Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 November 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 10:08 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 October meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson. 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 January, 17 February, and 17 March; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December.
C. Report on site inspections. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's site inspections earlier in the day, including the Southwest Waterfront and 10th Street Overlook; the site for the planned Eisenhower Memorial at Maryland and Independence Avenues, SW; and the proposed addition to the Moultrie Courthouse along C Street, NW. Chairman Powell suggested discussing the site visits in conjunction with the scheduled presentations on the Southwest Waterfront development and the Moultrie Courthouse addition.
D. Report on the 17 November 2010 meeting of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission. Mr. Luebke reported on the meeting the previous day of the Advisory Commission, which is established under the Commemorative Works Act. The agenda included an information presentation on the ongoing site selection process for a memorial to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams along with other members of this notable family. The Advisory Commission also commented on proposed legislation to reauthorize a memorial to Benjamin Banneker, offering support for the reauthorization but not the legislative specification of a particular site. He noted that site selection and design for both of these memorials would be subject to review under the normal provisions of the Commemorative Works Act.
Mr. Luebke reported on the book commemorating the Commission's centennial: the manuscript by the staff is nearly complete, and all of the essays being contributed by outside authors have been received. He said he would be focusing on this project during a month as a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome, beginning in mid-December.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix, but one delegated action has been added to the list that is included with this appendix: the approval by the staff of accessibility alterations to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. He noted that a further planned alteration at this cemetery to expand the interpretive displays was not included in this submission. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar; Ms. Plater-Zyberk abstained from voting on the multi-family residence at 611 N Street, NW (case number CFA 18/NOV/10-g).
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. One project was added for window replacements on a residential building at 1921 Park Road, NW (case number not yet assigned); she anticipated a favorable recommendation and requested permission to finalize this action upon the receipt of supplemental materials. She reported a minor change for an additional project related to the receipt of supplemental materials. Chairman Powell asked about a notation listed with several projects: "Refer to D.C. Historic Preservation Office." Ms. Batcheler said that this is included for projects that are within historic districts; these projects would receive further review by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.H.1 and II.H.2 for additional Shipstead-Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Three projects were withdrawn and removed from the appendix. An applicant requested the removal of an additional project (case number OG 10-264) earlier in the morning, after preparation of the revised appendix, which can be reflected in the final publication of the appendix; this project for a sign will be resubmitted to the Old Georgetown Board. Nine projects were added from the cases filed for the coming month (case numbers OG 11-017. 024, 027, 031, 033, 035, 036, 038, and 046); these projects are not visible from public thoroughfares, and therefore do not require further review by the Commission but will be reviewed by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. The staff has also updated some recommendations in response to supplemental information. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix including removal of case number OG 10-264. (See agenda items II.G and II.H for additional submissions in Georgetown.)
Mr. Rybczynski entered the meeting during the following agenda item.
B. District of Columbia Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development / Hoffman-Struever Waterfront, LLC
CFA 18/NOV/10-1, Southwest Waterfront Development Master Plan. Area bounded by Washington Channel and Maine Avenue, SW between the Case Memorial Bridge and the Titanic Memorial/Ft McNair. Information presentation. Mr. Luebke introduced the presentation of a 23-acre redevelopment proposal along the Southwest Waterfront. The site extends along Maine Avenue and the Washington Channel between the Tidal Basin and Fort McNair. He noted the importance of the project for D.C. the government's development efforts and the support for the project in the Monumental Core Framework Plan, creating a vibrant waterfront destination that could reconnect the city's downtown and monumental core with the historic waterfront. He summarized the master plan concept of establishing a series of urban blocks that would be developed as separate parcels to form a mixed-use mixed-income neighborhood encompassing approximately 2.5 million square feet of development. He said that the development plans for each parcel would be subject to Commission review under the Shipstead-Luce Act or as direct submissions for proposals involving government-owned property. He introduced Shawn Seaman, project director for P.N. Hoffman, which is part of the joint-venture master developer team for the project.
Mr. Seaman said that the development team was awarded the project in 2006 by the D.C. government through a competition that began with seventeen bidders. The team has been resolving legal issues and working with the existing leaseholders to allow the development to move forward; the intention is to lease the entire site from the D.C. government for 99 years. He indicated the three-quarter-mile length of the site and the existing alignment of Water Street, which would be closed; the several existing large blocks would be reconfigured into ten smaller parcels of approximately 200 to 250 feet square. The planned uses include residential, office, cultural, hotel, and retail. Four new piers would be created, which he said would provide a dramatic improvement to public access along the waterfront; a new harbor area would also be created adjacent to the existing fish market toward the northwest end of the site. He indicated the relationship of the site to the nearby Jefferson Memorial and 10th Street Overlook, noting that the major entrances to the development would be through federal property. He acknowledged the Framework Plan and the current planning effort by the National Capital Planning Commission for the revitalization of 10th Street, SW, as an "eco-district." He noted the extensive coordination of the project with multiple agencies, including the National Park Service which controls land at each end of the site.
Mr. Seaman said that the master development plan was submitted in October to the D.C. government, including information on the size, density, and massing of the project, the community benefits, the provision for affordable housing, the historic preservation plan, as well as the environmental goal of a LEED gold rating for the overall project and a LEED silver rating for each building. Following approval by the D.C. government, the master development plan would be submitted to the D.C. Zoning Commission for approval as a two-stage planned unit development; the first stage would be the proposed configuration of blocks and streets, and the second stage would be the specific phases of development. Groundbreaking is anticipated at the end of 2012, with six to eight years for completion of all phases. He introduced Stan Eckstut of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, the master planner for the project and architect of some components, to present the plan.
Mr. Eckstut acknowledged the work of Mr. Belle's firm in an early stage of planning for the site. He described the unusual character of the site, with many changes through its history and its varied setting of federal and neighborhood contexts. He said that the goal is to draw on these factors to give the city an urban waterfront that is unique in the world. The strategy is to create an urban fabric at the water's edge, taking advantage of the proximity to existing streets and the subway system; he noted that other waterfront areas of the city already have extensive open space. He emphasized that the inspiration is the neighborhoods of Washington, such as the varied uses and street types around Dupont Circle, rather than the federal city which is more planned, uniform, and predictable. He said that the historic commercial activity of this waterfront area is also an inspiration for the project, noting L'Enfant's expectation that the city would be entered by boat resulting in the historic design intention of connecting the city to the water's edge. He acknowledged the modern concern with sustainability, including the collection and treatment of stormwater; roofs and other design features would be engineered to support a sustainable design. He said that walkability is also an important design goal: parking would be limited, while bicycling and transit would be emphasized. The city's planned streetcar system would run along the waterfront edge of the development. He described the intention to create a long-term sense of real streets and enduring places rather than the character of a single project, with the public places enduring even as particular buildings come and go. He presented a historic photograph of the active waterfront and described interviews with people who experienced it between the 1930s and 1950s, when it had become a popular place to visit for meals and drinks, followin its earlier history as a working waterfront.
Mr. Eckstut indicated the planned sixty-foot width of public space along the water's edge, augmented by additional public spaces that would extend inland; overall, sixty percent of the site would be open space for streets, parks, and squares. Open space would be emphasized toward the southeastern end of the site, close to existing residential areas, while the density would be greater toward the northwest near the Southwest Freeway to create a more compact, walkable, transit-oriented environment.
Mr. Eckstut described his firm's general waterfront design principle of planning for the water first, rather than for the land; for this project, as many types of maritime activities as possible would be incorporated into the development proposal and he contrasted this with the current emphasis in the Channel of providing docking for boats. The project would include a new city dock, recalling the historic municipal pier that once served a variety of boats. An additional pier at the fish market would accommodate more barges in this area. The two large marinas would be consolidated and improved, and a recreational pier would be added. The boats used for dinner cruises would be consolidated to a single location; an existing pier would be converted to residential use, and the existing police pier would remain. The resulting mix of piers would accommodate a greater mix of boat sizes than the current configuration; water taxis would provide connections to the Alexandria waterfront, and a new National Maritime Center would further enliven the waterfront. He added that the presence of foreign embassies in Washington would encourage many countries to bring a national ship to this waterfront for special occasions, adding further to the unique character of this location. He said that a successful waterfront is fostered by commercial boats that have a wide appeal, more than by marinas for private boat owners; this principle is demonstrated by the success of Baltimore's waterfront, where a water plan is updated annually to bring in a variety of boats that appeal to a range of users and income levels.
Mr. Eckstut described the wharves which would be an important feature of the project. The plan includes upper and lower wharves to accommodate the access requirements of the maritime activities as well as the development sites; the wide upper wharf level would provide good views for the public, and the lower wharf level would accommodate the more limited need for direct access to boats. A vehicular lane would be provided which could accommodate the planned streetcar route. The buildings would have retail frontage along the wharf, and parking would be placed below grade. The wharf is intended to have a very busy character, including convenience for cars as well as pedestrians, in contrast to the more typical American emphasis on separated uses; he compared this character to the Pike Place market in Seattle. Ms. Nelson asked if Pike Place has underground parking; Ms. Balmori recalled that it does not. Mr. Eckstut responded that waterfront developments typically do not include underground parking due to the high water table; however, this amenity would be cost-effective in Washington due to the height limit and market conditions. He emphasized the traditional mix of activities on a wharf, describing its character as chaotic, romantic, exciting, and educational, with the goal of making it manageable as well.
Mr. Eckstut described the planned road system in more detail. The primary traffic artery would be Maine Avenue; connections to all of the parking entrances would be from Maine Avenue and the adjacent streets and alleys. Traffic along the wharf and public spaces would only be for convenient drop-off and pick-up as well as access to a few building entrances. The two levels of below-grade parking would accommodate approximately 2,500 cars. He indicated the planned new intersections along Maine Avenue including a curved intersection that would resemble a traffic circle and would provide traffic calming. He described the overall intention of accommodating the needed traffic capacity—particularly during commuter rush-hours—while slowing the traffic with an increased number of crossings and intersections; the road system is also intended to provide a simple and pleasant arrival experience for visitors. He said that the curb line of Maine Avenue would not change, and most of the existing mature street trees would remain. The avenue would include lanes for parking, bicycles, transit, and left turns. He indicated the potential alignment through the development of the streetcar route extending between the Convention Center and the Anacostia neighborhood, still under study by the D.C. government; stops would be provided along the wharf.
Mr. Eckstut emphasized the mix of uses throughout the development, including multiple entertainment and educational venues. A 4,000-seat music hall is planned at the northwest portion of the project and the existing Arena Stage complex is adjacent toward the southeast, providing cultural anchors at each end of the development. The cultural uses toward the southeast would be quieter in consideration of the existing residential context in this area. He presented a color-coded diagram of the planned distribution of uses; Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the location of these uses would be fixed or could vary from the diagram. Mr. Eckstut responded that the intention is for the wharves, public places, and street locations to be fixed, with some movement possible in the alley locations; the treatment of the building sites would be flexible, particularly over the long term. The building uses are intended to respond to current market conditions; he offered the example of the two hotel sites which a developer is already interested in pursuing. He said that the larger block toward the northwest, intended for a major theater, could instead accommodate another use with a large footprint. He emphasized the overall modest length of the planned blocks with many small streets, in deliberate contrast to the large blocks that are prevalent in the nearby neighborhood; block lengths would often be less than 200 feet, and the project's density would be achieved through building heights of up to 130 feet, which he said is an appropriate height along Maine Avenue. The development plan would include rules for the configuration of building masses, such as streetwall heights of fifty to sixty feet and setbacks for the taller portions. He summarized the overall goal of porosity along Maine Avenue while acknowledging that some of the indicated breaks between building sites could be eliminated as the project develops. He noted that the overall density of the project would be less than that of adjacent areas.
Mr. Eckstut described the character of the planned open spaces. The square at the foot of the city pier would provide a civic space that he said does not currently exist in Washington; it would also provide a ceremonial setting for greeting worldwide dignitaries arriving by boat. He indicated the smaller open spaces which he described as plazas, alleys, and mews. A large waterfront park would be provided near the residential neighborhood, with extensive green space and an overlook. The organic shape of the Arena Stage complex would be extended to the buildings framing a plaza between the theater and the waterfront, and a planned long pier would further extend this space. He said that each of the open spaces would be interesting and different on both the water and land sides, responding to the unique conditions of this location as well as the precedents of successful place-making. He presented perspective views illustrating the intended character of the open-space areas, noting that the architecture and the particular mix of uses are not fully determined.
Mr. Eckstut discussed the vision for the fish market area at the northwest end of the development. The intention is to expand the existing facility, while maintaining the existing barges at their current location as well as the accommodation of cars parked directly in front of the barges. He described the existing "messy" condition as a desirable feature. The planned augmentation of the fish market includes the addition of a loft building that would echo the very long market buildings that previously existed on the site and that are typical of waterfront markets. Smaller buildings would also be added, perhaps including a brewery. Additional barges would be accommodated to provide a wider range of restaurants and attractions, taking advantage of the market's year-round operation. Mr. Belle asked about the market's truck traffic; Mr. Eckstut responded that it is intermittent and unpredictable, sometimes overlapping with the peak customer periods, which contributes to the market's overall character. He cited Seattle's Pike Place as an example of a modest-sized fish market that has grown into a major attraction through the addition of other uses. He described the planned changes to the traffic circulation pattern at the fish market, reversing the existing pattern to improve the turning conditions. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for clarification of customer parking opportunities. Mr. Eckstut indicated the planned surface parking areas, totaling approximately 150 spaces; he said that the scale of some parking and open-space areas would be larger than at Pike Place, which has a similar configuration that is successful but is too small. He confirmed that underground parking would not be built at the fish market due to the presence of historic buildings and the desire for trees in this area; the market's surface parking supply would be augmented by the nearby underground parking, to be built in a later phase, which would be available to the general public.
Mr. Eckstut noted the existing signs above some of the fish market's barges and discussed the intention to augment these to make the barges artful elements on the water. Ms. Nelson commented that Bangkok's floating flower market provides a visual attraction through the boats themselves, particularly when seen from an elevated viewpoint; she suggested that this strategy could be used here, perhaps seasonally. Mr. Eckstut agreed that the group of barges could be attractive, such as when seen from East Potomac Park. He clarified that the intended treatment of the barges would be to move their signs to the interior and to embellish their roofs to give the effect of floating lanterns, which would be comparable to the Bangkok example.
Mr. Eckstut described a further idea to place a large iconic sign on top of the proposed loft building at the fish market; this sign would provide wayfinding and would be appropriately located adjacent to the highway. He said that this sign would establish the identity and prominence of the waterfront area along this entrance route to the city from Virginia, and would be comparable to the iconic signs at other major waterfront marketplaces. He presented a section diagram illustrating the suggested height of the sign extending thirty feet above the elevated level of the highway. Mr. Belle noted the dashed outline in the section of nearby building heights, significantly taller than the suggested height of the sign. Mr. Luebke clarified that this outline depicts potential development at the adjacent 10th Street Overlook site, currently a park, which has no established scale for potential future development. Mr. Eckstut said that the outline also provides an approximation of the existing building heights in the L'Enfant Plaza area on the north side of the highway, where allowable building heights are measured from a higher street elevation and may therefore extend even higher than shown; he offered to further study the existing context heights. He indicated the sectional relationship between the suggested sign height and the Jefferson Memorial—an important nearby viewing point—and emphasized that the elevated highway and trees would likely block the view to the sign, which he said would be further verified. He requested the Commission's advice on sensitive viewing points, including confirmation of the assumption that the Commission would not want a large sign to be visible from the Jefferson Memorial. He also requested the Commission's overall support for creating this large sign which he said would be further developed by the project design consultant, Pentagram, for a future presentation. He emphasized the desire to create a "messy urban district"—which would include an element of "crass advertising"—rather than having a more governmental character.
Mr. Eckstut further discussed the relationship of the fish market to potential development of the 10th Street Overlook site. He presented drawings generated for the Framework Plan envisioning a significant memorial or museum at the overlook, with a major connection to the waterfront such as a grand staircase and large open space. The desired character for the fish market, however, is a series of many small spaces where customers can visit small shops in close proximity. The challenge is therefore to appropriately relate and connect these two areas. He said that a visual connection from the Overlook site through the fish market toward the waterfront, East Potomac Park, and Virginia would be appropriate if the width of the open space is at a relatively small scale. He indicated a suggested 75-foot-wide "gateway" opening between buildings, which he said is relatively wide for a retail context but would provide a desirable sense of enclosure for the fish market, sufficiently separating it from the larger scale of Maine Avenue. Beyond this gateway would be a larger plaza which would provide connections for customers to the smaller open spaces of the market and lead to the development's wharf and a new pier. He emphasized the importance of shaping and narrowing the views from the new development toward the city, in addition to considering the views from the city toward the development. He summarized this design strategy as a sequence of experiences rather than a single large gesture between the Overlook and the waterfront. He said that the treatment of potential future buildings at the 10th Street Overlook would have an important effect on vistas relating to the waterfront, although that site is outside of the development project. Prior to such future development, a pedestrian connection would be desirable between the new waterfront area and the overlook; a proposal will therefore be developed for a stair and ramp system to improve on the current path through the grass of the Overlook's hillside. He added that this connection would tie into the overall pedestrian and bicycle circulation system along Maine Avenue and the waterfront.
Ms. Balmori asked for further explanation of the building heights that were presented. Mr. Eckstut confirmed that the prevailing height for new development is shown as 130 feet, noting that lower heights would typically be used for the portions of the buildings that form the street wall and provide the sense of spatial enclosure; he indicated an example of an office building with its taller portion set back from its sixty-foot-high base. He said that the height was based on an analysis of D.C. regulations, Maine Avenue's width, the width of the buildings, and the goal of accommodating views toward the waterfront. He noted that the new buildings would generally not be casting shadows on the waterfront, and existing nearby buildings are relatively low and would therefore be subject to diminished views, even if the new development were much lower. He presented an additional idea related to height: a tall iconic element that would make the waterfront site visible from a moderate distance, such as from the Mall which is within comfortable walking distance but has no direct sightline to the waterfront. He said the height of this icon or tower could be 250 to 300 feet and would be conceived as artwork, with the occupiable portion not extending above 130 feet. He said the tower could also serve to mark the waterfront as a destination for those arriving by boat, comparable to the role of a lighthouse. He said that such iconic towers are traditional elements of waterfronts, dating from the period before advanced navigation. He also offered modern examples of tall structures being created or re-used near waterfronts, such as London's Tate Modern gallery. He said this tower would best be placed at the "City Square" space at the foot of 9th Street, adjacent to the new city pier, emphasizing the importance of this location.
The Commission members inspected the site model of the proposed development. Mr. Eckstut indicated the importance of the development's frontage along Maine Avenue, with relatively short blocks and generally a fifty- to sixty-foot-high street wall provided by the new buildings while also providing extensive variety of massing. He said that many different architects would be interpreting the massing intention that is shown in the model. Mr. Belle asked if each building would have multiple uses; Mr. Eckstut responded that typically each building would have one primary use, combined with extensive ground-floor retail uses in many areas. The retail areas would include a variety of types and sizes, with an emphasis on restaurants. He confirmed that the project extends southward to include the waterfront park space alongside existing residential buildings; he said that earlier proposals to include parking in this area were not pursued due to the concern of residents. He indicated the large plaza between the Arena Stage building and the waterfront, which he said would accommodate the large groups of people who typically board the dinner boats which would be docked at the adjacent pier; these groups sometimes arrive on buses, which would remain on Maine Avenue instead of the current practice of bringing the buses into the waterfront precinct. He emphasized the wharf as the project's most memorable feature and "the next great place in the District."
Mr. Belle asked about the building volumes shown on the model at the 10th Street Overlook; Mr. Eckstut and Mr. Luebke confirmed that these only illustrate the volumes shown in the Framework Plan to define the overlook space and suggest the connections to the waterfront and north along 10th Street to the Mall, while not representing any specific building proposals. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested the potential of reconfiguring these building volumes to extend the 10th Street view corridor southward through the Overlook site; this long sightline would then continue to the waterfront development, which could be designed to accommodate the southward view. Ms. Balmori said that, regardless of whether the north-south sightline remains unobstructed, the Overlook is a critical point for an open view of the water; she suggested a larger open space to accommodate this view, helping to connect the water and the rest of the city more closely. She and Mr. Rybczynski suggested smaller rather than larger buildings in this area to reduce the obstruction of the view to the water; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson said that the appropriate scale is suggested by the existing historic building that would remain in the fish market development. Ms. Nelson said that the 10th Street corridor could serve as a location for festivals that are currently accommodated with difficulty on the Mall, helping to draw tourists from the Mall toward the waterfront; development of the Overlook site should therefore be configured to support rather than obstruct this connection.
Chairman Powell recognized Peter May of the National Park Service, which administers the Overlook site, to respond to comments concerning this location. Mr. May said that the development illustrated in the presentation is simply an extrusion of potential building sites based on the Framework Plan; he said that another image from the Framework Plan depicts less development that is more dispersed, accommodating wider views. He emphasized that the Overlook site is currently a park, and potential future construction—if any—would likely include a memorial or large cultural institution set within the landscape rather than the building volumes shown on the model; views from the Overlook toward the waterfront would therefore be more extensive than is suggested in this presentation.
Mr. Belle asked about other park areas related to the waterfront development project. Mr. May confirmed that the National Park Service has other sites along the waterfront and is coordinating with the developers for improving these parks. Mr. Belle summarized the concern that the project should address the issue of whether the north-south 10th Street axis—beginning at the Mall—extends beyond the Overlook through the waterfront development, or whether a different axis is established between the Overlook and the waterfront. Chairman Powell noted that this issue relates to the Commission's support for demolition of the Forrestal Building which currently spans the 10th Street axis near Independence Avenue. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the design team consider several alternative scenarios for the future treatment of the Overlook site because of its importance in determining the appropriate design for the waterfront development. He acknowledged that the intensive development of the Overlook depicted in the presentation would support the intended design along the waterfront, but said that this waterfront design would not work well with other treatments of the Overlook, such as an iconic building. He said that further consideration of alternatives is particularly important because the depicted Overlook treatment is an extreme and apparently unlikely scenario. Mr. Luebke acknowledged that a variety of treatments of the Overlook site would be consistent with the Framework Plan's intent. He said that extending the 10th Street axis southward had been considered but would be very disruptive to the potential development parcels along the waterfront; the Framework Plan therefore suggests that the Overlook would provide a deliberate shift from the north-south axis to a diagonal connecting directly to the waterfront. He said that the staff had identified the issue of whether the opening between the Overlook and the fish market would be wide enough to support a strong connection—while narrow enough to provide a sense of enclosure for the fish market's dense activity. Mr. Belle characterized the resulting design as "Haussmann squeezed," and Mr. Eckstut offered an additional example of churches in Rome that are squeezed onto unusually constrained sites.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the traffic pattern that is depicted for the development. She noted that only two or three intersections would provide full access into the project from Maine Avenue and the city street grid, and the development's minor streets and alleys would not have left-turn connections with Maine Avenue. She expressed concern that people driving into the site who fail to find parking spaces would be forced to exit onto Maine Avenue and re-enter the site at another intersection, and she suggested more vehicular crossings of Maine Avenue to improve the circulation pattern.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the effort to establish a "messy and interesting" character in the fish market area but said that extending this character throughout the length of the waterfront would be infeasible; she added that the series of large new buildings would be particularly detrimental to establishing this traditional waterfront character. She cited the differing characters of waterfront developments in Washington such as at Georgetown—with separate experiences rather than a unified waterfront—and at The Yards along the Anacostia River where historic warehouse buildings are being retained. She encouraged differentiating the Southwest Waterfront from these other areas, such as by providing a more formal character with a more uniform street section and streetscape, and with the waterfront streetcar route providing a unique feature.
Mr. Rybczynski offered a general reaction that the planned development is too bulky and would tend to form a wall along the waterfront. He asked if the building heights would require exceptions to prevailing limits; Mr. Eckstut responded that the heights are consistent with the normal limits in Washington. He added that the same amount of floor space could be configured with reduced heights but this would result in larger building footprints, contrary to the planning objective of creating frequent gaps for a more porous frontage along Maine Avenue. Mr. Eckstut summarized the arguments favoring intensive development of the waterfront: the overall density is consistent with neighboring areas; the site orientation allows for sizeable buildings that would not cast shadows on important public spaces; lower building heights would not help to retain views from existing nearby buildings, which are of only moderate height; and density would support the desired active character of the waterfront. He added that the private developer would handle the management and programming of the project's public spaces, rather than leaving these responsibilities to a government entity. Mr. Rybczynski concluded by supporting Ms. Plater-Zyberk's concerns, commenting that this development encompasses a sizeable urban area and requires more urbanistic discipline in its design. Mr. Eckstut responded that the design is intentionally not disciplined, in order to provide a contrast with the prevailing organized character of Washington and the predominantly federal ownership of the city's waterfronts; he acknowledged that an orderly character would be more appropriate for some portions of the development such as the upper wharf. Mr. Belle said that perhaps the contrast is insufficient and could be strengthened; Mr. Eckstut agreed that one potential direction for development of the design would be to create a place where "there is a little more of that funkiness going on."
Ms. Balmori supported the design intent of configuring the buildings on relatively small parcels with frequent openings between them to increase porosity through the development. She emphasized the importance of providing views to the water, commenting that Washington has extensive areas of water but relatively few places from which to see it and gain access to it; she said that the views of the water should not be interrupted by extensive areas of moored boats. She agreed that the treatment of the adjacent Overlook site would be critical to determining the appropriate design and important view corridors within the waterfront development area. She supported the provision of extensive open-space areas in the development but suggested that some of them be widened, which would encourage people to linger within them rather than emphasizing linear movement through the spaces. Mr. Belle said that widening the open spaces would improve the character of the abutting edges of the development parcels.
Ms. Nelson commented that the newly re-opened Arena Stage complex provides an important new space for viewing the water, an amenity that may be diminished by the new waterfront development; she nonetheless acknowledged that views are often lost in the process of urban development. Mr. Eckstut responded that the design team has met with Arena Stage staff and has revised the earlier waterfront design—which included numerous two- to four-story buildings that would have blocked the view from the theater to the water—in order to widen the plaza, reduce the retail buildings to a one-story height, and set back the taller buildings. The result is to establish a view corridor between the Arena Stage complex and the water. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if this view would be from Arena Stage's outdoor space; Mr. Eckstut said that the outdoor space would have some views but the primary concern was improving the view from the theater's indoor lobby space. He added that the waterfront development will benefit from this strengthened relationship to the Arena Stage complex by attracting theater patrons to the waterfront restaurants. He summarized the effort to cooperate in balancing the goals of the waterfront development and Arena Stage, while acknowledging that he could not respond on behalf of the theater. Mr. Luebke confirmed that the consultation with Arena Stage has been extensive, and the waterfront design in this area has been significantly revised as a result.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the planned theaters within the waterfront development would be distant from Arena Stage; she asked if locating them more closely would provide better synergy, and suggested that the waterfront plan provide flexibility in locating the theater. Mr. Eckstut responded that the goal is to attract the more transient visitor population to the northwestern part of the lengthy development area; he added that the planned 4,000-seat music theater—with audiences typically standing—would have a very different character than more traditional theaters and would be less compatible with the residential uses in the Arena Stage vicinity. He nonetheless agreed that some type of cultural uses, even if not theaters, would be appropriate in the vicinity of Arena Stage, and he supported the overall suggestion to create a critical mass of attractions in this area.
Chairman Powell noted that the agenda item is an information presentation, and the Commission members have provided a range of comments. Mr. Belle said that the comments suggest the importance of continuing to consider alternatives as part of the design process, encouraging the design team to develop responses to the interesting ideas that have been offered by the Commission members. Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the thoughtful project, extensive work, helpful model, and the great potential of this project which will be submitted for further review. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. National Park Service
CFA 18/NOV/10-2, National Mall. Center lawn panels (#29, 30, and 33) between 3rd and 7th Streets. Reconstruction of the turf and soil, and installation of an irrigation system and new granite curbs and gutters. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/MAY/10-2.) Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's previous review in May 2010, including support for introducing curbs and gutters along the lawn panels and for the general goal of a more sustainable environment for the Mall. He described the subsequent refinements to the design: the selection of white Mount Airy granite for the curbs and gutters, and further details of the soil engineering and water management system. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that this final submission is generally a refinement of the proposal that was previously presented. He introduced Maria Brooks, the new acting superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Ms. Brooks said that she is temporarily stationed in Washington for several months and normally serves as superintendent of the national parks of New York Harbor. She said that the submission for the lawn panels relates to maintenance of the Mall's resources, in conjunction with the more wide-ranging recommendations of the recently finalized National Mall Plan. Mr. Belle and Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the National Mall Plan's proposals have been funded; Ms. Brooks responded that the fundraising effort will be coordinated with the Trust for the National Mall, a partner organization with the National Park Service, and will commence following the plan's upcoming review by the National Capital Planning Commission. She added that the cost of the National Mall Plan's proposals is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the fundraising process will likely be lengthy. She introduced Suzette Goldstein of HOK, who noted that funding is available to implement the current submission for the lawn panels in 2011. Ms. Nelson commented that the presentation photograph of the lawn's poor existing condition would be a valuable image in the fundraising process.
Ms. Goldstein indicated the project's location toward the east end of the Mall, emphasizing that the improved appearance of this area would provide a better visual setting for the U.S. Capitol building to the east. She summarized the purpose of the proposed new curb system: to improve the appearance of the lawn edges, to manage the water drainage, and to protect the new lawns. The curb system is also designed to meet requirements for barrier-free access to the lawns, which are considered to serve as assembly spaces. She provided a granite sample of the proposed curb, describing the grades of five and eight percent that would channel water from either side toward the center. She presented computer-simulated views of the lawn panels with the new curbs providing clean edges, compared to the typically ragged appearance of the existing edge conditions She indicated the drains that would be incorporated into the curbs at 36-foot intervals. Ms. Nelson asked if the drains would be simple slots; Ms. Goldstein responded that they would be wider—approximately six inches—with metal framing and a simple grate, currently specified as bronze.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the walkways adjacent to the lawn panels would be changed as part of this project. Ms. Goldstein responded that some regrading of the walkways is included to improve drainage and eliminate ponding problems; however, the material of the walkways would not be changed. Ms. Balmori said that the grading of the walkways is an important concern in relation to the extensive water-collection system that is proposed; the walkways could be graded to drain toward or away from the new curbs, or crowned to drain partially in each direction. She recommended further study of the walkways, with consideration of collecting their runoff water into the new cisterns. Ms. Goldstein responded that the proposed grading would drain approximately two-thirds of the walks' surface toward the new curbs which would channel the water into the new cisterns; the grading changes would be limited in order to avoid altering the setting of existing benches and light poles at the outer edges of the walks. She clarified that the proposed slope of the walks would be approximately two percent. Ms. Balmori supported this proposal; she also noted that the asphalt of the former roads is beneath the gravel on some of the walks and asked if it could be removed to allow water to drain through the gravel directly into the soil below. Ms. Goldstein responded that this issue would be considered as part of a future project for the walks—possibly including a change of material—as called for in the National Mall Plan; the current project would simply reinstall the existing gravel surface. She noted that the long-term desired handling of surface water is an issue that will require further study; there may be advantages to draining it into the soil or to collecting it with a hard below-grade surface for channeling elsewhere. She said that collecting water into the cisterns is advantageous for the current project because the cisterns will be used to supply the irrigation system for the lawns, substituting for the undesired use of potable water for this purpose. She agreed with Ms. Balmori that the entire section of the walks should be studied in the future, and that a porous surface can be advantageous for drainage.
Ms. Goldstein said that the proposed radius treatment of the curbs at the corners of the lawn panels was studied further in response to the Commission's request. The walks were built as vehicular roads in the 1930s, with rounded corners; they were pedestrianized in the 1970s and ninety-degree corners were installed using metal edging—now lost—to establish the edges of the gravel surface. The Mall's many visitors cut across the corners of the lawns, resulting in dead grass in these areas. The proposal is to reintroduce rounded corners in conjunction with the new curb system, using a radius of fifteen feet which is comparable to the existing radius at other corner locations on the Mall. She added that the introduction of the granite curbs at the corners would provide an additional visual cue that would discourage visitors from walking on the grass in these areas. She expressed confidence that this design proposal would result in the grass remaining healthy along the edges and the gravel remaining on the walks as intended.
Ms. Goldstein summarized the proposed treatment of the soil, which is currently very compacted supporting adequate grass growth but not regrowth after trampling. The existing surface soil would be remixed with sand and organic matter, similar to the soil of athletic fields; the subsurface soil would also be treated to improve drainage. The resulting design would allow rapid drainage of surface water through the soil for collection into a new drainage system four feet below grade. The collected water would go to the new cisterns, and the rapid drainage would reduce surface muddiness and facilitate the regrowth of grass after damage.
Ms. Goldstein presented drawings of the proposed grading of the lawns, which will be crowned to facilitate drainage as well as to emphasize the visibility of the lawns rather than walks and roads when seen from a distance. The height of the crowning would be eight to ten inches; the grading would also be adjusted to accommodate the slight broader topographic changes along the Mall, sometimes totaling three feet which can be visually significant within this relatively flat landscape.
Ms. Goldstein described the proposed water storage and irrigation system. The first phase of the project would include storage for 500,000 gallons of stormwater in two cisterns to be located beneath the walks; they would be connected to a pumping station that would supply the irrigation system. Later phases would include an additional 500,000 gallons of storage, which she said would provide a very substantial capacity. She acknowledged that the emphasis on lawns is not an ideal design for achieving sustainability, but said that lawns are nonetheless the appropriate feature in this setting; the reuse of stormwater is an effort to improve the sustainability of this landscape. She described the irrigation system as "industrial-strength" to serve this large landscape, and said that the lateral segments of piping have been eliminated from the design as previously suggested by the Commission. The pipes and heads would be located along the sides and centerline of the lawn panels, which she described as the cleanest configuration possible with a minimum of piping. She indicated the proposed location of the pump room beneath a side panel of the Mall between 7th and 9th Streets, a location that she said has a gravel surface and is used for staging of special events. The proposed surface elements would include grates covering areaways for ventilation, as well as two flush-mounted access hatches to provide primary access and an emergency egress. Ms. Balmori asked about the scale of these features. Ms. Goldstein said that the below-grade pump room is approximately twenty by thirty feet, acknowledging that it is a relatively large facility; she estimated the access hatch as approximately four to six feet long and just wide enough for a person, and recalled the size of the ventilation grates as approximately ten by four feet.
Ms. Balmori asked about the feasibility of adjusting the location of the grates and hatches, such as placing them closer to the curb and orienting them along the direction of the walk rather than perpendicular to it; she commented that the presented design appears as just an intrusion in the middle of the walk, and these linear elements would be less obtrusive if repositioned. Ms. Goldstein offered to study this further, noting that the location of these elements is constrained by the construction logistics of the large below-grade room; issues include limiting the extent of excavation to avoid damage to the roots of nearby elm trees, and the location of below-grade utilities in the area. She added that rotating the orientation of these elements may be more feasible than moving them toward the edge of the walk. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that this grouping be centered in the walk if it cannot be placed at the edge; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell supported this option.
Mr. Belle asked about filtration of the rainwater; Ms. Goldstein responded that it would pass through a sequence of filters to remove larger and then smaller debris before reaching the cisterns, and would be filtered again upon reaching the pump room. Mr. Luebke asked how debris would be removed; Ms. Goldstein responded that numerous manholes and clean-out locations would be provided, as with typical stormwater systems; some of these features would be clustered to facilitate the National Park Service's maintenance operations. She said that the water treatment would conform to D.C. health codes as part of the permit application process, adding that watering of the lawns would occur in the middle of the night when people are unlikely to be present.
Ms. Balmori asked about the cost of the project's first phase; Ms. Goldstein said that the budget is approximately $11 million. Ms. Nelson asked about precedents in other cities for lawns that are subject to such intense use, noting the comparison of the proposed soil composition to athletic fields. Ms. Goldstein said that the Mall's use level is greater than any other examples, including New York's Central Park. Ms. Balmori suggested a comparison to football fields, including community fields that are used more frequently than those at professional stadiums; Ms. Goldstein said that such heavily used fields would typically have an artificial surface. Ms. Nelson suggested London's Hyde Park or locations in Tokyo; Ms. Goldstein responded that the project team has talked to people responsible for these and other prominent parks, and none of them are subject to such intense use. She added that a professional football field, if damaged by a special event such as a concert, would be rebuilt afterward; New York's Bryant Park and the space at Battery Park City are also reconstructed annually. However, the Mall is a much larger space and is subject to an ongoing schedule of events, making such frequent reconstruction impractical both logistically and financially. Ms. Nelson acknowledged the uniqueness of the Mall's lawns; Ms. Goldstein added that the examples from other cities nonetheless provided valuable information that was used to refine the proposed design. She said that no type of grass would remain green after being covered by a tent for two weeks or more, but the goal is a design that will support speedy recovery of the lawn after such events. Mr. Belle noted that Central Park's Sheep Meadow was closed for two years to rehabilitate the grass; Ms. Goldstein added that the Sheep Meadow is also subject to substantial restrictions on allowable uses. Mr. Powell asked if the Mall lawn panels would similarly be subject to limitations on the number of events. Ms. Goldstein responded that the National Park Service intends to develop a manual covering operations, maintenance, and event management on the Mall; this manual would incorporate the results of research that has been done for the current submission.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the irrigation system's sprinkler heads should be designed to avoid causing injury, or being damaged themselves, during the intense use of these lawns such as for sports. She also observed that the granite curbs are proposed only for the inner edges of the Mall's walks, while leaving the outer edges unimproved or "informal"; she suggested that these outer edges be improved as part of this project, even if the treatment is less elaborate than the stone curbs along the central lawn panels. Mr. Belle asked if budget limitations would preclude this added scope. Ms. Goldstein responded that the pre-design phase of the project included study of the entirety of the Mall, extending to Madison and Jefferson Drives and encompassing the side lawn panels with trees; the design team considered either stone curbs or reinstallation of the metal edges around the side panels, with no conclusion reached. The current project includes only the work related to the center panels, which is currently funded, and the remaining issues will be considered further as the National Mall Plan is implemented in the future. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the urbanistic concern is conceptualizing the project as only within the block of the lawn panels, rather than encompassing both sides of the walks; a modest improvement of the walks' outer edges would address this concern, and would avoid the obvious appearance of disparity between the two sides that might suggest a lack of sufficient funding. Mr. May of the National Park Service confirmed that more extensive improvements are anticipated as part of the National Mall Plan's implementation, which is why the pre-design phase included the wider scope. Meanwhile, the current proposal is intended to provide significant near-term benefit with the limited funds available. He added that the pre-design study resulted in the realization that the treatment of the outer panels is a more complicated design problem than anticipated, requiring lengthy study and design review.
Mr. Belle asked about the section detail of the proposed curb that includes a small radius at the edge. Ms. Goldstein responded that this curve reduces the likelihood of chipping of the granite edges compared to an angular design; the detail has been developed in coordination with the granite fabricator and the National Park Service's maintenance staff. Mr. Belle said that a similar detail was included in the replacement of curbs at a New York City public space and resulted in problems of people slipping and falling. Ms. Goldstein emphasized that the section is carefully designed to facilitate water drainage from the lawn into the gutter while not introducing a barrier to the accessibility of the lawn.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's overall enthusiasm for the final design submission subject to the extensive comments that were provided and the desire for implementation of future phases of improvements to the Mall. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission members recommended some modifications to the design which could either be addressed through a subsequent submission, delegated to the staff for further review, or left to the National Park Service's discretion. Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission approve the final design, relying on the National Park Service to consider the recommendations and to make those changes that are feasible. Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the final design submission subject to the comments that were provided.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the next two submissions: alternative reverses for the non-circulating platinum coin to be issued in 2011, and a revised submission for two of the First Spouse medals and non-circulating coins that the Commission had found unsatisfactory in the previous submission of alternatives. Ms. Budow noted the presence of chief engraver John Mercanti and other senior engravers from the Mint's Philadelphia facility, who are available to answer questions.
1. CFA 18/NOV/10-3, American Eagle Platinum Coin Program for 2011. Reverse design. (Previous: CFA 18/MAR/10-1.) Ms. Budow described the Secretary of the Treasury's authority for the design and minting of platinum coins. The American Eagle Platinum Coin series began in 1997, with the Statue of Liberty on the obverse and a different eagle-themed design each year for the reverse. Beginning in 2009, a new six-year series of reverse designs has been based on themes from the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, inspired by narratives prepared by the Chief Justice. The theme for the 2011 reverse will be "To Ensure Domestic Tranquility." The design alternatives have been developed by artists on staff as well as from the Mint's Artistic Infusion Program involving outside artists. She said that the executed designs will also incorporate a small "privy mark" relating to the American eagle in order to provide continuity with the past theme of the eagle for the platinum coins. She presented the obverse featuring the Statue of Liberty, as originally designed by Mr. Mercanti, which will remain unchanged except for the updated minting year. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about the white and black areas of the coin's background; Ms. Budow said that this does not indicate a texture change but results from the graphic technique of depicting the mirrored background finish on the proof coin, in contrast to the uncirculated grade of coins which do not have this finish.
Ms. Budow presented nine alternative designs for the reverse, including a variety of allegorical figures and symbols such as a wheat stalk, a dove, a cauldron, torches, hands, a lion, a snake, a flag, and an olive wreath and branch. Ms. Balmori noted the Commission's longstanding emphasis on simplicity and legibility in coin designs, regardless of the theme involved, and the typically small size of the coins. She supported alternatives #2 and #5 as being sufficiently simple and legible, commenting that the others have too many elements resulting in a garbled design. She said that the relationship of the wreath's shape to that of the coin in alternative #5 contributes to this design's legibility and interest. Mr. Powell supported the emphasis on simplicity. Ms. Budow said that the Mint had emphasized the use of symbolic elements in order to simplify the designs, and noted that the production process for this coin will allow for clear depiction of details. Ms. Nelson also supported alternative #5 but questioned the inclusion of extraneous details such as a wristwatch; she acknowledged the intent to depict diversity but said that this would be suggested abstractly by the three hands without need for differentiating details such as clothing and jewelry. Ms. Balmori agreed.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend reverse alternative #5 with further simplification.
2. CFA 18/NOV/10-4, 2011 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Revised designs for the reverses of two of the fifth set of four First Spouse $10 gold coins and bronze medals: Eliza Johnson and Lucy Hayes. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/10-5.) Ms. Budow summarized the program of coins and medals which would be identical except for the inscriptions, with obverses depicting the First Spouses based on their official portraits and reverses depicting images emblematic of their lives and work. She said that the revised submissions are for the reverse designs for Eliza Johnson and Lucy Hayes which the Commission previously found unsatisfactory, and the presentation will also include the obverse designs that were previously reviewed so that the Commission could consider both sides in forming a recommendation.
Ms. Budow presented the five obverse designs for Mrs. Johnson, wife of Andrew Johnson, noting the Commission's previous recommendation for obverse alternative #2. Mr. Belle noted her "unhappy" appearance in the alternatives; Ms. Budow responded that Mrs. Johnson was in poor health at the time the original portrait was made. Ms. Nelson and Mr. Powell reaffirmed the Commission's preference for obverse alternative #2. Ms. Budow presented eight alternatives for the reverse design—three depicting Mrs. Johnson at a children's ball during the White House years, and five depicting her and Mr. Johnson in their youth as she read to him while they worked in a tailor shop. Ms. Budow said that the Mint had emphasized simplicity in the development of these new design alternatives; Ms. Balmori commented that the reverse alternatives are nonetheless overly complex for the small scale. Ms. Nelson offered support for alternative #2 as the strongest design, commenting on the strength of the profile pose in depicting Mrs. Johnson; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the composition of alternative #2 includes too much of the chair's back, resulting in crowding of the children depicted toward the left side. She suggested a small adjustment to the composition to reduce the extent of the chair's back; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori agreed, adding that the children could then be moved further from the left edge of the design. Ms. Budow noted that the children would be depicted in slightly lower relief to indicate that they are in the background of the composition. Ms. Nelson added that the depictions of Mrs. Johnson reading to Mr. Johnson are awkward, and the purpose of the scene is unclear; Ms. Budow said that Mrs. Johnson was teaching him. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #2 with slight adjustment to minimize the depiction of the chair and improve the depiction of the children, and reaffirmed its support of obverse alternative #2.
Ms. Budow presented the three obverse alternatives for Lucy Hayes, noting the Commission's previous preference for #2; Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori expressed continued support for this design, commenting on the beauty of the profile pose. Ms. Budow presented six alternatives for the reverse design—three depicting Mrs. Hayes and her husband, Rutherford Hayes, celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, and two depicting the Easter egg roll at the White House, a tradition that began during this Presidency. Ms. Balmori expressed support for alternative #3—one of the Easter egg roll depictions—commenting that it is the only design that is sufficiently simple and not awkward. Ms. Budow noted the effort to remove the background detail from the designs; Ms. Balmori said that this change has improved the designs. Ms. Nelson said that Mrs. Hayes appears animated in alternative #3, and the Easter egg roll is an appropriate subject due to its association with her. Mr. Powell also supported alternative #3. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #3 and reaffirmed its support for obverse alternative #2.
E. General Services Administration
CFA 18/NOV/10-5, National Capital Region First Impressions Sign Program. New building/agency identification sign program for Federal facilities. Revised concept. (Previous review: CFA 21/JUL/05-8.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a sign system that would be used for federal facilities throughout the National Capital Region. He said that the project was initiated more than ten years ago and has been pursued intermittently since then. The current effort would install signs at most of the Federal Triangle buildings as a pilot project for the planned system. He asked Mike McGill of the General Services Administration (GSA) to begin the presentation.
Mr. McGill said that the design is similar to the prototype sign previously reviewed by the Commission, with the addition of a website address so that people could use modern technology to learn more about each building and the federal agencies within; this change would expand the scope of the initiative beyond the installation of static signs. After the initial installation at the Federal Triangle, the goal would be to extend the system to at least sixty buildings, resulting in a visual identity for GSA's buildings and more meaningful public access to information about the government and the architecture. He introduced consultant Beth Ready of the firm Gensler to present the proposal.
Ms. Ready emphasized the similarity of the current proposal to the design previously reviewed by the Commission. She presented photographs of existing building signs, indicated the varying colors and lettering as well as their frequently poor condition. The goal is to replace all of these signs and establish a consistent identity for GSA's buildings. She described two signs that were constructed in general conformance to the recent GSA design prototype but without direct involvement by GSA—at the headquarters of the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs—noting the variations such as added prominence to the name of the federal agency, the use of raised letters, and the introduction of the agency's seal.
Ms. Ready presented the proposed standard design for the signs, which would be nine feet tall and 2.5 feet wide. The internal support for the sign would be permanent, and the visible outer face would be a sleeve that could be replaced whenever necessary to incorporate updated information. She said that the selected typeface—Frutiger—is fairly neutral and would be appropriate in front of historic as well as modern buildings. She presented a diagrammatic plan of proposed sign locations around Federal Triangle, with locations at the corners of each building and at important additional entrance points.
Ms. Nelson expressed concern that some of the indicated sign locations would be very close to each other, while acknowledging that they would be identifying different buildings. Ms. Ready said that this placement is intended to help differentiate the buildings and entrances to provide clarity for visitors. Ms. Balmori suggested placing the signs near the entrances rather than at the corners. Ms. Ready responded that this could be problematic; for large buildings such as the Department of Commerce headquarters, the goal is to direct pedestrians and drivers from the corners toward the main entrance. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson said that some of the corner signs could nonetheless be consolidated to an entrance location, reducing the number of signs. Ms. Ready agreed to study this further.
Mr. Powell asked about the treatment of existing building signs, typically colored blue; Ms. Ready said that those would be removed from Federal Triangle buildings in conjunction with the installation of the proposed new signs. Mr. Powell agreed that this strategy would avoid redundancy among the different sign types.
Ms. Ready presented the proposed graphic elements on each sign. At the top would be the building's name as designated by legislation, if any; otherwise this area would be blank. Below would be the U.S. seal, followed by the building address and the names of the tenant agencies. Toward the bottom of the signs, in smaller text, would be directional information for the main entrance and a barrier-free entrance, as well as the website address for further information. The website could include useful visitor information such as the availability of restaurants or restrooms within the building.
Ms. Ready described the proposed materials: an aluminum box construction with a surface of automobile paint. She said that the two-part epoxy paint finish should be durable for approximately ten years, as with a car; the selected paint would also have a low emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ms. Nelson asked how the signs would be cleaned when necessary, such as due to vandalism; Ms. Ready said that a power washer could be used. Mr. Belle asked if the finish would fade in sunlight; Ms. Ready said that this could be a problem over an extended period of time, such as fifteen years.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked about other signs that would be in the vicinity, while acknowledging the appropriateness of locating the signs at the building corners to provide helpful directions to approaching pedestrians. Mr. Belle added that the potential multitude of signs would need careful management. Ms. Ready responded that the most prevalent signs are located at the street edges, such as stop signs and bus-stop designations; the proposed building identification signs would be located away from the street edge and within the building yards. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that she has seen other situations where a simple sign program becomes cluttered by additional signs conveying, for example, information about what is happening inside the building. Ms. Ready said that the only comparable situation in the Federal Triangle is at the Reagan Building, where adjacent kiosks provide additional information; Ms. Nelson noted the Old Post Office building as an additional example. Ms. Plater-Zyberk expressed support for the proposed system but emphasized her concern that the proliferation of other signs could result in visual clutter. Ms. Nelson suggested a careful study of existing conditions to determine which signs should remain and which should be removed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked who would be able to undertake such a study; Ms. Ready said that this was already done as part of the initial phase of this project ten years ago, including a full survey of signs at each of the sixty buildings that the program will later encompass. Mr. Powell emphasized the need to remove unwanted existing signs; Ms. Ready responded that this will be part of the project. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the Commission support the proposal with a comment that some overall supervision is necessary in controlling the area's signs; she said that the simple diagrammatic plan in the presentation does not convey the complexity of actual conditions, and there is a risk of simply installing new signs without addressing the existing ones—including those that are potential obstructions to the visibility of the new signs.
Chairman Powell noted that the submission is for a revised concept approval, allowing for further development to address these concerns; Ms. Ready noted that the revisions are minimal from the prior submission.
Mina Wright, the Urban Design Executive at GSA, said that a Heritage Trail sign program is also being developed for the Federal Triangle and is being coordinated with the D.C. Office of Planning, the National Park Service, and the National Capital Planning Commission. GSA is attempting an overall effort to coordinate the Federal Triangle signage because of the potential for visual chaos; she noted the four or five sign types that are already used on GSA's buildings in this area. She emphasized that the Federal Triangle will then serve as a prototype for signage in the region adding that Federal Triangle is an unusually difficult area with many stakeholders and GSA will coordinate closely with the review agencies for the placement of the signs. She added that the building tenants would not be permitted to alter the sign designs nor choose among any options. She described the program as a low-maintenance type of "visual branding" and emphasized that the placement of the signs would be important.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the National Aquarium is to be relocated to the south end of the Department of Commerce headquarters and would have its own sign program. Ms. Ready confirmed this plan and said that the GSA signs would have to be carefully integrated with the Aquarium sign program, an example of the many complexities that will arise. Ms. Wright added that these issues would be addressed in future development and review of the design. Mr. Luebke asked if future submissions would address individual buildings or the entirety of Federal Triangle; Ms. Wright responded that this decision will be coordinated with the staff. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to handle future submissions through the consent calendar or delegation to the staff.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept with the comments provided. Chairman Powell noted the Commission's support for high-quality signs and a uniform approach to their design, and the concern for the potential proliferation of signs.
F. District of Columbia Courts
CFA 18/NOV/10-6, The H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse. 500 Indiana Avenue, NW. Building addition and site modifications. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/OCT/10- 9.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced architect Michael Kazan of Gruzen Samton to present the revision to the previous month's submission for expansion of the Moultrie Courthouse. Mr. Kazan said that the D.C. Courts are under time pressure to move forward on this project due to the approaching expiration of leases for other space, and the current submission therefore provides a speedy response to the Commission's previous comments. He summarized the overall intention of adding a "lamination" of building space along the south facade of the courthouse, facing C Street. The challenges include making the new design harmonious with the existing building, and addressing the combination of open-space settings at some edges of the site along with the relatively narrow width of C Street—which will be further narrowed visually by the proposed addition. To present the design, he introduced architect Scott Keller, the lead designer, as well as landscape architect Roger Courtenay of EDAW.
Mr. Keller summarized the context conditions and the character of the existing building, which he described as massive but comfortably scaled through the use of smaller elements pulled out from the facades. The proposed addition would be approximately 425 feet long and 40 feet deep; some portions of the new facade would cantilever 10 feet further to accommodate the planned new courtrooms. He noted the Commission's previous recommendation to improve the modulation of the addition's massing such as through closer study of the existing building's features, and to consider more carefully the building's principal axis aligned with 5th Street on the north. He indicated the proposed facade features and new C Street entrance that would be aligned with this axis; above the new entrance would be a two-story lobby on the same level as the building's principal entrance on the north.
Mr. Keller said that the design team had carefully reconsidered the facade design in response to the Commission's comments, including the facade's relationship to the existing building and its modulation along C Street. The revised design includes additional elements to provide a level of scale between individual windows and the overall facade length, and several variations have been developed that express the programmatic elements on the interior and relate to the limestone exterior material of the existing building. He presented three alternatives: the first integrates stone elements with the curtainwall design that was previously presented; the second uses a terra-cotta screen along the facade to provide modulation; and the third emphasizes the use of stone. He said that the design team had visited the building repeatedly for more careful study, acknowledging the value of this exercise in learning more about its design. One observation was the importance of the vertical elements that are expressed in the facade and help to organize it; another was that the elements extending from the building are typically articulated with a base and top. He described how these characteristics are incorporated in various ways as he presented each of the new design alternatives.
For the first alternative, Mr. Keller also discussed the further development of the curtainwall design including its modulation resulting from the different treatment of vision glass and the glass that covers structural elements. He indicated the additional articulation that would be provided by fins between the windows, with a varying depth of six or ten inches to express a larger module. He presented a view along C Street in which the fins become significant visual elements that give the addition a more solid appearance, while a frontal view of the facade would emphasize the glass and reflections of the sky; he described the effect of this shifting appearance as kaleidoscopic. He presented views of several other buildings that use similar configurations of fins to provide a shifting appearance of transparency and solidity.
Mr. Keller presented the second option, which uses terra cotta elements along the C Street elevation. As with the first option, the end walls of the addition would be limestone to match the existing building facades and "book-end" the new volume, emphasizing solidity at the addition's corners. He described the terra cotta as forming a "veil" across the facade, forming a pattern that articulates the columns and spandrels to provide a well-modulated building and streetscape. He indicated the unobstructed windows and the articulation of light shelves. The pattern would vary at different levels of the building, with slightly larger modules for the two levels of judges' chambers and a different configuration for the general office space above. He added that the color of the terra cotta would be selected to match the limestone.
Mr. Keller presented the third option, which he said has been further developed beyond the images provided in the submission booklet to establish a lighter character. A grid of limestone would wrap around the addition, relating directly to the existing building's exterior material. A vertical gap in the grid pattern toward the center of the facade would mark the new entrance; the height of the grid at each end of the addition would relate to the varying conditions of the adjacent existing facades. He indicated the treatment of the stone toward the base of the addition, creating a colonnade effect of piers which would combine with the trees to create a desirable pedestrian experience. He discussed the consideration of other buildings in the neighborhood while developing and refining this alternative, adding that the new C Street elevation will face a narrower space than the courthouse's other sides and should therefore be given a lighter treatment, such as a glass facade or a lighter grid of limestone.
Mr. Belle asked if the limestone grid of the third option could define a pedestrian walkway at the street level. Mr. Keller responded that this would be desirable, but infeasible due to the ten-foot grade change along the facade that must be reconciled with the window heights of the interior levels. Mr. Belle expressed concern that the apparent colonnade could not be used by pedestrians, and that it would likely be fenced to keep people away; Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the design already proposes that this area be fenced. Mr. Courtenay, the landscape architect, offered to respond, adding that he has a full presentation prepared for the landscape design proposals. Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission focus first on evaluating the architectural alternatives; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson agreed.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the logic of the existing building's south facade became more clear as a result of the Commission's site visit earlier in the day: the existing facade is articulated as three pieces which accommodate a response to the site's slope. She said that the concept of the addition as a single lamination across the full length of the facade is therefore inappropriate; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the proposal is reminiscent of the practice in the 1960s and 1970s of covering old buildings with screens of new materials; however, the building's original character will remain visible on the three other sides, and she described the resulting design as "troublesome."
Mr. Rybczynski said that the version of the third alternative that was included in the submission booklet was more promising than the version being presented at the meeting; the booklet version created a more neutral massing that would be sympathetic to the existing building while still accommodating the cantilevered glass volume in front of the new courtrooms. Mr. Powell agreed that the third alternative in the booklet is the most promising. Ms. Nelson observed that the overall massing of the third alternative is nonetheless a single continuous lamination, as with the other alternatives; Mr. Rybczynski said that the booklet version is somewhat successful in establishing separate volumes, which addresses this concern better than the other alternatives. He added that this alternative suggests that the existing building is being continued, rather than covered up. Ms. Nelson agreed, commenting that a person walking along C Street would perceive two different laminated volumes as well as a glass volume.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the presentation drawings consist of elevations and limited perspective views, perhaps appropriate for mid-block buildings but inadequate for this free-standing courthouse. She emphasized the importance of understanding the proposal in the context of an overall building that people can walk around and see from various angles, including longer views across open spaces and intersections; she added that the addition will routinely be seen in combination with the existing building, while the drawings suggest that the addition would be an independent design. Mr. Keller reiterated that C Street provides a much narrower space than at the building's other facades. Ms. Balmori said that the third alternative provides the continuity of limestone and depth of facade that relates the addition to the existing building which she said has a good scale, presence, depth of expression, and "nobility to the openings."
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support further development of the third alternative, particularly the version included in the submission booklet; he suggested that it be refined for submission as a revised concept in conjunction with a landscape design that is coordinated with this architectural approach. Mr. Courtenay confirmed that the landscape design would be adjusted to correspond with the recommended further development of the architecture. The Commission members voted to support this design direction for a subsequent presentation of the combined architectural and landscape design.
G. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 18/NOV/10-7, Old Georgetown Historic District Tree Fences. Standards for fencing around tree beds at various sites. Concept. Mr. Martinez introduced the submission from the Urban Forestry Administration of the D.C. Department of Transportation, a project that had been withdrawn from the Commission's October agenda. He noted the distribution to the Commission members of the Old Georgetown Board's report on the proposal, photographs provided by the applicant, and letters from Casey Trees, the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and the arboriculture consulting firm Pitchford Associates. He said that the Old Georgetown Board reviewed the project in October and initially requested that the proposed tree fences be no more than twelve inches high and set back at least eighteen inches from the curb, consistent with its recommendation earlier in the year concerning tree boxes along O and P Streets, NW, as part of the rehabilitation project for those streets. The Citizens Association of Georgetown—including its Trees for Georgetown committee—objected that this restriction should be applicable only to O and P Streets, and taller fences should be allowable elsewhere in Georgetown. The Board accepted a slight increase to include a two-inch gap at the bottom of the fence, resulting in a total height of fourteen inches, but reiterated its objection to an eighteen-inch height; one member had said that eliminating the tree fences altogether might be preferable. Mr. Martinez introduced John Thomas, the associate director of the Urban Forestry Administration, to present the proposal; he noted that interested members of the community were present in the audience.
Mr. Thomas discussed the issues associated with trees and tree boxes generally throughout the city and specifically within Georgetown. He described the changes in use of the curb area in modern times, with more demands than were historically present: households have more cars; deliveries occur in this area; scooters, Segways, bicycles, and motorcycles are widely used, with impact on the curb lane and streetscape; pedestrian activity is increasing; the number of tourists is growing; dog ownership has increased; and trash collection, including the collection of recycling materials, occurs near the curb. He noted general community support for large, healthy trees in the city, which requires providing the proper environment to support them. He described the tree fence as a simple, relatively inexpensive component in the process of supporting healthy trees. The role of the fence evolves as the tree grows: initially the fence serves to protect the soil; after the tree is well established, the fence serves to protect the trunk and roots. He said that the D.C. government removes approximately 1,500 trees annually, of which eighty percent are failing due to the effects of soil compaction which limits the transmission of water, oxygen, and nutrients to the tree roots through the soil. The stress to the tree caused by soil compaction results in vulnerability to insects and disease. The tree is also forced to extend roots further to find water due to the lack of rainwater absorption into the compacted soil; he likened the compacted soil to concrete.
Mr. Thomas said that new street trees protected by an eighteen-inch-high fence have had a good success rate due to the protection of the tree and tree box from the users of the street and sidewalk; overall, the effectiveness of the fence correlates with its height. He also said that the eighteen-inch-high fence poses less tripping hazard than shorter fences, improving pedestrian safety. He said that the setback of the fence should also be relatively small—preferably no more than one-third of the tree box's width—in order to provide adequate protection to the tree box. The Board's recommended minimum of eighteen inches would exceed one-third the width of the relatively narrow tree boxes that are typical of Georgetown, resulting in an insufficient amount of fencing to be useful and widely exposing the tree boxes to pedestrians, animals, bicyclists, and other intrusions. He said that the preferred setback for a thirty-inch-wide tree box would be ten inches, or perhaps only six; the dimensions should be considered with each box, as some boxes are significantly wider. The fencing is typically installed immediately after a tree is planted, serving to protect the soil improvements that are performed in conjunction with the planting; the relative success of recent new trees in Georgetown has demonstrated the effectiveness of the proposed fence dimensions.
Mr. Thomas said that the appearance of the fence is not a factor in its effectiveness, and any color can be selected; the only functional needs are a two-inch gap below the lowest rail of the fence to allow rainwater to flow into the tree box, and preferably concrete anchoring of the fence at the corners of the box. He discussed the photographs of existing Washington tree boxes that were distributed to the Commission members, including various fence designs and tree box sizes. Mr. Luebke noted that some of the illustrated fence designs, such as the hoop pattern, do not correspond to the proposed design in Georgetown. Mr. Thomas concluded by saying that his agency would not approve tree fences that do not meet the dimensional requirements that he described, noting the long-term importance of trees in establishing a neighborhood character and emphasizing that the fences are an integral part of the tree-planting process.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked why the setback is provided between the curb and the fence. Mr. Martinez responded that the setback provides maneuvering room for opening the doors of cars parked along the curb. Mr. Thomas reiterated the D.C. government's preference for a setback of only six to eight inches for narrow tree boxes, compared to the Old Georgetown Board's recommended minimum of eighteen inches.
Chairman Powell recognized Betsy Emes, representing the Trees for Georgetown committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. Ms. Emes described her committee's support for the tree fence program over the past three years; although the expense of the fences results in fewer trees being planted, their survival rate is higher due to the inclusion of the fences. She said she is particularly familiar with one such fence in front of her own house on N Street slightly west of Wisconsin Avenue; it is a very busy street with many pedestrians and cars, but the tree box shows little evidence of problems from walking, trash, or dog waste, and people parked alongside the fence have not had trouble opening their car doors. She added that the tree appears to be healthy and flourishing. She said that her group has been involved in the installation of approximately 150 tree fences over the past three years, and the tree survival rate has "soared": only two of the 48 trees planted in the previous year have not survived, and this was due to the effects of unusually heavy snow, compared to failure rates of fifteen to twenty percent in the years before tree fences were included in the plantings. She said that the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation is apparently based solely on aesthetics without consideration of the scientific reasons and actual experience with tree fences. She added that Mr. Thomas said that his agency would not grant permission to her group to install fences of the size recommended by the Board. She therefore requested that the Commission reconsider the Board's recommendation and instead approve the proposal for the higher fence and narrower setback. She said that supporters include the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2E), and a consulting arborist who has extensive experience with Trees for Georgetown. She added that the Board has requested that all future tree fences in Georgetown follow the same design, but her group would prefer to be able to vary the design—probably annually, so that each year's purchase could be of identical tree fences to benefit from a bulk-rate discount. She indicated the image of the fence design that is preferred by the Board.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the approval process that may be obstructed by upholding the Board's recommendation. Ms. Emes said that the problematic approval would be from the D.C. government. Mr. Luebke requested further clarification of whether the D.C. government's approval is necessary for the installation of these tree fences by a community group. Mr. Thomas responded that the community group would need to apply for a public space permit from the D.C. government; approval of the permit would require a determination that the tree fences meet his agency's specifications. Mr. Luebke noted that these concerns could be handled within the D.C. government, while the Commission's role is to consider the impact of the proposed design on the federally designated historic district. Mr. Martinez said that the Old Georgetown Board had been particularly concerned about the narrow sidewalks that are common in Georgetown, often constrained on one side by a retaining wall or curb along front yards, or directly bordered by the building facades. He said that the Board members concluded that the repetition of eighteen-inch-high fences along a series of tree boxes would create the perception of an additional physical edge along the sidewalks which would affect the pedestrian experience. The Board supported the proposed design of the fence—except for the issue of dimensions—and preferred a consistent design for now, while acknowledging that other designs could be submitted for review in the future.
Chairman Powell recognized Katherine Gordon, a neighborhood resident. Ms. Gordon said that several tree fences near her home at 30th and P Streets are dimensioned as the District proposes, and people have not had difficulty opening their car doors adjacent to these fences.
Ms. Nelson said that the Commission typically prefers to support the recommendations of the Old Georgetown Board, which knows the neighborhood well and studies the projects in depth. She noted that approval of the Board's recommendation would not require removal of the taller fences that have already been installed. Ms. Emes said that the setback is an important issue: the Board's recommended setback of eighteen inches would result in some fences having a side length of only six to eight inches, and undesirable ease of access to the tree box by dogs and people. Ms. Nelson noted that Georgetown has many restrictions, and rules could be established concerning such issues as bicycle parking or dog control to protect the trees; Ms. Emes responded that such rules already exist.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that one problem with this review is that many different conditions exist on Georgetown sidewalks: the width of sidewalks varies, and the grade also varies so that the fence design must sometimes accommodate water flowing downward into the tree box soil and sometimes contain the soil from spreading downward onto the sidewalk. She concluded that a single design solution would not be sensible, and the solution should result from an understanding of each condition. She said that the eighteen-inch-high fence, as illustrated in the photographs, could encourage the undesirable practice of locking bicycles to the fence. She supported the lower height constraint as recommended by the Board—twelve inches, plus a two-inch gap below for water flow but only where appropriate—and suggested a twelve-inch setback requirement from the curb.
Chairman Powell recognized Mark Buscaino, executive director of Casey Trees, who asked to address the Commission. Mr. Buscaino offered a broader context of street trees in modern cities. He noted that the Commission typically reviews building designs, as seen earlier on the agenda, and an abundance of street trees is typically included in these proposals although most do not get planted or do not survive beyond a few years. He said that the area between the street and the building is a very difficult place for trees to survive. The issue of the eighteen-inch fence height is debatable and is not substantiated by empirical evidence nor by arboricultural studies, which he follows closely. He cited his previous work as the District's city forester as well as experience in New York City and outlying jurisdictions, and said that an eighteen-inch-high fence would undoubtedly be a significant barrier to people and animals. He said that, based on his group's records, the District's tree canopy has declined from fifty percent in the 1950s—when the population was approximately 800,000—to thirty-five percent today. He noted the importance of trees in the historic renderings displayed on the walls of the Commission's meeting room, and emphasized the ongoing threat to the District's tree canopy. He urged the Commission to recognize the importance of keeping the green character of the city's streets—an important long-term goal rather than simply a passing fad. He said that trees and their soil have the desirable effect of slowing the drainage of stormwater into the rivers, and his group has been working with public input to revise government regulations. He concluded by emphasizing that the broader issue, beyond the particular dimensions of these fences, is the promotion of tree growth in the city as a long-term benefit for our future.
Ms. Balmori said that the most important factor in the survival of street trees is providing a continuous planting trench rather than isolating them in separate areas. She cited a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that supported the importance of this factor, and she confirmed the typically poor survival rate of urban street trees. She said that fences are an important element but the height difference of fourteen or eighteen inches does not have a documented effect on tree health, while the visual impact of the taller fence on Georgetown's typically narrow sidewalks would be significant, particularly in combination with the profusion of signs and other elements in the sidewalk space. She therefore supported the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation for a maximum height of fourteen inches, and encouraged development of continuous soil trenches—perhaps overlaid with bricks to accommodate pedestrians—as a more useful measure for increasing the longevity of the trees. Mr. Rybczynski agreed.
Mr. Powell supported the fourteen-inch height limit. He also examined several of the photographs of existing fences and concluded that a twelve-inch setback from the curb would be an appropriate requirement, differing from the Board's recommendation of eighteen inches; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Emes reiterated that the lower fence height can be a tripping hazard, citing the experience of a local resident; someone walking into an eighteen-inch-high fence would more likely hit the knee or thigh and not fall down. Chairman Powell noted the Commission's sympathy with these various concerns while emphasizing the special character of Georgetown; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the tree fences subject to a maximum height of fourteen inches—as recommended by the Old Georgetown Board—and a minimum setback of twelve inches.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1. SL 11-010, 1700 New York Avenue, NW (Corcoran Gallery of Art). New eight-story office building. Concept. (Previous: SL 08-131.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for a new office building along New York Avenue, NW, on a vacant lot adjacent to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design. She noted the Commission's past review of other proposals for this site, including a Corcoran addition in 2001 designed by Frank Gehry, and an office building designed by Hartman-Cox Architects that was initially reviewed in 1987 and resubmitted in 2008. The current submission, designed by SmithGroup, is for an eight-story office building with an articulated curtainwall of green glass. The building would be taller than the Corcoran on the east and would approximately match the height of the United Unions building that is adjacent on the west; the project would be visible from the Mall, the Ellipse, and the White House grounds. She asked Robert Carr of Carr Development to begin the presentation.
Mr. Carr said that his firm has negotiated into a 99-year ground lease of the property from the Corcoran. He described two goals of the project: to create a building that is a "gracious partner" to the Corcoran and to generate revenue that will pay for the ground lease and thereby support the Corcoran's institutional activities. He introduced Fred Bollerer, director of the Corcoran, to comment on the project; Mr. Bollerer offered his support for the proposal, including both its visual and financial benefits.
David King, the architect for the project from SmithGroup, presented the proposed design. He noted the site's current use primarily as a parking lot; the site also provides several necessary benefits for the Corcoran which will be accommodated in the new project, such as egress and utility risers. He said the zoning constraints are complex, relating to the allowable density of the Corcoran itself, and result in the opportunity for an eight-story building with a maximum height of ninety feet. He described the site as being at an important transitional location between the city's monumental core and its general urban fabric. He summarized the wide-ranging character of the context, including major monuments, familiar open spaces, government buildings that include both distinctive and background buildings, other institutional buildings such as those of the World Bank, and ranging from historic to modern architecture. He noted that the Corcoran's existing building results from two phases: the first designed by Ernest Flagg and the second by Charles Platt, which includes extensive additions and modifications to the original building. He said that the Hartman-Cox proposal extrapolated the Corcoran's historic architectural vocabulary while proposing an office building of the same size—120,000 square feet—as the current proposal. He said the Gehry design for an extension to the Corcoran had much greater variation in height and site boundaries.
Mr. King discussed an initial massing study for the proposed office building: a simple ninety-foot extrusion of the site boundaries articulated as a green glassy block. The drawback of this approach is that the southern and western boundaries of the site are irregular and their shapes would be unduly highlighted by this extrusion. The New York Avenue facade in such an extrusion would be approximately the same length as the Corcoran's central facade segment along 17th Street but would rise higher than the Corcoran. He also indicated the irregular penthouse shape that would be permissible under zoning for this extruded building form.
Mr. King described the urban design criteria that the design team developed as a result of this initial exercise. The new building should establish a new identity that supports the Corcoran while not mimicking it, reflecting the different uses of the two buildings. The new building should clearly be part of the vernacular city while also drawing on the best qualities of the monumental core and expressing the site's location at the juncture of these vocabularies. The north and south facades should respond to their very different contexts and visibility, particularly in their upper portions rising above the Corcoran's height; the south facade is particularly important for views from the Mall and beyond. The building should provide a transition between the lower height of the Corcoran and the greater height of the United Unions building, and the New York Avenue frontage should be celebrated.
Mr. King presented the design proposal that was developed from consideration of these criteria. On the upper portion of the building's south side, a slight cantilever would extend over the property line to provide a smooth, coherent massing facing the Mall. Along New York Avenue, various subdivisions of the facade would reinforce and interpret the Corcoran's flat, taut main facade along 17th Street; these articulations would create the sense of a "stepping plateau" between the height of the Corcoran and of the United Unions building, using a series of projections, indentations, and intersecting planes. The stepping would continue around the west facade, which is highly visible along the length of E Street due to the orthogonal shape of the United Unions building that is set back from the angled avenue. He described the proposed vocabulary as simple and modern, with a glass skin that is developed in three different ways: the curving south facade would have horizontal glass overhangs to provide shading from the high sun; the east and west walls would have vertical glass fins to provide shading from oblique sun angles; and the north wall would have a smooth glass skin.
Mr. King presented a series of near and distant views to illustrate the proposal. The penthouse is being studied by engineers to reduce its height from 18.5 feet—the maximum allowable—to approximately 16 feet and its surface material will be studied further for consistency with the building wall below. He noted the visibility of the new building from a distance but described how it would disappear behind the Corcoran's facade as one approaches the block. He indicated the substantial existing trees near the northwest corner of the site and said that the intention is to protect them from being damaged by the building's construction. He also noted the Commission's recent review of a new landscape design for the United Unions building.
Mr. King described the proposed pedestrian and vehicular circulation patterns. The building's main entrance would be at the eastern end of the New York Avenue frontage, supporting the most convenient pedestrian routes to Metro stations and the monumental core. Vehicles would enter the parking garage from E Street and exit onto New York Avenue toward the western edge of the building, a configuration that avoids adding traffic to 17th Street.
Mr. King described the building's relationship to the Corcoran in more detail. He indicated that the existing continuous areaway around the Corcoran is proposed to be continued across the new building's New York Avenue frontage, providing light to the lower-level space. The stepped configuration of the new building's facade would provide continued visibility for the Corcoran's dramatic cornice which returns more than six feet back from the New York Avenue facade. The Corcoran's quoining at this corner would be terminated by new stone and an offset in glass that frames the new building's entrance.
Mr. Luebke noted the comment letter provided by the D.C. Preservation League and summarized its support for the overall approach to the design but concern at the treatment of the eastern corners rising above the historic Corcoran building.
Chairman Powell recognized Sally Berk, representing the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. Ms. Burke summarized her training and experience in architecture and historic preservation, including testimony on two of the previous proposals for this site. She said that the Committee of 100's position—developed through discussion among more than half a dozen practicing architects—is to support the general approach of the new building having its own identity, expressed as a crystalline box with modulations as apparently indicated by the submitted drawings. She supported the strategy to avoid replicating the Corcoran's architectural vocabulary and encouraged the general principle of accepting contemporary architecture within a historic context. She said that the quality of the apparent concept is not well developed in the submitted design, and she encouraged further effort to strengthen the statement made by the design and to make it more compatible with the Corcoran. She described the proposed building as too massive in relation to the Corcoran, looming over it as illustrated in some of the perspective views that were presented, and she recommended reducing the building's size. She acknowledged that the project team may object to relinquishing some of the allowable floor area but reported the comments from her colleagues that concessions must be made in exchange for proximity to, and association with, such an important landmark building; the concession could reasonably include a reduction in floor area. She recommended especially stringent review for this site, noting that the Corcoran has special status as a National Historic Landmark. She said that introducing setbacks to the upper two floors would be insufficient to address the problem of the building's excessive size in relation to the Corcoran because the upper floors would remain visible from many vantage points.
Ms. Berk suggested that the massing of the new building along New York Avenue be more closely related to the massing of the Corcoran's central facade segment along 17th Street; she noted the comment in the presentation that these facades were of comparable length, and she suggested that their overall proportions be comparable to provide an interesting framing of the museum's curved hemicycle facade at the corner of New York Avenue and 17th Street. She relayed the suggestion of one colleague that the new building's facade be treated as a glass evocation of the Corcoran's massing, which she said would be an interesting alternative to the submitted design.
Ms. Berk described a consensus that the proposed penthouse is visually intrusive and larger than the program requires; she recommended that it be reduced to the smallest feasible size. She noted the proposed concrete surface for the penthouse and suggested that it be treated as a core rising up through the glass volume rather than as a heavy mass resting on top of a more delicate glass box. She expressed support for the articulation of the new building where it abuts the Corcoran's New York Avenue facade—describing this treatment as an "exfoliation"—but questioned the inclusion of three additional stories above this articulated corner, commenting that a pedestrian on the sidewalk or at the building entrance would have the sense of a "looming mass." She said that a reduction in the number of floors would address this concern, but the architect should also carefully study the depth and geometry of this articulation to clarify its logic and its relationship to the street configuration. She also commented that the angular treatment of the upper floors detracts from the overall concept of treating the building as a solid glass box, and she questioned how the proposed angles were determined. The entrance design is also problematic, creating the effect of merely slipping into the building; she suggested exploration of other entrance treatments. She also questioned the need for the first-floor setback further west on the New York Avenue facade, commenting that it does not seem justified and does not significantly contribute to the street environment.
Ms. Berk finished her testimony by summarizing the Committee of 100's support for the concept of a crystalline glass box, comparing the concept to the work of architect Jean Nouvel; she suggested that the glass be as clear as possible, without a green tone. Mr. King responded that the proposed glass does not have a green tint and would have a low iron content with a fritting; the result would be a relatively clear glass. He said that the proposed density of the project is integral to its purpose and success, and he discouraged the suggestion to reduce the height by two stories.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the design appears to crowd the adjacent United Unions building along New York Avenue, as depicted in the renderings and partially obscured by trees. She acknowledged the desire to bring the building to the property line but said that the result is awkward and strange and would likely cause people to think that there was no awareness of the adjacent building's presence. She suggested that some of the faceting vocabulary be applied to this corner in order to provide an appropriate transition; Mr. Belle and Ms. Nelson agreed. Mr. King responded that the treatment of the building's west end was studied carefully, with the decision not to abut the United Unions building directly, but he offered to further study this relationship and the northwestern corner along New York Avenue. He emphasized the distant views of the west facade from E Street; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that these views are not problematic but the geometry can nonetheless respond better to the United Unions building. She acknowledged that a solution might involve some loss of floor area but emphasized the awkwardness of the proposed design. Mr. King noted that the conflicting geometry results from the lack of relationship of the United Unions building to the L'Enfant Plan diagonal of New York Avenue.
Ms. Balmori commented that the Corcoran's roofs are very well resolved and elegant, while the penthouse of the proposed building would be merely functional and a "rude companion" to the Corcoran's roofscape. She said that the height of the penthouse is excessive—particularly problematic because this is the most visible part of the building—and suggested reconsideration of the treatment and finish of this element. She acknowledged the intention to relate the building's northeast corner to the adjacent Corcoran but said that the result is awkward and out of scale, suggesting further study. She added that a two-story reduction in the building's height would improve the design. Ms. Nelson said that reducing the penthouse height would be an improvement; Ms. Balmori agreed that the building as presented is too tall.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the architect's analysis was compelling but the resulting design solution is not necessarily the logical result of this analysis. For example, he said that the desire to relate the New York Avenue facade to the adjacent buildings is appropriate but is not successfully achieved by the proposed configuration of wedge-shaped volumes. He said that the result seems weakly derivative of the work of architect Rem Koolhaas, lacking a relationship to the Corcoran and instead merely calling attention to the architect's effort. He agreed that reducing the building's height would be an improvement but emphasized the penthouse as a particularly awkward element that needs to be better integrated with the overall building design; he said that the current penthouse proposal undermines the effort to create a well-designed glass skin.
Mr. King offered to study the penthouse design further, noting that the solution would have to be coordinated with zoning requirements for penthouse setbacks. He cited this design as an example of the common difficulty under Washington's setback regulations of designing a penthouse that is well integrated with the massing of the overall building; Ms. Balmori and Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has authority under the Shipstead-Luce Act to recommend a height reduction beyond the regulatory requirements relating to height and setback. Mr. King acknowledged the struggle to design an "innocuous" building of modest height while fulfilling the program to maximize the floor area.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission that the overall height including the penthouse is problematic in the design; he recommended further effort to reorganize the building's massing. Ms. Plater-Zyberk acknowledged the difficult choices faced by the museum, the developer, and the architect in balancing the desire for generating income for the Corcoran with the aesthetic cost of the project. She suggested an exercise to design the best building for the site, and then study the resulting floor area that would be provided. She suggested that the quality of the building's design would be closely associated with the Corcoran's reputation, particularly due to the museum's direct involvement in the project. Mr. Belle agreed, commenting that the design is insufficiently related to the neighboring buildings; the treatment of the New York Avenue facade is particularly in need of further development. He suggested closer study of the buildings on the north side of New York Avenue and in the vicinity, providing a much better example that is not illustrated in the submission materials. Chairman Powell said that the Commission's comments would be summarized in a letter to the applicant. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 11-021, 2300-2310 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Government of the People's Republic of China. New chancery and embassy staff residential building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal to build a nine-story chancery and residential building for the Chinese embassy on the site of two buildings that the embassy currently uses; a portion of the historic building at 2310 Connecticut Avenue, NW, would be incorporated into the new project. She indicated the site at the southern end of the Taft Bridge adjacent to a steeply sloping portion of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. She noted several issues related to the project: perimeter security for the building would be provided by a wall and fence that would be partially located in public space; and the National Park Service has concerns regarding lighting, site drainage, and access to the adjacent park. She also noted that the chancery review process involves a special role for the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment, which is holding its record open for the Commission's comments. She asked Christopher Reutershan from the development services group at UGL Equis to begin the presentation.
Mr. Reutershan introduced officials of the Chinese embassy staff as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of State and the legal and architecture firms working on the project. He said that the project's program includes non-public elements of the chancery operations along with housing for the embassy's staff. He emphasized the intention to produce a design that is respectful of the neighbors, the overall neighborhood, and the many stakeholders with an interest in the project. He acknowledged the prominence of the site and described the community outreach efforts, including meetings with the deputy mayor, the directors of the D.C. Office of Planning and D.C. Department of Transportation, D.C. Council member Jack Evans, and staff of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office; the issues of concern were thoroughly discussed and the design was adjusted in response. The project team made presentations to the Sheridan-Kalorama Historical Association, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2D), and neighbors within 200 feet of the site. The project was also presented to the Foreign Mission Board of Zoning Adjustment, in its special capacity to review foreign missions, with no opposing testimony and with support from the Department of State, local government agencies, and the community. He requested the Commission's agreement that the design is respectful of and compatible with its prominent location and historic context. He introduced architect Phil Esocoff of Esocoff & Associates to present the design.
Mr. Esocoff provided an architectural tour of the neighborhood, noting that he had lived in the immediate vicinity of this project from his arrival in Washington in 1979 until recently. He described other links to China along Connecticut Avenue including the renowned pandas at the National Zoo and the new Chinese embassy in the International Center. He indicated the site's position between two historic districts—Sheridan-Kalorama and Kalorama Triangle—and adjacent to the Rock Creek valley, marking the edge of the Piedmont plateau and the traditional central area of Washington.
Mr. Esocoff described several notable buildings and features in the vicinity. The Taft Bridge and Duke Ellington Bridge, both crossing the Rock Creek valley, are significant nearby structures; the lions at the ends of the adjacent Taft Bridge are particularly prominent. He indicated the shifting alignment of Connecticut Avenue in this area, resulting from land availability constraints at the time of its extension, and the small landscaped circle within Connecticut Avenue in front of the site. Directly across Connecticut Avenue on the east is the Woodward apartment building, and to the south is the Dresden. Other prominent apartment buildings nearby are known by their addresses: 2029, 2101, and 2301 Connecticut Avenue. Visible across the Rock Creek valley are the Shoreham Hotel and the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, which includes the historic Wardman Tower apartment building. He noted that the immediate context has remained essentially unchanged for the past sixty years. He described the buildings as typically appearing monochromatic from a distance but, upon closer inspection, having rich color and detailing: he noted their classical organization with a base, middle, and top; details such as rustication, pressed brick, tight mortar joints, stone with figural and geometric carvings, and terra-cotta roof tiles; and rooftop pavilions that provide framed views of the scenic panoramas. He summarized the context as a prime example of a special American urban form—a mixture of distinctive buildings with a variety of idiosyncrasies, coming together to form the public realm; he described the neighborhood as providing a valuable lesson for architects.
Mr. Esocoff discussed the existing buildings on the site: a historic hotel building whose two primary facades will be retained, and a modernist addition dating from 1948 with a prominent mechanical penthouse. He noted that the older building is designated as contributing to the Sheridan-Kalorama historic district; its entrance, currently in only limited use, would be reactivated as part of the proposal. He presented a view from the roof, with sweeping views across the Rock Creek valley extending to the National Cathedral. He also presented a rooftop view from the Dresden, which has a view to the Cathedral directly across the embassy site; the project is designed to ensure that this important rooftop view from the Dresden will not be obstructed. He noted the general importance of rooftop views and roof gardens in a low-rise city such as Washington, and he described the roof as a fifth facade for this project.
Mr. Esocoff described several features derived from the context that would be included in the design of the new embassy building. The precast concrete would be given a geometry and texture that would patinate with age, comparable to the older buildings in the vicinity—rather than simply becoming dirty. The cornice line would include bas-relief designs in the precast concrete, using modern automated methods to generate the ornament; he cited the apartment building at 2029 Connecticut Avenue as a particularly rich example of cornice and entrance decoration. The inset balconies would be textured to create a contrast of light and shadow, providing visual relief to the monochromatic precast concrete. The design would also include large-sized bricks and tinted mortar with V-struck joints. He indicated the facades to be retained and described the 1948 addition as not well-conceived and appropriately demolished despite his general desire to retain existing older buildings regardless of their lack of historic designation. He also indicated an existing garage entrance accessed directly from the circle on Connecticut Avenue; this ramp would be removed in the new project. Vehicular access would be from Kalorama Road at the southwest corner of the site, and the driveway on the west would be repaved to have the character of a pedestrian walk while also accommodating vehicles. Additional access for vehicles would be from the short segment of Belmont Road on the north side of the site, adjacent to the National Park Service land; this street segment has been paved but is not in regular use and has deteriorated. The proposal includes reactivating this street for secondary access to the proposed building and creating a path along the edge of the park. The building edge facing the park would be designed to emphasize the urban character abutting the "wilderness forest." The roof would be designed to accommodate necessary equipment within a series of pavilions set in a rooftop garden. The new building would be set back approximately ten feet from the Connecticut Avenue property line to provide sufficient room for landscaping that would be consistent with the landscape character of nearby buildings along the avenue. He described the relationship of the project to Connecticut Avenue's bend in front of the site as "almost like a door-swing open to the District" for people approaching the central city from the north, and also a landmark reference point for people traveling northbound away from downtown.
Mr. Esocoff described additional features of the site plan, indicating the proposed garden toward the rear of the building adjacent to the low-rise neighbors on the west. The entrances to the garage and service area would be placed beneath a low green roof to improve the appearance from the adjacent Portuguese embassy property, which he noted would not otherwise have adequate visual screening due to its elevated site. He indicated the multiple levels of the garden and the daylit indoor swimming pool below. He noted that many children would live in the building; the garden is designed to provide an interesting play environment, such as for games and bicycle riding, while also being pleasant to look at from the apartments above. He indicated two bicycle storage rooms that would be adjacent to the garden. The project would include an ornamental perimeter-security fence, modeled after others in the historic district such as at the Cosmos Club; the height would be 8.5 feet, the minimum required for embassies, and it would be set within a landscape buffer. A low knee-wall would provide an additional barrier, eliminating the need for bollards. He said that the selected plants would be typical of those seen in Washington. The main entrance on Connecticut Avenue would be at the same location as the current main entrance, and would use the same curb cut. Sculptures along the drop-off driveway—placed at the request of the D.C. Department of Transportation—would serve to discourage obstruction of the sidewalks by vehicles. The entrances in the historic facade would also be refurbished. The nine-foot-wide sidewalk would be paved to meet D.C. standards and would have an upgraded aggregate that is typically used by the National Park Service. The edge of the site would be a green buffer that would emphasize low-impact development practices; he said that this buffer would be an improvement on the existing landscaping, particularly along Kalorama Road. The park edge on the north would include an exposed-aggregate path as well as a railing, which would provide a safe viewing edge along the relatively steep dropoff into the park. A curb would provide a helpful barrier between vehicles and the railing. At the request of the community and the National Park Service, the path would be designed to accommodate potential future connections into the park; he noted the historic bridle trails that were once located nearby. The transformer vault would be behind the perimeter fence and screened by planting. He noted that the grading is designed to collect water in a catchment area serving as a rain garden, rather than shed water into the park. The proposed streetlights would be low standard Washington globes with lenses that direct light downward rather than into the park.
Mr. Esocoff described some of the interior and rooftop features. He said that most residents would cook and eat in their apartments; some of the housing is dormitory-style, and a common dining room accommodating thirty to sixty people would be provided for these residents. He presented a typical plan of the upper residential floors, noting the general similarity to typical apartment buildings but with an emphasis on through-floor apartments, which tend to be preferred by the Chinese but are not common in the U.S.; this configuration is achieved through the arrangement of seven cores, each with one elevator and fire stair, using connecting balconies to provide the required second means of egress. The result of this design is a large number of rooftop pavilions corresponding to the many elevator locations. However, the cooling tower has been set into the upper floor and other mechanical equipment has been placed in the basement in order to reduce the height and bulk of rooftop elements. The pavilions would be eleven feet high and clad in terra-cotta tile, with the expectation that the pavilions would be readily visible from the rooftop gardens of this and neighboring buildings as well as from ground-level vantage points.
Mr. Esocoff said that vehicular traffic would be less than the typical traffic generated by an apartment building. Private-vehicle commuting by residents would not be frequent, with shuttle buses used to transport the staff living in this building to their workplace at the chancery in the International Center. Moving vans would also not be common because the apartments would already be furnished, and new residents would typically be coming to Washington for temporary assignments with the embassy.
Mr. Esocoff summarized the attention that would be given to small but important details in developing the design, such as the width of masonry joints, animal images in the cornice, and the inclusion of ornamental serifs on the window mullions, as seen on a nearby building. He noted that the project would adapt Chinese elements to American conditions in various unexpected ways. For instance, ginkgo trees were prevalent in North America until being destroyed during the Ice Age, and at that time survived only in China; the modern prevalence of ginkgo trees in Washington therefore results from their importation from China.
Chairman Powell said that the concept submission appears to have been studied very thoroughly. Mr. Luebke noted that the staff had consulted with the design team and offered comments, particularly on the treatment of the facades, that have been incorporated into the submission. Mr. Rybczynski offered support for the project but said that the presented information was somewhat limited, showing only selected elements rather than complete elevations; he requested that future presentations be more thorough and appropriate for review by architects.
Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept submission and delegated review of the final design to the staff.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (continued)Old Georgetown Act
OG 11-007, 1703 32nd Street, NW. Dumbarton Oaks. Addition at the Orangery and skylight replacement. Concept. Ms. Barsoum said that the Old Georgetown Board has reviewed this relatively small project and provided a favorable recommendation on the concept. The presentation is on the agenda at the request of Commission members and due to the importance of the Dumbarton Oaks gardens, the finest surviving landscape design work by Beatrix Farrand. She introduced architect William Spack of Cox Graae + Spack Architects to present the proposal.
Mr. Spack described the 16-acre Georgetown site with historic structures and gardens. The main house was built in 1800, and an orangery was built in 1805 as a nearby separate structure. In the late 1860s the two were connected by the addition of a small hyphen, and the roof configuration was modified. In 1924, the owners hired McKim, Mead & White to design the renovation of the orangery, including a new roof monitor and perimeter skylight. The wood-framed skylight was replaced in 1983 due to deterioration; the replacement system of bronze anodized aluminum frames with insulated glass has now failed, and the current submission includes a new skylight system that more closely resembles the McKim, Mead & White design. The submission also includes an adddition to the adjacent hyphen, accommodating improved bathroom and pantry facilities.
Mr. Spack presented photographs and plans of the existing conditions. The orangery continues to serve its original function of housing plants in the winter months. Its role during warmer months has evolved to serving as an important event space, providing a setting for seminars, dinners, and receptions. The hyphen extends approximately a foot beyond the north facade of the orangery; it accommodates a small pantry as well as circulation space connecting to the main house by way of a half-flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is a narrow bathroom, approximately three by ten feet. He said that the bathroom's difficult access and configuration are problematic; the pantry space is also insufficient, resulting in service functions extending into the circulation space which conflicts with visitors.
Mr. Spack described the proposal for a small extension, approximately six feet deep, on the north side of the hyphen, to accommodate a barrier-free bathroom—serving visitors to both the orangery and the gardens—and a sufficiently sized catering kitchen. The addition would fill a small notch adjacent to a projecting bay of the main house. The existing architectural fabric would be retained as much as possible: the brick walls and wood door frames with fanlights would remain, and the existing doors would be relocated to new openings in the addition's facade with new frames and fanlights. The design of the new exterior wall would be consistent with the existing architecture but slightly separated from it by small recesses where the new and old walls intersect. He presented elevations of the proposed addition. The new construction would remain below the height of the existing limestone cornice and balustrade, rather than trying to replicate or extend this historic feature; the top of the addition would have a modest limestone coping, along with brick detailing that is evocative of the existing brick dentil detail. The roof over the bathroom would be lower to accommodate concealed mechanical equipment.
Mr. Spack provided a more detailed description of the proposed skylight replacement on the orangery. Portions of the skylight are visible from the exterior above the balustrade, and the skylight is prominently visible from within the orangery. The current system dating from 1983 has failed, with leaks and clouding of the glass. The proposal would more closely resemble the appearance of the McKim, Mead & White which had overlapping six-inch strips of glass, but would use modern materials such as insulated glass and aluminum framing; the framing would be clad in cypress wood on the interior to replicate the historical appearance from within the orangery. Ms. Balmori asked about the exterior finish of the skylight framing; Mr. Spack responded that the exterior would be aluminum that is colored to match the lead-coated copper which McKim, Mead & White apparently had used to cap the wood framing. The detailing would also match the profile and color of the exposed fasteners from the McKim, Mead & White design. Mr. Belle asked about the width of the framing; Mr. Spack confirmed that the new frames would be slightly wider than the historic design, adding that he is working with a skylight manufacturer to replicate the historic configuration as closely as possible. He noted that the change from lapped to insulated glass introduces some difficulties in matching the historic profiles but results in an improved water barrier.
Chairman Powell noted the Old Georgetown Board's support for the proposal and suggested approval. Ms. Balmori offered support for the skylight proposal but questioned the addition to the hyphen, noting that this addition would extend into the terrace which is part of the important Dumbarton Oaks garden. She asked for clarification of the proposal's impact on the terrace. Mr. Spack indicated the upper and lower terrace areas, separated by two steps and a planter, and the six-foot depth of the proposed addition which would align with the planter. He added that the dimension of six feet was also determined by the necessary width for creating a fully accessible bathroom. Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed recesses at the ends of the new exterior walls may be visually uncomfortable. Mr. Spack responded that the architectural character in this area of the building complex is a series of additions and changes over time, and the recesses are consistent with this pattern. The new brick would match the existing as closely as possible, and the recesses will therefore provide a visual differentiation that may not be provided by the materials. He said that an alternative would be to connect the new and existing brick walls directly through the interweaving of bricks where the walls join, but the differentiation seemed to be a preferable solution.
Ms. Balmori expressed regret at the loss of a portion of the terrace due to the proposed addition, but acknowledged that the design is well resolved; she offered her support for the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the submission including both the addition and the skylight.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:30 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Last Modified: January 28, 2011