Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
15 April 2010
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 10:07 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Belle. 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: 20 May, 17 June, and 15 July.
C. An update on the events planned for 19 May 2010 to commemorate the centennial of the establishment of the Commission of Fine Arts in 1910. Mr. Luebke provided additional details of the events scheduled for 19 May in conjunction with the National Building Museum: a day-long symposium with six speakers discussing themes from the Commission's history; and the annual Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture—honoring the Commission's long-time Secretary—to be given at mid-day by architect Daniel Libeskind. He added that the National Building Museum will also host a small exhibit titled "A Century of Design: The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 1910 to 2010."
Mr. Luebke reported that 2010 is also the centennial of the law that limits building heights in Washington, and the Commission is joining with the National Capital Planning Commission to sponsor a public program on May 18, titled "Density and the Form of the City in the 21st Century: The Centennial of the 1910 Height Act." The speaker will be Larry Beasley, former planning director of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Mr. Luebke reported the Commission's site inspections earlier in the morning at the location of the proposed National Museum of African American History and Culture to view the site and context, and at the Jefferson Memorial grounds to view a mockup of alternative alignments for the perimeter security barrier. He noted that both projects are on the agenda for presentation later in the meeting (agenda items II.B and II.C). Chairman Powell recommended deferring further discussion of the site inspections until consideration of these agenda items.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The recommendation for case number SL 10-051 was changed to favorable based on changes to the location of the proposed antennas. The recommendations for two cases involving signs—SL 10-066 and SL 10-068—have been changed to favorable based on the receipt of supplemental materials. Three projects have been withdrawn to allow additional time to resolve outstanding design issues. There were also minor changes such as adjustments to dates. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Case number OG 10-048 concerning a proposed antenna installation was added with a negative recommendation; the applicant did not submit the anticipated request to withdraw the project, and a timely action is therefore necessary. The staff has made minor changes for other recommendations including updates in response to supplemental information; further information is still anticipated for one project—case number OG 10-113, a bakery at 1078 Wisconsin Avenue—and he suggested that the Commission authorize the staff to finalize this action when the supplemental information is received. Mr. Luebke noted that this case involves the discovery of unanticipated subterranean structural conditions affecting an area that will be difficult to see from public space. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix including authorization for the staff to finalize the recommendation for case number OG 10-113.
Chairman Powell departed the meeting toward the end of the discussion of the next agenda item, and Vice-Chairman Nelson presided for the remainder of the meeting.
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 15/APR/10-1, National Museum of African American History and Culture. Project progress update—Four alternative schemes. Information presentation. (Previous: CFA 19/NOV/09-1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the presentation on the progress of the design for the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on the block bounded by Constitution Avenue, 15th Street, Madison Drive, and 14th Street. He noted the previous presentation in November 2009 by the competition-winning design team of Freelon Adjaye Bond in association with the SmithGroup and landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd.; the team would now present the alternative designs that have been developed pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. He said that the alternatives explore different configurations and massing while retaining the basic design elements of the corona and porch as well as the color and material. Mr. Luebke asked Harry Rombach, representing the Smithsonian Institution, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Rombach reported that the project has been developed through ongoing consultation with the staffs of local and federal review agencies including the Commission in addition to the National Park Service, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and many public groups. He said that the environmental process will result in a draft environmental impact statement, anticipated for release in the summer of 2010; and the historic preservation process will result in a memorandum of agreement anticipated for the fall. He described the current study of several alternatives that will lead to the selection of a preferred alternative, which the Smithsonian hopes to bring to the Commission for approval as a concept design in June 2010. He said that the purpose of the current information presentation is to obtain the Commission's advice which will assist in the ongoing design process. He introduced the architect Phil Freelon to discuss the alternatives.
Mr. Freelon said the design team would present four alternatives to the Commission and acknowledged the assistance of the Commission staff in developing these proposals. He described the major design principles that have been identified for the project: the overall composition of the Mall; the particular context of the Washington Monument Grounds; and the adjacent architectural and urban context. He emphasized the prominence of the site and described some of its characteristics, functioning as a transitional space from the structured landscape of the Mall to the more bucolic character of the Monument Grounds. He said that the design team has studied height relationships of nearby buildings, establishing 118 feet as the height limit for the museum; the maximum excavation depth has also been studied. He introduced landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson and architect David Adjaye to continue the presentation.
Ms. Gustafson discussed the site design, emphasizing the site's complexity as part of the country's most prominent landscape. She summarized the basic structure of the landscape with the linear, classical Mall in comparison to the Washington Monument Grounds which are more informal, softer, and picturesque with framed views. She analyzed the historical development of the Washington Monument landscape, including the plan by Olmsted in 1939 and the later planning by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, both of which made use of oval forms in the framing of the Washington Monument and treated the Monument Grounds as a place distinct from the Mall. She presented the most recent plan for the Washington Monument Grounds from 2003, which completed the planting of the grounds in a picturesque manner, using the NMAAHC site as part of the frame. She described her close study of how these past plans treated the transition between the formal and picturesque landscapes, both at this site and at the eastern end of the Mall; she also presented an analysis of Stowe Gardens in England, with a picturesque landscape that includes framed axial views of a monument. She discussed additional characteristics of the NMAAHC site and context: the slope of 15th Street forms a ha-ha to hide views of cars, and the site slopes northward to the former location of Tiber Creek and the Washington Canal.
Mr. Adjaye discussed other characteristics of the Washington Monument Grounds: its numerous support structures appear as follies or pavilions, and its primary and secondary circulation systems form interlocking circles. He cited statistics on people's arrival patterns, with 70% of visitors coming to the Monument Grounds directly from the Mall and 30% from the direction of 14th Street, 15th Street, and the Ellipse.
Mr. Adjaye said that several ideas have guided the design team's studies, including developing the plinth design of the competition entry. He emphasized the importance of the new museum as a transitional hinge between the urban edge of Federal Triangle and the line of cultural buildings on the north side of Mall, which release into the space of the Washington Monument Grounds at the NMAAHC site. He described the intention to relate the NMAAHC to the nearby series of buildings on podiums, such as the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Federal Triangle structures which have the character of elevated plinths with "palaces" on top. He said the NMAAHC has been refined to reconcile its proposed alignment with the podium of the American History museum and the rear of the Natural History museum, involving a reduction in the size of the NMAAHC porch.
Mr. Adjaye discussed the analysis of the sites and footprints for other buildings on the Mall, concluding that the proposed site coverage of the NMAAHC—calculated as 29%—would be the lowest proportion of any Mall building; this was achieved by placing approximately 35% of the program underground. He said that the 118-foot height of the NMAAHC would be equivalent to the East Building of the National Gallery of Art and below the 121-foot height of Federal Triangle.
Mr. Adjaye then introduced each of the four alternatives—named the Plinth, the Plaza, the Pavilion, and the Blended alternative. He noted that each would have a penthouse and an entry hall aligned on a north-south axis from Constitution Avenue to the Mall, and each would be 118 feet high.
Ms. Gustafson described several landscape themes that are explored in the alternatives: the site could be designed as more tree-covered and closed, or more open; most alternatives would offer access from both the south and north; and water is a theme in each alternative—reflecting the importance of water in African American history because of slaves' transport over water, and in the history of Washington because the canal had been located here. She added that the designs use two different types of water: at the lower or northern end of the site, water would be treated in a naturalistic way incorporating sustainability needs and stormwater management; at the higher or southern end, water would be treated more formally to mark a meeting place or plaza, where visitors would cross water as an "initiation" to reach the museum. She said all four alternatives have the same water elements, while other features of the landscape vary. She described several important design features of the entry hall in relation to the site: the service cores would be pushed to the sides so that movement and views could go straight through the building, and the entrances and security checkpoints would also be at the sides so that the views through the central space would encompass the unity of landscape and building without looking across security barriers.
Mr. Adjaye presented perspective sketches of the four alternatives taken from the same vantage points, including the Ellipse and the Mall. He said the view from the Mall shows that the Plinth alternative would be obscured by the tree canopy which frames the view of the Washington Monument, and the building offers no visual interruption to the composition of the Mall. Ms. Nelson asked if the porch is a core element that is common to each alternative. Mr. Adjaye responded that it appears in each scheme but is not represented the same way; the important concept is the idea of the porch as a "welcome threshold." Ms. Nelson asked if this porch would be programmed with museum activities; Mr. Adjaye confirmed that program areas would be located beneath the porch, and above ground it would serve as a terrace that would provide a view and could also be programmed.
Mr. Belle asked if the widening profile of the upper floors in each alternative is related to a greater program requirement for these levels. Mr. Adjaye responded that the shape is not driven by the program but by several aesthetic goals: to relate to the Washington Monument; to make a "rhyming relationship" to the headdress of a particular West African sculpture; and to bring light into the building's primary circulation system which is located at the perimeter.
Mr. Adjaye said that the Plaza alternative treats the porch as a space rather than a canopy and explores the idea of making space rather than an object in a field. He noted that the L'Enfant Plan included a diagonal avenue with a view corridor extending near the NMAAHC site to terminate at the Washington Monument; the Plaza alternative recalls this diagonal in configuring a pair of buildings—a small structure and a major pavilion, with a public space between. The smaller building along Constitution Avenue would be a support facility that could offer theater programs and a secondary entrance, and the larger pavilion would be pushed southward while continuing to align with the north-south axis of the urban context; the major visual porosity of the site would follow the diagonal rather than north-south. He said that this alternative would place 44% of the program below grade and 55% above. Ms. Gustafson said the major landscape gesture in this alternative would be the creation of a core internal space and the emphasis on the diagonal view across the plaza from Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument. She said the plaza would be "its own world" raised above the street level, "almost like a piano nobile over this landscape," and would offer the city a new public space while integrating the security barrier into a landscape form. She added that this alternative would include fewer trees but more meadow space, and there would be an outdoor program area and an outdoor eating area adjacent to the cafe. Public entrances would be provided at the north building facing the plaza and at the main pavilion facing south. Mr. McKinnell asked if there is any reason to limit the main pavilion entrance to the south side. Ms. Gustafson responded that this is flexible, and entry could be provided elsewhere such as on the side; she added that a goal in developing the alternatives was to propose different treatments of various features in order to discuss their pros and cons.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the entrance level in relation to the site topography for the Plaza Alternative; Ms. Gustafson indicated the height of the entrance level, clarifying that some alternatives address the slope of the site within the building while others require that the grade change be made within the landscape. She confirmed that the main floors of both buildings in the Plaza alternative would be on the same level as the plaza. Mr. McKinnell asked if people looking from Constitution Avenue across the plaza toward the Washington Monument would be unable to see its base due to the elevated plaza; Mr. Adjaye confirmed that the Monument's base would not be visible until a viewer enters the plaza. He clarified that the route toward the plaza would not be a continuous diagonal; instead, the space would be revealed after an ascending path and a threshold moment when a person enters the plaza and reaches a point where a view opens toward the entire Washington Monument, establishing a visual relationship between the museum and the context.
Ms. Balmori asked whether the Plaza alternative would result in the pavilion on Constitution Avenue having a different setback than the National Museum of American History. Mr. Adjaye responded that the Constitution Avenue pavilion would align with the porch of the American History museum, its northernmost projection. Mr. Luebke asked if this alternative includes an overhanging porch element on the south, and how the south facade aligns with the other museums. Mr. Adjaye said that the Plaza Alternative includes only a small structure forming the porch, which would align with the southernmost projection of the stairway of the National Museum of Natural History. Mr. Luebke noted the perceptual contrast between the low staircase of the existing building and the substantial volume of the porch in this alternative for the NMAAHC; Mr. Adjaye said that this configuration would nonetheless not disturb the perspective and composition of the Mall.
Mr. Adjaye then presented the Pavilion alternative, which provides the opportunity to explore a singular building based on the gesture of the triple crown configuration. He said that placing the program within such a form was very difficult; he characterized this alternative as successful in proportion and in relation to the ground plane, but not successful in accommodating the program. He noted that this alternative most closely conforms to the recommendation from the environmental review process concerning volume and siting, and its cubic form aligns with the American History museum. The building footprint would be in the center of the site, creating the formal character of an object in a field. He said that this alternative, like the others, emphasizes the transparency of the entrance level and minimizes the interruption of the view along the direction of movement around the site; the ground plane is treated as extending through the building, creating an open glazed space to help visitors understand the building's orientation within its context. He confirmed that the upper floors would be slightly larger in area than those of the large pavilion building in the Plaza alternative. The proportion of below-grade space in this alternative would be close to 50%, presenting a great challenge due to the difficulty of providing daylight to so much of the program space. He said that light wells were considered but would be difficult because of the slope and potential flooding; the northwest corner of the site may be the only feasible location for light wells. He concluded that this alternative provides interesting geometric solutions despite the programmatic limitations, and it is therefore a useful alternative for discussion. He noted that the design would accommodate the diagonal alignment providing a view of the Washington Monument.
Mr. Adjaye discussed the entry sequence in the Pavilion alternative, explaining that only a southern entrance would be provided; the smaller canopy element on this alternative would be the destination of visitors arriving from various directions and would lead to the entrance into the main hall. He said that the scale of the canopy might be reconsidered because of the importance of this element. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the limitation to a single entrance is necessary; Mr. Adjaye reiterated that the alternatives are intended to illustrate different design strategies, but two entrances could be included in this alternative. Mr. Belle asked if a double-entrance configuration would be feasible in combination with the large below-grade floor plates; Mr. Adjaye responded that this would not be a problem.
Ms. Gustafson said that the landscape in the Pavilion alternative would be soft and rolling, responding to the concept of a pavilion within a field. There would be a diagonal movement through the site, service access would be provided from 14th Street, and there would be a large plaza on the south. She said the location of the building's service cores would allow good views across the entrance hall toward the large field and the Washington Monument. The grade change would be handled with a series of terraces and water to step down to the museum entrance; on the south the landscape would be simpler and more formal. Mr. Adjaye emphasized that the transparency of all four sides of the entrance hall is an important concept in this alternative.
Mr. Adjaye presented the Blended alternative as a response to the difficulty of bringing light to underground program areas, hoping to avoid the use of light wells which introduce vertical cuts into the landscape. In the Blended alternative, the building mass would be moved southward to bring the museum in line with the southernmost edge of the plinth of the American History museum; the more public parts of the program would be placed on the northern part of the site. More lower-level program area would be located along Constitution Avenue at the corner of 15th Street, where the terrain slope would be exploited by lifting up one corner of the site into a clerestory structure; this clerestory would acknowledge the importance of Constitution Avenue while bringing in light and would also provide a secondary entrance that would not require building a ramp down into the building or an additional side entrance. The landscape would be gently folded up at this corner with glazing beneath, but the form would not be expressed as a building. He said that this alternative would result in 40% of the program being placed below grade, with enough light entering these spaces to make the program feasible. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked what uses would be located at the corner structure; Mr. Adjaye responded that the program could include education, changing galleries, a theater, and a small cafe. Mr. Luebke asked which program elements would be at grade level, and Mr. Adjaye clarified that these would include the cafe and the secondary entrance to the museum. Mr. McKinnell asked if a direct entrance to the main hall of the museum would be provided on the north side; Mr. Adjaye responded that none is shown, but a north main entrance could be included in addition to the secondary entrance at the clerestory structure.
Ms. Gustafson said the landscape in the Blended alternative would include a large landscape plane lifted above Constitution Avenue, offering some protection from traffic noise. She said the diagonal movement of the L'Enfant Plan would be continued into this space, and the water feature would be more formal at this northern end. She discussed the location of landscape features in this alternative, explaining that the key view would always be the long view to the Washington Monument. Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the proposed topography at the northern part of the site; Ms. Gustafson confirmed that the ground plane would have a bend in the middle, with only the triangular corner portion folded upward.
The Commission then inspected the models, which Mr. Adjaye noted as inaccurate in depicting vertical heights of the context buildings due to reliance on two different modelmakers. He confirmed that the dimensions of the museum models are accurate, and clarified that the context buildings are depicted as slightly lower than their actual height. He inserted a model of each alternative into the context model, with a demonstration of the internal lighting for each design. Mr. Belle commented that the quantity of light coming from the building does not seem significant; Mr. Adjaye noted that the lighting depiction is only a representation at this stage, and the design of the building skin has not yet been developed. Ms. Gustafson said that none of the alternatives would be visible from the Mall; Mr. Adjaye clarified that the rows of elm trees would screen the views and mask the building.
Mr. Adjaye indicated that the model of the Blended alternative illustrates the needed solution to the daylight problem. Mr. Belle observed that this configuration appears to reduce the building footprint, which is an important consideration. Mr. Adjaye said that this alternative involves moving the building slightly southward, changing the alignments with the context, but cuts in the landscape for light wells would not be necessary. Mr. Belle commented that the landscape form and clerestory structure in this alternative recall the National Park Service's proposal for the the levee wall and flood-control gate abutments at 17th Street, NW. Mr. Luebke noted that here the clerestory structure would be articulated in glass, adding that this may be the only location along the south side of Constitution Avenue where a structure would be placed within the deep setback area. Ms. Nelson asked about the clerestory structure's height; Mr. Adjaye responded that it would be approximately 18 feet.
Mr. Belle commented that the Pavilion alternative appears to have the smallest footprint; Mr. Adjaye clarified that the Blended alternative would have the same footprint, adding that the daylight issue is less resolved in the Pavilion alternative and additional openings in the ground plane would therefore need to be developed. He reiterated that this issue is resolved in the Blended alternative by the clerestory form, and he confirmed that the below-grade spaces could be successful using this daylighting strategy. Mr. McKinnell questioned whether the clerestory lighting would be sufficient; Mr. Adjaye clarified that an additional significant opening in the ground plane would be necessary for daylight, and the design of this feature is proving to be difficult.
After viewing the model, the Commission members reconvened at their seats to discuss the alternatives; Mr. Luebke noted that the design process is evolving, and elements of any one alternative may appear in another. Vice-Chairman Nelson emphasized the importance of this project and asked the Commission members for comments.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the presentation has convinced him of the merits of the initial competition concept, which solved many of the project's issues. He said he did not support the Plaza alternative, commenting that breaking the building into two parts is not an urbanistically compelling solution but instead weakens the concept. He recommended providing two entrances to the building if possible, noting the established pattern of 30% of visitors arriving from the north, which he said is a large number. He expressed support for the Pavilion alternative, describing it as the most compelling in how it relates to the Mall. He disagreed with characterizing the site as part of the Washington Monument Grounds, commenting that it is instead part of the city, which is made clear by these design studies. He commented that the program is large relative to the small site, and observed that on the Mall there are many good buildings with very big footprints; a big footprint does not necessarily indicate a problem. He said that the West Building of the National Gallery of Art is a wonderful building and has a much bigger footprint than the proposed NMAAHC.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that walking down into a building is not a desirable design feature, and the strategy for responding to the grade change should avoid this solution. He said that the proposed penthouse is a strong form and appears to be an unwanted intrusion on the strong, iconic building; he recommended further effort to minimize the penthouse. He questioned the proposal to use a large-scale water feature, observing that it would be an anomaly among the Mall buildings and would appear to be out of place. He acknowledged that large expanses of water have been used on the axis of the Mall in such features as the Rainbow Pool and the Reflecting Pool, but recommended that discrete elements such as fountains would be more appropriate for an individual building.
Mr. McKinnell asked which alternative is preferred by the design team; Ms. Gustafson said that they are unable to respond at this point. Mr. McKinnell characterized the varations urbanistically as being of three types: the corona with an element beneath; the corona plus a pavilion; and just the corona. He said that although the corona on its own has the potential to be overly simplistic, such a problem is not likely with this design team; he said that the simple corona concept is more compelling than the others, which he described as "compromises" rather than "blends." He acknowledged that the Commission has the luxury of not needing to resolve the project's practical concerns, but he strongly advocated for the simple corona as a powerful image and recommended that the design team continue its effort to make this concept successful. He agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that the penthouse is intrusive, suggesting that it be submerged slightly so that it would not be seen. He also agreed with Mr. Rybczynski that the building and its site are part of the city, not part of the Washington Monument Grounds. He concluded by expressing his overall support for the project.
Mr. Adjaye asked Mr. McKinnell's opinion of using light wells in comparison to lifting a corner of the landscape to admit light. Mr. McKinnell acknowledged the difficulty of placing a building below ground—citing problems with one of his own projects, and noting that some museum directors refuse to use below-grade space for artifacts—but said that below-grade space could be used here if it makes the project work. He suggested studying a combination of light wells and the lifted ground plane, adding that it would be essential to have an entrance from the north into the main museum building.
Ms. Nelson congratulated the design team on the concept, which she characterized as exciting. She commented on the importance of the transparent glass base allowing people to see through the site, and of having entrances from both the south and the north; she also supported a water feature of whatever size is appropriate for the experience of the museum. She emphasized the importance of detailing the building skin, including its color and the effect of weathering.
Ms. Balmori described the project as divided into two design issues: the treatment of the ground plane, which has resulted in very good solutions, including the lifted corner and the courtyard; and the building itself, which is more interesting when it is simpler. She did not support the Plinth alternative because of its effect on the ground plane; she said the simpler configuration in the other alternatives makes the building more interesting. She outlined several issues yet to be resolved: how the museum in the other alternatives would tie to the ground, and how the museum aligns up with other buildings. She emphasized the importance of aligning with the adjacent building fabric because Washington is a city that expresses decisions about the order of buildings. She raised the additional issue of how this site can be treated as an urban landscape rather than using a suburban landscape concept of a building in a field. She said that both the plaza and the lifted corner proposals are more urban in character; she added that the lifted corner would be interesting if the space in the middle can be well resolved. She raised the issue of how usable this space would be in Washington due to the heat in summer and the need for shade, observing that people prefer to be inside with air conditioning. She concluded that the questions of the resolution of the building and of the ground are different, and while they are successful in themselves they are not combined yet; she expressed confidence that this team would be capable of resolving them.
Mr. Belle said that the consequence of presenting a wide range of ideas to the Commission is that the members see a lot that they like and are not ready to abandon. He described the proposed alternatives as having many inventive ideas to address a problematic site; the issue remains that the site has four facades or public approaches, which is a difficult problem to resolve. He recommended that the design team think more about the best approach to giving the building an identity that will not confuse visitors with four ways to experience the building. He said the more urbanistic solution would be to have a building with multiple approaches and entrances, but there needs to be a clear distinction of which entrance is for which purpose. He acknowledged the problem of too large a building on too small a site, but said that there are opportunities to reduce the visible bulk of the building; he advised them to continue pursuing this. He expressed support for the Blended alternative, commenting that it might not be the most exciting architectural concept but would provide more opportunities to solve problems in a seamless way. He said the lifted corner is a bold idea which would probably work best on the corner of 14th Street and Constitution Avenue; he said the boldness results from going against the whole structure of organized open space in formal architecture along that avenue, and he advised the design team to continue exploring this alternative.
Mr. Belle questioned the use of the inverted pyramid form; he supported the effort to find a way of reducing the building's footprint on the small site, but said that using an inverted pyramid configuration may not be helping and could instead be introducing wasted space with a solution that depends upon the specific silhouette. He said that the three sawtooths in the profile may be too many, and the solution would be better if there were less visible bulk and more emphasis on the open space of the site. He acknowledged the additional issue of whether the pavilion should appear to be set on a field of open space or treated as part of the city fabric; he discouraged making a choice between these and recommended that the building should serve both of these roles. He reiterated his appreciation for the richness and quality of ideas presented by the design team at this early stage and the need to not abandon any ideas too soon.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the value of studying alternatives and expressed surprise that the main volume of the building remains the same in each; she asked if this decision is fixed, commenting that the alternatives are more about the building's relationship to the site than about its volume. Mr. Adjaye replied that the design team has studied hundreds of geometries for the building, and it became clear that the massing now shown would be the strongest proportion. Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered further comments about accepting the limitations that result from the building form, including the proportion of below-grade space that was clearly described in the presentation of each alternative. She said the limitations of daylight for these spaces should be accepted because it is a self-created limitation, adding that the above-ground spaces are also limited in their daylight potential due to the decision to locate the vertical cores toward the outside of the floor plates; she contrasted this to the greater access to light and building surface that is available in a central-core building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed with the other Commission members that the Pavilion alternative is the strongest, emphasizing that it maintains the setbacks of its neighbors; she noted that the strength of the form increases the necessity of observing established setbacks, and she recommended that the building remain within the most restrictive of those alignments. She said that the various restrictions on the form of the building result in an interesting design opportunity: the NMAAHC will be the last building ever constructed in this line of museums, and the building can be treated as a terminus—a four-sided structure that has three continuous or connected sides, while its neighbors have two unconnected primary faces in relation to the major public spaces of the Mall and Constitution Avenue and can address those two sides differently. The three-sided emphasis of the NMAAHC opens the opportunity to treat the facades more uniformly; for example, she said that light wells with lowered courtyards might become the theme of the landscape around the building, bringing more light into the basement and possibly relating to the idea of crossing the water. She observed that in the section drawings, the below-grade part of the museum appears to be pushed toward Constitution Avenue; she suggested that these areas could instead move toward the Mall side. She emphasized the opportunities to bring light into the below-grade areas, and for developing the design within the site's restrictions. She concluded with a request that the design team provide images of the proposed museum's appearance when seen from across the Washington Monument Grounds and from distant points.
Ms. Balmori commented that all four alternatives show that the program is too big for the site, and she asked whether there is any flexibility on this issue; Mr. Belle agreed with this concern. Vice-Chairman Nelson noted this comment and congratulated the team on the thorough beginning to the design exploration, adding that the Commission looks forward to the concept submission. Mr. Luebke said that no formal action is needed for the information presentation; a summary of the Commission's comments will be prepared, and the concept submission is anticipated in the summer.
C. National Park Service
CFA 15/APR/10-2, Jefferson Memorial, East Basin Drive, SW. Perimeter vehicular security barrier. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/NOV/02-5.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept design alternatives for a perimeter vehicular security barrier at the Jefferson Memorial, noting that the Commission visited the site earlier in the day to view a mockup of alternative alignments for the barrier. He said that the Commission had approved an earlier concept design in November 2002 which located the barrier on the inside edge of the sidewalk along East Basin Drive. New options have now been developed by Wallace Roberts & Todd with DHM Design, based on a more thorough analysis of the historic landscape; the site retains remnants of the original landscape design by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. with alternating areas of lawns and bosques that reinforced the memorial's axes and views toward it, although the integrity of the Olmsted design has been compromised by later changes. He added that the three alternatives to be presented have been refined to minimize disturbance of historic and mature trees.
Mr. Luebke asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. May said the current issue is selecting an alignment for the proposed barrier rather than a detailed proposal for its design character; he introduced Ignacio Bunster of Wallace Roberts & Todd to present the alternatives.
Mr. Bunster said that the requirement for a 500-foot security setback will place the barrier within the open landscape, increasing the difficulty of the design challenge. He presented the results of the historic research, including a comparison of the original planning, the implemented landscape, and the current conditions. He indicated the historic design of tree massings that created distinctive "lobes" of vegetation to accentuate orthogonal and diagonal views, and the subsequent impact of roads, additional vegetation, and social paths through the landscape.
Mr. Bunster said that all of the alternatives address several issues for the site: reduction of conflicts with pedestrian routes, an improved appearance for the site, adequate handicapped parking, some visual screening of the highway to the south, and an adequate drop-off area for visitors arriving on tour buses which occurs at the southwestern edge of the site where only a narrow sidewalk is currently provided. The alternatives also include options for relocating the information kiosk along East Basin Drive and altering the grade of the south lawn panel to minimize the visibility of the barrier wall on the south. In all three alternatives, the asphalt of the former parking area and driveway surrounding the south lawn panel would be replaced with an aggregate concrete, part of the National Park Service's effort to create the character of a plaza that could be programmed during special events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Fourth of July; the formal character of the south lawn would remain. He added that the barrier is generally shown as a continuous wall within the landscape, and bollards would only be used where the alignment crosses paved areas. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the wall could be made more permeable; Mr. Bunster said it could. He said that all of the alternatives strike a balance between how the wall would affect views within the landscape versus views from the edge for cyclists, pedestrians, and people in vehicles. He emphasized that the three alternative alignments are intended to generate discussion about the challenges of fitting a barrier within the landscape; more detailed issues such as the materials will be considered later.
Mr. Bunster presented Alternative 1 which would place the barrier on the perimeter of the site, where it would form part of the road infrastructure and result in only minimal changes to the landscape within the site; most existing paths would remain and the kiosk would be kept in the same location. He presented a plan illustrating that some trees near the perimeter of the site would be impacted, including some historic trees—those present at the memorial's completion in 1943—particularly at the west end of the site.
Mr. Bunster then presented Alternative 2, in which the barrier would follow a sinuous alignment within the landscape; the undulating wall would recall the character of the paths in the Olmsted landscape. This alignment would involve changes to the existing paths; seating could be incorporated into the wall where it is adjacent to paths, particularly at locations with special views of the memorial. A path would connect the memorial to the bus drop-off area, where the kiosk would be located, and the wall in this area could include seating to provide views of the Tidal Basin. He indicated the bicycle path across the south and east sides of the site; in this alternative, the sidewalk between the south lawn panel and East Basin Drive would be widened from 12 to 24 feet to accommodate the combination of pedestrians and bicyclists. He indicated the extended segment of bollards where the barrier nears the Tidal Basin, intended to avoid the intrusion of the wall extending directly to the path along the water; this is the only location where bollards are proposed within the landscape rather than situated on paving.
Mr. Bunster presented the final option, Alternative 3, which extends the memorial's geometry of a series of concentric circles; this alternative would place the new circular barrier 500 feet from the memorial, except at the south lawn panel where the barrier would be farther away. He said the paths would be configured to emphasize a formal character, and a path would follow the circular wall for most of the perimeter. To the east of the memorial, the paths would converge and cross through an opening in the wall, creating a more formal gathering location that would have seating with a view of the memorial. Ms. Nelson asked how many trees would be lost in this alternative, and Mr. Belle asked about their location; Mr. Bunster responded that 63 trees would be removed, only three of which are considered historic. He added that the trees have not yet been studied for their canopy or health, but many of the non-historic trees are small cherry trees planted long after the memorial was built.
Mr. Bunster presented site sections and indicated the raised grade of the lawn panel in Alternatives 2 and 3 to diminish the visibility of the wall when viewed from the memorial looking south; the grading change would also improve drainage. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked how the raised lawn panel would be retained along the sides; Mr. Bunster responded that this detail has not yet been developed, but there are various ways to make the wall more architectural or softer in the landscape. Mr. McKinnell said that this question is important, because extending the retaining wall to the sides of the lawn panel would treat the lawn as an object in the landscape, changing its character dramatically; Mr. Belle agreed. Mr. Bunster acknowledged this concern but said that it should be weighed against the aesthetic effect of a two-and-a-half-foot-tall wall that is fully visible from the memorial.
Ms. Balmori asked if the design team had considered using something other than a continuous wall, such as bollards, to form the barrier; Mr. Bunster responded that he understood the Commission's past guidance to be against using bollards in an open landscape because they are perceived as vehicular control elements and would therefore not be appropriate. Ms. Balmori said that bollards could be treated as part of the street furniture, which would make them more acceptable; and another alternative would be a wall with openings rather than the continuous wall that is proposed. Mr. Belle noted that the Commission's previous comments were in response to a proposed barrier with a different alignment. Ms. Balmori emphasized that the form of the barrier, particularly the degree of its transparency at the edges, is an important factor in selecting the best alignment. Mr. Bunster confirmed that the current submission includes bollards where the barrier crosses pedestrian routes, and the remainder of the barrier would be a wall which is shown as solid but could have gaps or other features.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged that all three alternatives have strengths and weaknesses, emphasizing the Commission's consensus that the question of an alignment cannot be separated from the barrier's form and materials. She said that if the alignment of Alternative 1 is a long, solid wall, it might make the memorial site look like a fortress, while if the barrier were composed of bollards and chains, it might look more transparent. Similarly, if the walls traversing the landscape in Alternatives 2 and 3 were discontinuous or treated as ha-has, the Commission's reaction might be different. She recommended that the Commission not choose or reject a particular alternative for the alignment until seeing how the barrier would be designed. Mr. Bunster added that another consideration is how light and shade would affect the appearance of a wall. Ms. Nelson commented that one strength of Alternative 2 is the inclusion of seating under shade trees.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that materials and the form of the barrier would be very important to the decision. She said that the site visit had been enlightening, emphasizing that the barrier would likely be a landscape feature rather than the more typical urban setting of barriers; she commented that even the Lincoln Memorial barrier was placed within an existing formal landscape context, while the wall at the Jefferson Memorial would be located beyond the memorial's immediate formal setting. She expressed concern about implementing the lengthy edge alignment in Alternative 1 as a row of many bollards along the highway, resulting in the uncomfortable appearance of an isolated piece of infrastructure. She offered support for Alternative 3, the circular wall, because its form relates directly to the memorial being protected. She commented that the south lawn panel is a different situation with a more urban formal gesture that extends toward the road; bollards could be used here rather than a wall, without having to raise the panel of grass. She concluded that some combination of design treatments would be desirable, and she agreed with Ms. Nelson that the Commission should consider the proposal in its entirety rather than respond only to the question of alignment.
Commenting about Alternatives 2 and 3, Ms. Balmori said that when working in landscape design with these kinds of elements, it is always necessary to tie them to contours; but in these alternatives the walls are entirely unrelated to contours. She said this approach can be problematic because the contours are usually modified to make such elements work. She expressed support for Alternative 1 because the barrier would follow the road and become part of that infrastructure, which she said would be the simpler solution; however, she acknowledged the concern of the other Commission members with the length of the barrier in this alignment. She advised the design team to study how the barrier could be made more transparent or part of the urban furniture to lessen the effect of its length.
Mr. Rybczynski supported Ms. Balmori's comments, observing that the south edge of the site is dominated by traffic and is not perceived as a landscape worth protecting; he commented that the addition of a barrier would therefore be appropriate along this edge, as shown in Alternative 1. However, he expressed concern about the experience of walking along a continuous stone or concrete barrier and suggested exploration of a different design treatment. He said that Alternative 2 also remains intriguing, characterizing it as an effort to treat the security barrier as an Olmstedian landscape element, an unusual concept; he observed that Olmsted's design did not treat the landscape as part of the memorial's design vocabulary except at the south lawn panel. He said the barrier design for this alignment would have to be developed as something more than just a stone wall going through the landscape.
Mr. McKinnell supported the comments of the other Commission members, adding that he would strongly oppose a solid wall along the alignment shown in Alternative 1 because a person walking along the sidewalk would feel pressed between the traffic and the wall. He said, however, that the recommendation would depend on how these alignments would be transformed into physical reality. He later clarified that he would be willing to accept a perimeter security wall along the alignment shown in Alternative 1 if the detailing were carefully and convincingly resolved, possibly moving the wall slightly into the site; he said the Commission would need precise drawings of the relationship between the wall, sidewalk, ground, and road.
Mr. Bunster described in more detail the location of bicycle and pedestrian paths in the three alternatives; he clarified that Alternative 1 proposes a combined path on the east that would be primarily located away from the roadway and future barrier following an existing path alignment, while Alternatives 2 and 3 would locate a sidewalk adjacent to the roadway for bicyclists. All three alternatives would include a sidewalk area adjacent to the road at the bus drop-off area on the west side of the site. Kent Sundberg of Wallace Roberts & Todd explained that Alternative 1 includes a small distance between the perimeter wall and the road for safety, but the design would discourage people from walking there; Alternatives 2 and 3 would maintain the perimeter sidewalk for cyclists while people walking to the memorial would use internal circulation. He added that the paths would be widened where desirable, particularly for shared bicycle and pedestrian use or for bus drop-off. Ms. Balmori asked if Alternative 1 could include a sidewalk for bicyclists alongside the roadway, with the path through the landscape available for pedestrians; Mr. Sundberg said this would be feasible, and several Commission members agreed that this would be desirable.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the varying treatment of details among the alternatives, such as the widened sidewalk at the bus drop-off area in Alternative 1—which requires the removal of large trees—but not in Alternatives 2 and 3. Mr. Bunster responded that the sidewalk would be widened in all three alternatives, but the proposed configuration is different in Alternative 1 because the wall would be at the edge; he added that placing the barrier in Alternative 1 as close to the road as possible would lessen the impact on trees from the deep structural footings that would be required for the security barrier. Mr. Sundberg added that moving the barrier down the slope slightly on the west side results in an alignment that would help to save some of the historic trees, and locating the perimeter alignment closest to the curb would have the least impact on trees. Mr. Luebke noted that this comparison would depend on the exact alignment chosen in implementing Alternative 1. Mr. Sundberg added that the impact on historic trees would be least in Alternative 3, although the impact on non-historic trees would be greatest; Mr. Balmori said that the non-historic trees are a concern. Mr. Bunster said that the barrier alignment in Alternative 1 could be implemented to either side of a perimeter walkway, which could affect the impact on trees; the result would also depend on the form of the barrier which would affect the extent of footings required.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk raised the concern that Alternative 1 would wall the whole site from street view, including the naturalistic parts of this public landscape. She acknowledged that the street generally has the character of a highway but said that the nearest lane—the one which brings visitors to the memorial—is actually park-like, with open views and a garden setting. She said that adding a long snaking wall along the roadway would make the nature of the precinct unclear, observing that this condition does not happen in other places in the city; she would need to be convinced that this solution is acceptable. Ms. Balmori said the barrier wall would have to relate only to the roadway; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the road should not be treated as a highway. Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the wall height; Mr. Bunster said that it would be three feet of concrete structure plus any additional stone facing.
Mr. Bunster presented images of the memorial and other walls in the vicinity that could serve as precedents for the barrier wall design, noting that the recent walls at the Washington Monument have earth retained behind them and are not freestanding. Ms. Nelson asked about the material of the Jefferson Memorial; Mr. Bunster said the memorial itself is white marble, with other materials used for the later addition of ramps.
Vice-Chairman Nelson concluded that the Commission had provided sufficient comments and varying opinions, and it would be best for the design team to continue pursuing the alternatives; she said the Commission could not provide a direction on the specific configuration of the barrier until seeing the impact of the alternatives in more detail. She added that there is a consensus that moving the kiosk would be desirable.
Mr. Luebke asked for a clarification of whether the Commission recommends for all alternatives that there be a bike lane on the outside of barrier; some members said yes, others said it would require more study. Mr. Luebke noted that a combined path would need to be wider; Mr. Sundberg clarified that the shared path shown in Alternative 1 would be 14 feet wide. Mr. Luebke observed this path—paved and widened from the existing social trail—would become a new object in the landscape. Ms. Nelson acknowledged that the 14-foot width would be noticeably larger, and she emphasized the safety benefit of separating bicycle and pedestrian uses. Mr. Belle said the issue was complicated by the increased amount of bicycle commuter traffic in mornings and evenings. Ms. Balmori suggested further development of various options for combined or separate paths, but she and Mr. Belle agreed that the separation of bikes and pedestrians is desirable.
Mr. Luebke asked for the Commission's response to the proposal to alter the grade of the south lawn panel, as illustrated in Alternatives 2 and 3; Mr. Bunster clarified that in Alternative 1 the lawn would remain flat, and the adjoining wall would rise above it. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended that the panel should remain flat.
Vice-Chairman Nelson asked the National Park Service to keep the Commission informed as the design evolves, commenting that it is too soon to recommend a specific design. Mr. Belle asked if the consensus of the Commission is to continue study of all three alternatives; Mr. McKinnell said there are actually two essentially different concepts, locating the barrier at either the perimeter or within the site, whether as a circle or a serpentine. He added that the issue of bicycle routing is important; he expressed opposition to a design that would place pedestrians within this Olmsted landscape with a "silent machine coming up from behind." Ms. Nelson noted the extensive vehicular traffic along the road, from which many people view the memorial, and she said that the Jefferson Memorial should not appear to be a fortress when seen from vehicles.
The discussion concluded without a formal action; Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's comments would be summarized in a letter and sent to the project team.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 15/APR/10-3, 2011 Native American One Dollar Coin. Six designs for reverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/09-3.) Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the reverse design alternatives for the third annual one-dollar coin in the Native American series. Ms. Budow described the authorizing legislation and noted the themes of the first two coins in the series: Native American contributions to agriculture (2009) and government (2010). She said that the subject of the 2011 coin would be the alliance in 1621 between Plymouth Bay settlers and Native Americans.
Ms. Budow presented the continuing obverse design depicting Sacagawea, and the six proposed alternatives for the reverse. The subjects include Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag nation; Samoset, a Native American who assisted in negotiating the treaty; governor John Carver; the local geologic formation of Profile Rock, said to resemble Massasoit; a celebratory feast; and the exchange of a peace pipe. She said the alternatives have already been presented to several other consulting entities, including the National Congress of American Indians as well as House and Senate groups concerned with Native American affairs; most parties had expressed a preference for design #6 depicting two hands exchanging the peace pipe, with a second choice of design #2 depicting the three officials during negotiations.
Ms. Nelson commented that the numeral text "$1" is intrusive in some alternatives; she suggested adjusting its placement or using the phrase "One Dollar" where appropriate. She said that the "$1" text in design #1 is more subtle and does not detract from the coin's narrative, while in other designs this text implies that the treaty has a price of one dollar. Ms. Budow responded that this format has been used on the Presidential one-dollar coin series and uses less space than "One Dollar," leaving more space for other design features; other text is edge-incused for the same reason. Mr. Luebke noted the legislative direction for the coin's text and asked if the Mint has discretion on the format of this phrase. Ms. Budow responded that the numeric "$1" format is required, although the size is flexible; Mr. Luebke reiterated the Commission's ongoing concern with the potential role of the Mint in creating flexibility when legislation is drafted.
Ms. Balmori supported design #6 due to its simplicity and clarity, commenting that it is not cluttered with excessive design elements. She added that this alternative is an example of the intrusive design of the "$1" designation and suggested adjusting its placement and size, citing design #4 and especially #5 as better examples for treating this. She emphasized the goal that the design's central features should be the hands and pipe, not the denomination. Ms. Budow said that the Mint would consider adjusting the layout in response to a recommendation from the Commission, but the extent of blank field area may be constrained by metal flow concerns due to the mass-production process for this circulating coin.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed with Ms. Balmori's recommendation and requested further consideration of the proposed typeface, noting that it differs from the typefaces used on the continuing obverse design. Mr. Rybczynski agreed that a new typeface should not be introduced. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the change in typeface would reduce the prominence of the "1" numeral. Ms. Budow responded that the Mint has intentionally provided a variety of typefaces in the alternatives to provide a range for the Commission to consider. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the Commission's recurring guidance that unity of obverse and reverse should be a principle of coin design.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended design #6 subject to revising the typeface of the text to be consistent with the obverse, and adjusting the designation "$1" to be less prominent.
Ms. Budow added that further comments on the other alternatives may be helpful to the Mint, particularly during forthcoming discussions with additional review committees. Ms. Nelson said that alternatives #1 and #5 have some promise; Mr. Rybczynski commented that many of the alternatives appear cluttered. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the story of the treaty is clear in designs #1, 2, 4, and 6; however, the rock formation in #3 is unfamiliar and therefore does not convey the significance of the history. Vice-Chairman Nelson noted the large number of people and groups being consulted on this design, asking if this is typical for coins; Ms. Budow responded that the consultation requirement is specified in the legislative authorization and varies with each coin.
E. General Services Administration
CFA 15/APR/10-4, St. Elizabeths Hospital, West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Adaptive Reuse Plan (Phase 1b) for the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/FEB/10-6.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for adaptive reuse of several historic buildings for the planned Department of Homeland Security headquarters. She summarized the Commission's comments from the review of the concept design in February 2010: further development of the proposed site treatment, including landscape and lighting; integration of exterior features into the design, such as porches, ramps, and stairs; and a more consistent and fully developed architectural character for the proposed additions to historic buildings. She said that the proposal includes several elements not previously presented: the widening and realignment of an historic road through the campus, and two exit structures for a utility tunnel system that serves the historic buildings. She introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill noted that the proposed redevelopment of the west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital includes the retention of 51 of the 62 contributing historic structures on the site; most of the structures being demolished are greenhouses. He said that the portion of redevelopment currently submitted involves seven of these structures as well as some new construction. He introduced the several designers presenting components of the project: architects Paul Clinch of Perkins + Will; Craig Wright of McKissack & McKissack; and Kathryn Prigmore of the joint venture of HDR and Goody Clancy; along with landscape architect Tom Amoroso of Andropogon Associates.
Mr. Amoroso presented the landscape plan that is proposed for implementation through 2016 when the build-out of the campus will be concluded, part of a three-volume study of the landscape and site conditions. He noted that many proposed trees are replacements of historic trees that were shown on a 1937 campus plan but are no longer extant. He also indicated the boundary of the proposed limit of disturbance for the current submission, encompassing seven buildings, the road realignment, and utility work. He described the overall historic landscape character of the campus, which would be retained: the upper plateau characterized by an arboretum-style collection of specimen trees set on a lawn; meadows along the sloped edges of the plateau; and native woodlands which would be restored. He noted the consistency of the landscape elements with modern security requirements: the meadows would have short grasses and would have mown edges, and the natural open character of the woodlands allows for security sightlines.
Mr. Clinch indicated the location of proposed utility work, construction staging areas, and the seven buildings in the current proposal, including one below-grade building; most of the proposed work is located on the plateau toward the center of the campus. He presented Building 31—originally a staff dormitory that would accommodate a credit union and offices for the historian—and the nearby Buildings 33 and 34, a former dining hall and kitchen addition that would be restored to this original use. He said that the porches on the historic buildings, including Building 31, need renovation due to deteriorated and non-historic materials and code compliance issues, such as railings that are 6 inches below the required height of 42 inches. The proposal includes new materials for all porches; the historic detailing of handrails intersecting columns would be replicated at the new 42-inch height. Ms. Nelson asked if the replacement material would be metal; Mr. Clinch responded that continued use of wood is proposed, with extra strength provided by a concealed metal channel to meet modern code requirements. He described additional design details for Buildings 31 and 33/34, including the restoration of entrances and windows, brick repointing, and refurbishment of the wood windows and slate roofs retaining the original materials where feasible.
Mr. Clinch presented the proposal to place photovoltaic solar panels on the south-facing roof of Building 31. They would be largely concealed by existing trees, and would be colored gray with non-reflective glass to blend in with the slate roof; he noted that they could be removed in the future. Ms. Balmori asked about the border treatment of the panels; Mr. Clinch indicated that they would be held back from the edges of the roof to further reduce their prominence. The roof of Building 33 would contain solar-thermal panels to heat water for the kitchen, in addition to photovoltaic panels to provide electricity for lighting and other uses; the two systems, using different panel dimensions, would be separated onto the two major roof faces of the building in order to provide a consistent appearance on each side.
Mr. Amoroso presented the landscape plan for this area, indicating the existing trees to remain and the proposed restoration of trees and shrubs shown on the 1937 plan. He described the historic paving of exposed-aggregate concrete and said that new paving would match its color but would not have exposed aggregate. Additional historic site details to be reused would include brick walks and gutters, bluestone steps, and brick at the base of the buildings.
Mr. Clinch presented the proposed renovation of Building 37, which would continue to be used as an auditorium as well as housing a conference and training center. The exterior stair of wood and iron as well as exterior terra-cotta window detailing would be retained or replicated where necessary. The clay-tile roof is in good condition; it would be removed to accommodate a new underlay and then reinstalled. The rear portion of the stage and former fly loft—no longer needed for modern use of the auditorium—would be converted to conference rooms. The main entrance would continue to serve the 900-seat auditorium; a proposed small addition on the north would provide access to the conference center. Mr. Amoroso described the proposed landscape treatment in this area: the extensive adjacent parking lot would be restored to a landscaped area in accordance with the 1937 plan, while retaining a fire lane along the auditorium to meet modern safety requirements.
Mr. Clinch then presented the proposal for Building 49, a cluster of structures that originally served as construction shops; portions would be demolished and a substantial new addition constructed to accommodate a fitness center, retail space, dry cleaner, barber, and guard support area. He reminded the Commission of the difference between the proposed design and the configuration depicted in the master plan; the master plan called for more of the existing structure to be retained, while the current proposal provides a more compact footprint for the building. He emphasized the relation of the proposed architecture to nearby Building 52—the historic ice house, not part of the current submission—and the planned Coast Guard headquarters. The materials for the new construction would include stone, brick, glass, and zinc panels, and the roof form would turn down to mark the main entrance. Mr. Amoroso described the proposed landscape design for the steeply sloping site, with entrances to multiple levels of the building. Site paths and stairs would provide a pedestrian connection between the Coast Guard headquarters and the plateau area of the campus, providing views of the ravine. The design also includes a small outdoor plaza with shade trees and edge plantings.
Finally, Mr. Clinch described the proposed treatment of Building 71, a small structure that was previously a fan room for a tunnel that will be abandoned; the new use will be to house information technology equipment for the campus. The brick exterior would be retained and repointed, and the design seeks to regain the simplicity and elegance shown in a 1944 photograph.
Mr. Wright of McKissack & McKissack presented the proposal for the west end of Building 56, the central utility plant that will serve the Coast Guard headquarters. He described the proposed new components that would be visible: an entrance pavilion, an entrance plaza, and three exhaust flues that would rise from a new below-grade mechanical space. The new features of the site plan include street trees at the northern perimeter of the site, and a lawn and shrubs above the below-grade mechanical space, where soil depth is constrained. The plaza has been revised to extend only to the face of the entrance pavilion rather than wrap around it, and the grade of the plaza is now proposed to be slightly lower than the lawn. The paving pattern has been revised to relate to the column grids of the adjacent historic building and planned parking garage. The design of the entrance pavilion has been revised in response to the Commission's previous comments; the extensive glass areas have been replaced by large punched-window openings within the proposed brick facades. He presented perspective views to illustrate how the landscaping will partially screen the pavilion and plaza, which will be used primarily by maintenance vehicles. The pavilion would have a standard metal roll-up door to accommodate equipment movement, rather than the large glass door that was previously proposed.
Ms. Prigmore of HDR presented the proposal for the National Operations Center (NOC), an underground facility that would be located beneath a portion of the planned Coast Guard headquarters, immediately west of the historic Center Building. She said that the currently proposed phase would be a concrete shell that would align with the landscaping and street design that was included in the previously reviewed submission for the Coast Guard project; the NOC therefore does not involve any changes to the master plan nor the Coast Guard design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why this proposal was not included as part of the prior submission for the Coast Guard building. Ms. Prigmore responded that the client has given further consideration to the phasing of the project and realizes that the shell for this component would more easily be constructed in an early phase, as part of the Coast Guard construction, rather than re-excavate that portion of the site. Mr. McGill of the General Services Administration clarified that the original phasing was linked to a gradual stream of annual appropriations, which has changed due to a more substantial allocation of funds in February 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; the phasing is therefore being accelerated, and this component is now planned for immediate implementation although the design had not been developed in time for the submission of the Coast Guard building.
Mr. Clinch described another element of the project, an underground utility tunnel system to serve the buildings that are included in the proposal. Although the tunnel would not be visible, he described the two proposed egresses that would emerge above grade near Building 31 and Building 37. The staircase near Building 31 would have a low brick wall topped by a handrail recalling those of the building's porches. The brick-enclosed staircase at Building 37 would be combined with the proposed glass entrance vestibule for the conference center portion of the building.
Mr. Amoroso presented the proposed realignment of Sweetgum Lane, a historic road ascending from the western edge of the campus near the Anacostia River to the upper plateau. The planned vehicular screening facility and warehouse would be at the west end of this road, adjacent to Gate 6. The road would require widening to serve as the distribution route between this area and the remainder of the campus, but widening would create problems related to woodlands, erodible soils, stormwater management, and an adjacent stream as well as the location of planned utilities under the road. The proposal is therefore to leave the narrow historic road in place to serve as a pedestrian path, and to create a new service road nearby to the south and west; the new alignment would pass through a lower-quality invasive plant community rather than affecting the higher-quality ravine woodlands to the north. Existing outfalls in the ravine area would be incorporated into new wetland areas that would provide retention and filtration of stormwater; a later phase would involve more extensive protection of the ravine and additional stormwater management measures. He added that the new alignment would allow for a utility tunnel below the road and sufficient clearance above for the passage of trucks, which would be damaging to implement along the historic road. Ms. Balmori asked why the woodlands to the south are considered inferior; Mr. Amoroso responded that this area has been clear-cut several times and the dominant tree is Norway maple, while higher-quality trees such as white oaks and hickories are located along the ravine and adjacent to the historic road. Ms. Nelson noted the statement in the narrative that planting of Norway maples is not permitted in the District of Columbia, which Mr. Amoroso confirmed. He presented an illustration of similar treatment of a steeply sloping site at Washington's National Cathedral. Ms. Balmori asked about the road width; Mr. Amoroso responded that the existing road is approximately fifteen feet wide, and the new road's width would be twenty feet [the submitted drawings indicate approximately thirty feet].
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the renderings of the gymnasium addition at Building 49 are unclear and do not adequately depict the roof form and the relationship of the new construction to the historic building. Mr. Luebke said that the roof form and glazing have been simplified and reduced in response to the Commission's comments in February 2010 concerning both the adaptive reuse proposal and the perimeter security elements for the campus; the revision of several design elements of the campus has been intended to create a more closely related family of new architectural elements. Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged this past guidance and commented that the revised design for new construction at Building 56 is a successful response; however, the revised design for Building 49 is unclear. She emphasized that the depiction of additions to existing buildings should show the entire complex; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the complexity of this building and the importance of the joints between new and old portions. She acknowledged the clarity of the section in depicting the overall organization of the building but reiterated that the architectural treatment is unclear, preventing the Commission from assessing the success of the design. Mr. Luebke noted that more detailed elevations were provided in staff consultation meetings but are not included in the presentation to the Commission.
Ms. Balmori commented that the depiction of the landscape proposals is similarly insufficient, with a general diagram of materials and isolated proposals adjacent to individual buildings, but no overall sense of how the proposals tie into the general landscape of the campus. She offered the example of street trees proposed at isolated locations without information about the presence or type of other street trees nearby. She emphasized that the isolated landscape proposals do not provide the necessary sense of the site's overall character. Mr. Amoroso responded that the master plan and Cultural Landscape Report provide guidance on the planned appearance of the campus in 2016; the landscape of the plateau would emphasize restoration of the 1937 plan which has the character of an arboretum collection of shade trees on a lawn, with very little use of shrubs. Similarly, the selection of materials was determined by the Cultural Landscape Report and the Landscape Preservation Plan. Ms. Balmori emphasized that the overall character is nonetheless not discernible from the presentation of isolated landscape designs, making it difficult for the Commission to comment on the proposal. She requested broader context information for each of the proposals. Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Balmori's concern, noting that the Commission reviewed and enthusiastically supported the overall site guidance documents but nonetheless needs additional information to confirm that the proposal is consistent with this guidance; he said that the current submission requires the Commission to accept the design as a matter of trust rather than close review. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission had requested more detailed information in the February review of the adaptive reuse as well as the perimeter security; the subsequent submission of the perimeter security elements in March provided sufficient detail, which was useful in the Commission's review, and similar illustrative information could be required for the adaptive reuse submission.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the presentation includes a vast amount of information, much of it concerning trivial elements such as the treatment of a shed-scaled building; he suggested that the next presentation focus on the more substantial building and landscape elements, such as at Building 49. Vice-Chairman Nelson noted that the Commission would not have a subsequent presentation if the final design submission is approved; Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may request a further submission concerning some issues.
Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the Commission members' response to each component of the submission and summarized their comments. For Building 31, he noted that the staff supported with the design but the inclusion of solar panels on this historic building may be a concern, notwithstanding the broader goal of encouraging sustainability in the design of federal facilities. Ms. Plater-Zyberk, Ms. Balmori, and Ms. Nelson said that the design of the solar panels as presented is satisfactory, and supported the overall design for this building. Mr. Luebke asked if the proposal for Building 33/34 is similarly satisfactory; Ms. Nelson supported the proposal. He noted the Commission's previous concern with Building 39's ramps and other ancillary structures, which he said have been simplified since the February review; Ms. Nelson offered support for the resulting proposal. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's support for Buildings 56 and 71 as well as the National Operations Center which would not involve visible above-ground construction. He noted the Commission's reluctance to approve the more complex proposal for Building 49, with a request for more documentation of the architecture, and a similar concern for the project's landscape design.
Mr. McGill noted the time constraints for implementation of this project and commitment of the special funding appropriation. He said that the Commission's concern with the landscape design is less urgent because that portion will be implemented later in the construction process; and the concern with Building 49 involves a lack of information rather than opposition to a particular aspect of the design. He suggested that the General Services Administration provide additional illustrative drawings of Building 49 within two weeks for distribution to the Commission members; if no objection were raised, the construction contract for that building could proceed on schedule. Mr. Luebke noted that the General Services Administration has had ample time to respond to the Commission's comments from February 2010, and the Commission should have the opportunity to review a fully documented design at a regular public meeting rather than through long-distance transmission of illustrations to the individual members. The Commission members discussed the merits of acting on the project at the next meeting or sooner, noting that the timeframes would be only a couple of weeks apart and the next meeting would allow for public discussion. Mr. McGill added that a follow-up submission on the landscape design could occur at a later date without affecting the project schedule. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission may decide not to support the more fully documented future submission for Building 49; Mr. McGill said that in that situation the General Services Administration would withdraw that building from the construction contract bidding process.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the unusual complexity and scope of the Building 49 proposal, with substantial new construction directly abutting an historic building—a condition not seen elsewhere in the proposals for the campus—and multiple components of the historic building as well as multiple levels across the sloping site. She observed that the issues raised go beyond the general campus condition of new buildings relating to nearby existing architecture. She emphasized that the two-dimensional drawings that compress the complex massing do not provide assurance that the proposed addition is an appropriate design; Mr. Belle agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that the perspective renderings would normally overcome the limitations of the elevations, but the placement of trees in the submitted renderings obscures much of the design, possibly indicating an unresolved design condition that is intentionally not depicted. Mr. McKinnell commented that the design team appears to have responded sensitively to the Commission's comments to the extent demonstrated by the submission materials.
Mr. McGill noted the desire to solicit bids for construction in two to three weeks; he confirmed that contract documents have already been prepared but acknowledged the Commission's role in reviewing the design. Mr. Belle concluded that the Commission should review further documentation of Building 49 at the next monthly meeting. Mr. Luebke noted that the General Services Administration could obtain a bid price that includes this building as an option even though the Commission has not yet approved its design. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed, commenting that the overall scope of Building 49 is not an issue.
Mr. Belle commented that the bidding process may result in cost-saving changes to the design, which might not be satisfactory to the Commission. Mr. Luebke said that the applicant is required to bid the submitted design and return to the Commission with any resulting design revisions. Mr. McGill said that the General Services Administration has experience from other projects with obtaining bids for complex projects containing multiple components that may require adjustment in the review process; he emphasized that the current economic conditions are favorable for obtaining a bid that is within the project budget.
Vice-Chairman Nelson summarized the motion from the Commission members to approve the project with the exception of the landscape proposal and the design of Building 49, with the request that these components be resubmitted with additional information for the Commission's review. Ms. Plater-Zyberk clarified that the information for Building 49 should include the entirety of the building complex and the intersection of new and old construction; Ms. Balmori added that the landscape information should include the wider context. Upon a second by Mr. Belle, the Commission adopted this action.
F. Department of Defense / Department of the Army
CFA 15/APR/10-5, The Old Guard Monument, Fort Myer, Sheridan Avenue at Reba Place, Arlington, Virginia. New memorial and garden. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a monument in a garden setting at Fort Myer, the Army base which has recently been combined with the adjacent Henderson Hall of the Marine Corps to form a jointly administered military base. The monument would honor the Army's Old Guard, which handles burial ceremonies at the adjacent Arlington National Cemetery as well as other special functions of the Army. He acknowledged the presence of James Laufenberg, director of the group that is sponsoring the project, and said that the sculptor, Barbara Mungenast, could not attend. He introduced Myrtle Bowen, master planner for the joint base, to present the proposal.
Ms. Bowen emphasized that the proposal is consistent with the installation guidelines for the fort, the historical character of the area, and the master plan for the joint base that is currently under development. She described the context of the site, which is currently a lawn. Adjacent to the site on the north is the historic Town Hall building which contains a museum. Across the streets framing the site are the base's community hall on the west and the parade ground, Summerall Field, on the east; both locations are used for many military ceremonies. To the south is a parking lot which will remain; the design includes a screening fence to provide visual separation between the garden and the parking. The parking is used by members of the Old Guard, who are housed in a nearby barracks. Ms. Nelson asked about the existing canopy structures nearby; Ms. Bowen responded that these are green canvas canopies along the parade ground adjacent to the reviewing stand, used by high-level personnel attending ceremonies, which were approved by the Commission several years ago.
Ms. Bowen presented the site plan in comparison to existing conditions, indicating that the proposed design would relate to existing landscaping and pedestrian circulation patterns; the plan includes sidewalks which are not currently provided on the site. The monument sculpture would be located approximately in the center of the site, with pavilions at the two south corners and a ceremonial fence and entrance gate on the south. The pavilions could be used in conjunction with ceremonies at the garden or at Summerall Field; an existing pavilion on the site would be removed. The walkways would be brick pavers in a herringbone pattern, consistent with the installation design guideline; the paving at the base of the monument would be slate. A curved bench and hedge would form a backdrop on the north side of the monument sculpture.
Ms. Balmori expressed overall support for the design but offered several recommendations. She suggested that large trees be provided throughout the site perimeter to supplement the existing trees. She observed that the proposed hedge would block views of the sculpture from the north; she suggested that it be lowered, such as to the height of the bench, or eliminated. Ms. Bowen agreed to consider this change, noting that alterations to the Town Hall building on the north would be part of a forthcoming submission; its current use includes training sessions as well as a museum, and the hedge is intended to provide some privacy to the setting of the monument sculpture which will be used for occasional ceremonies. She indicated the frequently used door on the south facade of Town Hall, which could be distracting if not screened.
Mr. Belle asked about the extent of hard surfaces; Ms. Bowen clarified that the areas between the pedestrian walkways would be grass. Mr. Rybczynski noted that parking would remain on the east side of the garden as well as on the south, in addition to the street traffic on the west, while the proposed fence would only provide visual screening to the south; he questioned why the proposal does not include screening on all three exposed sides, commenting that the freestanding fence and gate has an odd appearance. Ms. Bowen responded that the project was initially for the monument sculpture itself, and then was augmented with the pavilions to enhance the setting; the segment of fencing is intended to provide some sense of separation from vehicles while not obstructing pedestrian access to the garden and views to the monument from the road. Mr. Rybczynski supported the proposed pavilions but reiterated that the fence design seems illogical. He recommended eliminating the fence; Ms. Bowen responded that this component is optional and could be deleted from the project. Mr. Luebke noted that some screening may be desirable and could perhaps be achieved through a combination of fencing and low hedges.
Ms. Bowen presented images of the proposed sculpture, a nine-foot-high bronze grouping of a U.S. flag and three military figures on a granite pedestal. She said that the figures represent the current missions of the Old Guard and suggest its history: a saluting commander in ceremonial dress; an infantry rifleman; and a fife player in a Colonial-era uniform, representing the Old Guard's Fife and Drum Corps. A marker is inscribed "In Honor of Our Own" and the flag drapes down from the pole to touch each soldier, unifying the group and providing an overarching feature. A small amount of lighting is proposed for the project: lights in the pedestal would be aimed upward to illuminate the sculpture, and the adjacent bench would contain lights aimed downward; she confirmed that lighting is not currently planned for the pavilions.
Ms. Nelson commented that the flag would be interesting to see realized as a bronze sculpture and expressed surprise that the soldier in the Colonial uniform is modeled as a woman; Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the gender is not apparent. Mr. Laufenberg of the sponsoring organization said that the intention of the sculpture is to show the modern composition of the Old Guard's personnel, and the models were from multiple races and genders; however, the figures are intentionally sculpted to downplay such distinctions. He confirmed that the photographs in the presentation are of a small clay maquette.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported the intention for the project to provide a civic and ceremonial setting, particularly at a location adjacent to the parade ground that is typically a focal point for military bases. She observed that this older base has an urban character with buildings aligned along the street, and she suggested that the project respond more fully to this character. She noted that the proposed siting of the monument and path system are aligned slightly off the center of the Town Hall building; she acknowledged the intention to screen the view toward this building with landscaping but said that its presence should be accepted and provides a welcome backdrop for the formal space that is envisioned. She recommended reorienting the site plan to align with the center of the building, adding that the resulting non-orthogonal angles might appear awkward on a site plan but would not be problematic as a three-dimensional reality. She said that this shift might result in the need to reduce the parking area to the east, which could be achieved by changing from diagonal to parallel parking; the orientation of the pavilions would also be adjusted to frame the reoriented alignment. She supported the pavilions as important elements of the design, serving to define the site in relation to the Town Hall building and separate it from the parking lot; she contrasted the proposal to the current appearance of a green space on the edge of the parking. She recommended careful further consideration of defining the edges of the site, possibly using hedges or additional fencing with gates.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk also supported the limited amount of proposed lighting, agreeing that the lighting should be subtle and not overdone. She suggested further consideration of the bench design, commenting that it could be more closely related to other design elements such as the sculpture's pedestal or the brick piers framing the gate; the result would be a more unified design and special place.
Ms. Bowen offered to consider the Commission's recommendations in revising the concept submission and asked if the review of the resulting changes could be delegated to the staff in order to keep the project moving forward. Mr. McKinnell supported the delegation of authority and said that he supports Ms. Plater-Zyberk's comments. Ms. Bowen confirmed that the recommended changes are acceptable, and she emphasized the overall goals of enhancing the character of the military base and honoring the Old Guard. Ms. Nelson commented that the garden would be a desirable place to visit for the nearby residents on the base; Mr. McKinnell said that Ms. Plater-Zyberk's recommendations would make the garden even more special. Mr. Belle said that the recommended changes would add precision to the design, which is an appropriate goal for honoring the ceremonial unit of the military; the result would be a successful example of military art.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's recommendations: realignment of the site plan to be centered on the Town Hall building; an improved enclosure around the site; and revision to the bench design. He added that the project team has been responsive to suggestions from the staff consultation meetings; Ms. Bowen acknowledged the assistance of the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the concept subject to these recommendations and delegated the review of the final design to the staff.
G. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
CFA 15/APR/10-6, Washington Canal Park, 2nd Street between I and M Streets, SE. New park including art installation. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/09-7, Park design concept / CFA 18/MAR/10-6, Art installation concept.) Ms. Barsoum introduced the combined submission of the landscape design and artwork proposal for Washington Canal Park. She noted the Commission's approval of the landscape design concept in September 2009, with a request for further consideration of including benches, adjusting the location of the recreational lawn, and treatment of the paving. She said that the proposed sculpture by artist David Hess was reviewed by the Commission in March 2010 without action, when the Commission expressed concern about the complexity of the park and requested that the artwork be submitted in conjunction with the final proposal for the landscape design. She noted that the artwork proposal has now been simplified, with three pieces rather than five within the three-block linear park. She introduced landscape architect David Rubin of the OLIN firm to present the proposal; Mr. Rubin acknowledged the joint design effort with the firm STUDIOS Architecture, represented by Brian Pilot and Marnique Heath.
Mr. Rubin presented the design of the park and samples of the proposed materials. He said that the C & O Canal provided design inspiration for the park, which was formerly the site of a canal that extended through central Washington. He described the three-block site, noting that the project has recently been extended across 2nd Street and 2nd Place to include additional sidewalk areas. Each block would have a pavilion, a sculpture, and a rain garden. The northern block would have a flexible lawn space that could be used for film screenings or concerts; the pavilion would be used for chair rentals during the day and would become a glowing cube at night, with the brightness varying in response to the motion of people nearby. The middle block would include a large fountain, a lawn intended for children's play, and a flexible area that could accommodate a market. The pavilion would be located along the fountain; the sculpture would be located within the children's play lawn, which would be bounded by seating to facilitate supervision. The southern block would have a larger pavilion containing a cafe, and a monumental fountain would extend toward M Street, SE; this fountain would become part of an ice-skating rink in winter, with the sculpture set within one of the rink's landscape islands.
Mr. Rubin described the concept of the pavilions as barge-like structures and lanterns rising from the linear water elements and rain gardens along the east side of each block, recalling the design vocabulary of the historic canal. Ms. Nelson asked about the material of the glowing pavilion; Mr. Pilot of STUDIOS responded that it would be a one-inch-thick polycarbonate, and he confirmed that the cube and light would not be colored. Mr. Belle asked about the framing of this pavilion; Mr. Pilot responded that the exterior surfaces would be supported on a steel frame within the pavilion, with all attachments occurring on the back; no fasteners would be exposed to view, and the lighting fixtures would also be internal. He clarified that the inner structure behind the frame would be eight-inch-thick concrete masonry block, which would be painted white and would not be visible from the exterior. Ms. Nelson asked about the capacity of the pavilion to store chairs within all of the structural and lighting assemblies; Mr. Rubin said that several hundred chairs could be stored. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the need for sealant between the panels of this pavilion. Mr. Pilot responded that the water-proofing layer would be internal, and the surface panels would not require sealing; he characterized the panels as a type of canopy, and he confirmed that water would not harm the internal structural joints. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the purpose for the concrete block; Mr. Pilot responded that it supports an assembly that provides the waterproof enclosure for the chair storage area. Mr. McKinnell asked about the size of this pavilion; Mr. Pilot said that it would be a cube of fifteen feet on each side.
Mr. Rubin added that the pavilion in the middle block would be the same material and would be supported above the water, allowing it to be viewed in reflection; it would also glow in the evening but with a different character, resembling a Chinese lantern. This pavilion would serve as an entrance to the park from 2nd Place and could also function as a stage that opens toward the children's play area; he said that puppet shows, story-telling, or other programming could occur here. The pavilion would also contain the pumps for the fountains and would provide storage for toys that would be brought out daily to the children's play area, which has been successful in other cities.
Mr. Rubin described the proposed pavilion for the south block in more detail. The public would have access to its roof via stairs and an elevator; the stairs would also serve as seating for viewing the fountain and ice skating. The pavilion would contain several alternative lighting systems that could highlight its interior or frame or could be adapted to relate to special events. The ground floor would contain the cafe and a vending area for ice skates. The materials of this pavilion would include the polycarbonate panels used on the other pavilions along with wood and board-formed concrete, suggesting an extrusion from the earth. Mr. Belle commented that this large pavilion occupies a substantial portion of the park. Mr. Rubin clarified that most of the pavilion's ground-floor space is usable by the public, including restrooms; the basement level would contain the cafe kitchen and support space as well as mechanical equipment for the fountain and ice rink. Mr. Belle noted that much of the roof level is landscaped or occupied by circulation and service areas, leaving relatively little space available for people who ascend to this level. Mr. Rubin clarified that the green roof and service areas are very limited, and much of the upper level is occupiable; he characterized the roof level as a belvedere overlooking the park and an extension of the park space. Mr. Belle expressed an overall concern that the combination of several pavilions across the blocks would be too massive; Mr. Pilot and Mr. Rubin responded that only the northern pavilion has a solid interior, while the others would be translucent or occupiable.
Mr. Belle asked about the intended ownership and operation of the park's facilities; Mr. Rubin responded that this would be the responsibility of the local Business Improvement District and the Canal Park Development Association, predicting that the park will be well managed. He clarified that the restaurant would be operated through a contract with a separate concessionaire. Mr. Belle asked if the cafe operator would also maintain the public areas at the roof level; Mr. Rubin responded that such contracting details have not yet been established. Ms. Nelson asked about the special lighting effects for the southern pavilion. Mr. Rubin responded that images could be projected onto its surface from within, or the lighting could emphasize its form in various ways.
Mr. Rubin presented further images of the proposed ice-skating rink, which would have an unusual linear form to recall the practice of skating on frozen canals; the configuration of the rink and pavilion would allow for controlled access to the skating. A bench along the rink would accommodate spectators, in addition to the seating provided by the stairs leading to the pavilion roof. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the logistics of creating the ice surface; Mr. Rubin responded that a cooling mechanism would be cast into the concrete surface, and the rink area would be flooded during the winter to create the ice. Mr. McKinnell asked about facilities for maintenance equipment; Mr. Rubin indicated the location of a seasonal temporary structure to cover the machinery, noting that this area would be an open walkway during warmer months.
Mr. Rubin presented plans of different blocks of the park showing various configurations for programming such as a market or a film screening. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the configuration of a market in the area bisected by the curved bench alongside the fountain and skating area in the southern block; Mr. Rubin responded that larger market-type events would be sited in the middle block. Mr. Rubin described the stormwater management system for the park, including cisterns and the rain gardens; he added that this system would handle runoff from the roofs of nearby buildings as well as from within the park. He indicated the location for bicycle racks and for electric-car charging stations. He presented the proposed design and location of signage, including rules, wayfinding maps, and interpretive information as well as the proposed logo for the park. The interpretation would describe topics such as the stormwater management system and the history of the canal. He presented the design of the benches, which he characterized as sculptural; some benches would form boundaries and would provide multiple seating configurations.
Mr. Rubin described the refinement of the sculpture proposal by artist David Hess through collaboration with the landscape design team. The sculpture is intended to unify the park design by expressing intermittent above-ground representations of something happening below grade along the length of the park. He said that the sculpture has been simplified to reduce the number of elements from five to three, and to reduce the complexity of the coiled elements.
Mr. Rubin described the inspiration for the selection of plant materials, which recall the succession of uses for the site; he noted that the canal was relatively short-lived and was superseded by sedimentation and plant colonization. Plants, particularly trees, would be sited to establish the borders of major areas and to assist in wayfinding. He presented samples of stone that matches the material of the 19th-century canal system—also proposed by the OLIN firm for the Potomac Park levee at 17th Street, NW—along with the pre-cast pavers, cast-in-place concrete, granite, and wood for the benches.
Ms. Nelson commented on the apparent philosophy of the park design, describing it as having many ideas that suggest a "frantic" character. She predicted that the park would be an asset to the neighborhood and would attract many people, but questioned the emphasis on entertainment and activities rather than creating a quiet contemplative space within the crowded city. Mr. Rubin acknowledged that the presentation emphasized numerous activities but said the park would not necessarily be programmed each day; he also emphasized that the design is intended to provide a flexible range of spaces with a transition from urban to contemplative areas. He offered the example of the various fountains including one in which children can play and another that would be still, encouraging quiet enjoyment. Ms. Nelson reiterated that while the site seems relatively modest in size, the design is crowded with ideas.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed with Ms. Nelson's comments and emphasized the importance of management for the park. She said that most of the programming elements would be omitted from a municipally operated park due to budget limitations; the independent organizations managing this park may be more successful in implementing the proposal, but the result appears to be excessive. She provided the example of the four or five different bench designs, and the multiple design elements that would be perceived in themselves as artwork in addition to the actual sculpture proposal. However, she acknowledged that the sponsoring organizations perceive the park as a catalyst for the neighborhood and are willing to pay for its construction and ongoing maintenance, making the project effectively a private-sector proposal. She said that the park embodies the notion that people need a constant stream of entertainment, a concept related to retail marketing and Disney parks that has become part of our modern culture. She said that the proposal could be accepted within this context, but the commitment of the sponsoring organizations to care for it must be clear. She noted that the material choices such as wood, as well as the mechanical systems, will require ongoing maintenance and would not be appropriate for a public-sector facility.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposal is comparable to a small version of Chicago's Millennium Park, which he had predicted would fail but has instead been extremely successful. He contrasted this modern concept of a park with the Olmsted tradition, acknowledging that this proposal may be very popular. However, he noted that the population density is relatively modest compared to Millennium Park, and there are other nearby park areas along the Anacostia River to draw people away. He concluded that the proposal would be worth trying.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the sponsors are not-for-profit groups rather than private-sector businesses. Mr. Rubin described the project as a public-private partnership and said that it is intended to support desirable economic activity in conjunction with providing an open-space amenity. Ms. Nelson commented that the market stalls would likely be rented for a fee, and the major entertainment events such as concerts may have paid ticketing. Mr. Rubin responded that events may not require paid tickets; he cited the example of New York City's Bryant Park, where the local sponsoring organization provides movie screenings as a public amenity although the park is occasionally rented out for special events. Mr. Belle suggested consideration of a more limited version of the proposal that would include the same ideas at more modest cost, allowing for the park to be expanded in subsequent phases; he contrasted this to the unwelcome prospect of building the entire design and then closing portions in the near future due to excessive operating costs. He offered the example of the outdoor markets which could attract many people and would be relatively simple to implement, as illustrated in the renderings. Ms. Nelson agreed, adding that non-operating fountains and a closed skating rink would be undesirable outcomes of the project.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the final design for the park, noting the suggestions for improving the park's likelihood of success. Mr. Rubin thanked the Commission for its assistance with his firm's recent work during numerous reviews of this project and the Potomac Park levee.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:17 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: May 27, 2010