Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
21 January 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 10:14 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 November meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the previous meeting in November 2009 were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 18 February, 18 March, and 15 April.
C. Confirmation of the approval of the December 2009 Old Georgetown Act submissions. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the Old Georgetown Board recommendations that were circulated and endorsed in December, when no Commission meeting was held. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission adopted the December recommendations.
Mr. Luebke announced that the Monumental Core Framework Plan, which the Commission co-sponsored with the National Capital Planning Commission, has received a 2010 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in the field of regional and urban design. He noted the ongoing efforts of many government agencies to achieve the plan's goals, including the recent establishment of the 10th Street Corridor Task Force by the National Capital Planning Commission to address the connection between the Mall and the Southwest Waterfront, with participation by the Commission of Fine Arts staff.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the two appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting. He noted the lack of a customary appendix for Old Georgetown Act submissions due to the decision not to hold an early January meeting of the Old Georgetown Board; he said that this scheduling arrangement will be evaluated for future years. (See agenda item I.C for the approval of the Old Georgetown Board recommendations from December 2009.)
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported that there are no changes to the draft consent calendar. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported two changes to the draft appendix, both concerning cellular telephone antenna submissions that were listed on the draft with negative recommendations due to insufficient information. Based on further information, the recommendation for case number SL 10-036 has been revised to be favorable; the recommendation for case number SL 10-033 remains negative due to the excessive number of antennas and screens already located on this roof. Ms. Nelson asked if there is an established policy for limiting the number of rooftop antennas. Mr. Luebke responded that the staff evaluates each situation individually; for example, screening of rooftop equipment is sometimes helpful but in some situations can worsen the appearance. He said that case number SL 10-033 involves a prominently sited building on Connecticut Avenue that already has several rooftop antennas that were installed in 2005 without the Commission's approval. Ms. Nelson thanked the staff for monitoring such situations. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.H for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
B. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 21/JAN/10-1, 2011 America the Beautiful Quarters Program. Reverse designs for five coins: Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania), Glacier National Park (Montana), Olympic National Park (Washington), Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi), and Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma). Final. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/09-4.) Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the proposed reverse design alternatives for the five circulating quarters to be issued in 2011 as part of the series depicting scenic and historic sites in each state and territory. Ms. Budow summarized the America the Beautiful Quarters Program which was legislatively authorized by the America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Act of 2008; the order of issuance of the 56 coins will be based on the chronological order of establishment of each featured location as a federally protected site. The familiar obverse of the quarter will continue, with restoration of the 1932 portrait image of George Washington to improve the depiction of the original details.
Ms. Budow said that the standard template for this series has been established with the first set of five coins, which will be issued during 2010. Ms. Nelson noted the Commission's advice on the template, when reviewing the first set of coins in September 2009, to eliminate the awkward flat edge at the bottom of the circular border; she asked why this recommendation has apparently not been implemented. Ms. Budow confirmed that the flat edge remains as part of the template design for the series; she said that the senior staff of the Mint considered the Commission's recommendation carefully and concluded that this feature—called an "exergue"—has historic precedent and would be valuable in providing orientation to the central design, helping to address the difficulty of satisfactorily depicting scenic views on a small coin.
Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)
Ms. Budow presented four alternative reverse designs depicting Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, site of the Civil War battle and Lincoln's subsequent Gettysburg Address. The park was established privately in 1864 and transferred to the federal government in 1895. The designs depict various monuments that were constructed at the park during the 19th and 20th centuries; Ms. Budow provided photographs of the existing monuments. Ms. Nelson supported Design #3 because its simplicity will be legible at the small size of the coin while the depicted monument provides an iconic image of the cemetery. Mr. Powell and Mr. Rybczynski agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that this design has an awkward relationship between the base of the monument and the flat edge of the border; if the Mint insists on keeping this border feature, she recommended adjusting the position of the monument to eliminate the narrow band adjacent to the lower border. She added that the adjustment should also include increasing the distance between the upper border and the head of the statue atop the monument.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the position of the wording on the designs, with the state name paired symmetrically with the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" along the border strip. She recommended that the Latin phrase have a more honorific location, while grouping or pairing the text relating to the particular subject of the coin. She acknowledged the logic of having the site's name at the top of the design but suggested an alternative configuration of symmetrically pairing the site and state names at the sides, while placing the phrase "E Pluribus Unum" at the top; several Commission members agreed with this recommendation. Chairman Powell noted that a change would be unlikely at this point in the series, and Ms. Budow said that the 2010 coins are currently being minted using the same template as shown for these 2011 design alternatives. Chairman Powell suggested conveying the Commission's comment to the Mint. He questioned whether the placement of the state name "Pennsylvania" is satisfactorily balanced with the Latin phrase; Mr. Luebke noted that this relationship would vary with the length of the state name for each coin.
Ms. Nelson commented on the lengthy duration of this program—twelve years or possibly longer—and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the Commission's recommendations regarding the template could be incorporated in future years. Ms. Budow confirmed that the Mint intends to use the recently established template for the duration of the program, noting the Mint's consideration of the Commission's comments on the template during the review of the first five coins in September 2009; Chairman Powell acknowledged that the Commission had considered and commented on the template during the previous review. Ms. Budow said that the Mint might be more open to revising the template at the conclusion of the current twelve-year schedule if there is an extension to the series.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended Design #1 for the Gettysburg coin, subject to the Commission's comments concerning the position of the memorial and of the surrounding text.
Glacier National Park (Montana)
Ms. Budow presented three alternative designs for Glacier National Park in Montana, established in 1897 and known for its spectacular glacier-carved scenery; the designs include scenes of Mt. Reynolds with various combinations of the mountain goat and plants including bear grass and fir trees. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if one of the alternatives is already preferred, which sometimes occurs with the Mint's submissions. Ms. Budow responded that all of the alternatives were developed in cooperation with the park staff to choose accurate, appropriate, and emblematic subjects, and no single design is preferred. Mr. Powell recommended Design #1 due to its simplicity, noting that "there is not much room on here for a national park." Ms. Budow noted that the inclusion of an animal or plants that are emblematic of a particular park could help to distinguish the various landscape depictions that are anticipated for this coin series. Ms. Nelson supported Design #3, commenting that the glaciated form of the mountain is most successfully depicted in this alternative. Ms. Budow said that a low relief would be used to suggest the perspective depth on the coin. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that she would often support the simplest design but, due to the potential repetition of similar landscapes in this series, she supports the inclusion of the animal to provide a distinct feature; Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson agreed, supporting Design #3. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission recommended Design #3 for the Glacier National Park reverse.
Olympic National Park (Washington)
Ms. Budow presented the four alternative designs for Olympic National Park in the state of Washington; a park extending from the Pacific Ocean coast to Mt. Olympus; the alternatives include mountain, meadow, river, and coastal scenes. She indicated the Roosevelt elk on Design #1, an iconic animal of the park and named for Theodore Roosevelt. Ms. Nelson commented that the shoreline is a unique feature of this park, as depicted in Design #2; she described the image of shoreline rock formations as distinctive but potentially difficult for people to recognize. She also commented that the elk in Design #1 is drawn well. Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed that these two alternatives are the best. She expressed support for including the distinctive animal and asked if other designs in the series would be coastal scenes; Ms. Budow responded that this is possible. Mr. Powell and Mr. Belle supported Design #1 due to its inclusion of the elk. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended Design #1 for Olympic National Park.
Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi)
Ms. Budow presented four designs for Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, established in 1899 and commemorating the battle and siege of the city during the Civil War. The designs depict some of the many monuments and markers in the park as well as the Union's ironclad gunboat. She noted the difficulty of selecting distinct emblematic images for Gettysburg and Vicksburg, both of which are known for their numerous monuments. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the depiction of three men in Design #1 is based on an existing sculpture, noting that the authorizing legislation for the series requires the designs to be emblematic of the selected site. Ms. Budow confirmed that this design depicts the top portion of a sculpture on an existing monument at the park; the base of the same monument is depicted in Design #3. Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson commented that Design #1 is not readily recognizable as a view of an existing feature. Mr. McKinnell agreed, adding that the comment also applies to Design #3; he said that these alternatives convey a celebration of the historic event rather than of the park itself. Mr. Powell agreed and supported Design #4, depicting a memorial arch, as more specifically emblematic of the park. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that Design #1 might be more successful if some of the monument's base were included, as shown in the photograph provided by Ms. Budow. Ms. Nelson said that Design #1 has superior artistic merit but that Design #4 provides the best linkage to the specific battle and place.
Mr. Rybczynski supported the subject matter of Designs #2 or #4—the ironclad ship or the memorial arch—but said that the depictions are overly photographic, incorporating extraneous details that detract from the beauty and simplicity of the subject. He added that this concern applies generally to all of the designs that have been submitted, and that he did not vote in support of the previous motions; he compared these designs to the simple depiction of the Lincoln Memorial on the penny, which is beautiful and recognizable without landscape features. He discouraged the tendency toward designs that have the appearance of "a photograph pretending to be a coin," summarizing his recommendation that "a coin should symbolize and simplify something so that you see the essence of it but not the reality of it." Chairman Powell suggested further development of a simplified version of the arch in Design #4; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed, and Mr. Belle added his support of Mr. Rybczynski's comments. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission recommended the theme of the memorial arch in Design #4 but with a revised design that would eliminate the landscape in order to provide an iconic rather than realistic view of the arch.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma)
Ms. Budow presented the three alternative designs for Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma, originally established as Sulfur Springs Reservation in 1902 and known for its woodlands, streams, and springs. She noted that all three designs depict water elements: Buffalo Springs, which feeds a circular basin and a series of pools; a scenic limestone bridge dedicated in 1909 in honor of Abraham Lincoln; and the Little Niagara waterfall. Mr. Belle asked why the view of the basin in Design #1 was selected rather than the view in the photograph provided to the Commission; Ms. Budow responded that several versions of this subject were considered in developing the design, and park officials said that the view in Design #1 was the most appropriate image and would be most suitable for execution as a coin. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the large foreground elements in Design #1 distract from the basin. She recommended Design #3 with the modification to adjust the position of the bird to disengage its tail from the tree and have its silhouette be fully visible against the sky, commenting that the proposed configuration will be difficult to understand on the coin. Mr. McKinnell agreed, adding that Design #1 could easily be confused with a depiction of a suburban swimming pool.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested developing an alternative using only the bird of Design #3; he said that such a proposal would require an acknowledgment by the Mint that a landscape cannot be depicted on a coin, and an emblem is therefore the appropriate design approach. He added that this concept would be consistent with the history of coins and would result in a much stronger design for a small coin. Ms. Budow confirmed that the bird is a great blue heron; Mr. Powell noted that this bird is not unique to the Chickasaw area, but he generally supported Mr. Rybczynski's comments. Ms. Nelson commented that the Lincoln Bridge is a unique feature and could be depicted as an isolated element in a simplified version of Design #2. Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus not to recommend a particular design alternative but to suggest further development of a simplified design with an emblematic feature such as the bridge. The discussion concluded without a formal action on the Chickasaw coin. The Commission members expressed appreciation for the supplemental images provided by the Mint for comparison with the design alternatives.
C. General Services Administration
CFA 21/JAN/10-2, Federal Office Building #8 (former Food and Drug Administration), 2nd and C Streets, SW. Building modernization and renovation project including site and perimeter security design. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/NOV/09-7.) Mr. Lindstrom summarized the Commission's previous reviews of alterations to Federal Office Building #8 (FOB 8) and its site: in September 2007, the Commission approved the concept design for renovation of the building, including the new entrance pavilion; in November 2009, the Commission approved the concept for the surrounding streetscape including the plaza on the building's north side, with several recommendations concerning the plaza, street trees, and details of the perimeter security elements. He introduced Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA) to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill said that FOB 8 is part of GSA's large complex of buildings in the Southwest Federal Center, and this building's style is representative of the many that GSA built across the country from the 1960s to 1980s that "scarred our urban landscape." He noted the unusual configuration of setbacks for several buildings along C Street resulting in a wide corridor that is partially used for parking lots. One goal of the project is to convert this former laboratory building into attractive office space, benefiting from the site's view of the U.S. Capitol. An additional goal is to make the overall C Street corridor more attractive, and GSA has therefore developed a coordinated landscape design for all four federal buildings framing the corridor, each of which is scheduled for modernization in the next few years. He said that the current submission addresses both the building and site proposals; he introduced landscape architect Dennis Carmichael of AECOM and architect Joseph Boggs of Boggs & Partners to present the design.
Mr. Carmichael summarized the presentation from November and discussed the responses to the Commission's comments. He emphasized that this project will establish the character for the precinct of four buildings, and indicated the proposed curvilinear pattern that corresponds to the desired paths of pedestrians. He described the intention to create a plaza on C street that would be a lively public place as well as the entrance for FOB 8. He noted the revised configuration of the plaza in response to the Commission's concern, widening the narrowest part of the plaza from seventeen feet to twenty feet in order to improve the flow of pedestrians. He described the proposal for an extensive green roof on top of much of the building, which was not previously noted in the landscape presentations; in addition, the plaza itself is on top of a below-grade parking structure, which requires the planting beds to be elevated.
Mr. Carmichael presented alternative configurations and finishes for the perimeter security elements in response to the Commission's previous concerns. The concept submission included light-colored precast concrete elements near the building to match the limestone facades, and darker steel elements near the street where the site conditions require that the perimeter security be located close to the curb; the intention of this color change was to make each grouping blend well with its context. He indicated the steel top rail that is proposed on top of the bollards, which is optional at some locations and necessary for safety alongside a deep areaway. Mr. Belle asked if the railing would attract skateboarders; Mr. Carmichael responded that the curved profile would make skateboarding infeasible. He presented alternatives without rails near the street, and with an elevated curb to better define the planting beds; additional alternatives included all elements in the lighter color to match the building facades. He confirmed the design team's preference for the combination of colors, with the rails included and the curb omitted. He noted that the curb would introduce detailing problems to insure proper drainage, while a system without curbs would allow stormwater runoff from the sidewalk to flow directly into the planting beds. Mr. Luebke said that the staff preference for perimeter security elements is typically a darker color, particularly when associated with landscaping; he acknowledged the logic of introducing the lighter color for portions of this project but suggested further differentiation, such as omitting the rail from the dark-colored curbside configurations.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the importance of continuity among the four blocks that will follow the precedent established by this streetscape design. She asked if the site conditions on the other blocks might suggest the best configuration of elements and colors for the perimeter security elements. Mr. Carmichael responded that the design team has not studied the adjacent blocks in detail but has tried to create a pattern that is sufficiently neutral to be applied to a variety of conditions; he said the other buildings share a common architectural language.
Mr. McKinnell expressed support for omitting the rails where possible, commenting that a minimal number of perimeter security elements is preferable. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the need for a free-standing bollard in some sidewalk areas, requiring a potentially awkward decision on color choice because the location is neither near the building nor the curb; she commented that the elimination of curbside rails would resolve this by establishing a clear pattern of the dark color used for freestanding bollards—including the bollards within the sidewalk area—and the light color for the combinations of bollards and rails near the building. She added that this vocabulary could be flexibly applied to the other three blocks in the vicinity, allowing for variation in the profile of the rail in response to the architectural character of each building while maintaining the consistent use of dark freestanding bollards near the curb.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support Option 2 in the presentation, including the elimination of the elevated curb. Mr. Belle asked whether sufficient distance is provided between the bollards and the curb; Mr. Carmichael said that the distance would be two feet, sufficient to accommodate car doors. Mr. Belle asked about lighting for the landscape; Mr. Carmichael responded that there would be streetlights along the curb edges of the site as well as a pole lighting system in the plaza; the light fixtures have not yet been selected. Ms. Plater-Zyberk recommended consideration of pole lighting that simply continues the vocabulary of the streetlights.
Mr. Carmichael presented samples of materials for the Commission's inspection. Ms. Nelson expressed concern at the paving made with recycled glass, commenting that the bright-green color would compete with the landscaping; she suggested using only the more muted blue-green version of this material. Mr. Carmichael responded that the warmer green color is intended to be more compatible with the adjacent lawn, while the cooler green color would extend in bands across the plaza. Ms. Nelson said that the color would not actually match the lawn, particularly in winter, and shouldn't be chosen for this purpose. Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the need for two different green materials; Mr. Carmichael acknowledged that this is not necessary but was intended to create a special setting for the proposed glass entry pavilion. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that variations in paving are often perceived as a distraction; she and Ms. Nelson recommended a more limited vocabulary with no color variety or with only one accent color.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the location and purpose of the green paving; Mr. Carmichael indicated the series of bands through the plaza and landscape, serving to mark the entry points to walk onto the sloped lawns and creating a processional rhythm for people walking across the large plaza space. Mr. Rybczynski said the design is confusing because the bands sometimes serve as pathways, sometimes as decorative stripes, and sometimes as part of the planting areas. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the geometry of the stripes relates to the building's bay pattern; Mr. Carmichael said the relationship is not precise but generally relates to the building's rhythm of glass and masonry. Ms. Nelson supported a single color for highlights; Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported either the single color or no highlights; and Mr. Rybczynski supported elimination of the highlights, commenting that they may improve the drawings but would have no significant benefit in the built plaza. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the potentially awkward detailing of the stripes in conjunction with the transition between grass, curb, and concrete, including the need for expansion joints; she therefore supported reducing the complexity of the design. She reiterated the value of a curb along the base of the lawn areas to simplify the details of the intersection between the landscape and the plaza; Ms. Nelson and Mr. Belle agreed. Mr. Luebke said that this recommendation for refinement of the landscape design could be part of a motion that requests a further review or delegates approval of the final design to the staff, perhaps in conjunction with review of the lighting fixtures that have not yet been selected. Chairman Powell said that the Commission generally supports the design and has given sufficient guidance for resolving the remaining details; he suggested delegating the remaining review to the staff and encouraged implementation of the improvements as soon as possible.
Mr. Boggs presented the final proposal for the building modernization. He said that the building has some design character and, while easy to ignore as a background building, is actually quite large. He noted the prominence of its site, particularly as a backdrop for views from the Rayburn House Office Building and the planned memorial to disabled veterans across 2nd Street. He noted the relatively few windows on the existing building, designed for laboratories, and said that a design goal is to introduce more daylight for the intended use as office space. An additional goal was to reuse as much of the existing limestone as possible, helping to retain the building's identity as well as conserve resources. He noted the vertical cadence to the facades but the lack of a strong entrance feature. The proposal is to add vertical window groupings and a skylit atrium which would be expressed at a new entry pavilion on the plaza to the north, where security screening would occur. The proposed facades have a balance of limestone the background for the building's character, and glass that will reflect the context. The end walls, which now have a patterned strip of a few small windows, would receive large groupings of new windows that would be distinct from the existing pattern and from the proposed cadence of vertical window bands on the long facades. The glass would slide across the existing limestone, using a delicate modern vocabulary that would contrast with the heaviness of the stone. The result of the atrium and window proposals would be that all locations within the building would be within thirty feet of daylight; the atrium would also provide a sense of surprise within the building as well as contributing to air circulation. The limestone would be repointed and restored. He described the design concept of the security pavilion as a separate piece that flows from the glass wall of the atrium, helping to establish the design character of the building as people enter it.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about depth of the new windows and bays. Mr. Boggs responded that the added depth is constrained in some locations to only eight inches, while the base of the bays extends about two and a half feet from the existing facades; he noted the importance of providing views of the Capitol where possible. Ms. Nelson asked if the entrance pavilion design is flexible enough to adapt to changing security technologies; Mr. Boggs said that this is possible and likely to occur even within the construction period for this project; he noted a special zone that is available for new technology and added that the pavilion is blast-resistant.
Mr. Boggs presented an animation of the building, emphasizing the changing light and the reflections of the context which help the building to serve as a backdrop, improving on the current architecture which is more static. He indicated the lively effect of the proposed landscape lighting for late afternoons during winter. He summarized the design intention as a timeless, elegant, modern solution to reconstituting an existing government building.
Mr. Boggs presented models of the curtainwall details in response to the Commission's previous concern. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the glass on the sides of the bays; Mr. Carmichael said that these help to provide views of the Capitol from some locations. He indicated the mullion location behind the glass, serving to emphasize the delicate design character of the glass. Ms. Nelson asked about the treatment of the glass edges; Mr. Boggs said that a simple smooth finish is proposed for the five-eighths-inch thickness of the glass. He added that the design of the bays requires little maintenance due to the lack of exposed mullion joints, and the detailing of the glass strengthens its relationship to the limestone texture. He presented samples of the proposed glass to be used for windows and spandrels; he said that all of the glass is clear, which typically has a slight green cast particularly due to the triple lamination. The design team clarified that the spandrel glass is a single layer, backed by paint so that its appearance will match the perceived color of the triple-laminated window glass. Mr. Boggs added that the high performance of the glass makes additional tinting or reflective coatings unnecessary. Mr. McKinnell commented favorably that the spandrels will be less distinctive than depicted on the model. Mr. Belle asked if the different angles of the glass would result in different appearances; Mr. Boggs clarified that only an isolated area of glass is tilted with the remainder in the wall plane. Mr. Belle said that such variation is not necessarily problematic but should be considered in the design. Mr. Boggs added that the clear glass was selected to bring as much daylight as possible into the building, helping to achieve the LEED environmental rating of gold.
The Commission members expressed support for the proposed transformation of the building, suggesting it as a model for other building modernizations. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted an additional concern: the proliferation of papers, boxes, and files along the windows of office buildings, as well as the resulting appearance of crooked window blinds. Mr. Boggs responded that the ground-level windows do not reach the floor level except near the entrance; on the upper floors, this issue would need to be monitored. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested the use of fritted glass to conceal the potential problem areas; Mr. Boggs said that this is under consideration. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that this is an interior issue but affects the appearance of the public realm. Chairman Powell agreed but questioned the Commission's ability to address the issue; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that it should be treated as a design concern rather than a behavior issue, particularly due to the vast number of employees whose habits are involved. Mr. Boggs confirmed that a ceramic frit may be included elsewhere on the building and could be used to address the appearance of the office space.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the final design, including the building and landscape components, subject to the comments and the delegation of authority that were discussed.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 21/JAN/10-3, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Perimeter/secondary containment fence and reconfigured Lower Zoo Gateway Entrance and plaza. Concept. Mr. Martinez presented the Smithsonian Institution's proposal for a new perimeter fence at the National Zoo. He said the purpose of the fence is primarily to contain zoo animals if they get loose from their primary enclosures, and would connect to a new entrance gate and plaza at the Zoo's south entrance; this part of the proposal will be brought to the Commission for later review after further development of the design for this area. To begin the presentation, he introduced Harry Rombach, who continues to work with the Smithsonian Institution after his recent retirement.
Mr. Rombach described the barrier systems at the Zoo: the primary barrier consists of various types such as fences, moats, or walls, and is located immediately around the animal areas; the secondary barrier is a fence to keep out feral animals and to contain Zoo animals that may escape the primary barriers; and a perimeter fence marks the extent of the Zoo's property. He said that a recent audit by the American Zoological Association (AZA) found that the secondary barrier at the National Zoo did not meet the AZA standards. The design team has explored different solutions, such as combining the perimeter and secondary containment fences, but the challenge has always been in crossing Rock Creek, which passes through the Zoo property; extending the secondary containment barrier cross the creek would be expensive, obtrusive, and not necessarily effective. He introduced Craig Watson of the Smith Group to present the proposed solution.
Mr. Watson described the Zoo's park-like character, observing that the existing perimeter fence serves to mark the property limits rather than to provide containment or security; he noted its open ends at the north and south where the entrance gates are located. He said the alignment and design of the proposed secondary fence is intended to preserve the park's character and minimize the fence's visibility. The design results from an analysis of the visibility of the current fence. Mr. Watson presented a map of the existing perimeter fence and the proposed barrier alignment, explaining that the proposed barrier line would be located entirely on the west side of Rock Creek without crossing it. He described the proposal for a combination of different fence types depending on the context: an ornamental fence for the visible frontage along Connecticut Avenue and welded-wire mesh fence to be used in less visible areas, with chain-link in the least visible areas.
Mr. Watson said the Connecticut Avenue entrance gates will be modified to meet the AZA standard, which requires gates to be at least eight feet high and touching the ground. The proposed gate at the south would resemble the existing pedestrian gate at Connecticut Avenue, using similar piers, lights, materials, and scale; he said they were also considering using sculpture, comparable to the pair of lion sculptures at the Connecticut Avenue entrance.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the median island at the proposed south entrance does not include stone piers to fully frame the gates at each side; Mr. Watson responded that the intention is to be sensitive to scale and to provide greater transparency by minimizing the use of large piers. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposed south entrance looked unfinished. Mr. Watson emphasized that the design treats the entirety of the entrance, which includes several openings in the barrier, and added that the same pier configuration exists at the entrance gate on Connecticut Avenue.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about more generally about the character of the area between the two fences—the existing perimeter fence and the new containment fence—asking if it would become a no-man's land, particularly where fencing would exist on both sides of Rock Creek. She indicated the Zoo buildings to the south that would be outside the fence; Mr. Luebke clarified that they include a historic house and the Zoo's infirmary. Mr. Rombach clarified that the perimeter fence would remain, intended to keep people out rather than to enclose the animals. Mr. Luebke noted the steeply graded area in the southeast corner where Beach Drive enters a tunnel. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if people hike through this area; Mr. Watson responded that there is a multiuse path along Beach Drive outside the perimeter fence, and that the more ornamental containment fence would be placed at these locations. He added that the proposed alignment for the containment fence has been adjusted so that the land adjacent to the creek will remain accessible to the public.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the material of the existing perimeter fence; Mr. Rombach responded that it is black chain link. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the animals would be provided with a better fence than people; Mr. Rombach clarified that some of the proposed containment fence will face urban areas, and indicated the location of existing and proposed ornamental fencing and the various qualities of mesh. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the use of chain link or welded wire in some locations is due to cost considerations; Mr. Watson confirmed this constraint and said that the costlier fencing types are proposed where warranted by the visibility of the location. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the multiple types are nonetheless confusing because the existing chain-link perimeter fence is already visible to the public in some areas; she recommended simplifying the fencing types to a highly ornamental fence at the main entrances and chain link at other locations. Mr. Watson indicated the secondary gates that occur at several locations, resulting in the proposal to use a more appealing welded-wire mesh fence at these areas rather than to develop a new vocabulary of secondary gate structures. He confirmed that the welded-wire fencing is more expensive than the chain link; Mr. Powell agreed that it has a superior appearance. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the proposed variety of fences, commenting that their proposed use is understandable within the constraints of cost.
Mr. Belle asked if the colors on the plan diagram are related to proposed colors for the fencing; Mr. Watson said there is no relationship, and the proposed color has not yet been selected but would be either dark green or black. Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of providing adequate containment for the animals, particularly the primary containment that separates the animals and visitors. She also commented that the proposed main south entrance does not have to mimic the Connecticut Avenue entrance, such as by including paired sculptures, but could instead have its own form; she suggested a sculpture within the vehicular turnaround or a fountain.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept proposal for the secondary containment fence.
E. Department of the Navy
CFA 21/JAN/10-4, Anacostia Naval Station, Thomas Road and Brookley Avenue, SW. Navy Systems Management Activity (NSMA) Administrative Facility and Warehouse. New six-story building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal for an administrative facility and warehouse, noting that it would be a windowless six-story building sited directly across Interstate 295 from the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital, including the hospital's historic cemetery and the new Coast Guard headquarters that was reviewed by the Commission in November 2009. She introduced architects David Nestleroth and Irena Savakova of AECOM to present the design.
Ms. Savakova described the program and constraints for the building. In accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure Act, the facility will house the consolidation of administrative functions that are currently at multiple locations in the metropolitan area. There will be over 800 employees in a combination of office and warehouse space configurations. She described the activities as highly specialized with very specific programmatic requirements that dictate the building form; nearly all of the building would have the security classification of a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility, commonly known as SCIF, which necessitates a facility without any windows or skylights beyond the entrance vestibule. Mr. Nestleroth added that the SCIF classification refers to acoustical rather than physical security; windows are problematic because they can transmit some electronic signals. He noted that existing buildings with windows are sometimes adapted to meet SCIF requirements, but the preference for this new building is to incorporate a high level of electronic security into the design in order to accommodate the extensive planned computer facilities.
Ms. Savakova described the architectural desirability of introducing natural light to the building despite the programmatic constraints, such as through the use of technology, translucent materials, or a light tunneling configuration, but such solutions would not be permissible. The architectural challenge is therefore to create a pleasant and even inviting work environment for the employees within the design constraints; she noted that the employees currently work in similarly secure facilities but could be offered an improved work environment in conjunction with the consolidation into the new facility.
Ms. Savakova discussed the proposed location for the building on the eastern edge of the Anacostia Naval Station; the site is within the secure military base but is prominently visible from I-295 and South Capitol Street and can be seen from other vantage points in the city. She emphasized the sensitivity of the city views and the desire not to affect the context adversely. She indicated the two gates to the base that would provide access to the building site as well as the proposed separate site of additional employee parking toward the western side of the base. She noted the master plan currently being developed for the base in conjunction with its consolidation with the adjacent Bolling Air Force Base; although some changes to gate locations are under consideration, the gates in the general vicinity of this project site would not change significantly. She presented composite views of the proposed building from Reagan National Airport, Hains Point, the Frederick Douglass Bridge, and I-295, indicating the numerous nearby buildings of comparable height. Mr. Belle acknowledged the minimal visibility of the proposed building from many viewpoints; Ms. Nelson noted that the building would be seen from the upper floors of nearby buildings or from airplanes using the nearby airport.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the height of a large building, the Defense Intelligence Agency, seen in the background of the site photographs. Ms. Savakova said that this existing building is 98 feet tall, slightly higher than the proposed NMSA building; she presented an elevation drawing of height comparisons with other large buildings in the vicinity, including the proposed Coast Guard headquarters. She said the proposed building would be predominantly 75 feet tall, with some slightly lower areas and a portion rising to 93 feet to accommodate a large penthouse; the warehouse portion of the building would be substantially lower. She confirmed that the building's five occupiable floors are slightly taller than normal office floors due to the specialized program requirements.
Ms. Savakova described the proposed site design which includes an informal treatment to relate to the nearby forested areas. She said that a formal plaza and entrance sequence would not be appropriate for this building; the site plan is instead attended to be approached from multiple directions. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that only a small amount of parking is located at the building site and asked about the pattern of commuting. Ms. Savakova explained that the building will have 816 employees but the scheduling of shifts has not been disclosed; although the military base includes some housing, the employees are assumed to commute from elsewhere. Ms. Nelson asked if buildings with similar programs exist elsewhere; Ms. Savakova said that she was not aware of any comparable precedents, particularly at this substantial scale.
Ms. Savakova explained the perimeter security components of the proposal. The overall perimeter of the Anacostia Naval Station is already secured and is not affected by the current proposal; the master plan for the base will address the overall perimeter. The proposed building will have a 33-foot-wide perimeter zone that is limited to low plantings, and the design addresses the risk of progressive collapse. She said that the proposed barriers are only intended to control parking; the site plan does not include extensive perimeter security elements.
Ms. Savakova presented the proposed treatment of the building facades, commenting that the windowless surfaces provided a daunting challenge. The intent is a harmonious and proportionally balanced surface pattern, responding to the complex massing that is dictated by the programmatic requirements which specify both vertical and horizontal adjacencies. She said that the military base's existing architectural character provided a further inspiration for the design, including the use of brick, the treatment of interlocking volumes, and the expression of contrasting horizontal articulation on taller buildings in order to deemphasize their height. Texture and a contemporary appearance are additional goals of the design. The resulting design includes an articulation of extruded volumes with special emphasis on the main entrance, which has a lantern-like treatment to emphasize natural light. Another feature is a green roof with views of the city that employees will be able to use during breaks from work. The facades would be darker toward the base of the building, responding to the treatment of other buildings on the military base, and the detailing and texture would be more complex at eye level where people will be able to see it closely. She presented renderings and material samples, including the varying brick colors as well as a light-colored metal for the entrance canopy.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the penthouse treatment; Ms. Savakova responded that it would be seen as an extension of one of the building volumes rather than being set back substantially from the building facades, and the light-colored brick would form the penthouse enclosure. Ms. Nelson and Mr. McKinnell asked whether the brick is a design choice or a programmatic need. Ms. Savakova responded that the building's functions do not require brick facades but the early programming of the building included a specification for brick in response to the architectural guidelines for the Anacostia Naval Station; this specification was included in the Congressional appropriation for the building, and the current design team is therefore required to use brick. She added that the introduction of metal panels is a response to the industrial facilities that exist on the military base, such as the nearby helicopter building.
Mr. Rybczynski asked whether the building height could be reduced by expanding the area of each floor; he noted that this solution is typically limited by the desirability of locating offices near windows, but the limitation is not a concern for this windowless building. Ms. Savakova responded that the proposed massing apparently results from the complex internal adjacency requirements, both vertical and horizontal, which have not been provided to the architectural team; only small variations in the massing have been allowed during the architectural development process, and the redistribution of an entire floor's program would not be feasible programatically despite the potential design advantages. She said that the proposed design includes some extensions and accenting of the prescribed volumes to provide visual expression for the building.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the architect's role in the process of developing this project. Ms. Savakova said that the process is common for such projects: a different architecture firm prepared the initial proposal including the programmatic study and adjacency requirements; after legislative approval and funding, the current design team was hired to develop the design. Mr. Belle commented that, even without windows, the building elements could be used to provide scale and articulation, such as by emphasizing columns and floor slabs. Ms. Savakova agreed but noted that the floor heights vary and would therefore not produce a regular pattern; the proposed design includes horizontal articulation that is independent of the actual floor alignments but is intended to help people better comprehend the building.
Mr. McKinnell supported the intended concept of creating an abstract composition of interlocking volumes but commented that the proposed design does not go far enough. He described the proposal as a conventional building, such as a hospital, but missing its windows, resulting in the appearance of an incomplete design. He recommended further conceptual effort to grasp the nature of designing with abstract volumes. He added that many architects wish for such freedom and would eagerly embrace this project. He suggested more disparate scale changes between the volumes to differentiate them further. Ms. Savakova agreed but said that the design has been restrained by the client's insistence that this building not stand out but should instead be perceived as a background building. Mr. Powell said that the building is too large and too prominently sited to be a background building, and the Commission therefore supports the intention to pursue greater expression of the surface and volumes.
Mr. McKinnell said that the use of brick would not necessarily be a constraint; although it is an unexpected material choice for an abstract composition, he acknowledged the reason for using it and noted the successful example of Mies van der Rohe's brick monument honoring Rosa Luxemburg. Mr. Rybczynski added the example of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk described the design choices available: manipulation of the volumes, which is constrained by the program; and patterning of the surface, which Ms. Savakova said could be achieved through texturing and shadow lines. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposal emphasizes horizontal differentiation but the building's program also includes vertical organization; she therefore recommended further study of vertical modulation, which she said might lead to a different perception of the volumes. She cited the work of Robert Venturi as an example of designing with awareness of views from the adjacent highway. She agreed with Mr. Powell that the project could not be treated successfully as a background building and that the best way to avoid drawing attention to it would be to ensure that its design is not a notably negative feature.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the presented views from the highway; Ms. Savakova confirmed that the building would be only slightly visible from South Capitol Street, with a small portion of the top appearing above the existing trees. She said that the horizontal articulation is intended to relate to the motion of vehicles along the highway, and she expressed concern that vertical articulation would give unwanted emphasis to the building's height.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's recommendation to seize the opportunity and explore the concept further, and he expressed support for the variety of materials proposed. Mr. Luebke said that the staff could consult further with the design team; he added the concern that the range of proposed brick colors is relatively narrow and may result in a lack of sufficient contrast. Mr. McKinnell offered the Commission's assistance in convincing the client to support a bolder abstract design. Chairman Powell suggested further work at the conceptual stage and a subsequent presentation to the Commission; the discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority
CFA 21/JAN/10-5, St. Elizabeths Hospital, East Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. New water tower for the Anacostia Second High Pressure Zone. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom described the proposal from the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) to increase the insufficient water pressure in the southeast area of the city by constructing a 175-foot-high two-million-gallon water tank, providing an improvement for ordinary water use as well as for life-safety purposes. He introduced Roger Gans, the manager of planning and design for WASA, and Lee Quill of Cunningham Quill Architects.
Mr. Gans said that the need for this project was identified in 2000 and is being proposed in conjunction with other improvements recently made to water mains and pumping stations. He acknowledged the historic sensitivity of the proposed site, resulting in the inclusion of an architect and architectural historian on the project team.
Mr. Quill described the factors leading to the current proposal. The tower will create gravity-induced water pressure rather than relying on pumps. The beneficiaries include the proposed headquarters facilities for the Department of Homeland Security at the St. Elizabeths campus, as well as existing customers throughout the nearby neighborhoods. Several sites were considered in the area, and the East Campus of St. Elizabeths was chosen because of its topographical elevation, central location in the service area, proximity to existing utilities and proposed development, minimal impact on residential areas, and lower cost. Within the East Campus, the initial proposal was to locate the new tower adjacent to an existing water tower from the 1920s; however, due to the much greater height of the new tower and the adjacency to a historic hospital building, other sites on the campus have been considered. Four candidate sites were evaluated in relation to the historic context, proposed development areas, and distant views of the site which is on top of the topographic bowl; he noted that the tower would not be visible from the Mall but could be seen from many vantage points in Washington and Virginia. He presented views of test balloons at each of the four locations on the campus seen from Hains Point, the Mall, and the vicinity of Reagan National Airport, as well as viewpoints closer to the campus. The selected site is in a clearing at the top edge of a wooded ravine adjacent to the hospital's John Howard Building, which will soon be demolished when a replacement building is completed. He said that this site has the least impact on historic resources, and the remaining challenge is to mitigate the views of the tower, resulting in the task of bringing design effort to this utilitarian structure in order to help it blend in with the historic character of the campus.
Mr. Quill reviewed the design precedents that were studied. Water towers are prevalent features in the landscape, particularly in rural areas, although there is a tendency not to notice them. Occasionally they are embellished or reconfigured as iconic elements in both rural and urban settings; he presented examples including historic water towers in Chicago and St. Louis as well as the Washington example at Fort Reno Park, a smaller decorative structure that he contrasted with the large unembellished structure near Alabama and Massachusetts Avenues in southeast Washington dating from 1945. He noted the varying sizes and purposes of the structures, including water storage and standpipes. He provided images of the typical multi-legged structural form from the 1940s through 1960s which is less common in current construction. He illustrated the spherical tank form which has a maximum size of one million gallons; the optimal structure to support the proposed two-million-gallon tank is a central column of concrete and metal.
Mr. Quill discussed the design strategies that were considered. The structure could be treated as a building that fits with the design context. Due to the large amount of storage capacity required, a contextual solution could involve creating multiple smaller towers instead of a single large one; however, the resulting appearance of several masses on the skyline would be more obtrusive than the single tower. The tower could be incorporated into the a building within the planned development area of the campus, but the timing of the development is uncertain while the need for the water tower is immediate, and such a combination would also raise problems with the security of the water tower. The tower could also be treated as a separate destination that makes a contribution to the community and has its own design identity; this approach is explored in the current proposal.
Mr. Quill described the potential for creating an attractive identity for the tower. He cited the example of the popular scaffolding enclosure designed by Michael Graves for the Washington Monument during recent restoration, providing people with a sense of the Monument despite its enclosure, and taking on a different appearance at night. He also illustrated a group of towers atop a building designed by Renzo Piano in the South Pacific, and the Tower of Winds in Yokohama. Mr. McKinnell asked how the size of these precedents compares to the current proposal; Mr. Quill responded that the Yokohama example is approximately 60 to 70 feet tall, while the proposed Anacostia tower will rise 175 feet.
Mr. Quill said that a visitor destination could be developed at the site by creating a display of WASA's work involving water; the display could include exhibits and rain gardens. He added that WASA has artifacts of early water-distribution systems such as historic fire hydrants and pumps. He illustrated the proposal to create an exhibit area that could be outdoors or an enclosed space set within the hillside. He illustrated an ecologically designed boulevard in Madrid and suggested that the water tower's setting could similarly be a place where people could gather to form a different way of understanding the city.
Mr. Quill described the proposed site treatment in more detail. No trees would be removed for the tower, taking advantage of the existing clearing. Access to the site would be available from a new parking lot nearby. Two walls would define an entrance transition, and a path system would then spiral out into the landscape. Site paths could be surfaced with crushed terra cotta from historic water pipes that are being replaced in Washington; this theme of recycling could be extended to the museum construction which could be a second phase of the project. The museum's interior space is envisioned as approximately 2,200 square feet. Outdoor exhibits could also be part of the experience, in addition to rain gardens. The path system would reach a viewing platform to look across the ravine toward the historic campus. He said that the design is intended to provide a quiet, contemplative place in the landscape, which is an unexpected character in conjunction with a large water tower. He said that the site design would allow visitors to see and experience the water tower in different ways.
Mr. Quill discussed the potential treatment of the water tower in more detail. Various forms of lighting, screens, and glass enclosures were considered, using modest materials to express the structure's industrial character and providing a translucence that would produce a changing appearance; some of the proposals would incorporate piping for carrying the water down from the tank. He said that the water tower should not have the appearance of a historic element, which could cause confusion and competition with other features of Washington's skyline such as the Capitol, Old Post Office Tower, and Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; the goal is instead to create something subtle and part of the background but more than just a water tower. He described the local precedent of large public art, including wall murals and the chair sculpture from 1959 along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, which continues through the Saint Elizabeths campus; he also illustrated the artistic design of the Anacostia Museum. Lighting of the tower and its cladding provides an additional opportunity for visual interest but would be an optional feature.
Mr. Quill presented several proposed claddings for the water tower, with different profiles and varying heights; he noted that the tower's 175-foot height would rise significantly above the prevailing 60- to 90-foot height of the adjacent trees. One alternative would use a space-frame structural system; another would use a series of bow-string trusses, which could have infill panels of fabric, metal mesh, or possibly photovoltaic material. He presented views of each structural system from several locations, including Suitland Parkway and Hains Point.
Ms. Nelson expressed support for the intention to include a public park in the project. Mr. Quill responded that this concept arose from discussions with the community, which envisions the redevelopment of the campus as part of the rebirth of the wider neighborhood. He added that the contemplative character was chosen instead of a memorial or "billboard" concept, and the community supported this intention.
Ms. Nelson commented that the utilitarian nature of the water tower could be extended to a more utilitarian purpose of the cladding, such as solar energy panels, rather than an enclosure that functions only to cover the tower; the cladding could therefore also contribute to the community education that is proposed for the park. She also questioned the lack of design treatment at the top of the water tank, commenting that it appears to end abruptly. Mr. Quill responded that there will be some operational role to the cladding, with water from the tower brought down through pipes to supply the rain gardens. He said that solar and wind power are being studied; wind turbines would be difficult due to the turbulence generated by the nearby trees, but a vertical type of wind turbine might be feasible. Solar panels would be feasible but there will likely be interest in installing antennas on the tower, particularly for cellular communications, and WASA would like to coordinate the design with this additional use. He said that some elements could go slightly above the water tower's proposed height of 170 to 175 feet, reaching an overall height constraint of 185 feet. He added that the antennas could be incorporated into the project design as vertical accent features, which was done with the FBI field office near Judiciary Square in the 1990s. Mr. McKinnell noted that such a treatment would address Ms. Nelson's concern about the abrupt profile of the tower's top.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the shaft that supports the water tank. Mr. Quill responded that it is primarily a structural support; it includes a staircase to provide access to the tank, a potential small office for WASA, and two pipes—one for pumping water up to the tank, and another for bringing pressurized water down. He described the shaft as generally empty; Mr. McKinnell asked if it could be put to further use. Mr. Quill responded that more extensive occupancy of the shaft might be problematic due to security concerns. Mr. McKinnell suggested instead that a different type of support be considered instead of the single shaft; Mr. Quill responded that the typical structural form of such shafts is well established, with a column of composite construction. He clarified that the multi-legged system is no longer used, and the single shaft is the only available cost-effective form. Mr. McKinnell explained his concern that the water tower form has great structural integrity, while the proposed cladding element has no purpose beyond serving as a "shroud." He expressed disappointment at this lack of purpose and suggested further exploration of expressive tower shafts, such as in the work of Alvar Aalto; Ms. Nelson supported the idea of treating the shaft as a sculpture.
Mr. Rybczynski described the project as an attempt to embellish a standard water tower design that is selected from a very small number of available structural forms; he noted that such structures are built individually for specific sites rather than being mass-produced and asked why the range of options for the tower design is so limited. Mr. Quill reiterated that the construction industry provides very limited options for the design of such structures at the required size, with only slight variations possible in the profile and in the choice of metal or concrete for the base; embellishment is generally limited to painting the surface or providing slight relief in the concrete form. He described his firm's unsuccessful effort to generate additional design alternatives in cooperation with the industry leader in constructing such towers, noting with regret that the multi-legged design is no longer available.
Mr. Belle commented that the proposed cladding would introduce multiple structural members reaching the ground, which could encourage people to climb; as a result, the tower would likely soon be surrounded with additional security elements that would detract from the intended character of the public park. Mr. Quill responded that some sort of climbing protection could be integrated into the design of the tower's base; a green screen or scrim is being studied. Ms. Nelson asked if the entire screen system for the tower could be a green wall, perhaps making use of the water that would come down from the tank. Mr. Quill responded that a 175-foot-high green wall might be problematic but it could be more appropriate at the base; he described the potential for seasonal variation in the appearance.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed discomfort with the concept, commenting that the water tower itself is unattractive, and the intended creation of a destination involves a relatively inaccessible site that is reached through the parking lot behind a hospital. He acknowledged the landscape design effort but said that it appears out of scale with the large water tower. He described the tower as a landmark that should serve primarily that purpose, with other design goals being secondary. Mr. Quill clarified that the site will be accessible from paths, adding that a potential road toward new development areas could be constructed near the site. He acknowledged the tower as a much-needed landmark for the Anacostia area although not intended to compete with the landmarks of downtown Washington. He reiterated the community's interest in creating a destination as part of the creation of a new neighborhood, concluding that the proposed complex treatment would be preferable to a more limited adornment of the standard water tower.
Mr. McKinnell supported Mr. Rybczynski's concerns and suggested exploring another design concept of shaping the water tower itself through additions to the standard structure in order to create a more elegant form; Ms. Nelson supported the treatment of the tower as a sculpture. Mr. Belle agreed, citing precedents of streamlined curved shapes along highways, perhaps dating from the 1930s. Mr. Quill acknowledged such other precedents but emphasized the unusually large size of this tower with the requirement to hold two million gallons.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the standard shape of the tower, while apparently necessary, is widely familiar to the public; the partial concealment by the proposed cladding designs could have a disturbing effect, and she suggesting either fully concealing the tower or fully exposing it. She suggested that the cladding arise from the site landscape and primarily address the shaft portion rather than extend upward to the tank, which could remain exposed and might be only moderately altered by the inclusion of antennas; Mr. Powell supported this design approach. Ms. Plater-Zyberk cited the photograph in the presentation of the proposed tower from a distance where it is perceived in the context of antenna towers and other infrastructure on the horizon, which viewers can readily accept.
Mr. Powell commented that the temporary enclosure of the Washington Monument still conveyed clearly the Monument's character; he recommended this quality for the water tower project. He encouraged the exploration of trusses as well as limiting the cladding to the shaft, while discouraging the appearance of a "lamp shade" over the structure. He suggested a sculptural treatment that would encompass a lesser overall volume of space; he also encouraged further exploration of lighting effects, citing the work of artist James Turrell. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the proposed truss cladding gives the appearance of a gas storage tank that has a varying volume within a trussed framework, resulting in a confusion of established infrastructure forms. Mr. Powell commented on the standard tower form's lack of visual interest; Ms. Nelson suggested looking at the Watts Tower in Los Angeles as another precedent.
Mr. Quill asked for the Commission's advice on whether lighting should be provided, which has not yet been decided by the project team. Several Commission members responded that the answer depends on the nature of the lighting proposal; Mr. Powell suggested that a dynamic rather than static lighting proposal would be preferable. Ms. Nelson said that lighting would be appropriate for a beautiful sculptural form. Mr. Powell noted the importance of selecting beautiful materials such as stainless steel, as well as the potential use of colored or different shades of light.
Chairman Powell summarized the value of the exploration undertaken to date and encouraged further work on the design concept based on the Commission's comments, which he said could lead to an elegant solution. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
G. District of Columbia Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization
CFA 21/JAN/10-6, Bernard T. Janney Elementary School, 4130 Albemarle Street, NW. Addition and modernization. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced project manager Michelle Chin of the D.C. Office of Public Education Facilities Management to begin the presentation of alterations to Janney Elementary School in the Tenleytown neighborhood. Ms. Chin said the project includes an addition of approximately 40,000 square feet to the existing 43,000-square-foot school. She said the first phase—the addition—is scheduled for completion by December 2010; the modernization of the existing building, including gutting and the installation of new utility systems, will be complete by August 2011. She added that a second soccer field and more play areas will be added to the grounds, and emphasized the consultation with the community in developing this project. She introduced Marshall Purnell of Devrouax and Purnell Architects to present the design, noting that his firm is working with the design-build firm Winman Dustin.
Mr. Purnell described the existing building, a simple brick structure that is typical of Washington schools from the mid-1920s; he noted that it has recently been designated a D.C. historic landmark. He said the intention is to add a new brick building that will be nearly as large as the existing school without overpowering the original. The proposed solution is to have the addition step back from the front line of the existing building so that it will have smaller profile until it turns the corner of Albemarle Street to 42nd Street; the 42nd Street elevation will be treated as the principal facade of the addition. He said the current entrance to the school will remain the principal entrance. The proposal includes an underground parking garage for staff, on top of which will be a new multipurpose play area for soccer and other games. He said that terraces at the lower level of the addition will offer additional outdoor gathering spaces.
Mr. Purnell described the interior organization of existing building. He emphasized that the proposed addition will connect with the original building at only one corner using a glass link that will create a visual separation and allow the original building to remain dominant. A stairway at this corner would be rebuilt to resolve floor alignments, and the entire building would have barrier-free access. He said the design subordinates the height of the addition to the original structure by keeping the top of the addition's parapet approximately three feet below the top level of the existing school, adding that the addition would step up to the corner and then step down after turning the corner. He said the north facade of the addition would continue the existing building's vocabulary of punched window openings and would use a similar shade of red brick; the addition would become more contemporary as it turns the corner, where the facade would begin to express a curtain wall and the rhythm of the window openings would change to become more vertical.
Mr. Purnell explained that parents typically drop their children off at the front entrance on Albemarle Street but, because of the volume of traffic, children are also dropped off around the corner on 42nd Street; the addition will therefore include a walkway, a stair, and a second entrance at the rear of the building. He said this part of the building will be clad in a cement-composite panel and will have a large overhang for solar shading. Mr. Belle asked whether the rear corner would be the major entrance. Mr. Purnell said the stair—which will have wide, low risers—would not be the major entrance but would be used for access to the play areas at the rear of the school and would provide an alternate route to the front of the building; he added that the outdoor area at the foot of the stairs would be available as a community gathering space. Mr. Belle commented that the stair would be a visually prominent element. Ms. Nelson asked if there would be seating walls in the outdoor gathering area; Mr. Purnell said there would not.
Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Belle asked about the proposed materials for the rear facade; Mr. Purnell responded that there would be a change from brick to a buff-colored precast stone, and he indicated the sunshade on the west facade.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the design has an interesting progression of transitions, but said that there are a "couple of small moves that could really clinch it." She observed that the corner bay element at Albemarle and 42nd Streets appears to be cantilevered, and she recommended bringing this feature down to the ground and reserving the use of cantilevering for the dominant piece at the south end of the west facade. Mr. Purnell responded that such a design had been proposed for the corner, but the opinion of the community was that it made the addition appear too tall. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that she was not suggesting changing the top of the corner element, only bringing the concrete framework to the ground.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk also suggested unifying the treatment of the rear stairway, commenting that this major stair is more expressive than the historic facade and would come to represent the school. She recommended bringing the stair up through the opening in the cantilever framework and continuing the walk there instead of using another small, hidden stair. Mr. Purnell indicated the secondary staircase that would be used; Mr. Belle commented that the proposed arrangement would be "like a suburban house where everybody gets out of the car and goes into the kitchen." Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the introduction of the small second staircase, commenting that it would take away some of design's energy; Mr. Purnell said the concern was to provide a drop-off location for parents, and the additional stair is for the internal use of students and faculty. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Mr. Belle agreed that the issue is whether the west stair or the main entrance on the north would be serving the majority of people. Several Commission members commented that this configuration is a missed opportunity because the stairway will be the big gesture; Mr. Belle added that he finds it inappropriate that people walk around the back of the building to enter it, adding that it would be disappointing if only ten percent of people use the proposed grand staircase that is such an important design feature; Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson agreed that the stairway would be an attractive element. Mr. Purnell emphasized that the main entrance to the building will still be at the front, but that parents will now have the option to drop off their children at this corner and avoid traffic backups and the walk from 42nd Street to the front of the building. Ms. Nelson asked about accessibility to the building, and Mr. Purnell said that some ramps will be added but the building is approximately at grade.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the design meets most of the stated objectives, adding that the building has a "handsome presence" and an independent character while respecting the original building. He added a concern that the design's energy is dissipated at the location of the preschool play area; he recommended restudying the design of this part of the project to make it as vigorous as the rest. Mr. Purnell agreed that this area will benefit from further study. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 10-042, United Unions Building, 1750 New York Avenue, NW. Additions and alterations. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 09- 115, 15 October 2009.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised concept for alterations to the United Unions Building, including the redesigned entrances and landscaping. She asked Ed McHugh, chairman of the United Unions building committee, to begin the presentation. Mr. McHugh said that the revision responds to the Commission's previous comments and continues to meet the goal of updating the building's entrances and open space setting. He introduced project architect Anik Jhaveri of Mancini Duffy to present the design.
Mr. Jhaveri said the design team has thoroughly studied the building's context in response to the Commission's previous comments and has responded by making the design lighter in form and color, as well as complementary rather than contrasting to the building's architecture. He said that the presentation includes two options for both the landscape and architectural proposals.
Mr. Jhaveri discussed the contextual study, presenting images of historic buildings on or adjacent to 18th Street: the John Marshall House at 1801 F Street, a brick Federal house; the Octagon House, and the courtyard and modern American Institute of Architects headquarters building behind it, directly north of the United Unions building; the American Red Cross complex directly south of the site; and Constitution Hall and the several buildings of the Organization of American States on the blocks further south. He characterized prevailing form of these buildings as objects set on mounds or plinths. He presented the additional context example of the large Department of the Interior headquarters building which acts as a background for Rawlins Park, lying directly west of the United Unions site, and provides a strong rhythm along 18th Street that differs from the other object-type historic buildings.
Mr. Jhaveri emphasized the formal character of Rawlins Park and the axis of open space that extends westward from the United Unions building; the plaza gains prominence from its position at the head of this axis as well as being at the convergence of the groupings of object-type and institutional-scaled historic buildings. He said the United Unions building can therefore serve as a backdrop and also provide an opportunity for an object on the plaza.
Mr. Jhaveri provided further analysis of the context, describing the typical building as an object surrounded by a ring of landscaping; he said that the United Unions building is a "perforated version" of this type of site design. He said this project provides the opportunity to clarify the site relationships, such as improving the front terrace facing New York Avenue and removing some of the landscaping from the plaza to allow more interaction with the building. He identified two types of landscape features used on the site—barrier hedges and elevated planters—that discourage direct interaction with the edges of the building. He said the proposal is instead to use a bench planter which will be have a more informal character that is nonetheless geometric in design, bringing the landscape down to ground level so that people could more easily interact with it. The plantings would be similar to those existing, but would be more "wild and rustic" in appearance.
Mr. Jhaveri said that the proposal includes a new fountain on the terrace to replace the abandoned water feature once active on the plaza; it would be substantial in size and augmented with an architectural or sculptural form. He described several general concepts that may guide the design of the fountain: treating the water like a surface; surrounding the fountain with a trough; perhaps using glass as a material; and lighting the fountain from within to provide a special character to the courtyard for evening activity.
Mr. Jhaveri presented architectural alternatives A and B in combination with the landscape alternatives 1 and 2. He said that both of the alternative revised concepts for the two additions—at the main entrance and new restaurant entrance—are intended to emphasize architecture more than sculpture, with simpler, lighter, more delicate forms than were previously shown. He said that architectural concept A (in options A.1 and A.2) proposes a cleanly articulated box at the entrances; concept B (in options B.1 and B.2) composes the entrances from paired horizontal planes, which he described as being more playful in plan and very light in section, offering more of a contrast to the architecture of the building. He added that the proposed signage for the building and restaurant would be more discreet than what was previously proposed. He presented landscape alternative 1, which would primarily retain the existing landscape with a planter removed from the middle of the terrace; and alternative 2, which proposes more significant changes in the configuration of planting and plaza areas. He indicated the relationship of landscape alternative 2 with the alignment of Rawlins Park to the west and New York Avenue on the north.
Mr. Powell asked about the jurisdiction governing the plaza area outside of the United Unions property line; Mr. Jhaveri responded that it is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. government, which he expects to support the proposal. He added that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission has given support to the project.
Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Nelson asked about the alcove areas at the west end of the plaza. Mr. Jhaveri responded that these are existing features which would be retained; some restaurateurs who were consulted had said that these subsidiary spaces would be desirable as seating areas. Mr. Rybczynski questioned why these should be kept in the new landscape design, and said that they do not add anything to the project; he said that their location would be an appropriate place to put a fountain or some other feature. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Nelson noted that these alcoves appear in all of the alternatives. Several Commission members commented that this location could be made more interesting; Mr. Jhaveri agreed to study this area further.
Mr. Belle asked if the height of the plaza is the same in all options; Mr. Jhaveri responded that all alternatives use the existing elevation. Ms. Plater-Zyberk described the existing building and its landscape as "overly resolved," offering the example of the front door placed symmetrically on the building's elevation and aligned with the stairs across New York Avenue leading to the American Institute of Architects headquarters. She asked why the new restaurant entrance is proposed for the northwest corner of the building, rather than at the center of the west facade where it would relate to the long axis through Rawlins Park; she suggested opening up the west edge of the plaza with a staircase so that people would better understand the relationship of the plaza to the axis. She added that the fountain proposal could relate to the water in Rawlins Park, helping to pull together the various design elements. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson reiterated their support for developing the concept of a fountain. Mr. Powell suggested further consideration of how tables could be distributed across the plaza to take advantage of the open-space views to the west; several Commission members agreed that the view toward Rawlins Park would be interesting, and Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that it could be enjoyed despite the immediate elevation change between the plaza and the 18th Street sidewalk. Mr. Jhaveri responded that the restaurant entrance is proposed at the corner in order to avoid the interruption of restaurant seating across the west edge of the building by pedestrian activity at the northwest corner of the site. Mr. Belle commented that the challenge is to design a plaza that draws people into the building; he encouraged the design team to explore ideas for alternative entrances and said that the emptiness of the plaza would be the next challenge.
Chairman Powell commended the design team on its progress from the last presentation and asked Mr. Jhaveri for any preferences among the alternatives; Mr. Jhaveri responded that the United Unions prefers option B.2. Ms. Plater-Zyberk and Ms. Nelson supported the architectural proposal of alternative A, which Mr. Jhaveri characterized as "boxy"; Mr. Rybczynski, Mr. Powell, and Mr. McKinnell supported the architecture in alternative B, which articulates only the top and bottom planes punctuated by a single column at each entrance. Mr. Jhaveri added that the materials would be similar in either option. Chairman Powell noted the lack of a clear consensus among the Commission members and suggested encouraging the design team to further explore either architectural alternative; he added that landscape alternative 2, with substantial change proposed, would be more consistent with responding to the Commission's comments concerning the site treatment. Ms. Nelson reiterated her support for the potential of the lawn and fountain concepts. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised concept and supported further development of either option A.2 or B.2. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if this motion precludes an improved connection between the plaza and Rawlins Park; Mr. Powell clarified that further exploration of this connection is encouraged and would likely improve the visibility of the proposed restaurant. Ms. Nelson concluded by expressing appreciation for the thoughtful study of the context.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:03 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: March 12, 2010