23 March 2012
Dear Mr. Seaman:
In its meeting of 15 March, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept proposal for a residential building and a church at 6th and M Streets and Maine Avenue, SW, on a site designated as Parcel 11 of The Wharf redevelopment plan for the Southwest waterfront. Citing fundamental concerns with the configuration and design of the buildings, the Commission did not take an action and requested a new submission for the proposal.
In their discussion, the Commission members noted the great opportunity inherent in the site–prominent on Maine Avenue across from the newly renovated Arena Stage and with a distant view of the Washington Monument–to create an expressive and iconic design for the small church set against the larger mass of the residential building. However, they expressed strong dissatisfaction with the submitted design, noting the extreme variation in forms, materials, and architectural elements which results in an incoherent composition; they found that the church appears to be merely appended to the north wall of the residential building. Observing that the straight line across the parcel dividing the two uses may be forcing difficult geometries and architectural massing, they suggested a reconsideration of the site plan to concentrate the formal prominence of the church on one of the corners facing Maine Avenue, and possibly extending the residential building to the other corner of the site facing the avenue. They emphasized that the small scale of the church, if given a more complete and simple shape, could help to accentuate its presence as a special building within the surrounding urban context. They also suggested that the plaza in front of the church, adjacent to a larger park planned immediately to the northwest, may be superfluous and occupies an area that might otherwise be incorporated into an improved massing for the buildings.
For the residential building, the Commission members commented that the palette of materials and architectural elements appears overly expressive and loud, whereas a quieter and more subordinate treatment of the building would be a more appropriate setting for the church. They also observed that a configuration with additional perimeter frontage for the residential program may alleviate the relatively minimal access to light and views afforded to some of the dwelling units facing the building's interior court.
The Commission looks forward to the review of a new proposal for the parcel that responds to these concerns. The next submission should include information about the relationship of the site to the broader context, including the wider monumental core and the elements of the immediate neighborhood such as the Arena Stage, which were poorly documented in the presentation. As the proposal for Parcel 11 involves private–sector development falling within the Commission's jurisdiction under the Shipstead–Luce Act, future submissions should be submitted under this authority through the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Please coordinate with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
cc: Michael Foster, MTFA Architecture
Last Modified: March 23, 2012