Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 October 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 10:05 a.m.
A. Administration of oath of office to Elizabeth K. Meyer and Alex Krieger. Mr. Luebke administered the oath of office to two new members of the Commission: Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, on the landscape architecture faculty at the University of Virginia; and Alex Krieger, FAIA, on the architecture and urban design faculty at Harvard University. He noted that a summary of their professional backgrounds was provided at the previous Commission meeting with the report of their appointments, and the summary is also posted on the Commission's website.
B. Recognition of the service of Diana Balmori from 2003 to 2012, and Witold Rybczynski from 2004 to 2012. Mr. Luebke noted that the new members of the Commission replace two outgoing members, Diana Balmori and Witold Rybczynski, both of whom served two terms on the Commission. He said that letters of appreciation have been prepared on behalf of Chairman Powell and would be sent shortly.
C. Approval of the minutes of the 20 September meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
D. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 15 November 2012, 17 January 2013, and 21 February 2013; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December.
Mr. Luebke reported the Commission's site inspections earlier in the morning to the Washington Monument Grounds (agenda items II.B.1 and II.B.2) and Arlington National Cemetery (agenda item II.C). Chairman Powell suggested discussing the inspections in conjunction with the agenda items.
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 appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported three changes to the draft appendix. Further coordination with the applicant is needed for the window design at 3131 Adams Mill Road, NW (case number SL 12–141), and she requested authorization for the staff to finalize the favorable recommendation after resolution of this issue; she clarified that the project would remain on the appendix to avoid an additional month's delay. The recommendations for two cases (SL 13–001 and 13–002) were changed to favorable based on design revisions. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported the changes to the draft appendix. One project has been removed from the appendix at the request of the applicant (case number OG 12–366). Two projects have been added that were received for November but were subsequently withdrawn, and therefore do not require review at the next Old Georgetown Board meeting (OG 12–292 and 12–304). An additional project was added that is not visible from public space and therefore does not require further review (OG 12–368). He noted that the proposed new residential building at 3220 Grace Street (OG 12–337), submitted as a permit application, was previously presented to the Commission at the concept stage in June 2012. He said that the revised appendix also includes routine updates listing the receipt of supplemental information; he also requested authorization to finalize one recommendation for a retail sign (OG 12–338) upon confirmation of further revisions to the supplemental drawings. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Old Georgetown Act submission.)
B. National Park Service
1. CFA 18/OCT/12–1, Washington Monument Grounds, 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Visitor screening facility. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/OCT/10–1, Information presentation.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal for a permanent visitor screening facility at the Washington Monument to address the need for the screening of visitors ascending the monument. The facility would replace the existing temporary structure, reviewed by the Commission and installed in 2001 on the monument's plaza. In October 2010, five schemes were presented to the Commission in an information presentation; the Commission members supported removing the temporary structure and encouraged the National Park Service to develop options that would minimize any change or impact to the monument or its landscape. He said that out of perhaps two dozen different concept ideas generated by Beyer Blinder Belle, the six with the most potential are being presented today along with a no–build option. He added that other consulting agencies have supported the alternatives that propose the least change to the monument. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. May said that the six alternatives represent a complete range of possibilities and are being brought to the Commission for guidance in further narrowing the range of choices. He introduced architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the alternatives.
Mr. Hassan emphasized the sense of honor and responsibility in working on a project for this iconic national monument, as well as the challenge of designing a screening facility that would be sympathetic with Laurie Olin's recent landscape setting for the monument. He described the symbolism of the monument's design: its strength is in its simplicity and purity of form. He added that this obelisk is not a solid monolith but a structure that people can enter to view the commemorative plaques and ascend to the observation level. He emphasized that his development of the various alternatives was guided by the issue of how to enter the monument in the most dignified way. He presented historical images of the monument and its foundation along with current views depicting the temporary security facility.
Mr. Hassan presented the alternatives using drawings and a model, encouraging the Commission members to gather at the model for the most distilled representation of the alternatives. Most of the designs would locate the screening facility below the existing circular plaza at the base of the monument, with alternatives for providing an approach to the facility's entrance; each alternative would use materials matching those already present on the site. In Option A, visitors would ascend the hill to the circular plaza; at the east end of the plaza, a pair of switchback ramps would descend to the entrance of the screening facility on the east axis. This option would respect the Olin landscape design by retaining existing pedestrian walks and the entire plaza with a relatively small intervention of berms and ramps into the landscape. Option B would slightly alter the topography further east of the monument to create a relatively flat walk leading from the existing Monument Lodge building to the screening facility entrance set within the landscape; the walk would be depressed within the rising terrain of the monument's setting. Visitors would continue inside to reach the monument's foundation and elevator; the existing plaza would not be altered. Option C would place ramps along the edges of each of the two small triangular lawn areas immediately north and south of the circular plaza; visitors would ascend toward the plaza using the existing walks and could then descend a series of ramps set within the triangles to enter the screening facility beneath the plaza. Option D would place narrow curving ramps along the east and west edges of the plaza, relating to the inherent tension in the Olin plan between the circular plaza and the oval walks; he described Option D as a subtle intervention that respects the existing landscape and the shape of the plaza, while also helping to guide visitors to the walks for access to the plaza.
Mr. Hassan presented Option E, which would not involve a below–grade screening facility but would instead replace the existing temporary structure on the plaza with a permanent facility of better appearance and materials. Although the result would be a more attractive structure, he said that this option does not resolve the fundamental issue of how to enter the monument, and it also detracts from the simplicity and purity of the monument's form and of the way it meets the plaza. Mr. Hassan concluded with Option F, which would insert descending curved ramps within the circular plaza, replacing existing benches which he described as beautiful features; a pair of ramps to the north and south is illustrated, but other configurations are also possible. Ms. Meyer asked about the width of these ramps; Mr. Hassan responded that they are depicted as ten feet wide in each option but could have a different dimension. He added that the walls along the ramps would provide an opportunity for interpretive material, such as inscriptions, for the interest of visitors waiting in line. Mr. Freelon asked if the ramps shown in the various options have the same grade. Mr. Hassan responded that a 1:12 slope is shown for all of the ramps; the presented designs have been carefully configured to accommodate the maximum allowable slope.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation and recognized two members of the public who asked to address the Commission. Don Hawkins, representing the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, said that his organizations and others had participated in the historic preservation review process; nine sets of comments sent to the National Park Service had advocated for Option E because of preservation concerns. He acknowledged that the Commission is not primarily a historic preservation body, nor are some of the organizations that had advocated for Option E; an additional advantage of Option E is that it would not require partial demolition of the monument's foundation, which could raise safety concerns. He noted that the safety issue was in part the cause for abandoning a previous study for tunneling through the monument foundation that had been presented to the Commission. He expressed optimism that Option E would result in a more elegant building than the present temporary structure, adding that the new building could itself be removed in the future when screening processes become more sophisticated or our culture's security concerns lessen. He complimented Mr. Hassan's designs, but he said that a below–grade screening facility is the wrong approach and the historic foundation should not be penetrated for visitor access.
Judy Scott Feldman, representing the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, addressed the Commission. She said that at least seven non–profit groups have recommended against digging into the foundation of the Washington Monument and have written to the National Park Service in support of either no action or Option E. She expressed concern that the National Park Service continues to spend public funds developing designs that would require cutting into the foundation which could destabilize the monument. She urged the Commission to defer any action on the proposal, noting that the existing screening structure satisfies the security needs and there is no immediate need for change, especially at a time when government funding is scarce.
Ms. Feldman said that the National Mall Plan, recently developed by the National Park Service, is a management plan that does not provide a blueprint for future growth. She described the uncoordinated piecemeal development of the Mall as a serious problem, citing four separate projects by three different federal agencies underway near the Washington Monument with no master plan to provide guidance: the 17th Street levee, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, redesign of the Sylvan Theater, and the current submission for the monument's visitor screening facility. She emphasized the importance of the Washington Monument in the historical plans for the city and described the McMillan Plan scheme for formal gardens on the monument grounds, commenting that piecemeal planning threatens to destroy any hope of realizing the historic vision of the grounds as the centerpiece of a unified Mall design. As an example of a comprehensive approach to this design problem, she cited the recent National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds, sponsored by George Washington University; she provided images and booklets from this competition as part of her testimony. On behalf of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall, she urged the Commission to support the establishment of an independent body to create a new visionary plan for the Mall.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of Ms. Feldman's comment about the need for a more comprehensive plan, noting that the National Mall Plan recommends updating the master plan for the Washington Monument. Steve Lorenzetti of the National Park Service responded that a Development Concept Plan for the Washington Monument from 2002 would be updated when plans for the new screening facility are approved.
Mr. Luebke noted that a series of historic preservation consultation meetings has been held to discuss the potential impact of alternatives; he said that the National Capital Planning Commission supports the more minimal designs of Options D, E, and F. He expressed appreciation for the very clear presentation of each option in model form, which was helpful in the consultation process. Chairman Powell asked for a response to the issue of penetrating the monument's foundation for visitor access. Mr. May said that the concept of tunneling underground to access the monument had been thoroughly studied in 2001 when the Olin landscape plan was developed, and the determination was that a tunnel would be feasible. He said that the issue has not been studied specifically for the currently presented options because no design has been selected yet, but the preliminary conclusion is that any of the alternatives could be built. He emphasized that the National Park Service would not consider an option that would threaten the stability of the monument.
Mr. Hassan responded to the concerns raised about the character of a new screening facility: he acknowledged that any of the proposed solutions could be considered severe or intrusive and would result in a different appearance for the approach to the Washington Monument. However, he observed that the monument is itself a big statement, and any solution for its entrance needs to be comparably bold, rather than timid or compromised. He added that entering the monument through its foundation would provide an opportunity to reveal the mystery of how the monument stands. Chairman Powell said that the Commission would likely support a solution that has the most minimal impact.
Mr. Krieger observed that any solution requires intrusion into a pristine design condition, and the question is where an intrusion should most appropriately be made. He said that the presentation renderings are misleading: they show the monument from a distance, and therefore the proposed ramps do not appear; but in reality, when a person is walking near the monument, the new ramps and berms would be more visually disturbing than a simple entrance point. He supported Option E, even apart from any additional concerns about underground engineering, because it is the most direct response to the security need and allows visitors to enter the monument in the same way it has been entered historically. He said that the sequence of movements with many of the underground solutions–climbing the monument's gentle knoll only to descend into the earth to then move vertically up within the monument's shaft–would be an odd experience for the visitor. He also emphasized the issues of history, always an important consideration in Washington: the Washington Monument is the product of an early 19th–century French neo–rationalism that inspired the construction of many early buildings in the city as minimal platonic forms. Placing a small Platonic form in front of a big Platonic form would be more consistent with the origins of the design aesthetic than a "quirky" adjustment of the ground plane for a new entrance. He concluded that Option E is the obvious answer, short of a broader redesign of the plaza and new master planning; Option E responds to the need as directly as the monument itself, and people could enter through a simple and elegant form. He added that the other options may be more visible and mysterious to visitors walking through the monument's surroundings than an entrance structure at the most logical place.
Mr. Freelon agreed, emphasizing the value of having people see where they want to go; the mystery implied by ramps could lead to the problem of visitors wandering around before they understand where to enter. He said that Option E uses the obvious entry point, and its architecture could be handled in a dignified, pristine, and non–intrusive way.
Ms. Fernández also agreed that Option E is the most successful alternative. She observed that punctuating the monument's ground plane would reveal a thinness that would undermine the weight and authority of the monument. She questioned the prevailing idea that the monument is by itself a privileged object without recognizing that the viewer and the experience of that object are inextricable from that conception. The Washington Monument is set at an elevated position and rises to express power, grace, and authority; having a visitor descend before entering it would create a perceptual conflict, because a visitor would be asked to do the opposite of what the monument itself is doing; thus, the monument's sense of uplift would be lost in the lack of dialogue with the visitor's experience of the monument and its surroundings.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the preparation of the multiple models, which she said demonstrate the inappropriateness of all options with a below–grade screening facility. She said that her first choice would be no action, because she is not convinced that entering the monument is important: if the manipulations for security end up degrading the sequence of entry, then the proposed improvements would not be worthwhile. But if action is required, she said that Option E is the most appropriate. She observed that the Olin landscape plan attempted to treat contemporary security needs with dignity, and it is the best recent example of how to reduce the culture of fear in American public spaces; a small security structure keeps the quiet, pure form of the monument as intact as possible. She added that an additional concern is to save as much of the foundation material as possible, since it forms a notable part of the monument's significance. She concluded with the hope that people will not accept the culture of fear associated with permanent underground structures, and that a day will come when we no longer need to think about these as part of the visitor experience on the Mall.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk recalled the prior presentation of this project to the Commission, and she acknowledged the impressive progress and clever responses of the design alternatives. She added that the proposal constitutes an exhaustive study exemplifying the trend toward underground facilities in public space design. She urged the Commission to take a position that the least intervention is best for security structures, and that the time has come to reverse the trend of building such large interventions; she therefore added her support for Option E.
Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's thanks to Mr. Hassan for the thoughtful design work, which he said offers a great testament to his vision and skill, and to Mr. May for bringing the project forward. He expressed support for Option E because of the opportunity it provides to replace the drab temporary structure with an elegant pavilion. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept of Option E.
(Comments on the Washington Monument visitor screening facility continued toward the end of the discussion of the next agenda item.)
2. CFA 18/OCT/12–2, The National Mall Design Competition: Designs for Constitution Gardens and the Washington Monument Grounds at the Sylvan Theater. Information presentation. Mr. Luebke introduced the information presentation of the winning entries for two sites from the 2011 National Mall Design Competition, proposing improvements to Constitution Gardens and to the Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument Grounds. He said that the competition was held by the Trust for the National Mall, which is assisting the National Park Service in re–imagining these two sites on the Mall; the competition had also included Union Square, whose administration has been subsequently transferred from the National Park Service to the Architect of the Capitol. Mr. Luebke said that he represented the Commission on the competition's steering committee, and the three–stage selection process was reviewed by a jury of professionals including Elizabeth Meyer, now a member of the Commission. He noted that the agenda item is an information presentation that does not require an action, and therefore all Commission members including Ms. Meyer are welcome to provide comments. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation; Mr. May introduced Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, to describe the competition.
Ms. Cunningham described the Trust's role as the National Park Service's non–profit partner on a variety of Mall projects, including the realization of recommendations from the recent National Mall Plan. This plan lays out a vision for the future of the Mall, including its restoration and improvements to meet the needs of 25 million annual visitors; the initial project is the redesign of these two sites. She introduced Adam Greenspan of PWP Landscape Architecture and Rob Rogers of Rogers Marvel Architects to present their design for Constitution Gardens.
Mr. Greenspan described the difficulty of establishing an identity for Constitution Gardens: while the Mall and its memorials are instantly recognizable, Constitution Gardens is little known and difficult to locate. The landscape is in poor condition and does not appear to be part of the Mall, but rather something to bypass. He said that the intent of the design is to give Constitution Gardens an identity and make it widely known as a site with a variety of programming and recreation. A simultaneous goal is to respect the site's role in the historic Mall plans and in the 1970s–era Skidmore, Owings & Merrill planning for the Mall. He presented an abstract painting by landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx, commenting that Constitution Gardens was the product of the same strain of biomorphic Modernism in which Burle worked. He described the site's role as part of the monumental space and symmetry of the Mall, as well as the intent of the McMillan Plan to treat the area adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool as informal woodland.
Mr. Greenspan described the garden's existing conditions, the reasons for its decline, and the suggested treatment of its major features. Causes of the site's deterioration include the poor condition of its soil, which still contains debris from the massive Navy and Munitions buildings–demolished 40 years ago–resulting in slumping, compaction, and the loss of over two–thirds of the trees planted for the 1976 opening of Constitution Gardens. Siltation is a problem in the shallow pond, resulting in algae growth despite the regular maintenance. Many flowering plants from the original design have died because of maintenance difficulties or the poor soil health. He also described assets of the site, such as the sinuous edge of the approximately seven–acre pond.
Mr. Greenberg said that the competition entry calls for Constitution Gardens to be a place that supports a diversity of plants and animals, offering a different kind of experience on the Mall. The core of the proposal would be to enhance the enclosure of the space, establishing a more intimate connection to nature in contrast to the large monumental spaces around the park. Portions of the grade around the site's boundaries would be raised to contain the space inside, defining an area related to but separate from the Mall; the space would be conducive to holding events such as performances while not intruding on the adjacent contemplative spaces, such as at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and World War II Memorial. An 18–inch–high seat wall would be added along Constitution Avenue, interrupted in places to create define entries. The wooded areas around the border of the garden would be augmented, creating an undulating edge to heighten the experience of entering this defined area while improving its connections to the Washington Monument Grounds and the surrounding urban fabric.
Mr. Greenberg said that the landscape design would be varied while having a basis in coordinated natural systems. Significant aspects of the existing design would be preserved while much would be rebuilt, including all soil above subgrade. Poor–quality soil would be used in the lower subgrade to create the contour of the new landforms around the boundary; soil in good condition, along with healthy manufactured soil, would be used above to support the growth of trees and other plantings. Most of the dead or compromised trees are located around the pond; these would be replaced with a mix of plants and trees in improved growing conditions. Flatter areas would be designed as places where people can congregate; sloped areas would be used for gardens, woods, and meadows; an aquatic shelf would be constructed around the pond to filter water; an amphitheater would be provided to accommodate crowds both large and small; and a pavilion would house a restaurant and concessions area. At the northeast corner of the site, the historic Lockkeeper's House would be used as a venue for interpretation and identification of the gardens.
Mr. Greenspan indicated the Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence, located on a small island within the pond; the new design would add wetland trees in the open space to draw the eye, enhancing the experience of looking over the water or crossing the bridge to the island. The pond would include a "water ring"–an area approximately the size of an ice hockey rink with an edge that would be submerged when the lake is full but, when the lake is slightly drained, would provide a pedestrian walk circling an area that could be used for model boat sailing in summer and ice skating in winter. He said that the water cycle of Constitution Gardens would also be improved; the current use of potable water could be replaced with roof runoff and other water recycled from structures along Constitution Avenue, as well as storm runoff and water from the planned restaurant.
Mr. Greenspan summarized that the design would provide a variety of recreation spaces: open areas for quiet pursuits, focal–point gardens, a wetland edge, and upland and lowland gardens. The design would also provide separate zones having similar maintenance requirements, and sufficient lighting would be installed to make Constitution Gardens a safe area to visit by day and night.
Mr. Rogers then presented the competition design for the restaurant pavilion. He noted that the 1970s plan had proposed a small restaurant above the terraced walls at the east end of the pond, but the restaurant was never built due to a lack of funds. The competition design calls for a new version of this idea, creating a pavilion within a garden. The 1970s planned siting of the restaurant interrupted the north–south circulation axis; more recently, the World War II Memorial was built on the same axis to the south, increasing the importance of leaving this axis unobstructed, and the restaurant would therefore be shifted slightly to the west. He said that the new siting would allow the structure to function as a threshold, with broad low steps and a ramp providing views east to the Washington Monument and west over the gardens.
Mr. Rogers described the pavilion as a simple box with splayed walls that play with perspectives; its character and volume would appear to change as people move around it. The porch would present a horizontal view of the landscape, with enough room for a broad stairway descending to the pond. The restaurant would be on the upper level; the lower level would accommodate concessions such as a hot dog stand, bathrooms, and skating and model boat rentals. The large paved terrace east of the building would accommodate a variety of events. A service drive from 17th Street would provide access for vehicles to supply the restaurant and to maintain the park and its programs.
The Commission members provided comments on the Constitution Gardens design before continuing with the presentation for the Sylvan Theater. Mr. Freelon asked about the expected survival rate with moving large trees and the mechanism for maintaining the ice rink in Washington's typically mild winters. Mr. Greenspan responded that the trees to be moved would be carefully selected and would be evaluated by an arborist; his experience in other projects has been a survival rate of 90 percent or better. He said that the ice rink operation could be provided by a vendor; the shelf and freezing equipment for the ice would be brought in seasonally, and no freezing elements would be embedded in the pond basin.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the design contains beautiful moments, particularly in its approach to the landscape and the water's edge. Referring to a rendering that depicts the scale and location of the restaurant pavilion, she commented that the structure appears to intrude between the pond and the view of the Washington Monument, and the design would not be as transparent as shown; she suggested consideration of an alternative location, particularly because the idea for the planned location only dates from the 1970s.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed concern about the intention to increase the berming around the edges of the site. She described it as a beautiful plan but said that it conceives of the park as a place unto itself; it should instead be understood as part of a much larger expanse of green that is meant to be seen in long views as well as in close proximity. She emphasized the site's connection to the Washington Monument Grounds and to the lawn around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as the importance of the experience of moving through this greater landscape by foot or car–which she said is as important as the experience within each space. She suggested that the design could retain the intended character without a major reworking of the landscape using berms. Mr. Greenspan responded that the intention is to integrate the site with adjacent areas and to emphasize continuity. He added that separation would be only one function of the new berm; it would also allow for surprise and variation as people move through this park and the larger Mall. He offered to consider adjusting this feature as the design is developed, including further study through models.
Mr. Krieger supported Ms. Plater–Zyberk's concerns about the berm. He noted that when the Commission members had driven past the site that morning, they were on a bus above the eye level of a pedestrian, and the potential introduction of an eight– or nine–foot–high berm seemed "worrisome." He said that the berms may be the right design but the Commission would need to consider specific heights and locations–how sporadic and accessible the openings would be, and what views into the landscape would be available. He expressed skepticism of adding more hidden spaces to the Mall, which he observed is a place experienced through long vistas and views extending beyond its boundaries. He suggested extensive further study of the views from Constitution Avenue into the redesigned Constitution Gardens. He described the pavilion as an elegant design that could contribute greatly to the character of that area of the Mall, adding that he is less concerned than Ms. Plater–Zyberk with its size. Mr. Greenspan responded that further consideration would be given to the effect of topographic changes on the combination of views and the visitor experience, as well as on sound attenuation; the intention is to create a place that would contrast with the more open and monumental spaces of the Mall, but he agreed with the need to develop more specific information. Mr. Krieger commented that his concerns could be characterized as an issue of nuance.
Ms. Meyer offered comments on why she had found this scheme compelling when she served as a juror in the competition. She was pleased that the design recognized the Modernist legacy of this site, rather than treating it as simply a watered–down version of a 19th–century picturesque park. She said that the conceit of it being a pastoral park could only be stretched so far–it is a Modernist park with similarities to the landscape design for the St. Louis Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial by Dan Kiley and Henry Arnold, both of whom were involved in the design of Constitution Gardens. She congratulated the design team on its plan to give this legacy new life. She also supported the recognition of the need for extensive replacement of the soil, noting that one purpose of the berms would be to use the excavated soil as sculptural material on the site. She said that this reuse reflects an ethic of sustainability and an interest in thoughtful construction phasing. She commented that during the competition there had been much consideration of reusing water on the site, and she hoped that Constitution Gardens would be able to share water from the Mall as well as from adjacent buildings.
Ms. Meyer noted that Constitution Gardens, a 1970s design, was surprisingly the subject of two National Park Service documents–a National Register of Historic Places nomination as a contributing site in West Potomac Park, and a Cultural Landscape Inventory. She said that the park therefore has an unexpectedly high degree of protection, and the jury's consideration of this status was one reason why this competition entry had drawn notice.
Mr. Krieger commented that the seating capacity of the restaurant seems large and suggested that the restaurant be smaller. Mr. Rogers responded that the Trust for the National Mall would undertake an economic analysis to determine the appropriate size. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the visual impact of the service drive was not apparent in the presentation drawings, and she advised careful study of this and other ancillary design aspects of the pavilion. Mr. Rogers said that an additional issue for study is the building's proximity to the new flood control levee; he added that one goal of the competition was to get service vehicles off the public walks and roads in Constitution Gardens.
Ms. Cunningham then introduced the competition–winning project for the Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument Grounds. She asked architect Marion Weiss of Weiss/ Manfredi and Skip Graffam of The Olin Studio to present the design.
Ms. Weiss said the governing idea of the design is the Mall as the nation's central stage, with the Sylvan Theater at its heart. The Sylvan Theater was initiated by Alice Pike Barney (a noted Washington artist and cultural advocate of the late 19th and early 20th century) as the first performance venue on Mall. Although the site feels like a leftover space, Ms. Weiss observed that it actually has a central location between the heart of the monumental core and the Tidal Basin. She added that the site belies its name because it lacks extensive tree cover, and the designers hope to emphasize the idea of "sylvan" in the Sylvan Theater.
Ms. Weiss indicated the site–bounded by Independence Avenue, 15th Street, the mound setting of the Washington Monument, and service areas–and described several problems with the existing conditions. The area is not welcoming for the many visitors arriving by bus along Independence Avenue. The Olin landscape plan for the Washington Monument Grounds created a walk between the proscenium stage and the audience seating area on the mound, placing pedestrians between performers and audience. The view from the mound is primarily of tourist buses lined up on Independence Avenue, and people in the audience are facing away from the monument.
Ms. Weiss described the improvements proposed in the competition design. A bank of land would be elevated by 22 feet to connect the theater site with other areas of the Mall, creating an amphitheater that would include the Washington Monument as a backdrop and a three–sided stage that could comfortably accommodate crowds from 100 to 10,000 in various configurations. She said that lifting the land would conceal the parked buses on Independence Avenue, enhancing the idea of the theater occupying a separate, magical world. The design also emphasizes using the site's sylvan landscape as a "connective hinge" to the Tidal Basin. She indicated other adjacent structures, including the Monument Lodge and the Survey Lodge, and said that the design would bring them into the composition. To the south, the elevation would be kept low and the ground clear of trees to maintain an unobstructed vista to the Jefferson Memorial.
Ms. Weiss said that the redesigned theater is envisioned as a welcoming, shaded area of respite, offering places to sit on a casual visit to the Mall or during important events; it would be a threshold or gateway without a rear side, offering multiple connections to roads and walks. She indicated the theater plaza that is designed to form a connective link between the multiple front sides and to clarify pedestrian routes. A new Sylvan Pavilion would also be placed beneath a raised ground plane and would shelter refreshment stands and waiting areas. Beneath the amphitheater berm, across the plaza from the Sylvan Pavilion, would be a visitor orientation center and a café with indoor and outdoor seating. The idea of a sylvan area with raking light led to the conception of a perforated ceiling for the pavilion, letting people outside see into the building and allowing use of the roof for different activities such as sledding in winter.
Mr. Graffam described the design within the larger Mall landscape and presented additional details of the project. He observed that the monumental core is defined by the framework of the formal lines of elms; within this framework are the woodlands of West Potomac Park, including the woods around the Sylvan Theater. The design would extend that woodland as both a backdrop for the theater and a frame for the seating. He said that the landscape and building together would create a layered series of spaces combining history, natural systems, and the new program into one composition. Lifting up the land to slide the program beneath would enhance the form of the monument grounds for the theater and service areas while keeping these elements subordinate to the monument.
Mr. Graffam said that the redefinition of the ground plane is intended to give the performance area the character of the Mall. The design would also create a conservation landscape–minimizing lawn areas and introducing native vegetation along with sustainable ideas for lower maintenance and reduced irrigation. The result would be a more resilient area that can withstand heavy visitation. The nearby Survey Lodge would be incorporated into the landscape as a location for interpretive programs, and he noted that pedestrian circulation would be critical due to the large number of visitors in the area. The site would be tied into the larger pedestrian walk pattern of the Mall, and the theater is intended as a destination slightly removed from the main walks in the area so that events at the theater do not disrupt the larger circulation pattern and character of the Mall. He added that all pedestrian circulation would be barrier–free, promoting the idea of a welcoming environment. He said that the project would also reconnect the sections of the Monument Grounds that were separated by the construction of Independence Avenue through the area in the 1940s. Ms. Weiss concluded by presenting the design for the theater infrastructure, with a trellis or scaffold at the center of the new stage to hold light and power equipment; this infrastructure could be adapted to accommodate performances of all types and sizes.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the scale of the project is established by the program, such as the provision of seating for 10,000 people; Ms. Weiss responded that the program encouraged aspirations at this scale. Ms. Fernández asked if any studies had been done of how the use of temporary structures may affect the grounds, commenting that this has been an ongoing concern with the Commission; she emphasized that this issue should be addressed early in the design stage rather than later, when a solution may have to involve building additional structures. Ms. Weiss responded that this issue would be studied further. Mr. Graffam agreed with the concern and offered to consider the appropriate places for temporary or event–related structures as well as rotating events to different areas; he said that further development of the design would emphasize a defined infrastructure for loading, moving, and service. Ms. Fernández emphasized the importance of developing the design in coordination with a management plan.
Ms. Meyer reiterated her support for the project; however, she recommended ongoing consideration of its scale, observing that the presentation did not address the view from the south looking from the Tidal Basin to the Washington Monument. She said the project needs to move beyond the exploration in the competition entry to consider the impact of the height and the raised grade on the view from the Lincoln Memorial as well as from the Tidal Basin. She expressed support for the idea of linking the Washington Monument setting with the landscape to the south.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented on the beauty of the project and supported the intent to encourage more activity in the Tidal Basin area. She said that the models of the Washington Monument Grounds seen during the previous presentation had been helpful; noting the numerous current projects in the area, extending as far as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, she suggested development of a wide–ranging three–dimensional physical model by either the National Park Service or the Trust for the National Mall. She recalled the reference earlier in the day to a master plan for the area around the Washington Monument, and observed that the Commission has been seeing a series of discrete projects which have not been viewed together; a physical model would be important for seeing these projects in a unified manner because the Mall had been conceived as a unified design. She said that she was not objecting generally to modern additions to the Mall and acknowledged the limited resources for this type of study tool, but she emphasized that seeing the projects in context as they evolve would be both useful and important. Ms. Cunningham responded that the design process is still in an early phase, and the next steps will be developing alternatives and calculating costs.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that the project would be affected by the outside entities making use of the Sylvan Theater area, such as event sponsors and restaurant operators; she emphasized the importance of the National Park Service's role in managing contracts with these entities and said that this issue should be a component of the plan. Mr. May agreed, commenting that many of the project's proposals raise questions about how the National Park Service would operate the site. He expressed interest in the idea of preparing a model of the Mall or portions of it, although its funding would be an issue; he added that the National Park Service has recently created a digital model of portions of the Mall, which has been useful but is not as descriptive as a physical model. Mr. Krieger said that a physical model should be large enough to depict slight differences in scale, such as between wall heights of four, twelve, and twenty feet. He said that scale was a problem with the Washington Monument screening facility models seen earlier in the meeting: they were not large enough to distinguish how tall some elements would be if seen from the ground.
Mr. Krieger commented that the Sylvan Theater project is appealing and seems to have "a lot of magic." He described numerous concerns for further consideration. He said that the design features look large and perhaps more expansive than necessary. He acknowledged that looking at buses is unappealing but said that the design should also consider the experience of people arriving by bus and what they would see: Would they pass by an area of shops and restrooms, or would they have the view of the Washington Monument that they are seeking? He said that the proposal to screen this bus parking area is contrary to the idea of the Mall as an open and democratic space. He expressed concern about the relationship between the slope of the monument mound and the new slope that would be constructed, as well as how this area might appear when it is empty of people. He acknowledged the great ambition of reinforce the connection to the Tidal Basin, but questioned achieving this connection by introducing the first aerial overpass on the Mall. He said that such a design was done well in Seattle, but such a spectacular bridge over Independence Avenue may not be appropriate in Washington. Finally, he said that the presentation described bringing the "sylvan" back to the Sylvan Theater, but the design appears to emphasize constructed forms more than natural landscape; he advised further study of the proportion between the two conditions. He reiterated his overall enthusiasm for the project while suggesting consideration of these issues.
Mr. Powell said that he supports the overall project but that issues such as scale should be studied carefully; he asked if, when looking at the Jefferson Memorial from Independence Avenue, the new topographic interventions would close off one view while opening another. Mr. May responded that the projects would go through the historic preservation review process including consideration of alternatives, and the Commission would see the designs many more times. Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the presentations.
C. Department of the Army / Arlington National Cemetery
CFA 18/OCT/12–3, Arlington National Cemetery. Millennium Site (Old Warehouse area and Fort Myer Picnic Grounds–north of the Post Traditional Chapel), Arlington, Virginia. Landscape design for Millennium Expansion Project and designs for associated structures. Concept. (Previous: CFA 27/JUL/06–3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed design for an expansion area of Arlington National Cemetery, noting the Commission's visit to the site earlier in the day. He asked Kent Carson, the project engineer on the staff of the cemetery, to begin the presentation. Mr. Carson introduced landscape architect Alan Ward of Sasaki Associates and architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan described the context of the 27–acre site at the northwestern edge of the cemetery. He said that the design goal is seamless continuity between the existing cemetery landscape and the expansion area. He described the environmental sensitivity and topographical challenges of the site, adding that these features also provided opportunities for developing a design concept.
Mr. Ward presented further details of the site. The historic cemetery boundary is marked by a low stone wall passing through the site; the project includes an area newly transferred from adjacent Fort Myer as well as an undeveloped portion of the historic cemetery. The topographic change totals fifty to sixty feet, with a stream corridor at the lowest elevation. The slopes are in poor condition, and existing mature trees are at risk; the proposal includes stream restoration with riparian vegetation. An adjacent woodland, not part of the project site, serves as an important visual backdrop to the historic Arlington House. Within Fort Myer, McNair Road and an adjacent jogging path parallel the new boundary line.
Mr. Ward presented early studies for the site design and the resulting initial concept that was developed in consultation with several agencies, including the Commission staff; this initial concept has been further refined for the current submission. The proposal includes a loop road with access from the northeast, as well as a small service road connection on the south. Columbarium niches would be placed along the boundary wall, in alcove structures around the stream, and in an arc configuration near the entrance to the site; other areas would have in–ground burials. Careful study of the existing cemetery design resulted in the proposed form of curvilinear roads and solitary trees among the graves. The proposal identifies desired woodland areas, particularly along steep slopes, and includes infill or reforestation where necessary; additional plantings would be placed along the road and in the columbarium area, and a path would be placed along the stream. He indicated the required fifty–foot setback of structures from the stream, affecting the placement of the columbarium alcoves. Where the road splits into the loop, a small landscaped island could serve as a memorial location as suggested by the National Capital Planning Commission. Two committal shelters are proposed to accommodate funerals; he noted the proposed thirty–foot width of the road system, designed to accommodate parking on both sides during the services.
Mr. Ward presented a series of site sections to illustrate the proposed topography and landscape design. Existing trees would be retained where feasible, using retaining walls in some locations; the walls may reach a height of ten feet, although the details of the topography are still being studied in order to reduce the wall height. He added that the grade changes provide the opportunity for dramatic overlooks within the landscape. He noted that the burial crypts–to be installed and covered as part of the initial landscape–follow a regular geometric pattern that is set within the less rigid character of the overall cemetery design.
Mr. Hassan presented the architectural proposals for the columbarium areas and the committal shelters. The boundary wall would serve as both a retaining wall and a location for stacked columbarium niches; the height would be approximately 12 feet above the cemetery grade and 3.5 feet above the Fort Myer grade. The wall was initially depicted with a continuous, undifferentiated treatment for niches; the proposal has now been refined to create a series of smaller–scaled spaces defined by a post–and–beam frame and benches. A special wall treatment, such as fountains instead of niches, would be used at the intersections of the boundary wall with the walks leading from the road. Option A would rely on these features to relieve the length of the wall, which he said may not be a sufficient treatment; Option B would add offsets and shallow curves in the wall alignment to provide further visual relief. He noted that Option B would also improve the accommodation of topographic variations on the upper side of the wall along McNair Drive.
Mr. Hassan presented the concept for the columbarium alcoves along the stream; the alcoves would be grouped in curved configurations to follow the topography while maintaining the fifty–foot setback from the stream centerline. He also presented the arced columbarium area, which he said has been revised from the initial sketch of a pure circular segment in order to respond to the prevailing character of the cemetery, improve the relationship to the topography, and better screen the columbarium area from the nearby motor–pool facility in Fort Myer. A committal shelter and entrance plaza would be located at the middle of the arc; the entrance plaza could be embellished with landscape or water features. He indicated the post–and–beam system that would define the smaller columbarium spaces, similar to the design vocabulary proposed along the boundary wall. He presented perspective views to illustrate the typical columbarium areas and the end conditions of the design.
Mr. Hassan presented six alternative treatments for the committal shelters, comparing them to the existing shelter at the columbarium on the east side of the cemetery. The program is a roofed area of approximately forty feet square, with no need for enclosure walls. The alternatives present variations on the number and treatment of the columns, such as a tree–like branching system or simple posts, either at the perimeter or within the roofed area; the roof could also be configured as a simple plane or with a raised central portion that would allow for clerestory openings. He presented several precedents for the various forms as well as perspective views of the alternatives.
Mr. Freelon noted the significant changes proposed to the existing topography–by as much as thirteen feet–and asked if the excavated soil would be used elsewhere on the site. Mr. Hassan responded that the engineers on the project team are working to balance the cut and fill requirements for the project, and the current estimate shows close to equal amounts.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the typical width of existing cemetery roads. Mr. Hassan responded that they are 22 feet; Mr. Carson added that some 20– and 30–foot–wide roads are also present, and the 30–foot width is proposed in this project because the road configuration provides only one point of access. Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended making the new road as narrow as possible, describing the 30–foot proposal as suburban in character; she acknowledged the desirability of accommodating parked cars on each side but said that a narrower width would still be feasible, notwithstanding the typical request of traffic engineers for a wider road. Mr. Hassan added that the loop road portions of the site design could have only one–way traffic, potentially allowing for narrower widths.
Ms. Meyer acknowledged the complexity of the site, which became apparent in the morning's inspection. She noted that the existing soil covering much of the site was described as being recently placed there from a nearby construction area; she commented that such fill can be a poor soil for tree growth, as shown in the presentation on Constitution Gardens earlier in the day, and she recommended careful consideration of the soil quality in order to ensure the survival of trees which provide critical shade for the site. She added that the concern extends to trees within the stream valley as well as on the sloped burial areas and along the walks. She emphasized the importance of the landscape to provide comfort to cemetery visitors, resulting from consideration of soil conditions as well as from the landscape design. She offered support for a stepped configuration of the boundary wall columbarium, as shown in Option B; she acknowledged that the scale of this area precludes an intimate character, but the Option B concept could provide some relief within the vast cemetery landscape. She suggested that the water features along the boundary wall could be located along the sides where the wall alignment shifts, rather than along the primary plane of the wall; she cited the precedent of Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm, which uses a retaining wall with recesses and a water feature that suggests weeping.
Ms. Meyer supported the effort to relate the curving columbarium walls to the adjacent topography; she recommended careful consideration of the back wall of this structure, noting that the height varies greatly in relation to the landscape. She also requested further study of the stream, which was presented as a spring–fed intermittent stream; the locations of the source springs should be identified, and the effect of sediment on downstream water bodies should be considered in developing details of the proposal.
Mr. Luebke requested further guidance on the design elements. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the need for a unified design. Mr. Hassan responded that Option B for the boundary wall would be consistent with the curved design of the other proposed columbarium areas; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed. Mr. Krieger recommended simplicity as the design goal for the committal shelters. He discouraged the alternatives with embellishments such as curved capitals on the columns, while encouraging the presence of daylight in the center of the covered space. Mr. Hassan added that the committal shelters may include a combination of fixed and moveable seating, and the design of the fixed seating could be consistent with the benches proposed in the columbarium areas.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided.
D. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 18/OCT/12–4, Washington Latin Public Charter School (former Rudolph Elementary School), 5200 2nd Street, NW. Building renovation and additions. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for adaptive reuse of the former Rudolph Elementary School to serve as the Washington Latin Public Charter School. The proposal includes modernization of the original 1939 building and a 1963 addition; removal of another addition; and the construction of two new wings, one of which would contain a gymnasium. She asked architect Sean O'Donnell of Perkins Eastman to present the design.
Mr. O'Donnell said that Washington Latin has been housed in a variety of locations along 16th Street, NW, with inadequate facilities and outdoor space. The D.C. government has recently awarded Washington Latin the opportunity to occupy the 70,000–square–foot Rudolph Elementary School, which is no longer in use. Washington Latin plans to consolidate its 5th– through 8th–grade classes into this location, to accommodate a future population of 650 students.
Mr. O'Donnell described the location, approximately a half–mile west of the Fort Totten Metro station. Many students will reach the school from this station; others will arrive by bus. The site is the entire block between 2nd, 3rd, Hamilton, and Ingraham Streets, NW. The original 1939 building is L–shaped, part of a planned courtyard building along 2nd Street; additions to the north and south were built in 1965 and 1968 without following the original plan for the site. The western portion of the block has the school's sports fields, which are also used by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. He emphasized the strong civic presence of the east and south facades of the 1939 building. The design goals include further realizing the intent of the 1939 site plan, and improving the elementary school facilities to meet the needs of the older children who will be attending the school.
Mr. O'Donnell described the space–planning issues affecting the design proposal. The existing building has awkward internal circulation resulting from the sequence of additions; however, the configuration has the advantage of dividing the interior into discrete areas that can be used by different age groups. The intended multipurpose room in the center of the building was never constructed, resulting in a blank interior wall facing the entrance lobby; he noted that the wall includes knockout panels for the planned later phase, and the intended spatial sequence would be developed in the proposed design. The 1939 site plan included a close relationship between the school and the sports fields to the west; however, the west wing was not built, and the overall axial organization of the site is not clear. He noted that several vestiges of the axis are present in the existing landscape features–a rectangular planting bed immediately west of the school, and site stairs at the 3rd Street sidewalk–and it is not known if more of the landscape had previously been implemented. The proposed design would strengthen this historic axial concept as the organizing element of the school and site. He also noted the planned mid–block walk along the school's west facade, suggesting the opportunity for developing secondary building entrances that could be used by the different age groups. He added that zoning regulations require providing eighty parking spaces on the site.
Mr. O'Donnell described the proposed new facilities; the need is primarily for larger spaces including a gymnasium and media center. The one–story south addition contributes little to the program needs and would be demolished, providing room for a parking area that could also serve as a basketball court. The existing axial planting bed on the west would be incorporated into a stronger central spine of open space, named the "forum," that would serve as an organizing element of the site. A media center would be added at the east end of the forum, adjacent to the entrance lobby of the 1939 building and providing a clear view along the axis. A gymnasium would be built north of the forum, abutting the blank west wall of the existing north addition; he emphasized that the proposed construction would retain the ample daylight exposure of the existing classroom spaces. An entrance plaza is proposed along 2nd Street, perhaps incorporating a small amphitheater classroom area that would also accommodate ramped access to the raised front door of the school; the existing entrance stairs would be reconfigured.
Mr. O'Donnell presented sketches of the proposed construction, noting the issues of topography, soil quality, and underground utilities. He emphasized the intention to strengthen the relationship between the building and the sports fields, taking advantage of an amenity that has not previously been available for Washington Latin. The gymnasium facades are being developed to relate to the smaller scale of row houses on the north and to the larger scale of the sports fields on the west. He noted that the phasing of the project is still being determined, and the conceptual facade designs may be modified due to budget constraints.
Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the topography in relation to the building spaces. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the grade at the west side of the school is slightly lower, and the proposed media center–opening directly onto the exterior forum space–would be one level below the 2nd Street entrance lobby. The lobby would therefore have a view into the upper portion of the double–height media center, and an improved interior connecting staircase is being considered between these spaces.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the various drawings depict different configurations of the gymnasium's southeast corner. Mr. O'Donnell confirmed that the presentation drawings include different versions of the concept development; he indicated the proposed one–story connecting hyphen between the gymnasium and the existing building, possibly serving as an entrance and reception area. The connector could also relate to a gymnasium staircase, but the phasing of the various features is still being studied. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the Commission often sees D.C. schools that have received a series of additions, often unsympathetic to the original building design, and the newly proposed addition typically has the burden of unifying these disparate elements. This project poses a similar problem, and she said that the presentation suggested a potentially successful strategy of a large gymnasium volume to balance the original building, and new lower infill volumes to relate to the 1968 construction. She supported the resulting composition of large volumes and recommended careful study of the infill design; for example, she suggested that the connecting hyphen be designed as part of the 1968 construction rather than appear to be an accretion to the gymnasium. Mr. O'Donnell responded that Washington Latin also wants to avoid a large–scale institutional character for the school, and the proposed construction therefore does not repeat the existing hip–roof form. He also noted that the phasing may result in the gymnasium being a freestanding volume for several years before the infill areas are constructed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that the connecting entrance hyphen must be carefully designed to avoid detracting from the appearance of the new gymnasium.
Mr. Krieger observed that one of the drawings suggests a unifying feature, possibly an arcade, along the south side of the gymnasium facing the forum space; he suggested strengthening this feature, even if only a shallow arcade, by reducing the forward projection of the gymnasium stair and the deep recess of the connecting hyphen. He noted that other drawings depict a more fragmented treatment of this area, and he recommended the more unifying design approach. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that her comment and Mr. Krieger's are both concerned with the goal of unifying the overall design; she added that the arcade feature could extend toward the proposed media center. Mr. Krieger emphasized that the protruding staircase in some drawings would conflict with the idea of a unifying arcade; he asked for clarification of the design intent. Mr. O'Donnell responded that these issues are still being studied, and he offered to develop the design approach that the Commission members are supporting.
Ms. Meyer added that an arcade or loggia feature could address the partially asymmetrical site configuration of the forum, with a parking lot to the south side; she observed that the axis is weak across the sports fields, marked only by the distant site stairs at the 3rd Street sidewalk. She suggested reconfiguring the lines of trees framing the forum into a double row of trees on the south side, providing improved shade to the forum and screening of the parking lot as well as balancing the gymnasium loggia on the north. Mr. O'Donnell responded that the forum is envisioned as an important student gathering space, and the quality of this space is important to the overall design. Mr. Freelon noted that the scale of the loggia is unclear from the elevations but appears to be excessively tall in relation to a person's height; he suggested lowering this feature to provide improved shelter.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the concept with numerous comments to strengthen its development; he characterized the comments as encouraging and suggested delegating review of the final design to the staff. He acknowledged the Commission's concern with the loggia design; Mr. Luebke noted that the staff could choose to bring the final design submission to the Commission if any issues remain unresolved. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the design subject to the comments provided, and delegated the review of the final submission to the staff.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs–Old Georgetown Act
OG 12–291, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street, NW. New athletic training facility. Concept. (Previous: OG 11–282, April 2012.) Ms. Barsoum introduced the concept submission for a new athletic training facility on the Georgetown University campus; she noted that new buildings in Georgetown are typically presented to the Commission, while alterations and additions are typically placed on the Georgetown appendix. She said that the Old Georgetown Board has reviewed the project and provided a report that was distributed to the Commission members; the Board supported approval of the concept design, commenting that the plan and massing are resolved while recommending further development of details in several areas. She noted that the current concept submission supersedes the design that was previously reviewed by the Commission in April 2012. Chairman Powell asked if the development of the detailing is part of the submission; Ms. Barsoum clarified that the presentation is the same as seen by the Old Georgetown Board earlier in the month, and further design development would occur after the Commission action. She asked William Gridley of Bowie Gridley Architects to present the design.
Mr. Gridley described the context of the project at the southwest corner of the campus, near Canal Road and adjacent to the existing McDonough Gymnasium on the west. A utility plant is to the north, and residence halls are to the east and south. Pedestrian access for students would typically be from the central part of the campus on the east using either North Road or Library Walk. Access by car–not likely to be frequent for most users of this facility–would be from Canal Road, using an existing parking garage under the residence halls; people would walk out of the garage onto North Road to reach the site. A campus bus route also provides access to the west side of the site. He summarized that most people would approach the building from the east, while access from the west is also needed.
Mr. Gridley briefly described the design that was presented in April 2012, with a general organization that remains in the current proposal: stacked gymnasiums on the north, a circulation spine that connects the east and west entrances, and smaller support spaces. He summarized several areas of concern from the Commission's previous review: the unclear relationship of the building to the street on the south; the unresolved connection of the building to McDonough Gymnasium on the west; the facade treatments that suggested a residence hall rather than a gymnasium; and the roof forms.
Mr. Gridley presented the new concept design, developed through additional reviews with the Old Georgetown Board. A courtyard has been introduced into the center of the plan, resulting in a southward shift for the southern part of the building; the result is an improved relationship to the street on the south as well as improved natural light for the support spaces of the building. The street has also been shifted slightly to allow for a westward extension of Library Walk flanked by rows of trees, improving the overall pedestrian circulation pattern in the area. The building's main entrance remains on the east, with a circulation spine connecting to an additional entrance on the west; the connection between the building's northwest corner and McDonough Gymnasium has been refined to be more deferential to the existing gymnasium. The north side of the proposed building would include service access and a field entrance, suitable for use by athletes wearing cleats. He noted that the presentation model depicts design improvements to the parking lot and plaza on the south side of McDonough Gymnasium and west of the proposed building; however, these site improvements have been removed from the current project and would be part of a future phase.
Mr. Gridley presented plans, elevations, and perspective views illustrating the proposal in greater detail. He said that the exterior treatment has been developed with a more appropriate expression of a gymnasium in the Collegiate Gothic style. A tower would mark the principal entrance on the east; a smaller and less ornate tower would mark the secondary entrance on the west. The material would be red brick with cast–stone highlights. He indicated the blind panels on several elevations and acknowledged the Old Georgetown Board's concern with improving their relationship to the overall building design. He also indicated details of the connection to McDonough Gymnasium, using an existing side window opening and leaving intact the existing main facade; Mr. Luebke noted that the Old Georgetown Board had given careful attention to maintaining the legibility of McDonough as a distinct volume, resulting in the improved layout of the current proposal.
Mr. Freelon commented that the plan and facades are much improved from the previous submission of the project; he also agreed with the Old Georgetown Board's recommendation that further development is needed. Mr. Gridley responded that the introduction of the courtyard was critical to improving the plan. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the project is much improved. She suggested an additional crosswalk on the east side of the building to align with a residence hall entrance walkway across the street. She also suggested further refinement of the cast–stone details, which do not yet achieve the appearance of limestone; she indicated the unusually large expanses of cast stone above several arched windows and at the peak of the gymnasium gable. She recommended careful consideration of design precedents, including study of the window pane proportions. Mr. Krieger supported Ms. Plater–Zyberk's comments; he recommended greater articulation of the building's base, such as along the east facade of the gymnasium volume which will be prominently visible along the sidewalk.
Mr. Luebke noted the additional concerns in the Old Georgetown Board's report, including the thickness of the piers, the blind windows on the south facade, and the hierarchy of design elements. He said that the Commission could adopt the Board's report in conjunction with the comments offered by the Commission members. Chairman Powell supported this approach and agreed with Ms. Plater–Zyberk's comments concerning the detailing; he said that the cast stone has the appearance of concrete as depicted in the drawings but could be refined to become an elegant and positive part of the building design. He encouraged a creative approach to developing the details and ornamentation, while offering overall support for the improvements to the proposal and the introduction of the courtyard.
Mr. Krieger raised the conceptual question of whether the design is intended as a faithful expression of the Collegiate Gothic style or as a mannerist interpretation of it; this choice would influence such issues as the appropriate design treatment of the piers. He added that the lack of a clear conceptual approach would subject the design to ongoing criticism of the detailing.
Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's overall support for the concept submission and said that the Commission could choose to see it again at a later design stage, or instead rely on the Old Georgetown Board for further review. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Krieger commented that extensive design development is still needed; Mr. Luebke said that a subsequent presentation to the Commission would be the normal continuation of the review process. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept and the Old Georgetown Board's report, noting the expectation to see a subsequent presentation of the project.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:56 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: November 16, 2012