Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
16 February 2012
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 9:10 a.m. (The starting time of the meeting was published as 9:00 a.m., one hour earlier than usual, due to the anticipated length of the agenda.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 January meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the January meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Balmori. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website and noted the continuous archive of minutes in the Commission office extending back to 1910.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 15 March, 19 April, and 17 May of 2012.
C. Report on the 2012 Arthur Ross Award for Stewardship awarded to the Commission of Fine Arts by the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Mr. Luebke reported that the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art has chosen the Commission as the winner of the Arthur Ross Award for Stewardship. The award was established in 1982 to recognize achievement in preserving and advancing the classical tradition, and the Commission was chosen for its work in preserving the Old Georgetown historic district and the Beaux Arts heritage of Washington. He said that the award would be presented at an event in New York City in May.
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. One project has been added to the attached report of delegated actions: shortly after the draft appendix was circulated, the staff received and approved the final design submission from the D.C. government for the La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing. He noted that the final design included adjustments to the facade color and lobby design in response to the Commission's recommendations in the January 2012 review. Ms. Plater–Zyberk recalled the Commission's dissatisfaction with the proposed black color for the exterior; Mr. Lindstrom said that the design team's response was a range of gray colors, and the staff suggested medium gray as the most compatible with the neighborhood context. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Ms. Balmori suggested adding a recommendation for the Cardozo High School project (case number CFA 16/FEB/12–f) to include more trees in the extensive open space. Mr. Lindstrom responded that the site design is based on the historic landscape plan, and the project will include future phases that will be submitted for Commission review. Mr. Luebke said that the request for additional trees could be included in the Commission's recommendation.
Ms. Balmori also suggested adding a recommendation for a more "calm" design for the proposed Blue Plains building (case number CFA 16/FEB/12–e); she said that the blue color is good but the numerous facade gestures give the appearance of a billboard. Ms. Fernández noted the Commission's previous advice to reduce the effect of corporate branding on the facade; Mr. Lindstrom clarified that the previous advice concerned a different building submitted by the same D.C. agency, proposed for Poplar Point. Ms. Fernández said that the concern is also applicable to this Blue Plains project. Mr. Luebke noted the consensus of the Commission to add this concern to the Consent Calendar recommendation.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The recommendations for three cases (SL 12–044, 049, and 054) were changed to favorable based on design revisions. She noted that a curb cut and driveway have been removed from the scope of a residential project (case number SL 12–052) and will be submitted separately after further review by the D.C. government. Revised drawings are pending for one project (case number SL 12–036); she requested authorization to finalize this recommendation after receipt of the drawings. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.C.1, II.C.2, and II.C.3 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. Two cases have been withdrawn at the request of the applicants. Two projects have been added that were recently submitted for review in March but would not be visible from public space and do not require further action by the Commission. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 16/FEB/12–1, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, West Potomac Park. New underground visitor education center. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/APR/09–02.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept submission for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center which incorporates development of the design since the Commission's previous review in April 2009. He said that the submission includes refinements in response to advice from the Commission and other agencies, such as a reconfiguration of the entrance walk, a reduction in the size of the courtyard, a different proposal for skylights, and development of the safety edges along the courtyard and entrance wall. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the design has been improved substantially, particularly in its impact on the landscape. He acknowledged the complexity of the design and review process for this substantial project and emphasized that the National Park Service wants to move the proposal forward. He introduced Harry Robinson of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation to continue the presentation; Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Robinson was formerly chairman of the Commission.
Mr. Robinson summarized several issues of the design and its recent development. The building is underground by legislative requirement. The interior is intended as a "humane" space, and the proposed courtyard has a major role in the character of the building's lower levels; although the presentation will emphasize the exterior, some information about the interior will be provided to convey the importance of the courtyard. The approach to the entrance has been a difficult challenge, involving seventeen feet of grade change, and he said this has been resolved successfully. A previously presented additional entrance path from Constitution Avenue has been eliminated, resulting in a very compact entrance area along Henry Bacon Drive. He said that the treatment of the ground plane above the building has also been resolved appropriately. He introduced Tom Wong of Ennead Architects, formerly known as Polshek Partnership Architects, to present the design. Chairman Powell noted the presence of several new Commission members since the previous presentation of this project, suggesting a full presentation of the design.
Mr. Wong said that the project's authorizing legislation was enacted in 2003; the project has been presented to the Commission on several occasions, beginning with the site selection in 2006 and then the initial concept in 2007. Following the approval of a concept in 2007, the design team has continued to refine the design and address the many concerns with this very challenging design problem. Since the previous presentation to the Commission in April 2009, the design team has been coordinating with the National Park Service, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and the staffs of the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission. He said that the resulting design is more refined and more sensitive to the context.
He summarized the legislative requirement for the project's proximity to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the purpose of informing and educating the public about the memorial and the Vietnam War. The project is intended to give a face to the veterans whose names are on the memorial wall, conveying the human impact and encouraging people to learn more. He noted additional provisions of the legislation, including a design that is harmonious with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, does not encroach on it, and protects the open space, sightlines, and special nature of the Mall. The approval of the site, across Henry Bacon Drive from the memorial, included a set of design guidelines that were jointly endorsed by the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission; he summarized the emphasis of the guidelines on sensitivity to the context, along with specific issues such as lighting, landscaping, and a single entrance.
Mr. Wong described the programming calculations, developed with a consultant in the field of public museums. The building is designed to accommodate 1.5 million visitors per year, derived from the expected ratio of the approximately four million annual visitors to the memorial. This results in a projection of 8,000 visitors per day, and 1,000 people in the peak hour. Based on a visit of 40 to 45 minutes, the building's capacity is planned for 777 people. This generated a program size for the exhibits as well as for support space, resulting in a program area of approximately 34,000 square feet; the submitted design of 37,000 gross square feet is within ten percent of this target. He emphasized that a majority of the space is dedicated to the exhibit experience.
Mr. Wong discussed the challenge of designing an underground building while avoiding the sense of being in a compressed and dark space. The concept of a courtyard was developed in response to this challenge; the courtyard would bring daylight to the interior through windows and also serves to address technical issues such as air intake and plumbing vents that might otherwise be visible in the landscape. The design also includes a geothermal system for heating and cooling to eliminate the need for cooling towers.
Mr. Wong described the concept for the exhibits, developed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates and through working sessions with educators, veterans, and family members. The exhibits are organized as a series of walls around which visitors circulate while descending through the building. Some of the exhibits would draw on the collection of over 100,000 objects that people have left at the memorial; a timeline would convey the history of the war; and projected photographs would portray the fallen whose names are on the memorial wall. The interior is configured to place the lobby, restrooms, and other support spaces on one side of the courtyard, with the exhibits on the opposite side, providing a sense of separation and preparation for the more intense emotional experience of the exhibits.
Mr. Wong discussed the treatment of the site's grade level. The initial concept would have maintained the existing grade on top of the building; in later submissions, this grade was proposed to rise gradually by several feet to shield some of the building elements and allow for a slightly higher elevation of the entrance floor, reducing the length of the sloped walk leading from the sidewalk down to the entrance. The previous submission also included the concept of "ha–has" and horizontal screens as part of the safety barrier along vertical drop–offs, eliminating the need for railings rising above the landscape. He said that two previously problematic site elements have been eliminated in the current submission: the walk leading from Constitution Avenue, and the linear skylights above the exhibit walls. The size of the grade–level opening for the courtyard has also been reduced; although the courtyard itself remains the same size, a partial roof is now proposed that would have surface planting to extend the site's landscape. He indicated the courtyard opening and several small triangular skylights to provide daylight for the lobby. The descending entrance walk from Henry Bacon Drive has been redesigned with a more fluid, organic shape that he said would more in the spirit of existing walks in the vicinity; the slope would be 4.75 percent, and the land within the curve would be shaped as a gentle knoll with the top aligned to the existing grade. The project includes replacement of missing and unhealthy elm trees around the perimeter of the block, and existing healthy trees would be protected. He noted the potential vulnerability of this site to flooding and indicated the protection provided by the proposed grading, with a twenty–foot datum contour line around the building to exceed slightly the estimated flooding height of nineteen feet. He said that the geothermal well system would not protrude above grade, and study of emerging technologies and improved siting is continuing for this feature; he noted that the nearby food–service kiosk also has a geothermal system. He said that the site plan meets the design guideline of providing open space for passive and active recreation, particularly due to the removal of the linear skylights and Constitution Avenue walk. He presented photographic simulations of the project to demonstrate that the surfaces of the building would not be visible from the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Wong described the security considerations for the design, based on consultation with the National Park Service police. One concern is the potential for drivers to enter the entrance walk or courtyard accidentally; the site design would prevent vehicles from reaching these areas. He indicated the arcing benches along the entrance walk, which provide protection from vehicles as well as seating and a location for safety lighting of the walk; the lighting of the walk and steps would be minimized to avoid compromising the lighting of the Lincoln Memorial. Two bollards would also be placed at the entrance area. The building's egress routes converge at the main entrance area, which is acceptable for normal safety needs, but a remote access point is provided for added flexibility in emergency response. Visitor screening is not currently anticipated, but the lobby is designed to accommodate x–ray and magnetometer equipment if necessary. The lobby bookstore would be outside of the potential secured zone, and a kiosk outside of the building might be feasible to provide visitors with timed entry tickets without needing to enter the building.
Mr. Wong presented several details of the proposed horizontal safety barriers. The elements would include low groundcover planting that is also used elsewhere on the Mall, including at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; an extension of the roof slab as an open structural grid infilled with wire mesh that provides safety protection while not encouraging walking; and, around the courtyard, a ha–ha in front of a vertical glass barrier that would be below the prevailing grade level.
Mr. Wong described further details of the proposed geometry. The exhibit walls would have a radial alignment centered on the Lincoln Memorial, recalling the alignment of one arm of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the geometry of streets radiating from the Lincoln Memorial. The entrance–level ceiling would be a concrete waffle slab that allows for a generous 48–foot spacing of columns. The waffle slab would also be designed with a radial geometry that relates the structure to the Lincoln Memorial and street pattern.
Mr. Wong presented samples of the proposed materials and finishes. The walls near the entrance would be slate with a very thin coursing and non–reflective textured appearance that would not suggest the polished granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The courtyard facades would primarily be glass to admit daylight. Clear glass would be used along the lobby, and a fritted glass would be along the exhibit areas; the frit pattern is still being developed. Other walls would be made of back–painted slump–formed glass; he said the intended effect is of a shroud that encompasses the exhibit space. Ms. Balmori asked about the transparency of these walls; Mr. Wong responded that they would be opaque and would serve as extensions of the layered planes of the exhibit cases. The benches would be granite; ornamental metals would be oxidized stainless steel; and the tentative selection for the paving is a precast concrete paver.
Mr. Wong concluded with a series of photographic simulations of the project as currently submitted and as previously reviewed in 2009; he said that the views have been selected on the basis of past comments from review agencies, while views that do not show any visibility of the proposal have been omitted. He indicated the slight differences between the visible portions of the 2009 and current designs, as well as the location of proposed perimeter planting around the block. He also presented a nighttime simulated view and indicated the minimal added lighting.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation. Mr. Freelon asked if the courtyard could be occupied by visitors. Mr. Wong responded that visitors could enter the courtyard from the building's lower level upon emerging from the exhibit sequence; the courtyard would therefore provide a respite from the emotional experience of the exhibits. A calm reflecting pool is proposed within the courtyard, and the pool would keep visitors away from the air intake area. Mr. Freelon asked if the courtyard opening would be covered with mesh or otherwise protected from falling debris. Mr. Wong said that no mesh or bars are proposed, noting that these would contribute to the negative connotations of an underground building. He acknowledged that a person at grade could throw something into the courtyard and emphasized that maintenance would be necessary to keep the courtyard clean. Mr. Robinson added that veterans and their families had raised the concern that a courtyard covered with mesh would suggest the "tiger cages" which housed prisoners of war in Vietnam, and the design process has required sensitivity to such concerns.
Mr. Schlossberg questioned the character of the visitor experience in the building, acknowledging that the Commission is not necessarily reviewing the interior design. He said that the continuous hard surfaces seem to conflict with the goal of an emotional and educational environment, creating a "sealed–off" character in the space. Mr. Wong agreed with this concern and noted that the presentation did not include details of the exhibit contents; he said that the design includes opportunities for interaction such as along the timeline wall. Mr. Schlossberg reiterated his concern that the textures create an environment of hard surfaces that does not encourage visitor contact; he contrasted this with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where visitors often touch the walls. He said that people's educational and emotional experiences could be tactile, not just visual. Mr. Robinson offered to provide the Commission members with the digital file of an animated walk–through of the building. He said that some of the exhibit cases are transparent on both sides, allowing visitors to see multiple layers of information; the timeline would also have touch–screen television monitors, with displays such as a news broadcast during the Vietnam War. He added that the wall with projected faces would be an especially powerful exhibit. Mr. Schlossberg offered confidence that the exhibits would be well done and clarified that his concern is with the textural experience of the space; he suggested such measures as adding fabric to enhance the visitor's engagement with the building.
Ms. Fernández expressed support for the evolution of the design; she offered particular support for the treatment of the entrance area as an entirely different experience from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She questioned the proposal for the triangular skylights; although the reason for their shape is clear, the result is a confusing graphic pattern on the landscape. The pattern has the appearance of being an iconic graphic symbol but the unfortunate association could be to a minefield, with people on the rooftop lawn having to step around the obstacles. She also expressed support for the soft, curved experience of approaching the building along the descending walk, which she said provides a welcome distinction from the design character of the memorial; however, she observed that this character does not extend into the lobby, resulting in an abrupt transition to the interior exhibits. She added that the triangular skylights, seen from below in the lobby, follow the logic of the ceiling pattern but do not relate to the curvilinear flow of the entrance experience; she suggested consideration of a different shape for the skylights so that they would be softer containers of light. Mr. Wong responded that an early design decision was to treat the approach to the building as a part of the adjacent landscape, while the interior is related to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial rather than the landscape. The result is that the interior has an ordered rather than organic geometry. He acknowledged that the tension between these two design approaches has been an ongoing challenge in the design process. Mr. Robinson acknowledged the difficulty of choosing a design vocabulary for the skylights that would be successful both in the landscape and for the building interior. The previous proposal for linear skylights above the exhibit walls was not well received; the desire for more daylight in the lobby resulted in the proposal to derive the skylight shapes from the structural pattern of the ceiling, but he said that the minefield analogy was not considered and could lead to a different skylight proposal.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposal includes too many design languages. Part of the project has a triangular geometry; the courtyard appears square; and the exhibit walls have a radial organization. He supported the idea of the building as an education center but said that the design overemphasizes the emotional experience, which should be the role of the memorial; he recommended that the education center have a calmer design. He offered the example of the education center at Berlin's holocaust memorial: simply an underground room, straightforward in character and not an exciting piece of architecture. This submission, in contrast, is intended as an exciting and emotional experience for visitors, which he said is inappropriate. He added that the design goals compound the problems inherent to an underground building and emphasized his skepticism of the concept submission.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the revised design for the entrance area, commenting that the design has a gentle character and serves its purpose. However, she said that the design gestures in the landscape are excessively large, perhaps due to the program being too large. She indicated the example of the projecting slab along the entrance facade, observing that it is approximately the same size as one of the arms of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She said that the extent of the program is expressed on the landscape surface through many gestures involving such issues as light and access, and the various gestures are not related to each other; in particular, she expressed concern with the triangular shape and unorganized pattern of the skylights. She noted that the lobby has a glass facade toward the entrance area and additional daylight from the courtyard, questioning whether the skylights are necessary. She supported the selection of materials which she said has been handled well. Mr. Wong responded that the program size has been considered carefully, and some elements have been removed; classrooms were previously included but the decision was to treat the exhibit areas as the learning space. He said that the proposed concept for accommodating the program has the least impact on the landscape; other concepts initially considered were more architectural in character, using entrance pavilions rather than a descending walk.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the issue of whether the proposed building competes with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and raised the additional question of the building's relationship to the food–service pavilion to the south. She said that the lack of a relationship between these adjacent structures results in a "suburban" character. Ideally, an entrance into the proposed building would have been coordinated with the food–service pavilion, but such a solution may no longer be feasible. She said that ignoring the food–service pavilion is not a good design strategy; a better approach is to make such relationships appear intentional rather than accidental. Regarding the relationship of the building to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, she expressed concern that the richness of the building program could eventually cause people to stop visiting the memorial, which would be perceived as inadequate. Acknowledging that a reduction in the program has apparently been considered to the extent feasible, she recommended several modifications to reduce the building's physical impact. She suggested eliminating the skylights entirely, noting the sufficiency of other sources of daylight and interior lighting for the lobby area. She suggested shortening the visible length of the entrance facade wall and the projecting slab above it, addressing the concern that its length is comparable to an arm of the memorial; she noted that the design configuration allows for selecting any exposed length for this wall. She suggested altering the proposed topography of the entrance area to allow for a different treatment of the retaining walls that incorporate benches; she observed that the proposed configuration of benches provides a scattered seating arrangement and results in the lighting beneath the benches shining outward toward the street. A shallower topography and reversal of portions of the bench configuration would allow for an improved grouping of the seating; in combination with a reduction in the exposed wall length, the overall impact of this area on the landscape would be diminished. She also questioned the proposed use of slump–formed glass but said that this issue is less important than the site improvements that she has suggested.
Chairman Powell acknowledged the progress in developing the design and the range of comments provided by the Commission; he suggested approving the concept submission subject to the comments. Mr. Luebke clarified that the concept was previously approved in 2007; although the elapsed time exceeds the usual four–year validity period for the Commission's approvals, the additional concept review in 2009 had the effect of re–setting the time period, and therefore no further approval action is required for the current concept submission. Chairman Powell and Ms. Balmori supported the procedure of simply relaying the Commission's comments in a letter. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 16/FEB/12–2, National Mall. Center lawn panels (#18 through 26) between 7th and 14th Streets. Phases II and III, reconstruction of the turf and soil, and installation of an irrigation system and new granite curbs and gutters. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/NOV/10–2, Phase I.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal for reconstruction of the central lawn panels on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Streets. The project would comprise the second and third phases of the Mall lawn reconstruction; Phase I, addressing the lawn panels between 3rd and 7th Streets, was approved by the Commission in November 2010 and is now under construction. He said the proposal includes soil replacement, regrading, stormwater collection, an irrigation system, and the installation of curbs creating a gradually sloped eighteen–inch border. Many of these elements were previously approved for Phase I; he said that the most important issue in the current submission is the configuration of the walks, and the National Park Service has developed several alternatives to create paved surfaces for the setup of large tents and other equipment used for special events. He noted that the reconstruction of the lawn was a recommendation made in the National Mall Plan of 2009. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said the project would not only restore the grass but also make it more durable so that it can sustain heavy use; the reconstruction is part of a comprehensive effort for the lawn involving physical changes, infrastructure, and maintenance plans that would establish periods of rest for the lawn between major uses. He said this project has become more important since December 2011, when the Architect of the Capitol assumed jurisdiction of Union Square, the area between 1st and 3rd Streets that was formerly administered by the National Park Service; infrastructure improvements had been planned to make Union Square an efficient place to hold large events, but this need must now be accommodated at other National Park Service locations. He introduced Suzette Goldstein of HOK to present the proposal.
Ms. Goldstein said that construction of Phase I of the lawn restoration project would be completed before the next presidential inauguration, which will provide a difficult test of the lawn's durability. The proposal for Phases II and III would use the same granite curbs, and would again grade the lawn panels with a crowning to help maintain the continuous green vista by obscuring views of north–south walks from a distance. Stormwater would be collected in cisterns and would supply about two–thirds of the water necessary to irrigate the Mall. She emphasized that the Mall functions as both a local park and national open space; it accommodates special events such as presidential inauguration activities, Fourth of July celebrations, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, with a legal mandate to allow First Amendment activities such as marches and demonstrations. She presented photographs illustrating the results of this intensive use: erosion of the edges of lawn panels, ponding of water in depressions on the ground, and large areas of dead grass in lawn panels as a result of tents. She noted that grass will grow back if given proper care, but there are so many activities on the Mall that the lawns never have time to recover in spite of the maintenance provided by the National Park Service. She said that Phase I dealt primarily with the design and mechanical issues of the lawn panels, while the current submission addresses a proposed change in how the Mall is used, as called for in the National Mall Plan: the proposal incorporates additional paved areas that would be simple, and easy to maintain, and flexible for multiple uses.
Ms. Goldstein presented a diagram illustrating the typical amount of activity on the Mall throughout spring, summer, and fall. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that some areas are shown as intensively used only in the summer; Ms. Goldstein responded that the diagram includes the summer activity of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which is the only event allowed to use the tree panels which flank the lawn panels to the north and south. She said that every organization planning an event on the Mall is required to provide a plan or diagram of proposed construction, and she presented examples of such diagrams for two of the largest annual events—the Folklife Festival and the National Book Festival. She said that large events are typically organized into small groupings of different subjects or interests, spreading out activities across the Mall so that different readings and performances can be held concurrently. She presented a graph illustrating the size and number of structures that larger events bring to the Mall; the Folklife Festival could use twenty to forty small tents, one to four large tents, and others of medium size. Most tents now have to be placed on the lawns, a problematic situation; alternatives are necessary for at least some events. If areas of hardscape can be provided, smaller events could be required to locate there instead of on the lawn panels. She said the ultimate goal would be to keep all events off the grass, but acknowledged that this is probably not achievable.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if a fee is charged to hold events on the Mall. Ms. Goldstein responded that event organizers pay a small application fee to secure a permit from the National Park Service; for larger events a bond or deposit is negotiated, to be retained by the National Park Service in case of damage. However, the Mall is in such poor condition that the damage from a particular event is difficult to prove; as the Mall is rehabilitated, damage may be identified more easily and more payment could be collected. Ms. Balmori asked if the bond money has ever been retained; Ms. Goldstein said that there is some precedent for this occurring but emphasized the problem that damage usually could not be proved.
Ms. Goldstein said that the presentation includes three alternatives that are inspired by considering several historic Mall plans: the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) plans of 1966 and 1973, prepared in anticipation of the nation's bicentennial celebrations; the 1935–36 plan by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.; and the McMillan Plan (Senate Park Commission Plan) of 1901. The alternatives have also been analyzed for their impact on the amount of lawn area compared to the existing condition; the design team has calculated the proportion of lawn and hardscape for the Mall—between Madison and Jefferson Drives and 3rd and 14th Streets—as approximately 71 percent lawn and 29 percent hardscape.
Ms. Goldstein presented Alternative 1, based on the SOM plans which resulted in converting the east–west Washington and Adams Drives into gravel walks and provided the current configuration of lawn panels and north–south walks of varied widths. The proposal would regularize the lawn panel sizes, removing some extra north–south walks and widening others. In this alternative, the configuration of narrow walks and smaller lawn panels aligned with 9th and 12th Streets would be retained. These smaller lawns would be managed as "sacrificial panels" that would be the first to be used as event space when something has to be put on a lawn area, with the understanding that these panels would probably be heavily damaged and then rebuilt. The designation of sacrificial panels would result in a more manageable process for rebuilding the Mall following a major event.
Ms. Balmori asked for clarification of the proposed widening of some walks. Ms. Goldstein responded that the walks centered on the American History and Natural History museums are now forty feet wide and are proposed as eighty feet wide. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposal also includes an eighty–foot–wide paved area along the west side of 7th Street, where a curbside lawn area and narrower sidewalk are now located; this change would result in a total paved width of 188 feet including the street itself. Ms. Goldstein said that this feature responds to a requirement to provide a space of 150 by 200 feet in this general area for the staging of equipment for each presidential inauguration.
Ms. Goldstein presented diagrams depicting how tents for the Folklife Festival and Book Festival could be accommodated in Alterative 1, placing many tents on the widened paved areas and a few large tents on the sacrificial lawn panels. She noted that achieving this goal for the Folklife Festival would require closing Madison Drive to traffic for the duration of setup, activity, and removal, a period of approximately sixty days. Ms. Balmori asked if the National Park Service ever tries to regulate the size of the tents; the larger tents cause the most damage, and the lawn could be protected more effectively if events were limited to using smaller tents. Ms. Goldstein responded that the National Park Service could try to negotiate for smaller tents but has no regulatory basis for refusing to accommodate larger ones; the desired configuration of tents depends on the event. The allowed location can be more easily controlled: the National Park Service could require that larger tents be placed on the designated sacrificial panels, and use funds from event organizers to pay for restoration of these panels.
Observing that the New York Book Festival is held on sidewalks, Ms. Balmori asked if event structures could be placed on the sidewalks along Madison and Jefferson Drives. Ms. Goldstein said that this is included in the illustrated configuration of the National Book Festival with Alternative 1; some events use these sidewalks as a location for portable toilets. She added that closing the streets themselves would be a last resort.
Mr. Schlossberg suggested that the design team address the issue differently and consider installing a system of footings in the lawn panels and paved areas that would accommodate all possible tent configurations; event organizers could be required to fit their events to these footings. He said that destruction typically begins at footings and spreads from there; a designed permanent system would avoid the problem of stakes being used to set up tents. Ms. Goldstein responded that such a system has been considered but has numerous limitations. To accommodate a range of tent sizes, a very large number of tent anchors would be needed—perhaps one every ten feet—and maintenance of the anchors would be difficult. Modern tents do not necessarily require stakes; ballast systems can be used instead, particularly on hardscape. Tent stakes are not feasible on the Mall's east–west gravel walks which are laid over concrete; on the lawn panels, the ballast systems are not allowed because they would compact and kill the lawn. She said the problem with tents is that they damage the entire area of lawn they cover; depending on the time of year, tents can only be left up for four to five days before killing the grass beneath them. She also noted that the current project does not include the major east–west walks.
Ms. Goldstein presented sectional diagrams to illustrate how tents could be placed on paved areas of varying widths, keeping a minimum of fifteen feet available for pedestrians and emergency vehicle access. With a width of 146 feet—the widest on any of the proposed alternatives—two sizes of large tents could be accommodated with a pedestrian zone between them; on the forty–foot–wide east–west walks, which are lined on one side by a series of light poles and benches, a fifteen–foot–wide tent would still leave a fifteen–foot walkway for pedestrians plus ten feet for the benches.
Ms. Goldstein presented Alternative 2, derived from Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.'s plan for the Mall that was implemented in 1935–1936. The Olmsted plan included at–grade roads of various widths crossing the Mall: 7th Street was 83 feet wide between lawn edges, and 14th Street was 104 feet wide. The major difference from Alternative 1 is the proposed removal of the lawn panels aligned with 9th and 12th Streets to create 146–foot–wide paved areas, instead of the sacrificial lawn panels which had been shown in Alternative 1; the result is a more regular pattern of lawn panels alternating with pavement. She said that the percentage of lawn and pavement would be similar to the existing condition, with the lawn area reduced from 71 to 69 percent. She presented diagrams showing how the Folklife and Book Festivals could be laid out under Alternative 2, with all tents located on the hardscape areas or roadways.
Ms. Goldstein presented Alternative 3, inspired by the 1901 McMillan Plan; she quoted a description from the plan of providing respite from the green lawns at Union Square and at the 8th Street cross–axis which would have parterres and a large basin of water. Alternative 3 develops this idea for the 8th Street treatment, with small lawn panels around a water feature; these lawn areas could be treated as sacrificial panels. The proposal for a wide paved area along 7th Street is not included in Alternative 3 because the group of small lawn panels could accommodate the equipment needs in this area, and people would therefore see a pattern of green lawn and the water feature instead of a larger hardscape area at 7th Street. She said that the proportion of lawn space would be 70 percent, similar to the other alternatives although the aesthetic character would be quite different. She added that the treatment along the 8th Street axis in Alternative 3 would provide the flexible event space that the National Park Service had previously envisioned for Union Square. She noted the water feature could be drained so that it could function as additional hardscape. The largest events would continue to extend into other areas to accommodate multiple nodes of activities.
Ms. Goldstein concluded by presenting several rendered perspective views along the Mall with the three alternative designs, noting the goal of seeing the Mall as a continuous sweep of green. She noted that the visibility of paved areas varies with distance and with the elevation of the viewpoint; she said that the wider hardscape areas can be relatively unobtrusive when seen in perspective.
Chairman Powell asked which alternative is preferred by the design team; Ms. Goldstein responded that Alternative 3 is preferable because it would provide the National Park Service with the most flexibility. She emphasized that the green appearance of the Mall is a priority, and she believes that achieving this will require some type of paved area as an alternative to locating events on the lawns, in addition to improved operational measures.
Ms. Balmori acknowledged the challenge of improving the landscape while continuing to accommodate events. She said that the perspective drawings are helpful, but the most important consideration is the experience of walking along the Mall. Alternative 1, with its proposal for smaller sacrificial lawn panels, might provide the most visual continuity of green lawn from a pedestrian's viewpoint. She said that the Mall's importance is much greater than being a place to put tents; she discouraged altering the structure of the Mall to accommodate them, instead recommending that the tents be regulated to reduce their impact. She observed that the large paved areas would suggest the appearance of highways crossing the Mall, and demand for use of the paved areas would inevitably increase until the entire Mall is paved. She emphasized that the Mall should be designed for the scale of a pedestrian rather than a car, and the priority should be to keep the central panels as green as possible rather than base the design on tents. She suggested simply providing a couple of side panels to accommodate events and opposed the wide paved area along 7th Street, suggesting instead that sacrificial panels be placed in this area to accommodate the needs of inauguration events.
Ms. Goldstein agreed with the importance of the pedestrian's viewpoint, emphasizing the importance of understanding changes to the Mall experientially because its scale is so unusual. She said that an animation is being prepared to show the view of someone walking along the Mall; Ms. Balmori acknowledged that such an animation would be useful. Ms. Goldstein also agreed that the Mall should not feel like a highway but should appear green, adding that the proposed crowning of the lawn panels will help to emphasize the green appearance.
Mr. Schlossberg expressed concern with some of the assumptions being made in the proposals. The intention is that event sponsors would be directed to separated areas, but people would likely not behave that way; for fairs and other events, people do not want to be some distance away from the next person but prefer an aggregation to allow for experiencing the spillover from the adjacent activity. He discouraged a design that would require people to do something that is counterintuitive to human behavior. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that such a requirement would be an interesting tactic to encourage events to be relocated elsewhere.
Mr. Schlossberg said that an additional concern is the assumption that the Mall can always be repaired; he noted the presentation photograph of damaged lawn panels which he said is probably the most truthful illustration of what will inevitably happen on the Mall, even if the proposed changes slow down the rate of decay. He offered the example of football fields, where the important aesthetic appearance is typically achieved with artificial turf although this would be an unpopular option for the Mall. He observed that placing tents on enlarged paved areas would cause people to walk on the nearby lawn edges, resulting in perhaps an additional twenty–foot–wide zone of trampled grass; widening the walkways would therefore not preserve the remaining grass but would simply move the deterioration to the nearest lawn edges. The result would be as much deterioration as seen now, and in twenty years the National Park Service would have to return to the Commission with a proposal to reduce the Mall to strips of grass between wide areas of paving. He said that the proposed ideal images of the Mall could not reasonably be expected to remain true, and advised that the walks be kept as narrow as possible rather than ever giving in to pressure for widening them.
Ms. Goldstein acknowledged this position and said that the National Park Service is looking for a compromise solution of wider walks that would allow for moving most events off the lawn panels without sacrificing the green vista. She said that trampling of the lawn edges could be discouraged through operational procedures and physical means; one example is that the proposed grading includes a three to four percent slope on the edges of the lawn panels to discourage people from walking, jogging, or setting up tents. Mr. Schlossberg and Ms. Balmori agreed that this detail would be helpful. Ms. Goldstein nonetheless acknowledged that the design could not entirely address a behavioral tendency to walk onto the grass areas.
Mr. Freelon asked about the recovery time of the lawn panels after an event. Ms. Goldstein responded that sod requires three to four weeks to become established, while grass seed requires substantially longer to grow. She noted that the lawn panels would not necessarily be repaired after each event but only after a series of events has ended. Mr. Freelon asked about successful lawn recovery at other locations. Ms. Goldstein responded that most large spaces are not federal property; large events on lawns are typically athletic events, and the National Football League, for example, has more money to reestablish grass. She said that other parks, such as Central Park in New York, have fewer events than the Mall and more control over the time interval between events; because there are fewer events, more rest periods can be provided. She gave the example of Battery Park City in New York, which has a private park used for athletics; the owner shuts down the park for periods at the beginning and end of the season to allow for re–sodding the lawn and cultivating the soil to reverse compaction. At that park, money is available for this work, but the National Park Service would not have comparable funding available for the Mall.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the National Park Service is trying to find a design solution for a management problem, and he expressed skepticism that this approach would work. He said that the inability to establish a maximum size for tents on the Mall, or to close areas long enough for the grass to recover, results in a hopeless situation; the proposal is therefore a big investment for an uncertain outcome. He asked Mr. May to respond to the concern; Mr. May said that the National Park Service operates with some constraints for the Mall, such as a requirement to accommodate certain events. The goal is therefore to find a compromise that would better accommodate much of the activity that is currently damaging the Mall—in particular, tents that stand for long periods on the grass; even if not all such tents could be prevented, removing some of them would be extremely helpful. He added that the National Park Service also needs to implement regulatory policies that would improve the Mall's management; this effort has been more successful recently, and some potentially damaging events have been kept off the Mall. He acknowledged that the policies can only help to a limited extent but said that the goal is to address the problem holistically rather than search in vain for a "magic design solution."
Ms. Balmori reiterated the suggestion to regulate the size of tents. Mr. May acknowledged that the large tents are worse because there is less flexibility about where they can be placed; but events requiring larger tents would continue, which is the reason for proposing some large paved spaces. He added that even large tents are not necessarily problematic unless they stay for long periods. Ms. Balmori asked if an arrangement could be made with the Architect of the Capitol to use Union Square for the larger tents. Mr. May responded that the National Park Service would like to assist in redesigning the square and determining its use, and has included Union Square–along with Constitution Gardens and the Washington Monument's Sylvan Theater–in a current design competition that grew out of the National Mall Plan. He noted that Union Square's recent transfer of jurisdiction occurred during the competition process, but the site remains in the competition with the hope that the Architect of the Capitol will carry out some of the ideas. He added that the regulations for use of the Capitol grounds are different than for the Mall; allowable uses are largely determined by the Capitol police which may never allow large festivals on Union Square although the National Park Service encourages this possibility.
Mr. Schlossberg asked if some organization, such as the Trust for the National Mall, could acquire and supply tents of a type that would cause less damage; he recalled seeing beautiful tents elsewhere that use solar screens and watering devices that don't damage lawns. He said that a requirement to use a certain set of tents with less damaging effects could avoid the proposal to add more hardscape. He also suggested that using one very large tent for the Book Festival and Folklife Festival might have less impact than the many tents that are typically used. Mr. May responded that the National Park Service is interested in new technologies that would reduce damage from tents and make recovery easier, and offered to consider such options.
Ms. Fernández said that the alternatives are difficult to evaluate because they are presented primarily in plan, and all of the perspective renderings privilege the axial view down the length of the Mall–including the elevated view from the Washington Monument that was presented as the closing image. She expressed skepticism of basing a design on an idealized viewpoint with a particular framed vista; the reality is that people cross the Mall at many different points, and many layers of activities happen there simultaneously, although this reality is much more difficult to represent in graphic form. She suggested, in addition to the intended animation, that additional perspective views be prepared to convey experiences such as turning corners and looking across the width of the Mall where the pavement would be widened; she described the omission of such views as a major gap in the presentation. Ms. Goldstein acknowledged that the animation does not include such cross–Mall views but they could easily be prepared using the computer model that has been developed.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the Commission could provide comments based on the information presented. She offered support for Alternative 1, which she said places the least emphasis on accommodating uses through additional pavement. She acknowledged that this alternative includes large paved areas on the sides for large tents, recommending careful detailing of these spaces and cautioning against treating them as large, undifferentiated areas of pavement–approximately half an acre in size. She suggested using gravel in such spaces to allow for drainage and easy repair. She recommended minimizing the amount of pavement crossing the center of the Mall and suggested that additional sacrificial areas be established, perhaps not bounded by additional paths but defined as areas with a special substrate. She also supported Ms. Balmori's suggestion to provide a sacrificial lawn panel near 7th Street for infrequent inaugural events rather than create a large paved area at this location.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that a policy of dispersing events may not be feasible, as demonstrated by the current lack of such a solution, as well as the likely reluctance of sponsors to spread out their events; she nonetheless encouraged such a policy if possible and emphasized that any dissatisfaction of event sponsors might simply cause them not to use the Mall in the future. She also said that the National Park Service should accept the need for ongoing maintenance of the lawn panels rather than attempt to design a one–time solution.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that improvements to the walks along the sides of the central panels could change the way festivals are conducted. Ms. Goldstein responded that no new east–west walks are proposed; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said they would be upgraded to make them easier to maintain. Mr. May said that replacement of the gravel is still being considered. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the many changes being discussed for the Mall should not be rushed; perhaps less drastic changes could be sufficient in combination with other improvements, such as improved management practices and reliance on sod rather than seed for renewing the lawn.
Chairman Powell suggested a motion conveying these comments. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission wants to provide specific guidance on the acceptable width of walks crossing the Mall, or more general advice to minimize the paving and use sacrificial panels where possible. Ms. Balmori said there should be only a couple of sacrificial panels; while offering support for Alternative 1 due to its emphasis on lawn space, she said that the proposed doubling of the forty–foot–wide walks to eighty feet is not acceptable.
Ms. Fernández emphasized that the proportion of grass area on the Mall should not be reduced. She noted that the percentages were described in the presentation as being essentially the same, but they are not; a few percent less than the existing lawn proportion is significant because it would set a precedent that eroding the lawn area is acceptable. She said that this issue should be taken into consideration in evaluating any design proposal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested a different design strategy: instead of the unrealistically dispersed event configurations that were included in the presentation, the focus should be on placing large events in the area between 10th and 13th Streets; the two walks framing this area could be widened to eighty feet, and the problem of repairs would be confined to this area. Ms. Goldstein said that increasing those two forty–foot–wide walks to eighty feet would provide two more locations, other than lawn panels, where large tents could be located. Ms. Balmori added that the design should include a sacrificial lawn panel in the center but did not support widening the two north–south walks to eighty feet. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the Commission could support a seventy–foot width. Ms. Fernández said that the appearance of an eighty–foot–wide walkway was not sufficiently illustrated in the presentation; she said that the Commission's strongest influence on the design is at the concept stage and suggested obtaining additional perspective views before making a specific recommendation. The Commission members agreed that more information is needed before approving a concept proposal. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to request for a more detailed submission; upon a second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission adopted this motion.
Chairman Powell recused himself from participation in the following two agenda items, and Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk presided for these presentations.
C. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead–Luce Act
1. SL 12– 053, 500 L'Enfant Plaza, SW. New 14–story office building at the southeast corner (895/875 Frontage Road at 9th Street). Concept. (Previous: SL 11–164, October 2011.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for an office building at L'Enfant Plaza; the submission includes two concept alternatives in response to the Commission's comments from the previous review in October 2011. She asked Dean Cinkala of the JBG Companies, the owner of the site, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Cinkala noted his firm's substantial investment in revitalization projects at L'Enfant Plaza since acquiring the complex in 2003 and the several additional projects currently projected or undergoing review. He said that the proposed office building is a particularly important project because it will replace an existing loading dock area that he described as dilapidated and an eyesore; the goal is to create a beautiful project that will improve the community and the L'Enfant Plaza complex. He introduced Kelly Davis of ZGF Architects to present the design.
Mr. Davis presented the context of the project, noting that several Commission members were not present at the previous review. The site is immediately north of the I–395 highway and south of the central building of L'Enfant Plaza; he indicated the corresponding site to the north of the central building where a new extended–stay hotel has recently been reviewed by the Commission. The site is also immediately west of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters building that was designed by Marcel Breuer. He indicated the overall alignment of building facades along I–395 and said that the proposed building would be consistent with this pattern; the building would also fill out the L'Enfant Plaza grouping of office buildings. The site contains the loading dock for the central building; an improved loading dock would be provided as part of the project. Drop–off access to the lobby of the new building would be from a driveway extending from L'Enfant Plaza and 10th Street. He presented photographs of the site, indicating the HUD building's angled facades adjacent to the proposed site; he noted that the predominant view of the building would be from the south.
Mr. Davis summarized the previous submission which included curved facades along the south and east, intended as a response to the shape of the HUD building; he noted the Commission's criticism of the curves as awkward and not an appropriate response to the HUD building, with the request for refinement of the design with fewer gestures and perhaps an orthogonal massing as well as a bolder design approach. He added that the Commission had supported the glassy character of the exterior, intended as a contrast to the context of "harsh concrete."
Mr. Davis described the principles of the current concept submission. The north end of the proposed building would have a straightforward grid pattern relating to the L'Enfant Plaza context; the south end would respond to the high visibility of the building from I–395; and the building would have some gesture of response to the HUD building, which is too significant to be ignored. The proposal is a kink or inflection in the plane of the east facade that corresponds to the angled corner of the HUD building, and a similar gesture would be repeated on the west facade. The design process then included further study of the building's volumes and facade planes, with consideration of the typical plan requirements of a speculative office building with a central core.
Mr. Davis presented perspective views of the resulting design proposal, emphasizing the intended delight of experiencing the building from I–395, the overall glassy character of the facades, the tilting of the facade planes, and the corresponding shifts in the fenestration. The base of the building would correspond to the plinth of the L'Enfant Plaza complex but with a lighter character, using metal panels on the facade; exterior concrete would be used only on the lowest levels. He indicated the two parking levels and the service level with entrances to the loading dock serving several buildings of the complex. The triple–height lobby would extend down to the retail promenade level which provides access to the Metro station; he anticipated that most people would enter the proposed building at this level. He presented the plan of a typical tenant floor, with an area of approximately 18,000 square feet, and indicated the various setbacks that relate to the context. The top of the building would include a roof terrace and green roof; the building is being designed for an environmental LEED rating of gold or possibly platinum.
Mr. Davis described the proposed materials in greater detail. The facades would include glass fins at ten–foot intervals to provide solar control and add interest to the appearance of the facade. The south facade would have horizontal aluminum sun–shading devices which would also serve to reflect daylight deeper into the building. The facade glass would include a fritted pattern to a height of approximately thirty inches at each floor level to conceal views of office furniture from the exterior. He summarized the proposal as a simpler, bolder, and more coherent massing that eliminates the previously proposed curves, responding to the Commission's previous recommendations.
Mr. Davis said that the submission includes an alternative design that responds to the previous comment of one Commission members that a more orthogonal solution would be appropriate. He presented the proposal for a more horizontal and rectangular building that would extend to the property lines. The HUD building, at its closest corner, would be 2.5 feet from this volume, resulting in a twelve–foot–wide vertical band of spandrel glass on the proposed east facade in response to fire code requirements. The southwest and southeast corners of the building would be stepped with reentrant corners to provide multiple corner offices. The area of the typical tenant floor would be approximately 20,000 square feet, and the overall building area would be 17,500 square feet greater than the inflected design. The materials would be similar, with the projecting vertical glass fins grouped at the corners to give a "waterfall" effect.
Mr. Davis said that this alternative design responds to the Commission's previous recommendations for simplification of the massing and elimination of the curves, and could be considered a more appropriate response to the formal character of the L'Enfant Plaza complex; however, he said that the inflected design is the preferred proposal due to its greater architectural boldness. He added that JBG is willing to pursue either version based on the Commission's advice. Mr. Cinkala confirmed JBG's flexibility; he noted that the alternative design is cheaper to construct and provides more floor area, but said that the inflected design is architecturally more interesting and seems to be the right solution for the site.
The Commission members inspected the site model with both proposals for the office building. Mr. Davis said that the inflected design would reach as close as 9 feet from the HUD building, and would be 19 to 33 feet from the central building of L'Enfant Plaza on the north. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the proposed building's east facade could align with the primary east facade of the central building to provide a greater separation from the HUD building, a shift that the design team estimated would be approximately 25 feet. Mr. Cinkala responded that such an alignment was feasible for the extended–stay hotel on the north, which has a narrower width requirement for the typical plan, but the setback would not be feasible for the layout of this office building; the proposal for an inflected configuration is a response to this design challenge.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the alternative design, which results in a larger floor area as presented, could be set back from the east property line to increase the distance from the HUD building. He clarified that the setback would not have to be as far as the central building's alignment, which would result in the problematic plan layout, but could be a smaller setback that would provide a desirable increase in the 2.5–foot distance of the office building from the HUD building. He offered support for the alternative design subject to providing some increase in this distance. Mr. Cinkala offered to study this further, observing that the east alignment could be set at approximately the average of the inflected design's varying plan width; he estimated that the result would be a setback of five to seven feet, which Mr. Rybczynski supported. Mr. Davis added that certain plan dimensions are critical for office buildings, but a setback of up to nine or ten feet may be feasible.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the office layout issue but agreed that the proximity to the HUD building is a concern, particularly when seen three–dimensionally in the model. She said that a few extra feet of distance may not be as important as having a more graceful relationship between the two buildings. She asked how fire code issues would affect the treatment of the east facade, and the effect of the different choices for the distance between the buildings. Mr. Davis responded that the code requirement involves the average proportion of glass across the entire east facade, provided that the proximity is greater than a minimum distance; the inflected design meets these requirements, with 45 percent of glass surface on the east facade. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked how the alternative design responds to the code requirements; Mr. Davis indicated the location of the three vertical bays of spandrel glass at the area of closest proximity to the HUD building; the remainder of the facade would meet the proportional maximum of 45 percent glass. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the spandrel glass is not differentiated on the drawings, and the Commission therefore has difficulty responding to this proposal. Mr. Davis said that spandrel glass is common on Washington buildings and it can be detailed well; he acknowledged that this glass would not be illuminated in the same way as office windows. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the result may be acceptable but reiterated that the Commission could not evaluate it because it is not illustrated.
Ms. Balmori asked if the inflected design could be given a deeper inflection to increase the distance from the HUD building. Mr. Davis responded that a couple of feet of variation may be feasible, but not significantly more; Mr. Cinkala added that the proposed setback of the inflected design is the most that would be comfortable for office layouts, and a significantly deeper setback—such as to the alignment of the existing and planned buildings to the north—would result in an office building that is not marketable. Mr. Schlossberg clarified that the suggestion is only to deepen the inflection, while leaving the outer corners of the east facade as proposed; most of the plan would have the desired depth for office space, with only a small portion of each floor having a narrower width from the core to the facade. Mr. Rybczynski added that any loss of floor area could be offset by adjusting the angular treatment of the west facade to gain more area; several Commission members supported this suggestion. Mr. Schlossberg emphasized that the advantage of a deeper inflection would be to suggest that the office building and HUD building have a deliberate design relationship rather than ignore each other.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended treating the entire L'Enfant Plaza complex as an ensemble of buildings, noting that the complex was originally conceived in this manner. She said that the goal for the additional buildings should be to improve the character of the setting. However, when the added buildings convey the attitude that the earlier buildings have the wrong design character—even though the earlier buildings will remain—the result does not contribute to the quality of the urban design. She summarized the need to accept the context gracefully, which would increase the value of the entire complex, rather than to insert new buildings that make the older ones seem inferior. Mr. Cinkala agreed with this goal while noting the market realities of leasing a speculative office building. Ms. Plater–Zyberk, citing her experience working with developers, observed that the plan of the office floors is not optimal anyway but the building's location is desirable; Mr. Davis and Mr. Cinkala agreed, adding that the views from the office space are an additional special feature. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the importance of developing a good design, commenting that an awkward–looking building would remain awkward for the long term.
Mr. Davis responded that the proposed facade grid of metal panels and glass is intended to relate to the adjacent buildings while avoiding the harsh appearance of precast concrete. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission is not recommending a concrete facade, but other design elements could be more sympathetic to the context. She offered the example of the building's base in relation to the overall L'Enfant Plaza complex, noting that the extended–stay hotel had the same issue that was successfully resolved; in the current proposal, the glass and metal facade extends down into the podium level. Mr. Davis said that this facade area corresponds to a floor of office space within the podium; he and Mr. Cinkala acknowledged that the precast concrete facade of the podium's lower portion could be continued upward to include this office floor, corresponding to the full height of the complex's existing podium. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that this type of design decision is an example of how the design can support its neighbors.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked for a consensus on the recommended massing of the building, agreeing with Mr. Rybczynski's preference for the alternative design as a simpler solution. Ms. Balmori said that the inflected design relates better to the overall context of buildings; Mr. Schlossberg agreed. Ms. Balmori added that the inflected design has an interplay of vertical and horizontal elements, while the alternative design is largely just horizontal bands of windows. Mr. Freelon supported the inflected design because its rectangular facade openings relate to those of the adjacent buildings and its inflection is a welcome response to the shape of the HUD building; he reiterated the Commission's advice to increase the amount of the inflection.
Mr. Luebke noted the additional issue of proximity to the central building of L'Enfant Plaza, which had been a concern during the review of the extended–stay hotel to the north; he indicated the projecting upper floors of the central building and said that the proposed office building facade would be 18 feet from these floors, a situation that was avoided on the extended–stay hotel by stepping back its upper floors. Mr. Schlossberg said that the proposed office building would ideally have the same separation as the extended–stay hotel from the central building, which would result in the appearance of a consistent agreement about the relationship of the buildings; closer proximity would weaken both buildings, giving the appearance of an inconsiderate design. He asked about the distance that was achieved in the final design of the extended–stay hotel; Mr. Luebke confirmed that the separation would be 25 or 30 feet, depending on the point of measurement. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the proposed office building should maintain at least the same distance of separation from the central building; she noted the additional importance of separation for this project because the area between the two buildings would become the entrance drive for the proposed office building. She clarified that an additional setback could occur only on the upper floors corresponding to the central building's projecting upper massing, as was done at the extended–stay hotel, rather than pushing back the entire north facade. She noted that the issue of proximity to the central building and the HUD building had been raised with the extended–stay hotel project, also submitted by the JBG companies, and she expressed surprise that the current submission does not reflect the experience of these prior reviews. Mr. Cinkala said that the previous concept review had apparently resulted in approval of the massing concept with a request for further development of the architectural expression. Mr. Schlossberg recalled that the proximity to adjacent buildings had been discussed as an issue in the previous review; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's previous approval of the concept for an office building at this location, and the additional design comments provided during the current review. Mr. Davis and Mr. Cinkala requested that the Commission allow the next submission of the project to be at the final design stage; Mr. Cinkala summarized the recommended design revisions that he said would be incorporated into the next submission. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk said that these changes would result in a significantly different design that should be reviewed again at the concept stage; Mr. Freelon characterized the changes as only refinements to the design. Mr. Luebke noted that the recommended design changes are clearly described but have not been documented, and he advised the Commission to request a further concept submission to see the results of these changes before development of the final design. Mr. Rybczynski agreed, noting that the current submission includes two substantially different designs and the Commission has expressed support for elements of each.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk summarized the consensus of the Commission to request a further concept submission that responds to the comments provided. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 12–051, 420 10th Street, SW (L'Enfant Plaza). Replacement retail pavilion and alterations in courtyard. Concept. (Previous: SL 12–040, January 2012.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a new retail entrance pavilion and landscape in the central courtyard of the L'Enfant Plaza complex. The concept was last reviewed in January, and the new submission includes two alternative proposals responding to the Commission's recommendation to consider a simple greenhouse design for the pavilion. She asked Dan Cinkala of the JBG Companies, the owner of the property, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Cinkala summarized the purpose of the project to add a skylit entrance for the western portion of the retail area beneath the plaza, now vacant as part of the second phase of the ongoing retail renovation; the first phase, for the eastern retail area, has been completed with great success and long lines of customers. He noted that this project has been presented to the Commission three times and described the previous proposals and Commission recommendations. The first, in September 2011, was a structure designed with heavy trusses in anticipation of a future office building being built above; the Commission requested a lighter structure with the character of a greenhouse. The second and third concepts, in November 2011 and January 2012, included sculptural glass skylights; the Commission recommended in January the development of a light, simple, greenhouse type of structure that would respond to the rectilinear configuration of the site. He said that the Commission had supported the landscape design of an earth berm planted with trees at the edge of the site, and had requested that trees be located to be visible from the retail space below. He noted the Commission's additional recommendation that the proposed ventilation stack enclosures be treated as solid screens. He introduced architect John Crump of SmithGroup/JJR to present the design.
Mr. Crump presented two alternatives for the entrance pavilion at the center of the plaza. He described the first alternative as a conservatory type of structure with sloping gabled roofs that would reduce the perception of the structure's mass; the lower gable would bring the lower edge of the structure down to human scale while the upper gable would provide enough height to enclose the elevator shaft on the east leading to the retail level. On the west, a monumental stair within the pavilion would extend down to the retail area from the primary entrance facing 10th Street. He said that the pavilion length has been reduced by one bay to place it more centrally within the plaza. A series of trusses would support the skylight, and the structure would be light and delicate to maximize the views. The landscape design would be similar to that of the previous submission with the addition of more lawn panels and planting.
Mr. Crump presented the second pavilion alternative, which he described as a modern version of a conservatory with a simple rectilinear form that would be sympathetic to the architectural character of the L'Enfant Plaza buildings. The structure and glazing would be simple and have a clean look, with most of the steel structure concealed within the aluminum framing system. He said the two alternatives for the pavilion would have the same footprint and would have vestibules at each end.
Ms. Balmori supported the addition of more planting and another line of trees in the plaza; she suggested locating trees even closer to the pavilion to provide sufficient shade for the outdoor tables around the plaza and to shade the skylight, which would in turn reduce the air conditioning load for the interior space. For the pavilion design, Ms. Balmori offered strong support for the second alternative as a more straightforward simple rectangular form.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the renderings of the pavilion alternatives suggest a difference in character and detailing, with the gable–roofed pavilion appearing lighter, and she asked whether this was accurate or a variation in the rendering technique. Mr. Crump responded that this difference may be only a rendering issue, and the two alternatives would have a similar structure; he added that the mullions of the rectangular alternative may have a deeper profile because they would conceal the structural steel within, but the appearance from the exterior would be similar to the gable–roofed alternative. Mr. Freelon and Ms. Balmori said that the detailing of the structure would be important. Mr. Freelon asked if they more section details have been developed; Mr. Crump responded that the design team is only beginning to discuss the design details with several manufacturers, with the goal of minimizing the visibility of any structural steel. Mr. Freelon indicated the top coping piece as an example of an important design detail; Mr. Crump responded that it would be 2.5 feet deep, and options being considered for its design include a shadow box or a metal panel.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted the apparent consensus of the Commission to support a simple single–volume structure as shown in the second alternative; she added that the more complex gable–roofed design could also be simplified into a single volume. Mr. Freelon said that the comments on the lightness of detailing for the glass and metal could be applied to either alternative, but he recommended providing guidance for one of the options. Mr. Schlossberg supported the second alternative because its lower rectangular form looks as if it belongs in that space; he added that the lengthy review process has benefitted the design of the project.
Ms. Fernández asked for further clarification of the differences in the structural systems of the two alternatives, as suggested by the differences in the renderings. Mr. Crump responded that the gable–roofed alternative uses a greenhouse–type structural system in which all of the framing is on the interior, and the glass has a butt–jointed detail; the second alternative could use the same system or integrate the structure with the mullions, and this system is illustrated in the rendering. Ms. Fernández said that she supports the simpler massing of the second alternative, but it would be improved by having the quality of natural light through the glass as shown in the first alternative. Mr. Luebke noted that this recommendation for a lighter character of the enclosure would suggest using a separate internal structural system and butt–jointed glazing. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the concept with the guidance discussed. Mr. Cinkala expressed appreciation for the Commission's assistance in arriving at this design; Ms. Balmori reiterated the Commission's support for the improvements to the design.
Following the lunch break, Chairman Powell returned to the meeting and presided for the remainder of the agenda items.
3. SL 12–043, Lowell School, 1640 Kalmia Road, NW. Additions to and renovation of the Parkside Building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for alterations to the Parkside Building at the Lowell School, a private school adjacent to Rock Creek Park on the campus of a former college. She noted that the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board recently designated the campus as a historic district, although Parkside is not a contributing building. She asked Richard Salopek of Bowie Gridley Architects to present the design.
Mr. Salopek said that the earliest buildings of the campus date from 1928 and were constructed in a stuccoed Mediterranean Revival style; the Parkside Building dates from approximately 1950 and also has a stuccoed exterior but is more modern in style. Originally a dormitory, the Parkside Building now houses middle–school classrooms. The existing structure is a rectangular building with a single–loaded corridor; he indicated the building's rear elevation that overlooks the street and Rock Creek Park.
Mr. Salopek said that the project is intended to provide improved middle–school program space through construction of an addition on the main facade facing toward the center of the campus. The addition would respond to the sloping topography and the driveway to create an open plaza at the entrance that would provide broad views across the campus. The interior would be gutted to create larger rooms, shifting the circulation to one side of the existing footprint; the addition would have a curving stuccoed facade and would contain a double–height underground theater, a library on the entrance floor, and art studios on the upper floor, along with a new entrance and stair tower. The stucco of the addition would be the same color as on the existing building but with a smoother finish to contrast with the rough texture of the original. The landscape on the street side of the building would be redesigned with the addition of canopy trees and understory plantings, and a bioretention area planted with woodland vegetation would be installed to manage stormwater. The old steel window frames would be replaced by new dark–bronze frames of similar appearance. Ms. Balmori asked about the size of the new windows; Mr. Salopek responded that the original window sizes would remain unchanged. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the roof treatment; Mr. Salopek responded that a green roof would be placed above the addition and confirmed that skylights would be provided over the art studios.
Mr. Salopek described the proposed stair tower as a modern interpretation of the historic tower at the entrance to the main building of the campus. Ms. Fernández questioned the program and appearance of the proposed tower. Mr. Salopek responded that its design results from both practical and aesthetic considerations; it would house a new egress stair providing access to the roof and would recall the common language of the campus to use towers to mark entrances. Ms. Fernández observed that not all towers are the same, and the proposed tower would be different from others on the campus because of its fenestration; she said that the proposed treatment of the glass would fight with the building's architecture, appearing messy and complicated while suggesting the language of an office building. Ms. Balmori agreed that the design of the stair tower is disturbing; she described her initial reaction that the building should not have a tower, but concluded that it may be a desirable feature because it would provide roof access. She questioned the proposal to extend the stucco around the corners of the tower, which she said causes the tower to stick out as an odd piece in the building's composition; she suggested that the tower be treated as a clean glass element that provides light to the entire stairway. She added that the other parts of the design appear to be resolved well, particularly in plan. Mr. Schlossberg agreed that the overall design is successful while the stair tower is problematic. Mr. Salopek asked if the Commission's guidance for the tower is for less glass or more. Ms. Balmori said she would prefer that the entire tower be glass but the architect could decide on the design approach; Mr. Schlossberg said that the tower could be treated either as all glass or as a masonry surface with windows.
Mr. Freelon commented that the building's main entrance would be marked with only a small canopy; he supported the protection provided by this canopy but emphasized the importance of being able to see the entrance doors more clearly when approaching the building. He recommended further study of the entrance sequence, particularly in relation to the topography, and suggested that it could be announced more boldly. Mr. Salopek agreed and asked if the refinement of the entrance and tower could be developed in consultation with the staff. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept proposal subject to further study of these issues, and he supported the delegation of further review to the staff. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted this action.
Mr. Freelon recused himself from participation in the following agenda item due to his association with the Smithsonian Institution as architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
D. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 16/FEB/12–3, National Zoological Park, North Road. General Services Building Retaining Wall. Concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAR/11–2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the project for a retaining wall adjacent to the General Services Building at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, which was last presented in March 2011. He said that the design team has subsequently responded to the Commission's concerns by examining different ways to reduce the visual impact of the wall on its surroundings. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the new submission follows extensive design study as well as the preparation of an environmental assessment. The new submission reduces the length of the proposed retaining wall, and the extent of exposed wall surface is 45 percent less than in the previous submission. She emphasized that the wall would protect the General Services Building which was damaged by the earthquake in August 2011, adding further urgency to the project. She introduced project executive Debra Nauta–Rodriguez of the National Zoo to present the concept.
Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez said that the original proposal was a long, straight wall, a straightforward engineering solution to protect the stability of the General Services Building as the first phase of a comprehensive effort to address the building's structural failures. She summarized the Commission's previous request to explore other materials and architectural articulation, and to consider the wall's visual impact on views from Rock Creek Park. She said that the design team has consulted with the staff of the Commission and other organizations, and developed a viewshed analysis as part of the environmental assessment process. In conjunction with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, the Smithsonian has made a determination that the proposed wall would have no adverse affect on historic resources. In the new design, the reduced surface area of the wall and the introduction of a bermed sustainable landscape would address the impact of the project on the environment. The design continues to allow for the potential future development of an additional lane on North Road and a parking garage above the General Services Building, both features of the zoo's master plan. She noted that the existing building, constructed in the 1970s, was intended as the first phase of a two–phase project; the second phase, the multi–level parking garage above the building, was never built, and the building roof is used as a surface lot for staff and overflow visitor parking. The temporary timber retaining wall, intended for removal after construction of the parking garage, has remained for thirty years, and its deterioration has contributed to the building's structural problems. The proposed new wall would remove the lateral loads of the hillside that are now pushing on the General Services Building. She also indicated the existing short concrete wall and a stair tower, designed for the unbuilt parking garage and now serving as a secondary staff exit. She described the hillside as very steep and covered with vegetation that has appeared since the 1970s construction; she said that most of the vegetation on the hill is dying.
Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez said that the reduction in the size of the proposed wall would be achieved by introducing a smaller secondary wall next to the stair tower. She described the limitations of the site, which include rocky terrain and the small distance between the building and the proposed alignment of North Road. The top of the wall would be maintained at a constant height above the sloping alignment of North Road, with a bottom alignment that would vary with the topography and berming. The berms would allow for planting clusters of trees in certain areas; where the wall is very close to the existing building, the landscape would include ground cover and fewer trees. She added that the existing landscape, although unattractive, forms a tree canopy along North Road which is a desirable feature that would be retained in the proposed design; the wall alignment allows for a tree–planting zone at the top of the wall in addition to the berms at the base.
Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez discussed the results of the viewshed analysis, which was conducted in winter for greater visibility; the analysis included views from a variety of vantage points including the rooftop parking lot, Beach Drive and various trails along Rock Creek, and Klingle Road on the opposite side of the valley. She said that most of the studies indicate that the wall would be barely visible despite its large size; she illustrated this conclusion with photographic simulations showing the extent of the proposed wall. Ms. Balmori asked about removal of the existing vegetation; Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez responded that any removed vegetation would be replaced with new planting which is not depicted on the photographic simulations.
Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez described the response to the Commission's request for further study of the wall's materials and articulation. The many retaining walls used on the steep slopes of Rock Creek Park are veneered with random–coursed brown and blue–gray stone, and were designed to blend into the landscape; she presented an additional example at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The same type of pattern could be achieved in the proposed concrete wall by using a custom formwork technique that would provide a relief depth of up to three inches; she said that this would provide a realistic imitation of the stone surface of the other walls. She presented several alternatives for articulating the wall's expansion joints, including quoins or setbacks at the joints or a simple planar treatment of the wall, and suggested the planar treatment as a preferred option.
Ms. Balmori asked how the base and top of the wall would be treated, noting the concrete bands on the Wilson Bridge wall illustrated in the presentation; Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez responded that the top of the wall would have a coping stone. Mr. Luebke asked if samples are available to demonstrate the proposed stone–like appearance of the concrete; Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez responded that samples would be provided as part of the final design presentation, based on ongoing coordination with the custom fiberglass formwork fabricators. She added that a rustic brown–gray color would be applied to the concrete so that the wall would blend in with the surroundings; the coloration would be achieved with an applied staining, a technique that has been used frequently at National Zoo exhibits. Ms. Balmori cautioned that her own experience with stained concrete has been less successful due to quick fading. Don Pruett of Quinn Evans Architects responded that the company designing the form liner has assured him that the stain is durable; he added that the color would be designed with variation to suggest individual stones rather than using a uniform color for the entire surface. He noted that the wall would face north and would therefore have limited exposure to sun and ultraviolet light, extending the life of the staining; the manufacturer anticipates a durability of 20 to 25 years.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the reduction in wall surface results from the berming at the base. Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez clarified that some of the reduction results from reducing the length of the wall by changing the corner treatment, allowing more of the existing landscape to be retained; the apparent height has also been reduced by changing the ground plane. Mr. Luebke noted that in the previous submission the wall was designed to be connected to the future parking garage, while in the current design they are separated.
Chairman Powell said that the design has progressed well and acknowledged the urgency of the building's structural problems; he suggested that the Commission approve the concept and delegate further review to the staff in order to expedite the process. Ms. Balmori supported approval of the concept but recommended that the design team ask the manufacturer to provide examples of concrete staining that are 25 years old; she reiterated that stains have typically not lasted long, resulting in the poor color of bare concrete, and emphasized the need to investigate this issue further. Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez said that the technical research would continue.
Mr. Luebke asked the Commission for guidance on the articulation of the expansion joints, noting the previous recommendation to consider offsets or buttresses along the length of the wall. Ms. Nauta–Rodriguez reiterated the design team's preference that the wall be treated as a background feature and does not need heavy articulation. Mr. Powell supported the simple planar treatment, commenting that the alternatives suggest a medieval appearance; Mr. Schlossberg agreed with this recommendation. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the concept design with an unarticulated treatment of joints and subject to the comments on the staining technique, with delegation of the final design review to the staff.
E. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 16/FEB/12–4, Five by Five, a public art program to install 25 temporary artworks throughout the city. Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the planned art program, called "Five by Five," which is scheduled to begin concurrent with the 2012 cherry blossom festival. Five by Five will feature the installation of 25 temporary art works around the city, some of them in locations subject to the Commission's jurisdiction. He asked Mary Beth Brown, public art coordinator for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, to present the program.
Ms. Brown discussed the role of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to provide grants and develop programs encouraging diverse artistic expressions. The Five by Five program includes the selection of five curators who each chose five artists or teams, from Washington and elsewhere, to develop temporary public art in collaboration with city residents.
Ms. Brown and project consultant Deirdre Ehlen presented an overview of the program and examples of the artists' work. Each project will be a temporary installation intended to enliven a space in a new way, encouraging residents and visitors to explore the city beyond the monumental core. The first curator, Amy Lipton, is working with the group Habitat for Artists to build small art studios from recycled materials which will be installed at TheArc, a non–profit art center in the Anacostia neighborhood; residents will develop projects there and display them on the exterior walls of the studios. The second curator, Justine Topfer of San Francisco, is working with the design studio Rebar to develop temporary street furniture along a section of 14th Street. Local curator Laura Roulet is working with the Floating Lab Collective to transform a food vendor truck into a moving museum; residents of several neighborhoods in Northeast and Southeast can have casts made of personal possessions for display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Pepco Edison Gallery. The fourth curator, Richard Hollinshed, is working with British artists, including Ben Jeans Houghton who has built a viewing device that adds an image of a mysterious floating object to any scene viewed through the eyepiece. The fifth curator, Steve Rowell of Los Angeles, is working with New York artist Lize Mogel who is researching Washington's transportation routes to develop unusual walking, bicycling, and public transit tours that will be available online, through guided tours, and on maps that will be distributed to D.C. libraries.
Ms. Brown said that the installation of the Five by Five projects will begin March 20th, with programming and events continuing until the final deinstallation on July 20th. Mr. Luebke noted that detailed review by the Commission of each installation is not necessary due to the temporary nature of the proposal. Chairman Powell asked if Five by Five is intended as a model for future projects; Ms. Brown and Ms. Ehlen responded that the intense effort for this first program is already inspiring thoughts for future projects involving the intersection of art and the public. Mr. Freelon joined Chairman Powell in offering the Commission's support for the program. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the proposal.
F. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced Ron Harrigal, acting chief engraver of the U.S. Mint, to present alternative designs for two Congressional gold medals and two circulating quarters of the "America the Beautiful" series. Mr. Harrigal provided several examples of recent Congressional gold medals and quarters for the Commission's inspection; he noted the variety of sizes and production methods that allow for different degrees of relief and detail.
1. CFA 16/FEB/12–5, Congressional Gold Medal for Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Design for gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Harrigal described the authorizing legislation and the achievements of Dr. Yunus in developing the micro–loan system that has contributed to the fight against poverty and the promotion of economic and social change. He described the Grameen Bank, started by Dr. Yunus in the 1970s to make loans to impoverished rural Bangladeshis. He noted that Dr. Yunus will become the seventh person to receive three major awards: the Congressional Gold Medal; the Nobel Peace Prize (2006); and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009). He said that elements of the design alternatives have been developed in consultation with Dr. Yunus, including the English translation of a quotation from his Nobel Prize speech—"Let us send poverty to the museum"—along with his signature, the inscription "sower" in Bengali, and the phrases "Banker to the poor" and "Act of Congress 2010."
Mr. Harrigal presented twelve alternatives for the obverse of the medal, each with the portrait and name of Dr. Yunus along with various text elements, a water lily and lotus flowers, and a background pattern of a traditional Bengali fabric. He noted the preference of Dr. Yunus for alternative #3. Ms. Balmori commented that the quality of the portraits is not good; the image used in both alternative #8 and #9 is the only one of acceptable quality. Mr. Harrigal responded that the drawings of the alternatives are intended to convey sufficient detail for the sculptor's interpretation; a small amount of shadowing is included to give the drawings a realistic character, but the shadowing is minimized because it does not translate directly into the sculpted medal.
Mr. Freelon and Mr. Schlossberg asked for clarification of Dr. Yunus's role in selecting a preferred alternative. Mr. Harrigal responded that Dr. Yunus's suggestions were incorporated into all of the alternatives; the resulting designs were shown to Dr. Yunus, who offered a preference for #3. Mr. Rybczynski asked if the recipient's signature is commonly included on Congressional Gold Medals; Mr. Harrigal responded that it is often used as a design element. Mr. Powell questioned the inclusion of both the name and signature of Dr. Yunus, suggesting that one of them be eliminated; Mr. Harrigal confirmed that the inclusion of the signature is not required by the legislation but was a preference of Dr. Yunus.
Ms. Fernández asked about the quantity of medals that would be produced. Mr. Harrigal responded that the number of duplicates is determined by the Mint's marketing department in combination with the needs of a recipient organization or special ceremony; the initial quantity can range from a few hundred to a few thousand, and additional duplicate medals can be struck if needed. He said that the initial order for the recent medal for Japanese–American military service was 3,000, while the quantity for golfer Byron Nelson was several hundred.
Mr. Rybczynski offered support for the portraits on obverse alternatives #5 and #9 because they are closest to profile poses; he said that more frontal views are less effective because the shadowing of the drawings does not transfer to the sculptural process. Mr. Harrigal noted that the three–inch–diameter medal accommodates more sculptural relief than is feasible on a typical coin; a three–quarters or frontal pose is therefore more feasible on a medal, while such poses are more challenging on the smaller presidential one–dollar coin series. Ms. Fernández supported obverse #8—using the same portrait as #9 with the addition of a background fabric pattern—and Ms. Balmori reiterated her support for #8 or #9. Mr. Powell commented that the background pattern would be beneficial at the relatively large scale of the medal; Ms. Fernández agreed that it is an important feature. Mr. Harrigal said that the pattern would be a subtle design element. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended obverse alternative #8.
Mr. Harrigal presented eight alternatives for the reverse design, including various compositions of women engaged in business activities made possible by loans from Dr. Yunus's bank; alternative #6, preferred by Dr. Yunus, shows a lotus in full bloom with a globe emerging from its petals and a Bengali inscription. Ms. Fernández criticized several problems with the drawings: the women appear to be Caucasian models taken from fashion magazines; a woman's arm in alternative #2 is poorly scaled; and the claws of the dove in alternatives #7 and #8 are incorrectly placed. She said that the poor quality of the draftsmanship dishonors the medal's recipient and gives difficulty to the Commission in offering a recommendation; Ms. Balmori agreed.
Mr. Schlossberg offered support for reverse alternative #6, suggesting that the globe and lotus flower be reduced in size by approximately ten percent and lowered to avoid crowding toward the top of the medal. Ms. Balmori also suggested simplifying the depiction of water at the base of the composition, criticizing the wavy stripes of the design. Mr. Luebke noted that neither this reverse nor the recommended obverse includes the phrase "Act of Congress 2010" which is to be located somewhere on the medal; Mr. Harrigal clarified that this phrase is not required by the authorizing legislation but is typically preferred by the recipient. Mr. Powell cautioned against an excess of design elements; Mr. Schlosberg suggested not adding this text to the recommended designs. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #6 with a reduced size and lower position for the central elements and simplification of the stylized water depiction.
2. CFA 16/FEB/12–6, Congressional Gold Medal for the Montford Point Marines. Design for gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Mr. Harrigal introduced Colonel Stephanie Smith of the U.S. Marine Corps to begin the presentation. Col. Smith said that Montford Point was a training area adjacent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and was used for training the first African–American marines from 1942 until the integration of the military in 1949. Over 19,000 marines were trained there, and she said their importance was comparable to the Tuskegee Airmen. She added that the segregated training camp was a source of both pride and disdain for these African–American marines. She said that the designs have been developed in consultation with the Montford Point Marine Association, which is partnering with the Marine Corps in recognizing these veterans. Mr. Rybczynski asked if any of the people who trained there are now living; Col. Smith responded that over 300 living veterans are known, including her own father, and more are being identified through the current publicity for the medal; their ages range from late 80s to 102.
Mr. Harrigal described the authorizing legislation which calls for a single gold medal to be struck for the group. He presented six alternatives for the obverse design featuring saluting marines, the American flag, various text phrases, and a group of leaping marines based on a famous photograph of the training. He noted that obverse alternative #5 is preferred by the association of marines. Mr. Luebke noted that some of these design elements are also shown on the reverse alternatives and suggested presenting these before the Commission begins its discussion. Mr. Harrigal presented the six reverse alternatives, which also include marines marching in formation in front of the camp's iconic water tower; reverse alternative #4 is preferred by the marines.
Ms. Balmori commented that obverse alternative #2 is the best composition for a medal; she added that obverse #5, preferred by the marines, has too many design elements. Mr. Schlossberg suggested an alteration of obverse #4: removing the leaping soldiers from the bottom of the composition, and moving the four faces slightly down to the center of the medal with the date added at the bottom. He said that the art and composition would result in an outstanding medal design.
Mr. Freelon commented that, as with the previous medal on the agenda, the ethnicity of the faces is unclear; he said that the faces on obverse alternative #5 are more recognizably African–American and suggested using these portraits as a model for the faces within the modified composition of obverse #4 that was recommended by Mr. Schlossberg. Ms. Fernández agreed that this combination of changes would result in a beautiful design.
Mr. Freelon asked for Col. Smith's response to this advice. Col. Smith said that the scene of leaping soldiers—which the Commission is recommending to eliminate from obverse #4—is an important image to the Montford Point marines, and the advantage of obverse #5 is the inclusion of three facets of the marines' service: in combat, in garrison, and in training. She also said the marines agree that the portraits in obverse #5 are better than in #4, and generally the marines had supported both of these alternatives.
Mr. Freelon emphasized the need to consider that the scene of leaping soldiers is important to the veterans. Mr. Rybczynski commented that reproducing photographic images on coins and medals is tricky and typically not successful; Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Freelon said that the photograph is simply one form of depiction of people. Mr. Schlossberg suggested that this scene be used for the reverse. Mr. Harrigal noted that this scene is not included in any of the submitted reverse alternatives, which is only due to the discretion of the artists in selecting from the source materials provided by the Mint; he reiterated that the marines' preferred design, reverse #4, includes the soldiers marching in front of the water tower which was an iconic feature of the training exercises. Mr. Powell said that the scene of marching in garrison is typical of any military unit, while the scene of leaping marines is a stronger image; he suggested using the leaping marines, as depicted on obverse #4, within the composition of reverse #6 instead of the scene of marching soldiers. He supported the text phrase included in reverse #6. Ms. Fernández said that the leaping scene is a more visually iconic moment and has more impact than the water tower scene; she added that the leaping scene on the reverse—suggesting the marines' fierce and fearless character—would provide a desirable contrast with the formal, cool elegance of the aligned faces being recommended for the obverse. Several Commission members agreed; they discussed the various compositions of the leaping scene in obverse alternatives #3, 4, and 5, and selected the treatment in obverse #4 as the best composition for use on reverse #6.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend a combination of modifications to the obverse and reverse; Col. Smith confirmed that the recommendation is clear. Ms. Fernández noted the source photograph of leaping soldiers as provided by the Mint, commenting that considerable artistic license has been taken in altering the face of the center figure to create the submitted rendering; she recommended that the image of the specific soldiers in the historic photograph be conveyed more accurately. Ms. Balmori joined in reiterating the criticism of the portraiture.
3. CFA 16/FEB/12–7, 2013 America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Program. Revised designs for the Ohio and Maryland Quarters [Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial and Fort McHenry]. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/11–5.)
Mr. Luebke noted that the submission is an unusual instance of the Mint submitting revised design alternatives in response to the Commission's previous comments. Mr. Harrigal summarized the authorizing legislation for the multi–year series of reverses for circulating quarters depicting national sites in each state and territory; the obverse continues the 1932 portrait of George Washington. The submission includes revised alternatives for two of the four quarters to be issued in 2013.
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)
Mr. Harrigal presented eight alternative reverses depicting the memorial to the naval victory by Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812; the designs include the statue of Perry within the visitor center, the exterior memorial column, the large bronze urn and observation deck atop the column, the waters of Lake Erie, battleships, and a flag with the phrase "Don't give up the ship." Mr. Schlossberg offered support for alternative #2 and suggested reversing the text "E Pluribus Unum" and "2013" to improve the balance with the state name of Ohio. Mr. Harrigal responded that the position of these text elements is established by the overall template for the coin series. Ms. Fernández supported alternative #3, commenting that its simple, uncomplicated design is the most successful; Mr. Rybczynski agreed. Ms. Fernández emphasized the clean and elegant composition of #3. Ms. Balmori joined in supporting #3 but said that the alternatives are not of high quality. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend reverse alternative #3.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland)
Mr. Harrigal presented eleven 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 views of the fort, soldiers, and cannons with the historic flag and fireworks above. He noted the inclusion of designs depicting the fort's iconic shape in response to the Commission's previous comments.
Ms. Balmori questioned the quality of the drawings—particularly the confusing inclusion of a shore or horizon line—but offered support for alternative #5 as the best depiction of the fort's recognizable shape and the most appropriate composition for a coin. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's previous response had included a request for a plan view of the fort, which is not included among the alternatives. Ms. Balmori said that a plan view would be preferable; several Commission members agreed that the Commission should see a response to this previous request, which called for both elevated and plan views to convey the fort's five–sided shape. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to reiterate this request. Mr. Harrigal responded that the alternatives are based on perspective views and the relief of the coin design; several Commission members said that the resulting designs are unclear and confusing, suggestive of lunar perspectives. Mr. Powell suggested simplifying the composition of alternative #8; Ms. Fernández commented that this design would not be successful at the scale of the quarter. Mr. Harrigal noted that these designs are also minted as three–inch–diameter medals of silver bullion.
Mr. Schlossberg recommended that the Commission request a further submission from the Mint, including the request for a plan view. Ms. Balmori said that the coin could potentially be very handsome with the iconic image of the fort. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission not to support any of the submitted alternatives. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:04 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: March 15, 2012