Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 May 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 10:05 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 April meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the April meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Ms. Nelson noted that the name of one of the presenting architects was spelled various ways in the published news articles provided to the Commission; Mr. Luebke agreed to verify the correct spelling for the minutes. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the minutes subject to the spelling verification. 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: 16 June, 21 July, and 15 September.
C. Anniversary of the establishment of the Commission of Fine Arts, 17 May 1910, and centennial publication. Mr. Luebke reported on the Commission's two historical anniversaries falling in May: the 101st anniversary of the Commission's establishment on 17 May 1910, and the 81st anniversary of the Shipstead–Luce Act which was approved on 16 May 1930. He noted the celebration the previous May of the Commission's centennial and reported that the staff is continuing the production of a centennial book on the Commission's history. Much of the book is being written by the staff; the book will also include essays by outside contributing authors who gave presentations of their research at the Commission's centennial symposium held in May 2010. He said that the anticipated publication date of the book is May 2012.
D. Report on the 2011 National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs Program. Mr. Luebke reported on the federal grants program administered by the Commission for the support of Washington, D.C.–based arts organizations. The staff has been processing applications during the preceding months and expects to disburse the funds later this week. The applicant organizations were screened by an ex officio panel that included Chairman Powell and representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities; the panel determined that all 24 of the previous recipients have remained eligible for the program, and one new applicant—the Washington Chorus—was also determined eligible. The funding for the program has been reduced significantly, with slightly under $3 million available this year compared to $9.5 million in 2010; the median grant for the 25 recipient organizations has therefore been substantially reduced to slightly under $100,000. Chairman Powell noted that the reduction in funding was determined by the federal budget process, not by the Commission.
E. Report on the approval of an object proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the Chairman's previous approval of a painting that the Smithsonian Institution seeks to acquire at auction for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, in accordance with the requirements of Charles Freer's will. He said that the painting is titled Krishna Fluting in the Wood; it is from central India and dates from the first half of the 18th century. He described its light, spacious composition with Krishna in a verdant grove along a lotus–filled river; he noted that a photograph and description of the painting was provided to the Commission members.
F. Report on the inspection of materials for the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Mr. Luebke reported on the Commission's site inspection prior to the meeting of improvements around the reflecting pool east of the Lincoln Memorial, a previously reviewed project that will provide perimeter security for the memorial, improved accessibility to the grounds, landscape restoration, and improvements to the pool itself. He noted the impressive scope of the construction work currently underway. He summarized the response of the attending Commission members to the alternative stone selections that the National Park Service displayed at the site: they supported the proposed palette of stone and suggested a simplification of the paving pattern on the lower terrace at the west end of the reflecting pool. He said that the Commission members also supported the proposed cladding of the pump equipment structure to be located in the Ash Woods stables area. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the Commission members inspected the materials under both wet and dry conditions, and recommended the simplification of the paving based on the appearance of the materials together on the site. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission's comments would be conveyed in a letter to the National Park Service.
Chairman Powell noted Mr. Luebke's recent elevation to Fellow of the American Institute of Architects at the organization's annual convention in New Orleans. The Commission members joined in congratulating Mr. Luebke.
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 the only change to the draft appendix was a correction to the wording of the Murch Elementary School project. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. Seven related projects involving window replacements, originally submitted in September 2010, have now been resolved and have been added to the appendix with favorable recommendations (all with case number SL 10–136). The recommendations have been revised for two projects involving fences: an increased height for a residential fence (case number SL 11–078), with no change to the favorable recommendation; and clarification of the height measuring point for the proposed fence at an ambassador's residence (case number SL 11–095). The Commission approved the revised appendix upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk.
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. Two projects have been added that were recently submitted for review in June but are not visible from public areas, and therefore do not require further review by the Old Georgetown Board. One project was removed at the applicant's request to allow time for further development of the design and review by the Old Georgetown Board. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.G for an additional Old Georgetown Act submission.)
B. Department of the Army
CFA 19/MAY/11–1, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Improvements to the Edward Moore Kennedy Gravesite. Concept. Mr. Luebke introduced the concept design for site improvements to the Edward Moore Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, which is adjacent to the graves of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He said the proposal includes a new granite walk linking Edward Kennedy's gravesite to those of his brothers; a walk from Sheridan Drive, the cemetery road alongside all three gravesites; renovation of the stepped walk leading from Sheridan Drive up to the small plaza in front of the Robert Kennedy gravesite; and a seat wall and plantings. He said that the design team has been influenced by the established context of circular and curving forms connected by simple walks. He noted that the proposed design also identifies a location near Edward Kennedy's gravesite for a standard memorial marker to honor the fourth brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., who died in combat during World War II; this marker has been proposed by the Kennedys' sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, but is not included as part of this submission.
Mr. Luebke asked Col. Victoria Bruzese, the engineer for Arlington National Cemetery, to begin the presentation. Colonel Bruzese noted the support of the cemetery's leadership for the proposal and introduced landscape architect Joseph Hibbard of Sasaki and Associates to present the design.
Mr. Hibbard discussed the context of the gravesite and the features which had influenced the design. He described the location of the site in relation to President Kennedy's grave—located on the axis of Memorial Drive leading to the Lincoln Memorial—and to the adjacent grave of Robert Kennedy; he also indicated the site's relation to the cemetery's visitor center on the east and to Arlington House up the hill on the west. He traced the route visitors would typically follow, beginning at the visitor center and then visiting the sequence of gravesites for President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy. He observed that the hillside in this area is distinctive because it lacks the rows of tombstones that characterize the rest of the cemetery, relying instead on simple lawns. He indicated the existing trees near the site and a hedge surrounding a utility vault serving the Kennedy gravesites, noting that the clipped form of the hedge is an uncharacteristic element within the naturalistic landscape.
Mr. Hibbard said that the design is intended to accommodate visitors viewing Edward Kennedy's gravesite, relate his gravesite to those of his brothers, and improve the barrier–free circulation route through the three gravesites which is currently somewhat awkward on the sloping site. He said these gravesites are characterized by simple, clean geometries and uniform granite construction; he described the different granite pavers comprising the walks leading to the different sites—smaller pavers used on the walk to President Kennedy's gravesite and larger pavers leading from there to the Robert Kennedy site, which has a plaza paved in granite setts. He noted that the Robert Kennedy and Edward Kennedy gravesites are each marked with a standard foot marker and a white cross, while President Kennedy's gravesite has engraved slate markers. He presented images of the bronze details, such as handrails and drain inlets, at the gravesites of President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, and said that similar details would be used for the current project.
Mr. Hibbard discussed the proposed design features. The walk leading from Robert Kennedy's gravesite, currently a stepped walk, would be rebuilt with three flights of steps in the lower portion to accommodate the five–foot grade change down to Sheridan Drive. A new curved walk would branch off the upper portion, before visitors encounter the new steps; this walk would pass alongside Edward Kennedy's gravesite and provide a relatively flat route that leads directly to the rising grade of Sheridan Drive. On the uphill side of this walk, the curb would be similar to that used at the President Kennedy gravesite; on the downhill side, a seat wall would run the entire length of the arc, approximately 102 feet. This new walk would slope only slightly, with the Edward Kennedy gravesite and the proposed Joseph Kennedy marker to be located at the high point toward the middle. Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification of the proposed walk's slope; Mr. Hibbard responded that it would be sloped to provide drainage, rising about six to nine inches on approaching Edward Kennedy's gravesite and descending approximately a foot to Sheridan Drive.
Mr. Hibbard described the proposed landscaping. The clipped planting around the utility vault near Edward Kennedy's gravesite would be changed to a naturalistic unclipped evergreen hedge, probably holly. Two or three flowering trees would be added, possibly hybrid flowering dogwood, and ground cover would replace the existing mulch around the trees between the proposed new walk and Sheridan Drive.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the relation of the proposed seat wall to the existing straight wall at the Robert Kennedy gravesite. Mr. Hibbard said the straight wall is thirty inches high, too high to be comfortable as a seat wall. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked how much of this existing wall is visible from Sheridan Drive; Mr. Hibbard responded that it is only visible at one point, and is otherwise concealed by plantings. He clarified that the wall's height is thirty inches on the uphill side and close to forty inches on the downhill side. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for the comparable dimensions of the proposed seating wall near the Edward Kennedy gravesite. Mr. Hibbard responded that it would be eighteen inches high on the uphill side to accommodate seating, and approximately two feet high on the downhill side; approximately twelve to sixteen inches of the wall would be visible from Sheridan Drive above the proposed plantings.
Ms. Nelson asked about the typical size of tour groups visiting the gravesites; Mr. Hibbard estimated that the Tourmobile that stops near the site holds approximately 120 people, and school groups of approximately fifty children also walk to the site from the visitor center. Ms. Nelson noted the much larger crowd that the Commission had seen at the Lincoln Memorial earlier in the day—perhaps 500 people—and asked how much seating would be available along the proposed low wall; Mr. Hibbard estimated that fifty people could sit on the proposed 102–foot–long seat wall.
Mr. McKinnell observed that the graves of President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy are marked by a distinct sense of place and stasis, while the proposal for a walk along the Edward Kennedy grave and Joseph Kennedy marker would treat them as adjuncts to a place of passage. He said that the comparison between them is unfortunate, and expressed concern that the proposed walk will seem to be merely a circulation route; he emphasized that the issue is the character of the setting, apart from the question of where groups will assemble when visiting the Edward Kennedy grave.
Colonel Bruzese responded that groups typically disperse when visiting the gravesites and gather instead on Sheridan Drive. Ms. Nelson asked if tour leaders give talks in front of these sites; Colonel Bruzese responded that they do not, and the gravesites are very quiet places. Ms. Nelson acknowledged the project team's potential reluctance to introduce additional paving to the area but emphasized that the new gravesite area might be perceived as diminutive in comparison to the older ones; she added that Edward Kennedy, while not a president like his brother, had served in the Senate for many years and should have a suitable gravesite.
Mr. Hibbard responded that Edward Kennedy's family—particularly his widow, Victoria Kennedy—understands this concern but favors taking a simple and understated approach to his gravesite. He said the family feels that a plaza is not necessary to have profound experience; the gravesite will be perceived within the larger landscape of the simple, beautiful Arlington hillside and does not need more construction to add grandeur. Ms. Nelson asked if Mrs. Kennedy would also be buried there and Mr. Hibbard responded that she would.
Chairman Powell commented that the proposal is commendable; he noted the varying opinions among the Commission members and suggested that the Commission approve the concept submission and convey the comments in the letter to the applicant for consideration as the design evolves further. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission adopted this action.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the status of another project at Arlington National Cemetery that the Commission had recently reviewed: a new boundary wall with columbarium niches, in the vicinity of Henderson Hall. Colonel Bruzese responded that this wall has been constructed and is in use; an additional columbarium is planned near this wall, and its design will be coordinated with the Commission staff. Ms. Nelson recalled the quality of the design for this wall. Mr. Powell asked the typical annual number of visitors to Arlington National Cemetery; Colonel Bruzese responded that the number is in the millions and the cemetery is one of the top three visitor destinations in the Washington area.
C. American Battle Monuments Commission
CFA 19/MAY/11–2, Sicily–Rome American Cemetery and Memorial, Nettuno, Italy. New visitor center. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a new visitor center at the Sicily–Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy. He asked architect Harry Robinson, a consultant to the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and former chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, to begin the presentation. Mr. Robinson noted that this is the ABMC's third new visitor center in recent decades, after Normandy and Cambridge, to be built at an American World War II cemetery in Europe. He said that the current visitor center, with its family room and adjoining garden, was an early feature of the Sicily–Rome American Cemetery and will be incorporated into the new design. He introduced architect Ottavio Di Blasi of Ottavio Di Blasi & Partners, a firm in Milan, Italy, to present the design.
Mr. Di Blasi spoke about his family's involvement as anti–fascist partisans during World War II and his belief in the importance of educating young people about the history of the war in Italy; he said that the ABMC's planned enlargement of the visitor center is an example of promoting such education. He illustrated the location of the cemetery within Nettuno, a small town located 50 kilometers south of Rome. He indicated the cemetery's symmetrical landscape composition and the visitor's entrance sequence which proceeds across a public plaza and through an entrance gate set within the boundary wall; he emphasized that from the vantage point of the gate a visitor can understand the entire landscape and decide where to go first. He added that the plaza now functions as a parking lot for cars and buses, and their presence influences a visitor's first impression of the cemetery. He indicated the houses that now surround the cemetery site.
Mr. Di Blasi described the original visitor center and its private garden, designed as an outdoor room defined by tall hedges. He described the main room of the visitor center, the family room decorated with American furnishings, noting that the visitor center's restroom opens directly into this room. He described the spatial character of the current visitor center and garden as being composed of a series of layers comprising different materials, such as stone and plants. He said the new visitor center is conceived as being a natural expansion of the original building, with layers added in a consistent manner and replicating the same plan on the other side of the garden.
Mr. Di Blasi described the design of the proposed visitor center in more detail. It would include an entrance lobby, a reception desk, an exhibition area, and new offices relocated from the existing visitor center. He indicated the protruding lobby and entrance flanked by a curved wall and emphasized the importance of visitors being able to see the new visitor center entrance from the cemetery's gate, where all of the cemetery's features come into view. The curved wall would be clad in bronze and would introduce a new geometry and a new material into the visitor center ensemble, though he noted that bronze is used elsewhere in the cemetery. He said the visitor center's structural support would be within the walls to allow as much interior room as possible for the exhibition space.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the material of the boundary wall which forms one edge of the visitor center's garden. Mr. Di Blasi responded that the wall is an opus incertum construction composed of irregularly shaped blocks of tufa, a local stone; he added that the wall appears to lack a sufficient foundation, and the proposed construction is kept a slight distance away from the wall to avoid disturbing it.
Ms. Nelson asked about changes to the existing family room. Mr. Di Blasi responded that it would remain in use; the adjacent bathroom would be converted into storage space, and larger public restrooms would be provided nearby. Mr. Robinson added that the ABMC considers the family rooms at its cemeteries to be important historic features. Mr. Powell asked about the family room's furniture; Mr. Robinson confirmed that the existing furniture would remain.
Mr. Di Blasi discussed several proposals for site improvements in other parts of the cemetery. He said that his initial intention was that bus parking would continue at its current location on the plaza; but due to the excessive prominence of buses at this location, the proposal is to park them within the cemetery complex, with parking spaces set perpendicular to the boundary wall and the lot screened with new plantings to reduce the visual impact of the buses on views from other parts of the cemetery. The proposal also includes adding bollards between the plaza and the adjacent street to improve the plaza's spatial definition, particularly important due to the weekly market in the vicinity that is typically very crowded and spills into the plaza. Ms. Nelson observed that these bollards are not needed to serve as a typical perimeter security barrier, and she asked if a fence or low wall might work just as well to improve the spatial definition. Mr. Di Blasi responded that there have been security issues because of cars parking adjacent to the wall of the visitor center and that a row of bollards would create a filter between the street and the cemetery entrance.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if car parking would also be expanded in this proposal. Mr. Di Blasi responded that no substantial increase in capacity is proposed; cars would generally continue to park outside the cemetery in the plaza, and only parking for employees, disabled visitors, and buses would be allowed inside the cemetery. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the apparent proposal for landscaped islands shown in the rendering of the plaza; Mr. Robinson and Mr. Di Blasi clarified that this is an existing landscape feature that was recently installed.
Mr. Powell commented that the design is an elegant concept. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the planted screening of the bus parking area could be increased, commenting that the buses should not be seen from within the burial ground area of the cemetery. Mr. Di Blasi responded that the bus parking area is already well screened by trees.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the existing visitor building, with its low height and the horizontal ties or striations within the stone pattern of its exterior walls, was executed in a post–war minimalist style that is now being regarded with new appreciation. She suggested an approach to adding structures similar to what she had recommended recently for the American Cemetery in Cambridge, England: making an ensemble that grows out of, or perhaps replicates, the original building. She observed that this cemetery is not comparable to an urban situation where varying shapes and materials can appropriately be added to reflect evolution over time; here, she said, it is not necessary to know that the new visitor center is of a particular period, and the fact that it will be a later addition is irrelevant. She recommended instead treating the ensemble as a period piece, perhaps not emphasizing the new visitor center's entrance wall which she said is designed to be too much of our time. She suggested replicating the massing and materials of the original building, and also replicating the details of the wall, beam, and glass joints.
Mr. Di Blasi responded that he had decided the new building should be consistent with the old in its use of a consistent geometry; generally all parts of the new building will be related to the alignment of the existing boundary wall and made out of the same materials. He said that the use of a different form and materials is only proposed at the visitor center's entrance because it should be visible from the vicinity of the cemetery's entrance gates. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said this intention is clear but reiterated her suggestion that the treatment of the building entrance should be calm and minimal, instead of the proposed curving form. Mr. Di Blasi responded that many possible solutions for the building entrance wall were studied, such as using stone, but these alternatives appeared too heavy and artificial. Ms. Nelson suggested that the Commission could see the alternatives that had been considered and rejected.
Ms. Nelson commented on the drama of the entrance approach, and recommended not cluttering the plaza with bollards, chains, and car parking. She acknowledged the intention to define the plaza more clearly, particularly due to the presence of the weekly market in the area, but suggested further consideration of the plaza's treatment. Chairman Powell added that the use of bollards may be particularly sensitive because the Commission sees them frequently in Washington projects. Mr. Di Blasi said the bollards are not essential to this project, and Chairman Powell suggested consideration of a softer boundary treatment. Mr. McKinnell asked if trees instead of bollards could be used to define the plaza and if parking could be eliminated from this area; Ms. Nelson added that planting trees would make the space more attractive for visitors and vendors. Mr. Di Blasi said he had interpreted the original design as allowing an open view from the road to the mausoleum at the far end of the cemetery, but he agreed to look again at the use of trees or some other features instead of bollards. Michael Conley of the ABMC staff added that no public parking lot exists in that area of Nettuno and so the parking lot in the plaza is the only one available for visitors' cars. Mr. Di Blasi said that the proposed improvement also includes a sidewalk between the plaza and adjacent road; there is not currently any defined pedestrian area.
Mr. McKinnell said he does not share Ms. Plater–Zyberk's concerns about the architect's conceptual approach to the new building. He supported the idea of expressing the different layers of the building as having been added over time; this expression would show that the activity of building and caring for the cemetery continues into the present. Mr. Powell commented that the proposal is very respectful of the original design.
Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson reiterated that the design team should study the plaza further so that the approach will respect the dignity of the cemetery. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the concept proposal, with the request to consider the comments provided as the project is developed further.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the two presentations from the U.S. Mint. The first is a Congressional Gold Medal to honor the service of Japanese–Americans in several military units during World War II; one gold medal would be presented to the Smithsonian Institution and bronze duplicates would be available for purchase from the Mint. The second submission is for a non–circulating commemorative coin honoring the military's infantry; proceeds from the Mint's sales of this coin would support the endowment for the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, located in Georgia. He introduced Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the design alternatives. Ms. Budow noted the presence of several guests associated with the two submissions, as well as chief sculptor–engraver Don Everhart of the Philadelphia Mint's staff.
1. CFA 19/MAY/11–3, Congressional Gold Medal honoring the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service, United States Army. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow summarized the legislation authorizing a gold medal to honor the World War II service of the U.S. Army's 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. The Japanese–Americans in these units fought discrimination in the U.S. as well as fascism abroad; their commitment and sacrifice have been honored previously with numerous medals and citations. She said that the design alternatives have been developed in consultation with the National Veterans Network, a coalition of Japanese–American veteran and civic organizations, resulting in the proposed text: "Nisei Soldiers of World War II," "Act of Congress 2010," and "Go For Broke" which was the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and eventually of the Military Intelligence Service as well.
Ms. Budow presented three alternatives for the obverse design depicting single and multiple soldiers and the American flag. She also presented three alternatives for the reverse design, with various compositions of the insignia for the three military units. She said that ninety representatives of the National Veterans Network reviewed the designs; their overwhelming preferences were for obverse alternatives #1 and #3, and reverse alternatives #2 and #3.
Ms. Budow introduced Major General Tony Taguba, an advisor to the National Veterans Network, who said that the group's preferences were not ranked and all of the design alternatives would be acceptable. He introduced Grant Ichikawa, a World War II veteran of the Military Intelligence Service, who also asked to address the Commission. Mr. Ichikawa said that one of the design issues was that two of the military units being honored were involved in combat, while the Military Intelligence Service was not; these wide–ranging roles are difficult to depict on the medal. The group concluded that the obverse should emphasize the combat units, while the reverse would represent each of the three units and have additional symbols that would emphasize the intelligence unit. These priorities resulted in the group's design recommendations.
Ms. Nelson expressed appreciation for the military service of the speakers and acknowledged their design preferences. She commented on the strength of the depiction of single soldiers in obverse alternatives #1 and #2 but observed that the relatively large scale of the medal—with a diameter of three inches—would allow for the depiction of multiple figures. She therefore supported obverse alternative #3, commenting that the American flag in the background conveys the soldiers' loyalty; she added that the layered effect of the composition adds visual strength.
For the reverse, Ms. Nelson commented that the composition of alternative #2 has a floating character that is not readily legible. She recommended reverse alternative #3, noting that its typeface and border design are similar to those of obverse alternative #3 which results in a successful design combination.
The other Commission members supported Ms. Nelson's recommendations. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that only a few large stars are depicted on the background flag in obverse alternative #3, and she instead recommended a pattern of small stars that would be more consistent with the American flag's appearance. Ms. Nelson commented that additional stars might interfere with the soldier's helmet, and expressed support for the abstract design as proposed.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #3 and reverse alternative #3 for the Congressional Gold Medal. Chairman Powell asked for further information on the detailing of this large–format medal. Mr. Everhart said that features such as the stars could be modeled in very low relief so that additional stars would not detract from the figure of the soldier. Chairman Powell and Ms. Nelson encouraged further exploration of this solution. Ms. Nelson emphasized the evocative character of the large portrait of the soldier.
2. CFA 19/MAY/11–4, 2012 National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center Commemorative Coin Program. Designs for a one–dollar silver coin. Final. Ms. Budow summarized the authorizing legislation for the commemorative coin and the history of the U.S. Infantry, which was first created by the Continental Congress in 1775. A surcharge on sales of the coin would go to the National Infantry Foundation which supports the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center; the museum opened in 2009 and is located adjacent to Fort Benning, a large army installation in Columbus, Georgia, that is home to the infantry. She provided the Commission members with brochures describing the 190,000–square–foot museum, which has historical displays, an IMAX theater, and a collection of 30,000 artifacts.
Ms. Budow presented twelve alternatives for the obverse design, primarily based on historical images depicting the "Follow Me" gesture of a soldier beckoning other infantry soldiers to follow. She noted that the areas depicted in black on the renderings would be incused. Ms. Nelson asked if these surfaces would have a polished or textured finish; Mr. Everhart responded that they would typically be polished.
At the request of Ms. Nelson, Ms. Budow continued with a presentation of seven alternatives for the reverse design. The alternatives feature the musket and oak wreath motif of the Combat Infantry Badge that was introduced in World War II, or the crossed muskets of the infantry insignia, symbolizing the courage, pride, and sacrifice of the infantry soldiers.
Ms. Budow described the design preferences of the National Infantry Foundation. The Foundation supported obverse alternatives #3 and #6 due to their more modern character; the first choice is alternative #6 with a preference for removing the two soldiers in the background. For the reverse, the Foundation prefers alternatives #1, #3, and #7, with the comment that #7 would be stronger if the text "$1" were spelled out as "One Dollar."
Ms. Budow introduced Greg Camp, executive vice president of the National Infantry Foundation, who asked to address the Commission. Mr. Camp noted that the military combat units honored by the Congressional Gold Medal, as discussed in the previous agenda item, are prominently featured at the National Infantry Museum. For the infantry coin, he said that the "Follow Me" motif is based on a statue with this theme that is located in front of the museum; in addition to the iconic image—equivalent to the Iwo Jima flag–raising for the Marines—the phrase itself is the motto of the infantry. He said that a coin design that closely resembles the iconic image would resonate best with those who have been affiliated with the infantry; obverse alternatives #3 and #6 best achieve this goal. For the reverse, he said that the crossed–muskets insignia is the reward for completing the fourteen weeks of training at Fort Benning and is another iconic symbol of the infantry. The Foundation therefore supports reverse alternative #7, which depicts this insignia; he said that writing out the text of the denomination would be an improvement. He added that the Combat Infantry Badge is a prestigious award and an additional iconic image, but it is awarded only to infantry soldiers who have been engaged in combat; those who served in peacetime would not have had the opportunity to earn this award, and he said that its depiction would therefore be less desirable on this coin that honors all who served in the infantry. This concern results in less support for reverse alternative #1, which otherwise was a popular choice. Reverse alternative #3 was also popular but he said that its composition may be too complex for this coin which has a diameter of one and a half inches.
Mr. Powell expressed support for the Foundation's preference of reverse alternative #7 with the denomination written out. Ms. Nelson agreed and described this design as clean and beautiful. For the obverse, she observed that none of the alternatives with the "Follow Me" gesture is fully consistent with the appearance of the statue at the museum. Ms. Budow responded that an exact depiction of the statue would raise concerns of intellectual property rights, and the designs are therefore inspired by historical images. Ms. Nelson recommended the more abstract approach of using silhouettes to depict the gesture, rather than the more detailed depiction which includes details of the uniform and suggests a particular time period. She noted the additional concern that the "Follow Me" gesture may lack significance without the depiction of additional soldiers who are following the first, which would result from the Foundation's proposed simplification of obverse alternative #10. Mr. Camp clarified that alternative #10 was the third of the Foundation's three choices for the obverse, while acknowledging that the first two choices similarly do not include additional figures. He said that the symbolism of the gesture and the familiar reference to the statue would be sufficient to convey the theme.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered support for obverse alternative #3, commenting that the simple design suggests an immediate sense of familiarity. Mr. Camp emphasized that this design most closely resembles the existing statue, and therefore is the Foundation's first choice; he added that the soldier's details are from the 1950s which is sufficiently modern to resonate with currently serving soldiers.
Chairman Powell joined in supporting obverse alternative #3; he commented that the gesture in alternative #6 could be interpreted as "Stop!" rather than "Follow Me." Ms. Nelson observed that the statue's gesturing hand is raised high, while a lower gesture is appropriately shown for the constrained design composition of the coin. She asked if this change in pose would be problematic; Mr. Camp said that obverse alternative #3 is sufficiently similar to the statue to be recognizable as a design reference. He said that an additional advantage of alternative #3 is the inclusion of a rocky pedestal, a familiar feature of the statue. Ms. Nelson offered support for obverse alternative #3.
Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #3 and reverse alternative #7, with the request to write out the denomination as "One Dollar."
E. General Services Administration
CFA 19/MAY/11–5, U.S. Department of State, 21st Street and Virginia Avenue, NW entrance. Addition and building alterations for the U.S. Diplomacy Center. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for the U.S. Diplomacy Center, which would be located at the Department of State's headquarters in a new pavilion proposed for the entrance forecourt at 21st Street and Virginia Avenue, NW, and extending into a portion of the existing building. The pavilion would replace a temporary security screening structure currently within the forecourt. She said the Diplomacy Center would provide space for exhibitions, education, and conferences, and the pavilion would also include security screening for visitors and State Department employees. She asked Tony Alonso, the regional chief architect with the General Services Administration (GSA), to begin the presentation. Mr. Alonso said that work on the project began five years ago under GSA's Design Excellence Program, and the project is now ready to move forward. He introduced architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan noted the site's prominent location at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and 21st Street and the symbolic importance of the building's change in use from the War Department to the State Department. He described the additional symbolic decision that the Diplomacy Center should not be "hidden" within the massive headquarters building but should instead be a projecting pavilion that expresses the idea of reaching out to the world through diplomacy.
Mr. Hassan discussed the proposal's relationship to the master plan for the State Department building's entrances, in which the C Street entrance will be ceremonial, the D Street entrance will be reserved for employees, and the entrance on 21st Street will be used for the public. He said the master plan had called for creating an entrance pavilion here that would extend into the 21st Street right–of–way, leaving a sidewalk width of only nine to ten feet, whereas the current proposal would not intrude on the right–of–way and would leave a clear distance of approximately 35 feet between building and curb.
Mr. Hassan described the goal of giving visitors a welcoming impression rather than an immediate view of security apparatus in the lobby. He described the proposed circulation pattern: visitors entering the pavilion would turn right and pass through security into the exhibition space, while employees would turn left to pass through turnstiles and proceed through the exhibition space to the existing building's main lobby. Two ramps at the north and south sides of the pavilion would negotiate the slight change in level between the new entrance and the original building.
Mr. Hassan discussed the additional goal of allowing visitors to see the historic building entrance through the glass facade of the proposed pavilion, rather than creating a prominent new facade that would compete with the existing architecture. He presented three options for treating the pavilion's facade. Alternative 1, the design team's preferred option, includes a square glass frame around the new entrance; he said this would highlight the powerful yet simple expression of the original building while the minimal treatment would defer to it. Alternative 2 would be similar, with the addition of a translucent glass panel on either side of the entrance to provide a transition from opaque to translucent to transparent glass; he said that this sequence of materials would focus people's attention on the existing building, again visible through the glass pavilion. Alternative 3 would use subtly detailed metal panels to flank the entrance. He explained the material selection in more detail through reference to a model, which also depicts the proposed circulation route and the extent of the exhibition area within the existing building. He added that most of the mechanical and support functions, including a bookstore and restrooms, would be placed on the lower level so that the lobby area would be a pure and open space. He presented a night view of the existing structure, observing that the area is currently very dark and that the new pavilion would add energy to this neighborhood.
Mr. Hassan presented samples of the proposed glass and metal materials for the Commission's inspection. He said that the primary cladding material for interior walls would be honed limestone panels, corresponding to the use of limestone on the exterior of the existing building; the exterior plaza would be paved either in granite, the preferred option, or in less durable Tennessee marble; and the exterior would be off–white glass to achieve a matte finish that would appear to glow at night. Ms. Nelson asked whether the limestone panels would have an irregular surface treatment similar to that of the existing building. Mr. Hassan responded that the panels on the interior walls would have a honed, polished texture; limestone would not be used on the exterior of the new pavilion.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the design solution is beautiful; she supported the second facade option, with the three different transparencies of glass, because the facade would glow in different ways at night. She noted that the existing building has a distinctive pattern of exterior stone joints and commented that this would be an important characteristic to reflect in the exterior treatment of the addition. She asked if more natural light could be introduced into the new underground spaces other than just through the stairwell. Finally, she asked for further discussion of the pavilion's roofline in relation to the delicate belt course surmounting the base of the existing building. She emphasized that this horizontal alignment is important and observed that the new building appears to be slightly taller than the string course, perhaps due to the programmatic requirements of the interior exhibition space. Similarly, she observed that the front plane of the pavilion appears to be slightly forward of the existing building's plane, perhaps due to programmatic requirements.
Mr. Hassan responded that the appearance of the joint pattern on the glass facade would be minimized by using butt joints to the extent feasible. The simplicity of the glass facade would be emphasized by not using a coping or cap at the top of the wall; at the bottom, where the glass cannot feasibly be extended to the ground due to the slight slope of the ground plane, the base material would be recessed. He noted that this simplicity includes the avoidance of supporting columns within the pavilion's central space; the roof would be supported by columns concealed within the flanking walls, as well as by portions of the existing building, and would also avoid the placement of new columns within the existing basement space. He said that options for bringing additional daylight to the basement–level spaces had been studied, such as using a larger area of glass floor, but the conclusion was to rely on the light supplied through the open stairwell which he said should provide a sufficient amount of daylight as well as visibility between the levels. He offered to reconsider the use of translucent glass in the floor but said that this would restrict the flexibility of the exhibition space.
Mr. Hassan discussed the question of the pavilion's height and front plane alignment. The design is intended to highlight the historic facade feature of the triple doorway, and the pavilion is slightly higher than this entrance facade in order to maximize the visibility of this feature. The front plane of the pavilion extends slightly forward of the existing building's front plane in order to distinguish the new pavilion from the historic building, and to provide some visibility for this public attraction such as for people looking north on 21st Street from the Mall; he said that providing sufficient space for the programmatic requirements was also an important concern, and the extent of the security screening areas has been reduced as much as possible.
Examining the model, Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the impression of the pavilion being higher than the base of the existing building may actually be an optical illusion; she suggested that the pavilion be somewhat lower than the base to compensate for this effect. Mr. Hassan offered to study this issue more closely, noting that it would involve the design of the pavilion's roof and possibly require reducing the depth of the beams.
Mr. Hassan said that the proposal includes the addition of two pieces of sculpture on either side of the pavilion to recall sculpture from the original decorative program; the originally intended sculptures had been developed only as mockups and were never fully executed. Ms. Nelson noted three other sculptures which appeared above the original entrance in a historic view; Mr. Hassan said that these were also mockups which were not fully executed.
Mr. Powell offered enthusiastic support for the design goal of allowing people to see the grandeur of the original building entrance as they enter the new pavilion. Mr. McKinnell asked if an alternative was examined to minimize the lintel over the entrance portal and instead carry the transparent glass higher up, resulting in a very thin line above the entrance rather than creating the image of a portal. Mr. Hassan responded that this approach was studied but the decision was to treat the new entrances as openings within a bigger frame, rather than attempt to make the openings disappear; he added that this concept is based on the design details of the original building.
Mr. McKinnell expressed admiration for the project, commenting that the handsome concept is emerging as strong architecture. He noted the tautness of the existing building's belt course that separates the base from the main section of the building, suggesting that this quality could somehow be suggested in the proposed pavilion. He asked whether Beyer Blinder Belle would be designing the interior sculptures or exhibits of the pavilion; Mr. Hassan said that his firm will be involved, and the project team includes the exhibit design firm Chermayeff & Geismar. Mr. McKinnell commented that the proposal to recreate the two lobby sculptures was witty but perhaps too obvious; Mr. Powell noted that the original sculptures had been rejected by the Commission, although the decision was debated extensively.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's overall support for the project. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission approved the concept proposal subject to the comments provided.
F. University of the District of Columbia
Mr. Lindstrom introduced the two related submissions from the University of the District of Columbia: a master plan for the Van Ness campus, and the concept design for a new student center on the campus. Both projects were initially reviewed by the Commission in April 2011. He asked Erik Thompson, the university's senior project manager for capital construction, to begin the two presentations. Mr. Thompson expressed appreciation for the Commission's previous comments and introduced the consultants who will be presenting the proposals: planner and architect Douglas McCoach of RTKL for the master plan; and, representing the design team for the student center, architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design and landscape architect Jeff Lee of Lee and Associates.
1. CFA 19/MAY/11–6, University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness Street, NW. Van Ness Campus Master Plan. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/11– 4.) Mr. McCoach noted that the master plan was presented fully in the April meeting and said that the new presentation would provide a brief summary and emphasize the response to the Commission's concerns. He summarized the university's goals of making the Van Ness campus the flagship of the evolving university system with increased enrollment. An additional goal is the construction of a student center; it has been funded by the D.C. government, which established a fall 2012 deadline. The university also envisions the construction of on–campus housing, which is not currently provided. The master plan provides further guidance for renovation and improvement projects that will enhance the sustainability of the campus.
Mr. McCoach presented views of the existing campus, constructed in the 1970s; the buildings share a vocabulary of materials, detailing, and scale. The center of the campus is Dennard Plaza; the eastern edge of the campus is Connecticut Avenue, which has commercial development and a Metro station. The chanceries of the International Center are to the west and south of the campus, and residential uses are further to the east and west as well as on the north.
Mr. McCoach summarized the three potential development sites identified in the master plan: the plaza along Connecticut Avenue, proposed for the student center due to the site's high visibility and commercial context; a site at the southwest corner of the campus along Van Ness Street, proposed as a student housing location because it is well buffered from existing residential areas; and a steep wooded grove in the northeast part of the campus, which is less desirable for further development. He noted the existing campus amenities in the vicinity of this grove that would remain in use: an outdoor amphitheater; the performing arts center; the athletics building; and outdoor tennis courts. He said that the student center site provides the opportunity to create an iconic design element for the university and a new entrance gateway from Connecticut Avenue to the higher elevation of Dennard Plaza. The 23–foot grade change is currently addressed by an enclosed set of escalators and stairs that he described as uninviting. He noted that the grade change is used to provide three levels of parking and service areas below Dennard Plaza.
Mr. McCoach discussed the varied perimeter conditions of the campus and the pedestrian entrances and circulation patterns. The master plan calls for improved graphics and identity elements at the primary pedestrian entrance points, as well as wayfinding graphics at additional entrance points. The pattern of circulation paths leading to the center of the campus would be reinforced. Streetscape improvements along the perimeter are being coordinated with the D.C. Office of Planning; the intention is for these improvements to become the framework for further improvements on nearby properties and in the street right–of–way.
Mr. McCoach noted the Commission's previous concern with the character of open spaces on the campus. He said that the initial campus design in the 1970s provided a clear focus on Dennard Plaza. Smaller open spaces at the periphery serve as entrances to the campus and plaza. The proposed student center would reinforce the major portal linking Dennard Plaza with Connecticut Avenue. The proposed residential building would provide a further opportunity to define an entrance space along Van Ness Street. The pedestrian circulation pattern and the configuration of buildings provide further opportunities for small–scale open spaces distributed throughout the campus. He added that the wooded grove provides an open space with a more pastoral character.
Mr. McCoach summarized the proposed sustainability improvements, reflecting the university's commitment to exceed the D.C. government's green building requirements. The area of pervious and planted areas would be increased by two acres on the twenty–acre campus. The installation of five green roofs has already been funded, and the design of these roofs has begun. The student center would have a green roof and would be designed for a LEED environmental rating of platinum.
Mr. McCoach described the transportation issues, which he said are an important part of the master plan. He noted the urban character of the campus and the university's commitment to enhancing pedestrian safety and transit use, resulting in the proposal to accommodate increased activity on the campus with no additional parking to be constructed. He said that the proposed student center would generally accommodate facilities that already exist elsewhere on the campus. For evening events, such as in the student center's ballroom, ample parking capacity would be available in the existing garage beneath Dennard Plaza. Overall, he said that the student center would simplify access to university facilities rather than generate new trips to the campus. He added that the student center would make use of existing loading and drop–off locations. He noted the bicycle facilities that would be added to the campus, and emphasized the proximity of bus and subway service. The university would pursue transportation demand management which involves policies and initiatives to minimize the impact of automobiles on the campus and encourage alternative forms of transportation.
Chairman Powell commented that the revised submission appears to address the Commission's comments from the previous review. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the proposed master plan seems sensible and expressed support for the analysis of existing conditions and identification of potential improvements. She suggested that the next step should be to define the desired spaces between the buildings. She emphasized the importance of developing a concept for the intended character of the spaces, rather than only addressing their distribution, function, and relationship to conditions beyond the campus; she nonetheless said that the consideration of the surroundings is appropriate.
Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the master plan concept. Chairman Powell asked about the university's other campuses in the city. Mr. Thompson responded that the university is currently undergoing a transformation to separate the flagship program at this campus from the community college functions, which are being located elsewhere in the city.
(Additional comments related to the master plan were provided during the discussion of the following agenda item.)
2. CFA 19/MAY/11–7, University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Avenue at Van Ness Street, NW. New student center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 21/APR/11– 5.) Mr. Marshall and Mr. Lee presented the revised version of the concept design for the student center. Mr. Marshall summarized the broader context of the site at the third of five retail nodes along Connecticut Avenue between the Rock Creek bridge and the Maryland border. He presented photographs of the site, indicating the existing Buildings 38 and 39 that "retreat from the public realm of Connecticut Avenue." The student center would be sited on the plaza between the avenue and these buildings to improve the urbanistic coherence and provide a gateway or front porch for the campus. The projection of the student center in front of Buildings 38 and 39, in conjunction with the shape of other buildings along Connecticut Avenue, would define an urban square framing the neighborhood's Metro station. He added that the student center's configuration also responds to the constraint of a Metro vault beneath the plaza. He indicated the smaller public spaces that would be created by the student center: the portal or vestibule space at the level of Dennard Plaza, elevated more than twenty feet above the Connecticut Avenue plaza; and a triangular rain garden between the student center and Building 39.
Mr. Lee discussed the potential for the student center to activate the Connecticut Avenue frontage of the campus. One opportunity would be the food service facility, which is evolving to be planned as a restaurant that would be available to the general public as well as the university community, an amenity provided at many universities. The restaurant would have direct public access from Connecticut Avenue as well as from within the student center; he added that the sloping grade makes this configuration difficult to achieve, and the alignment of the student center's first floor was established after careful study. Ms. Nelson noted the proposed retail space and asked if it would similarly have access from both the interior and exterior of the student center; Mr. Marshall responded that this issue is still being studied in relation to the sloping grade.
Mr. Lee noted the D.C. government initiative to improve the Connecticut Avenue corridor, and said that the student center would provide one of the first opportunities to implement this vision. Stormwater would be captured along the sidewalk and on the site to reduce the impact on the combined stormwater and sewer system; small–scale open spaces would be part of this strategy, providing a contemplative character that contrasts with the more active uses of the student center. He indicated several elements of the proposed plaza along Connecticut Avenue: large street trees, smaller cherry trees, a landscaped area set within the sloping grade, an informal amphitheater area, and a pattern of light–emitting pavers, or "light bricks," set within the plaza. Mr. Marshall also indicated the exterior grand staircase which would connect the Connecticut Avenue plaza to the Dennard Plaza level.
Mr. Marshall described the proposed organization of the student center around a three–story atrium; the roof would include planted areas and photovoltaic cells. He presented perspective views, acknowledging that some of the architectural details—such as the design of the proposed clock tower—have been superseded. He said that the staccato rhythm of the facade design would accommodate the placement of doors where desired for access to the interior functions.
Mr. Lee discussed the design of the triangular rain garden, acknowledging the Commission's concern with its character in the previous month's review. The small garden would contrast with the hardscape character of Dennard Plaza and would provide a connection between Van Ness Street and the first–floor food service area of the student center, with steps to accommodate the grade difference. It would face south but would be shaded by the existing canopy trees that would remain as well as by understory trees.
Ms. Nelson commented that this garden is a leftover space that ended up as a triangle due to the configuration of the adjacent buildings, recalling Ms. Balmori's concern the previous month regarding its character. Mr. Marshall responded that this garden was previously presented as having a more constricted exposure at its south end due to a cantilevered portion of the student center, as still shown on the model; however, this cantilever is no longer proposed, resulting in greater southern exposure for the garden. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the rain garden's adjacency to the restaurant; Mr. Lee confirmed that people could exit from the food service area directly into the garden. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the lack of windows in the wall between the dining area and the garden. Mr. Marshall said that this design has been adjusted and the proposed windows are shown in other drawings; he later clarified that the windows are from the existing library in Building 39, and windows would not be provided from the food service area to the rain garden due to the configuration of the kitchen. He said that priority was given to providing windows facing Connecticut Avenue, where they would help to reinforce the commercial character.
Mr. Marshall presented the interior plans, indicating the basement–level connection to the existing service bays beneath Dennard Plaza; the student center will therefore not require a new loading area. On the first floor, the main dining space would face toward Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street. The staircase and escalator area between Buildings 38 and 39 would be replaced by the proposed new vertical circulation; this area would be converted into lounge and support spaces, serving as an extended portion of the student center. He said that the exterior wall of the retail space would have windows to animate the streetscape, regardless of whether a direct exterior door is provided. Ms. Nelson asked about the elevation toward the existing building; Mr. Marshall confirmed that it would not have extensive windows, noting the rising grade along this wall. He indicated the significant grade difference between the student center's first floor and the existing floor level within Buildings 38 and 39. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about opportunities for outdoor dining. Mr. Marshall said that tables could be placed in the nearby outdoor areas such as along Connecticut Avenue and in the rain garden; Mr. Lee added that the second floor connects to an outdoor area at the level of Dennard Plaza, and people could bring food up from the restaurant to eat outdoors in this area. Mr. Marshall also described the proposed renovation of the adjacent portion of Building 38 in conjunction with the student center project, including a bookstore and coffee shop that would face Dennard Plaza. Mr. Lee noted that the second–floor entrance to the student center at the level of Dennard Plaza would be the primary entrance for many of the building's users—including those arriving from the below–grade parking, from the academic buildings, or from the planned dormitory; the treatment of this level is therefore important in relationship to Dennard Plaza, Connecticut Avenue, and the existing and proposed buildings. Mr. Marshall presented the student center's third–floor plan, indicating the ballroom to the south, the atrium, conference rooms, lounge space, and an outdoor terrace.
Mr. Marshall presented the proposed elevations, which use metal panels with a terra cotta color to add a warm tone to the existing vocabulary of concrete and glass. The color palette would also relate to the dark anodized mullions on the existing buildings. A clock tower is proposed to emphasize the importance of the "public square" being created. The windows of the student center would be smaller than the monumentally scaled windows of the existing building, helping to reduce the sense of scale; the smaller windows would also improve the environmental performance of the building and conform to a LEED rating criterion of at least sixty percent solid wall. He presented the previous and current proposals for the elevation along the rain garden, indicating the continuation of the panels to the ground, rather than creating windows along the partially exposed first floor which might suggest an undesirable basement character; he said that the panel configuration allows for the addition of windows if the interior configuration would accommodate them. He indicated the revised south elevation, where the large area of windows for the ballroom and fitness center have been eliminated in response to the Commission's previous comments; the system of metal panels would now extend across this area, and portions of the panels would be omitted to allow for windows.
Mr. Marshall and Mr. Lee concluded by presenting a series of perspective views of the proposal. Mr. Lee noted the site's prominent visibility for commuters driving southbound on Connecticut Avenue in the morning, and indicated the angle of morning sunlight that would illuminate the student center. Mr. Marshall summarized the proposed materials, including the metal panels, spandrel glass, and clear glass. He said that solar shading devices are being studied for possible inclusion in the project—vertical along the east and west facades, and horizontal on the south.
Chairman Powell commented that the project has progressed significantly since the previous month's review. Mr. McKinnell said that, although he was not present at the previous review, the current drawings appear improved over the previous depictions. Ms. Nelson agreed that the design has improved and many of the problematic issues have been resolved. However, she said that the adjacency of the proposed student center to the existing building appears awkward and unresolved, with the buildings almost but not quite touching; she suggested further study of this area. She also commented that the design of the clock tower is unsatisfactory, with just a single modest clock on one side; she recommended that the clock be bolder to serve as a beacon along Connecticut Avenue, with perhaps an additional clock that is visible from Dennard Plaza. Mr. Powell agreed, suggesting greater emphasis on the clock and less on the tower.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the prevailing materials of glass and metal, and she questioned the use of brick—a more traditional and smaller–scale material—for the base of the building. Mr. Thompson responded that the brick may be eliminated from the design, and spandrel glass would be extended downward; this change would simplify the palette, resulting in a more clean and concise design. Mr. Powell supported such a revision. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that another option for the base could be stone that has a machined finish, comparable to the character of the other materials; she noted that the sloping grade results in difficult edge conditions for the building's base, and spandrel glass may be a problematic material in this situation.
Mr. McKinnell observed that the proposed architectural character is markedly different from the existing campus, which he said is an understandable design strategy. However, he said that the relationship could be developed through such details as the color choice for the metal panels, which could relate more closely to some of the existing features of the campus. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the material selected for the base of the student center could similarly contribute to the project's relationship with the existing campus. She said that this concern relates to the comment on the master plan that an overall aesthetic goal should be developed for the campus, and the student center project could serve as the initial means of implementing this goal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the modest floor–to–floor height of the second level, which she described as the piano nobile aligned with the central space of the campus, Dennard Plaza; she noted that this level appears shorter than the first and third floors. She acknowledged the difficulty of aligning the new levels with the existing buildings but recommended consideration of increasing the appearance of the second floor height to correspond to the importance of this level. Mr. Marshall responded that various floor heights were considered during the quick design schedule for the project, and he offered to examine this issue further as the design is developed.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept submission subject to the comments provided for further development of the design.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act
OG 11–110, 1045 Wisconsin Avenue, NW (south of the C&O Canal). New mixed–use (residential and retail) building. Concept. Ms. Barsoum introduced the proposal for a new mixed–use building on a site in the heart of commercial Georgetown. She said that the project has been reviewed three times by the Old Georgetown Board, which recommends concept approval for one option that would provide a large amount of glazing on the first floor, similar to the character of other commercial buildings in Georgetown. She asked architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan said that the site is notable because it faces both Wisconsin Avenue and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and is also across from the extensive front garden of Grace Episcopal Church, providing an unusual variety of frontages and a context of open space. He said that the proposed building would rise four stories from the street with first–floor retail space and upper–floor apartments; on the side facing the canal, the building will extend down an additional floor. He described the proposed materials as sympathetic to the character of Georgetown, and said that the massing and fenestration have been kept simple and unified through defining the base, the body of the building, and the top.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why the proposed materials are different on the various levels of the building. Mr. Hassan said that the intention is to create a base, predominantly expressed in stone, that would relate the building to the street frontages, the canal, and the church. The brick middle portion of the building would be treated with two–story–high window openings using spandrels between the windows. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for further explanation of the materials indicated on the drawings; Mr. Hassan clarified that the depiction of the glazed top stories of the building includes clear glass, spandrel glass, and the shadow of the projecting overhang; he confirmed that a change of material is not intended by the dark shadow line. He also indicated the metal panels that would be included on the facade. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that an upper portion of the facades is rendered with a gridded pattern, and she requested that the next submission clarify the proposed range of materials. She acknowledged the overall intention that the building would progress from heavier materials, such as stone at the bottom, to lighter materials such as brick and metal; but she observed that a second type of masonry would be applied to the brick wall, and the proposal also includes both black spandrel glass and black metal. Mr. Hassan said the material palette uses black steel and glass as the prevailing texture throughout the project. Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Plater–Zyberk's concern; he commented that the building appears simple and unified in the model, while the renderings illustrate too many materials, too many changes, and too many types of architecture for one building. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that at least the proportions appear simple.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why the building volume is notched at one corner. Mr. Hassan responded that this corner of the building was pulled back to reveal a portion of the stone wall of the bridge carrying Wisconsin Avenue over the canal. Mr. Luebke noted that this setback had been suggested by the Commission staff and was supported by the Old Georgetown Board to maintain the legibility of the canal setting and the retaining wall. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the massing of the building across the street has a similar setback and commented that this design feature seems appropriate.
Chairman Powell suggested a motion for approval that would incorporate the comments of the Commission members concerning the proposed materials. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has received the report of the Old Georgetown Board, which supports approval of the concept and requests simplification of various rooftop elements; he said that the Commission may wish to adopt the Board's recommendation along with the additional comments concerning the overall simplification of the materials. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Powell agreed with this procedure. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the report of the Old Georgetown Board with the additional recommendation to simplify the overall treatment of exterior materials as the design is developed.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:47 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: June 24, 2011