Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
20 September 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. Commission membership and administration of oath of office to Earl A. Powell, III. Mr. Luebke announced several recent appointments to the Commission. Earlier in the week, the President appointed two new members for four–year terms; he summarized their credentials. Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, teaches landscape architecture at the University of Virginia and previously worked for EDAW and Hanna/Olin. She has lectured and published on the practice and theory of contemporary landscape design; locally, she served on the jury for the recent National Mall design competition. Alex Krieger, FAIA, teaches architecture and urban design at Harvard University; he is a founding principal of the design firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, now a part of NBBJ, that spans the disciplines of architecture, urban design, and the planning of public spaces. He has written about American cities, served as a director of the Mayors' Institute on City Design sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, and served as a peer reviewer for the General Services Administration. Mr. Luebke anticipated that they would begin their attendance at the next Commission meeting.
Mr. Luebke also reported the President's reappointment of Mr. Powell, noting his service on the Commission since 2003 and his role as chairman since 2005. He administered the oath of office to initiate Mr. Powell's next term of service.
Mr. Luebke noted that the two new appointments replace two outgoing members–Diana Balmori and Witold Rybczynski, both of whom served two terms on the Commission. He said that letters of appreciation from Chairman Powell would be prepared. Chairman Powell added that Ms. Balmori and Mr. Rybczynski served with great distinction, and he expressed the Commission's gratitude for their commitment and expertise.
B. Approval of the minutes of the 19 July meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made publicly available.
C. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 18 October 2012, 15 November 2012, and 17 January 2013; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December.
D. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the Commission's visit earlier in the day to the Freer Gallery of Art to inspect three proposed acquisitions: a document box, a portable tobacco set, and an incense set. All three are Japanese works from the Edo period, made of lacquered wood with gold and silver decoration. He said that Chairman Powell had approved the acceptance of the gifts for the museum's permanent collection, in accordance with the requirements of Charles Freer's will. Chairman Powell commented on the beauty of the objects and their importance to the Freer's collection.
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 only minor corrections to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported two changes to the draft appendix. A delivery problem with submission materials for a proposed sidewalk cafe (case number SL 12–129) has now been resolved, resulting in a favorable recommendation. Further information is still anticipated for a proposal for two signs (SL 12–084), and she requested authorization for the staff to finalize the favorable recommendation after confirmation that the details are acceptable. 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. Three projects have been removed from the appendix at the request of the applicants (case numbers OG 12–203, 12–332, and 12–333); the projects will be resubmitted for further review by the Old Georgetown Board. Requests for the withdrawal of three additional projects are anticipated (OG 12–308, 12–324, and 12–337); these are currently listed with unfavorable recommendations, and he asked for authorization to remove them from the appendix if the requests for withdrawal are received promptly. [These three projects were subsequently withdrawn.] Two projects have been added: OG 12–264 with a negative recommendation for a project that the applicant will not pursue further; and OG 12–318 which is limited to work that will not be visible from public space and therefore does not require Commission action. He said that the revised appendix also includes routine updates to the dates of receipt for supplemental information.
Chairman Powell noted the complexity of the appendix; Mr. Luebke said that the Georgetown jurisdiction generates the largest share of the Commission's submissions, and the Old Georgetown Board now reviews approximately 370 cases per year–an increase of 30 percent over the past four years. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Chairman Powell asked about an additional Georgetown issue that is not currently before the Commission: the placement of flower boxes around the fountain at the southern terminus of Wisconsin Avenue, apparently intended to address a problem of pedestrians or bicyclists falling into the fountain. He asked if a further adjustment to this design is planned. Mr. Martínez responded that the fountain is in a park administered by the National Park Service, and the flower boxes did appear soon after a pedestrian tripped at the fountain on the day after the park's dedication. Chairman Powell said that the flower boxes have been in place for over a year and have the appearance of being only a superficial solution; he asked if the Commission could encourage development of a submission for an improved design. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission or staff discuss this issue with Peter May of the National Park Service.
(Mr. Freelon recused himself from the following agenda item and left the room.)
B. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 20/SEP/12–1, National Museum of African American History and Culture, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/11–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposed final design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, designed by the team of Adjaye Freelon Bond with SmithGroup and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol. He summarized the comments from the previous review of the project in October 2011, when the Commission commended the design's progress and requested more exploration of several features including the pool at the south entrance and its inscriptions, the number of trees, and the refinement of the entrance and corona details–particularly the corona's metal screens. He noted that the Smithsonian Institution is requesting final approval relatively early in the design process because of contracting and procurement needs; the Commission could decide how much of the project to approve and whether some elements require additional refinement and either another presentation or delegation to the staff. He noted that Mr. Freelon is recusing himself from the review due to his firm's role as part of the design team. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the current submission is for final approval of the above–grade portion of the project. Some elements which the Commission had previously approved on the Consent Calendar are now under construction: the excavation wall is complete, the excavation for the foundations is underway, and much of the utility work has been done. She said that the anticipated opening of the museum is in November 2015. She introduced architect David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates and landscape architect Rodrigo Abela of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol to present the design.
Mr. Adjaye provided an overview of the site characteristics and the building design. He indicated the McMillan Plan setback line for buildings on the Mall, which determined the proposed placement of the museum volume; the overhang of the building's porch would extend in front of this line. The building volume is a 216–foot square at the base and would cover 23 percent of the site, which he said compares favorably with other Mall buildings; 62 percent of the building's area would be below grade and 38 percent above ground. The upper levels would be sheathed in a metal corona which ascends in three upwardly splayed tiers. The top of the corona would align with the top parapet of the Federal Triangle buildings, and the top of the museum's penthouse would align with the Federal Triangle rooflines. The previously presented sawtooth profile of skylights on the penthouse has been simplified; the design now calls for flat skylights and horizontal photovoltaic cells that would not affect the building's profile.
Mr. Adjaye described the interior spaces. The lowest level would house mechanical services and the history galleries. Entrances on the ground floor have been articulated more precisely in relation to the main axes. The ground–floor atrium would allow views in all cardinal directions and will serve as the circulation spine. "Lenses," or small apertures in the corona, would direct views from the upper exhibit floors to key landmarks in the area, including the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. A penthouse office level, recessed from the perimeter of the corona, would contain meeting rooms that open onto the roof terrace.
Mr. Adjaye described in more detail the features that have been changed since the previous presentation. He said that the development of a central door and internal vestibule had become problematic due to the required security arrangements, which would have created a bottleneck; the proposal for the south entrance now includes differentiated entry and exit doors, and security operations would be moved to a location behind one of the four vertical cores so that the primary view from the main hall to the south water feature would be unobstructed. The projecting vestibule at the south entrance had been a rectilinear form; it is now proposed with a 17–degree shift in plan, corresponding to the angle of the corona. The granite ground plane would rise as it enters the building on the north, and rise again as it leaves the building on the south. The northern plaza has been reduced in scale, and the oculus on the north–the main element announcing entry into this landscape–has now been given the form of a stone lid with a clerestory and an encircling bench. The oculus would be made of frameless glass, a reflecting surface that would act as a lantern within the landscape; water would cascade down its inclined walls into a pool. The form is intended to draw people into the landscape. From beneath the oculus, on the concourse level of the museum, visitors would be able to glimpse the Washington Monument and the corner of the museum's corona; from the outside, visitors would be able to look through the oculus into the museum's interior.
Mr. Adjaye described the revisions to the emergency egress areas in response to further analysis of mechanical and safety requirements. The sunken egress court on the east side of the building would have two flights of stairs: a full–width stair on the south, and a partial–width stair on the north that would be designed to avoid interference with the adjacent ventilation louvers. A small stairway from the below–grade levels to the ground has been introduced near the northwest corner of the building; it would be screened with a light fencing made of vertical balustrades to read as a landscape element instead of a railing.
Mr. Abela presented the development of the landscape design, including alteration of various small features, expansion of the material and plant palettes, and refinement of the south water feature with clarification of its relationship to the corona. Paving on the site would be composed of dark and light gray granite, two different shades of the same stone obtained by different finishes; the north plaza would be predominantly dark gray, and the south plaza predominantly light gray. The dark and light stones would tie the two sides of the site together and establish a quiet ground plane, allowing the corona to be the primary visual element. The south water feature would be lined with the dark stone, allowing reflectivity in the water. The design also includes some use of the exposed–aggregate concrete that the National Park Service uses for walks; the promenade or walk connecting the museum site with the larger network of walks on the Washington Monument Grounds would be a warm–colored concrete. He acknowledged that the extent of hardscape surface has increased, and said that permeability is maintained by introducing fresh or bound gravel paving into seating areas. He provided a sample of the proposed precast material for the reading grove benches. He also indicated five locations that have been identified as possible future sites for outdoor artwork: near Constitution Avenue at the north end of the site; near the west facade; near the north entrance; and two locations near the southeast corner of the site. He noted that the northwest corner of the site is not included in order to avoid competing with the historic Bulfinch gatepost that is located in that area. Ms. Fernández recommended the consideration of appropriate infrastructure, such as lighting, at this stage of design so that any future art work could be properly displayed.
Mr. Abela presented further details of the refinements to the north landscape, which would have many benches for shaded seating in the summer. The two bridges over the north water feature would have guardrails comprised of metal fins angled to correspond with the angle of the corona, a design gesture that is similar to the fence around the egress court. The angling would create transparency so that the water feature can be read as a continuous element along the north facade. He also indicated several features on the east side of the site along 14th Street, including a guard booth at the entrance to the service drive and a guardrail along the descending drive; an earlier proposal for a pavilion to shelter food carts has been eliminated.
Mr. Abela presented the refinements to the south landscape. The water feature would contain moving water on the south and reflective water on the north; the two would meet at a line in the middle of the pool where they will drain into a common seam. The south side of the pool would tilt up slightly, allowing the moving water to be visible when seen from beneath the porch and providing a seating edge along the south. The previous proposal included a field of inscriptions covering the entire tilted surface of the pool; in response to Ms. Fernández's concern about how this field of text would appear in relation to the corona, the design has been changed to include just three separate quotations–one on the tilted surface to the left and a second to the right, and the third inside the pool below the water. He said that water would flow over the first band of quotations; the texture would create a rippling effect, and then the moving water and the still water would come together as they fall into the same slot. From the north side, a visitor should be able to see the quotation through the water; in winter, when the pool is empty, the revealed text would complete the composition. The letters would be inlaid in bronze to be legible against the dark stone.
Mr. Abela described the three proposed reading groves in further detail. They would be located in the middle of the site and would expand on the themes underlying the museum's collection: spirituality; hope and optimism; and resiliency. Each grove is designed to hold groups of varying sizes for outdoor storytelling and other programs. The groves would be open to the public even when the museum is closed and would therefore underscore that the landscape is a welcoming place. He described the distinct geometry of each grove: the spirituality grove is based on circles; the hope and optimism grove is composed of interlocking forms, derived from the image of shaking hands; and the resiliency grove employs variations on woven patterns, indicating strength through community. Planting palettes would amplify these themes, striking a balance between fitting the site into its surroundings and having the site tell the story of the museum. Numerous trees would provide shade: large, "muscular" trees would be planted at the resiliency grove; the hope and optimism grove would have trees and other plants that flower in late winter and early spring; and the spirituality grove would feature trees that bear white flowers throughout spring and summer.
Mr. Abela said that the design includes a range of elm trees to relate to the larger landscape, from a tall variety on 14th Street, appropriate for a busy road, to the Jefferson elm–a disease–resistant variety of the Mall's American elms–along 15th Street and Constitution Avenue. Based on consultation with the Smithsonian's garden staff, an increased variety is now proposed for the generally native tree species chosen for the site. The north side would feature larger trees, such as beech and live oak; a single copper beech would mark the entrance because its color complements the color of the corona. The understory would be composed of small, white–flowering trees, such as magnolias and dogwoods. Further south on the west side, live oak would continue to be used and scarlet oak would be introduced; the understory would have light pink cherry trees, relating to the cherry tree plantings on the Washington Monument Grounds. To the south, the character would change: smaller trees with brighter leaves would create dappled light and shade, intended to suggest thoughts of the future. Fringe trees would be planted in the southeast seating area, which would have a woodland understory of ferns and plants with light–colored flowers to underscore the theme of spirituality. A green roof on the south porch would be a uniform mat of plants resembling a lawn to visually merge with the Mall. Evergreen hedges would frame the entrances to the museum and screen the lengthy perimeter security walls; the hedges would be marbled, with mixed varieties of different shrubs. The sloped edge of the site parallel to Constitution Avenue would be planted with a dense and varied groundcover, rising to a maximum height of 12 inches. The site's predominant flower color would be white; in addition, blue irises and rhododendrons–blue flowers denoting threshold and welcome–would be introduced at the north water feature.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the presentation and commented that the design has become very sophisticated. The Commission members viewed the model and samples of the corona screen panels, requesting clarification of the proposed configuration of the panels. Mr. Adjaye responded that an overall geometry would be created by repeating the same pattern in different densities to create open and closed effects; the cast–aluminum samples show the range of proposed opacity, from 60 to 90 percent. Locations where the pattern would be most transparent include areas of circulation and the several "lens" openings; in other areas where only dappled light is desired, the opacity of the panels would be increased to 90 percent.
Mr. Schlossberg asked how the interior side of the corona panels would appear to a visitor inside the museum, and whether the color on the inside should differ from the exterior color in order to relate to activities in a particular interior space. Mr. Adjaye responded that these issues will be studied more carefully with a full–size mockup that is being prepared. Ms. Fernández asked for clarification of the bronze color; Mr. Adjaye indicated the sprayed bronze–colored paint as the final proposed finish, adding that the use of actual solid bronze was not feasible. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that this finish would be one of the most important design decisions for the museum; she asked how this particular bronze shade was chosen, whether it is the precise shade that would be used, and whether other lighter and darker tones have been studied. Mr. Adjaye responded that the sample finish is headed in the right direction, but the tone and opacity will be confirmed with a full–scale two–bay mockup, approximately 60 by 108 feet, to be prepared at a testing facility.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the stairways in the east egress court, especially at the south, would be so wide that they might compete with the building entrances; she asked if their visual prominence could be reduced, perhaps by pushing back the landing and railing to be behind the plane of the entrance facade. Mr. Adjaye described the constraints of accommodating the required number of egress doors at the bottom of the court and the large number of people who may need to use the egress stairs; he acknowledged the concern and said that the design achieves the goal of not having egress elements protrude forward of the building's main entrance facade. He added that the prominence of the south entrance would be established by the porch across the south facade, supplemented by the protruding entrance vestibule. Mr. Abela added that the bird's–eye view in the presentation may have given an exaggerated sense of the stair's prominence; from the perspective of a visitor approaching the building, the egress stair would be less significant than the entrance due to the alignment of walks, the porch support, and the plantings.
Mr. Schlossberg said he was impressed by the level of social awareness evident in the landscape design–how the walks work, where trees are planted, and the attempts to communicate ideas about weaving and joining. He noted that sometimes the qualities designers most enjoy creating may not be apparent to visitors because the intent is not communicated, as it can be with texts or quotations. He encouraged development of a means of communicating the thought that lay behind the design choices, continuing the communication that is already suggested by the planned inclusion of several quotations in the water feature design. Mr. Abela responded that the challenge is to find a balance between a design that is enjoyable and a design that explicitly states its meaning; the National Museum of the American Indian addresses this issue by including site landscape information in a book available to visitors. Mr. Schlossberg said that this is appropriate but would not be seen by most people; he suggested simple measures such as having information available for a parent who wants to explain a landscape feature to a child. He also recommended testing the proposals for quotations in the pool to evaluate how they would actually appear underwater and to ensure they would not be obscured due to reflections; he suggested including texture on the stone for legibility and said that the effort would be worthwhile to ensure the quotations can be read. Mr. Abela responded that a mockup of the text would be prepared.
Ms. Fernández questioned the treatment of the fence around the stairs at the northwest, as depicted in a rendering; she commented that the fence design does not make sense in relation to the vocabulary of the building and its monumental metallic corona, but instead has a domestic quality in its scale and proportions. Mr. Adjaye responded that the design team has discussed the railings extensively and does not want to have a language or form that would compete with the corona; he emphasized that the museum's fundamental ideas include the transparency of the base, with the corona rising from the second–floor level. He said that he also does not want a standard safety railing with a horizontal bar. The proposed design therefore omits a top bar; the railing would act like a landscape element composed of vertical blades, arranged like a screen, in a metal darker than the bronze shade of the corona. He clarified that the proposed material is not included in the samples provided to the Commission. Mr. Luebke said that the staff had also raised questions about this feature; Ms. Fernández confirmed that the explanation has addressed her concern.
Ms. Fernández said she agreed with the other Commission members that the success of the building will depend on the corona: effectively, the corona is the building, and its design should be of the highest quality. She commended the effort to animate the entire site, and said the corona reflects this animation because of the attention given to its porosity and opacity; she commented that its filtering of light would give it an almost ephemeral character. She emphasized the importance of the corona material reading as a warm metal, like bronze, and expressed concern that the sample provided would look like cast concrete with a matte, porous finish. She observed that the presented images depict a building that glimmers and sparkles in the light, while the sample does not appear to have this quality nor the warm golden–bronze color described in the presentation. She recommended further exploration of how the corona screen could capture the dappling light that is also intended as a feature of the landscape. She requested the opportunity to see a mockup of the corona in full scale with the proposed final finish to understand how it would actually behave in real conditions.
Mr. Schlossberg agreed and suggested experimenting with both color and finish for the corona; he said that perhaps reflectivity is necessary for the surface to have the intended warm appearance. He said that the intended effect of porosity is interesting, and the corona design is going in the right direction, but he emphasized the need to get the finish and color right because this cannot be corrected after the corona is built. Mr. Luebke noted that a range of metal finishes is available, including some that have metallic flakes added for iridescence. Mr. Schlossberg added that the finishes must be tested under a variety of conditions, including different times of day and levels of sunlight; he emphasized that the choice is not simply a matter of color selection. He added that he supports the sculpting of the panel surface and its porous quality. Mr. Powell agreed that the corona finish will be important; he offered support for approval of the final design with the understanding that the finish would be determined after studying a mockup.
Mr. Luebke summarized the numerous revised elements of the design, noting the Commission's satisfaction with most of the features. He reiterated that the design is less complete than is typically needed for approval as a final design; Ms. Trowbridge described the completion level as 65 percent. Mr. Luebke suggested that the Commission, in conjunction with any action on the project, include the requirement for staff review of a more complete set of construction documents. He noted that the inscriptions themselves, as well as their style of lettering and their spacing, had not been presented: the Commission could approve or delegate this item, or ask to see it at a future presentation. He added that the Commission could also request further delegated review by the staff of ancillary structures such as guard booths, and site issues including flood protection and perimeter security.
Chairman Powell said that the Commission's most important concern is the resolution of the final corona finish. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission should review a mockup of the lettering in the pool; Ms. Fernández added that the Commission should also review the quotations to ensure that they are absolutely right, avoiding the difficulty recently encountered at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Mr. Luebke said these should be feasible requests because they would not significantly affect the project's scope or cost. Mr. Schlossberg requsted that the Commission also review proposals for signage and wayfinding, commenting that these should reflect the underlying meaning of the site design.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the final design submission subject to further Commission review of the pool inscriptions, wayfinding and signage, and the corona elements; further review of other components was delegated to the staff, as discussed. Chairman Powell reiterated the Commission's appreciation for the thoughtful project.
(At this point, Mr. Freelon returned for the remainder of the meeting.)
C. National Park Service
CFA 20/SEP/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 19/JUL/12–3.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept design for reconstruction of the next area of center lawn panels on the National Mall. He said that the first phase of the reconstruction project, for the lawn panels between 3rd and 7th Streets, was approved by the Commission in November 2010 and is now under construction. The current proposal for reconstructing the lawn panels between 7th and 14th Streets was previously presented to the Commission in February and July of 2012. He summarized the comments from the July review, when the Commission did not approve any of the three alternatives presented and recommended development of Scheme 1 with greater emphasis on reinforcing the visual continuity of the lawn panels. He said that the current submission includes a new alternative, Scheme 4, that is based on the previous Scheme 1 but with reduced widths for the walks crossing the Mall and additional paved areas on side panels at the alignments of 8th and 12th Streets. The walks at 9th and 12th Streets would be widened to 105 feet, 15 feet narrower than the 120 feet previously proposed; other walks are still proposed to be widened from the existing 40 feet to 60 feet. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May expressed appreciation for the Commission's comments in July concerning the three alternatives and how events might be accommodated on the Mall, with guidance to reduce the width of the north–south walks as much as possible; he said that the current proposal responds to these concerns. He introduced Suzette Goldstein of HOK to present the design.
Ms. Goldstein said that the proposal includes using the same details that had been approved for the lawn panels between 3rd and 7th Streets, such as mounding the grade toward the center of the panels to help extend the unbroken appearance of the green turf down the center of the Mall by obscuring views of the crossing roads and walks. She presented photographs of the area currently being reconstructed, emphasizing that this crowning appears to work as intended.
Ms. Goldstein addressed the Commission's previous request to focus on the Mall's maintenance and management issues. She said that a management manual is now in production, and the National Park Service has requested funding for professional turf managers. The application requirements for staging events on the Mall have also been made more stringent, including cost–recovery and other fees, and the manual will provide details of what event sponsors can and cannot do. She said that the new manual will discourage placing structures on turf, adding that such structures cause damage to the grass no matter how many rules are in place. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked whether this guidance implies that the National Park Service cannot actually control whether or not a tent goes on the turf. Ms. Goldstein responded that the best way to control the placement of tents is to provide alternative locations; the concern is that if paved areas are not available, the event sponsors will say that they cannot keep tents off the turf. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the establishment of alternative locations would allow for restrictions against putting tents on the turf. Mr. May responded that the National Park Service cannot say absolutely that there will be no tents on the turf; in some cases permission could not be denied, and this issue is being studied further. Mr. Schlossberg said that the Commission is questioning whether there is any purpose in adding paved areas to accommodate tents if the boundaries will be violated anyway. Ms. Goldstein emphasized the need to provide reasonable alternatives and to establish consequences that discourage problematic proposals; for example, the policies could say that if tents are placed on the grass and damage it, the event sponsor would be held responsible. She acknowledged that a stronger word could be used than "encourage" when describing the intention to locate tents on paved areas.
Mr. Schlossberg observed that the discussion involves only two possible conditions for the Mall panels: pavement and turf. He asked if a design solution could be developed such as "paved turf"–narrow bands of some kind of material within the turf that could offer a place to position tent stakes–or some special treatment of the turf that is not paving but would limit damage from structures. He emphasized that the Commission members want to help solve the problem by suggesting additional ideas. Ms. Goldstein responded that the guidelines being developed will have an event policy section detailing more stringent controls to minimize damage to the turf. She added that a helpful measure is to limit the amount of time structures remain on the turf, although limits can be difficult because setup for events can be lengthy. She said that other details of the event setup can also lessen the damage, such as surfaces that can be placed on the grass to protect it. Additional helpful practices will be outlined in the draft management manual, such as schedules for the aeration and watering of turf before, during, and after events. She emphasized that regardless of such measures, a structure placed on the grass too long will kill the grass, and the manual will therefore describe consequences for this result. She said that expanding the set of rules could make them more difficult to enforce, and the best solution is not to place structures on the grass at all. Mr. Schlossberg and Mr. Powell agreed with these points.
Mr. May responded that the National Park Service has rigorously investigated alternatives that would combine pavement with turf, but could find no practical way to make these work in the context of the variety of events and the wide range of equipment systems that are used. He said that events can be controlled somewhat by limiting the modules of tents and insisting on the use of ballast instead of stakes. Steve Lorenzetti of the National Park Service confirmed that denial of a request is much easier if an alternative location can be suggested for holding an event.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that stakes would be prohibited in a buffer area on the reconstructed lawn panels to avoid damage to sprinkler heads; she asked if the National Park Service could extend this principle to establish areas where tents are permitted or prohibited on on the lawns. Ms. Goldstein responded that a better approach is not to designate a specific area for tents, but instead to rotate events to different areas of the lawn panels to allow the grass to grow back between events. She said that the concept of a grass area to which events would be directed was previously discussed as "sacrificial turf"–a relatively small, confined area that could be re–sodded after an event–but using this approach for an entire lawn panel would not be realistic.
Mr. Powell asked about the previously discussed solution of closing Madison and Jefferson Drives for very large events, such as the National Book Festival and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, commenting that the Commission could likely support such an approach. Mr. Lorenzetti responded that after the proposed reconstruction, accommodating the Folklife Festival would probably require closing both roads and using them in combination with the widened north–south walks. Mr. Freelon asked if this configuration would allow for not placing tents on the lawn panels. Ms. Goldstein responded that lawn tents would still be necessary with the proposed design for the walks, due to the large tents required for many of the bigger events; Madison and Jefferson Drives are good locations for small– to medium–sized tents, but street trees, benches, and other obstructions limit the size of tents that can be put in these areas. Mr. Luebke asked if the tent size could be limited so that these events could fit on the roadways, noting that the use of large tents was being accepted as unavoidable. Ms. Goldstein responded that many compromises would need to be made with each event sponsor to configure the staging of events; some activities can be done in smaller tents but some will need larger spaces. She presented a diagram shown in earlier reviews depicting the number of large tents used during 2011 for events on the Mall.
Ms. Goldstein presented the new Scheme 4 proposal and compared it to the previous Scheme 1. She said that, in comparison to the other previous alternatives, Scheme 1 had kept the greatest consistency of green lawn down the center of the Mall; the Commission's recommendation was to reduce the 120–foot width proposed for some north–south walks and offset the change by increasing the paved areas on the sides, where the visual impact would be less problematic. Scheme 4, the current proposal, adds gravel areas at the north and south ends of the 12th Street alignment, and the center lawn panels would have a fairly consistent size and spacing to maintain the green vista along the Mall. She indicated the proposed 146–foot width of the side gravel panels at 12th Street, a dimension that corresponds to the alignment of the two existing walks. Several existing 40–foot–wide north–south walks would be widened to 60 feet, and the paved areas at 9th and 12th Streets would be 105 feet wide across the center of the Mall.
Ms. Goldstein presented charts and diagrams of how typical events would be accommodated with the Scheme 4 configuration; she said that the data, drawn from 2010 permit applications for the Mall, includes a variety of large, medium, and small events. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is the most complex: in 2010 it included four 80– by 100–foot tents, seven that were 60 by 80 feet, eight that were 40 by 60 feet, and other smaller tents. She emphasized that such events with numerous large tents are particularly difficult to accommodate; under Scheme 4, almost half of the tents would have to be reduced in size to avoid placing any on the grass. Ms. Goldstein noted that other events require large tents, such as for sheltering bleachers at the finishing area for charity runs, and she presented another chart evaluating the size of areas that would be required to accommodate various activities. She noted that a 15–foot–wide area is needed around each tent for emergency access and a pedestrian walkway; the large tents also have a 10–foot–wide surrounding area for the placement of ballast. The 105–foot–wide walks in Scheme 4 could accommodate 80–foot–wide tents across the center of the Mall, but not the larger tents that are sometimes needed.
Ms. Goldstein presented further illustrations of accommodating events using the configuration of Scheme 4. Larger tents would be placed on the sides of the Mall, and medium–sized tents–up to 35 feet wide–could go on the 60–foot–wide north–south walks. If the width of these walks were to remain at 40 feet, only much smaller tents could be placed on them while leaving sufficient room for pedestrian passage. She also indicated the limited size of tents that could be accommodated on Madison and Jefferson Drives. In addition to the closed roads, she summarized that Scheme 4 would accommodate three large tents, two medium–large tents, and additional areas for medium tents on the 60–foot–wide walks and the roads. She said that this design would provide sufficient variety to accommodate many events without using the lawn or being excessively spread out. She added that the analysis has included consideration of the size of commercially available tents, discussions with event organizers about changes in future planning, and how the National Park Service can be helpful; she summarized the goal of trying to understand all possible consequences to the Mall and to find a compromise that would allow events to be staged there while protecting the Mall as a resource.
Mr. Freelon asked if events could be accommodated in their entirety in Scheme 4 as illustrated in the diagrams. Ms. Goldstein responded that the needs vary with each event; people would not be forbidden from using the lawns, and the event could be configured so that less damaging uses–such as tables and chairs–could be placed on a lawn while the more damaging food–vendor tents are placed on paved surfaces. She reiterated that the two 105–foot–wide north–south walks in Scheme 4 would not resolve the needs of the Folklife Festival or the National Book Festival, which would both require use of the grass panels unless they eliminated some of their need for larger tents. She noted the suggestion in past Commission reviews to limit the width of north–south walks to 80 feet, but the consequence would be that an increasing number of events could not be accommodated on paved areas. She said that the calculation of paved area for Scheme 4 has not yet been done, but in general this proposal would have more overall paved area than some previous schemes but less paved area in the center of the Mall.
Ms. Goldstein concluded by presenting a video animation of the Scheme 4 design, similar to the two videos shown at the July meeting, illustrating a pedestrian's view of walking around the Mall between 12th and 7th Streets. Chairman Powell commended Ms. Goldstein and the project team for their efforts and thoughtful study, commenting on the positive results already visible in the first–phase area now under construction.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the progress has been substantial for this large and important project. She offered several comments related to the "Representative Events Chart" in the presentation that assessed the accommodation of various events with each of the design alternatives. She observed that further narrowing the width of the walks to 80 feet, as the Commission had requested at the last presentation, would apparently require only two of the events shown in the chart to shift from paved areas to lawn panels in comparison to their accommodation under Scheme 4; one of the events, a charity run, might easily shift its location in future years. She also noted that the most problematic event on the chart, the Solar Decathlon, is no longer held on the Mall–a welcome outcome for this project. She therefore continued to advocate a greater reduction in the proposed width of the north–south walks. Ms. Goldstein responded that the chart presents only a sample of events, and other running races end on the Mall even if one of them moves to a different location. These events all have similar configurations: a pair of bleachers on either side of the finish line, and large tents as gathering places that provide shade to runners. Mr. Lorenzetti added that limiting the widest walks to 80 feet would create additional difficulties in accommodating some events, such as requiring changes in tent sizes and closure of roads. He said that the proposed 105–foot–wide walks would be more feasible in working out the needed compromises to accommodate events, and this width has been discussed with the Smithsonian to ensure that the Folklife Festival could be sited.
Chairman Powell observed that the Commission and the National Park Service may be at a stalemate, likening the design challenge to the problem of trying to fit "20 pounds of potatoes in the 10–pound sack." He offered support for the proposed 105–foot–wide walks, which he said would help the National Park Service and the quality of the Mall in the future.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that event sponsors organizers might be more creative if the National Park Service imposes more discipline on the process; this would be the only reason to insist on a more limited paved area despite the apparent recurring difficulties that this constraint would cause for event planning. He also acknowledged that the better design character is to have more turf, since this is what defines the Mall. Ms. Goldstein agreed that sometimes additional constraints can lead to better design, but added that a tipping point can be reached where functionality is obstructed. Mr. Schlossberg observed that the Commission's concern is determining where the tipping point is. Mr. Powell said that the decision should tip toward keeping the nation's front lawn in good condition, and he reiterated his support for the Scheme 4 proposal. Mr. Freelon agreed in supporting Scheme 4, commenting that it is a reasonable compromise that has narrower north–south walks than were proposed in the previous submission; Mr. Powell noted that Washington is a city of compromise.
Mr. Luebke said that Scheme 4 includes two important proposals for the Commission to consider: creating two 105–foot–wide paved areas across the Mall, and increasing the width of other existing walks from 40 to 60 feet. Mr. Powell confirmed his support for both of these changes and offered a motion to approve the submission, commenting that the Commission would be supporting the work of the National Park Service in achieving the desired Mall improvements.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Fernández said that they would vote against approval. Ms. Fernández acknowledged that the proposal would resolve the National Park Service's concerns but said she remains unconvinced that it is the right choice for the National Mall. She expressed concern that the planned management guidelines would not be concrete enough to make a difference; until these guidelines are in effect and their adequacy can be evaluated for controlling event impacts, she said that approving more extreme changes to the Mall as proposed would not make sense.
Mr. Schlossberg said that the most problematic features of the earliest proposals have been eliminated, and overall the design has been significantly improved. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed; she clarified that her remaining concern is not with widening some walks from 40 to 60 feet, but with creating the 105–foot–wide paved areas, and she confirmed that an 80– or 90–foot width would be preferable for these areas. Mr. Freelon said that tents might extend beyond this narrower paved area; Ms. Plater–Zyberk responded that perhaps only the areas for emergency access or ballast would extend beyond the paving, or slightly smaller tents could be used. Mr. May said that the layout of events is constrained by the equipment that is available, and large tents are not necessarily manufactured in small increments of size; the result of slightly narrower paving may therefore be to reduce the tent width by 20 feet, which could cause significant difficulties for accommodating events. He said that the National Park Service does not want any more pavement on the Mall than absolutely necessary, and striking the right balance has been a difficult struggle. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to consider whether asking an event sponsor to reduce the tent sizes is a reasonable request, rather than accepting these sizes as given. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that tents are a product that is replaced relatively frequently, and manufacturers will create new tents of a specific size when a market exists for them.
Mr. Powell said that the Commission could continue to debate relatively modest differences in width but said that further discussion may not be helpful. He emphasized that his primary concern is sustaining the resource of the Mall; accommodating events on the Mall without destroying it is the most important issue. He said that the reasoning for creating two 105–wide paved areas is solid and coherent, and the proposed compromise would benefit the Mall in the future. He reiterated his motion for approval; Mr. Freelon seconded it. Mr. Powell added that, even with a concept approval, the Commission would welcome a reduction in the proposed widths if feasible as part of the further development of the design.
The motion to approve the Scheme 4 concept, with the encouragement to use less paving and narrower walks if possible, was adopted on a vote of three members: Chairman Powell, Mr. Freelon, and Mr. Schlossberg.
D. General Services Administration
CFA 20/SEP/12–3, Southeast Federal Center (The Yards). Parcel N (Tingey, 4th, and Water Streets, SE), new eleven–story mixed–use building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal for a new eleven–story residential and retail building on Parcel N of the Southeast Federal Center, a federally owned area that is being redeveloped by Forest City Washington through a public–private partnership; the overall development is known as The Yards. She noted that the project is submitted in accordance with the 2005 Memorandum of Agreement between the Commission and the General Services Administration, under which the Commission reviews individual buildings at The Yards at the concept level only; projects do not return for review of a final design. This project is situated within the Navy Yard Historic District on a vacant lot formerly occupied by the Navy Yard's brass foundry. She asked Brett Banks of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation; Mr. Banks introduced Jason Bonnet, the development manager with Forest City Washington.
Mr. Bonnet summarized the context of the project as part of The Yards, a 42–acre mixed–use project located on the Anacostia River between the baseball stadium and the Navy Yard. He indicated the site model depicting the area and noted the Commission's previous review of other buildings and the waterfront park within the development. He asked Sarge Gardiner of Robert A.M. Stern Architects to present the design.
Mr. Gardiner provided further information on the project's context, which is being developed as a new residential neighborhood. He indicated the historic zone and redevelopment zone within The Yards; the proposed building would occupy Parcel N, in the center of the historic zone with a view south to the Anacostia River. At the edges of The Yards are major streets of the L'Enfant plan, including M Street and New Jersey Avenue. Immediately west of Parcel N is the recently redeveloped Foundry Lofts building, which would be separated from the proposed Parcel N project by a forty–foot–wide mews; Parcel N is the only site in The Yards that shares a block with an existing building. The streets bounding the parcel are being developed as retail corridors within The Yards; to the north across Tingey Street is the Boilermaker building, and to the south across Water Street is the Lumber Shed building, both being redeveloped as retail space, and 4th Street along the east side of Parcel N will also be a retail corridor. He noted that The Yards also includes office buildings located near M Street and the Navy Yard Metro station.
Mr. Gardiner presented a massing diagram taken from the development's historic preservation guidelines, which recommend a north–south massing for new buildings based on the prevailing orientation of existing structures such as those in the Navy Yard. The proposed building is therefore configured as a 317–foot–long north–south volume fronting on 4th Street, similar to the configuration of the Foundry Lofts. He said that the proposed design is inspired by the area's historic industrial aesthetic, as shown by the strong brick facade and the repetition of bays and pavilions. The proposed building would be eleven stories high along 4th Street, and would step down to eight stories on the west toward the Foundry Lofts. The building would include retail space on the ground floor, 326 residential units on floors 2 through 11, and three underground parking levels. The plan would be a complex E–shape, with three pavilions projecting to the west framing two courtyards, each 51 feet wide, for the use of the building's residents; terraces and setbacks in the pavilions would help to reduce the scale along the courtyards. The lower 55 feet of the building along 4th Street would have a strong masonry character with steel and glass fenestration; on top of the brick mass would be a slightly jagged glass volume, or "bar," containing the sixth through the eleventh floors. Details and window patterns would vary to provide visual interest and scale; portions of the glass bar would cantilever out from the brick base stories. He indicated the variety of masonry facade treatments, with greater regularity at the north and south ends of the building; the glass bar would also have strong end elevations. He noted that the design would therefore respect the preservation guidelines which recommend creating distinctive visual icons on the north and south ends. He indicated the different alignments along Water Street and Tingey Street of the proposed building compared to the historic Foundry Lofts building, which extends very close to Tingey Street. He added that the retail base would have variety in color and in the size of openings, while the pavilions would have a more regular fenestration pattern than the eastern masonry portion of the building.
Mr. Gardiner concluded by describing the plans and features of the residential portions of the project. The glass–walled residential lobby would extend through the block, providing a view into the courtyard beyond. The roof would include a swimming pool for residents as well as a mechanical penthouse. The landscape of the courtyards would use a grid pattern, based on the linear nature of the site, with a gradual transition from planted areas to paving and benches. At the entrance along 4th Street, a distinctive paving pattern would extend from the front door.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the massing study has led in an interesting direction, but the treatment of the glass volume sitting on top of the brick base does not seem elegant. He clarified that the glass volume itself is not the problem, but the glass seems to be merely perched on the brick; he said that the transition is not resolved architecturally, but instead the two are jammed together. He acknowledged the strong reasoning in the presentation for breaking the brick base into different masses and creating courtyard spaces between the pavilions. He said that while the brick building makes sense within the context, the glass volume does not fit in clearly with the rest of the design.
Mr. Gardiner responded that creating the transition between the brick mass and the glass bar has been a challenge. One option was studied to project more of the glass volume beyond the brick base, but this appeared forbidding and worked against the idea of a lighter character for the glass volume. Instead, the proposal is for a bar form that undulates approximately seven feet in depth along 4th Street, while the north and south ends are treated differently and cantilever beyond the base. Mr. Schlossberg suggested that the relationship might be improved by lifting the glass volume above the brick base and placing something between the two masses, such as a garden space, but the concept as proposed is flawed because of the way those two forms meet.
Mr. Freelon agreed, adding that the mismatch of horizontal alignments creates additional tensions between the masses where they come together. He asked for further explanation of the transition between the volumes and why the two materials are proposed instead of just brick. Mr. Gardiner responded that an all–masonry design was considered but the conclusion was that the result would be too heavy in appearance, whereas the stark difference between the brick and glass volumes would break down the mass more effectively; he added that the different articulation of the brick pavilions also contributes to this goal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported the appropriateness of creating a brick frame structure reflecting the proportions of surrounding historic buildings, with an upper volume that appears to be an addition as seen on some adjacent buildings; she also said that some of the variation in the brick surfaces is handled well. However, she described several issues that she said are contributing to the conceptual confusion. The masonry base was described as a single element, but it is treated traditionally in some areas and not in others; she cited the example of the ground–floor corners which are sometimes expressed with brick columns and sometimes with glass. Similarly, she observed that the base treatment is sometimes aligned with the structure above and sometimes not aligned, resulting in an unclear design intention. She also recommended greater consistency in the treatment of the parapet walls on the masonry volumes; the inconsistency is particularly noticeable on the lower brick mass immediately beneath the glass bar. She said that the cantilever of the glass bar seems like a clichéd move instead of something meaningful; she supported the design of the long glass facade and suggested that the bar would be understood more clearly if it were set back behind the plane of the base.
Ms. Fernández said she agreed with the other comments, particularly the observation that the major problem is in the relationship between the upper glass volume and the brick base. She commented that the slight faceting of the glass facade does not help; it seems unrelated to any of the other languages used in this or adjacent buildings. She suggested that resolution of the massing relationship would probably make the angled in–and–out pattern unnecessary. She added that sometimes the description in the presentation seemed not match the illustrations, such as the intention of creating visual icons at the north and south ends of the building which she did not see in the design. She suggested that the design team step back and look at the design as a whole to consider whether it works.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the project is headed in the right direction but needs consideration of the Commission's comments. Mr. Luebke added that the staff had identified similar issues, including the question of the unrelated treatment of the facades: the brick mass is treated in a somewhat historicist industrial style, as in the surrounding buildings, while the glass bar has a seemingly random pattern. The possible solutions, as discussed by the Commission members, could be either to separate the masses more clearly or to integrate them more fully. Mr. Schlossberg supported Ms. Plater–Zyberk's suggestion to begin again with the massing study and the approach of breaking the building into several forms. Chairman Powell summarized that the goal should be simplicity, resolving the interrelation of the brick building and the glass box. He suggested that the Commission's comments be addressed in a subsequent presentation of the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 20/SEP/12–4, Ballou Senior High School, 3401 4th Street, SE. New replacement school building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JUL/12–8.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the first of three proposals for D.C. public schools, submitted by the D.C. Department of General Services. The proposed replacement for Ballou Senior High School was previously reviewed by the Commission in July 2012, with a request for revision and resubmission of the concept design. He asked Calvert Bowie of Bowie Gridley Architects to present the new concept proposal.
Mr. Bowie summarized the Commission's comments from the July review, with support for the overall site planning and organization of the proposal as a contemporary building with three distinct wings and an entrance pavilion. He described the four areas of concern to the Commission and the proposed responses. Due to the concern with an excessive range of architectural languages and patterns on the facades, the exterior design has now been simplified and unified. The request to express the interior program more clearly on the exterior has resulted in clarification of the exterior materials: brick would be the primary material for the more private portions of the building, and either limestone or a similar cast concrete for other facades, with each material also used for accents to unify the design. The request to develop a more occupiable landscape is still being considered, with emphasis on greater use of the parking lot and entrance plaza as civic spaces; a farmers market may be accommodated, including minimal sheltering such as a tensile structure. The fourth concern was to treat the high school as a model of sustainable design, which is being addressed through further development of a solar array on the roof, treatment of solar orientation and shading, consideration of the glass selection, and ongoing coordination with the D.C. government to establish a design standard of zero net energy use.
Mr. Bowie presented the context, site, and proposed organization of the school, as previously presented. He noted that the site design, reversing the existing configuration of building and sports field, would provide a full–sized practice field that the school does not currently have; in addition to the value of this amenity for athletics, the result would be more of the site being planted. He indicated the recent adjustments to the proposed parking layout, and the refinement of the entrance plaza to have steps rather than simply a sloping grade; the steps would likely be used by the students as seating. He emphasized the slope of the site, which was previously made steeper in some areas to provide a level playing field where the proposed school building would be sited; the proposal includes a tiered topography that would provide a transition from the courtyard rain garden to the street. He presented the building plans, which are similar to the previous submission; he indicated the separate entrances for boys and girls that is part of the school's program, noting that the multiple entrances would provide operational flexibility even if this current programmatic need is eventually superseded. He described the overall architectural interplay of organic forms and the geometric configuration of the building.
Mr. Bowie presented the proposed elevations, indicating the refined use of dark brick and lighter masonry which would be limestone–colored precast concrete or brick. He described the simplification and unification of the facade designs, and the use of materials to give emphasis to key public facilities including the theater and swimming pool. He presented an aerial perspective view from the northeast, indicating the unified treatment of the main entrance and the adjacent gateway leading to the theater entrance and arts pavilion. He said that the proposed lettering of the school name at the entrance would be etched into the glass, providing visual interest at night. He described the proposed placement of vertical shading fins at appropriate locations.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the intended meaning of the different facade material colors; Mr. Bowie confirmed that the darker brick would be used for academic and office areas, and the lighter material would be used for public or shared–use spaces such as the theater and athletic facilities along with providing accents such as the base of the courtyard. He said that the current facade proposal emphasizes glass, while the previous submission emphasized a complex brick pattern. Mr. Powell asked if the separation of entrances for boys and girls was typical of D.C. public schools. Mr. Bowie responded that it is a unique feature of this school, although it was historically more prevalent; older schools sometimes have separate entrances with lettering above for boys and girls.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the windows in several light–colored areas have narrow proportions that may convey a prison–like appearance. Mr. Bowie said that these locations include the swimming pool and dance studio; he clarified that the actual scale of these windows would be 4.5 feet wide and 20 feet tall. Mr. Schlossberg reiterated that a person's impression of these windows may be negative, particularly in comparison to the generally appropriate use of glass in the facades to provide daylight and views. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested dividing the narrow windows with masonry to improve the proportions; Mr. Schlossberg agreed. Mr. Bowie acknowledged that this issue has been discussed extensively. Mr. Freelon commented that the refinement of materials and overall simplification have benefited the design, and he encouraged further simplification as the design is developed; Mr. Bowie said that budget constraints would likely result in such simplification. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the lighter–colored material is often used in cantilevers or in horizontal spans above glass, a treatment that is better suited to brick; she therefore suggested that brick rather than precast concrete be used for this material, and she recommended selecting a cheerful rather than dull color. Mr. Bowie said that the small module of brick would be beneficial for this use; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that this is a secondary benefit, while the primary issue is the lack of physical support.
Mr. Powell described the improvement to the design as substantial and recommended approval; upon a second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept submission. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission prefers to delegate the review of the final design to the staff. Mr. Schlossberg supported delegation with the request that the staff verify the response to the Commission's comments; Mr. Luebke added that the development of the landscape design would be of particular concern. Chairman Powell confirmed the consensus of the Commission to delegate the final design review.
2. CFA 20/SEP/12–5, Horace Mann Elementary School, 4430 Newark Street, NW. Building renovation and addition. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed renovation and large addition to the Horace Mann Elementary School, which dates from 1931. He asked project manager Charles Mikell of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.
Mr. Mikell said that the project includes modernization of the existing building and, with the proposed addition, accommodation of increasing enrollment. He added that the proposed concept is still being assessed for compatibility with the project budget. He introduced architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design to present the proposal.
Mr. Marshall noted the highly rated academic program of this school. He described the context near American University and Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Immediately around the site are town houses, apartments, and commercial buildings along New Mexico Avenue on the east, a large church across Newark Street on the north, and the single–family homes of the Wesley Heights neighborhood to the west and south across 45th and Macomb Streets. Mr. Luebke also noted the nearby location of the Nebraska Avenue Complex, which was the subject of a master plan for use by the Department of Homeland Security that was recently reviewed by the Commission.
Mr. Marshall indicated the existing school building at the north central portion of the site, with a recently renovated playing field to the east. Trailers at the northwest corner of the site provide overflow classroom space, and a basketball court is located west of the school. The southwest corner of the block is a privately owned historic community building for the Wesley Heights neighborhood; an adjacent modern community room structure, built on the school property with private community funding, is used by the school as a cafeteria and event space. Entrances with stairs are located at the north and south ends of the historic school building. He emphasized the open character of the site, with access from multiple street frontages. He noted the significant drop in grade toward the southeastern corner of the site, and described the overall importance of the landscape as part of the school campus.
Mr. Marshall described the alternatives that were considered for siting the addition. Locations to the east of the existing building were considered, which would require reconfiguration of the playing field. Locations to the south and southwest were also studied. The historic plan for the school had anticipated an additional wing to the west, along 45th Street, to be connected to the constructed wing by a central pavilion and two hyphens. The proposal is an L–shaped addition in this area, along Newark and 45th Streets, resulting in a U–shaped complex that would frame a courtyard open to the south. The connecting passage between the addition and historic school would be a glass–enclosed atrium space. The existing basketball court in this area would be relocated south of the playing field, which would consolidate the sports activities to the eastern half of the site. The existing modern community room structure would be replaced by a new double–height cafeteria and community room within the addition, providing direct indoor access that is not currently available while also providing for public access. He emphasized the relationship of the classrooms and special spaces to the courtyard and street frontages. The roof would include a terrace, a garden, and a photovoltaic array above a pavilion that would provide outdoor classroom space. The parking area to the east would be slightly reconfigured to improve pedestrian safety; he indicated the proposed pedestrian circulation routes that would continue to provide access from multiple directions.
Mr. Marshall presented several design precedents that were considered for this proposal, including modern construction at the nearby St. Alban's School that relates well to the historic setting. The relationship of the building and courtyard was considered in comparison to the Lawn at the University of Virginia. The proposed palette of materials is based on the existing school building, which is red brick with limestone quoining and accents. The proposed design includes a cast–stone wall facing the atrium and the historic building, and a projecting bay for the school library along Newark Street to echo the existing building's bay window on the east facade. The proposed facades would primarily be red brick, configured as load–bearing walls in some areas and elsewhere as panels. He indicated the use of the panels and recesses to provide shading for the windows where needed. He said that the mechanical equipment areas would be screened or set within the mass of the addition. He noted that the historic community building would remain to the south of the addition, and the existing context of tree–lined streets would be respected in the landscape design. He added that the cornice line of the addition would generally be below the cornice line of the historic building, which would therefore be a prominent component of the enlarged school complex.
Mr. Marshall presented several perspective views of the proposal. The historic school's facade would serve as an interior wall of the atrium, with the new structural support and skylight configuration designed to accommodate the existing window openings. Bridge connections at the upper floors would use existing window openings that would be lowered. He emphasized the relatively simple palette of the facades and the use of brise–soleils and piers to provide visual interest as well as shading. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the low stone wall shown along 45th Street. Mr. Marshall responded that it would be a new wall with a garden area behind, adding that the first–floor level of the addition would be several feet lower than the sidewalk grade; public visitors to the community room would descend along the back of the wall to enter the room. He described several additional benefits of the design for this wall: it would establish a garden–wall character for the street frontage; it would reduce the amount of evening light from the community room reaching the street and nearby homes; and it would relate to the stone base of the historic school building.
Mr. Marshall described the potential phasing of the project, which may be required by budget constraints. The first phase would include renovation of the existing building and construction of the north wing of the addition along Newark Street, resulting in an L–shaped complex; the second phase, if funded, would extend the addition along 45th Street to form the U–shaped courtyard enclosure.
Mr. Marshall introduced landscape architect Sharon Bradley of Bradley Site Design to present the proposed landscape concept. Ms. Bradley described the intention to use the campus as a classroom and the environment as a teacher; the entire site is intended to be part of the school experience and of the inspiration for the children. The design also responds to the existing site features including topography and mature trees, along with the existing and proposed building placement.
Ms. Bradley described the proposed landscape features, following the sequence that would be experienced by students each day. The entrance plaza in front of the proposed atrium along Newark Street would be softened with planted openings that would blend the natural and built elements on the site. The goal of the plaza design is also to establish a sense of identity and a clear main entrance to the school complex, avoiding any ambiguity resulting from the historic school building's nearby entrance stairs and door which would not be in use. Students could move through the atrium to the courtyard. The courtyard could be used as an outdoor performance space, continuing a strong tradition at this school. A stage area would be located at the south end of the courtyard, backed by columnar evergreens that would screen the community center's parking area to the south.
Ms. Bradley said that the eastern portion of the site would be oriented to sports activities, contrasting with the more ceremonial and academic character of the site's western portion. Part of the slope along the playing field would be sculpted to form an amphitheater configuration; the scale is large enough to accommodate the entire student population to watch an event on the playing field. Play areas for older children would be expanded, and smaller play areas would be provided for the younger children. The play areas would be integrated with the existing mature trees on the site. She added that portions of the site are currently isolated by the steep slopes, and the landscape proposals would serve to integrate these areas with the main portion of the site. She indicated the intended interaction and flow among the landscape spaces, with direct north–south and east–west routes that would be provided across the site. A nature trail through the sloped area would have native plants; she cited comparable Washington examples at the National Cathedral and the Franciscan Monastery. She added that the landscape design would provide barrier–free access to all areas of the site, using ramps where necessary.
Ms. Bradley described several additional sustainable features of the landscape proposal, including preservation of existing mature trees, topography, and soil profiles. The building addition would include a green roof; the impervious surface area would be reduced at some locations; and additional shade trees would be provided along some of the paved areas. She emphasized the extensive interaction between interior and exterior spaces as shown in the architectural plans. She also indicated several smaller landscapes proposed for the site, emphasizing a variety of sensory experiences. She summarized the range of open spaces across the site, from large sports areas to intimate small gardens.
Ms. Bradley concluded by presenting additional details of the landscape proposal. Brick and limestone–colored pavers at the entrance plaza would correspond to the materials of the existing building and the addition; native plants, including river birch and sedge grasses, would balance the paving colors. The reading garden would include an allee of cherry trees, a Washington icon that would provide a "magical" garden space when the trees are in bloom. The secret garden would include chimes, fairy houses, and a sandbox, replacing an existing play area that the children have created in this part of the site. Slides and climbing equipment would be provided along a steeply sloped area. Some of the paved areas would be used to celebrate the many cultures that are represented in the school population. Outside the art classroom, an exterior "art wall" could be decorated each year.
Mr. Freelon acknowledged the thorough presentation and the explanation of the concepts used in developing the design, adding that the U–shaped organization of the school complex is an appropriate choice. However, he said that the language of the architecture may be overpowering the existing building, using a somewhat monumental character for a relatively small building; he said that the proposed strong vertical elements may especially be of concern, including the fins along the courtyard and the brick masses along the street. He described the parti as a horizontal scheme that appears to conflict with this vertical emphasis. Mr. Marshall responded that deference to the existing building is intended through the use of a lower cornice height for the addition. The vertical fins along the courtyard are intended as a response to solar exposure. The configuration of the brick in vertical volumes along the street is intended to alternate with vertical lines of glazing, with consideration of the resulting shadow patterns. He added that the long two–story configuration of the addition would provide sufficient horizontal emphasis without further architectural banding. Mr. Freelon said that the issue may be the abrupt termination of the horizontal forms, with no cornice line; Mr. Marshall responded that this results from the intended character of the top of the building as a terrace rather than a roof structure, and he indicated the glass–panel railings that are proposed instead of solid handrails.
Ms. Fernández questioned the prominent diagonal stair tower projecting into the courtyard, adjacent to the entrance atrium. She observed that its angle differs slightly from the angled facade along the west side of the courtyard, creating a tension between the two elements; she described the angled facade and stair tower as strong elements that appear to be working against each other. Mr. Marshall responded that the facade angle on the west side of the courtyard is intended to open up this important central space to the southern exposure, and is not intended to match the angle of the stair tower. Ms. Fernández said that the angles nonetheless do have a relationship and need to make sense together; she said that one undesirable result of the various angles is to imply a narrow, unresolved triangular space within the courtyard. Mr. Marshall added that the angles are determined by the space needs for the cafeteria behind the facade, and by the desired range of visibility from the entrance atrium; altering either of the angles could be problematic in the design. Ms. Fernández said that the choice of materials may exacerbate the problem: the solid, heavy stair tower in the center of the courtyard's north facade draws undue attention to its angle and its lack of alignment with any other elements, while the other facade treatments have a much lighter character that typically includes glass. Mr. Marshall offered to study other materials for the stair tower, such as brick instead of the cast–stone walls, while retaining its angle. He reiterated the intended reference of the material to the limestone quoining and accents of the historic building, adding that the proposed facades are intended to provide a distinct contemporary adaptation of the traditional materials. Ms. Fernández acknowledged this reasoning as appropriate but said that the problem of the conflicting angles is apparent when viewing the courtyard space from the south. Mr. Marshall added that other options considered for the stair tower included a green wall or glass, perhaps limiting the extent of the cast–stone facade. Chairman Powell suggested further study of such an alternative. Mr. Freelon suggested that the resolution of this issue should not involve the introduction of a new facade material, due to the multiplicity of facade treatments already shown in the design; he acknowledged the desirability of different responses to solar orientations but said that some simplification and consolidation of the design would result in a stronger architectural statement. Mr. Marshall said that the project is already designed with a very limited palette of materials; Mr. Freelon emphasized that the issue is not just a limited palette but also reining in the vocabulary of forms.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported the request for simplification, as well as the appreciation for the careful consideration of the design features. She commented on the beauty of combining old and new elements and using patterns in the design, but said that these positive attributes would not be readily visible in the new construction due to the complexity of the proposed materials and forms; the design would overpower the relatively calm concepts that were described concerning the proposed and historic buildings. She described the proposal as being resolved well in plan but problematic in the surface treatment, which appears to have a different architectural idea at fifty–foot intervals. She observed that the complexity is present on each side of the proposed addition, including varying wall planes and roof treatments; she emphasized that the coherence of the plan resolution should be carried through in the facades. She said that the existing building is a simple prismatic form, and historically it would have been extended comfortably with additional discrete buildings; she suggested a comparable approach of treating the addition as a small group of relatively modest buildings rather than a complex, shaped structure. Each of the added buildings would be respectful of the historic school; she acknowledged the proposed relationship of cornice lines as a good example. The addition could be comprised of an entry building that includes the stairs; a building along Newark Street that includes the library; and a third building along 45th Street as the last phase of construction. She said that this approach would simplify the design process and cost, compared to the many different types of surfaces in the current proposal. She cited the example of the large cast–stone wall along the entrance plaza and atrium, designed confusingly as a surface rather than as a volume–defining element that relates to the historic school volume. She added that the proposed variety of facade treatments would probably not be feasible anyway within a constrained budget.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented on several additional details of the design. She said that the proposed stone wall along 45th Street is too tall, resulting in an unsafe condition where people can hide and also giving an undesirable basement character to the community room's public entrance. She said that the south facade behind the stage of the community room is shown as a large blank brick wall, and it could instead be embellished with some of the articulation and patterning that is so prevalent on the other facades. She summarized her overall advice to treat the design as several volumes rather than a multiplicity of surfaces; she reiterated her support for the overall thought that has been given to the proposal.
Mr. Schlossberg supported the comments of the other Commission members, adding that an environment for children should be calm in relationship to the busy, frenetic activity of the children themselves. He described the proposed design as appropriate for New York's Broadway, where the building could fight for attention; but a school should allow the children–rather than the building design–to generate the activity. He acknowledged that simply copying the existing building may not be appropriate, but using simple forms with simple inviting windows would be a good design approach. He suggested that the apparent passion of the design team be directed toward achieving this simplicity.
Chairman Powell summarized the general agreement of the Commission members on the issues that need to be addressed, and suggested simply providing comments on the current proposal; he joined in acknowledging the excitement and strong ideas that have gone into the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(Comments on the Horace Mann Elementary School continued during the discussion of the next agenda item.)
3. CFA 20/SEP/12–6, Phoebe Hearst Elementary School, 3950 37th Street, NW. Building renovation and addition. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed renovation and addition to the Phoebe Hearst Elementary School, located nearly a mile northeast of the Horace Mann Elementary School discussed in the previous presentation. He added that the existing school building, which dates from the early 1930s, is similar to the existing Horace Mann building. He asked project manager Charles Mikell of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation.
Mr. Mikell confirmed that the Hearst and Mann projects are on similar schedules and have similar budget issues that remain to be addressed; the goal for both projects is to begin construction early in 2013, with renovation of the existing building to occur during the summer. He introduced architect Ronnie McGhee of R. McGhee & Associates to present the design.
Mr. McGhee described the existing conditions, with the historic school building located on an artificial plateau that was created on fill within the sloping site. He indicated the steep edges of the site, particularly toward Tilden Street on the north and Idaho Avenue on the east; the topography immediately east of the existing building within the site is also steeply sloped. Single–family homes are located to the north and east; the Sidwell Friends School is across 37th Street to the west, resulting in a congested street between the two schools at the start and end of the school day; and the southern portion of the block is occupied by a combined D.C. and National Park Service recreation area, which is used by the Phoebe Hearst students. He noted that only a portion of Idaho Avenue is constructed along the east edge of the site, and the remainder of the right–of–way is forested. The existing two–story school is a standard design for its era, including a full basement that was not present in the Horace Mann building. He described the features of the existing building, noting its overall calm character and limited detailing that is concentrated at the front door facing 37th Street and an upper window; he added that a secondary entrance on the east facade, rather than the front door on the west, is currently used due to accessibility constraints. A prominent bay window is located on the south facade. He also indicated a small historic building that is located southeast of the existing school, a remnant of a large farm and estate that once existing in the area.
Mr. McGhee said that the historic plan for the school had anticipated an additional wing to the south, along 37th Street, to be connected to the constructed wing by a central pavilion and two hyphens; however, this area to the south is now occupied by the recreation area that is a valued community resource. The proposed addition would therefore be placed to the northeast of the existing school, which would allow for improving the relationship among the various existing site features. Parking areas would be relocated; a new entrance would be provided with prominent visibility from 37th Street; trails around the site would be adjusted where necessary; and an open space area would remain near the small historic building to the southeast. He added that the proposed configuration would allow the historic school building to remain as the most prominent element of the complex when seen from 37th Street.
Mr. McGhee described several design goals for the project, including an emphasis on light when entering and moving through the building; a green roof; and outdoor study and play areas for the students. He described the precedents for materials being considered, including a stone or precast concrete base to relate the addition to the hillside, and multi–colored glass within a simple window pattern. Site features could include an amphitheater and a gently sloping ramp that would connect the building entrance to 37th Street. Mr. Freelon observed that some of the site precedents illustrated in the presentation do not include railings that would be typical in the United States. Mr. McGhee acknowledged that the safety concerns are particularly important for the young students who will be using the site; the proposal may be developed as terracing with shorter vertical distances than illustrated in the photographs.
Mr. McGhee presented the proposed site plan. The landscape would be developed as a series of outdoor rooms, with play areas separate from the calmer spaces. The entrance path from 37th Street would be highlighted with a flagpole and perhaps a canopy or water feature. He indicated a row of poplar trees along Tilden Street; the north face of the addition would be sited to avoid construction damage to the trees, and the foundation would be set back from the cantilevered building face in some locations to provide further protection for the roots of nearby large trees. He indicated the stormwater control areas on the site, noting the presence of streams and potentially problematic runoff; he added that the extensive existing fill on the site allows for water percolation into the soil. The service driveway to the school would extend from Idaho Avenue at the east. The southeast facade of the addition would be angled to match the alignment of the small historic building at the edge of the site; an amphitheater space would be located between the two buildings. The school cafeteria would be on the lower level, with direct outdoor access to the lower portion of the amphitheater area; the media center, directly above, would open onto a large balcony. An additional small outdoor space would be provided adjacent to the science classroom. The classrooms would be located in the north side of the addition overlooking the wooded neighborhood to the north. The roof of the addition would include photovoltaic panels, planted areas, and skylights. He added that the project could be phased, with the student support areas on the east being omitted from the initial construction. He also noted the opportunity for further coordination of the on–site play areas with the facilities of the adjacent recreation center.
Mr. McGhee presented the interior plans. He indicated the corridor that would connect the addition to the historic school building through an existing bathroom area, leaving most of the existing classrooms intact. He emphasized that most of the existing building's exterior would remain exposed, allowing the historic building to be viewed as a three–dimensional structure; he described the addition as being attached to the existing building but not overwhelming it. He indicated the proposed secondary entrance facing south toward the upper part of the amphitheater, and the lower–level service entrance to the cafeteria kitchen. The main circulation space of the addition would include a large open staircase that serves as an orientation element for the school; an adjacent enclosed staircase would provide access to the lower level. He noted that the plans allow for some separation of the different age groups while providing all of the students with access to the shared cafeteria and media center.
Mr. McGhee presented the proposed elevations. He noted the community concern that the addition would overwhelm the scale of nearby houses, despite the significant topographic differences; the addition is therefore designed with a combination of one– and two–story wings to reduce the apparent scale. He emphasized that the addition would generally stay below the cornice height of the existing building. He indicated the administrative area that would have a view across the entrance plaza. A stone base around the addition would extend the base of the existing school building and would relate the addition to the site. On the Tilden Street elevation, he indicated the existing tall poplar trees as well as the proposed smaller trees that would screen views of the addition from the nearby houses. He presented sections to illustrate the site topography as well as the interior spaces; he emphasized the sightline studies demonstrating that the addition would not rise significantly above the profile of the existing school building when seen from viewing points of concern to the community. He also indicated the planting around the service area that is intended to reinforce the natural landscape setting of the school. He added that the existing walk from 37th Street to the historic school building's main entrance would remain, although the entrance would not be in use.
Mr. Freelon expressed appreciation for the thorough presentation and asked about the proposed materials. Mr. McGhee responded that much of the addition's facade would be precast concrete panels with a warmer tone than the yellow color shown on the presentation drawings. The stone base of the existing building would be extended into the addition, but the existing red brick would not be extended into the addition; he said that the goal is for the addition to be understood as a different structure that nonetheless relates comfortably to the existing building.
Mr. Freelon questioned the proposed configuration of the primary and secondary entrances leading to adjacent but separated spaces on the first floor of the addition. He recommended reconfiguring this area so that both entrances lead directly to the light–filled central circulation space, helping to fulfill the design goal of using light as part of the experience of moving through the building. Mr. McGhee responded that a visual connection would be provided between the two entrance areas; Mr. Freelon suggested reconfiguring the adjacent support rooms to provide a more open connection between these spaces. Mr. McGhee responded that this area had previously been a more open space until the program grew slightly larger. Mr. Freelon also questioned the tapering configuration of the entrance plaza that results in the entrance doors being at the point of a triangle, commenting that this entry sequence could feel forbidding for small children. He added that the plaza's location on the west side of the addition, north of the existing building, would place it in shadow during much of the day; the recommended interior changes would therefore be helpful in improving the sense of openness and light for the entry sequence. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed, expressing confidence that the configuration of program elements could be resolved.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk contrasted the relative simplicity of this project to the previous proposal for the Horace Mann School, commenting that the Hearst proposal is therefore more feasible and could move forward using the concept that was presented. She expressed support for the interior layout, subject to Mr. Freelon's comment, but questioned the intention that the addition's exterior appearance be drastically different from the existing building. She said that differences among buildings can be handled gracefully, as in a row of townhouses that are each clearly different but work together as a series of buildings. In contrast, the school proposal includes a prismatic existing building whose front door is cut off, and a rambling addition whose exterior has an unrelated treatment. Mr. McGhee responded that the addition's exterior material is still being studied, and the result could be a more masonry–like texture or color; budget constraints may affect the material selection. He confirmed the intention to contrast the new and old materials of the project, which he said is a deliberate strategy in working with historic buildings; he offered the example of the glass hyphen, which is a common method of connecting new and old buildings. He emphasized that the continuation of the stone base would help to relate the parts of the school comfortably, in addition to compatible relationships of window scale and shape. Mr. Schlossberg commented that some of the presentation renderings raised the question of whether an all–brick addition would fit into the neighborhood better. He also recommended simplification of the excessive variety of window designs; he supported the solid logic of the interior layout and suggested that it be conveyed on the exterior through simplification. Mr. McGhee responded that the variety of windows at this concept stage may routinely be simplified as part of the normal design refinement for a school project. He observed that the program includes offices, classrooms, and special spaces such as the media center, and the likely result would be three different window styles. Mr. Schlossberg acknowledged the programmatic concerns and emphasized that simplification would add to the building's sense of calmness while also improving the sense of scale.
Mr. Schlossberg asked if a pitched rather than flat roof could be considered to improve the coherence of the design. Mr. McGhee responded that the intention is to establish the relationship of the addition to the existing building through organizing lines rather than by repeating the roof form. Mr. Schlossberg said that a sloped roof could also address other issues such as energy consumption and weather conditions. Mr. McGhee responded that the proposed roof would include photovoltaic panels and planted areas.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the cantilevering of the building volume beyond the foundation wall can result in small areas that cannot be maintained, as seen in section D–D in the presentation. Mr. McGhee emphasized the intention to protect the tree roots by recessing the foundation alignment. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested simply extending the facade wall downward to shield the area from the accumulation of debris. Mr. McGhee acknowledged that the height of the areas beneath the cantilevers would need to be studied further; Mr. Schlossberg agreed that these areas could be problematic for maintenance and safety.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to convey the comments provided. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept proposal subject to the comments. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission wants to see a subsequent presentation of this project; Mr. Schlossberg said that it could be considered for listing on the Consent Calendar.
F. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the two presentations from the U.S. Mint, both involving Native American themes. The first submission is two additional Congressional Gold Medals honoring Native American code talkers from World War I and World War II, part of a series honoring numerous tribes. The second submission is the reverse of the 2013 Native American one–dollar coin, part of the ongoing series of circulating dollars; the obverse depicting Sacagawea would remain as in past years. He introduced Ron Harrigal of the U.S. Mint to present the design alternatives. Mr. Luebke also noted the presence of Richard Peterson, the Mint's deputy director, and Jeanne Stevens–Sollman, a member of the Mint's Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) which reviews coin design proposals. Mr. Harrigal noted that a CCAC meeting is scheduled for the following day to review the designs currently being presented to the Commission, providing the convenient opportunity for a CCAC member to attend the Commission meeting.
1. CFA 20/SEP/12–7, Congressional Gold Medals honoring the Native American code talkers of World War I and World War II. Designs for two gold medals (with silver and bronze duplicates) for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/JUN/12–2.) Mr. Harrigal summarized the legislative authority to issue medals recognizing the dedication and valor of the Native American code talkers of the U.S. military during World Wars I and II. A single gold medal will be struck for each Native American tribe; a silver duplicate medal will be awarded to each individual code talker or the next of kin, and bronze duplicates will be offered for sale to the public. The Department of Defense has prepared a list of code talkers that continues to be updated as additional people are identified; the number of people has grown from 180 to 193, and the number of tribes represented has grown from 22 to 25. Mint officials contact each tribe in establishing a design concept for the medal, and the U.S. Army Center of Military History has been designated as the liaison to work with the tribal historians and other experts as part of the design review process which includes verifying the historical accuracy of military uniforms and equipment seen in some of the obverse alternatives. He said that the overall design concept for the series is an obverse image that represents the code talkers' dedication to military service, and a reverse with an iconic symbol of the tribe such as a tribal seal. The obverse and reverse text would follow a typical pattern for the series.
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe medal. Two of the three obverse alternatives depict a similar pose of a soldier in battle during World War II, with obverse #1 depicting the war's European theater in the background and #2 depicting the Pacific theater; obverse #3 depicts two soldiers in an abstract setting. The three reverse alternatives are modified versions of the tribal seal, depicting three intersecting tepees with background spaces representing the water, sky, and earth; reverse alternatives #1 and #2 use textured backgrounds that provide an added reference to the fabric of military uniforms. He also presented an image of the original tribal seal. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the tribe's preferences; Mr. Harrigal responded that the tribe prefers obverse #1 and reverse #1.
Ms. Fernández commented that #2 is the least problematic of the obverse alternatives. She said that the design elements behind the soldier in obverse #1 are confusing and could be sandbags, rocks, or sacks of something; the detail needed to clarify this design is not easily achieved in a small medal. She noted that the Commission has raised this issue previously with the Mint. For the reverse, she supported #1 as the strongest of the alternatives. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the unclear elements along the horizon line of obverse #1 would be problematic, notwithstanding her desire to defer to the tribe's preference. She added that the abstract setting of obverse #3 would be particularly compatible with the reverse designs, but she agreed to support the apparent consensus for obverse #2.
Mr. Harrigal responded that the sculpting process would result in a more distinct differentiation between the primary foreground elements and the background elements. Don Everhart, the chief sculptor–engraver on the Mint staff in Philadelphia, added that the medal size is relatively large–three inches in diameter–which will allow a substantial amount of detail and texture. Mr. Schlossberg supported obverse #2 as the most legible composition. Ms. Fernández added that the telephone in the soldier's hand is more legible against the sky in obverse #2 than partially against background elements in obverse #1; she said that the landscape background of obverse #2 also conveys more significance than the generic military elements in the background of #1.
Mr. Schlossberg expressed support for the composition of text on reverse #2–with "World War I" and "World War II" along the upper rim, and "Act of Congress 2008" along the lower rim–rather than the opposite arrangement in reverse #1; he said that the identification of the wars is a specific idea that belongs at the top to tell the historical story, while the "Act of Congress" phrase is more general information that should be at the bottom. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Powell agreed that the text configuration of reverse #2 should be combined with the Commission's support for the overall design treatment of reverse #1. Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended obverse #2 and reverse #1 with the text configuration of reverse #2.
Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe medal. He presented the two obverse alternatives, noting that obverse #1 is based on a previous design that was suggested as a common element for the series due to the widespread support from various tribes for the powerful image of the code talker. Obverse #1 shows an eagle shielding a crouching soldier, while #2 shows the eagle behind a standing soldier. The two reverse alternatives include the tribal seal depicting a map outline of the reservation and seven tepees symbolizing the seven districts within the reservation; reverse #2 includes the added text "Pacific Theatre" along the upper rim. He noted the tribe's preference for obverse #1 and reverse #2.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why different typefaces are shown for the obverse and reverse designs. Mr. Harrigal responded that the Mint has considered this issue and allows the artists to choose the typeface of each alternative; in this series of medals, the obverse is often a realistic scenic depiction while the reverse is a more abstract graphic design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the same artist designs both sides of a medal; Mr. Harrigal responded that multiple artists are competing on each project. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested asking an artist to design both sides of a medal. Mr. Harrigal acknowledged that the CCAC has also suggested this approach, and the Mint has used it in the past; such an arrangement could be used again if the contracts and payment are combined in this manner. He added that the typefaces could also be adjusted based on the recommendations received; with the proposed medal, the reverse typeface has a hand–carved character that is intended to be consistent with the symbolic Native American design aesthetic of the adapted tribal seal. Mr. Everhart added that the lightness of the reverse typeface is appropriate to the more delicate design of this face, while a heavier block lettering is proposed for the obverse.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the offset phrases "World War II" and "Act of Congress 2008" should be aligned horizontally on the reverse, using lettering of the same size; the improved alignment would result in a triangular pattern that would relate to the triangular elements of the tribal seal. For the obverse, he commented that the eagle in #1–although better drawn than in #2–appears to be attacking the soldier, and he therefore offered support for obverse #2. Ms. Fernández agreed but said that neither design is strong. She described the depiction of the eagle in obverse #1 as confusing: in addition to be seemingly attacking the soldier, the eagle also appears to be trapped within the coin because it is too large in proportion to the soldier. She summarized the concern with obverse #1 as a bad combination of design elements that is inappropriate for the subject being commemorated, and described #2 as less offensive but also less inspired and not drawn well. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested not recommending either of the obverse alternatives; Ms. Fernández agreed.
Mr. Luebke noted that reverse #2 uses the unusual spelling "Theatre" in the phrase "Pacific Theatre." Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested using the more standard "Theater" spelling. Chairman Powell noted the consensus of the Commission not to take an action on the obverse alternatives. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved reverse #2 with adjusted text alignment and size as discussed, and with the corrected spelling of "Theater."
2. CFA 20/SEP/12–8, 2013 Native American One Dollar Coin. Designs for reverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 16/JUN/11–1.) Mr. Harrigal presented the proposal for the 2013 Native American One Dollar Coin. He described Public Law 110–82, which requires the Secretary of the Treasury to issue one–dollar coins honoring the important contributions of Native American tribes and individuals to the history of the United States; the law mandates reverse images emblematic of these contributions in chronological order. He summarized the previous topics in the series, each tied to historical developments: agriculture in 2009; government in 2010; diplomacy in 2011; and trade and economy in 2012. He said that the theme for 2013 is the Delaware Treaty of 1778. He also presented the obverse design depicting Sacagawea that is being used throughout the series.
Mr. Harrigal noted that some of the reverse alternatives depict the Delaware Treaty itself as a scrolled or flat piece of paper; the actual treaty is a folded piece of paper which would be a difficult subject for a coin design, and the Mint therefore allowed the artists to choose how to depict the treaty. He also noted that one design features a wax seal; an actual seal for the treaty could not be found so the depiction is generally representative of seals from that historical period. Mr. Harrigal listed the required inscriptions: "Liberty" and "In God We Trust" which appear on the standard obverse; "United States of America" and "$1" which are required for the reverse; and "E Pluribus Unum" and the minting year incused on the coin edge. The reverse alternatives also include the inscription "Treaty with the Delawares 1778" or similar wording.
Mr. Harrigal then presented the thirteen alternative reverse designs which include a combination of motifs: the treaty document itself; an inkwell; a belt of wampum; a turtle, which is the totem of a major Delaware clan; and cloth patterns. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if there is a preferred design; Mr. Harrigal responded that for this series the Mint consults with the National Museum of the American Indian and requests comments from three committees–the Congressional Native American Caucus, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the National Congress of the American Indian. The only comment received is from the National Congress of the American Indian, which identified alternative #5 as the first choice and #4 as the second choice; comments from the other committees are anticipated.
Mr. Freelon asked about the size of the coin; Mr. Harrigal said its diameter is 1.043 inches and confirmed that it will be a circulating coin. The staff provided a slightly worn example of a previous coin in the series; Mr. Harrigal noted that many of the coins would not enter circulation and would have a shinier appearance.
Mr. Schlossberg expressed support for alternative #9, depicting a cloth pattern worn by the Delawares; Mr. Harrigal said that the artist chose the intertwined pattern to symbolize the progress possible after the signing of the 1778 treaty. Mr. Schlossberg recommended changing the numerical denomination "$1" at the bottom of the design to the text "One Dollar," commenting that the numerical form has an undignified appearance. Mr. Schlossberg and Ms. Plater–Zyberk also suggested a circumferential alignment for the text denomination, corresponding to the format of "United States of America" along the upper edge of the coin.
Mr. Harrigal introduced Greg Weinman, the Mint's legal counsel, to respond to this recommendation; Mr. Weinman said that the legislation for this coin specifies that the denomination must be rendered as "$1." Mr. Schlossberg said that the Commission's concern is to advise on the appearance of the design rather than the legal analysis. Mr. Weinman responded that the Mint has no discretion to change the text format. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission has repeatedly stated a preference for writing out the text of the denomination; he said that the Mint staff is likely involved in drafting the legislation and could seek sufficient flexibility to allow the Commission's recommendations to be considered. He offered to work with the Mint staff on this issue in the future, and the request could also be included in the Commission's letter responding to the current submission. Mr. Schlossberg commented that the dollar symbol in alternative #9 is not actually an accurate dollar sign but rather a poor abstraction, resembling a cent sign when seen quickly. Mr. Powell noted the past consideration of this issue and the Mint's apparent inability to respond to the Commission's concern; he offered support for alternative #9 with the text "One Dollar" and said that he would also support #9 if the "$1" format needs to remain.
Ms. Fernández agreed that alternative #9 is the best design overall due to its abstraction, without attempting to convey any realistic rendering. However, she questioned the use of the textile pattern in both positive and negative forms, asking if the dual treatment was generated by the Mint's artist or was part of the historic design motif. Mr. Harrigal responded by reading notes provided by the artist of this design: the use of two interdependent elements is intended to convey that the treaty was a binding set of obligations for both parties, and the design illustrates the inherent nature of the treaty itself rather than any of its specific provisions. Mr. Powell concluded that the artist's intention is clearly an abstract treatment.
Ms. Fernández commented that this abstract adaptation of an authentic historic motif is problematic: the motif should not be changed arbitrarily because it would no longer be the original motif. She emphasized the need to study this issue further rather than alter the use and meaning of a symbolic historic image created by others. She reiterated her overall support for alternative #9, commenting that many of the other designs are problematic because the depiction of text on the treaty would not be legible at the small size and the designs do not convey any connection to Native Americans for the general public using this coin. She emphasized that #9 is the only alternative that could be readily understood as related to Native Americans and the Delaware tribe; the historic design motif must therefore be used responsibly, and she expressed concern about having a modern artist reinterpret and alter the motif. Mr. Schlossberg added that the Commission needs to have confidence that the motif is derived from an authentic source and that the tribe would respect the resulting design. Mr. Harrigal responded that the Mint consults with the National Museum of the American Indian in developing the designs.
Mr. Schlossberg reiterated the Commission's preference for the denomination rendering as "One Dollar." Mr. Harrigal acknowledged the concern and said that the current legislatively authorized program for this coin series extends through 2016; after that, the one–dollar coin may revert to a previous reverse design, or a new reverse may be developed. Mr. Schlossberg and Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of whether any change to the denomination format would be delayed until after 2016. Mr. Harrigal confirmed that no change is possible under the current legislation, and the change could occur only through an amendment to this legislation or with new legislation authorizing one–dollar coins beyond 2016. Mr. Weinman clarified that the program could actually continue indefinitely, and no end date is specified by law; the program continues in parallel with the Presidential One Dollar Coin series, and both programs will continue until all of the U.S. Presidents have been honored in that series. He added that both of these programs include the legislative specification of the numerical denomination format as "$1."
Mr. Luebke emphasized the frustrating question of whether a design issue is being decided by the typographical convenience of drafting the legislation with the numerical denomination format. Mr. Weinman responded that the legislation clearly specifies the format and includes it within quotation marks. He acknowledged that the Mint staff sometimes has a role in developing legislation for coin authorizations, and offered to convey the Commission's concern to others on the Mint staff. Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed concern that the denomination format could be a provision that is added without full consideration at the end of the legislative process. She said that if the "$1" text cannot be changed, then the dollar sign should not appear in the stylized form shown in alternative #9. Mr. Luebke added that the Commission could send a letter to the Congressional committees responsible for coin legislation to convey the concern with the undignified appearance of the "$1" text, giving the impression of a retail price tag rather than a coin denomination; several Commission members agreed that the problem should be addressed.
Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #9 with the request that the denomination be rendered as text or else with a more legible dollar symbol, and that the textile design motif be studied further to assure an authentic rather than arbitrary use of the historic pattern.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:08 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: October 19, 2012