. Nelson reiterated that #4 would make a stronger coin design. Mr. Rybczynski noted that the coins and medals will not be in general circulation and would therefore not be widely seen; Mr. Powell noted that they would be illustrated in the Mint's catalog. Mr. Powell asked about their cost; Ms. Budow responded that the price of the half-ounce gold coins is approximately $1,200, fluctuating with the price of gold, while the medals cost only a few dollars. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #4 for Mrs. Fillmore.
Ms. Budow presented six alternatives for the Fillmore reverse. Ms. Nelson supported alternative #5, depicting Mrs. Fillmore shelving books in the White House Library, which she helped to establish; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Nelson commented that #2 and #4, depicting President and Mrs. Fillmore with White House guests—singer Jenny Lind and author Charles Dickens—would be difficult for people to understand, while alternative #5 is clear, well designed, and the best drawn. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #5 for Mrs. Fillmore.
Ms. Budow presented five alternative obverses depicting Jane Pierce. Ms. Balmori commented that the drawings are unsatisfactory but supported alternative #1 as the best image for a coin, describing the other alternatives as excessively emphasizing the hair style rather than the person; Ms. Nelson agreed. The Commission reached a consensus to recommend obverse alternative #1 for Mrs. Pierce.
Ms. Budow presented five reverse alternatives for Jane Pierce, including a depiction of the thunderstorm during which the Pierces met while in college. Mr. Powell acknowledged the interest of this romantic scene, alternative #5, but agreed with Ms. Balmori that #1—illustrating Mrs. Pierce watching a Senate debate—is the best composed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported #4, depicting Mrs. Pierce reading on the White House grounds, due to its simplicity which is desirable for the small coins and medals. Ms. Budow added that the designs are intended to tell a story. Ms. Balmori supported the story of #4, with Mrs. Pierce depicted actively; Mr. Powell agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #4 for Mrs. Pierce, with Ms. Balmori abstaining.
Ms. Budow presented a single proposal depicting Liberty from James Buchanan's presidency, based on the design of a coin produced from 1840 to 1907; she indicated the text "Liberty" within the figure's coronet and the thirteen stars along the rim, and confirmed that the historic design has been adapted to the modern format for this series. The Commission did not object to this proposal.
Ms. Budow presented five alternatives for the James Buchanan reverse. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported alternative #4, depicting Buchanan in front of the Hermitage while serving as the U.S. minister to Russia, commenting on the design's simplicity and dignity. She also expressed interest in the subject of alternative #1, depicting Buchanan with his niece Harriet Lane who served as the official White House hostess during his presidency. Mr. Powell questioned whether people will recognize the subject of Miss Lane; Ms. Balmori agreed, commenting that the quality of the composition is separate from the question of the subject matter depicted. Ms. Balmori said that the best composed design is #2, with a teenaged Buchanan working as the bookkeeper in his family's country store, and noted that #2 has the advantage of focusing on Buchanan. She also supported #4 due to its depiction of the Hermitage art museum, as an expression of support for the arts; Mr. Powell questioned whether the building and its purpose would be understood. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that at least the international theme would be understood, with Ms. Nelson noting the text "St. Petersburg" and Ms. Budow explaining that the Mint would include a description of the designs when selling the coins and medals. Mr. Rybczynski supported #2, agreeing that it is the best composed; Ms. Balmori reiterated her support and said that the scene tells us about Buchanan's character. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #2.
Ms. Budow presented five obverse alternatives depicting Mary Todd Lincoln. Mr. Powell supported alternative #2 as the portrait having the nicest appearance; Ms. Nelson agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested consideration of #1; Ms. Balmori commented that #1 is the best composed due to the use of the near-profile. Mr. Powell said that #3 is unflattering; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that profiles would be more effective in raised rather than recessed designs; Ms. Budow clarified that all of the proposed design features would be raised above the base surface of these coins and medals. Ms. Plater-Zyberk extended her support to both #1 and #2; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that #1 is a more cheerful portrait. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #1 for Mrs. Lincoln.
Ms. Budow presented five reverse alternatives for Mrs. Lincoln. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported alternative #1, depicting President and Mrs. Lincoln greeting visitors at a public reception, while acknowledging that the design is complex. Ms. Nelson supported alternative #4—with Mrs. Lincoln bandaging a wounded soldier—commenting that the activity depicted is important although the figures are not well drawn; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Nelson contrasted this scene with #2, in which Mrs. Lincoln is merely holding flowers while visiting wounded soldiers. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to support #4 due to the compassionate subject matter rather than the quality of design. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #4 for Mrs. Lincoln, with the request to strengthen and refine the drawing.
2. CFA 17/SEP/09-4, 2010 America the Beautiful Quarters Program. Reverse designs for five coins. Final. Ms. Budow said that this new program for reverses of the circulating quarter will follow the conclusion of the state quarters series, and will include the depiction of a national park or other national site in each state as well as the District of Columbia and territories, with a total of 56 coins. Ms. Nelson noted the small size of the quarter; she and Mr. Rybczynski commented on the difficulty of depicting scenic parks at this scale, while Ms. Balmori said that good artists could meet this challenge.
Ms. Budow said that the obverse of the quarter will continue to depict George Washington, using a restoration of the portrait to include the subtle details and beauty of the original 1932 design. Ms. Balmori noted that the drawing of the restored obverse has a different quality than other presented images, including shadows. Ms. Budow responded that this image is a photograph of a rendering based on a plaster model that is already being tested, rather than the line art that is usually presented for new proposals; the result is a better depiction of the three-dimensional quality of the coin. She indicated the more refined depiction of Washington's hair in the restored portrait. Ms. Balmori supported the proposed restoration; Ms. Nelson agreed.
The Commission discussed the template in conjunction with the presentation of the first several design alternatives. Ms. Budow described the proposed overall template, including a recessed circular base for the scenic image and an outer rim area containing text; the name of the site would be along the top and the minting year would be at the bottom, below a flat edge beneath the image. She said that the template is intended to distinguish the new series from the recent state quarters program. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the proposed combination of an inner ring with a flat bottom to frame the reverse images; Ms. Budow clarified that this template is common to all of the proposed designs but is not yet being used and could be adjusted in response to the Commission's comments. Ms. Balmori recommended that the inner circle be continuous without the flat bottom edge, which she characterized as awkward; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed. Mr. Powell said that the flat bottom edge distorts the design of some proposed images and forces the artists to set the scenic image on this base line. Mr. Rybczynski added that the flat edge conflicts with the overall circular form of the coin; he said that the horizontal line might be appropriate for a medal that would always be seen hanging vertically, but should not be used on a coin which would routinely be seen from any angle. Mr. Belle described the flat edge within the inner circle as "a fundamental design error." Ms. Budow said that the Commission's comments would be considered by the Mint, along with the comments of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.
Ms. Balmori asked if a single artist would be used for all of the coins in the series; Ms. Budow responded that multiple artists would be used, while the single template would be part of all designs. Ms. Balmori asked about the basis for the designs, and Ms. Budow explained that the Mint is working closely with the superintendents of the various selected sites; the superintendents recommend images that would be most emblematic of the site and appropriate for a coin. She said that the proposals are therefore based primarily on photographs and rely extensively on the guidance from the superintendents. She noted that this process differs from that used in the state quarters series.
Ms. Budow said that the sequence of coins in this series would be determined by the order in which the selected locations were first established as national sites. She presented four alternatives for the Arkansas site, Hot Springs National Park, which was initially established as a national site in 1832 to conserve water from the springs that emerge from Hot Springs Mountain and to make the water available to the public. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the simplicity of alternative #2, depicting the doorway of the park's headquarters built in the 1930s in the Spanish colonial revival style. She and Ms. Nelson objected to the small National Park Service sign shown next to the doorway, a superfluous element that would be illegible at the coin's small size. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the awkward intersection of the fountain with the flat base of the border would be resolved by the Commission's recommendation to eliminate the flat segment and use a complete circular border. Ms. Balmori commented that all four alternatives are awkwardly drawn; she agreed to support #2 due to its simplicity but recommended that a better photograph be obtained and interpreted for the coin design. Mr. Powell supported #2 and recommended adjusting the perspective to avoid flattening the view. Ms. Nelson agreed and suggested additional shadow, while acknowledging the limitations of the line drawing. Ms. Budow confirmed that the engraver would interpret the design to provide various levels of relief in the sculpted coin. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission recommended alternative #2 for Hot Springs, noting the additional recommendation concerning the modification of the proposed template for the series.
Ms. Budow presented three alternatives for the Wyoming site, Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872; each depicts the Old Faithful geyser in a different setting. Ms. Nelson said that none of the alternatives satisfactorily depicts Yellowstone; Ms. Balmori agreed, recommending use of the classic photograph of Old Faithful by Edward Weston as a source for the design. Ms. Budow said that the selected source images were preferred by the park officials as the best available; Ms. Balmori criticized the selection. Mr. Rybczynski predicted that such problems will recur throughout the series and said that commemorating national parks on the quarter is a bad idea due to the difficulty of depicting the vastness of the settings; he said that the concept was better as a politician's thought than as an actual program that will be continually difficult to implement successfully. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the legislation for the series has been enacted; Mr. Rybczynski said that he just wanted to state the objection for the record, commenting that all of the presented proposals are unsuccessful due to the impossibility of the design task rather than problems with the designers. Ms. Balmori disagreed, observing that vastness can be conveyed at a small scale, such as small prints of Western photographs that are surprisingly successful in capturing the vastness of the subjects. She said that the national parks are emblematic of the nation and are an appropriate subject for coins, while emphasizing the need for selecting good artists and better source material than is provided by the staff of individual sites. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed surprise that classic images of the parks from historic photographs and paintings are not being used; she acknowledged that people may have different understandings of the most classic images. Ms. Balmori agreed that these familiar images should be used to represent the parks. Ms. Budow emphasized the Mint's desire to feature distinctive images that would clearly differentiate the coins in the series. Mr. Powell suggested that Thomas Moran's 19th-century watercolors be used as source material for Yellowstone, noting that these paintings were presented to Congress to encourage the creation of the park. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the process allows for consideration of new designs or is limited to the alternatives that have already been developed; Ms. Budow responded that the Commission's recommendations would be considered, along with other advice that is received; the Mint would also consult with the Secretary of the Interior, the site superintendents, and state officials. Ms. Balmori remarked on the excessive number of opinions involved. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended that the "cliche" views would actually be the most appropriate for this coin series, using immediately recognizable images that are familiar to the public; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori agreed. Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus not to support the three alternatives and to consider other designs.
Ms. Budow then presented four alternative reverse designs for Yosemite National Park in California, established in 1890 as one of the nation's first wilderness parks. The first two alternatives depict Yosemite Falls; #3 depicts the distinctive El Capitan formation; and #4 shows the Half Dome formation, which she said is the most recognized symbol of Yosemite. Ms. Balmori noted the great historic photographs of Yosemite and asked if there would be any limitations on using them as source material. Ms. Budow responded that the images must be in the public domain, or the right to use them must be obtained by the Mint; images supplied by the site superintendents are owned by the sites and therefore suitable for use. Mr. Powell supported the design of alternative #4 but commented that the drawing appears unfinished; Ms. Balmori agreed that it is badly drawn. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that this view of Half Dome is different from the familiar image. Mr. Powell and Ms. Balmori agreed, recommending the iconic image by photographer Ansel Adams. Mr. Powell concluded that Half Dome would be the best subject but the design needs further refinement; several Commission members agreed, with Ms. Nelson commenting on this design's simplicity and Ms. Balmori recommending that the Mint look into the availability of the Ansel Adams photograph. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended the Half Dome subject of alternative #4 with the request for further refinement of the image.
Ms. Budow presented four alternatives for Arizona's Grand Canyon, first given federal protection in 1893. Ms. Nelson asked for a comparison of the alternatives to the Grand Canyon view that was on the recent Arizona state quarter; Ms. Budow recalled that the recent quarter included a banner with text and, separated from the image of the canyon, a cactus from another part of the state. Ms. Balmori suggested consideration of basing the design on a modern image such as the photographs of David Hockney, providing a generational contrast to the image on the state quarter. Ms. Nelson questioned whether the modern image would be successful at this small scale; Ms. Balmori said that it could work. Mr. Powell supported alternative #1, a deep perspective view of the canyon; Ms. Nelson said that this design could be successful with the template modification recommended by the Commission to eliminate the awkwardness of the base. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended further study in #1 of the foreground, which she said resembles a slag heap; Ms. Balmori agreed. Chairman Powell asked for opinions on the inclusion of animals in the foreground, as in alternative #2. Ms. Balmori opposed their inclusion; Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the animals, commenting that they establish a theme and asking if the depiction of animals would be a continuing motif for each site in the series. Ms. Budow responded that animals are sometimes included in the design if they are unique to the park, helping to differentiate it from other locations; varying levels of relief would be used to suggest a sense of depth between the foreground and background elements of the design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that #1 could be successful if the foreground is revised; she suggested that the view could be shifted slightly so that the foreground and the vertical face of the canyon are not concentrated toward the center of the composition; a rightward shift would provide a larger area for depicting the deep perspective view while shrinking the foreground area. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended alternative #1 for the Grand Canyon subject to the design adjustments that were discussed; the Commission also reiterated its recommendation to remove the flat edge from the circular border as part of the overall template design.
Ms. Budow presented four alternatives for Oregon's Mount Hood National Forest; the mountain is located near Portland within the million-acre National Forest, a portion of which was established as a national site in 1893. Each alternative depicts Mount Hood in a different setting. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that alternative #3, with the mountain and a foreground lake, is the simplest composition; she also supported #2 showing Portland's skyline set against the mountain backdrop because it depicts the unusually close relationship between the natural feature and a large city. Ms. Balmori commented that #2 is badly rendered. Mr. Powell supported #3, commenting that it is the cleanest of the four designs; Ms. Nelson also supported #3. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission supported alternative #3 for the Mount Hood coin. Ms. Balmori abstained, commenting that all of the alternatives are unsatisfactory, and Ms. Nelson noted that her support for the selected design is "lukewarm."
At the conclusion of the review, Mr. Belle asked how often the Mint follows the recommendations of the Commission, based on the guidance provided in recent years. Ms. Budow responded that the Commission's comments are always seriously considered and offered to prepare a more detailed overview. Mr. Belle emphasized that his interest is in actual changes to proposed designs; Ms. Budow said that the Mint has sometimes followed the Commission's recommendations and at other times has responded to other advisory groups, and she agreed to check on specific examples. Chairman Powell noted that the Mint's catalog includes some designs that were approved by the Commission, but he agreed that a more careful tabulation of outcomes would be helpful. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission's inquiry was partly a matter of curiosity but also could provide informative examples of which comments are most useful and which types of changes cannot be made; she acknowledged the Commission's limited understanding of the method for executing coin designs. Ms. Balmori agreed that such feedback would be helpful to the Commission. Ms. Budow said that the Mint could arrange a working session with the Commission in response to this request; Chairman Powell supported such a discussion. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that specific examples of responses to Commission advice would be helpful, rather than simply a count of varying outcomes. Ms. Budow added that final design decisions are made by the Secretary of the Treasury, and the memorandum provided to the Secretary includes a description of the Commission's comments as well as copy of the Commission's letter. Mr. Belle explained his concern that the Commission members devote considerable time to reviewing the Mint's designs and wonder if their comments have any effect. Ms. Nelson noted that the state quarters program may have been especially problematic because the state governors had the final authority in the design selection and often based their decisions on political, rather than aesthetic, considerations. Ms. Balmori said that the same problem is arising with the National Park Service's involvement in the new series of quarters. Ms. Budow clarified that the new program involves the opportunity for comment by the state governors, but the Mint will have much more direct involvement with the Department of the Interior in obtaining guidance on the design for each site, with the overall process quite different from the state quarters series.
E. Department of Veterans Affairs
CFA 17/SEP/09-5, Veterans Affairs Medical Center Washington, DC, 50 Irving Street, NW. Draft Master Plan. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the presentation of the draft master plan, which follows the Commission's recent review of the Fisher House on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) campus. She described the campus location along North Capitol Street near the Armed Forces Retirement Home. She introduced Mike Dunfee, associate director of the VAMC center, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Dunfee acknowledged the extensive consultation meetings between VAMC officials, the consulting architects, and the Commission staff in recent months. He said that the master plan is needed to accommodate desired expansion and modifications to the campus that result from the growing population being served in Washington, DC, as well as changes in modern healthcare and changing expectations of the patients. He introduced architect Jim Curran of Ellerbe Becket to present the proposal.
Mr. Curran described the urban framework for the site, emphasizing the importance of North Capitol Street which shifts along the east edge of the campus from an axial alignment with the U.S. Capitol to a curving alignment toward the north; the VAMC campus therefore relates to the city's monumental core framework. He presented a series of photographs looking northward from the U.S. Capitol and continuing along North Capitol Street toward the campus, indicating how the VAMC campus gradually comes into clear view. He noted the other adjacent hospitals to the west across First Street that form a larger health-care complex that includes the VAMC. He indicated prominent views from the campus: south to the Capitol along North Capitol Street; southwest toward the McMillan Reservoir; northeast toward Catholic University and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; and west toward the National Cathedral. He described planned changes in the context that would result in much denser development, including a commercial development proposal for the southern portion of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, and development in association with planned reconfiguration of the cloverleaf interchange at North Capitol and Irving Streets.
Mr. Curran summarized the characteristics of the 35-acre VAMC campus, with the six-story main hospital building and an assisted-living and nursing-home facility called the Community Living Center. He indicated the small day care center, the parking structure, and the surface parking lots that nearly surround the main hospital. He said the main hospital was built in 1962 and has had numerous additions, with the most substantial dating from 1982, providing a total of 922,000 square feet.
Mr. Curran described the program for new facilities anticipated in the next ten to fifteen years; the proposals for the first five years would add 200,000 square feet, and the longer-term projects would add up to 620,000 additional square feet. Some of the future proposals are envisioned as additions to the main hospital; others would be separate buildings. He said that the parking requirements include the need to accommodate multiple overlapping employee shifts, some outside the hours of public transportation availability, as well as the needs of patients and visitors. He noted that the VAMC also serves as a social center for veterans, adding to the number of people visiting the campus. He said the existing amount of parking—1,800 spaces—is insufficient; the master plan calls for an additional 1,700 spaces, of which 650 are already needed for the current facilities.
Mr. Curran presented the proposed location of future construction. Most of the hospital expansion is proposed along the west side, where many of the program areas in need of expansion are located, and residential and research areas would be expanded southward. He noted that infill development around the upper floors of the hospital is not feasible due to the desire to maintain natural light to the patient rooms on these floors, and vertical expansion is not structurally feasible. He briefly presented some of the many options that were considered for the VAMC in developing the master plan, concluding that the selected proposal best meets the functional needs of the hospital while also responding to the urban framework.
Mr. Belle asked if portions of the existing building could be rehabilitated; Mr. Curran responded that such is included in the master plan proposal and already occurs on an ongoing basis. He confirmed that some of the future space needs will be accommodated within renovated existing space.
Mr. Curran described the master plan proposal in more detail. The overall form of the campus would change from its current condition—a large building surrounded by a sea of parking—to a more pedestrian-friendly character that responds to the urban setting. Large courtyard areas would be used to provide a transition among the buildings on the campus. Parking would be reconfigured into two large structures, accommodating the expanded program while freeing land for other construction and the creation of courtyards. The addition on the west side of the hospital would be four stories tall. The existing main entrance on the west would be relocated near the northwest corner of the hospital building; its location near one of the proposed parking structures would provide easy access and wayfinding for patients and visitors, while the southern parking structure would be used by staff. The eastern edge of the site would have residential uses, including an expanded Community Living Center along North Capitol Street, a replacement for the day-care center, and a transitional housing building; nearby would be the Fisher House lodging for patient families which was recently reviewed by the Commission. He also indicated the proposed outpatient center and its cafe which would be accessible to residents of the Fisher House and the transitional housing.
Mr. Curran explained that the configuration of buildings on the north would help to define Irving Street and responds to the proposed configuration of buildings along the Irving Street front of the Armed Forces Retirement Home; the uses in this area could include retail space. He also indicated the location of a bus stop area along First Street that would serve all of the hospitals in the complex, providing an improvement over the current bus routing; the design of this area could include a traffic circle or stoplight.
Mr. Curran summarized the proposed building heights, all of which would be below the existing penthouse height of the six-story main hospital. The hospital additions would be two to four stories. The parking structures would be approximately seven stories, possibly with two of those stories below grade; the low height of parking stories, compared to the fifteen-foot height of hospital stories, would result in the parking structures being significantly lower than the hospital. The Community Living Center would include an architectural feature to address the important corner of North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue; he clarified that the cylindrical feature depicted in the drawings is not intended to describe the specific form. Shared functions of this residential building could be located at this corner to take advantage of the views. Further north along North Capitol Street, an addition and re-cladding of the Community Living Center would provide a more appropriate backdrop for the shift in the street's alignment, terminating the axial view. A tower-like feature was considered at this location to mark the terminus strongly, but the proposal is instead for a curving form that would deflect the axis rather than receive it as a terminus.
Mr. Curran explained the proposed vehicular circulation. Two major entrance roads on the west would align with the driveways of the other hospitals across First Street. A parking structure would be adjacent to each entrance road; the existing parking structure would be demolished to accommodate other proposed expansions. Emergency traffic access would be separate, with the new emergency entrance located adjacent to First Street. Internal roads would provide additional access through the campus for drop-offs but relatively little traffic would circulate beyond the entrances and parking structures. The main loading dock would remain at the northeast side of the hospital; an existing unused entrance to this area from the cloverleaf interchange would be reopened to provide convenient access for deliveries. He noted the overall security requirement to maintain a minimum fifty-foot distance between vehicles and any building; guardhouses would be located at all entrances.
Mr. Curran presented the two major features of the proposed landscape: the perimeter landscaping zone, which would retain the existing perimeter trees along the east and south, and the two main courtyards toward the center of the campus. He added that a secure perimeter fence would replace the existing fence around the campus; he confirmed that the fence height would be eight feet.
Mr. Curran concluded by presenting a series of sections and perspective views of the proposal. He said that the appearance of the parking structures could be softened by stepping the shape or locating stairways to serve as screening elements. The new main entrance could be a high space with a modern appearance, including extensive glazing. He discussed the proposed phasing. The first phase with the Fisher House has already been reviewed. The second phase would include the transitional housing, an addition that would allow consolidation of the VAMC's scattered administrative facilities, and several additions to the hospital building. The third phase would include further additions, a central utility plant, and the parking structures. The final phase would include the remaining proposals and does not have a specific time horizon. He emphasized the critical timing of the new parking structures to allow for other construction on the site of the extensive surface parking areas.
Ms. Nelson asked about patient access to the courtyards. Mr. Curran responded that modern hospital design places a large emphasis on green space as a healing environment, and the courtyards would be accessible to patients and their families; the south courtyard would also be convenient to residents of the Community Living Center.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered a series of comments on the proposal. She questioned the proposal to "deflect" the North Capitol Street axis as the road bends, commenting that the building at this location will terminate the axial vista regardless of the intended design treatment. She said that the proposed additional height in this area would draw further attention to this location, which should be given more architectural recognition. She emphasized that the forms depicted in the master plan, even if not intended as descriptive, will likely have an influence on future designers. She said that the anticipated urbanization of the context, with a resulting increase in pedestrian activity around most of the campus periphery, should be recognized through accommodation of pedestrian access on all sides, rather than only from the one designated bus stop. She recommended that the proposed parking structures be placed behind "liner" buildings which could serve as security buffers rather than relying on an open-space buffer around the entire campus. She discouraged the tendency for the master plan to look inward to the campus of only this single institution, recommending further coordination of the master plan with the other hospitals in the complex, and commenting that the large combined employment suggests the potential for First Street to become a very effective and active retail street; this use could also generate income for the hospitals. Regarding the treatment of the landscape, she commented that the open-space proposals are relatively weak, particularly due to the established therapeutic value of gardens. She suggested that the administrative consolidation could provide opportunities for additional small courtyards and gardens that would permeate the campus, in contrast to the current proposal of courtyards that are distant from some building areas and have cars within them. Finally, she recommended that the new main entrance incorporate a large covered arrival area.
Mr. Curran responded that the more extensive network of gardens is already anticipated but is not yet specific enough to depict on the master plan; he offered the example of outdoor terraces adjacent to the Community Living Center.
Mr. Rybczynski agreed with Ms. Plater-Zyberk that courtyards would be an important feature for the campus, commenting that they would provide a structural setting for the very large hospital building. He suggested that the importance of the open space be reinforced as the draft master plan is refined, such as by reconfiguring the proposed buildings to avoid the situation of a parking garage providing one facade of a courtyard. He said that the courtyards should have the character of oases within the campus. He also recommended a more consistent attitude toward the buildings fronting First Street; Ms. Balmori agreed that a continuous facade would be desirable, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated the recommendation to treat it as a retail street.
Mr. Rybczynski supported the suggestion to give further consideration to the termination of the North Capitol Street axis. He recommended that the master plan's indication of a major feature should be placed at that location, due to the long views toward it, rather than at the corner of North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue.
Mr. Belle acknowledged the difficult design challenge of the master plan, involving the doubling in size of an urban hospital. He suggested that planning for the campus begin with close study of the existing main hospital building, resulting in organizing concepts for programming, the open space system, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation. He said that the two proposed courtyards are not successful in giving primary emphasis to pedestrian movement in the campus, and recommended that cars be eliminated from these areas, with reliance on smaller-scale jitneys if necessary. He supported the treatment of the North Capitol Street curve as part of the city fabric, rather than requiring the insertion of a strong visual feature to relate the site to the U.S. Capitol. He asked if topographic changes on the site could provide the opportunity for addressing circulation conflicts. Mr. Curran responded that most of the campus has a moderate slope with a total change of ten to twelve feet; the periphery also includes more significant topographic changes.
Ms. Balmori asked for further description of the intended character and use of the courtyards. Mr. Curran responded that the mobility limitations of many patients make it helpful to have vehicular access to facilities adjacent to the courtyards. The intention is to have only minor traffic levels through the courtyards, with the major vehicular circulation accommodated near First Street. He described the issue of building entrance locations in relation to the courtyards and vehicular access; the master plan proposes to group these functions so that portions of the courtyards would be free of vehicular traffic. He also explained that the Fisher House would generate only limited drop-off traffic, while its parking could be accommodated within the proposed parking structure; the nearby wellness center would have more extensive drop-off requirements, such as for patients requiring physical rehabilitation, but the traffic route could be refined in conjunction with careful placement of the entrance.
Ms. Balmori recommended that the circulation pattern be studied further to reduce the number of vehicular drop-off locations toward the interior of the campus. She emphasized the importance of providing adequate open space to relieve the typical confusion of jumbled building masses in a hospital complex, and reiterated that the open spaces should be free of vehicles. She also agreed that the courtyards would be enlivened by more careful consideration of the massing and uses of the facing buildings.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the creation of an additional driving lane that would parallel First Street. Mr. Curran explained that this would provide a direct route from the main entrance drop-off area to one of the parking structures. Ms. Balmori recommended that vehicles simply use the street for this connection, or that the driveway be more modest in character.
Ms. Nelson expressed concern about the eight-foot-tall fence proposed to surround the campus; she suggested that retail buildings provide this barrier to avoid the creation of a prison-like character. She commented that patients can sometimes feel trapped within hospitals, and the fence would worsen this sensation. Ms. Balmori added that retail areas would provide a better security perimeter than a fence; Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the proposed driveway along First Street could be placed immediately behind a narrow liner of retail buildings.
Chairman Powell suggested that the project team respond to the many ideas offered by the Commission in preparing the next submission of the master plan. He clarified that the current draft is submitted as a concept, and a further submission would be desirable to respond to the many questions raised; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Belle agreed that a subsequent review would be needed. Several Commission members acknowledged the complexity of the design problem.
Mr. Dunfee said that some of the Commission's concerns with vehicle circulation could be addressed, but the master plan necessarily strikes a balance between aesthetic considerations and the needs of an operational medical facility, including handicapped accessibility. Chairman Powell acknowledged the constraints but emphasized that some comments could be accommodated, and the many practical issues might not be entirely resolved.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that the submission does not yet provide the full level of guidance that should be given by a master plan, and the project team should therefore be open to further refinement of the proposal. She recommended that those concepts presented diagrammatically in the master plan be brought to the next level of detail. Mr. Dunfee asked if these details could be provided with the future proposals for the individual projects, while allowing the master plan to address the conceptual issues; Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission appears not to be in favor of approving the master plan's concepts. Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission is generally satisfied with the conceptual approach of the master plan; Ms. Plater-Zyberk disagreed, commenting that the submission is inadequate as a master plan because it does not provide accurate guidance to the architects of forthcoming projects. She asked for clarification of the Commission's role in reviewing a master plan. Mr. Luebke responded that the Commission's dissatisfaction with the plan's conceptual guidance, as shown by the extensive comments that were offered, could result in a decision not to take any action on the current submission.
Chairman Powell confirmed the Commission's concerns and the desirability of seeing the project team's revised submission in response to a written summary of the Commission comments. Mr. Luebke noted that the project schedule should accommodate a further submission because the master plan has not yet been reviewed by the National Capital Planning Commission. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 17/SEP/09-6, 11th Street Bridges over the Anacostia River. Replacement bridges. Concept. Mr. Simon introduced the proposal to replace the 11th Street pair of bridges and related interchanges. He noted that the bridge complex is a major feature along this wide portion of the Anacostia River, with proximity to the Washington Navy Yard and the National Park Service's Anacostia Park system. He also noted the unusual "design-build-to-budget" process being used for this project. He introduced Bart Clark, the program manager from the D.C. Department of Transportation, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Clark described the context of the site, located between the Sousa Bridge upstream at Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Douglass Bridge located downstream at South Capitol Street. He described the existing pair of bridges, with one span for northbound traffic and one for southbound, resulting in an interweaving combination of local and through-traffic; he presented illustrations of the neighborhood commercial area at the south end of one span.
Mr. Clark said that the new proposal would include a two-way span for local traffic and another bridge for freeway traffic, configured as two immediately adjacent one-way spans. The freeway bridge would connect to the Southeast Freeway on the north and the Anacostia Freeway on the south. The local bridge would extend from 11th and M Streets, SE on the north to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue on the south, with additional connections to the Anacostia Freeway; it would accommodate two lanes in each direction, with the outer lanes shared to be shared with a potential future streetcar system. He noted that the new complex will provide several direct connections that are currently lacking.
Mr. Clark said that a construction team has recently been selected through a process of design-build to a specific budget, following a competition among five large design-build teams that submitted competing plans for the amount of infrastructure that could be provided within the available budget; the winner, Skanska-Facchina, offered to provide the most infrastructure and proposed a viable plan for maintaining traffic on the existing bridges while the new spans are under construction.
Mr. Clark indicated the proposed the proposed intersection of the local bridge with O Street, SE, adjacent to one of the gates to the Washington Navy Yard; he noted that O Street does not currently connect to the bridge system, and the proposal will therefore improve access to the Navy Yard. He indicated several existing ramps that would remain in the new complex, resulting in no change in height at the interchange with the Southeast Freeway adjacent to the Capitol Hill neighborhood He introduced Rachel Lunceford of HNTB, a part of the program management team, to discuss the design.
Ms. Lunceford presented the landscape architecture proposal. She described the overall intention to use native vegetation and to re-introduce plantings that are appropriate to the Anacostia watershed. She emphasized the sustainable focus of the project, which will include bioretention and bioswale areas and additional low-impact development techniques. Areas of existing infrastructure to be abandoned will be converted to green space. Multi-modal aspects of the project include accommodation of bicyclists and pedestrians with a 16-foot-wide shared-use path on the local bridge with connections to the neighborhoods and path systems at each end. She said that the path may be separated to place pedestrians near the outer edge to enjoy the best views of the waterfront, with bicyclists toward the inside. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the transition between the separate bicycle-pedestrian path and at-grade crossings of streets; Ms. Lunceford said the transition locations are still under study and would be included in a subsequent submission. She noted unresolved issues such as the best configuration of pedestrian crosswalks at the complex intersection of 11th and M Streets.
Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the planting areas indicated on the plans. Ms. Lunceford responded that the more complex array of vegetation that was illustrated would be used around the bioretention areas; the remaining areas indicated in green would have native grasses, which she clarified as a bluegrass mix that is standard for roadway projects.
Ms. Lunceford discussed the provision for streetcars in the design, noting that the project is intended to last for 75 years. The outside lanes of the local bridge will have streetcar rails embedded into the structure, which could be put into use if the current plans for a streetcar system are implemented in the future. She said that the intention is not to preclude a streetcar system due to the design of the bridge, because retrofitting the rails after construction would be difficult. She emphasized that the current proposal does not include an operational streetcar system, and overhead streetcar catenaries are not part of this project.
Ms. Lunceford said that the selection of lighting fixtures would conform to the guidelines of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative; the tentative choices, still under evaluation, are Washington Globe, Twin-20, or teardrop fixtures. For example, she said that the teardrop fixtures provide good illumination for the streets but not for the sidewalks, so the best fixture type for each location will be studied further. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if support poles for overhead streetcar wires might be added later among the light fixtures; Ms. Lunceford responded that the light poles will be spaced so that they could later be converted to support an overhead catenary system, but is not part of this project. Mr. Clark added that D.C. transit officials are also studying streetcar propulsion systems that would not require overhead wires, and the choice of technology has not yet been determined. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed satisfaction that the design is already taking into consideration the potential need for a future overhead system; Ms. Lunceford confirmed the intention to avoid any need for multiple poles to serve multiple uses.
Ms. Lunceford presented a rendering of the proposed aesthetic lighting of the bridge span. Ms. Balmori asked for details of the lighting method; Mr. Clark and Ms. Lunceford said that it has not yet been designed, and confirmed that it would be shown in more detail in a subsequent submission. She said that the railing system is still under consideration; tall barriers would have the advantage of preventing debris from being thrown, which is of particular concern along a pedestrian path. Ms. Balmori asked for illustrations of the railing options under consideration; Ms. Lunceford responded that none are available as part of the current presentation. Mr. Clark said that one of the options is a low tubular railing this is used in Rock Creek Park, which was suggested by a bicyclists group; he described this solution as a low-level barrier rather than a fence. He noted additional issues such as snow removal and maintenance requirements. Ms. Balmori commented that a continuous railing along the street makes the system excessively rigid.
Mr. Belle asked about drainage of rainwater along the bridge. Mr. Clark responded that rainwater would not drain directly into the river but would be conveyed to shore and into the stormwater treatment system; he confirmed that this issue would be addressed as part of the current project. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the appearance of the rainwater collection infrastructure; Mr. Clark responded that the road would have standard catch basins, leading to a pipe that would be hidden behind the girders underneath the bridge, connecting at the bridge abutments to water treatment facilities that are currently being designed. He said that this proposal is currently under review by the D.C. Department of the Environment.
Ms. Lunceford described the treatment of the bridge faces, with poured concrete using ashlar form liners to create the appearance of a stone facade. The bridge railings would be a bare metal. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the appearance of the railing shown in the presentation; Ms. Lunceford said that the illustration shows only one of the options under consideration, and acknowledged the need to obtain the Commission's guidance on the full range of railings being considered. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the railing along the roadway would extend beyond the ends of the bridge; Ms. Lunceford responded that the preference would be to continue it from stoplight to stoplight at each end, but not beyond into the local street system.
Ms. Lunceford presented several perspective renderings to show the proposed bridge configuration in comparison to the existing infrastructure. She emphasized that the new complex will not be taller than the existing on the north side of the river, but due to the proposed use of retaining walls beneath some infrastructure, the new complex will block some views that are currently open. On the south side of the complex, ramps will be fourteen feet higher than the existing configuration due to the provision of additional ramp connections that do not currently exist; she noted that this new maximum height is nonetheless ten to twelve feet lower than anticipated in the environmental review process due to further refinement of girder depths.
Ms. Balmori offered several comments on the details of the project, while acknowledging its current status as a concept design. She questioned the proposal for extensive areas of lawns, due to their maintenance requirements and the lack of variety in the planting; she recommended a richer, more varied mix of vegetation that would not require as much care. She observed that this is a modern bridge and criticized the effort to give it the appearance of a traditional bridge by using ashlar-patterned facing and historicist light fixture designs. She suggested that the design instead express pride in the bridge's modernity, and recommended that all elements, such as railings and lighting, be studied further and given a modern treatment. She also questioned the proposal for large retaining walls, particularly as illustrated in the view from Virginia Avenue; she said that the existing-conditions image appears preferable because the visual continuity is not blocked. She clarified that the ramp configuration could remain as proposed, but the wall beneath it should be eliminated, which could result in cost savings.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the lighting fixtures were chosen to conform to area-wide guidelines. Ms. Balmori commented that such guidelines could allow a range of fixture choices; Mr. Luebke and Ms. Lunceford confirmed that the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative standards do allow for a range of streetlight selections. Mr. Luebke noted that the range includes modern-style fixtures that have previously been reviewed by the Commission; Ms. Balmori recalled the past review. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that the lights, railings, and other furnishings should be related; as an example, she asked about any opportunity to provide benches along the pedestrian path. Mr. Clark responded that one possibility, subject to coordination with the Coast Guard, is to leave portions of the supporting piers of one of the existing spans, after removal of that bridge, and to provide pedestrian walkways to those piers which would provide resting and viewing areas. Several Commission members expressed enthusiasm for this proposal.
Ms. Nelson commented that simulated stone-textured wall surfaces are never successful in having the appearance of natural stone, and agreed that it would be best to eliminate this design detail. Mr. Clark said that an example of such a wall is along the Southeast Freeway near 6th and 8th Streets.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the future process for the Commission's review of this design-build project. Ms. Lunceford confirmed that a subsequent presentation would include the more detailed proposal of the design-build firm. Several Commission members requested that such details include materials, railings, and lights.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus. He made a motion, seconded by Mr. Rybczynski, to approve the concept with a range of comments to be addressed in a subsequent submission; the Commission adopted the motion.
Mr. Powell asked about the timeframe for the project. Ms. Lunceford and Mr. Clark responded that the construction time will be four years, and the design schedule includes an anticipated further submission to the Commission in November or December.
G. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 17/SEP/09-7, Washington Canal Park. 2nd Street between I and M Streets, SE. New park design. New concept. (Previous: CFA 19/OCT/06-4.) Mr. Lindstrom said that this new concept design for Washington Canal Park supersedes the previous design by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd., which has been set aside due to concerns of cost and practicality. He introduced landscape architect David Rubin of OLIN to present the new concept.
After acknowledging the contributions of partners and members of the design team, Mr. Rubin described the proposal in detail. He provided an overview of the site and its context, indicating the location between M and I Streets, SE, in the vicinity of the new Nationals baseball stadium and the Anacostia River. He said that the three-block site—recently a school bus parking area—is now an empty linear grass plot that is oriented north-south, with extensive southern exposure and some shading from neighboring buildings in late afternoon and early morning.
Mr. Rubin said that the design team was asked to achieve several goals in the park design: an open space that would encourage economic development in the neighborhood; an energy-efficient landscape that would handle stormwater; a park that could adapt to the changing neighborhood conditions; and amenities such as a cafe, a fountain, and an ice rink. He said a linear "rain garden" proposed along one edge of the park would handle stormwater while also recalling the historic canal that ran through the site, and that the park would provide space for a variety of active and passive recreational activities. A series of pavilions across the blocks would provide another unifying theme to the design.
Mr. Rubin described the proposed treatment of each of the three blocks in the park. The northernmost block would be a quiet place for relaxation. He noted the goal of providing flexible seating and indicated the small box-like pavilion that would house a chair-rental concession, similar to the concept that OLIN used at Bryant Park in New York City. He described the misting feature that will be located behind the pavilion, one of a series of water features in the park. Ms. Nelson asked whether the misting feature would be provided in other locations; Mr. Rubin responded that it is limited to this location adjacent to the rain garden which would receive the mist water. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the varied paving indications on the plan; Mr. Rubin said the tentative design for the surface includes pre-cast concrete pavers and stone fines—a granular material used in French parks—beneath the bosque of trees. He said the large lawn will accommodate a variety of activities, such as audiences of various sizes for movies or concerts. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the backdrop for these activities; Mr. Rubin confirmed that it would not be permanent.
Ms. Balmori asked for further details about the pavilion. Mr. Rubin said that it will have a front that flips open to expose a counter for chair rentals. The exterior will be made of a material that would glow at night when the pavilion is closed; it is envisioned that the cube will glow green, and the color will be more intense when there are more people in the park and more subtle when there are fewer, to reinforce the notion that this is the park's contemplative section. Ms. Nelson asked if the chair rental system works well in Bryant Park; Mr. Rubin said it does not, and that the rentals in this park would require a deposit. Mr. Rubin said the hope is that this park would not shut down at night, as Bryant Park does.
Mr. Rubin said that the second of the three blocks will provide a transition into the more urban condition toward the south. He said the program requires the accommodation of families with young children. Wanting to avoid the use of typical playground features, he said the proposal includes a feature from a design by OLIN for Wagner Park in New York where, unexpectedly, a bench encircling a lawn encouraged families to bring their young children to play on the grass in the contained area. He said that at Washington Canal Park, a pavilion will provide storage for a toy bin that can be wheeled over to a lawn that will be surrounded on three sides by a broad bench that will act as a partial enclosure. Ms. Balmori observed that the design does not, in fact, show a bench around the lawn; Mr. Rubin clarified that the bench location would be slightly removed from the lawn.
Mr. Belle asked about the blue rectangles shown on the plan; Mr. Rubin responded that they represent areas of water, and explained how water would flow through the park. He said the second block would have a raised, shallow pool; water would flow from this pool beneath the second pavilion and then cascade down a grade change, where the water would be captured along that edge. He said the idea was to recall the historic canal locks. He said the park would be slightly depressed below the level of the sidewalk and the water would be raised to a height of eighteen inches, although for safety the pool would be only six inches deep. Mr. Belle and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the toy-storage pavilion in the second block would not be placed next to the play lawn, or the lawn placed near the pavilion. Mr. Rubin said the concept is that the pavilions would recall historic canal barges and so would be placed along the water feature, and would begin to rise higher as the park moves south; he added that the site will also slope slightly toward that edge to collect stormwater. He explained that the second pavilion will be used to house the equipment for the fountain in the south block as well as to store toys, and it would be better to have both functions in one structure and to keep the fountain equipment close to the fountain in the south block. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Balmori asked why the lawn is not closer to the pavilion; Mr. Rubin said the intention is to separate program elements throughout the park and create a system of formal geometries. He described the pavilion further: it will glow a different color than the first, and it will have stairs on the park side, a ramp on the street side, and a balcony extending over the water.
Mr. Rubin said that the third block, to the south, will have a larger pavilion rising from the rainwater garden that will create a "signature fountain" close to M Street, where it will be visible to people approaching from the subway. He said that the pavilion would house a cafe, and there would probably be some sort of shading structure that can be extended over the large plaza. He added that the design team is exploring how to create a broad shade without excessively large support stanchions.
Mr. Rubin said that this south block would have a linear skating rink in winter, recalling conditions in such historic canal cities as Amsterdam. There would be a broad expanse for open skating, then an area where people can skate in loops around seasonal planting features. The skating area would be created seasonally on the location of the fountain, which would not have a basin. Ms. Balmori observed that the trees shown in the plan are not permanent trees; Mr. Rubin responded that they would be balled and burlapped trees that would be brought in temporarily and afterwards planted elsewhere in the Washington area. He presented a diagram comparing the size of the proposed skating rink with others such as the rink at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. He said the pavilion would house a stall for skate rental; stairs leading to the roof would also serve as bleachers. He said the goal is to make the pavilion as transparent as possible.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the rooftop cube on the south block. Mr. Rubin said that it could be illuminated in four different ways: it would glow, allowing people to see everyone inside it; only the structure could be illuminated; it could be lit to reinforce the flat surface; or lit to define the edges. Ms. Nelson observed that it would be a light box that would serve as a sign; Mr. Rubin said it would provide a symbol for the park itself, and it would attract people and identify the park. Ms. Nelson asked how far the shade structures would extend. Mr. Rubin responded that the design team is exploring extending the shading from two different sides of the building; one side would provide a low elevation and the other a high elevation that would shade both the roof and cafe and would require larger support elements. He said the goal is to find a happy medium between the extent of the shade and the size of the supports; one option under consideration is just to use umbrellas. Ms. Balmori emphasized the great need for shade in Washington.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the function of the ramp and the sloping roof at the south pavilion. Mr. Rubin said these will reinforce the expression of the structures as they rise, and will accommodate the structure's green roof and rain garden. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if it would also serve as a viewing platform and, if so, why it is sloping; Mr. Rubin responded the design team is still deciding whether the roof should be sloping or level. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed concern about unsupervised play on the roof, such as skateboarding; Ms. Nelson added that the surface might become slippery when wet. Mr. Rubin said the roof would be a viewing platform for people to look out over the most active area of the park.
Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle asked how seating would be arranged around the fountain. Mr. Rubin said benches would define the edge of the skating paths and there would also be benches beneath trees and seating at the cafe. Ms. Nelson commented on the importance of providing shade for parents watching children.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that the plan shows two trees which do not appear in the perspective rendering; Mr. Rubin said that some artistic license was taken in preparing the perspectives. Ms. Nelson said the sign that gives the name of the park appears difficult to read; Mr. Rubin explained that the depicted sign is just a placeholder, the design is still being developed, and a wayfinding consultant will be involved. Mr. Belle commented that a great attraction of this space is its openness, and he advised against filling it with too many trees, umbrellas, or other elements.
Ms. Balmori said that the plan is convincing but questioned the three-dimensional appearance of the rain garden area with the box-like pavilions, commenting that it appears to be an awkward mix of structures, shapes, and materials. Mr. Rubin said that the rendering is an early conceptual drawing, and one structure shown at the end of the park would probably not be built; there may only be an elevator at that location, a required element that would be much less prominent.
Mr. Rubin described the rain garden in more detail, including its relation to the historic canal system. He noted the Commission's several reviews of OLIN's design for the Potomac Park Levee at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, and the planned use of stone in that project; he said the intention is to use the same stone in the Washington Canal Park to tie the two projects together since both refer to the same historic canal. Mr. Rubin presented a mid-19th-century photograph showing the Washington canal in front of the Capitol becoming filled with sediment. He said the canal's history inspired the design team to think of the rain garden as embodying different conditions: it will have more open water to the south, near the Anacostia River, and it will gradually change to a forest condition at the north. He said the rain garden will be a feature that people can step into and experience, a "ribbon" connecting the three blocks. Ms. Nelson asked about the width of the water panels; Mr. Rubin said the width would be sixteen feet. He acknowledged that the concept drawing does not fully illustrate the water proposal; the intention is that the garden will move from open water to edge conditions, with the type of plants varying in relation to the water conditions.
Ms. Balmori asked about the slope of the site. Mr. Rubin said the overall slope along the length of the park is minor, although in the northern block there is a more significant topographic change that will be used in shaping the lawn area. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the park would be below street level; Mr. Rubin said it would be at street level only on one edge, and would slope down from that level. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori asked about maintenance. Mr. Rubin responded that maintenance would be provided by the Canal Park Development Association and the local Business Improvement District; the design goal is that the plantings would require maintenance only once or twice per year.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about the various lawns and the dual row of trees on the west. Mr. Rubin said the intention is to create a herbaceous and woody border in which benches will be placed, providing a quieter and more contemplative condition along that edge while trying to keep some lawn to provide flexibility of use, with the overall goal of having different conditions to accommodate different types of visitors. Ms. Plater-Zyberk reiterated the benefit of moving the play lawn closer to the toy storage; Mr. Rubin said that this could be done, but added that a conflicting intention is to place the pavilion at some distance from the lawn to allow appreciation of the pavilion's setting on a plane of water and to separate the experiences of the pavilion and the lawn.
Ms. Nelson asked about traffic on K and L Streets that separate the park's three blocks. Mr. Rubin responded that the streets could remain open to vehicles, possibly using bollards and a speed table to protect pedestrians and slow traffic; temporary closures could be implemented for special events, or the streets could be permanently closed to traffic. He said that these options are being discussed with the D.C. Department of Transportation.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk described the design as "a beautiful production." She commented on the beautiful materials that are proposed but said that the use of pavers could be problematic; she said that scored concrete or a more ordinary pavement would not detract from the design. Mr. Rubin said the mechanics of the skating rink require two scoring patterns—a more refined grid of pre-cast pavers and another, larger, four-foot grid of a cast concrete to encase the refrigerant system for the skating rink.
Several Commission members expressed their enthusiastic support for the plan. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept.
H. District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation
CFA 17/SEP/09-8, Francis Field, 1200 Block of 25th Street, NW. Master Plan for renovation and improvements and Phase I implementation. Final. (Previous: CFA 22/JAN/09-4.)
I. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 17/SEP/09-9, Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, 3160 16th Street, NW. Addition and renovation. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JUL/09-9.)
The Commission acted on agenda items II.H and II.I (along with II.K.2) earlier in the meeting without presentations, following item II.A. The Commission continued with agenda item II.J.
J. District of Columbia Public Schools
CFA 17/SEP/09-10, Howard D. Woodson Senior High School, 5500 Eads Street, NE. Replacement building. New concept. (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/08-5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the submission of a new concept design for the Howard D. Woodson Senior High School. He noted that the D.C. Public Schools has abandoned a previous concept that was reviewed by the Commission in 2008, and the original building—an eight-story concrete structure dating from 1972—has recently been demolished. He introduced project architect Bill Spack of Cox Graae + Spack to present the proposal.
Mr. Spack said the project team has been directed to focus on developing a clearly organized, compact, and simple plan that would separate community functions—including a pool and an auditorium—from the academic area of the school. He said the school will have a specialized curriculum called "STEM"— Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—that will be reflected in the plan of the building. He said the school's primary frontage is on 55th Street, which runs north-south and is lined with a mix of one-, two-, and three-story residential structures. He indicated Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue on the north, a small commercial district to the west, and a portion of Marvin Gaye Park extending along the south.
Mr. Spack presented the proposed site plan, indicating the school's organization around a strong central axis; the entrance and a pedestrian entrance plaza will be at the center of the 55th Street facade. He said that a key feature of the plan is a clearly defined and visible single entrance, a feature that will also help security as well as design clarity. Mr. Spack said that the building will be raised about four feet above the plaza, which will be defined by ramps and wing walls along its perimeter. The main parking lot would be located to the north, between 55th Street and the access to athletic facilities in the rear. In addition, he indicated a small parking lot to the south near the auditorium. He indicated the proposed walk or promenade along the rear of the building, separating the building from the athletic area.
Mr. Spack discussed the security features which would be integrated into the design. An eight-foot-high wrought-iron fence will surround most of the site; the building itself will function as a barrier in the front. Ms. Nelson asked if the fence would protect the parking lot; Mr. Spack said it would not. He indicated that the fence would be pulled away from the southwest corner of the site to create a larger community green space that will effectively be part of Marvin Gaye Park. He noted that EDAW is the landscape architecture firm for both the Woodson High School project and for Marvin Gaye Park and that EDAW would coordinate work on lighting and other elements between the two projects. Ms. Nelson asked if students could drive to school and park in the lot; Mr. Spack said this would be allowed, but that most students would use public transportation.
Mr. Spack described the general organization of the building, which is developed along an east-west axis. Several major volumes, such as the basketball court and the pool, are pushed down below the main entrance level; this would allow the main level to be devoted to administration and oversight. The pool and an auxiliary gym would be located in the north wing, and the auditorium would occupy the south wing; he said that this arrangement—a main school block flanked by wings that contain facilities used by the community—will allow access to the school to be closed during after-hours community use.
Mr. Spack discussed how the academic floors would accommodate the STEM curriculum, which organizes classrooms into groupings. Each cluster of classrooms would be placed around the perimeter of an open space that could be shared by the different classrooms, enabling groups of varying sizes to work in collaboration. He indicated the central vertical stairwell with a skylight will connect all four levels of the school, bringing natural light into the core of the building and all the academic spaces; this was a key to achieving a more compact plan. He said the stair would be suspended from above, and it may be lined with transparent, slightly canted scrims that could reflect imagery suggesting the curriculum or the history of the school and the community. The building facades would have a brick base with larger, lighter-colored blocks above, and the fenestration would be a combination of punched windows and curtain walls. He said the project is being designed to achieve LEED gold certification.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the secondary entrances. Mr. Spack explained that there would be two secondary entrances leading to areas available for community use: the entrance on the right leading to the pool, and that on the left leading to the auditorium. He said that the only entrance during school hours would be through the central front door. Ms. Balmori asked why the proposed stairs leading to the theater entrance would be divided by a planter, instead suggesting plantings at the side and a central stair leading to the entrance. Mr. Spack agreed to study this feature further.
Ms. Balmori asked why the site design appears to include a large amount of lawn area. Mr. Spack said this is still a concept design and, while the green areas on the plan represent landscaping, there is not yet a planting plan. He added that the building's green roofs would be planted with succulents and the athletic field would have artificial turf.
Mr. Spack described the rear elevation which includes the service area for the kitchen and the rear wall of the stage; he said there would be a screen wall in front of the loading area that would probably be treated as a green wall. Mr. Belle asked if the rear elevation is designed with a greater area of darker brick than the front; Mr. Spack responded that the darker brick would form the base and then would rise up the stair towers on either side of the main entrance, while the bays directly around the entrance would be primarily glass. Around the remainder of the building, the brick base would form a datum line; he noted that the site slopes down to the rear, resulting in a larger expanse of dark brick. Mr. Belle commented that the composition of the rear elevation breaks down the building's mass more successfully than at the front facade.
Mr. Spack said the elevations would be organized and balanced without being rigidly symmetrical, with a strong central entrance and two towers flanking the center bay; the secondary entrances to either side would have local symmetry. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for further information about the columns at the main entrance. Mr. Spack said these metal supports for the wing-like canopy would be slanted. He added that the media center and academic space would be located above the entrance, and all would be sheathed in glass. He said that two bays of the canopy would be cantilevered over the face of the building.
Mr. Powell commented that the concept has been well thought through. Mr. Rybczynski said that the presentation has convinced him that the planning is well developed and he expressed particular support for the proposed separate entrances. He agreed with Mr. Belle that the rear elevation appears more successful than the front elevation, which he characterized as inappropriately monumental and overly complicated, in contrast to the low-key vocabulary of the rest of the building. He said that the main entrance area resembles a convention center more than a high school; Ms. Balmori agreed that the front looks "corporate." Ms. Nelson added that the flat roof and smaller scale of other elements were more inviting.
Mr. Spack said that one of the challenges facing a structure with a large footprint is how to emphasize the entrance for clarity and security. He said that while the proposal is traditional in its planning and largely symmetrical, it is also trying to reflect the emphasis of the curriculum on science and technology. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said she likes supports the grand scale of the entrance where, compared to a typical high school, students might be proud to arrive and would feel a sense of elevation. She discouraged the proposal to use sloping elements because they would likely soon appear dated. She agreed with Ms. Balmori that a direct central stair to the auditorium wing would help clarify this entrance sequence, commenting that the ramps are handled well. Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered overall support and praise for the concept; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Belle said it might be the day's best example of appropriate simplicity in design.
Chairman Powell agreed that the concept is good but reiterated the consensus that the designers should consider the comments about the entrance and the front elevation. Ms. Balmori emphasized the need to avoid using too many grass panels in the landscaping. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept and encouraged its further development in accordance with the comments provided.
K. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
1. SL 09-106, United Unions Building, 1750 New York Avenue, NW. Additions and alterations. Concept. Ms. Batcheler said that the submission is the first review of proposed additions and alterations to an office building adjacent to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She introduced the project architect, Anik Jhaveri of Mancini Duffy Architects.
Mr. Jhaveri described the existing United Unions building, a resolved, self-contained modernist building from the 1970s. He indicated its relation to the surrounding streets—New York Avenue, E Street, and 18th Street—and to nearby buildings, which include the American Institute of Architects headquarters, the Octagon House, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. He said that one problem to be addressed is that people have difficulty identifying the United Union Building's entrance, located on the north side of the building toward New York Avenue. He said that another design goal is to find a way to enliven the street; for example, since there are no restaurants nearby, the proposal is intended to accommodate the addition of a restaurant. He said a major problem is that the building is raised on a plinth and encircled by an uninviting arcade; the courtyard on the west side of the building, overlooking Rawlins Park, is not often used. He pointed out the significant change in grade as the site slopes down from New York Avenue on the north to E Street on the south.
Ms. Nelson asked about the street pattern in relation to the building entrance; Mr. Jhaveri confirmed that the entrance would not be readily apparent from the directions in which most people would be driving, and the perspective view being presented would typically be seen only by pedestrians. He added that drivers can see the entrance from an angle when driving on New York Avenue. Ms. Nelson concluded that part of the visibility problem is the one-way street pattern. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the orientation of the entrance canopy; Mr. Jhaveri responded that the entrance is on the building's north side, which will not change.
Mr. Jhaveri described the series of proposed additions, which he characterized as pavilions or follies. He said there would be a series of bermed ramps and landscaping near the entrance that will connect the sidewalk and arcade levels; several benches for waiting; a restaurant entrance; a glass canopy on the east façade; a landscaped form; and perhaps two pieces of sculpture. He said the intention is to keep the building as a distinct form in contrast to the additions which would be lighter, more playful forms. He said the metal cladding of the additions would also represent and express the work of the ironworkers union, which is one of the organizations in the building.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the proposed metal. Mr. Jhaveri confirmed that it would be pre-weathered steel, using a new version of Cor-Ten steel which is pre-weathered in the shop and coated to prevent further weathering so that it would not stain like typical Cor-Ten. Mr. Belle asked if this material would be appropriate to illustrate the craftsmanship of the unions; Mr. Jhaveri introduced Robert George, representing the United Unions, to respond. Mr. George said that two of the three primary owners of the United Unions are the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers and the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association. He said the work of these unions is hidden within buildings, and these ornamental additions to the headquarters provide an opportunity to make a visible statement for their trade.
Ms. Nelson asked for more information about the berm that would be sided with teak. Mr. George said that the form responds to the location of Pepco vaults at the front and side of the building. Mr. Jhaveri said that SunTrust Bank has occupied space on the arcade level since the 1970s but has no street presence. He said that the proposed playful berming, leading up and down and engaging the arcades, is intended to help unite the sidewalk and arcade levels. Ms. Nelson asked if the bank has a sign; Mr. Jhaveri responded that it does, but the intention is to make it more prominent. He added that there is a sign for the building itself on the existing canopy, and the proposal is to move it against the building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the Commission had seen a similar situation that morning with the Federal Reserve Board's Martin Building, a typical Washington situation illustrating the difficulty of adding to a completely resolved design. She commented that Mr. Jhaveri's proposal appears to derive from the work of Le Corbusier, who had actually designed buildings that are backgrounds for more muscular forms in front, such as the Cite Universitaire. She suggested that the proposal be revised to include fewer but larger metal additions; Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said such an element at the entrance and perhaps marking the cafe would be more powerful and less fussy than the multiple additions that are currently proposed. Ms. Nelson agreed and said the design seems to have many little pieces.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the design would improve if the additions could be read differently, such as the entrance to the building or the entrance to the restaurant space, giving clear signals about what they mean. She observed that there is now a lot of landscaping in front of the retail areas that acts as a buffer to discourage people from going behind, when in fact there is something behind it. She said the replacement for the landscaping should not similarly hide what is intended to be exposed, and suggested extending the paving up to that corner of the building so that people might see the bank more clearly. She recommended that the two metal pieces become functional elements that could complement the building form—not just decorative but the two main elements of the project. Mr. Jhaveri said that restaurateurs who had visited the building said that a feature is needed on that corner, and one element is therefore shown as larger and broader. Mr. Powell agreed that the added elements should be larger and supported Ms. Plater-Zyberk's comments.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said the restaurant entrance addition could be something more complex that actually generates the canopy for the restaurant, rather than treating the entrance and canopy ars two different pieces; she observed that the current proposal is a lot of little pieces. Mr. Powell suggested placing a major sculpture, such as a work by Richard Serra, in front of the building, and asked about the proposal for the lower E Street sidewalk level as well. Mr. Jhaveri presented the other options that have been developed for additional sculptural pieces. He said the Commission members were correct in observing that the project had been designed as a series of events, explaining that the goal was not to conflict with or reduce the monumentality of the building, but to make small interventions that would play against the building—trying to contrast the little against the big, the playful against the formality of the architecture. Mr. Powell said he that the proposal achieves this goal, but that Ms. Plater-Zyberk was suggesting a medium-sized intervention rather than the proposed intention to create small features instead of large ones.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the project is not convincing. He said the United Unions building is a modest modern building that was described in the presentation as "not noticeable." He likened the design approach—attracting attention by putting many things along the street—to shouting, and said that the result is irritating. He suggested that the new features simply be sculptures; he supported the idea of using steel and acknowledged that this would relate to the building's occupant. But he said that adding odd shapes is not appropriate in cities, and that it does not improve the street. He supported the overall intention to add a restaurant.
Mr. Jhaveri presented a view of the building and site illustrating all of the proposed pieces, including a taller form to draw the eye of people approaching the elevated plaza from the south. Mr. Belle observed the substantial rise from the E Street sidewalk to the plaza; Mr. Jhaveri said the grade difference is approximately seven feet. Ms. Nelson suggested adding some kind of steel artwork at pedestrian level along the retaining wall facing the E Street sidewalk, possibly connecting to steel benches. She commented that the folded vertical elements resemble origami and are too small for the size of this "hulking" building.
Mr. Powell asked about the intention for the large freestanding sculpture. Mr. Jhaveri said it was unclear if the client could afford a work by Richard Serra; Mr. Powell said that other artists, such as Mark di Suvero and Ellsworth Kelly, also work in steel and could be considered for a sculpture that would satisfy the design goals and give a very sophisticated expression to the plaza. He suggested that a sculpture might be obtained as a loan and said that this site would be a great location for such an installation; he mentioned how the David Smith sculpture that used to stand in front of the Cafritz Building on Connecticut Avenue acted as a visual destination in itself. Mr. Jhaveri noted there is a small Cor-Ten steel sculpture of folded planes at the corner of 18th Street and Constitution Avenue, but that it is almost unnoticeable. Ms. Balmori said that the sculptor Beverly Pepper had done similar site designs using land forms; Mr. Rybczynski noted Saarinen's John Deere Headquarters, which makes beautiful use of Cor-Ten steel.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the proposal might be more convincing in conjunction with an actual restaurant design, but the current speculative elements appear to be thrown around as decoration. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended focusing the proposal on the restaurant, and Mr. Rybczynski said that such a proposal could make use of heavy I-beams. He acknowledged that we might criticize this building and that it is not great monumental architecture, but he described it as "real architecture," commenting that the new proposal should strive for this standard but has not achieved it.
Mr. Luebke noted that the design includes glass canopies to extend the potential restaurant's space into the plaza, making use of zoning regulations that would not treat this area as usable space. Mr. Jhaveri confirmed this and said that the D.C. Office of Planning is supporting a text amendment to accommodate this proposed use. He said that the area under the proposed glass canopy would provide outdoor dining space that would accommodate approximately one-third of the restaurant's capacity of 160 to 180 diners. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that she does not like the glass. Mr. Belle asked if the proposal includes a steel canopy; Mr. Jhaveri responded that the canopy would be a combination of steel and glass, with faceted surfaces and an inner layer on the glass to provide sun protection from the western exposure, such as PVB; the result would be a glow, rather than direct sunlight, in the restaurant space.
Mr. Belle said that the project requires choosing among too many options, commenting that there is no apparent relationship between the steel-and-glass canopy and the Cor-Ten steel elements; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that the proposal could be more integrated. Mr. Belle said that while it is admirable that the proposal is intended to illustrate the work of the union members, the design actually diminishes their work by confusing the vocabulary of the materials and shapes.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk observed that there seemed to be agreement among the Commission members; Chairman Powell said that the Commission has been providing good direction that should be clarified and asked Ms. Plater-Zyberk to frame a motion. Ms. Plater-Zyberk summarized that the Commission members have provided suggestions for how the design could proceed, that they support the use of steel to celebrate the work of the unions, but that the elements could be more integrated in contrast to the architecture of the existing building. She added that she thought it was a good suggestion that anything freestanding and unrelated to the building should be considered a piece of sculpture, and that arranging for the loan of a sculpture should be encouraged. Mr. Powell added that he could provide further advice about this, adding that this site would be an excellent opportunity for sculpture display. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had also provided comments about making fewer but bolder moves which could be concentrated at the building and retail entrances, and not having so many disparate elements spread across the space. He asked whether the Commission wants to approve the concept or request a revised concept submission; Chairman Powell said that the Commission should have the opportunity for an additional review of a revision to the concept design.
Mr. Belle asked if a restaurant tenant has been identified; Mr. Jhaveri said there is not yet a specific tenant, but the three restaurateurs that are considering the location have said that they want a special feature at the plaza, and as a result the designers increased the size of the proposed canopy and made the entrance "a little more muscular," striking a balance between retail needs and overall design goals. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Mr. Powell said the proposed design could be go even farther. Mr. Jhaveri noted that signage would be another design consideration but the location has not yet been identified.
Mr. Luebke offered a summary of the motion that would include approving the basic direction of the design but requesting revisions. Mr. Rybczynski said he was unsure of the intention of the motion because he does not approve of the proposed concept; for example, he said the big Cor-Ten element was not a good concept, while the restaurant concept is promising. Mr. Luebke clarified the apparent consensus that there is not agreement to approve the concept, and to request a revised concept submission. Chairman Powell agreed with this summary of the Commission's direction.
Mr. Luebke added that the site is particularly significant because it is an anchor for the sequence of public park spaces extending west along E Street. Mr. Rybczynski also noted the importance of the Octagon House across New York Avenue, as well as the Corcoran Gallery on the eastern portion of the block.
2. SL 09-103, Hay-Adams Hotel, 800 16th Street, NW. New rooftop enclosure. Revised Concept. (Previous: SL 07-050.)
The Commission acted on agenda items II.K.2 (along with II.H and II.I) earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following item II.A.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 3:37 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: October 26, 2009