Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
20 October 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.
A. Administration of oath of office to Teresita Fernández. Mr. Luebke introduced Teresita Fernández, who has been appointed by the President to a four–year term on the Commission, and administered the oath of office to her. He summarized Ms. Fernández's background as a sculptor and visual artist whose work explores issues of perception, including projects that are large in scale and inspired by landscape and natural phenomena. He cited her installations in Japan, Philadelphia, and Seattle, and the numerous fellowships and awards that she has received.
B. Recognition of Pamela Nelson's service, 2001 to 2011. Mr. Luebke reported that Ms. Fernández replaces Pamela Nelson, who has served on the Commission since September 2001. He read a letter from Ms. Nelson expressing her appreciation to the Commission and the staff and her welcome of Ms. Fernández. He noted that Ms. Nelson would be present later in the meeting; Chairman Powell said that the Commission has prepared a letter in her honor, which can be read into the record when she is present. (This was subsequently presented to Ms. Nelson upon her arrival later in the morning.)
Chairman Powell noted that Ms. Nelson had been serving as the Commission's Vice–Chairman; he nominated Ms. Plater–Zyberk to fill the vacancy in that position. Upon a second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission elected Ms. Plater–Zyberk as the Vice–Chairman.
C. Approval of the minutes of the 15 September meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
D. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 17 November 2011, 19 January 2012, and 16 February 2012; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December.
E. Monumental Core Framework Plan: recipient of the 2011 Professional Honor Award for Analysis and Planning from the American Society of Landscape Architects. Mr. Luebke reported that the Monumental Core Framework Plan, jointly developed by the Commission with the National Capital Planning Commission and issued in 2009, has received a national award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. He read a portion of the jury comments in bestowing the 2011 Professional Honor Award for Analysis and Planning, including the jury's emphasis on Washington as an important example for all American cities and therefore deserving of careful thought in its ongoing planning. He added that the Commission staff continues to work with the National Capital Planning Commission to further the initiatives proposed in the Framework Plan. Chairman Powell reiterated the Commission's support of the plan and its future implementation. Mr. Luebke noted the typically lengthy process of achieving such planning visions, citing the example of the McMillan Commission's proposals as depicted in the historic artwork displayed in the Commission's meeting room.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft consent calendar; however, in the attached listing of actions on projects previously delegated to the staff, a listing has been added for the staff's approval of the west access road at the west campus of St. Elizabeths. He noted that this project was reviewed by the Commission in July 2011. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix, which she noted is unusually short. Three recommendations have been changed from unfavorable to favorable based on revisions to the proposed designs (case numbers SL 11–156, 11–158, and 11–159). Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.H.1 and II.H.2 for additional Shipstead–Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported the changes to the draft appendix. Several recommendations have been updated in response to supplemental materials. Several projects have been removed from the appendix at the request of the applicants; these projects are being revised and will be resubmitted for further review by the Old Georgetown Board. Five projects have been added that were recently submitted for review in November but will not be visible from public space and are therefore outside the Commission's jurisdiction; these projects will instead be referred to the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. For several projects, he requested the Commission's authorization to finalize the actions at a later date–to provide an opportunity for the Board to inspect an on–site sample of a window installation project (case number OG 11–291), and for the staff to complete the review of the supplemental drawings that were recently submitted for alterations at Washington Harbour (case numbers OG 11–283 and 11–284) to verify conformance with the stated design intent. Mr. Powell supported this authorization. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 20/OCT/11–1, National Museum of African American History and Culture, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/11–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept submission for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He said the project was most recently presented in March 2011, when the Commission approved the concept; the design team has subsequently made refinements to the site design–including the linear aquatic garden on the north edge, the oculus, the south water feature, and the entrance plaza–and to the building design including changes to the south porch, the corona, and the night lighting. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the revised design addresses the Commission's previous comments. She anticipated submitting the final design for Commission review in September 2012, and the museum's opening is planned for November 2015. She introduced architect Phil Freelon, the managing partner of the design team, to continue the presentation. Mr. Freelon expressed appreciation for the comments provided by the Commission and the staff; he introduced architect David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates and landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol to present the design.
Mr. Adjaye summarized the recent development of the design. The above–ground volume of the building is smaller, and the front porch's projection beyond the Mall setback line established by the McMillan Plan has been reduced from 32 feet to 24.5 feet. The cubic volume of the building is approximately 216 feet on each side at the ground plane; on the upper floors, the corona splays outward on all sides. The large skylight at the west side of the site has been eliminated, and a sunken area has instead been developed between the service ramp and the main building that will bring light into underground spaces. The entrance sequence in the landscape has been refined, which he said integrates the oculus feature more successfully with the north plaza. He presented a section showing the height of the proposed museum in relation to the Department of Commerce headquarters in the Federal Triangle directly to the north: the corona would align with the top balustrade of the projecting front colonnade of the Commerce headquarters, and the top of the museum would be at the same height as the Commerce roof ridge.
Mr. Adjaye presented the development of the museum's internal configuration. The exhibit galleries would extend to the building's lowest level, fifty feet below grade, and the exhibit designers are refining the sequence of historical exhibits; he noted that the oculus will be a central element in this sequence. He indicated the four vertical cores which establish the organization of the plans, and the lobby–level orientation theater which would be a key feature. The design for security screening at the entrances is intended to allow pedestrian traffic to flow easily; after passing through security, visitors will enter the central hall which will offer a clear view to the north and south, an important intent of the design. He indicated the location of escalators, the library, a small cafe adjacent to the roof of the porch, and the gallery levels. Various locations in the building would offer framed views to key features of the context–such as the White House, Federal Triangle, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument– through "lenses" or small windows. He noted the continuing effort to coordinate the bronze corona with the lens openings; the most prominent opening, on the west facade, would provide a view of the Washington Monument through a diagonal slot that results from the angle of the corona. The porch would be the dominant feature of the south elevation. He added that the sawtooth skylight system on the roof has been lowered so that it will not be visible from the ground. He then asked Ms. Gustafson to present the landscape design.
Ms. Gustafson addressed the Commission's comments from the previous review in March. She recalled the Commission's support for the simplicity of the site design and for the overall design of the south side, including the sloping lawn, the reflecting pool, and the paved area at the entrance. She noted the Commission's criticism of the rain garden on the north as inappropriately naturalistic for the urban context of Constitution Avenue; this has been redesigned as an aquatic garden, and the overall character along the Constitution Avenue sidewalk is more formal. The Commission had questioned the prominence of the grade–level skylights in the landscape; some have been eliminated from the proposal, and the oculus has been better integrated into the design of the north plaza and entrance. The Commission had also recommended further study of the south water feature including the acoustic effect of the moving water as a potential distraction from programming; the design of this area has been developed and will be presented in further detail.
Ms. Gustafson summarized several important concepts of the landscape design in support of the overall museum project. One fundamental idea is for visitors to cross the water, which is expressed on the site with the two pedestrian bridges across the aquatic garden along Constitution Avenue. Another important theme is the creation of reading groves as places for people to gather and tell stories. She discussed the symbolic introduction of a blue color in the landscape, explaining that blue beads are often found at the thresholds of historic African–American dwellings and signify protection and entrance into a safe place. This idea would be represented in the landscape through the use of blue flowers. She noted additional design gestures to ensure that the site has a welcoming character, such as integrating the required thirty–inch–high security barrier wall as a landscape element.
Ms. Gustafson discussed the context analysis that has influenced the refinement of the design. The context to the east of the museum site, particularly along Constitution Avenue, is more formal; for example, the area in front of the National Museum of American History has a sidewalk with formal borders of granite curbs and a granite wall. In contrast, the Washington Monument grounds to the southwest have no buildings or curbs, instead making a soft transition between sidewalk and lawn. She said that as a result of this study the proposed site design on the north is now more formal: the lawn panels would be framed with granite curbs, and a double allee of elms is proposed to match the elm planting along the rest of Constitution Avenue.
Ms. Gustafson provided further details of the site design and entry experience, beginning with the northern part of the site. Visitors approaching from Constitution Avenue would ascend to the grade of the north building entrance, which would be located in the middle of the site above the flood level; the slope would be approximately five percent which people can traverse easily. The oculus near the north entrance would represent a lantern or the moon, referring to the tradition of escaped slaves using the light of lanterns and the moon to reach freedom, and would also join the context of circular water features along Constitution Avenue. She added that the plaza would not be visible as people begin to approach it from Constitution Avenue due to the sloping grade; the movement of the waterfall around the elevated oculus is intended to help draw people up to the entrance. She said that when people arrive at the entry on the north plaza they should feel that they are in another realm–the realm of the museum–which she described as both a physical and psychological movement away from the surrounding streets. Another image represented in the landscape is the plank, significant in African–American history as a reference to planks on boats and on porches; a softer and more integrated paving is being studied for the plaza around the oculus, perhaps alternating "planks" of paving with strips of lawn, a treatment that would also reduce the amount of permeable surface. The paving of the footbridges would be distinct from the walks, and the plank paving throughout the site would serve to break down the scale; the paving would be light in color to resemble the existing sidewalks in the vicinity.
Ms. Gustafson described the three proposed reading groves which have been developed with three themes: spirituality, hope and optimism, and resiliency. The spirituality grove, located in the northeast corner, would reflect the tradition of the "shout ring" and would use low stones of varied heights to provide comfortable seating for people of different ages. The second grove, representing hope and optimism, would draw on the image of shaking and holding hands as a means of creating strong bonds between people and hope for the future through its configuration of low seating areas. The third grove, symbolizing resiliency, would suggest strength by recalling the history of African–American quilting and weaving in its disposition of stones for seating.
Ms. Gustafson presented the development of the south plaza. The design of the water feature has been studied carefully. It retains the same principles as before, incorporating both moving water and still water to reflect the Washington Monument; the issue has been how to make this area more legible when seen from the museum while not encouraging people to walk into the water. A long, low bench is proposed as an integral part of the pool, and quotations would be inscribed into the stone of the bench and pool; visitors leaving the museum would therefore be able to stop and read the quotations, configured to suggest the form of an open book. She said that the details of the text treatment are being studied; block lettering was considered but seemed too harsh, and a handwritten form is preferred to give a more personal expression. She added that the text would cover the entire surface of the stone under the water; when the pool is empty in winter the basin would serve as a piece of sculpture, and when the pool is full in summer the water would be moving in only one area before disappearing into a catch basin.
Ms. Gustafson said that the Smithsonian has requested the inclusion of an outdoor refreshment venue and this would be located at the southeast part of the site, as part of the larger grouping along 14th Street of utilitarian features such as the loading dock driveway, security wall, and bicycle parking; she emphasized the intention for this area to appear as an organized composition that is part of the museum design rather than as a back–of–house area. She indicated the proposed planting of deciduous shrubs and perennials that would soften the appearance of the security wall.
Ms. Gustafson discussed other plantings proposed throughout the site: trees will be chosen to match those of the Washington Monument grounds, with large shade trees including American elms, oaks, and maples, and flowering trees such as Yoshino cherries and magnolias; a mix of evergreens would help define edges and integrate the security wall into the landscape. There would be areas of low groundcover, and the green roof above the porch would include a variety of sedums; areas of perennials would be used for color but these would always be on the east, not on the more prominent west side.
Mr. Adjaye then provided further details of the changes to the south porch. Previously the two supporting columns of the porch had been spaced wider than the glazed entry lobby; now the columns have been brought closer together to frame the building more effectively. The cantilever distance has also been reduced to improve the relationship of the porch to the volume of the corona. He said that study is continuing of how the structure reaches the ground, with the goals of articulating the joints and developing an elegant detail for the waterproofing.
Mr. Adjaye described the development of the corona. The patterned metal panels on the surface would relate the corona to the cast–iron craft traditions of ironwork forges established by African–Americans in places such as southern Louisiana and Charleston, South Carolina; this craft formed part of the tradition and architecture of the South, and he said that the patterned panels are compelling because of their ability to moderate climate and frame views. The design is being developed using geometric triangulation to abstract the traditional organic ironwork pattern as a series of nodal triangles, and the study of different patterns and densities is continuing. He said that the most visually porous density of 65 percent would be used where the escalators are located to provide views for visitors, while a 90–percent density would be used in areas that need only minimal daylight such as dappled light in the atrium. Details of the panel assembly are also being studied. He discussed the different options for fabricating the panels; his preference is a casting process that has a finished front and back with a three–dimensional surface quality that responds richly to the varying direction of daylight, rather than a simple planar surface with laser–cut openings. He said that mockups of the panels are being prepared in different materials: a zinc–alloy bronze cast in sand to obtain a deep texture, and a ductile concrete casting that allows a more precise geometry; a high–tech aluminum foam casting has been rejected. The various options include stamping and using casts of different thicknesses; the design team is continuing to consider how imperfections can add richness to the corona surface. He provided the Commission with material samples of cast concrete and bronze using various methods.
Mr. Adjaye then discussed night lighting of the museum. He said a lighting consultant has completed a study of all buildings on the Mall, determining that the brightest spots are the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol which are each at nine candelas per square meter; the Capitol dome is three candelas and the Monument is brightest at its midpoint, while the museum buildings range from 0.3 to 1 candelas. The intended lighting level for the proposed museum's corona is 0.1 to 0.5 candelas, below the lighting level of the other museums; he said that this building will not need to be bright to be a presence on the Mall. The landscape lighting would highlight various elements on the site: the crossing of the bridges over the north pool; the oculus, which would appear as a bright lens; and the south reflecting pool and porch. He added that the backlighting of the corona from the interior will create a soft granular glow, supplemented with highlighting to reinforce the corona's horizontal lines. Mr. Adjaye concluded the presentation with a video animation illustrating a 360–degree view of the museum, circling around the site and adjoining buildings.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation to the design team and the Smithsonian for the impressive presentation; he added that the development of this project has been gratifying to witness and acknowledged the responsiveness of the design team to the Commission's comments.
Ms. Balmori joined in complimenting the presentation and the design. She suggested further study of the relationship between the seating areas and the siting of trees. She supported the effort to extend the character of the Mall's tree placement into the site but suggested that more trees be provided, particularly around the reading groves, to provide adequate summer shade that would be consistent with the intended welcoming character of the site. She expressed support for the design of the porch but questioned the use of the water beneath the canopy, commenting that this feature is not well defined within the overall composition and asking how this pool would differ from the water feature on the north side of the site. She commented that the walks through the landscape would work extremely well and supported the detail of changing the materials for the two walks leading from Constitution Avenue.
Mr. Adjaye responded by describing the purposes of the south water feature. Visitors will have the symbolic experience of passing alongside the water to reach the south entrance. The water would also contribute to the goal of making this south–facing porch a welcoming entrance, in part by reducing the temperature at the porch through the evaporation of water from the pool. Ms. Gustafson added that the original concept was for visitors to cross over the water here but this would not be practical due to the large number of people arriving on this side, and therefore the entry route would instead pass alongside the pool. She said that the water feature also incorporates symbolic references to the future: near the still water, people can reflect on where they have come from and where they are going; by the moving water, they can reflect on the difficulties they have overcome to reach this point. Responding to Ms. Balmori's comment about trees, Ms. Gustafson agreed that a greater variety of trees would be desirable to add seasonal interest, but additional trees in many areas may be problematic due to the requirement to maintain open view corridors across the site toward the Washington Monument.
Ms. Balmori acknowledged the enormous effort to create the lacy quality of the corona surface and asked whether it would be legible with the proposed night lighting, which apparently would emphasize the building's horizontal lines. Mr. Adjaye responded that either emphasis could be achieved through the lighting, and the renderings are intended to illustrate the range of possible lighting effects. Ms. Balmori recommended placing emphasis on the lacy effect of the surface panels.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that each presentation of this project conveys the development of very compelling design ideas. She commented that the extensive use of glass at the building's base needs further study, particularly in comparison to the convincing development of the concept for the corona above. She said that the base is shown as a very simple design, perhaps resembling a standard storefront system, and she recommended a more nuanced treatment of the glass because it will be such a prominent part of the design now; she acknowledged that the sense of an underdeveloped design for the base may result from comparison to the more complex design of the corona and landscape. Mr. Adjaye responded that one of the renderings of the base is a simplified image that does not show the four vertical cores within the lobby; he said that people will clearly see the cores through the glass wall and will not read a sheer surface. He noted that the cores would be close to the glass and surrounded by important parts of the program, which would also be visible. Ms. Plater–Zyberk clarified that her concern is with the detailing of the glass; for example, the junction of the corona and the glass has been carefully studied, but the junction of the glass and the ground plane is equally important. She asked if mullions would be used at this location, and if they would be aluminum, observing that this glass base looks like a conventional storefront system in the rendering.
Mr. Adjaye responded that the ground plane is being developed as a non–reflecting clear structural glass; bronze mullions would be placed on the interior with a capping detail on the exterior. He added the glass would be in panels and would not read as a storefront but is intended to be a very elegant design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the importance of these details because this is an area that will have functional needs, such as doors and exit signs, that could overwhelm the design. Mr. Adjaye said that the design team has made studies of a door without a visually disruptive framing system, but these were not included in this presentation. Mr. Luebke asked about a previous proposal for a double–panel glazing system around the lobby. Mr. Adjaye confirmed the previous design of a single exterior skin combined with a double–glazed skin on the interior; he said that a simpler solution has now been developed, but this layered detail would be used for the entry area so that revolving doors would not be necessary. Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification of the design intention for the base. Mr. Adjaye confirmed that the goal is to make the lobby wall as transparent as possible, using full–height glass and minimal mullions, and he reiterated the importance of visitors having clear views across and from within the lobby.
Ms. Fernández observed that the site design is composed of multiple places for experience and contemplation with elements that are designed to relate to the human scale as well as to be functional–particularly at the reading groves. She expressed concern about the design of the south water feature and suggested that it be simplified to emphasize the water. She anticipated that the design of the text would distract from sufficient concern for the text's content. For example, the difficulty of reading text through water might require that the size of the text be larger than appropriate for the handwritten style; the resulting proportions of the letters would form a pattern that competes with the pattern of the corona panels. She also observed that water inherently seems to have motion and questioned the need for having an area of water that is physically moving; she suggested instead that a welcome contrast be created between animated water that is only on the north side, at the oculus, and a more contemplative south side of the museum using a pool of reflecting still water.
Ms. Gustafson responded that the intention is to program the south water feature to sometimes be moving and sometimes be calm, depending on the type of activity at this area. She said that Washington has many spaces that appear too big and empty without tourists, and the goal here is a space that could be animated. She said that study of the size and legibility of the script is just beginning, and agreed that the corona and the text should not compete with each other. She said that mockups may be prepared to determine if the words could be read through still water. She added that she is also developing the design of the wide seating bench along the pool to make it more welcoming; the pool is intended to be massive and sculptural, not just a basin. Mr. Powell emphasized the need for a mockup.
Ms. Fernández suggested using a limited amount of text–perhaps on portions of the bench or in more intimate areas of the site–so that the text could have a more poignant and subtle character, rather than covering a larger surface as a pattern. Ms. Gustafson acknowledged the extensive patterning in the presented version but said that dozens of additional studies have been prepared that do not have this problem. She said that further study is needed of the number and spacing of the quotations with consideration of the distance from which they will be viewed. Ms. Fernández emphasized that the quotations could be very effective if the act of reading them became an intimate moment, comparable to the other spaces created in this landscape.
Ms. Fernández offered several comments on the options for the material for the corona panels. She expressed enthusiasm for using actual bronze and not a material that only resembles bronze, commenting that bronze would have a psychological and conceptual connection to the history of metal casting–not just in the American South but also in Africa. She said that using an imitation material would be less poetic, observing that people would see the panels in close proximity while inside the building, and a material that might look like bronze from a distance will not resemble it on close inspection. Ms. Gustafson responded by citing the terminals at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris: an older terminal was constructed of concrete using formwork of wood slats; she initially assumed that a newer terminal with a similar finish was also concrete, and was surprised to discover upon touching it that the surface is actually wood. She said that the design team would like to use real bronze for the museum's corona but the technical feasibility is not certain; Mr. Adjaye added that the concerns also include the weight and expense of bronze. Ms. Balmori commented that another of the samples for the corona panels would also be interesting to pursue; Mr. Adjaye confirmed that a full range of options is still being considered.
Mr. McKinnell commented that this project is improving as the design is developed, and he emphasized the importance of refining the design of the corona panel system. He observed that bronze undergoes a gradual process of patination that shows the passage of time and would complement the essence of the whole scheme–the union of intimacy and monumentality, which he said is achieved wonderfully but must be carried through into the exterior material. He expressed confidence that this would be achieved if it is understood as an objective of the design. Mr. Adjaye agreed with this approach and provided further details of the alloys being considered; the intention is for the surface of the panels to have liveliness and not just be flat, but the issue of maintenance is a critical concern for the museum, along with the goals of monumentality, symbolism, aesthetics, and the emotional quality of the material.
Chairman Powell said that the Commission's comments have raised engaging issues. He added a comment about the reading groves, supporting their design in concept but observing that they would need to be animated by the presence of visitors to be successful; however, they would not be well used in winter, which may give them a forlorn and abandoned appearance. He suggested further consideration of the year–round character of these spaces. He concluded by expressing the Commission's enthusiasm for the refinement of the design and interest in seeing the next stage of its development.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised concept with the comments provided.
C. National Park Service
1. CFA 20/OCT/11–2, Memorial to the Victims of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932–1933, NPS Reservation #78, at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, F and North Capitol Streets. New memorial. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/SEP/08–2, site selection.) Mr. Luebke introduced the project submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the government of the Ukraine for two alternative concept designs for the Memorial to the Victims of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932–1933, intended to educate the public about this historical event known as the "Holodomor." He noted that that this memorial was authorized by law in January 2006 in accordance with the Commemorative Works Act; in 2008 the Commission approved a site at the intersection of F Street and Massachusetts Avenue adjacent to North Capitol Street; and in 2010 the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Tourism held a juried international design competition, resulting in the selection of the two submitted designs from the 52 submissions. He described the project team's preferred scheme, called Field of Wheat, featuring a six–foot–tall bronze sculptural wall depicting wheat stalks which change across the length of the wall from high to negative relief, symbolizing the transition from an ample harvest to an induced food shortage. The alternative scheme, Shooting Hands, would be a 10–foot–high bronze sculpture of an empty pair of gaunt hands mounted on a small plinth. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission has received several letters from groups and individuals–including one survivor of the famine–all in support of the memorial and the Field of Wheat design in particular; he noted the presence of several people who have asked to address the Commission concerning this project. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation; Mr. May asked Vasyl Zvarych of the Embassy of Ukraine to offer introductory remarks.
Mr. Zvarych discussed the history of the Holodomor, a famine that was deliberately inflicted by the regime of Josef Stalin on Ukrainian farmers and peasants who resisted the agricultural collectivization policy of the Soviet Union. He said that up to 10 million Ukrainians starved as a result of the Holdomor, a greater number than in any other such famine in modern European history. He described the ban on discussing the Holodomor during the period of Soviet rule; the Communist regime concealed knowledge of the event from the international community as well as from the Ukrainian people, and only after Ukrainian independence in 1991 was the extent of the tragedy revealed. He said that the Ukrainian government believes it is a moral and national duty to commemorate those killed to help prevent such crimes in the future, and there are now memorials to the Holodomor in many countries. He concluded by predicting that this memorial would help bring Ukraine and the U.S. closer, communicating that both nations share the same values and honoring all who have sacrificed their lives to defend freedom. He then introduced Michael Sawkiw, chairman of the U.S. Committee for Holodomor Genocide Awareness.
Mr. Sawkiw described Washington as a city of monuments, and also a place of hope and democracy, and therefore a fitting place for this new memorial. He recognized the presence of a staff member from the office of Representative Sander Levin–a sponsor of the bill authorizing the memorial–and of colleagues from the Ukrainian–American community. He then asked Mary Kay Lanzillotta of Hartman–Cox Architects to present the design alternatives.
Ms. Lanzillotta described the context of the small triangular site including the adjacent streets, Union Station a block to the east, and the Georgetown Law Center a block to the west. Immediately to the west of the site is a small triangular building designed by William Van Alen and occupied by a bank. To the south across F Street are commercial structures including two restaurants; she said that the preferred scheme, the Field of Wheat, would partially screen the site from the restaurants to achieve a more contemplative character. She said that the normal building lines along Massachusetts Avenue and F Street would leave very little buildable area on the site, a common constraint of these triangular parks, and memorials on such sites are therefore often placed forward of the building line. She presented a view of the Victims of Communism Memorial on another small triangular site at the intersection of Massachusetts and New Jersey Avenues, a block to the northwest.
Ms. Lanzillotta described the Field of Wheat design as a six–foot–high bronze bas–relief sculpture set on a low granite plinth toward the south side of the site; the name "Holodomor" and the dates along the lower edge would change from negative to positive relief, offsetting the shifting relief of the wheat sculpture. The wall–relief would end with a small text panel at the west, inflected to align with the Massachusetts Avenue building line. In front of the sculpture, to the north, would be a plaza with a bench; the paving would be slate with a texture reminiscent of a plowed but barren wheat field. Between the plaza and the Massachusetts Avenue sidewalk would be a low planting bed containing groundcover. A row of red beech trees would be along the F Street sidewalk; the height of the mature beech trees would correspond to the cornice line of the bank building, and the striking form and color of the trees would provide a frame behind the memorial. She provided samples of the slate, granite, and bronze finishes; people would be able to touch the bronze of the sculpture, as they do at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in West Potomac Park, and the appearance of the bronze may change over time. She said the memorial would also include a standard National Park Service interpretive sign at the eastern corner of the site to inform people about the tragedy and to provide a website address for further information.
Ms. Lanzillotta then described the second design alternative, Shooting Hands. The sculpture would be placed in the center of the triangular park, allowing it to be viewed from all sides, similar to the siting of the sculptures at the nearby Victims of Communism Memorial and the memorials to Tomáš Masaryk and Mahatma Gandhi located on Massachusetts Avenue west of Dupont Circle. The sculpture would be set within a small plaza that would open to both F Street and Massachusetts Avenue; the sculpture would be oriented toward the avenue. The fingers on each of the sculpture's two hands would represent five stalks of wheat because, during the Holodomor, possessing five stalks of wheat was a punishable offense. Benches would be provided at the edges of the plaza, and trees would provide dappled shade; the trees may include hornbeam, beech, or ash, all native to Ukraine. She presented samples of the proposed materials and finishes for the benches, paving, and the bronze sculpture. Ms. Lanzillotta added that the memorial would rely on ambient streetlight and would not include additional lighting, and all stormwater runoff would be contained on the site using the landscaped areas.
Mr. Powell expressed support for the project team's preferred alternative, Field of Wheat, describing it as an "important design." Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the treatment of the wall supporting the Field of Wheat bas–relief. She acknowledged that the wall is intended to partially screen the memorial experience from the commercial activity across F Street, but commented that this use may change in time; she recommended giving more attention to designing the south side of the wall, not merely as the back but as a feature within the larger context of the city. Similarly, she recommended that the placement of street trees should follow the established pattern and spacing for Washington's streets. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that existing street trees are shown near the street curbs; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that additional trees should be planted as needed to tie the site into the urban context and repair any gaps in the prevailing pattern, separate from the landscape design within the memorial itself. Ms. Lanzillotta responded that the design of the sidewalk area would be coordinated with the D.C. Office of Planning. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added her support for the intended treatment of stormwater and reliance on existing lighting in the vicinity.
Ms. Balmori offered strong support for the Field of Wheat alternative but commented that the framing effect of the wall weakens the sculpture; she said the design would be far stronger and more powerful if the framing effect were eliminated and the sculpture instead extended to the end of the wall. Mr. McKinnell also supported Field of Wheat as by far the better of the two design alternatives. He agreed with Ms. Balmori about the challenge presented by the wall on which the bronze is mounted, citing the successful example in Boston of Augustus Saint–Gaudens's Shaw Memorial where the large bronze relief sculpture is set within an architectural framework; he said that the memorial's wall must be something more than just a wall. Ms. Lanzillotta agreed and offered to study the wall further.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission supported the Field of Wheat alternative with the request for further study of the wall's design and framing effect, and of the memorial's relationship to the larger urban context.
2. CFA 20/OCT/11–3, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2700 F Street, NW) and Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. Pedestrian access stairs between terrace and trail. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA18/OCT/07–5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised concept for stairs and elevators to provide access between the terrace of the Kennedy Center and the multi–use trail in the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. He noted that the project was last reviewed by the Commission in October 2007, and asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said the design process has been complicated because it involves coordination among four different public entities: the Federal Highway Administration, the D.C. Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He noted that the project arose from a wide–ranging plan for access improvements at the Kennedy Center. The site involves a narrow strip of land between the parkway's road and the Potomac River; within this strip is a multi–use trail that is very popular with pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers. He also noted the importance of views from the parkway to the river. He presented photographs of the existing conditions, with the only safe pedestrian crossing between the riverfront and the Kennedy Center at a traffic light along the roadway. He described the proposed placement of the paired stairs and elevators that would be aligned with the two fountains on the Kennedy Center terrace, which themselves are aligned with the building's Hall of States and Hall of Nations. He indicated the cantilever of the terrace over a portion of the roadway and the thirty–foot height difference between the terrace and the riverfront. He said that the concept submitted in 2007 had included a pair of light, graceful stairways with glass elevator pavilions, and the current submission involves no significant change to this design. He introduced architect Donald Paine of KGP Design Studio to continue the presentation.
Mr. Paine said that the 2007 and 2011 concepts are similar in massing and footprint; both involve paired stairs that are aligned with the terrace fountains and the Kennedy Center's significant interior spaces, and descend to a new plaza along the riverfront with a curved wall between the plaza and roadway. In the 2007 proposal, each end of this plaza had been elevated 30 inches to mitigate flooding; the plaza is now proposed to be level, with flood control handled more simply. The 2007 proposal included a uniform treatment of the plaza from the wall to the river's edge, with no differentiation of the recreation trail passing through the site; this has been modified in the current proposal, using a change of paving to distinguish the plaza from an 11–foot–wide trail along the river. The design of the stairs would remain unchanged: each staircase would span approximately 100 feet and would be supported by a light articulated truss structure made of tubing with mechanical pin joints and no welds. This structure would be enclosed by a mesh with a density of approximately 70 percent, allowing some visibility while partially screening the structure and having a bronze color similar to the existing Kennedy Center pilotis. He noted that the stairways and elevators would have no structural connection to the Kennedy Center terrace.
Mr. Paine discussed the detailing of the stairways and mesh. To make the thirty–foot ascent as comfortable as possible, a landing would be provided after each six–foot rise, and each step would have a 5.5–inch glass riser and a 15–inch tread. The treads would be made of three layers of glass with a non–slip layer on top. The handrail would be supported by structural glass panels; the 2007 proposal was for clear glass, but a graduated frit is now proposed to provide a greater sense of safety. The frit would also relate visually to the partial opacity of the mesh screen on the structure below. The mesh was previously proposed as stainless steel or bronze, but these materials raised concerns: stainless steel is not a material used on the Kennedy Center; and bronze would change color over time, an effect that is not desired for this project. The current proposal is therefore a chain–link metal mesh coated with titanium nitrate, a more durable and stable material than stainless steel. He added that the bracketing of the mesh has also been simplified.
Mr. Paine provided more details of the plaza area. The railing along the river has been simplified from the previous design. Underneath the stairways, the previously proposed plantings have been eliminated; the current proposal includes low barriers to discourage people from walking beneath the stairs and hitting their heads. The proposed lighting design remains similar to the 2007 concept, with low–level landscape lighting for the plaza and LEDs in the trusses beneath the treads to provide uplighting for the stairs; soft uplighting on the mesh would emphasize its scrim effect. He then introduced Greg Hoer of Parsons Brinckerhoff to present the landscape design.
Mr. Hoer said the 2007 proposal had included trees arrayed symmetrically in the center of the plaza and plantings beneath the stairways. The current proposal has fewer trees in the center, and these would be planted in an asymmetrical arrangement; Yoshino cherry trees are proposed. North and south of the elevator towers would be large deciduous trees, similar to what is now planted along the parkway–possibly varieties of American elm, black and scarlet oak, and willow oak. Ornamental grass is being considered along the curved wall.
Mr. May concluded the presentation by noting the issue of providing a continuous trail for the heavy recreational use while not conflicting with a pleasant experience within the plaza. He said that the changes to the treatment of the plaza from the 2007 concept have resulted in a simpler, more spacious design.
Mr. McKinnell asked who would be responsible for maintenance. Mr. May responded that this is still under discussion between the Kennedy Center and the National Park Service, and the project involves a complicated transfer of jurisdiction from the Park Service to the Kennedy Center for the land the structures will occupy. He said that the Kennedy Center would have responsibility for maintaining the stairs and elevators, and assured the Commission that both organizations have a common interest in keeping the maintenance requirements simple because neither is able invest in high–maintenance landscape or plaza treatments.
Ms. Balmori described the design as elegant but said the significant maintenance needs of elevators in a public space would present a problem; the elevators often don't work, and she cited a New York City study that advised people not to use subway elevators because of the frequency of getting trapped. She questioned why the design does not include a ramp; while acknowledging that ramps occupy four times as much space as stairs, she noted that ramps are necessary for some users and are always available. She observed that this location includes a very long trail that provides sufficient room to extend a ramp as necessary. She also commented on the difficulty posed by glass stair treads, citing a footbridge by Santiago Calatrava in Bilbao, Spain; although built with a non–slip glass surface, people have often slipped on this bridge, and the problem continues despite the application of many kinds of materials intended to alleviate the condition.
Mr. May acknowledged these concerns and the importance of not creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians; he asked Claudette Donlon of the Kennedy Center to address this issue. Ms. Donlon confirmed the Kennedy Center's commitment to maintaining the elevators and stairways. She said that the Kennedy Center's fifteen elevators are well maintained by a dedicated full–time maintenance person; when there are problems, the elevators are generally repaired within four hours, and she expressed confidence that these two new elevators would be well maintained.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the Kennedy Center does not have windows at the roadway level, and the parkway itself does not require views across the plaza; she therefore suggested extending the screen of cherry trees along the full length of the wall between the road and the plaza. Mr. May responded that the available space is very constricted, allowing little space for the trees; the viability of the several proposed trees is already a concern. He noted that the constraints include the needed height of the wall–which provides a sense of separation for the plaza as well as a safety barrier from the roadway–and the goal of making the plaza as spacious as possible. Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the necessary trade–offs. Mr. May added that tree planting is also typically sparse along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, where the river is the primary attraction for people in vehicles or on the recreation trail. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that other parts of the roadway provide this view; the new plaza will be a place for pedestrians to pause and rest, and the design should therefore make the plaza more comfortable for them.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the north and south edges of the proposed plaza were not shown in the presentation drawings; she commented that these areas would be important points of transition for the forms and materials of such features as the trail and the railing along the river. Mr. May agreed and said that the project team has been discussing how to design the railing to demarcate the boundaries in front of the Kennedy Center.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered an additional concern for the Commission's consideration: the contemporary use of glass, mesh, and metal materials, which may affect the issue of maintenance. She observed that the proposed materials are full of joints, cracks, and other places that will be difficult to clean; if not maintained well, the result could be a gritty appearance that is not appropriate for this setting. She added that these stairways are garden structures which should be treated differently from a building surface.
Ms. Fernández asked about the purpose of the barriers beneath the stairways, which she described as "wings," observing that they would present another place to accumulate dirt and debris. Mr. Paine responded that the headroom under the stairs would be insufficient, and a barrier is therefore necessary to keep people from walking in these areas. He said that the 2007 design had proposed landscaping but this would only work for part of these areas. He described the proposed structures as a placeholder; a design currently being considered is a granite curb inset with Belgian pavers, perhaps integrated with seating. He said the general intention is to create a subtle, low "folding up" of the plaza surface. He added that the barriers shown in the submission are a last–minute solution; they are intended to rest directly on the pavement without the shadow that is shown incorrectly in the rendering. Ms. Fernández said that these barriers should be minimized, commenting that they seem too large and prominent to serve their defined function; they would be puzzling to a visitor who realizes that they have no real function in relation to the stairways. Mr. Paine reiterated that some barrier is required to protect people but acknowledged that the proposed form is too assertive and needs to be softer. He said that other design studies have included a railing, although the presented solution was considered preferable.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised concept with the recommendations provided. Mr. Powell recused himself from the vote because, as Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, he serves as an ex officio trustee of the Kennedy Center.
D. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the two presentations from the U.S. Mint. The first is the next set of four medals and non–circulating coins in the First Spouse series. The second is the next set of five reverse designs for the America the Beautiful series of circulating quarters, to be paired with the continuing obverse design featuring George Washington. He introduced Cynthia Meals Vitelli of the U.S. Mint to present the design submissions.
1. CFA 20/OCT/11–4, 2013 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Designs for the sixth set of four First Spouse $10 gold coins and bronze medals: Alice Paul, Frances Cleveland (1885–1889), Caroline Harrison, and Frances Cleveland (1893–1897). Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/10–5, 2011 issue and CFA 18/NOV/10–4, two revisions.) Ms. Vitelli summarized the legislation authorizing the series of coins and medals, which corresponds to the series of one–dollar circulating coins depicting each of the U.S. presidents. She noted two unusual provisions that affect the 2013 program for the First Spouse series. President Cleveland served two non–consecutive terms resulting in two one–dollar coins, and therefore Mrs. Cleveland will be the subject of two sets of coins and medals, in accordance with the legislation. President Arthur did not have a spouse during his presidency; typically the First Spouse series includes an allegorical representation of Liberty for such situations, but in Arthur's case the legislative requirement is for a depiction of Alice Paul, an advocate for women's suffrage who was born during Arthur's presidency. The reverses are to have images emblematic of the spouse's life and work or, in the case of Alice Paul, of the suffrage movement. She noted the similar designs for the coins and medals; the coins would bear additional inscriptions that are required for legal tender.
Alice Paul (for the term of President Arthur)
Ms. Vitelli presented seven alternative obverses depicting Alice Paul at several stages of her life. Ms. Balmori objected that none of the alternatives uses the profile pose, despite the Commission's previous requests, and added that the quality of the artistry is insufficient to convey a frontal portrait successfully. She reluctantly suggested alternative #5 and #7 as potentially acceptable designs, commenting that the hair or hat in the other alternatives is too prominent and makes the face appear unimportant in the composition. The other Commission members agreed to support #5. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission supported obverse #5 for Alice Paul.
Ms. Vitelli presented seven reverse alternatives depicting events from the suffrage movement. Ms. Balmori reiterated the Commission's past advice against putting too many elements into the design, emphasizing the small size of the coins and medals. She said that none of the designs is particularly good but suggested alternative #3 and #4 as having more clarity than the others. Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported alternative #4 as the simplest, adding that the grimness of the facial expression was apparent in the large projected image but would probably not be noticeable at a small scale; Ms. Balmori agreed that the expression is problematic. Ms. Fernández described alternative #3 as the most legible but also the weakest artistically; she said that the depiction of the woman on the left side appears to have been distorted through computer manipulation of the image. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended reverse #4 for the suffrage movement.
Frances Cleveland (first term)
Ms. Vitelli presented seven alternative obverses depicting Frances Cleveland during President Cleveland's first term; she noted that their marriage occurred one year after his term began, as reflected in the dates included in the design. Ms. Balmori acknowledged the profile pose of alternative #6 but said that its artistic quality was too poor to recommend; she supported #7 as the only viable portrait, citing the tilt of the head and the angle of the portrait as positive features. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended obverse #7 for Frances Cleveland during the first term.
Ms. Vitelli presented ten reverse alternatives for Frances Cleveland during the first term; the two themes include the Saturday receptions that she held for working women and her popularity with the public in fashion, art, and political tours with President Cleveland. Ms. Balmori commented that the compositions are all overly complex and are not appropriate for the design of a coin and medal. She suggested alternative #9, depicting Mrs. Cleveland making a public appearance alongside a touring train, as the most legible. Mr. McKinnell offered support for alternative #8, also depicting a train scene, due to the poor quality of the drawing for #9. Ms. Balmori commented that the problem of poor artistic quality extends to all of the alternatives. Ms. Fernández said that many of the alternatives, particularly #8, have an ominous character; she suggested alternative #5 due to the positive expression on the faces of the women depicted, while acknowledging that the scene is not well drawn and may not be readily legible. Mr. Powell agreed to support #5, commenting that the composition corresponds well to the circular form of the coin and medal, with the additional benefit of the positive facial expression. Ms. Balmori said that #5 only barely merits the Commission's support. Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended reverse #5 for Frances Cleveland during the first term.
Chairman Powell commented on the difficulty of evaluating the drawings as a representation of the resulting sculpture; Ms. Vitelli said that some of the problems with the details of the designs could be addressed in the sculpting process. Chairman Powell questioned the amount of text on the coins, such as the phrase ".9999 Fine Gold." Ms. Vitelli responded that all of these inscriptions are required by law for the coins. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's past comment that the authorizing legislation for coins could be drafted or interpreted to allow flexibility in the treatment of the text, such as using the words "ten dollars" rather than "$10."
Ms. Vitelli presented seven alternative obverses depicting Caroline Harrison, noting her death during President Harrison's term of office as reflected in the dates. Ms. Balmori again acknowledged the profile pose in some alternatives but said that the facial expression in #4 is too grim. Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered support for alternative #5, another profile pose; Ms. Balmori agreed that this would be the only other potentially acceptable alternative. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. McKinnell, the Commission recommended obverse #5 for Caroline Harrison.
Ms. Vitelli presented nine reverse designs for Mrs. Harrison based on the themes of her work with the White House china and her interest in painting china, including workshops on floral painting that she led for Washington women. Ms. Balmori supported alternative #1 as a strong and pleasing composition of circular forms within the overall circular design, while questioning whether the designs on the china plates would be legible; she also suggested #4 as an acceptable alternative. Mr. Powell and Ms. Plater–Zyberk joined in supporting #1 due to its interesting composition. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended reverse #1 for Caroline Harrison.
Frances Cleveland (second term)
Ms. Vitelli presented five alternative obverses depicting Frances Cleveland during President Cleveland's second term, intended to show her slightly older than during the first administration. Ms. Balmori said that all five are unsatisfactory and offered a preference for alternative #2 as the least problematic. Ms. Fernández questioned the eerie character conveyed in the portraits. Mr. Powell said that #1 is the most flattering portrait. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission may choose not to support any of the submitted alternatives, and could instead respond that the designs are unacceptable; he added the staff's observation that the quality is embarrassingly poor. Ms. Balmori suggested rejecting all of the alternatives. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that these commemorative portraits should convey the subjects in a positive spirit, while too many of the submitted alternatives have a grim expression; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that #1 is more acceptable than the others which have an angry or unhappy appearance; Ms. Fernández added that some of the depictions appear to be anatomically deformed. Mr. McKinnell and Mr. Powell agreed that alternative #1 is the least problematic and the most cheerful. The Commission considered offering this recommendation and chose instead not to support any of the alternatives.
Ms. Vitelli said that the Commission's comments would be considered, noting that the artists have limited source materials available to use in developing the portraits from this historic period. Ms. Balmori suggested that a profile pose be used, as well as improved artistic treatment of the face. Ms. Fernández commented that the portraits appear anatomically incorrect, citing the relationship of the head and neck; overall, she described the submitted portraits as merely flattened pictures. Ms. Vitelli emphasized that the line drawings are only a guide for the future engraving process that produces a sculpted portrait; Chairman Powell reiterated the difficulty of evaluating the future three–dimensional artwork based on the uninspiring line drawings that are submitted.
Ms. Vitelli presented nine reverse alternatives for Frances Cleveland during the second term; several alternatives continue the theme of her popularity with the public, and others illustrate her role in women's education as an alumna and supporter of Wells College and as an early supporter of the precursor organization to the National Parent Teacher Association. Ms. Balmori commented that alternative #7 depicting Mrs. Cleveland returning to Wells College is too busy and would unfortunately be a better composition with the removal of the college building from the background. Overall, she supported the theme of education as a promising subject for the design, and suggested #5 which has an interesting pose of the figures. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that Mrs. Cleveland's role in the future Parent Teacher Association would be a worthwhile subject, but alternative #6 illustrating this theme is not executed well–particularly the map on the classroom wall. She suggested consideration of a design that includes the text "PTA" and added that the quality of the drawing is better in alternative #7. Ms. Balmori summarized the Commission's support for the themes of #5 and #7 while not supporting either of these designs as presented. Mr. Luebke suggested sending these comments to the Mint without a recommendation; Ms. Balmori summarized the consensus of the Commission to support this procedure.
2. CFA 20/OCT/11–5, 2013 America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Program. Reverse designs for five coins: New Hampshire, Ohio, Nevada, Maryland, and South Dakota. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/OCT/10–5.) Ms. Vitelli summarized the authorizing legislation for the series of 56 reverses for the circulating quarter–dollar coins, corresponding to national sites in each of the U.S. states and territories. The current submission includes alternative designs for the five reverses to be issued in 2013. She noted the continuing portrait of George Washington on the obverse, with restoration of the original detailing of the sculpting by John Flanagan in the early 1930s; the Commission members expressed support for this restoration effort. She also noted that the Mint consults with the superintendent of each federal site to develop inspiration for the designs and ensure that they are historically accurate and emblematic of the location.
White Mountain National Forest (New Hampshire)
Ms. Vitelli presented the five alternative reverses depicting White Mountain National Forest, located primarily in New Hampshire and partly in Maine; the subjects include various mountains, a lake, birch trees, and local animals. Ms. Balmori supported alternative #1, depicting Mount Washington framed by white birch trees, as a simple design that would work well on a coin. She said that #5 could also be successful with a larger rendition of the moose and a simple mountain profile in the background, without the additional design elements that are shown. Mr. Powell and Mr. McKinnell joined in supporting #1. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended alternative #1 for White Mountain National Forest.
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)
Ms. Vitelli presented the three alternative reverses depicting the memorial to the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812; the memorial is also a symbol of the longstanding peace between Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, and the 352–foot–high granite column is a dominant feature of the islands in the western part of Lake Erie. Ms. Balmori and Ms. Fernández commented that all three alternatives are problematic as designs for a coin. Ms. Fernández said that the row of three flags in alternative #2 has the effect of flattening the image, undermining the perception of the column in the background as a rounded three–dimensional object. She added that alternative #3 has an excess of negative space and its depiction of the three flags is not readily legible, while alternative #1 has a confusing combination of foreground and background scales. She suggested that the Commission request a redesign of the alternatives for this coin; Ms. Balmori agreed, and Chairman Powell summarized this response as the consensus of the Commission.
Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
Ms. Vitelli presented the four alternative reverses depicting Great Basin National Park, a Nevada park located within the overall Great Basin that extends from California to Utah; the subjects include the distinctive terrain, pine trees, mountains, and the bighorn sheep. Ms. Balmori offered support for alternative #1 because of its emphasis on a single design feature that will be legible at the scale of the coin, while the other alternatives have an excess of elements. Mr. McKinnell agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission recommended alternative #1 for Great Basin National Park.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland)
Ms. Vitelli presented the four alternative reverses depicting star–shaped Fort McHenry, notable for its role in the War of 1812 when it served as inspiration for the Star–Spangled Banner; the alternatives depict varying configurations of soldiers in front of the fort with the historic flag flying above. Ms. Balmori commented that the alternatives include too many design elements, and the human figures are awkwardly drawn. Ms. Fernández suggested requesting that the Mint develop new alternatives. Mr. Powell suggested an elevated view of the fort to illustrate its well–known and elegant shape; Ms. Balmori agreed. Ms. Vitelli responded that an elevated view was considered for the recently submitted commemorative coin design depicting Fort McHenry, and could also be considered for the circulating quarter. Mr. Powell said that the submitted alternatives appear to treat the soldiers rather than the fort as the subject; Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the background image is not clearly legible as a fort, and that an elevated view would be preferable.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)
Ms. Vitelli presented the four alternative reverses depicting the presidential portraits carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore. She noted that the Mint has previously issued several coins depicting Mount Rushmore–including a commemorative coin in the 1990s and a recent state quarter–and the current proposal is therefore intended to provide a different type of design approach, including an aerial perspective view and depictions of the sculpting process. Ms. Balmori offered support for alternative #3 as a strong design; Mr. Powell commented on the greatly contrasting scale of the human stonecarvers against the large faces of the sculpture. Ms. Vitelli noted that the coin sculpting process could enhance the level of detail for the scene. Mr. Powell said that #3 would be acceptable if the coin sculpting process is executed well. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that #4 would confuse the public due to the depiction of maquettes that differ substantially from the familiar executed sculpture; Ms. Balmori added that the renderings of the figures in #4 are unsatisfactory. Mr. McKinnell supported #2 and #3; Mr. Powell commented that #3 is the simpler design. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission recommended alternative #3 for Mount Rushmore.
G. District of Columbia Department of Real Estate Services
CFA 20/OCT/11–9, Eagle Academy Public Charter School (former Gladys K. McGogney Elementary School), 3400 Wheeler Road, SE. Building renovation and additions. Concept. The Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider the Eagle Academy Public Charter School without the scheduled presentation. Based on prior review of the submission materials, the Commission approved the concept submission and delegated further review of the project to the staff upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with items II.E.1 and II.E.2.
E. D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
Ms. Batcheler introduced the submissions for development of two sites owned by the D.C. government in the West End neighborhood; both projects are being presented by the same project team and are depicted in a single multi–block site model. She noted the extensive new development in the neighborhood in recent decades. The site on Square 37 is currently occupied by a D.C. public library, and the site on Square 50 is currently occupied by a D.C. fire station; both uses would be accommodated within a new mixed–use building on each site. She introduced Anthony Lanier of EastBanc, the development company for the two projects, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Lanier said that he was particularly seeking the Commission's comments and approval for the base of each building which would contain the governmental functions. He introduced architect Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos to present the design proposals. Mr. Norten discussed the overall character of the West End as the intersection of several adjoining neighborhoods–Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, and the Dupont Circle area–each with its own character and building typologies. He said that the West End draws on each of these neighborhoods in providing the context for the two sites, and the proposed buildings are intended to introduce a "new energy" within the general parameters of this context. He presented a diagram of existing open space in the vicinity and then described the specific proposals at each site, noting that the two buildings are separate projects located a block apart but are intended to inform each other and have a dialogue or tension between them.
1. CFA 20/OCT/11–6, Square 37 (West End Neighborhood Library), 23rd and L Streets, NW. New mixed–use building with commercial and residential units, and public library. Concept. Mr. Norten said that the proposed library within the Square 37 building has a program similar to other branch libraries that have recently been developed by the D.C. Public Library system. He noted that the site currently includes a branch library as well as a police station and surface parking lots; he contrasted this to the fully developed sites in most of the neighborhood, along with some townhouse–scale development. He presented photographs of the context which he described as highly varied in vocabulary, materials, and scale; the architectural challenge is to complement the texture of the existing streetscapes and the public spaces in the area. He said that the intention of the proposed building–working within the limitations of the existing planning context–is to "bring a certain dynamic and a certain movement" that responds to "the tensions or the pressures" of the context.
Mr. Norten presented the proposed building, which he described as a warped cubic volume that provides a variety of spatial conditions and views. The large size of the lot has been addressed by fragmenting the massing of the apartments to give individuality to each of the residential units. He added that the warped grid of the building facades has been developed carefully in response to the existing context–including consideration of desirable views and shade–resulting in a new representation of the grid network that responds to modern culture. The staggered plan would give most of the apartments corner windows, providing views along the length of the street rather than merely across its width; terraces and balconies are designed to benefit from solar orientation. He noted that the varied massing of the building is contained within the property line and the normal distance of allowable projections. He presented several conceptual diagrams of the massing and then the more developed drawings that illustrate the proposed green spaces and green roof, part of the sustainability strategy for the building.
Mr. Norten presented the street–level plan in more detail. The library would occupy the building's main frontage along L Street; a retail space at the corner of L and 23rd Streets would accommodate a cafe that is intended to function as part of the library but would be operated by a private–sector entity as requested by the library representatives. Additional retail space would be provided along 23rd Street, and two residential lobbies would be located at 23rd and 24th Streets. The library's reading desks would be placed along L Street, helping to energize and add interest to this long facade. Behind this area, the next zone would have book shelves for adults, and the children's area would be located at the rear of the library overlooking a garden. The east side of the library would extend further back with computer stations and a community meeting room; this room would also have access directly from 23rd Street. The library would also have a partial mezzanine level that would have staff functions; a specific proposal for this area is still being developed. He presented sections to illustrate the double–height space of the library along the L Street facade, the spatial continuity of the library, and the exposure to daylight from several directions.
Mr. Norten described the proposed facade treatments. Portions of the facade would have metal screening to provide shade; some areas of the glass would also be fritted to control the light and to provide large–scale identification graphics, including along the library facade. He noted the goal of an environmental LEED rating of gold for the building. He presented the proposed landscape treatment in further detail; the landscaped areas would be planted with high grasses and local species. He illustrated the benches and bicycle racks for the sidewalks. Several existing street trees would remain; others would be added. He concluded with several perspective renderings to illustrate the current development of the design and streetscape.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the relationship of the library floor to the adjacent sidewalk level. Mr. Norten indicated the sloping grade of the sidewalk, resulting in the library floor being lower than the sidewalk along much of the L Street facade as illustrated in the section; he noted that the library's entrance is at the sidewalk grade. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented more generally that the relationship of the sidewalk area to the building is confusing due to the profusion of elements such as planters. She questioned whether the proposed plantings would thrive under the cantilevered portions of the building, and emphasized the importance of ongoing maintenance in achieving a successful landscape. She also indicated a potentially problematic setback at the second floor that may attract dirt or bird nests; the result may be the installation of screens or other barriers. She expressed overall support for the project's innovative transformation of the typical Washington block, while cautioning that the deviation from traditional design methods can introduce these problems of maintenance and detailing that may prevent the project from serving as a successful model for future buildings.
Mr. McKinnell said that the suggested limitation of commenting only on the library portion of the building is infeasible, and he therefore prefers to respond to the overall project. He complimented the developer for supporting the adventurous architecture and the ongoing architectural patronage of the D.C. Public Library. He described the building design as "quite brilliant" because it transforms the standard Washington block form while not entirely departing from it. He described it as a "strikingly original and memorable" addition to the urban form that would nonetheless appear appropriate in the context of Washington, and said that the combination of this memorable form with the public function of the library is particularly appropriate.
Ms. Balmori joined in supporting the proposed massing of the building and said that the library would become a special place by being part of this building. She expressed overall support for the treatment of the sidewalk spaces, including the trees, shade, and seating, but said that the proposed planting beneath the building setbacks would likely not survive. She also questioned the proposal for large–scale window graphics along the L Street facade of the library, commenting that such graphics serve an identification function that should instead be achieved by the architecture; she encouraged further development of the library facade and entrance to give it a stronger and clearer presence on the street. Aside from these concerns, she emphasized her support for the proposal.
Ms. Fernández supported the comments that were provided. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the concept with enthusiasm. Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept design with the comments for further development.
The Commission offered additional comments on the Square 37 proposal in discussing the next agenda item.
2. CFA 20/OCT/11–7, Square 50 (Fire and Engine Company No. 1), 23rd and M Streets, NW. New mixed–use building with commercial and residential units, and fire station. Concept. Mr. Lanier introduced the proposal for the fire station site at 23rd and M Streets, NW, a block north of the previous project. He said that the D.C. government has required that the building include a replacement fire station and affordable housing. Because the placement of the housing directly above the fire station might appear strange and perhaps unsympathetic to the residents, the proposal includes an additional intermediate volume between these two uses; the proposed program for this intermediate volume is a squash club containing numerous squash courts. He acknowledged that the design for this building may not be received as enthusiastically as the previous project; he asked Mr. Norten to continue with the presentation.
Mr. Norten noted the previous presentation of the overall neighborhood context and the particular challenge of placing the building along M Street, a very busy street that is a major route into Georgetown. He described the immediately adjacent buildings as relatively simple compared to other parts of the neighborhood. The proposed design is intended to develop a distinctive corner treatment on the southwest at 23rd and M Streets, facing toward Georgetown to the west as well as toward the Square 37 project to the south. An additional design intent is to express the distinct characters of the three very different stacked uses in the building. The resulting proposal includes shifting profiles of the volumes as well as differing architectural vocabularies for each of the uses.
Mr. Norten presented the proposed plans of the building. The layout of the fire station is basically fixed by the required dimensions and relationship to the street intersection. Several of the more animated spaces within the two–story fire station–such as the conference room, offices, and exercise room–would be located along 23rd Street to provide a somewhat animated facade rather than a blank wall; the more private spaces and equipment storage would be located toward the rear. The squash club would include a series of double–height playing courts, some with seating for spectators; a restaurant or cafe area would face M Street. The upper residential floors are designed as simple double–loaded corridors; the lowest residential floor would include private gardens and green roofs above the squash club, and the top of the building would also have a green roof.
Mr. Norten indicated the expression of the structural system that accommodates the varying span lengths of the different functions within the building. He described the proposed facade treatments, with an emphasis on glass and panels; due to the financial constraints for this building, glass would not be used as extensively as on Square 37. Color would also be an important part of the facade treatment, with red used as the traditional color for the fire station.
Mr. McKinnell acknowledged the thoughtful design as "potentially a beautiful, elegant building," but he described the proposal as a very self–referential building–particularly in contrast to the Square 37 proposal, which demonstrates an understanding of the context and changes shape in response to it. He questioned whether the proposed separation of the various uses needs to be so aggressive and suggested consideration of melding them together so that the building has the more appropriate character of containing ordinary functions on an ordinary street. Mr. Norten responded that such a treatment would be feasible and agreed that the proposed design reflects a choice in how to express the program.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the recessed residential fourth floor is an important transition between the special uses below and the additional residential levels above, and the configuration results in apartments that are in shadow due to the overhanging volume. Mr. McKinnell agreed that the fourth–floor recess is causing the sense of disruption in the building volumes. Mr. Norten agreed that the treatment of this level may be somewhat strange; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the different components of the building will read distinctly without the need for this additional expression of separating the volumes. Ms. Balmori agreed, commenting that the proposed treatment gives the sense that the upper volume has landed on the lower building without being integrated into it. Ms. Plater–Zyberk contrasted this design with the Square 37 proposal, in which the overall residential character of the building was more clearly expressed; she questioned why the facades of the proposed housing for Square 50 have a more commercial or perhaps institutional appearance.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission's comments be treated as part of its overall support for the very interesting concept of the building; Mr. McKinnell agreed, adding that the project is being handled by "an extraordinary designer." Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept design with the comments provided.
F. District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water)
CFA 20/OCT/11–8, Poplar Point Pumping Station, site within interchange of South Capitol Street, Suitland Parkway, and Anacostia Freeway (I–295). Replacement pumping station. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal from DC Water, formerly named the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, for a replacement of the pumping station at Poplar Point. The site is within the interchange of several major roads and is near federal park and military land. He added that the project is a critical component of the D.C. government's long–term initiative to address the problem of combined sewer overflow. He introduced John Cassidy and Timothy Bennett of DC Water to present the proposal.
Mr. Cassidy provided background information on the need for the project. The combined sewer system, which serves approximately one–third of the District of Columbia, carries both wastewater and stormwater to the Blue Plains treatment plant; the single–pipe system is adequate on dry days but becomes overwhelmed by rainfall, resulting in an overflow that occurs seventy to eighty times per year totaling two billion gallons of untreated water released into the river system. DC Water is undertaking a costly twenty–year improvement program, resulting from a consent decree between the federal and D.C. governments, that will reduce the overflows by 96 percent. The consent decree includes a series of milestones and deadlines for implementation of specific projects, including replacement of the Poplar Point pumping station.
Mr. Cassidy described the purpose and condition of the existing pumping station. Water collected from a large area–the east side of the Anacostia River in Washington and portions of suburban Maryland–flows by gravity through sewer pipes to Poplar Point; the pumping station lifts the water by fifteen to twenty feet which then flows by gravity to Blue Plains for treatment. The existing pumping station, located slightly north of the proposed site, was built in 1913; it is not designed to accommodate modern pumping equipment and also has structural problems that make rehabilitation impractical.
Mr. Cassidy said that the proposed site for the replacement pumping station has been selected to be clear of future development plans for the Poplar Point area and away from residential neighborhoods. The site is already owned by the D.C. government, eliminating the need to acquire property; it is located in a wedge–shaped area between highway ramps and is not likely to be needed for any other purpose. Nearby uses include a municipal testing lot for commercial driver's licenses in addition to the transportation infrastructure. He presented drawings and photographs of the existing context and also described the site's relationship to planned future development in the area, including the planned replacement of the Frederick Douglass Bridge along with reconfiguration of South Capitol Street and the highway interchange; the proposed pumping station site would be compatible with the future as well as existing road alignments.
Mr. Cassidy described the overall configuration of the site plan. Truck access is needed to service the building; because the site is too narrow to accommodate a turnaround area, access is provided by entrance and exit drives that connect to the northbound side of South Capitol Street. He noted that the facility would generally not be staffed but would typically be inspected once per day.
Mr. Bennett presented the proposed design of the building and site. The building would have one above–grade and one below–grade story; most of the space would accommodate equipment, with a relatively small area provided for intermittent staff use. Several sustainability features are included in the design, including a low–maintenance green roof, a modest–sized photovoltaic array on the roof, skylights to provide daylight to a windowless interior space, and wind turbines. The exterior walls would be concrete and metal panels. He said that numerous configurations of the building have been studied, resulting in the single proposed massing and siting; however, the treatment of the facades is flexible, and he presented three alternative designs for the exterior. The options include the color of the concrete and the panels as well as the configuration of the panels; he said that the curved form of the building and curved profile of the panels are intended to invoke the building's function to move water. He described the proposed finishes in the alternatives: architectural concrete with a smooth, bright white surface; a more natural–colored concrete with a textured surface; and iridescent blue for the metal panels. He said that the second alternative is preferred by the project team.
Mr. Bennett concluded by presenting numerous renderings of the alternative designs, including views that show the building in the larger context of the Anacostia River and the monumental core skyline. He said that the proposed building would not affect views from the adjacent roads to the Capitol dome, located two miles to the north; he acknowledged the design guidance to consider the long–distance views from this site located at a visual gateway into central Washington. He also indicated the proposed landscape treatment, which would include sedum that would not require maintenance; existing vegetation would remain where feasible, and new planting would be native species.
Ms. Balmori expressed appreciation for the careful design consideration of an infrastructure project, which she said is often lacking; she emphasized the general importance of infrastructure elements as part of our landscape. She supported the second alternative for its straightforward expression of the building's purpose, adding that the overall design of the building appears to be well resolved. She questioned the proposed siting and suggested that the building be aligned with one of the adjacent roads rather than seeming to float in the open space. Mr. Cassidy responded that the siting responds to both the existing road configuration and the future plan to reconfigure the interchange, which will result in one of the ramps moving closer to the proposed building; Ms. Balmori acknowledged this constraint.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed with Ms. Balmori's overall support of the design effort but suggested an approach of minimizing the appearance of the building–such as with dense evergreen landscaping–rather than designing it to stand out. She acknowledged the tradition of strong design for infrastructure buildings extending into the 1930s but said that modern–day examples are less successful, perhaps resulting in part from the increasing size of the typical projects. She said that landscaped areas are an important part of the visual setting for highway interchanges–although not natural or actively used areas, these landscapes are part of the bigger system of open space and infrastructure. She noted that the building would not be inhabited and recommended against treating it as a strong architectural feature. Ms. Balmori reiterated her support for the design as a "simple serviceable building."
Ms. Fernández observed that the building is not a significant destination for people–even for the staff, which visits only intermittently–and suggested reducing the building's prominence by choosing a different color for the metal panels. She supported the second alternative except for the bright blue color, which she described as having a corporate appearance that seems to be a branding choice that will not be meaningful to the general public. Mr. Cassidy acknowledged that the blue color was selected because it is similar to the logo for DC Water; he said that a different color could be used. Ms. Fernández suggested consideration of a more muted tone such as the green panels shown in the third alternative, while not supporting the curved profile of this option; she said that such a color would make the building less prominent and would suggest the appropriate character of a functional building rather than a sign. She emphasized that the building's purpose is not to convey a message nor to attract people.
Mr. McKinnell supported the previous comments and expressed regret that the building was not treated as an opportunity for collaboration between an artist and architect; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. McKinnell questioned the extensive amount of paving that is shown on the renderings of the site design. Mr. Cassidy responded that reduction of the paving is being studied; however, large–sized equipment must be brought to the building. Mr. Bennett said that pervious paving would be used wherever feasible; Mr. McKinnell supported this treatment.
Chairman Powell supported Ms. Fernández's recommendation for the building's color and the goal of making the building less prominent. He summarized the Commission's recurring preference for more trees and less paving in site planning. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that evergreen landscaping could be used to give the project a "gardenesque" appearance, becoming a large folly in the landscape rather than an urban structure. Mr. Cassidy noted the substantial size of the building's equipment; Mr. Powell said that the Commission's advice is consistent with the proposed concept for the building. Ms. Balmori opposed the idea of using the landscape to hide the infrastructure, and expressed support for the proposed treatment of the pumping station as an exposed building. Chairman Powell emphasized the reconsideration of the color as a response to the Commission's concern about excessive prominence; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the concept design with the comments provided.
The Commission acted on agenda item II.G earlier in the meeting, preceding agenda item II.E.1. The Commission continued with the order of the agenda.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs–Shipstead–Luce Act
1. SL 11–160, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Office building. Alterations and additions. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept for a new 13–story building at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, facing Freedom Plaza. She said that the proposal includes completely razing and replacing the current building, providing ground–level retail with office space above and below–grade parking. She asked Robert Knopf of Quadrangle Development to begin the presentation.
Mr. Knopf said that Quadrangle had built the existing building in 1980, when zoning established a height limit of 135 feet; the building therefore was designed with 12 floors and relatively low ceiling heights. He said that the zoning and the market have subsequently changed; a greater height is now allowed and the maximum floor–area ratio has increased from 8.5 to 10, whereas leasing of the low–ceiling space has been difficult. The replacement of the building has been contemplated and planned for the past fifteen years through coordination of the expiration dates of the leases, resulting in the current proposal to construct a new building that takes advantage of current zoning. He said that due to the importance of the site–on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol–Quadrangle held an invited design competition. Murphy/Jahn Architects was unanimously chosen the winner; he introduced Helmut Jahn to present the design.
Mr. Jahn said that for twenty years his firm has been designing technically advanced buildings, primarily in Europe, featuring natural ventilation along with technologies to reduce energy consumption; in the last couple of years, his firm has applied such techniques in the United States to create buildings that he characterized as "urbanistically significant, functionally efficient, technically advanced, and sustainable." He described the goal of making this building similarly advanced; new and different but not revolutionary; different than the typical Washington office building while having a materiality and a scale that responds to its neighbors. He noted that his firm had designed a building with similar features a few years ago at 20th and K Streets, NW, which he described as a somewhat less prominent site.
Mr. Jahn said that the current proposal takes the basic idea of a typical Washington box–shaped building and wraps it in a metal screen on the street facades that contains a system of sunshades. An additional glass screen would create a large–scale element facing Pennsylvania Avenue and Freedom Plaza, responding to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to the south, while the eastern portion of the building would respond to the corner tower of the Warner Building across 13th Street. He said the screen system would establish the definition of the typical Washington building height; behind the screen would be the allowable additional setback floors. He said that the entrance lobby would be highlighted within this facade system by having its own screen element infilled with stone, providing a prominent interface between public and private space. The street level would also contain retail space at the corner and along 13th Street.
Mr. Jahn presented several renderings of the building with different positions for the shading devices; he said that the facade would have a dynamic character deriving from the varied shading of the glazed areas behind the perforated metal screen, reflecting the use of offices within the building or the preferences of individual occupants. He emphasized that all of the facade parts would be clearly legible even as their appearance changes. The west and north facades, not facing the streets and largely shaded by existing buildings, would be more conventional. He said that operable windows would provide natural ventilation for part of the year, and this would be one of the first contemporary buildings in Washington to have operable windows. He indicated the large expanses of glass that would be modulated by a stainless–steel grid, applied frit, and operable blinds as well as the perforated metal screen on the south and east facades. He said that the screen system has been tested to withstand high winds.
Mr. Jahn described details of the operation of the wall system in summer and winter conditions, and presented photographs of buildings in Europe designed by his firm which use similar shading systems. He indicated the careful execution of the window details and the innovations in curtainwall technology. He said that his firm considers how a project will work more than what it will look like; the aesthetic is determined by the technical components of the design. Comparing the proposed design with the existing building on this site, he said that the new building would reduce energy consumption by almost 21 percent due to the treatment of natural air, light, and water, while improving the comfort of the interior space by using fresh air. He added that the proposed design would also improve the interior layout of the office floors, requiring only 8 interior columns compared to the 22 interior columns of the existing building.
Chairman Powell offered support for the concept submission, which he concluded to be the consensus of the Commission. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept design.
At this point Chairman Powell departed the meeting to recuse himself from the following case, and Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk presided for the remainder of the meeting.
2. SL 11–164, 500 L'Enfant Plaza, SW. New 14–story office building at the southeast corner (Frontage Road and 9th Street). Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for an office building at the southeast corner of the L'Enfant Plaza, a location that she described as analogous to the site of the hotel proposal that was reviewed by the Commission in July 2011 for the northeast corner of the complex. She said that the footprint and height of the office building would be roughly similar to the planned hotel; the projects are proposed by the same developer–The JBG Companies–but with different architecture firms. She asked Dean Cinkala of The JBG Companies to begin the presentation. Mr. Cinkala described the scope of the project as a 200,000–square–foot building and introduced Bryan Cannon of ZGF Architects to present the design.
Mr. Cannon described the site's prominent location at the south edge of Washington's monumental core alongside the I–395 highway. The context includes the adjacent Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters building, designed by Marcel Breuer, that has the character of an autonomous building with curving wings that has the visual character of pushing away the other forces of the urban fabric. The site also has a relatively isolated relationship to the circulation system of L'Enfant Plaza, to which the proposed building's front door would connect. The building would be located on one of the existing plinths of L'Enfant Plaza that contains the complex's parking garage, parallel to the highway ramp system that connects to the 9th Street tunnel. He indicated the access to the proposed entrance for vehicles and for pedestrians arriving from the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. A lower level of the building would connect to the retail promenade level of L'Enfant Plaza, providing an additional important entrance route into the building. He presented photographs of the site from the south showing the adjacent highway, and from the northwest showing the plaza setting of the building.
Mr. Cannon described the proposed alterations to the existing plaza. The alignment of trees would be moved to improve access to the building entrance. New paving would extend the plaza's vehicular access to reach the entrance; the surface would primarily be pavers, and no asphalt would be used. He said that relatively few vehicles would need access to the entrance, and the plaza approach would have a pedestrian–oriented character.
Mr. Cannon presented plans of the proposed building. The triple–height lobby would connect the concourse and plaza levels, with both levels serving as major entrance points; this large lobby is intended to provide a dramatic sense of entry that compensates for the relatively remote location of the entrance at the corner of the existing plaza. On the office floors, a curved profile on the east would pull the building slightly away from the HUD headquarters and relate to its sinuous geometry. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why the massing of the building is proposed to have several notches at the southwest corner. Mr. Cannon responded that this form responds to the adjacent highway configuration; he emphasized the prominence of the building when seen from the highway and from the overall approach to the city on the 14th Street complex of bridges. The uppermost part of the building would pull back from the curved edge to form a rectangular volume that would rise to the height of the adjacent center building of the L'Enfant Plaza complex.
Mr. Cannon said that the facades would be metal and glass with a slightly lighter and brighter character than the prevailing heavy gridded facades of precast concrete in the vicinity. The upper part of the building would have a layered system of glass and aluminum to articulate the massing volumes of the design and the relationship to adjacent buildings. He noted that the building's curving geometry is also intended to be seen at the high speed of the highway traffic. He presented several renderings of the building within its context, including a view from within an office floor of the HUD headquarters as well as a night view of the entrance lobby. He also presented sections to indicate the height relationships among the buildings and the relationship to the retail concourse of L'Enfant Plaza. He concluded by summarizing the design intent for the building, describing it as a visual beacon to highway travelers that would signify the broader renewal of the L'Enfant Plaza neighborhood.
Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification of the proposed spandrel treatment. Mr. Cannon confirmed that the material would be opaque, perhaps using a two–foot–wide band of silver–colored metal; above the floor line would be glass, and a fritted pattern would extend up to approximately the height of a desk. Due to its close proximity to the HUD headquarters, the east facade of the proposed building would have more extensive areas of solid materials to meet the minimum proportion of forty percent solid area required by the building code. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the materials; Mr. Cannon responded that the solid materials may include metal panels or another fire–resistant material in place of the fritted glass. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked what distance between the proposed building and the HUD headquarters would be necessary to avoid this requirement for more solid materials. Mr. Cannon responded that the minimum distance would be twenty feet, compared to the proposed distance that varies from five to twenty–one feet; only the areas closest to the HUD building are subject to the special code requirements, and the remainder of the facade could have more extensive use of glass.
Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed concept is satisfactory as a starting point for the design. However, she said that the curved shapes are awkward and do not satisfactorily resolve the relationship of the proposed building to the HUD headquarters; she recommended further study of this issue, while offering overall support for the concept. She clarified that an orthogonal building volume would be a preferable design approach.
Mr. McKinnell agreed that the proposal could be approved in concept, but criticized the proposal as having too many design gestures and suggested that it be made bolder. He said that simplicity is not necessarily preferable in building designs, but the multiple gestures in this project–such as the combination of sinuous and orthogonal volumes–do not yet come together into a coherent design. He concluded that the proposal suggests a "failure of nerve," adding that the lobby design is overly conventional in treating the triple–height space. He noted the more general issue of the proliferation of glass buildings in Washington, threatening to counterbalance the assumed prevailing character of Washington as a city of light–colored masonry buildings; however, he said that an emphasis on glass for this building, paired with the planned hotel building at the northeast corner of L'Enfant Plaza, would be appropriate for the setting. He urged the project team to pursue a bolder approach to the building's design; Mr. Cannon clarified that the client has been supportive.
Ms. Fernández commented that there is nothing objectionable about the design, but nonetheless it appears to be the product of choices made on the basis of various functional or code requirements, resulting in the sense of the completion of a checklist rather than a building that is greater than the sum of its parts. She emphasized the need for an inspired design that would hold the building together and improve its coherency beyond the resolution of isolated problems; Mr. McKinnell agreed with this improved statement of his concern.
Noting the impending loss of a quorum, Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may choose to take an action and then provide additional comments. Upon a motion by Mr. McKinnell with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided and noted the potential for further development of the design. (At this point, Ms. Balmori and Mr. McKinnell departed the meeting.)
Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported the previous comments and discussed the formal strength of the existing buildings in the vicinity–the HUD headquarters as well as the buildings of the L'Enfant Plaza complex. She described their structural expression and the clear treatment of the ends and corners of the buildings, with a clear distinction between blank and windowed facades. She said that the intention of the proposed building's form is less clear; gestures such as the curve or notching could easily occur in different parts of the building and the rationale for their location is not conceptually clear in the design. She suggested more careful consideration of these qualities of the existing buildings in strengthening the design of the proposal.
Mr. Luebke said that the extensive range of critical comments on the design is unusual in conjunction with a concept approval; he suggested that the project team return with a revised concept proposal before proceeding to a final design submission. He noted the next step of providing the project team with a written summary of the Commission's comments. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk supported this procedure.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: November 18, 2011