Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
16 June 2011
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 10:10 a.m.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice–Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Administration of oath of office to Edwin Schlossberg. Mr. Luebke introduced Edwin Schlossberg, whose appointment to the Commission was announced earlier in the year, and administered the oath of office to him. Mr. Luebke noted Mr. Schlossberg's work with his firm ESI Design in New York and his many published books on design. Vice–Chairman Nelson welcomed Mr. Schlossberg to the Commission.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 19 May meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Rybczynski. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 21 July, 15 September, and 20 October; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during August.
D. Proposed year 2012 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2012. The Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month, with no meetings in August and December; the Old Georgetown Board would meet the first Thursday of each month, with no meeting in August. He confirmed that the meeting dates do not conflict with major holidays. He noted that meeting dates can be adjusted if necessary, such as in response to severe weather, conflicts with major events, or the unavailability of a quorum of members. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the 2012 schedule.
E. Confirmation of the reappointment of Anne McCutcheon Lewis, FAIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve the reappointment of Anne McCutcheon Lewis to the Old Georgetown Board for a second three–year term, noting that her service began in 2008 and the new term would extend through July 2014. He said that an updated biographical profile has been circulated to the Commission members. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved an additional three–year term for Ms. Lewis.
F. Report on the approval of an object for acquisition by the Freer Gallery. Mr. Luebke reported the Chairman's previous approval of the Smithsonian Institution's purchase of a 19th–century Japanese stoneware dish for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, in accordance with the requirements of Charles Freer's will. He described the dish as being gourd–shaped with gold leaf as well as cobalt and iron pigments under a clear glaze. He provided a printed image and description of the dish, noting that the Smithsonian's schedule for the purchase did not allow time for the Commission's customary inspection at the Freer Gallery of proposed acquisitions. Ms. Nelson and Mr. McKinnell expressed interest in seeing the dish at the next opportunity to visit the Freer; Mr. Luebke offered to arrange this viewing with the museum staff.
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 noted one change to the draft appendix: the recommendation for the de–watering building at the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant was finalized as favorable based on the receipt of supplemental drawings from the D.C. government. He added that the design team for this project was particularly responsive to comments from the review agencies, resulting in an improved design. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Two projects were removed to allow time for further resolution of design issues (case numbers SL 11–102 and 11–103). She noted the revised recommendations for two projects: SL 11–098 with a request to provide a barrier, such as a planter, between the sidewalk and the proposed driveway for an Embassy Suites Hotel; and SL 11–110, with the recommendation changed to favorable based on the receipt of supplemental information concerning the proposed residential fence at 3200 Woodley Road, NW. She said that coordination issues remain outstanding for a project at 1440 New York Avenue, NW (SL 11–108) and requested the Commission's authorization to resolve this concern before finalizing the recommendation. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead–Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported the changes to the draft appendix. Several recommendations have been updated in response to supplemental materials; further materials are still anticipated for one project. Several projects have been added to the appendix: two were recently submitted for review in July but are not visible from public areas, and therefore do not require further review by the Old Georgetown Board; an additional project has been inactive and was added to close out the file number from 2010. Ms. Nelson asked how long projects can remain pending; Mr. Martínez responded that four months is generally the limit but this can be extended for some types of projects, such as this concept proposal for the Tudor Place master plan. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 16/JUN/11–1, 2012 Native American One Dollar Coin. Designs for reverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/APR/10–3.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission of reverse design alternatives for the fourth annual one–dollar coin in the Native American series. He noted the themes of the previous issues in the series: agriculture (2009), government (2010), and diplomacy (2011). The theme for 2012 reverse is 17th–century trade routes. He introduced Kaarina Budow, the design program manager for the U.S. Mint, to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Budow said that the Mint has been coordinating closely with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in developing the themes for this coin program and evaluating the proposed designs for appropriateness and historical accuracy. She noted a current exhibit at the museum's New York branch, titled "The Song for the Horse Nation," that will be coming to the Washington museum later in 2011; the Mint's artists used this exhibit as the basis for some of the design alternatives in the current submission, particularly the ledger style of Native American art. She provided the Commission members with the exhibition catalog. She also introduced chief sculptor–engraver Don Everhart of the Philadelphia Mint's staff, who has been working with the artists in developing the submitted alternatives.
Ms. Budow described the authorizing legislation for the reverses of the circulating one–dollar coin which calls for designs that commemorate the contributions made by Native American tribes and individuals to the development and history of the United States, using a chronological order; the time period of the past themes was circa 1000 A.D., the early 1400s, and 1621. The theme for 2012—trade routes in the 17th century—emphasizes the widespread use of horses. She presented the continuing obverse design depicting Sacagawea, and the thirteen proposed alternatives for the reverse. She noted that alternatives #9 through #13 are based on the Native American ledger art style, using stylized symbolic designs. Ms. Budow said that the alternatives have already been presented to several other consulting entities and described their preferences: the Congressional Native American Caucus prefers alternative #7; Senator Akaka, chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, prefers alternatives #4 and #8; and the National Congress of American Indians prefers alternative #4.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Nelson requested that future submission materials and presentations include images of the ongoing obverse in combination with the alternative reverses to assist the Commission in evaluating the coin in its entirety. They also emphasized the importance of considering the alternatives in the context of the previous reverses in the series, and asked that these be included in future presentations; the staff provided an example of a recently issued coin, and Ms. Nelson noted the importance of the sample in illustrating the coin's actual scale which Ms. Budow said is slightly greater than one inch in diameter.
Ms. Nelson commented that the use of the dollar symbol on many of the alternatives is awkward. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the choice of typeface is also problematic on many designs. Ms. Nelson offered support for alternative #8, which she said would be a good combination with the ongoing obverse. She noted the difficulty of placing the required text onto the small coin and said that alternative #8 has the advantage of using a relatively large single figure of a horse rather than numerous smaller horses. Mr. Rybczynski supported the graphic design composition of alternative #8 but questioned its juxtaposition of the horse and man, which awkwardly implies that they are parallel. He offered a preference for the designs based on Native American art, particularly alternative #6 which has the least amount of text; he said that the additional text shown on some alternatives—"The Spread of the Horse"—would not be a desirable feature for a coin. Ms. Budow said that the Commission could recommend an alternative with the request to remove this additional text.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that the intended theme is related to trade, while some of the images suggest warfare or hunting due to the inclusion of a lance. She supported alternatives #4 and #8 which do not include this feature. Ms. Budow clarified that the theme involves the spread of the horse, which was used in battle as well as in fostering trade.
Ms. Nelson commented that the ledger art style as depicted in the Smithsonian's exhibition catalog has a more delicate and graceful appearance than seen on the Mint's design alternatives, which she described as awkward. She encouraged the use of this style for the coin designs but said that the current submission does not translate the style successfully.
Mr. Schlossberg supported alternative #4, commenting that its composition is appropriate for a coin design. He suggested removing the supplemental text from this design and shifting the denomination further left toward the coin's rim to separate it from the horse and improve the balance of the composition. He asked how the Mint selects the artists for the submitted designs. Ms. Budow said that the Mint has some in–house artists, including Mr. Everhart, and fifteen additional artists are involved in the Mint's Artistic Infusion Program. She noted the effort in 2010 to attract new artists to this program, with Mr. Lindstrom and Mr. Luebke having served on past review panels for selecting the artists. Mr. Schlossberg asked how this program is publicized to artists; Ms. Budow responded that the Mint relies on advertising, outreach to the artist community, and notification to the Commission of Fine Arts staff. Mr. Schlossberg asked if the Mint coordinates with Native American tribes in selecting artists; Ms. Budow responded that the outreach and advertising include tribes and their publications. Mr. Schlossberg commented that the design of coins provides the opportunity to find unexpected design talent and a wider range of styles, and he suggested a more open process for developing designs such as by using the internet to generate or evaluate the alternatives. He said that the submitted alternatives are interesting but are notable more for their similarities than for their differences. He supported the idea of using the graphically compelling ledger style and suggested further work on these alternatives, perhaps involving a greater variety of design approaches.
Mr. McKinnell joined in supporting the inclusion of a pictogram style of art in the submitted alternatives, although he said that none of the proposals in this style is successful as a coin design. He contrasted this style to the more representational narrative style that is typically proposed, and he encouraged the further exploration of stylistic variety. Ms. Budow asked Mr. Everhart to respond to the challenges of adapting the ledger style to coin design. Mr. Everhart noted that the coin's subject matter of Native American history suggests the appropriateness of developing a design with a Native American rather than western character. He acknowledged that some features may need to be studied further, such as the treatment of the dollar sign; he said that other examples of ledger–style art may be more successful when adapted to the scale of a coin. He emphasized the Mint's interest in design variety rather than stock images, and the use of a Native American viewpoint for this coin.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the comments provided while supporting alternative #8, a traditional representational composition. She suggested that the comments of the Commission members be conveyed to the Mint even if no single alternative is recommended. Ms. Nelson said that this coin offers the opportunity for innovative design and suggested a further submission of improved alternatives using the ledger style; she added that the submitted alternatives in this style do not yet seem appropriately developed as coin designs. Ms. Budow noted the tight production schedule, with the legislative requirement for this coin to be minted in January 2012.
Mr. Rybczynski observed that the line–drawing form of the Native American artwork is difficult to translate into a coin design; the delicacy of the original art is lost. He said that the coin designs must necessarily be a different art form than the historic line drawings. He offered support for alternative #8 with simplification, suggesting removal of the galloping horses in the background. Ms. Nelson agreed that simplification of this design would be an improvement for the small coin; she also supported Mr. Schlossberg's earlier suggestion to move the "$1" text away from the horse to rebalance the design elements. Mr. Schlossberg said that the relocation of this text would also group it with the phrase "United States of America" along the outer edge of the coin; traditionally the denomination of coins worldwide is placed in this outer edge area, where it is readily located by the coin's users and is separated from the content of the central design composition. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that one reason for preferring alternative #8 is its stylistic consistency with the traditional composition of the coin's obverse. Mr. Schlossberg commented on the strength of the obverse Sacagawea design resulting from its simplicity, recommending this approach for the reverse as well.
Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #8 while conveying the comments that were provided by the Commission members.
C. Department of the Army
CFA 16/JUN/11–2, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Jewish Chaplains Memorial Monument. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Lieutenant Colonel Renea Yates, special assistant to the executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, to begin the presentation for the proposed Jewish Chaplains Memorial Monument. Lt. Col. Yates said that the staff of Arlington National Cemetery has been working with the memorial's advocates—the Jewish Welfare Board and an American Legion post—to refine the proposal and obtain the necessary Congressional authorization; she noted that federal regulations require the support of both houses of Congress, which has been obtained, for placement of such a memorial. She said that the cemetery staff has no objection to the proposal, and the proposed site would not displace any potential grave sites due to the topography and the proximity of a large tree. The site is on Chaplains Hill next to three other memorials to military chaplains. She introduced two sponsors of the memorial: Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, a rabbi and director of the Jewish Chaplains Council of the Jewish Welfare Board; and Kenneth Kraetzer, director of the Florence Lahey and Saul Ollinger Foundation and a representative of American Legion Post 50 in New York.
Admiral Robinson discussed the function of the Chaplain Corps, in which chaplains of all faiths work together to provide assistance to service members in all branches of the military, often in difficult circumstances. He recounted the story of the four World War II chaplains—one Catholic, one Jewish, and two Protestant— serving on the U.S.S. Dorchester, which sank in February 1943; they gave their life jackets to soldiers on the ship, losing their own lives as a result. He said the story exemplifies the unity and commitment of the Chaplains Corps, and this history is taught to students at the Naval Academy.
Mr. Kraetzer spoke of his pride in representing the foundation established by his aunt and uncle—both veterans from World War II—as well as American Legion Post 50 in Pelham, New York, part of the three–million–member American Legion. He emphasized the importance of the story of the four chaplains to veterans groups nationwide, and said that the idea for the proposal began after he discovered that the name of the rabbi who died on the U.S.S. Dorchester was not memorialized on Chaplains Hill.
Mr. Kraetzer presented a view of the site and indicated the three existing chaplains monuments aligned on the crest of Chaplains Hill, with room for the proposed fourth monument on one end. The existing stone tablets date from 1926, 1981, and 1989. He said that fundraising for the project has been successful, already resulting in twice the estimated cost of $20,000. Upon submitting a proposal to Arlington in 2010, the supporters learned of the requirement for Congressional approval; he introduced Shelley Rood of the Jewish Federations of North America to discuss the approval process. Ms. Rood described widespread support among dozens of national and local Jewish organizations and other non–profit groups, and the many co–sponsors in the House and Senate for the resolution of support which was unanimously passed in May.
Admiral Robinson presented the proposed design. The tablet would replicate the height and general appearance of the existing monuments to Catholic and Protestant chaplains, which are rectangular granite slabs with curved tops, so that the group will have a consistent appearance. A bronze plaque would be affixed to the granite slab, slightly smaller than the plaques on the other chaplains monuments due to the fewer number of names it would bear; he noted that an area would be left toward the bottom of the plaque for the addition of future names, if necessary. He added that surplus funds for this project are being offered to update the names on the adjacent Protestant monument.
Admiral Robinson described the design features of the bronze plaque, which would include the Star of David above the emblem of the Chaplain Corps; he acknowledged the assistance of an artist, Deborah Jackson, in researching the motifs of the design. Ms. Nelson asked about the treatment of the two lions at the top of the plaque; Admiral Robinson confirmed that they would be raised relief sculptures with a polished finish. He said that the lions are a typical symbol in synagogues, where they appear on either side of the tablets of the Ten Commandments and above the ark holding the Torah; they represent the Commandments and the Torah and also the dream of Isaiah that the lion shall lie down with the lamb in peace. He indicated the proposed inscription at the bottom of the plaque—"They were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions"—which is used in a memorial prayer and comes from the Biblical story of King David's eulogy for King Saul and Jonathan. Ms. Nelson noted that the initial submission materials included different text with a Jewish proverb—"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders"—and asked why this has been deleted from the presentation materials. Admiral Robinson said the proposal was reviewed with over 1,000 rabbis, and the consensus was to use a traditional quotation from the Bible rather than a folk proverb of uncertain origins.
Mr. Kraetzer and Admiral Robinson described the research to determine the names of all Jewish chaplains who died in active military service—ten Army and four Air Force chaplains. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the use of "Cold War Era" as a heading above two names listed on the plaque, compared to a more specific reference such as the Korean War. Admiral Robinson responded that it encompasses the period from 1948 to the beginning of the Vietnam War. Mr. Kraetzer said that one of the two men listed died as a result of a domestic accident and the other died in Germany while engaged in post–war service, so the proposed heading was selected as the most accurate. Mr. Rybczynski also asked about the heading "Vietnam/S.E. Asia." Admiral Robinson responded that the Vietnam War included service in other countries, such as Thailand and Cambodia, and that one of the rabbis named on the plaque died in Thailand while another died at home on leave which was determined to be a service–related death.
Ms. Nelson asked about the red shade of the bronze as depicted in the presentation images. Admiral Nelson clarified that the bronze would have the same color as the existing bronze plaques on the adjacent memorial tablets; the color is not modeled well in the computer–generated photographic simulations.
Mr. Rybczynski questioned the proposed use of underlining for the headings, noting that this graphic convention is derived from handwriting and would not be appropriate on a memorial. Admiral Robinson agreed to remove this feature, noting that the larger and bolder lettering of the headings would provide sufficient emphasis. Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Nelson agreed that the type face and arrangement were otherwise acceptable.
Admiral Robinson said that the requested action is both concept and final approval from the Commission, acknowledging that such an expeditious approval is unusual. He said that the next steps would include fabrication of the memorial, preparation of a memorial book, and a national tour with the bronze plaque and the book to educate Americans about the role of the Chaplain Corps. The goal is to dedicate the plaque at Arlington later this year, sometime around Veterans Day.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the appropriateness of commemorating the chaplains and asked if there is any possibility of a future monument dedicated to all the faiths represented in the Chaplain Corps. Admiral Robinson responded that the Chaplain Corps would support that idea which would represent accurately the unifying character of the corps. He noted the additional faiths of chaplains that are not included on Chaplain Hill—Moslem, Buddhist, and the recent commissioning of the first Hindu chaplain. He said that the Chaplain Corps has been struggling to develop a unifying symbol for the diversity of faiths that are included.
Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the design with the deletion of the underlining. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the requested combination of concept and final approval. Vice–Chairman Nelson requested that a revised drawing of the bronze tablet, along with the customary material samples, be provided to the staff for approval as a final design by delegated authority of the Commission.
D. United States Department of State
CFA 16/JUN/11–3, Harry S. Truman Building, 23rd and C Streets, NW. Renovation of the 8th–Floor Terrace of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for renovation of the terrace adjoining the Diplomatic Reception Rooms in the State Department's headquarters building. She noted that the terrace is an original feature of the building and is used for diplomatic events. She asked Marcee Craighill, director of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Craighill said that the furnishings of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms have been assembled through gifts from people, foundations, and corporations, and the collection's value is now over $100 million. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the building's opening; the current and former Secretaries of State are marking the occasion by jointly supporting a fundraising drive to provide an endowment for the rooms. This initiative includes the proposed renovation of the terrace, and a donor is underwriting the terrace project. Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the collection for the rooms; Ms. Craighill responded that it includes furniture, decorative arts, and fine arts, comprising one of the nation's most important collections of Americana from the 18th century. She emphasized that the maintenance and conservation of this collection is funded entirely by donations.
Ms. Craighill described the configuration and use of the rooms. In a typical year, the rooms would be used for 350 scheduled events that can include luncheons, evening events, major speeches, or large meetings; in addition, tour groups are accommodated three times per day, and a total of 90,000 people visit the rooms annually. At events, people typically move between the rooms and the terrace, which is often furnished with bars where people congregate; she noted the impressive view from the terrace to the Lincoln Memorial on the south. She introduced landscape architect Rick Parisi of M. Paul Friedberg and Partners to present the design.
Mr. Parisi described the configuration of the terrace: 180 by 20 feet, with an overhang covering a portion of its width. Several circular skylights within the overhang are part of the original building design. Smaller wing spaces extend past the ends of the terrace; these are not normally used, but one of these is part of the emergency egress route. He indicated the typical circulation pattern between the rooms, where dining tables would be located, and the terrace.
Mr. Parisi said that one design treatment for the terrace would be a green roof, which guests could walk across; however, the large number of people using the terrace—perhaps 350 people for a single event—makes this treatment infeasible. The proposed concept is to break down the scale and length of the terrace by defining areas within it. He indicated two indentations in the building facade along the terrace; the ends of the proposed planter and bench would be aligned with these indentations to define the central area of the terrace. The planter would provide a vegetated edge along the center of the parapet, while the areas at each end would serve as overlook areas where visitors could approach the parapet directly. Several special panels are proposed along the walls of the terrace: a floor–to–ceiling glass panel at the west end with a quotation from the current Secretary of State, mounted six inches in front of the existing marble wall; another glass panel at the east end acknowledging the donors to the endowment fund for the terrace; and a black granite panel set into the building facade, listing the patrons of the current overall fundraising effort for the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. The indentations in the facade would be treated as water walls, each approximately twelve feet high and ten feet wide. The wing areas beyond the terrace ends would be planted with sedum and crape myrtle trees to provide a sense of scale and frame the terrace; stepping stones would be included within this landscape. He noted that all of the proposed elements, including the water features, would be removable and would not be attached to the roof. He provided samples of the glass that is proposed for the back of the water walls, the beige granite that would be used for the bench, and the black granite for the panel listing the patrons.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the existing material of the terrace's walls. Mr. Parisi confirmed that they are dark green marble and clarified that this material was not original to the building but was probably installed in the 1970s; the original construction documents show limestone along the terrace. Mr. McKinnell noted the relationship of the terrace's marble walls to the dark green marble in the building's entrance lobby; Ms. Craighill responded that these materials are similar but are from different quarries. Mr. Parisi added that the original design included some marble features but not at the terrace, and early photographs were unhelpful because they always showed the dramatic view outward rather than the terrace's walls.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the material of the existing columns that support the overhang; Mr. Parisi responded that they are apparently clad in Alucobond or a similar thin aluminum panelized material, along with highlights of glass tile. These materials were added approximately thirty to forty years ago, after the original construction, and he noted the current effort to obtain additional tiles to replace missing pieces. He added that the project also includes refurbishment of the skylights.
Ms. Nelson commented that the terrace's materials are scarcely noticed by a visitor because the view is so attractive; Mr. Parisi responded that a design goal is to encourage people to stay on the terrace longer, such as through the introduction of the bench. He added that the bench would be eighty feet long and would be slightly curved; it would encourage conversations as well as enjoyment of the view. He noted that the broad panoramic view can be enjoyed from anywhere on the terrace, without needing to approach the edge, and the placement of the planter and bench along the central portion of the parapet would therefore not be problematic.
Ms. Nelson asked for clarification of the proposed configuration of materials and colors. Mr. Parisi responded that the glass panels, placed in front of the existing green marble, are intended to have a different appearance than the black granite panel listing the patrons. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the list would change over time, with additional patron names being added. Ms. Craighill responded that the list will include donors to the current fundraising campaign, which will conclude later this year; annual fundraising efforts will continue, but the list for this panel will be complete. She said that the goal is to complete the renovation of the terrace by October, when a special 50th–anniversary event is scheduled that will be attended by all former Secretaries of State; Mr. Parisi added that the granite panel would not be fabricated until a week or two before the October event to allow for the inclusion of additional donors. Mr. Rybczynski asked whether the list of donors to this year's campaign would seem significant in the distant future. Mr. Parisi responded that the terrace has been remodeled periodically, a practice that will likely continue. He noted that the terrace contained a lily pond in the 1960s, which was later converted to a planter; currently there are plastic planters on the terrace.
Ms. Nelson suggested simplifying the design by consolidating the text on the panels. Mr. Parisi responded that this has been the subject of extensive discussion, but the content of the text varies greatly. He said that the terrace is being dedicated to the current Secretary of State, and the panel with her quotation would therefore be placed near the doors from which people typically first enter the terrace; the quotation panel would be the first thing that visitors see. The other panels listing donors would be at less prominent locations. Ms. Nelson questioned the treatment of this panel as a large sheet of glass and suggested consideration of a lower panel or placing the quotation on the terrace's paving. Mr. Parisi responded that other configurations were studied, and the proposed full–height panel was chosen as the most elegant option.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the quotation is of more lasting significance than the lists of donors, but the treatment of the quotation suggests an inappropriate fragility because of its placement on a glass panel that is set forward from the marble wall. He contrasted this with the proposal to carve the patron names into granite, traditionally a more durable and important form of commemoration. He opposed the combination of these two text treatments on the terrace, recommending that all of the text be incised in granite.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed with Mr. McKinnell's comments and said that the use of the marble along the terrace is problematic, having the effect of wallpaper applied to the building. More broadly, she said that the terrace should be understood in the context of the overall design of the building which she described as having a serene and perhaps severe character; she recommended that the terrace support this character. She said that the proposed placement of trees flanking the ends of the terrace, particularly in an asymmetrical configuration, would be disturbing and distracting when seen from the street and would appear to be merely decorative. She suggested that the landscaping be treated in a more traditional manner of adorning buildings, such as a planter box. She said that the proposed floor–to–ceiling configuration of the glass panel would cause it to be understood as part of the building, further contributing to the problematic sense that the architectural surfaces around the terrace are merely applied elements. She added that the problem extends to the proposed water walls, which would have the inappropriate appearance of being part of the original building design. She said that such features may be appropriate in entirely new construction, but inserting them into this existing building causes confusion; she recommended instead that the original design of the building be recognized in the proposal.
Mr. Parisi responded that the terrace has already been modified extensively, and it is not quite symmetrical in its design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that buildings are able to accommodate such asymmetries, but they should not be accentuated further. She noted the intention not to attach the planter and bench directly to the roof; she characterized this treatment as furniture–like, and said that this suggests the appropriate design character—pieces that appear temporary rather than built in to the terrace. Mr. Parisi responded that the separate treatment of the terrace elements was only intended to describe the construction methodology, while the intended appearance is for built–in elements rather than elements that are moveable. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that all of the proposed features could be treated as applied elements, such as applying the panels on top of the existing stone rather than cutting out and replacing the stone.
Mr. McKinnell commented that the building's architectural vocabulary already includes stone expressed as veneer in the entrance lobby, with a similar treatment of the lobby columns. He suggested that this design approach be applied to the treatment of the terrace elements, rather than using solid corners to emphasize the mass of the volumes. Mr. Parisi responded that mounting the stone panel in front of the marble was studied but was determined impractical due to the limited strength of the marble and its support system; he offered to study this option further. He added that the glass panel could be placed directly against the wall, consistent with the vocabulary of applied layers, rather than set in front of the wall as currently proposed. Mr. Schlossberg suggested that the quotation panel be stone instead of glass; Mr. Parisi offered to study this change.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the glass panel is reminiscent of corporate architecture, which is not desirable in this setting despite the listing of corporations as donors; he said that stone panels for the text may have a more elegant character and be more appropriate for the building. He added that stone would have the appearance of long–term presence, although any material could be replaced. Mr. McKinnell emphasized the particular inappropriateness of placing the donor names in stone while the Secretary of State's quotation is etched in the less durable glass. Mr. Parisi responded that this issue has been discussed extensively; an early design placed all of the text on stone panels, but the hierarchy of panels has been mandated as a result of complex discussions concerning the donors and the naming of the terrace.
Ms. Nelson suggested that the two indentations in the facade could be used as the location of stone panels for text, rather than the proposed water walls. Overall, she suggested maximizing the paved area of the terrace to accommodate as many visitors as possible, perhaps augmented simply by benches to facilitate enjoying the view; she suggested reducing the introduction of planted areas for this project, although landscaping is generally a welcome amenity. She added that the planters, water walls, and trees may seem out of character with the eighth–floor setting of the terrace.
Mr. Rybczynski noted that although the terrace's inherent form was presented as problematic, the Commission does not see it that way; for example, the long shape of the terrace appropriately encourages people to form small groups. He observed that the veranda at George Washington's Mount Vernon home is similarly very long but this shape is not perceived as a problem. He said that the proposed design of the terrace attempts to introduce a questionable cross–axis and central focus to address a problem that doesn't really exist. He recommended a design approach that accepts rather than fights with the terrace's elongated form, concluding that the proposed design would not improve the space.
Ms. Craighill responded that the existing condition of the terrace is unattractive with the character of a "wasteland," including exposed pipes and unstable pavers. The State Department's intention is to create a simple, elegant space that could be used more effectively for entertaining. She said that the water walls would help to mask the significant amount of street noise that is audible on the terrace, as well as noise from protests that sometimes occur across from the terrace on 22nd Street. The south–facing terrace can also be very hot in the summer, and the moving water would therefore be an appealing feature. She said that the existing facade indentations make no apparent sense on the long terrace. She said that the proposed design reflects and respects the character of the terrace, which already includes many non–original features; she indicated the Secretary's dining room with a fireplace that was extended into the terrace several decades ago. She concluded that the proposed design helps to make better sense of the existing configuration and elements of the terrace. Mr. Parisi clarified that he had not intended to present the terrace as problematic, acknowledging that a simple open terrace can be a beautiful space; he said that the goal here is nonetheless to provide several features to make the terrace more usable, including water and plants to soften the summer heat as well as seating to encourage people to linger on the terrace. Mr. McKinnell said that, based on the events he has attended, the issue with the terrace is that people want to stay on it rather than return to the interior rooms for dinner. He offered overall support for the intention to revitalize this space, which he described as an extraordinary amenity, while questioning some of the specific features of the proposal. Ms. Craighill reiterated the State Department's enthusiasm for renovating the terrace, particularly the introduction of plants which would be part of the landscaping context of the building; she said the terrace would become an "appealing surprise" and compared it to the Kennedy Center's roof terrace serving as a beautiful and simple respite from the events occurring in the building's interior.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk summarized the Commission's general support for the initiative but concern that the elements are of our time—perhaps somewhat cliches of our time—rather than relating well to the serene design of the building from fifty years ago. She suggested consideration of simpler treatments such as metal plaques applied to the walls to accommodate the text, and potted plants rather than planters. Ms. Craighill noted that the building's courtyard contains a major fountain; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that introducing water to the terrace would be appropriate for its cooling benefits, but the problem is with its form and detailing.
Vice–Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission approve the concept with the request for revisions in the next submission. Mr. Luebke noted the scheduling constraints for completing the project; Mr. Parisi emphasized the goal to complete the project for unveiling at the major event scheduled in late October; he apologized for the limited schedule but said that the process only began in January after a donor became involved. He said that, while the design is being revised, work on some of the routine improvements could continue such as obtaining replacement pavers, relocating the exposed electrical conduits, and replacing the waterproofing; several Commission members agreed that such changes could proceed while the more visible design elements are being studied further.
Mr. Luebke summarized the design issues that the Commission has identified as problematic in the proposal: the planter and bench element, trees, water features, and text panels; he added that smaller water features could perhaps be combined with text panels in the existing indentations. Mr. Rybczynski questioned whether the water features would provide any significant cooling effect and said that they are really just a response to the space being available at the indentations. He said the water would have the character of an ordinary patio embellishment and emphasized that this setting for important State Department events deserves a better design. Mr. Parisi noted that the facade along the terrace is primarily glass, and the indentations provide the best location for water features that would not obstruct the views from the interior; he said that this location was intended to relate well to the building's existing design. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated the concern that the design is creating an undesirable centralized cross–axis that is fighting the linear character of the terrace. He said that the terrace is not intended to have a center but instead easily accommodates the formation of groups of people at multiple locations; the proposed water features are one part of this centralizing concept and could perhaps be omitted from the project. Ms. Nelson added that the sound of the water would likely not be effective in masking the noise of nearby airplanes; Ms. Craighill responded that the issues are primarily the street noise and the harsh light extending beneath the overhang. Ms. Nelson commented that the design could do little to offset the discomforts of a very hot day, and people would likely visit the terrace briefly and then return to the air–conditioned interior; Mr. Parisi noted that many events occur in the evening. He added that the sound of trickling water would be an amenity while not being loud enough to interfere with conversations.
Mr. McKinnell noted the State Department's leadership in promoting good aesthetics, including the use of art in embassies. He summarized his view that many components of the proposal are acceptable, including the trees if they are handled simply as trees on a terrace, as well as the introduction of trickling water but objected to the form of the water walls as reminiscent of a shopping–mall feature. He supported the proposed materials but objected to the varied treatment of the text. Vice–Chairman Nelson suggested that his comments, along with those of the other Commission members, be included in the letter to the applicant; she emphasized the Commission's desire to cooperate in achieving the October deadline for construction. Mr. Parisi acknowledged the Commission's effort to improve the project and said that the building inspires a range of reactions from people. He noted the incongruities in the terrace's existing condition that have resulted from multiple alterations, and emphasized that the design is intended to make better sense of the design and provide the amenities that have been requested.
Vice–Chairman Nelson suggested that the Commission see a revised concept submission, preferably at the July meeting; if acceptable, the final design review could then be delegated to the staff to accommodate the intended construction schedule. Ongoing consultation with the staff would enable this schedule to be achieved. Vice–Chairman Nelson also suggested that the next presentation include photographs of the existing condition, with information on the column cladding as originally designed and currently treated.
Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the Commission's response to the proposed bench and planter. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that a simpler, longer bench would be more consistent with the linear character of the terrace, as suggested by Mr. Rybczynski. Mr. Schlossberg questioned whether the bench should extend the full length of the terrace, blocking all access to the parapet edge. Mr. Luebke said that the proposed shallow curve—flattened from an earlier design proposal—may be out of character with the building vocabulary. Mr. Rybczynski supported a straight shape for the bench; Mr. Schlossberg suggested that it be composed of shorter segments rather than being continuous. He also suggested consideration of placing the water feature along the parapet, acknowledging the potential complexity of such a solution.
The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. D.C. Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization
CFA 16/JUN/11–4, Dunbar Senior High School, 3rd and N streets, NW. Replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/11–4.) Mr. Simon introduced the revised concept submission for the replacement of Dunbar Senior High School. He noted that the Commission had approved the previous concept in March; the revised submission includes several refinements to the building design and clarifies the proposed treatment of the north side of the site including the reopening of O Street, NW. He asked architect Sean O'Donnell of Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut and Kuhn (EE&K) to present the design.
Mr. O'Donnell summarized the background of the project: the proposed building would be the third to house Dunbar Senior High School on this site. The first building, constructed in 1917 on the eastern end of the site, had particular significance with a strong design and civic presence as well as many notable alumni including current city leaders. This building was demolished upon completion of the current high school building in 1977, a brutalist–style structure at the northwest corner of the site. The proposed building would be sited similarly to the 1917 building and would be organized around a central atrium that recalls the "Armory" space at the heart of the 1917 building. Other design ideas are also related to the historic building, including the prominent position of the media center. He said that the new building is also designed to take advantage of the views and spatial relationships beyond the site, such as south across a recreation park to New York Avenue.
Mr. O'Donnell indicated the closed alignment of O Street that resulted from the siting of the 1977 building, somewhat isolating the historic Armstrong Technical School building which remains on the north side of O Street, now serving as a charter school; a segment of O Street remains as a drop–off for the charter school. He said that the revised proposal to reopen O Street would have several advantages, including easier community access to the swimming pool on the lower level of the proposed building. He indicated a small parcel of land on the north side of O Street which would be separated from the school site by the reopened street; this parcel would be allocated for future development to generate revenue and repair the continuity of the urban fabric. Ms. Nelson asked about the interim use of this parcel until future development occurs. Mr. O'Donnell confirmed that the intention is to use it as a recreational practice field; the parcel is legally distinct from the school site, however, and would eventually be transferred to the D.C. government for other uses. He noted that the reconstruction of O Street is dependent on additional D.C. government funding that is being negotiated through the D.C. Department of Transportation with uncertain timing; the initial construction for Dunbar would include only limited drop–off and service access.
Mr. O'Donnell summarized the organization of the new building and described the development of the facade designs. Each of the four academies comprising the academic wing of the school would be given its own visual identity. As part of the effort to attain an environmental rating of LEED Platinum, the school would have rooftop solar panels and would rely extensively on natural lighting. He noted that the current zoning includes a sixty–foot height limit; a rezoning is being sought to allow a more typical ninety–foot height limit, accommodating the proposed height of 68 feet. He noted the intention to submit the project for the Commission's final review in September and to start construction in late October, with a phased construction process to allow for continued operation of the existing high school until the new building is occupied.
Mr. Rybczynski noted that the entrance to the 1917 building was centered on the east facade along First Street, and asked why the proposed building entrance would instead face south onto N Street. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the proposed entrance location allows for creation of a graceful entrance plaza at the corner of First and N Streets, an amenity for the 1,100 students using the entrance. This configuration also provides sufficient room for the building in conjunction with the desired size of the adjacent athletic field on the site. In addition, the southern orientation of the entrance relates well to the existing recreation park on the south side of N Street. He described the existing north–facing entrance to the 1977 building as forbiddingly dark, in contrast to the proposed south entrance which would have ample light and a more welcoming character.
Mr. Schlossberg asked for further explanation of the proposed media center. Mr. O'Donnell said that this space would traditionally be called the library; the new name reflects the increasing precedence of technology over possession of a large book collection. He said that the school's alumni have requested that Dunbar's traditional academic strength be represented in the building, and the proposed design therefore places the media center beside the main entrance with a lantern–like design character. Mr. Schlossberg said that the use of the word "media" implies screens, which are not compatible with extensive daylight; he expressed concern about a potential conflict between the amount of daylight entering the media center and the presence of computers or other screens. Mr. O'Donnell said this is addressed by providing separately enclosed spaces for meetings and study groups that may make use of projectors or laptop screens. Mr. Schlossberg asked what kind of shading is proposed for the windows; Mr. O'Donnell responded that this level of detail has not yet been decided. Mr. Luebke offered to note this outstanding issue in the letter to the applicant.
Mr. Rybczynski asked about the extent of changes since the Commission's previous review of the project. Mr. O'Donnell confirmed that the changes to the building are relatively minor, with the major change being the proposed reopening of O Street; Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Nelson offered support for the reopening. Mr. Luebke noted that the size of the academic wing had been reduced by one bay, and the composition of the First Street elevation has been improved. Mr. O'Donnell confirmed that the proposed building is now slightly smaller than previously presented due to the value–engineering process, adding that the resulting facade proportion is improved and relates better to the nearby row houses and park space.
Noting the Commission's limited comments on the project, Mr. Luebke suggested that the review of the final design could be delegated to the staff to accommodate the project schedule; Vice–Chairman Nelson supported this suggestion. Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the revised concept with delegation of the final approval to the staff.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead–Luce Act
SL 11–106, 850 D Street, SW (L'Enfant Plaza). 14–story extended–stay hotel. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the Shipstead–Luce Act submission for a hotel proposed by The JBG Companies as an addition to the existing L'Enfant Plaza complex of hotel and office buildings. The site is located at the northeast corner of L'Enfant Plaza, fronting on 9th and D Streets and adjacent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters building designed by Marcel Breuer. She noted that the Commission had reviewed a different proposal for this site in July 2005. She asked architect Andrew Rollman of SmithGroup to present the design.
Mr. Rollman discussed the history and context of the site's location in the Southwest area between the Mall and the waterfront. By the mid–19th century, construction of the railroad tracks had isolated Southwest from the rest of the city. It was a working–class neighborhood until, in the 1950s and 1960s, the D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency demolished most of the existing buildings; working with the development firm of Webb and Knapp and its architect I.M. Pei, the Redevelopment Land Agency attempted to reconnect the Waterfront and Southwest with the Mall through construction of the 10th Street Promenade, with L'Enfant Plaza at its center. He described one feature of the plan as a compromise—the construction of Federal Office Building #5, the Forrestal Building, spanning the entrance to the 10th Street Promenade at Independence Avenue; the building was intended to be a gateway but is perceived instead as a barrier.
Mr. Rollman discussed the vision outlined in the Monumental Core Framework Plan— produced jointly by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)—for establishing connections between important parts of the city, including Southwest. He said that the Framework Plan calls for adding private mixed–use development to areas with a concentration of federal office buildings, including the L'Enfant Plaza area where the D.C. Office of Planning is working with the NCPC to develop an "Ecodistrict" plan for the area. Mr. Luebke clarified that the term Ecodistrict refers both to the sustainability goals of the Framework Plan and to the President's 2009 Executive Order requiring improved environmental performance in federal buildings. Mr. Rollman said that the proposed hotel would be a first step in implementing the goals of the Framework Plan for this area.
Mr. Rollman described the existing conditions of the context, which he characterized as "bleak" and "desolate." The project site is at an entrance to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station, one of the busiest in the Metro system; the entrance includes a forbidding outdoor stairway that continues up to L'Enfant Plaza. He noted that D Street is lined primarily by government buildings and lacks retail space. He indicated the adjacent courtyard of L'Enfant Plaza defined by the North and South Office Buildings and the East Office Building with the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel; 9th Street passes beneath the East Office Building and hotel.
Mr. Rollman said the proposed building would align in height with the East Office Building and hotel, and its front elevation would face D Street. The goal is to create a light, elegant, and sustainable building; an environmental rating of LEED silver is being sought. He indicated the proposed gateway to the Metro station, with the building volume elevated above; columns encased in back–lit white glass would support a prominent frame defining the new entrance, which would also provide access to the 200,000 square feet of retail space beneath L'Enfant Plaza. The frame would be clad in a wood panel system that would also be used at the top of the building. He indicated the proposed lobby of the hotel which would be placed at the west end of the D Street frontage to enliven the streetscape. The lobby would be as transparent as possible with some diffuse light, using a combination of a low–iron clear glass and a clear glass with a white frit pattern. The upper volume of the building containing the hotel rooms would be expressed as two glass–clad volumes, and the corridor between them on each level would terminate in a tier of windows facing D Street that would be set within a recessed vertical channel. The rear elevation to the south would be primarily warm–colored metal rather than glass.
Mr. Rollman discussed the proposed building's relation to the context. The face of the building would be approximately 80 feet from the HUD headquarters and 170 feet from the North Office Building of L'Enfant Plaza. The exterior stairway leading up from D Street to the Metro entrance and retail space would rise behind a low wall clad in the same slate used on the HUD building's end walls. The third–floor dining room would open onto the plaza level of L'Enfant Plaza. He described the proposed palette of greens and browns, commenting that these colors would look good in winter and would contrast well with the concrete of L'Enfant Plaza. He presented several samples of glass in clear, green, and white tones and a sample of the composite wood panel. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the relationship between the proposed hotel and the existing L'Enfant Plaza Hotel; Mr. Rollman responded that the buildings would be physically connected but would be independent businesses with separate lobbies. He provided a sample of the pink–tinted concrete that is used on the existing L'Enfant Plaza complex. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about its use for the proposed building; Mr. Rollman clarified that exterior concrete would not be used for this project, with the intention of contrasting the proposed palette with the existing structures.
The Commission members sought clarification of a number of design features. Mr. Rybczynski asked for details of the vertical recess in the center of the north facade. Mr. Rollman said it would be a slot recessed approximately three feet, lined with metal on its sides and with six–foot wide windows at the ends of the corridors. Ms. Nelson asked about the arrangement of the different types of glass panels at the lobby; Mr. Rollman responded that they would be placed in a random geometric pattern. Ms. Nelson asked whether the columns framing the Metro entrance would have advertising or signage; Mr. Rollman said they would carry the red square logo of L'Enfant Plaza. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if a connection would be provided from D Street to the plaza level of L'Enfant Plaza. Mr. Rollman indicated the stairway leading from D Street up to the intermediate level of the Metro entrance and retail shops, and the additional stairway leading further up to the plaza; another entrance at the plaza level would also connect to the proposed hotel lobby. He noted that the interior L'Enfant Plaza retail area has been undergoing renovation, as previously approved by the Commission, and the food area has recently reopened with a very well–received exposure to natural light through new windows facing the HUD building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for further discussion of the goal to create a contrast between the new hotel and the existing buildings. Mr. Rollman responded that the surrounding buildings, dating mostly from the 1960s, feature heavy concrete frames and overhangs with deeply inset windows; the proposal for the new hotel is to use glass and wood—lighter materials with warmer colors—to contrast with the prevailing concrete. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that adding to these 1960s buildings is difficult; she asked if the new building could be designed to acknowledge and become part of its context, making visible the connections rather than the separations in a way that would not appear hostile to the design character of the surrounding buildings. She acknowledged the difficulty of this approach, but said that these mid–century buildings have their own integrity and character that the new building should not simply ignore. She suggested that the plinth could be the element where this connection is expressed, relating the building at least to the L'Enfant Plaza complex—of which the new hotel would become an integral part—and possibly to the HUD Building as well. She said that the proposed design does not suggest the presence of a connection to the plaza level of L'Enfant Plaza because the new hotel seems like another building intended to be set apart from its surroundings. She said that the new hotel could serve to connect the disparate existing buildings that are suburban in character, but would have to acknowledge the context in order to achieve this goal. She added that the circulation plan itself is well resolved.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk recalled that the Commission had recently encountered the same issue with the proposed student center at the University of the District of Columbia, and in that case had recommended using some of the same materials as the existing campus in order to connect the building with its context. Mr. Rollman reiterated that the wall along the Metro entrance stair would use the same slate as the adjacent HUD building. Mr. McKinnell objected that this would not relate to the L'Enfant Plaza plinth being discussed; Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the slate would be only a decorative feature on just one side of the building, and emphasized that the new hotel should be understood as part of L'Enfant Plaza. She acknowledged that L'Enfant Plaza has a grim character, and a glass building next to it would be appropriate, but establishing the relationship among the buildings is most important at the level of the public space.
Mr. Rollman responded that the intention is to use signage to provide a sense of arrival, adding that the new Metro entrance stair would create a graceful gateway. He said that the new hotel is related to its neighbors through geometry—continuing the lines of existing buildings and avoiding curves, creating frames similar to those of other buildings, and lining up the proposed plinth with the existing plaza. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said she appreciated the intent but the design is not successful; she expressed a general concern with new buildings that avoid acknowledging their context and appear to proclaim that the present architecture is better than the past.
Mr. Rybczynski agreed with Ms. Plater–Zyberk's comments and said he is also disturbed by the vertical slot on the D Street elevation because it undermines what should be the primary street facade. He said that a main facade should not be designed with a gap in the center, which gives the confusing impression that this facade is an end wall and the long elevation is the primary facade. He emphasized the need for the D Street facade to be understood as the building's primary face or at least not as a side wall, and he suggested simply wrapping the curtainwall around the front of the building. He added that the plinth provides the natural opportunity to tie the building together with its surroundings, allowing the glass hotel building to be totally new and different. Mr. Rollman defended the gap as an appropriate way to express the function of the building and its central corridors; he noted that it would line up with the division below between the public entrance to the Metro and the hotel entrance. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated that this is not the appropriate treatment of a street facade.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked where such hotel activities as taxi service and valet parking would occur. Mr. Rollman indicated a drop–off area in front of the building, adding that many people would be arriving from the Metro station. Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed doubt that many hotel guests with luggage would arrive by transit; Mr. Rollman noted the direct Metro connection between Reagan National Airport and the hotel. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that hotels always have a lot of car traffic and usually have a porte cochere, and she expressed concern about the potential for extensive congestion in front of this hotel. She said that this issue suggests an opportunity to distinguish between the two functions on the D Street frontage as part of the effort to define the street character, suggesting the possibility of placing the hotel entrance on the side street. Mr. Rollman responded that the side street is a one–way street leading to the Southwest Freeway and only a limited amount of stopping could occur there; he emphasized the intention to give prominence to the hotel entrance, noting the challenge of balancing the identities of the entrances to the hotel and the Metro.
Mr. McKinnell expressed reluctance to comment on the project because the presentation lacks essential information. He requested a simple model showing this building within its context; he said that, because of the illusory quality of the presentation drawings, he could not determine the location of the elevations or the setbacks of adjacent buildings. He emphasized that such things define city streets and could be understood immediately in a model, and these relationships need to be understood before consideration of materials and colors. He agreed with the other comments that this building could be related more closely to L'Enfant Plaza through its plinth but said he could not tell in the drawings whether the recess proposed at the top of the hotel's plinth would be sufficient to relate it to the existing plinth of L'Enfant Plaza. He suggested that the Commission require simple models be submitted for projects of such urbanistic consequence. He observed the modern–day tendency to be critical of the kind of projects Pei did at that time, but he said they have a redeeming value which is often ignored. He acknowledged a design characteristic that we find less attractive now: the conception of cities as being composed of large, freestanding, autonomous volumes. However, he said that this presentation does not make clear whether the hotel proposal is continuing that volumetric concept or not. Mr. Rollman noted the smaller scale of the new building in relation to the nearby existing structures; Mr. McKinnell said that he can read the plans but wants a model to aid in visualizing the volumes. He said that the proposal may be a good design—the kind of slim, elegant volume that would reintroduce excitement to this urban setting—but he cannot determine this without further information. Ms. Nelson asked about the proximity of the proposed hotel to the corner of the HUD building; Mr. McKinnell commented that such questions emphasize the need for a model, and the actual dimension is less important than a three–dimensional visualization of the relationship.
Mr. Luebke noted that this project is submitted pursuant to the Shipstead–Luce Act, the intent of which is to understand how framing elements work together in relation to the larger monumental core. He said the issues include the building's relationship to the larger context as well as to its immediate neighbors—the HUD building and the L'Enfant Plaza complex. He emphasized the importance of the height relationships among the buildings, although the presentation lacked section information that would convey this; he noted that the proposed building would rise 168 feet from the D Street curb to the top of the penthouse.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that this project illustrates on a larger scale what the Commission has seen occurring in the city on a smaller scale: creating additions to the overly resolved modernist buildings of the mid–20th century. She acknowledged the difficulty of the task, without much precedent on how to do it successfully, but emphasized that this is an important project because it could guide the next steps in this process. She said this is one reason the Commission spends so much time looking at these very resolved buildings and asking how they can be integrated successfully, adding that exteriors are always more difficult to design than plans. She emphasized that these issues are worth resolving well for this particular building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the design could respond to the general lack of pedestrian entrances in the other building facades along D Street; perhaps the proposed building could have a large unified entrance that gives precedence to the hotel, with a side entrance for the subway. More generally, she emphasized that the design needs to recognize what the building is doing relative to its surroundings at grade level. Mr. Rollman responded that the intention is to have separate identities for the hotel and Metro entrances; while the design team had looked at schemes using a single large canopy or other feature to tie the two together, the decision was to strike a balance between the primary and secondary entrances.
Ms. Nelson commented that the D Street facade has the most problems, such as the design of the entrances and the need for a drop–off; she observed that the random window pattern does not acknowledge the connection of the new building's horizontal planes to those of the adjacent building. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. McKinnell commented that the drawings always show the hotel building standing alone and asked, as an example, whether it directly abuts the adjacent L'Enfant Plaza Hotel and whether there are existing hotel windows on that elevation; they said the presentation does not provide an understanding of how close these windows would be. Mr. Rollman said the distance would be thirty feet but Ms. Plater–Zyberk reiterated that this relationship needs to be illustrated. Ms. Nelson added that the proposed use of wood may be a concern and is similarly in need of improved depiction.
Mr. McKinnell expressed appreciation that the client is taking the opportunity to put a function here that would bring life to this part of the city, and he said that the Commission is not questioning the overall project but the nuances of how it is designed. Mr. Rybczynski commented on the boldness of the building's contrasting rear facade, which would have a different material and treatment; he suggested that the design team apply this character to other parts of the building. Mr. Rollman responded that the change in character is aligned with the edge of the plaza.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the appearance of the building from D Street gives no suggestion that it is connected to anything else or that it is an extension of another building. He summarized the Commission's guidance to focus on how the proposed building hits the street in order to establish the connection to what is behind and around it, and if this can be resolved then everything else might fall into place. He added that the design resolution should not disrupt the successful circulation pattern that is shown in the submission.
Vice–Chairman Nelson suggested that the design team return to the Commission with a revised concept submission that includes a basic model, which Mr. Luebke confirmed should convey the physical relationships among the buildings at a broad scale to understand the impact of the new structure. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:25 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: July 29, 2011