24 February 2012
Dear Mr. Cinkala:
In its meeting of 16 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design for a new office building proposed to be located at the southeastern corner of the L'Enfant Plaza complex (case number SL 12–053, 500 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, also known as 895/875 Frontage Road, SW). In continuing its support for an office building on this site, the Commission provided the following comments regarding the development of the design within the established context that is characterized by close adjacency to iconic mid–century buildings by Marcel Breuer and I.M. Pei.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the presentation of two alternative designs for the building but continued to question its relationship to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters immediately to the east and the L'Enfant Plaza East Building to the north. They emphasized the need for the new building to contribute to the perception of the L'Enfant Plaza precinct as an ensemble, as opposed to inserting a new structure that is dismissive of the existing buildings in its architectural language and its uncomfortable proximity to its neighbors. Thus, they requested that the massing of the building be refined, increasing the distance to the adjacent buildings, as well as treating the elevations of the building below the plaza level as an extension of the complex's base consistent with the design logic of the existing L'Enfant Plaza development.
In their discussion, the Commission members asserted that the east face of the building would ideally be set back from the HUD building to the same extent as the planned extended–stay hotel on the north side of the parcel; they suggested modifying the building's form, such as by deepening the inflection of the east wall in the first alternative design and possibly compensating for this reduction in area with an adjustment to the west side. Similarly, they strongly recommended that the north side of the building be set back from the L'Enfant Plaza East Building by no less than the same dimensions, in plan and section, as was approved for the south end of the extended–stay hotel. Other refinements to the massing at the upper levels could be used to achieve a respectful relationship to the context. In general, they expressed a preference for a consistent treatment of the building's enclosure design as shown in the first alternative, noting its sympathy with the existing architecture, and they recommended against such features as broad sections of spandrel glass as anticipated in the second alternative for the east elevation adjacent to the HUD building.
The Commission looks forward to the review of a revised concept proposal for this new development within the Southwest area of Washington's monumental core. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
cc: Kelly Davis, ZGF Architects
Last Modified: February 24, 2012