Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 April 2013
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:08 a.m.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presided at the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Freelon. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available as the official record of the meeting.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 16 May, 20 June, and 18 July 2013.
Mr. Luebke reported that the lengthy preparation of the new book on the Commission, titled Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, is now complete. The books have been delivered and are available through bookstores and the University of Massachusetts Press. A public presentation by Mr. Luebke on the book is scheduled for the evening of 15 May at the National Building Museum, part of the Charles Atherton Memorial Lecture Program that honors the Commission's long–serving Secretary. He noted the publication as the conclusion of the four–year project to mark the Commission's centennial in 2010; the book was largely prepared by the staff. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk offered congratulations on behalf of the Commission members.
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 reported that the only changes to the draft appendix are minor adjustments to punctuation. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported the changes to the draft appendix. The unfavorable recommendations for two projects (case numbers SL 13–057 and 13–065) have tentatively been changed to be favorable based on design revisions that are in progress; an additional recommendation (SL 13–064) is also subject to submission of revised drawings. She requested authorization to finalize these favorable recommendations upon receipt of the anticipated drawings. She said that the scope of one project (SL 13–062) was expanded slightly, and the recommendation remains favorable. Another project (SL 13–069) was withheld from the appendix to allow time for the applicant to resolve some issues; it will likely be included in a future month. She noted that the appendix includes the report of an action previously delegated to the staff (SL 13–070): the submission is for the service podium levels of a proposed office building at L'Enfant Plaza, and the overall design for this building is on the Commission's agenda for presentation later in the day (agenda item II.H). Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Ms. Barsoum reported several changes to the draft appendix. Several recommendations have been updated to note the receipt of supplemental drawings. Revisions and details are still in progress for two projects (case numbers OG 13–100 and 13–125), and she requested authorization to finalize these favorable recommendations upon receipt of the anticipated drawings. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Department of the Army / Institute of Heraldry
CFA 18/APR/13–1, The George Washington Spymaster Medal, for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Designs for medal (obverse and reverse), ribbon bar, and lapel pin. Final. Mr. Simon noted the Institute of Heraldry's role in developing medals, coats of arms, flags, official seals, and related designs for federal agencies; the Institute submits projects of national–level significance for the Commission's review. He added that the Institute's medals are distinct from the medal designs submitted frequently by the U.S. Mint, including one later on the agenda (item II.I.1). He introduced Charles Mugno, director of the Institute of Heraldry, to present design alternatives for the proposed medal to be awarded by the Director of National Intelligence.
Mr. Mugno expressed appreciation for the opportunity to present the new decoration to the Commission, which he described as "the Supreme Court of fine arts." He noted the presence in the audience of Steven Redmann, the executive director of Army Headquarters Services, and of Costella Alford, the artist at the Institute of Heraldry who developed the design for this medal. He requested the Commission's response to the design methodology of selecting source material through historical research, as well as to the proposed design options which should achieve a level of stateliness that is appropriate for this high–level decoration.
Mr. Mugno summarized the organizational context for the proposal. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after the September 2001 terrorist attacks; in 2008, this agency asked the Institute of Heraldry to develop its heraldic program, which he described as an unprecedented opportunity for the Institute to develop a complete program for a federal agency. Several elements of the program have already been developed; the current proposal would be the agency's highest–level award and would be given by the Director of National Intelligence.
Mr. Mugno described the theme of the medal. It is named in honor of George Washington, who was a spymaster while leading the Continental Army; intelligence and deception were part of his strategy in winning the Revolutionary War. The design research focused on the Washington family's coat of arms, which had been bestowed in England; George Washington had recognized this element of his family's lineage, displaying it at Mount Vernon and corresponding with London's College of Arms. The historic design motif—two red bars on a white field, with three red stars above—is also used by the District of Columbia, appearing on the D.C. flag and license plate. The second element of the proposed design is the seal of the intelligence community, previously designed by the Institute of Heraldry. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the history of this seal; Mr. Mugno responded that it was created in 2010. He indicated the elements of the seal, including a polestar denoting the global nature of intelligence–gathering; fifty stars representing the states; and sixteen stars representing the federal agencies that are involved in intelligence work.
Mr. Mugno described the proposed decoration, which includes four elements: the medal suspended on a ribbon, to be worn around the wearer's neck; a miniature medal with ribbon; a ribbon bar; and a lapel pin. In each design alternative, the proposed ribbon has blue and buff stripes that are based on the colors of George Washington's military uniform during the Revolutionary War. This color configuration is also used for the single design proposal for the ribbon bar. He presented three alternatives for the medal design, which would be translated into corresponding designs for the miniature medal and lapel pin. Option 1 and Option 2 use the polestar, with the Washington coat of arms motif at the center and a ring of sixteen stars at the circumference. The top of the medal would include two additional elements from the Washington coat of arms: a crest of small red and white bars, and a griffin that would conceal a metal slide on the reverse for the ribbon. In Option 1, the outer ring is blue and is configured as a garter, an important traditional heraldic symbol that represents noble authority and oversight; the garter's buckle is toward the bottom of the medal. Option 2 uses a simple black ring as a field for the sixteen stars. He noted that six–pointed stars would be used, based on George Washington's personal flag and on the prevalent use of six–pointed stars during the Revolutionary War period. Option 3 is a more contemporary design, using an eight–sided shape representing the eight–year duration of the Revolutionary War. The central silver portion of the medal includes the bars and three stars of the Washington coat of arms, as well as a vertically placed key representing the key to the Bastille that was presented to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette to honor the role of the American Revolution in inspiring the French Revolution. At the bottom of the key, the numbers 7–1–1 refer to the code name for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Fernandez asked for a presentation of the reverse alternatives before commenting on the proposal. Mr. Mugno said that the reverse of all three options includes a central location for engraving the recipient's name, which is a feature of very high–level awards. Encircling the name would be a ring of thirteen six–pointed stars, derived from George Washington's personal flag during the Revolutionary War. The reverse of Option 1 and Option 2 includes the name of the decoration—"George Washington Spymaster Award"—and the reverse of Option 1 also continues the obverse garter motif at the circumference, including the buckle at the bottom. The reverse of Option 3 would be a simple gold–colored field, including a circle within the octagonal outline of the medal. He concluded by noting the direct interest of James Clapper, the current Director of National Intelligence, in the design of this award; the initial presentation of this award may be held at Mount Vernon. He provided the Commission members with two samples of past medals, illustrating the typical scale and detailing of the decoration elements.
Mr. Freelon expressed concern with the garter motif in Option 1. He said that the looped configuration at the bottom is somewhat informal for such an important medal, and it causes the sixteen stars to be grouped unevenly around the remainder of the circumference in contrast to the generally symmetrical character of the design. He also said that Option 3 may be too unusual as a design for this decoration; he therefore offered support for Option 2. Mr. Mugno responded that the proposed garter configuration is the traditional representation of this element, reflecting a tradition extending to the 12th century. He acknowledged the uneven configuration of the sixteen stars due to the detailing of the garter, in contrast to the symmetrical grouping of the stars in Option 2. Mr. Freelon observed the ambiguity of the two gray dots at the bottom of the garter, apparently signifying holes, that are graphically similar to the white stars around the remainder of the circumference. Mr. Mugno emphasized that these details are part of the conventional heraldic representation of the garter, expressing reluctance to alter this tradition.
Mr. Schlossberg asked about the significance of the red and white bands at the top of the obverse in Option 1 and Option 2. Mr. Mugno clarified that a coat of arms typically includes three elements: the shield, the motto, and the crest above. Associated with the coat of arms is a "torse," a type of twisted wreath that includes the two colors taken from the shield; these colors are silver and red on the Washington coat of arms, and the torse is a powerful and significant heraldic element.
Ms. Meyer said that Mr. Freelon's comments relate to the design methodology, a topic that Mr. Mugno had cited for the Commission's comment. She said that Option 1 and Option 2 are attempts to combine two different complex precedents, and the design challenge is in deciding which components to include and which to omit. She agreed with Mr. Freelon that the placement of the stars is problematic in relation to the garter in Option 1. She suggested relocating the two stars at lower right to the two–star segments in the upper portion of the circumference, resulting in consistent three–star groupings in all four of the upper segments and a pair of two–star groupings below; she said that this reconfiguration would provide a different type of symmetry in the design and would allow the garter to read more clearly as a strong design element. As presented, she said that Option 2 is preferable because it is more dignified although somewhat static; she commented that the garter results in a livelier design and said that she would support Option 1 if the stars are reconfigured as suggested.
Mr. Mugno agreed to explore this reconfiguration, emphasizing his ongoing appreciation for the Commission's advice at each presentation. He added that Option 1 provides the opportunity to use the actual historic coat of arms of the Washington family as well as the significant heraldic design element of the garter. Ms. Fernández asked if any option is preferred; Mr. Mugno responded that both he and the Director of National Intelligence prefer Option 1.
Ms. Fernández supported the comments of the other Commission members. She observed that Option 2 appears slightly larger than Option 1 in the presentation graphics; Mr. Mugno responded that the sizes of the two options differ slightly due to the convention of dimensioning the medal based on the measurement of the longest diagonal. Ms. Fernández commented that the integration of the garter into the medal design may be problematic in Option 1; she expressed support for Option 1 without the garter, and with the circumferential stars distributed evenly as in Option 2. She observed that the distinction is in the color scheme: Option 2 has a black background for the outer ring, which has a static effect that dulls the design; in Option 1, the blue background of the ring has a more animated relationship with the red and white elements of the design. She suggested further coordination of the color scheme and scale between these two alternatives. Mr. Mugno responded that the black color was chosen in Option 2 because of its significance in covert operations in the intelligence field; the alternatives were developed to illustrate different options for color. Ms. Fernández acknowledged the convention of the garter but emphasized that it is somewhat busy and distracting within the overall medal design of Option 1, causing the viewer to notice the garter before focusing on other design elements.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged a similar reaction to the garter motif but said that, after further consideration, she supports the inclusion of this element; it would invite questions and further explanation, elevating this medal above the typical realm of round medal designs. She offered support for Option 1 as a unique design and encouraged reconfiguration of the stars as discussed, including the same spacing for the segments with only two stars in order to remove them further from the buckle portion of the garter. She also suggested a downward shift in the central motif of bars and stars to improve the sense of balance; she observed that the intention is apparently to approximately center the two bars on the horizontal centerline of the medal's circular form, but the result appears imbalanced due to the three small stars immediately above. She suggested deemphasizing the centerline, or perhaps centering the upper bar on this alignment. She noted the general advantage of not cutting across circles at the exact centerline. Mr. Mugno agreed that lowering this motif would improve the proportions and reduce the extent of white space below the lower bar.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted the varying opinions of the Commission members to support a version of Option 1 with the garter motif or a version of Option 2, a simpler design. Mr. Schlossberg said that the suggested revisions to Option 1 would greatly improve its design. He observed that the griffin at the top of the medal in Option 1 and Option 2 seems to draw undue attention, particularly due to the scale of the wings; he suggested lowering the height of this element to improve its relationship to the overall design of the medal. He added that the proportions in Option 2 are slightly different and appear superior; Mr. Luebke noted that the griffin in Option 2 seems slightly larger, resulting in a different relationship to the ribbon. Mr. Schlossberg reiterated that undue emphasis on the wings would weaken the harmony of the design.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested providing comments rather than selecting a specific alternative; Mr. Luebke confirmed that this response would be appropriate. Mr. Mugno presented an additional drawing to illustrate four alternatives for the color finishes of the medal, all based on the Option 1 design. He offered a preference for the third alternative, using gold for the polestar and silver for the inner ring, which he said is more successful in tying together the design elements from historic and modern sources. He acknowledged the comment that the garter motif is unfamiliar to most people and would become a topic of discussion, which would result in ongoing interest and enjoyment for the recipient. He emphasized that heraldry is a very narrow field of study, and the trained staff at the Institute of Heraldry is an important resource for the federal government in developing such design concepts.
Noting the special character of Option 1, Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested that the Commission members support a consensus for this alternative with the modifications that were discussed; Mr. Schlossberg and Mr. Freelon agreed.
Mr. Mugno briefly presented the lapel pin, miniature medal, and ribbon bar that would be associated with the medal; he noted that the miniature medal and shorter ribbon, rather than the full–size medal with a neck ribbon, is typically worn with formal dress or military uniforms. He noted that the center element of the ribbon bar is the griffin from the Washington coat of arms, serving as the attachment pin; the lapel pin replicates the other elements of the medal, resulting in a combination that conveys the entire medal design. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk commented that the sample medals provided by Mr. Mugno are very beautiful, and she acknowledged the historical research that establishes a continuity in the proposed designs. Ms. Fernández expressed appreciation for the thoughtful designs and said that the methodology has been successful, resulting in a clear explanation of the thought process. Mr. Mugno emphasized the goal of providing dignified and stately designs for the federal government.
(Mr. Freelon recused himself from the following agenda item and left the room.)
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 18/APR/13–2, National Museum of African American History and Culture, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Revised design—Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/12–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal for modifications to the final design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, noting that the Commission had approved the final design submission in September 2012. He said that most of the proposed modifications were the result of an intensive cost–cutting process that has required changes to some elements of the original scope—alterations to the design of the landscape, the roof, the east egress court, the site lighting, and some openings in the corona. The project team has met with the staff several times to discuss these modifications. He noted that the Commission had previously requested a full presentation on several other project components—the metal finish of the corona and the inscriptions for the south fountain—which will be submitted at a later date, and a site visit will be scheduled soon to inspect mockups of the corona. He noted that Mr. Freelon has recused himself from the review of this project. He asked Jud McIntire of the Smithsonian's Office of Facilities, Operations and Engineering to begin the presentation.
Mr. McIntire said that some of the design changes are substantial but that most would not be detrimental to the project. He confirmed the Smithsonian's intention to continue coordinating the museum project with the Commission staff, particularly regarding the design and detailing of the corona. He introduced architect Zena Howard of the Freelon Group and landscape architect Rodrigo Abela of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol to present the design revisions.
Mr. Abela described the site design changes involving the north water feature and the reading groves. He said that the design team was asked to eliminate the north water feature paralleling Constitution Avenue, and this change has affected the site grading and the perimeter security barrier. He presented a section of the previously approved design, indicating the water feature that was set lower than the adjacent lawn panel. Two walks from the Constitution Avenue corners were to cross the water on bridges and then ascend the slope to the oculus. One wall of the water feature—part of the perimeter security barrier—had been set below grade; as a result of removing the water feature, the base of this wall would now be flush with grade, and in two areas its height will have to be raised to 36 inches above grade. He said that identification signage for the museum is proposed on these raised segments of the wall. The grading of the lawn itself would also be changed slightly, and the walks can no longer lie on top of the prevailing grade but will have to be cut into it.
Mr. Abela said that the water features would be replaced with azaleas; blue and white azaleas would be selected to remain within the established color palette. The groundcovers planned for the north slope have also been eliminated, and the slope would now be treated as a simple lawn that is similar in character to the rest of the Washington Monument grounds. He described the goal in the revisions of maintaining the sense of a threshold at the point where a person leaves the sidewalk along Constitution Avenue—emblematic of the daily world—and crosses over a boundary to enter the domain of the museum.
Mr. Abela presented the changes proposed for the reading groves. The previous design called for three seating areas linked to the themes of optimism and hope, spirituality, and resiliency, each with large stone sculptures that would act as benches. The proposed revision is to build the walks, plantings, and other infrastructure for the reading areas but to defer adding the sculptural seating, instead installing some type of standard bench as a temporary measure.
Ms. Howard presented the changes intended for the building design, beginning with the roof. She noted that the previous roof plan had a cruciform pattern reflecting the building's four internal cores, interwoven with photovoltaic panels. The museum's cooling towers were to be located at the existing National Museum of American History, to the east across 14th Street; due to changes in the budget, the proposed revision is to locate the cooling towers on the fifth floor of the new museum, and they would be visible on the roof as structures adjoining the northeast core. She said that the revised design would maintain two roof monitors south of the northern cores, and emphasized that the cooling towers would not be visible from any surrounding locations except from the air and the top of the Washington Monument.
Ms. Howard described the changes proposed for the egress court on the east side of the museum. This area had previously been designed with 27 skylights to light the cafeteria below and with a well for the discharge of emergency generator exhaust. The number of skylights has now been reduced to six, and the emergency exhaust has been reconfigured so that both intake and exhaust are directed to the east and the exhaust structure is slightly narrower and longer. The exhaust shaft would be flush with the top of the wall abutting the loading dock ramp, and would have grilles that are finished to match the corona.
On the corona, Ms. Howard said that some of the architectural "lenses" planned for the south facade had been designed with returns extending back to the main building volume of gallery spaces; the revised proposal is to eliminate these returns, and the lenses would instead be simple openings that would remain in the same general configuration and location. She also indicated proposed adjustments to the locations of the structural trusses in relation to the ground–floor window mullions.
Mr. Schlossberg asked if vapor rising from the cooling towers would sometimes be visible; Ms. Howard responded that pluming would not be readily visible, and the air would simply dissipate. Mr. Schlossberg asked about the generator ventilation in the egress court; Ms. Howard confirmed that it is only for an emergency generator. Mr. Schlossberg clarified that his concerns are not with the generator or cooling system design, but with the visual effect on the building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the previous roof plan was carefully designed with a symmetrical pattern, and the proposed cooling towers should also be symmetrical. Ms. Howard responded that the cooling towers have to be next to one of the cores, through which the air is channeled, and the proposed location is the most efficient way of avoiding visual clutter; if the cooling towers were placed in a symmetrical location, a structure would have to be built to move air between the cores and the cooling towers. She suggested that the proposed solution for the cooling towers is the best way to remain consistent with historic preservation and environmental review processes for the project; an additional concern is continuing to bring adequate daylight to the office space that is programmed for the museum's top floor.
Ms. Fernández emphasized that the cores had created a strong cross–shaped graphic element on the roof, and she asked if the design team had made additional studies of how the cooling towers might be placed into this shape to preserve its integrity. She said that the cooling towers now look merely tacked on to the cross shape, and the design is no longer symmetrical. She said that if the cooling towers must be in the proposed location, one obvious solution could be to shift the other elements of the roof design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the planned rooftop photovoltaic array would be a surface element, and she asked if it could they be expanded so that its pattern incorporates the cooling towers. Ms. Howard responded that a minimum number of photovoltaic panels has to be placed on the roof to meet energy requirements, and the intention is to avoid putting any panels outside of the visual barrier of the parapet wall.
Mr. Luebke noted that a list of mitigation measures has been agreed upon for this museum project, including a requirement that the rooftop be composed as a surface that would be seen by the public; the roof had been considered to be another elevation of the building. He added that the challenge involves adding mechanical equipment to the top floor in a manner that works within the design and does not sacrifice too much occupiable space. Mr. McIntire said that the appearance of the roof design might be somewhat exaggerated in the rendering because the actual materials on top of the four cores would be gratings that cover openings; the cruciform shape may not read as strongly as it is drawn. Mr. Schlossberg asked if the whole rooftop would appear like one pattern; Mr. McIntire responded that it would look more uniform than shown. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said she found it disturbing that the drawing is not an accurate depiction of the appearance, and she asked how the Commission could be expected to respond to it.
Mr. Luebke clarified that the roofscape involves several different kinds of elements: photovoltaics, cooling towers, and gratings over other areas. He summarized the Commission's concern that the rooftop had been carefully composed and would now have the appearance of a mistake; Mr. Schlossberg affirmed this position. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the roof components could be redesigned to create a new "plaid" pattern that is composed of several different elements. Ms. Fernández observed that the cluster of cooling towers would occupy a small percentage of the roof's surface area, and emphasized that it could be made symmetrical so that its design does not appear to be an oversight. Mr. Schlossberg said that the proposed roof plan is close to being symmetrical, and having a symmetrical pattern on the roof would be a logical idea; he suggested that either more photovoltaics added or the cross shape extended to achieve this result.
Ms. Fernández commented that the roof of the museum cannot be considered an invisible feature: the building will be photographed from this view, and people will see clearly that the geometric patterns on the roof are based on the design of the building itself. The elevations and the roof design will form the overall aesthetic integrity of the building, and the roof design is an important issue. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the design opportunity to make a roof pattern that is more complex while still concealing or integrating the additional element of the cooling towers. Ms. Meyer suggested using grates to form a tartan or plaid pattern that breaks down the geometric shapes; she emphasized that the problem in the current proposal is trying to pretend that the cruciform figure is not being compromised by the insertion of the cooling towers. She added that her suggestion does not mean simply leaving the roof configuration as proposed and developing some grates.
Ms. Fernández expressed concern about the proposed changes to the landscaping. She said that the Commission had been very supportive of the project; part of the project's beauty was the thoughtfulness of the original narrative, and she recommended caution in removing parts of the design. She said that removal of the north water feature is a disappointing proposal; whether it was removed for security or for budgetary reasons, its loss changes the narrative significantly. She recalled that the act of crossing over the water had been presented as being a critical moment, and now suddenly this feature would be replaced with azaleas. If this proposal had been part of the landscape design throughout the process, the Commission might have found it to be an acceptable design; but taking the water out while retaining the site plan's crossing pattern no longer makes sense, and she suggested rethinking the entire configuration of walks. She emphasized that the selection of final details and finishes can make the character of the project either spectacular or mediocre; this proposed change starts to erode the character of the entire project, and she therefore cautioned that she will be looking very carefully at the proposed material and finish for the corona.
Mr. Abela responded that the proposal is not simply to replace water with azaleas, emphasizing that the design team has thought carefully about the implications of this change. He said that the walks have been lowered so they would not cross over the azaleas, and the azaleas would not be appear to be mere substitutes for water. Mr. Schlossberg objected that the altered design no longer has meaning; the path is now just a path. Mr. Abela reiterated that the goal of the revision is to acknowledge that a person is no longer crossing over water, and the walks would now ascend the slope in a manner similar to the walks on the Washington Monument grounds. He emphasized the effort to integrate the revised design into this larger context. Mr. Schlossberg questioned whether people would understand the overly subtle idea of people ascending a sloping landscape; he observed that the design team probably had not wanted to change the landscape design. He reiterated that the water feature and its narrative had been strong and compelling, and doubted that the newly proposed configuration has narrative meaning.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the redesign of the north water feature's location might be better as a plinth alone rather than a wall concealed by planting; Mr. Schlossberg agreed. Ms. Fernández said that the water element had been the backbone of the whole site design, and if it is taken out then the entire design needs to be rethought. Ms. Meyer agreed, observing that the topography has been designed in relation to the water but this would no longer be an issue; she said that the resulting proposal now looks like the entrance to a corporate headquarters, with a big sign tacked on the wall. She said it saddens her to see the unpersuasive perspective rendering and to think about the loss of what had appeared to be a very meaningful landscape: with the previous design, a visitor would be aware of crossing a threshold to enter another realm, while the revised proposal lacks this power. She described having the same reaction to the proposed change in the reading areas from the sculptural stone seating to the standard benches, commenting that a typical bench would have an entirely different scale from the enigmatic sculptural seats that were previously presented. She summarized her concern about the reduced power of this redesigned landscape in forming part of the museum's narrative.
Mr. Luebke recalled that the Commission members had previously questioned whether a water feature should be part of the northern portion of the site, based on concerns with the relationship of the water feature to the prevailing streetscape character of Constitution Avenue and to the major water element planned on the south side of the museum; the Commission had subsequently come to accept the north water feature as an important conceptual part of the design. He said that the project team may benefit from knowing whether the Commission recommends that the water feature needs to remain, or whether there may be another way of achieving a strong design without the water; he noted the context of pressure to reduce the project's scope.
Ms. Fernández said that the design feature could be something other than water, but the problem is that it has not been thought through. She emphasized that the proposed revisions are removing the poetic moments from the design, and the loss of the water feature is not something to be taken lightly. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that some Commission members had been concerned that the north water feature was an anomaly; she commented that its removal may be acceptable, but this would require rethinking of the site's north frontage so that it has continuity with the rest of Constitution Avenue. She asked if the problem perhaps lay in the presentation itself, and she observed that the proposed azaleas seem to be concealing the security wall rather than performing the same narrative role as the previous channel of water.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the water feature had not been designed simply to look good but because it was part of a larger story that the museum was supposed to tell visitors. He said that the entrance sequence in the revised proposal does not tell any story, and people would just walk up to the museum. He suggested consideration of omitting the azalea border and simply having the walks or some other features; the goal should be to consider a meaning that is appropriate to the story of the museum, rather than simply replacing one feature with another as if this decision would have no consequence. He said that the proposed revisions to the reading areas result in the same concern: the reading areas involved a powerful aspiration of telling the stories of people coming to and living in America, and they may fail to achieve this if the previously designed seats are replaced with paving and ordinary benches. Mr. Abela clarified that the intention is to phase in the specially designed seats later; the standard benches would be only a temporary solution. Mr. Schlossberg suggested constructing just one of the reading areas to the complete design and eliminating the other two, a solution that could save more money and result in the completion of one area that retains its meaning and power instead of three that are weak.
Mr. Luebke noted the remaining topics of several changes to the building itself, including alterations to the east egress court and redesign of some facade openings. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that her only concern is to question the use of the corona material on the exhaust structure, suggesting consideration of a different material. Ms. Howard clarified that the proposal is not to use the same material as the corona, but to provide a similar bronze finish and color. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the finish and color of the exhaust structure should relate more closely to the structures around it than to the corona. Mr. Luebke noted the proposed revision to eliminate public access to the roof of the south canopy, and instead to expand the extent of the green roof. Ms. Howard confirmed that future public access to the roof is not envisioned, and the expanded green roof would be a permanent feature. Mr. Schlossberg recalled that the roof had been discussed as an area for public activity, but he commented that the proposed change seems acceptable.
Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission requested a further submission of the proposed landscape revisions, and delegated further review of two architectural proposals—the finish of the exhaust structure in the egress court and the revised roof design—to the staff, while approving the remaining revisions.
(At this point, Mr. Freelon returned for the remainder of the meeting.)
D. Department of the Army / Arlington National Cemetery
CFA 18/APR/13–3, Arlington National Cemetery. Millennium Site (Old Warehouse Area and Fort Myer Picnic Grounds—north of the Post Traditional Chapel), Arlington, Virginia. Landscape design for Millennium Expansion Project and designs for associated structures. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/OCT/12–3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed final design for the Millennium Site expansion at Arlington National Cemetery. This project would add 27,000 burial sites to the cemetery, including both in–ground burial plots and columbaria. He said that the Commission had approved the concept design in October 2012 with the recommendation to continue a uniformity of treatment in keeping with the overall cemetery design. He asked Kathleen Conlon, the executive director of Arlington National Cemetery, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Conlon emphasized the honor of being entrusted with the care of this important site, the premier national military cemetery, and she thanked the Commission members for their role in protecting this and other national shrines in the Washington area. She introduced several members of the project team and asked architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the revised proposal.
Mr. Hassan provided an overview of the project and described the changes that have been made in response to the Commission's previous comments. He said that the revised plan has a simpler and better–defined composition. He indicated the areas with less slope, where the in–ground crypts would be placed; these areas are designed to evoke the cemetery's established historic character—open fields with regular rows of grave markers, and solitary trees interspersed among them. The existing mature trees are mostly located around the streambed, an area that will be treated as an important landscape feature. The design includes several clusters of columbarium walls, which have been revised in the current proposal. The curvature of Columbarium A has been softened to make it similar to the other columbaria. Columbarium B, which did not relate to the larger composition, has been eliminated. The result is two distinct groups of columbarium structures: Columbaria C and D, which would be set within the wooded area around the streambed, and Columbarium A. The cemetery's boundary wall along Fort Myer would also serve as a columbarium wall.
Mr. Hassan described several design details of the columbaria. More plantings are proposed at Columbarium A to soften the appearance of the stone surfaces; the goal is to provide a sense of seclusion and privacy despite the large number of urn niches. He indicated the discreet location of rest rooms and equipment storage within the Columbarium A design, and the shallow reflecting pools and post–and–lintel portals that would create thresholds at the entry point. The large opening in the rear wall of Columbarium A has been retained; he described this as a critical feature that would allow a broad view of a burial lawn, giving people a sense of the cemetery's larger context. For Columbaria C and D, he described the balanced arrangement on either side of the stream. The proposed alignment of the one–way loop road around these columbaria has been altered to save a greater number of mature trees than with the simpler route previously planned. The alignment of the bridge over the secondary stream has also been adjusted, for both practical and aesthetic reasons. He noted the Commission's recommendation to reduce the width of the road paving; in this revised proposal, one portion is reduced to 23 feet wide, and another portion remains 30 feet wide which he said is needed to accommodate parking during ceremonies and other activities.
Mr. Hassan described the revisions to the columbarium at the boundary wall. The wall has been further articulated in segments to create greater definition for the different zones of the adjacent proposed burial lawn; this articulation also creates nodes that will temporarily be used as spaces for committal services. He said that placing water features at these nodes was considered, but the difficulty and expense of bringing water to this wall was excessive; the reconfigured wall would therefore include short segments constructed of red sandstone taken from the historic boundary wall. He indicated the proposed treatment of trees and vines that would be placed at the ends of walks leading to the wall.
Mr. Hassan described the current design for the two permanent committal shelters that are included in the project. He said that several options were presented previously; the Commission had recommended developing a very simple post–and–lintel design, consistent with the architecture of the rest of the cemetery. He said that the design uses a minimal number of columns, which increases the sense of openness. The previous intention had been to bring natural light into the center of the structure by manipulating the roof, but the result looked too heavy; the roof design has therefore been simplified to be more consistent with the concrete post–and–lintel system. The ceiling of the shelters would have panels of weathered wood to soften the appearance.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked if the presentation addressed all of the design changes; Mr. Hassan confirmed that other components of the design remain as previously presented. Ms. Meyer said that the project has developed well, observing that the topography has apparently been studied more closely; she commended the project team for the improvement, while commenting that opportunities remained for further adjustment. She said that the 30–foot road width remains excessive; while acknowledging the financial constraints of the project and the need for parking at funerals, she questioned whether the entire 30–foot width needs to be asphalt paving. She observed that the columbaria will have small niches that are delicately scaled in comparison to the scale of the road, and the juxtaposition would be strange—particularly where the road runs alongside the small niches nearest to the stream. She recommended further effort to reduce the road width, emphasizing that one lane of traffic requires only 10 to 12 feet of pavement.
Ms. Condon responded that this area may sometimes have four services occurring simultaneously, and all could include caissons with people walking alongside; this resulted in the determination of the necessary road width. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the typical parking configuration along cemetery roads; Ms. Condon confirmed that vehicles are sometimes double–parked. Ms. Meyer reiterated that the road still does not need to be designed with a 30–foot width of asphalt; this is a cost issue, and also a stormwater issue because water from the road would drain directly into the stream valley. She emphasized her overall appreciation for the site plan but suggested using alternative porous pavements to break down the scale.
Mr. Hassan offered to study the road design further; he emphasized that its width had already been reduced in another area, and said that the design now includes more sustainable and recycled materials in the paving. Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported Ms. Meyer's suggestion; she recommended more careful study to identify where the 30–foot width is most necessary and where permeable pavement for parking could be located, and then narrowing the roads as much as possible. Mr. Hassan said that the driveway part could be narrowed, with an alternative material used for parking areas on the sides. Mr. Schlossberg commented that landscape design today must always take into account the likelihood of larger, stronger, and more frequent storms. He said that any road design that minimizes water movement on the surface will benefit the project: additional water runoff will cause difficulty in maintaining the new cemetery area. Mr. Hassan agreed and reiterated the intention to study this issue further.
Mr. Luebke noted that the staff is very supportive of the proposed design direction for the committal shelter and the attention given to existing typologies within the cemetery. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission members have provided clear recommendations about the road, and final approval of this element could be delegated to the staff. Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the final design submission with delegated authority to the staff for further review of the road and stormwater issues.
E. U.S. Department of Agriculture
CFA 18/APR/13–4, Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building and South Building (USDA headquarters complex), 14th Street and Independence Avenue, SW. People's Garden site improvements and perimeter security plan. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal to redesign the landscape around the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headquarters complex, which includes the Whitten Building on the Mall and the South Building across Independence Avenue, SW; he noted the two prominent pedestrian bridges over Independence Avenue that connect the buildings. He asked Bob Snieckus, the national landscape architect for the Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Snieckus described the project as a combination of site improvements and perimeter security. Improved sustainability of the site is a goal for the project, including compliance with policies for protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. He described the proposal as a comprehensive design that would reduce energy, manage stormwater on the site, reduce lawn areas, remove a large extent of invasive species, and introduce green roofs. Rainwater would be harvested to the extent possible, and the design would accommodate an improved farmers market. He said that the USDA wants to expand its educational outreach to the general public, reduce parking around facilities, and respect the historic landscape that was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the Olmsted Brothers firm. He noted that work on the project began in 2004, and numerous meetings have been held with the staffs of planning, preservation, and design agencies, including the Commission's staff. He introduced several members of the project team, which includes consultant firms OLBN, EHT Traceries, and AECOM; he asked landscape architect Shelley Rentsch of OLBN to present the design.
Ms. Rentsch described the proposal as an exciting project to extend the USDA's mission across the 20–acre campus of the headquarters complex. She indicated the project's central location in Washington, extending from 12th to 14th Streets and to Jefferson Drive on the north and C Street on the south. She emphasized the views toward the Washington Monument on the northwest, and the Whitten Building's position along the Mall framing the view toward the U.S. Capitol. She noted that the sidewalk space around the South Building is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Department of Transportation, while the entire block of the Whitten Building is under the federal government's jurisdiction; she emphasized that maintenance of both blocks is managed entirely by the USDA. She said that USDA and its People's Garden program currently have four full–time gardeners and seventy volunteers; these numbers will likely grow as the landscape is developed further.
Ms. Rentsch noted the high pedestrian activity on the site, particularly at the Smithsonian Metro station entrance located at the southwest corner of 12th Street and Independence Avenue. She indicated the eight existing curb cuts along Independence Avenue, which she said is excessive; she also indicated the existing areaways, historic trees, and memorial trees located on the site, as well as several surface parking lots located around the Whitten Building. An existing People's Garden is located near the northeastern corner of the Whitten Building; she said that the setting of this organic garden includes a predominance of asphalt parking lots, but overall the north side of the site has a green character that relates "fairly well" to the Mall landscape. She described the south block as generally hardscape; many of the existing trees are dead or dying.
Ms. Rentsch summarized the history of the USDA's presence on the Mall, predating the McMillan Plan. A five–acre propagating garden was established in 1856; an agricultural museum was later established on the site. The wings of the Whitten Building were constructed from 1904 to 1908, and its central pavilion was built from 1928 to 1930; the South Building and the two connecting bridges were built in the 1930s. She noted that all of these built elements are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, although the Olmsted landscape design is not.
Ms. Rentsch said that EHT Traceries has found hundreds of photographs and drawings from the Olmsted work, providing extensive historic resources for the landscape design between the Whitten Building and Jefferson Drive. She offered several observations on Olmsted's design. The planting has an informal character, achieving a bilateral balance along the Whitten Building's north elevation without being entirely symmetrical. Some trees were transplanted from the center of the Mall in the 1930s, and a drainage system was provided. The historic drawings show that the informal character of the Whitten Building's landscape was intended to contrast and balance with the formal allées of trees framing the center of the Mall; for example, no street trees were shown along the south side of Jefferson Drive. She said that the existing landscape has been compared carefully to the historic landscape design; five extant ginkgo trees are believed to date from this original landscape design, and some lavender trees added later appear to be specifically inspired by some of the Olmsted sketches. She presented an early photo showing automobile parking in the Whitten Building's courtyards along Independence Avenue, while the South Building was still under construction in the 1930s; a drawing from the National Park Service also shows that the parking lot along 12th Street was already present in 1938.
Ms. Rentsch said that the People's Garden program was initiated by the Secretary of Agriculture in 2009 and already includes 1,800 gardens that have been established worldwide; these gardens involve USDA employees working with local schools and other organizations to educate people about growing sustainable harvests. The food that is produced is shared with local food banks. She also indicated the prevalence of gardens along Independence Avenue and the south side of the Mall; she presented a map identifying seventeen public gardens along this corridor. She said that the twenty–acre USDA site provides an important anchor to this grouping.
Ms. Rentsch described Independence Avenue as an important link between the USDA site and the surrounding city, and also as the internal divider of the site. She emphasized the overall pattern of a park–like north block, which would continue the bilateral balance of the Olmsted design, and the more urban south block. She noted that the south block includes a half–mile of perimeter streetscape, presenting a design challenge. She indicated the proposed educational streetscape along C Street, intended to tie into the proposed Southwest Federal Center Heritage Trail, and the public entrances to the existing cafeteria and visitor center.
Ms. Rentsch provided further details of the proposals for the north block, beginning on the center of the north side. The ceremonial entrance court would remain, leading to the Secretary of Agriculture's office. The nearby walks would be adjusted in keeping with the various versions of the Olmsted drawings. The two narrow sets of steps leading to the entrance court were originally aligned with the sidewalks of a street crossing the Mall; this street no longer exists, and the current proposal is to widen these stairs to create a more inviting public entrance to the site. Two fountains flanking the entrance court would display the stormwater harvesting feature of the site design; she emphasized the importance of allowing visitors to see this process, noting that harvested water is often held in underground tanks which hinders the public education. She added that all of the site design's vertical elements, including these fountains, would be hardened to serve as part of the perimeter security system for the site. Other adjustments to the Jefferson Drive streetscape would clarify the orthogonal relationship to the Whitten Building and improve the continuity of the Mall's streetscape.
Ms. Rentsch described the concept of reintroducing the experimental garden beds that the USDA had installed on the Mall more than a century ago. The People's Garden would be expanded at the northeast corner of the north block; an adjacent arbor would provide shade and serve as a focal point for agricultural exhibitions. She offered the example of an exhibit on grape varieties that are grown in Maryland and Virginia vineyards; the plantings themselves would be an exhibit. Along 12th Street, the parking lot would be used as a "market commons"; she noted that a farmers market has been held here on Fridays since 1996. The corresponding parking area on the west side of the north block would be designed as the "west educational court." She added that the paved spaces could serve as overflow areas for large festivals on the Mall that are consistent with the USDA's vision; these areas would remain as parking lots in the future for most weekdays, but they would be readily available on weekends for Mall–related events, helping to relieve the pressure to accommodate events on the Mall's lawn panels.
Ms. Rentsch described the proposals for the Whitten Building's south frontage along Independence Avenue. The goal is to reintroduce a green boulevard–style character for the street, which currently has a prevalence of pavement and dying trees. Site engineering would be implemented as needed to support healthy trees. She indicated the proposed treatment of the two courtyards along Independence Avenue as an "exhibit court" and "banquet court," emphasizing not just sustainable crops but also the celebration of the harvest and sharing of food; the paving design would not have the appearance of a typical parking lot. She presented a rendering of food trucks in the banquet court but said that any sort of festival involving food sharing would be appropriate.
Ms. Rentsch said that the treatment of the south block would emphasize smaller streetscape features due to the relatively narrow sidewalk space available. The C Street frontage has more opportunities because of the nearly thirty–foot width of the existing sidewalk, as well as its alignment with a planned heritage trail; bioswales would be introduced along this frontage.
Ms. Rentsch summarized the perimeter security features of the project, emphasizing the intention to avoid a profusion of bollards and conventional planters; the design of the space will determine the security, rather than the security determining the character of the space. She said that an approved concept plan from 2004 included 815 bollards; the current proposal reduces this number by 88 percent. The perimeter would surround the Whitten Building but not the South Building. Security would be provided by vertical elements such as lights, garden structures, and water–harvesting structures. The USDA has agreed that large trees would be considered part of the security barrier, reducing the need for installing large barrier footings around tree roots. On the south block, six existing guard booths along C Street would be replaced at the same locations with hardened booths in order to provide improved protection for the guards; she noted that the existing booths did not go through the normal approval process, and the proposed booths would be designed to relate better to the building facade.
Ms. Rentsch summarized the approach to parking on the site, which she acknowledged is a major issue. The proposal would reduce the surface parking by 29 percent, in part due to reconfiguration to meet code requirements. Four existing curb cuts would be eliminated—two along Independence Avenue, and one each along 12th and 14th Streets. She added that the parking lots provide the opportunity to create larger–scale stormwater filtration and water harvesting devices, allowing for close study of different types of systems.
Ms. Rentsch concluded by emphasizing that the overall purpose of the project is to improve public education on sustainable harvests and food production. She noted that 1,300 pounds of produce were harvested from the existing garden in 2012 and donated to local food banks; the proposed garden could encompass a wider range of native plants ranging from herbs to edible flowers, and she predicted that the harvest yield could increase to four or five times the 2012 level.
Mr. Schlossberg described the proposal as very interesting and thoughtful. However, he said that in modern life people often walk by such educational experiences without noticing them; he observed that the design as presented would not create a strong invitation for people to engage in the intended experience. He suggested using such features as archways or signage, rather than relying on the enthusiasm of volunteers who may not always be available at the attractions. He acknowledged the range of messages that are intended by the project team—such as water conservation, native plants, and recycling—but said that the communication of these messages must be established more carefully. He reiterated the importance of an archway with signage above as a boundary–defining element that would encourage people to walk through and enter one of the designated areas, observing that such elements do not appear in the presentation renderings; without a comprehensible boundary, people are much less likely to enter an area. He said that he has often walked around the USDA complex and realized that it is a missed opportunity because there is no clear indication of whether people should approach the site features; information is not available about such topics as the existing garden plants on the site. He emphasized that without such communication, people will be unaware of the effort; the benefit of the proposal as a model project would be lost, and the project would therefore not be worthwhile. He added that the communication could occur through modern techniques such as a smart–phone application, which could be linked to a geographic positioning system to convey information about the location where a person is standing. He said that such tools are now inexpensive and should be developed as part of the project to increase the impact of the design. He reiterated that the omission of such an interpretive plan and invitational gestures would seriously weaken the project.
Ms. Meyer noted her past involvement with USDA landscape architects, including their assistance with her university studio courses in recent years; she cited the commitment of the USDA staff to the issues raised in this project. She commented that a potential concern with Mr. Schlossberg's recommendations would be too many signs on the site. She also expressed concern with how the project is being coordinated with other projects for the Mall and nearby areas. She cited the initiative by the National Park Service to rehabilitate the Mall's center lawn panels, including stormwater management cisterns; she recommended that the USDA proposal for these two adjacent blocks should be coordinated with the Mall effort. She also cited the streetscape project by the General Services Administration for the Department of Commerce headquarters building, several blocks north of the USDA proposal; the Commerce project involves bioswales comparable to those in the USDA proposal, yet there is no evidence of communication among the agencies and designers. She expressed regret that the result may be a "hodge–podge" of experimental installations rather than some sense of consistency as these modern design features are implemented. She expressed appreciation for the discussion of other gardens along Independence Avenue and the Mall, but emphasized the more widespread need for coordination beyond the project site.
Ms. Meyer said that her largest concern with the project involves its scale and character: many of the proposed design gestures are relatively small, but the site is monumentally scaled. She acknowledged that the current proposal is an early conceptual plan, but she urged the project team to be more audacious in imagining a monumental productive landscape for the site, rather than a small garden on one corner and temporary sites for food trucks that would be present only briefly. She also emphasized that the project's goals cannot be conscionably achieved while retaining the amount of parking that is shown; she described the amount of surface parking on the site as "absurd." She recommended that the garden concept for the northeast corner of the north block be extended to the Whitten Building's courtyards, turning them into productive landscapes that might include limited hardscape that can occasionally hold some cars. She reiterated that large areas of the site should not be reserved as convenient parking for a small number of people for five workdays each week. She said that the proposed 29–percent reduction in parking is insufficient and unworkable with the proposed project goals, with the result that the concept of a productive food landscape would be "a fiction." She emphasized her overall support for the initiative and encouraged further effort to address these concerns; she said that a more boldly scaled landscape would be a laudable design, while the current proposal involves many compromises involving scale and parking.
Ms. Fernández agreed with these concerns. She said that the perspective view of the arbor and farmers market illustrates one of the problems with the project—the lack of integration among the features. The arbor in the foreground is a sensible, well–designed element that would provide shade and define a user–friendly space, yet the market tents shown in the background are unrelated to the arbor which is treated merely as decoration. She said that this problem results from the desire to accommodate a wide range of events, but a better solution would be to integrate the market with the arbor to avoid the need for setting up separate tents. She noted the recurring problem in projects reviewed by the Commission that tent locations should be hardscape rather than lawns; she said that the proposed arbor could be an opportunity to provide a shaded friendly space that can more easily accommodate visitors and events. She concluded with a general concern that the project places too much emphasis on event operations at the expense of the prevailing aesthetic quality of the spaces. She urged development of a solution that would look increasingly attractive over the years. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the availability of USDA sites for Mall events would have been useful information while the Commission was recently reviewing the Mall lawn panels; Ms. Fernández agreed.
Mr. Freelon agreed with the comments of the other Commission members. He emphasized that the proposal includes too many small pieces that do not have a unifying theme. Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the large scale of the project; although the landscape design does not involve all of the twenty–acre site, it addresses long distances of streetscape that are difficult to convey in a presentation. She recalled that with other projects the Commission has given careful attention to details such as the exact location of bollards; she anticipated that such issues will be considered with subsequent submissions and emphasized the challenge of presenting these issues clearly. Mr. Luebke noted the complexity of the project, involving several very different contexts ranging from urban to garden–like and from streetscapes to the Mall landscape. He offered to continue working with the project team, noting the Commission's particular emphasis on the open spaces around the Whitten Building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the concern emerging from the discussion that the story being told is too episodic, occurring in specific isolated places. In contrast, the north front of the Whitten Building has a long walk; she asked if an exhibit could be planned along this frontage, helping to engage visitor interest while moving from one part of the site to another or more generally traversing the Mall. Mr. Schlossberg supported this approach. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the lawns should remain as an important feature of this frontage, but the experience of pedestrians on the walk could be improved. She offered general support for the effort to reduce the amount of paving on the site, and encouraged the effort to design the new paving for more uses than just parking.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Schlossberg summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the concept while identifying aspects that need more work, particularly the parking proposal. Ms. Meyer clarified that her support is for the programmatic intentions of the project rather than for the specific design that was presented. She encouraged the conception of the site as an urban forest and an outdoor sustainable agricultural exhibition; she reiterated that this does not seem achievable in conjunction with the current parking program. She encouraged less separation of the design pieces and more inventiveness in the spatial typologies; she observed that too many portions of the site are being treated individually as extensions of their current uses. She encouraged a more complex weaving of the design elements, comparable to the suggestion for a complex tartan design concept for the roof of the Smithsonian museum reviewed earlier on the agenda.
Ms. Fernández emphasized that this project provides an important opportunity to develop an ambitious design that could serve as a model. She said that the current vision for the farmers market and food trucks resembles any neighborhood flea market around the country, which would generally be a welcome urban amenity but does not rise to serving as a national model. She said that a more ambitious design goal could make this project uniquely important, including a response to the issues of signage and attracting visitors. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the comment that the arbors could be used instead of tents; Ms. Fernández encouraged the elimination of tents.
Mr. Luebke noted the apparent consensus to support the conceptual goals of the project while requesting a further submission of the concept design; several Commission members agreed. Mr. Schlossberg summarized the support for the programming and the request for further work on its execution in the design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the Commission acknowledge the improvements that are proposed, such as reducing the number of curb cuts, along with the request for a more ambitious design approach. Mr. Luebke noted the laudable ongoing trend in recent years to reduce surface parking; he cited the projects by the General Services Administration to improve the streetscape at 3rd and C Streets, SW. Mr. Schlossberg agreed, emphasizing that the USDA site should express the agency's involvement with living things rather than with the parking of automobiles.
Ms. Fernández amplified her comments about how the USDA farmers market could relate to others around the country. She said that such markets typically have a similar aesthetic nation–wide, just as chain stores have the same general appearance. She said that farmers markets in the federal context should have a more special appearance that is elegant while still being functional; the concept of connecting the city and farm could be reinvented within the context of the capital city. Ms. Meyer noted that the Mall, before implementation of the McMillan Plan in the 1930s, had historically contained a number of botanic and agricultural gardens; these features expressed the nation's historic emphasis on productive, fecund landscapes rather than on mown grass. She said that this project provides an opportunity to remind people in the capital of this historic context. She agreed with Ms. Fernández that a more ambitious design approach could result in an amazing project, rather than simply inserting a vernacular pop–up market.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked for a motion on the project. Mr. Luebke said that no motion is needed if the request is for an additional concept submission that responds to the comments provided. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk confirmed this as the consensus of the Commission. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. General Services Administration
CFA 18/APR/13–5, Old Post Office Building and Annex, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Building renovations, rehabilitation, modernization, and alterations for redevelopment into hotel and conference center. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept design for the rehabilitation and renovation of the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue; the Trump Organization would develop the building as a hotel and conference center. She noted that the historic building was completed in 1899, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and redeveloped in 1982 with retail space and restaurants on the ground floor. She said that the proposed hotel conversion involves rehabilitation of the historic building envelope and site modifications, particularly on the east and south sides of the building. She asked Mina Wright of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright recalled having worked in this building in the early 1990s and said that its condition was poor, with leaky roofs and fluctuating interior temperatures. She introduced David Orowitz of the Trump Organization, who said that the historic preservation review process has been completed for the project and will soon result in the signing of a programmatic agreement. Mr. Orowitz asked architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the proposed design.
Mr. Hassan said that he considers the Old Post Office to be equivalent to New York's Grand Central Terminal as a preservation landmark, and this project presents an opportunity to bring new life to the building and to the Federal Triangle area. He acknowledged the architectural importance of the Federal Triangle but said that it acts as an obstacle between the National Mall and downtown Washington. He described some existing civic buildings that attempt to create a linkage between the two areas—the National Archives, a focal point on the 8th street axis; and the Ronald Reagan Building, which creates a linkage along 14th Street. Mr. Hassan said that the Old Post Office can create a similar connection along 12th Street and form a focal point for 11th Street.
Mr. Hassan presented historic views of the building, observing that its interior has undergone many changes, including the opening of the first floor to the lower level. He summarized the relatively simple program. Hotel development on the upper levels would offer a wide variety of guest rooms; every floor differs in height and fenestration. The two main floors—the lower level, slightly below grade, and the first floor—will house most of the amenities and public space, including retail and restaurants, and will activate the Pennsylvania Avenue frontage. An existing addition, called the Annex, is located within the courtyard of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters building to the east; the Annex would be renovated to contain a ballroom and conference rooms with parking below. Additional conference rooms, support spaces, and the main entrance to the public observation tower will be located on the lower level of the historic building, along with a proposed museum space. A glass hyphen connecting the historic building with the Annex would be redeveloped to serve as a prominent entrance to the ballroom and conference area.
Mr. Hassan described the existing conditions along Pennsylvania Avenue and presented the proposal for signage. The project would maintain the existing "Old Post Office" sign, consisting of lettering on the face of the central arch over the main entrance, and would add a floating "Trump International Hotel" sign to be set horizontally within the arch; he characterized this sign as subtle. He indicated the existing canvas awnings over the first–floor windows that create a horizontal datum; he said that these awnings provide an opportunity for new restaurant signs. On the alignment of 11th Street, a two–way access drive is proposed from Pennsylvania Avenue to provide drop–off both in front of the hotel and in front of the Annex, and a turnaround would provide access to the garage or an exit back to Pennsylvania Avenue. Adjacent to the access drive, a monument sign is proposed that would be set back within the Pennsylvania Avenue right–of–way. A pedestrian walk along the access drive would provide access from Pennsylvania Avenue to the hotel's 11th Street entrance, and additional pedestrian access would be available on the building's north, west, and south sides.
Mr. Hassan discussed the proposed design of the hyphen structure that would terminate the 11th Street alignment. He indicated the datum lines created by the articulation of buildings in the Federal Triangle, which are being used as references for the hyphen structure; this structure would also serve as a focal point for 11th Street. The submission includes two alternatives for treatment of the hyphen—one clad primarily in stone, the other in glass. The stone option would be simple; its modulation and pattern are based on the masonry of the historic building. Two canopies would be added: one at the hotel drop–off and one at the hyphen for access to the Annex. The hotel entrance canopy would not touch the building but would instead be a double cantilever supported by columns, allowing it to extend over the drop–off and within the building's arch. The canopies would also carry identification signs, which would be visible from Pennsylvania Avenue. He said that the glass option for the hyphen would have similar proportions but would be articulated differently, and he noted that the project team prefers the stone alternative.
Mr. Hassan said that access to the Annex was formerly available from 10th Street through the arcade within the IRS building; this entrance has been closed, but the IRS is receptive to the idea of opening it again. People would then be able to walk through the IRS building's arcade to the planned ballroom area, and could also enter the ballroom from the hyphen entrance at 11th Street.
Mr. Hassan said that the existing service and vehicular access to the building from 12th Street would remain, and this side would also be an important direction for pedestrian access. At the entrance on the south facade, the stairway would be retained and a new ramp would be added. The south plaza would have areas of outdoor seating. Another hotel identification sign would be located on the south canopy, and additional signs may be added for new tenants. He indicated a bike shed that has been attached to a historic canopy on the south facade; this shed would be removed along with all of the associated corrugated metal elements. An additional proposal for the exterior of the historic building is new roof windows set into the slope of the mansard roof between existing windows, similar to the historic condition; he said that these new windows would be located in less visible areas and would be carefully integrated with existing roof details.
Ms. Meyer commented that the preservation of this building forty years ago was one of the reasons she decided to go to architecture school. She underscored the importance of this building, not only for the streetscape of Pennsylvania Avenue, but as a landmark within the Federal Triangle. She said that it is difficult now to imagine that the building was once slated for demolition because it does not conform to the overall design of the Federal Triangle, and she emphasized her strong support for this important project.
Ms. Meyer questioned the presentation's comparison of the 11th Street alignment to the 8th Street axis, which is an important cross–axis of the Mall. She commented that the ballroom of the Trump Hotel cannot be compared with the National Archives at 8th Street: something commercial and profane cannot have the same civic importance.
Ms. Meyer discussed the importance of the exterior public spaces associated with the Old Post Office, commenting that some aspects of the proposed treatment are not clear. She noted that the sidewalk level is not aligned with the interior levels of retail space, and she questioned how the operations of the outdoor cafe areas would be coordinated with the interior restaurants. She also observed that the outdoor space along Pennsylvania Avenue is quite extensive, but its proposed treatment is unclear; she observed that the only presented image of the area suggests that the outdoor cafe space would be defined by planters, and she expressed concern with the implied privatization of Pennsylvania Avenue. At the south side of the building, she supported the intention to remove the various unsightly additions such as the bicycle shed; but she said that the proposed substitute—numerous planters and a ramp—would be just as ungainly. She observed that a more elegant ground plane could probably be created by omitting the planters, which seem suburban and inappropriate; she suggested defining a boundary with walls and other means. She acknowledged that these concerns are relatively small but emphasized that the scale and dignity of the site's perimeter should not be compromised as new requirements are accommodated. She also commented that the proposed signage on 11th Street would be excessive.
Mr. Freelon agreed with Ms. Meyer's concern about excessive signage. He disagreed with Mr. Hassan's description of the floating sign within the arch as "subtle." He said that the juxtaposition of the two signs on the arch of the Old Post Office would cause a visual conflict, and he recommended separating them. He offered support for the proposed monument sign along Pennsylvania Avenue but questioned whether both this sign and the entrance sign are needed; he added that other signs could be handled less obtrusively.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the wavy pavement pattern at the building's main entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue; Mr. Hassan and Ms. Meyer confirmed that this is an existing feature, which was a public art project in the 1980s by artist Alexandra Kasuba. Ms. Plater–Zyberk encouraged taking the opportunity to restore the continuity of the Pennsylvania Avenue streetscape. She agreed with Ms. Meyer that the detailing of the outdoor spaces was not presented clearly. She observed that the proposed outdoor cafe tables in front and back of the historic building will eventually require the addition of sun–shading devices, such as umbrellas or trees, and suggested that these be designed now. She commented that the landscape design is insufficient for the plaza south of the building adjacent to 12th Street; she observed that 12th Street does not have many street trees, and said that the addition of trees to the southern plaza could make it an oasis between the Mall and the business district. Mr. Hassan responded that the design is intended as a concerted effort to enliven the perimeter as a way of inviting people to enter the building, which can appear forbidding; he offered to consider the inclusion of more trees. Ms. Plater–Zyberk also suggested that the proposed monument sign at the south plaza be configured as a boundary for the outdoor cafe, eliminating the need for separate boundary and sign features and avoiding the unwelcome proposal to attach signage to the building. Mr. Schlossberg commented that an attractive and appropriate option for a rehabilitation project would be to use banners or some other means to celebrate the new building without placing the hotel's name on every surface.
Mr. Schlossberg asked about the museum that would be located within the historic building. Mr. Hassan responded that it would be a small public exhibit area on the lower level; the content has not yet been determined. He added that the observation tower, managed by the National Park Service for public access, also has a display area. Ms. Meyer noted that access to the museum and observation tower would be through the building's south entrance, making the building's southwest corner along 12th Street an important area for public access; this public role is compounded by the presence of the Metro station directly across 12th Street. She therefore discouraged the proposed private use of the plaza space at this corner as an outdoor cafe area; she instead suggested an amenity such as a shady grove of trees that would attract people to cross the street from the Metro station and walk along the south facade to the building's southern entrance. She noted that the Washington Monument will remain closed to the public for some time, and the Old Post Office observation tower is therefore the only public place with a good elevated view of the Mall.
Mr. Luebke raised several additional considerations. He noted that the Pennsylvania Avenue landscape, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, is now approximately thirty years old; its replacement may be considered in a few years. He said that the Commission staff has been working with applicants for new amenities such as sidewalk cafes along Pennsylvania Avenue, while retaining the strength of the continuous streetscape design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that any such changes might affect the outdoor area in front of the Old Post Office.
Mr. Luebke said that the staff has been concerned with the size of the proposed monument sign at Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street, which he said may be unprecedented along the avenue. An additional concern is the size of the L–shaped sign proposed near the southwest corner of the building. Mr. Schlossberg commented that people do not need to be reminded of the building's identity at every opportunity. Ms. Fernández said that the signage should all look temporary, adding that signs with a temporary character could possibly be even larger without sacrificing the appearance of the historic building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the various small existing structures in the vicinity of the hyphen structure; Mr. Hassan responded that the kiosk would be removed, while the interior stair and elevator would remain but within a new enclosure. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the project team's preference for treating the hyphen with the stone option; Mr. Hassan responded this option would differentiate the structure from its surroundings. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Schlossberg commented that the stone and the glass options are rendered almost identically, making it difficult to tell them apart. Mr. Hassan said that the graphics depict the surfaces illuminated to differentiate the various parts of the hyphen and their materials. Mr. Schlossberg commented that the width and scale of the hyphen structure seem too large and bold for this location; despite its articulation, the hyphen would disrupt the spirit of the rehabilitated historic building. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the reason for the hyphen's size; Mr. Hassan confirmed that its size is based on the stairs and escalator within, and would be approximately forty feet square. Mr. Schlossberg suggested that the existing facade treatment—as a pavilion with an arched opening—might be a better option.
Ms. Meyer expressed concern about the stone alternative for the facade of the hyphen structure. She observed that the material appears reflective in the rendering and asked if it would be polished stone, a finish that would be different than the stone of the surrounding buildings; Mr. Hassan responded that the stone would be honed and not reflective. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said she had been uncertain about the proposed treatment of the hyphen because the rendering depicts it as an extremely simple, elegant box, but in the plan drawings it is much more complex; she acknowledged that the greater complexity may work but said that the hyphen's design needs more attention. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of whether the Commission members are requesting specific revisions to the hyphen structure; he added that the existing Annex and hyphen were inserted in about 1990. The staff has raised concerns that the scale and proposed material are similar to the typology of a large mausoleum, or alternatively that it may have the character of a retail building. He asked if the Commission members support the simple shape of the hyphen, with concerns limited to its finish, or if the character and form needed to be reconsidered. Mr. Schlossberg said that the hyphen's character should be reconsidered; he described it as both a transitional element between two buildings and as a distinct design element. He expressed dissatisfaction with its location terminating the alignment 11th Street and looking like the entrance to a tunnel; he said that it should appear more respectful of the historic building instead of as an addendum.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk compared the existing with the proposed hyphen, expressing support for the design approach of trying to make the hyphen look like a separate building rather than an appendage to the Old Post Office. She said that people often mistakenly think that glass hyphens will disappear. She also suggested articulating the central portion of the hyphen so that it projects forward of the corridor, allowing this entrance doorway to appear as a distinct element; she observed that parts of the structure will be at some distance from the Old Post Office building, and the overall design needs to be carefully composed.
Ms. Meyer commented that a thirty–foot–square aperture within the forty–foot–square facade of the hyphen may be too large. Mr. Schlossberg agreed and said that this design may have a negative effect on the appearance of the Old Post Office. Mr. Freelon commented that the rendering is probably influencing this perception: the intention may have been to create a quiet pavilion, but it is shown in the rendering as a bright structure next to a dark depiction of the Old Post Office, which gives a misleading impression. He suggested studying the proportions of the hyphen so that it appears more subdued.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the proposed restoration of the first floor within the central atrium, including retention of the Robert Irwin installation hanging above. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the proposal for skylights on the exterior roof was presented only as a diagram, and the Commission cannot evaluate their exact dimensions or whether they might protrude; she requested the opportunity for the Commission to see this proposal in more detail. Mr. Luebke said that the proposal for skylights had not been problematic during the historic preservation review process; the staff does not have a strong opinion but agrees that the Commission should see the detailing, since the skylights would be exterior features. Mr. Hassan responded that the intention is to make the skylights flush and similar to the historic fenestration, but they have not yet been detailed.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's comments addressing each side of the building, including such elements as signage, sidewalks, landscaping, and treatment of the hyphen. He noted that the proposal involves a large rehabilitation project; the presentation to the Commission addressed some of this scope but did not include the design of the historic building's significant interior public space. He said that the Commission could limit its comments to the topics presented or could ask to see the interior, noting that the Commission traditionally has an interest in the city's great public spaces and reviews such locations as the main hall of Union Station. Mr. Schlossberg said that a further submission of the exterior proposals would be sufficient.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk summarized the consensus of the Commission to agree with the direction the project is taking but to request further work on each of the elements. Mr. Hassan clarified that the presentation covered all of the planned exterior changes; the rest of the work involves restoration of the historic fabric. Mr. Freelon commended the project team for bringing an important building back to life, and he emphasized his overall support for the project notwithstanding the many concerns that have been raised. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided and the request that the applicant return with further development of the exterior elements.
G. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 18/APR/13–6, Horace Mann Elementary School, 4430 Newark Street, NW. Building renovation and addition. Revised design—Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/13–5.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the revised design for the Horace Mann Elementary School, noting the Commission's approval of the concept at the previous meeting with the recommendation to further simplify the architecture and landscape design. She asked architect Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design to present the design.
Mr. Marshall summarized the context of the site at the edge of a neighborhood of single–family homes. The current development of the site includes a 1931 school building to remain at the center of the site, and smaller structures to the west and south that would be demolished. The recently renovated playing field to the east would remain. He indicated the open space to the west side of the school, called "the Range," that is an important focus for the campus.
Mr. Marshall presented the proposal to renovate the 1931 building and create an addition to the northwest, connected to the historic building with an atrium. He indicated the proposed double–height cafeteria and the "da Vinci suite"—a grouping of the media center, science rooms, and performing arts spaces. Classrooms and support spaces would occupy the second and third floors of the addition, and a roof terrace would wrap around much of the building's perimeter.
Mr. Marshall described the revisions subsequent to the previous Commission review. The roof configuration has been simplified to reduce the visual impact on 45th Street to the west; skylights rather than clerestory windows are proposed for daylight to the third–floor corridor. He indicated the five–foot reduction in the size of the roof structure as well as the remaining areas for rooftop photovoltaic cells that would be part of the building's sustainable design emphasis; he added that the extent of the photovoltaic system may change as the engineering of the system is further developed. He described the simplification of the exterior wall along the main entrance to the atrium facing Newark Street; the curved wall previously protruded forward of the main facade but is now shown at a reduced size. He presented a model and drawings to illustrate the reduced impact of the proposal, particularly when seen from the residential area along 45th Street.
Mr. Marshall introduced landscape architect Sharon Bradley of Bradley Site Design to present the proposed revisions to the landscape design. Ms. Bradley summarized the overall strategy of developing the site as a series of zones that have the appropriate functional adjacencies and also provide a visually attractive setting for the school; the uses include athletic areas, a more ceremonial area, and a smaller–scaled area that could be used for outdoor performances. She said that the design has been simplified in response to the Commission's previous comments, such as by eliminating the strip of bioretention facilities at the edge of the site; stormwater management would be handled in a simpler manner within the campus. She said that the landscape is now proposed as broad sweeps of similar types of plants. She indicated the mature trees that would be preserved along 45th Street, and the proposed restoration of the landscape along Newark Street to provide shade trees that would relate the building to its context.
Mr. Schlossberg offered enthusiastic support for the revised design, commenting that it has improved substantially; Mr. Freelon and Ms. Meyer agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the proposed concept. Mr. Luebke noted that the submission of a final design will still be required, and he asked if the Commission prefers to delegate the further review to the staff. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted the consensus of the Commission to adopt this delegation of authority.
(Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk recused herself from the following agenda item and left the room; Mr. Schlossberg, the senior remaining member of the Commission, presided during this portion of the meeting.)
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs–Shipstead–Luce Act
SL 13–066, 500 L'Enfant Plaza, SW. New 14–story office building at the southeast corner (895/875 Frontage Road at 9th Street). Final. (Previous: SL 12–058, March 2012.) Mr. Luebke noted that Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk has recused herself from the review of this project. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for a new office building to be constructed by the JBG Companies at the southeast corner of the L'Enfant Plaza complex. She said that the Commission had approved the concept proposal in March 2012 with several recommendations for site development. She noted the related report of a delegated action, in conjunction with Appendix I earlier in the meeting, to approve the first two levels of the building's podium; the podium design had evolved from the concept submission, and the staff determined that these changes were acceptable within the delegated authority. She asked Britt Snider of the JBG Companies to begin the presentation. Mr. Snider expressed appreciation for the opportunity to return to the Commission for review of the final design, which he said is consistent with the concept. He introduced Kelly Davis of ZGF Architects to present the proposal.
Mr. Davis summarized the scope of the proposed structure: a 230,000–square–foot office building with a base containing approximately 53,000 square feet and a typical office floor of 19,000 square feet. He noted that the Commission has recently reviewed two other new projects at L'Enfant Plaza: the center office building, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour, which Mr. Luebke clarified has received approval for its general planning only; and an extended–stay hotel to the north, which was approved as a final design.
Mr. Davis noted that this presentation is the fourth time that the 500 L'Enfant Plaza project has come before the Commission. He summarized the recommendations given at the concept approval in March 2012: increase the inflection on the east side of the building, next to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) headquarters building, from 12.5 to 15 feet; possibly add projections on the west side to make up the square footage lost on the east and to retain the concept for the building's shape; and develop the alternative that extended the glass and metal facade down through the promenade level. He said that all of these recommendations have been addressed in the current proposal, and he noted that the proposed dimensions between this building and the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel had been found acceptable by the Commission.
Mr. Davis presented perspective renderings of the proposal, including distant views illustrating the context and approach road, and closer views of the proposed lobby. He said that the exterior of the building's podium, containing the loading dock level and two levels of parking, would be precast concrete to tie in with the surrounding buildings of L'Enfant Plaza. He presented a site plan with the proposed center office building included for context; the entrance road to 500 L'Enfant Plaza would pass along the south side of the center building, extending to a turnaround at the proposed entrance lobby. He said that this road would be primarily a pedestrian zone, as suggested by the proposed surface of precast concrete pavers, although vehicular drop–off and pick–up would be allowed; the road would also provide access for emergency vehicles. He indicated the trench drains and raised curbing that would help to define the vehicular area. He summarized the proposed landscape design which includes an evergreen hedge, flowering perennials, and grasses.
Mr. Davis said that the exterior would be composed of metal and glass panels with clean, simple lines and few exposed fasteners; the glass would have a frit pattern on the lower 18 inches of each story. Because of the proximity of the HUD building, the glazing on the east elevation is limited by building code regulations to approximately 45 percent of the facade. Exterior fins would be composed of laminated glass with a translucent inner layer; aluminum sunshades on the south side would turn the corner at the projecting bay. He presented material samples for the glass, the metal panels, and the precast concrete. He added that the floor plans have not changed significantly. The promenade level, through which most people will probably enter the new building, ties into the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station; he noted that JBG has recently redeveloped the food court in the promenade level which ties together all of the L'Enfant Plaza buildings.
Mr. Davis described the proposed roof design, which would include a green roof planted with approximately ten varieties of sedum; the penthouse would also have a green roof. Deep planters would hold columnar junipers, ornamental grasses, and flowering perennials. The roof would have concrete pavers and wood decking, and a trellis would provide shade. He noted that the project is being designed to achieve an environmental rating of LEED Gold.
Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the two models being presented; Mr. Davis responded that one model is from the previous presentation, provided for comparison with the current revised design. He concluded by describing the proposed building as a "jewel box" in comparison with the rough precast concrete buildings surrounding it.
Mr. Freelon offered support for the design refinements and said that the proposal responds to the Commission's previous comments. Mr. Schlossberg asked why the loading dock would have three large truck doors, which seems excessive for an office building dock; Mr. Davis responded that the loading dock would also serve the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel and some of the other office buildings in the complex, and a consultant has determined the necessary number of truck doors.
Ms. Meyer commented that the plaza design is appropriate and elegantly detailed, and would be a positive contribution to the public realm. She questioned the angle of the fins within the sunshades on the building's south facade, observing that they would need to slant in the opposite direction to admit winter sunlight; Mr. Davis offered to study this issue further.
Ms. Fernández asked if the staff has any unresolved concerns with the project. Mr. Luebke responded that the proposed volume and base of the building have already been generally accepted; minor changes have been made to the openings, which appear to be appropriate. He noted that the design development of the facades has been responsive to the Commission's advice to keep within the spirit of the gridded character of the L'Enfant Plaza buildings, while being realized in a different material and then tied in at the base. He said that one remaining issue is the integration of the building's access road with the larger landscape plan by Rogers Stirk Harbour, which has not yet been approved.
Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the final design submission.
(At this point, Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk returned and presided for the remainder of the meeting.)
I. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the three remaining submissions on the agenda. Mr. Luebke noted the presence in the audience of four members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which advises the Mint in the development of coins and medals; he expressed appreciation for the Committee's work in conjunction with the Commission's review of designs from the Mint. Ms. Stafford noted that the Committee will meet the next day, making it feasible for several members to arrive early enough to attend this Commission meeting.
1. CFA 18/APR/13–7, Congressional Medals honoring the Native American code talkers of World War I and World War II. Designs for a gold medal (with silver and bronze duplicates) for the Muscogee Creek Nation. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/12–7.) Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a series of Congressional medals honoring Native American code talkers from World War I and World War II. The current submission is for a single design honoring code talkers of the Muscogee Creek Nation. One gold medal and additional silver and bronze duplicates will be produced. She noted that the list of tribes to be honored is growing as further historical research is conducted; the latest list from the Secretary of Defense, prepared in January 2013, includes 32 Native American groups. She said that the obverse designs in the series represent the code talkers' dedication to military service, while the reverse designs feature iconic symbols of the tribe such as the tribal seal. Although the legislation does not mandate specific text, the designs have typically included the tribe name, the phrases "Code Talkers" and "Act of Congress 2008," the name of the applicable war, and sometimes a phrase in the tribe's language.
Ms. Stafford presented three obverse and four reverse alternatives for the Muscogee Creek Nation medal. The obverse alternatives depict a soldier in action. The reverses include lacrosse sticks, a reference to this sport that evolved from contests among Native Americans including people of the Muscogee Creek Nation. The first two reverses also include a bald eagle, an important cultural symbol of respect and honor as well as a symbol of military victory. She noted the preference of the Muscogee Creek Nation for obverse #3 and reverse #3. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for further elaboration of these preferences; Ms. Stafford responded that no specific reason was provided.
Ms. Fernández commented that obverse #1 is the strongest design because the central figure appears clearly in profile. She contrasted this design to obverse #3, with a more frontal view that gives a flat appearance and reduces the legibility of the equipment on the soldier's back, in addition to the distracting landscape elements between the ground and the soldier's rifle. Several Commission members agreed; Mr. Schlossberg said that while obverse #3 may have artistic merit, the legibility of obverse #1 would be superior for a medal.
For the reverse, Mr. Schlossberg supported alternative #3. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted a consensus for this design, consistent with the preference of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She suggested consideration of coordinating the typefaces between the obverse and reverse; Mr. Schlossberg said that there is no apparent conflict for the selected designs. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented on the oddity in obverse #3 of the rifle resting on the soldier's knee without being held, providing an additional reason to choose a different alternative. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission recommended obverse #1 and reverse #3.
2. CFA 18/APR/13–8, 2014 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for eighth set of four coins: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/11–2, 2013 issues.) Mr. Simon provided samples of the recent one–dollar presidential coins, part of the series that will be continued with the coins in this submission; he noted the varying obverses with a portrait of each president, and the standard reverse depicting the Statue of Liberty for all coins in the series. He said that the earlier coins were issued for general circulation, while the newer coins in the series will be produced only for collectors. Ms. Fernández asked for further information on the status of the series. Ms. Stafford confirmed that production of circulating coins has not occurred since 2012; she clarified that the coins in this series are technically still considered circulating coins, rather than commemorative coins, but the coins are not being issued for circulation at this time due to ample inventory at the Federal Reserve.
Ms. Stafford summarized the legislation authorizing the series, with four one–dollar coins to be issued each year. She said that the artists this year have been encouraged to use a variety of source materials in addition to the official historic portraits provided by the Mint.
Warren G. Harding
Ms. Stafford presented seven design alternatives for the coin honoring Warren G. Harding. Mr. Schlossberg commented that people have a sense of President Harding's appearance, yet the portraits have significant variety; he offered support for alternative #7 as the best likeness. Mr. Luebke noted that Harding was widely known as a handsome man, but this quality does not seem to be conveyed in the alternatives. Mr. Schlossberg said that Harding appears handsomest in #7, although his expression seems unhappy; Mr. Freelon agreed that the expression is stern in all of the alternatives. Ms. Fernández and Ms. Meyer also supported #7; Mr. Schlossberg emphasized that #7 most clearly looks like President Harding.
Ms. Meyer observed that the curved lower edge of the portrait in #7 does not follow the curvature of the circumferential text, as in most of the other alternatives: the gap widens toward the "1921–1923" portion of the text. She acknowledged that this divergence may be intentional but said that the resulting design appears unbalanced; Mr. Schlossberg and Mr. Freelon agreed. Don Everhart, the Mint's lead sculptor–engraver, said that this feature appears to be unintended and offered to adjust the portrait edge to be concentric with the lettering and rim. Ms. Fernández added that the necktie, jacket, and head appear to be aligned slightly differently; she suggested further refinement of the drawing while agreeing that #7 is the best alternative. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended alternative #7 for Warren G. Harding with the suggested revisions.
Ms. Stafford presented five alternatives for then Calvin Coolidge coin. Mr. Schlossberg said that alternative #5 is the best likeness of President Coolidge; Ms. Fernández agreed. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk observed that this portrait edge has the correct curvature, unlike the Harding coin; Mr. Schlossberg added that the necktie appears to be properly aligned. Mr. Luebke asked for further discussion of the reasons for the recommendation. Mr. Schlossberg said that the drawing of #5 is superior to the other alternatives. Ms. Fernández commented that profile poses are usually preferable, but the profile in this set—alternative #2—has a strange depiction of Coolidge's forehead; Mr. Schlossberg agreed that #2 would not be acceptable. Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández, the Commission recommended alternative #5 for the Calvin Coolidge coin.
Ms. Stafford presented seven alternatives for the coin honoring Herbert Hoover. Ms. Fernández and Mr. Schlossberg expressed a preference for #5, which Mr. Schlossberg said most resembles Hoover. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that Hoover appears least unhappy in #5. Mr. Schlossberg acknowledged that the expression in all of the alternatives is very serious, which may be appropriate for a presidential portrait; he nonetheless encouraged development of alternatives with a happier expression. Ms. Meyer noted that the serious expression may be particularly appropriate for this coin because Hoover served during the Great Depression. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended alternative #5 for the Herbert Hoover coin.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Ms. Stafford presented eight alternatives for the Franklin D. Roosevelt coin. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that Roosevelt appears the most pleasant in alternative #6; Mr. Freelon agreed but said that the likeness is not satisfactory. Mr. Schlossberg offered support for #2, which has the profile pose that the Commission often prefers; the other Commission members agreed. Ms. Fernández commented that #8 is the least acceptable alternative. Mr. Schlossberg noted the complex curvature of Roosevelt's shoulder near the circumferential text in #2; Mr. Everhart responded that this double curve is an intentional design feature, occasionally seen on medals and included here to provide some variety within the coin series. Mr. Schlossberg said that the curvature is acceptable, emphasizing that the portrait in #2 is the best likeness of Roosevelt. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Meyer offered support for #5; Mr. Freelon and Mr. Schlossberg said that the #5 does not sufficiently resemble Roosevelt. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned whether the jowliness in the portrait is appropriate; Mr. Schlossberg responded that the appearance seems accurate, although some of the portraits suggest a resemblance to President Lyndon Johnson. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended alternative #2 for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
3. CFA 18/APR/13–9, 2013 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program—First Spouses. Designs for seventh set of five ten–dollar gold coins and bronze medals: New reverse design for Edith Wilson (1915–21). Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/13–10.) Ms. Stafford noted that a set of designs for First Spouse coins and medals was presented at the Commission's previous meeting in March 2013; the Commission had requested new alternatives for the reverse of the Edith Wilson design, honoring the second wife of Woodrow Wilson. She presented the three obverse alternatives and four reverse alternatives that were presented in March, along with four new reverse alternatives—a variation on #2 labeled as 2A, as well as #5, 6, and 7.
Ms. Fernández offered support for reverse #1 as the easiest design to understand, depicting Mrs. Wilson in the important role of assisting President Wilson with his official paperwork during his illness. Mr. Schlossberg said that this design requires coordination with the obverse portrait; Ms. Fernández said that the Commission's previous preference for obverse #3 remains the best choice. Ms. Fernández said that the theme of reverse #3, depicting Mrs. Wilson driving a car, is insufficient in commemorating her contributions; Mr. Freelon added that reverse #4, depicting Mrs. Wilson dedicating a ship, is similarly insufficient.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk recalled the Commission's concern at the previous meeting that reverse #1 and #2 would suggest an overly servile role for Mrs. Wilson. Ms. Fernández said that reverse #2A and #6 are more problematic in suggesting a servile role; in #1, Mrs. Wilson's pose suggests a more helpful role in President Wilson's work. She described the other designs as suggestive of bookkeeping or tutoring.
Ms. Meyer commented that the alternatives continue to be unsatisfactory, commenting that several of them continue to suggest that Mrs. Wilson is a servant. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that better alternatives were available for others in the First Spouse series. Ms. Meyer said that reverse #7, a close depiction of President Wilson signing a document with Mrs. Wilson's hand included, is an interesting design but too ambiguous in its meaning; Ms. Fernández agreed that the composition is confusing and suggests a depiction of the disembodied hand of God.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested that the Commission recommend a preferred theme, and then consider how the artwork could be improved. Mr. Schlossberg said that the subject of Mrs. Wilson driving a car is too obscure; Ms. Fernández agreed that people might perceive Mrs. Wilson as simply a passenger taking a ride. Ms. Meyer recalled the Commission's previous suggestion to depict Mrs. Wilson seated with President Wilson at a desk, which is shown in the new reverse alternative #6; but she said that the proposed composition is confusing with too much texture. Ms. Fernández added that #6 also shows Mrs. Wilson holding the inkwell, an inappropriate role for this commemorative design; Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that her pose in relation to President Wilson is unsatisfactory. Ms. Fernández emphasized Mrs. Wilson's historical role in providing moral support for President Wilson's decision–making, and she should not be depicted as a secretary or nurse; Ms. Meyer agreed.
Mr. Freelon commented that reverse #1 is the best choice. He noted the Commission's previous concern that Mrs. Wilson is standing while President Wilson is seated, but said that this composition is not necessarily a major problem. Ms. Meyer reiterated that new alternatives should be developed for the reverse. Mr. Schlossberg suggested improving reverse #1 by removing the door from the left background, which he said might improve the quality and coherence of the design. Ms. Fernández said that the design's meaning might be improved by placing Mrs. Wilson's right hand on President Wilson's shoulder to suggest their relationship as a married couple rather than as a nurse and patient; this small gesture would convey a great deal. Mr. Freelon agreed with this modification. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the document on the desk should be reconfigured so that it does not look like a checkbook; Mr. Schlossberg and Ms. Fernández agreed. The Commission members suggested a full–size page suggesting a letter or folio. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the other elements on the desk could be simplified to make the design less fussy.
Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #1 with the modifications that were discussed. The Commission also confirmed its previous support for obverse #3; Mr. Schlossberg noted that these selections would give Mrs. Wilson a consistent appearance on both sides of the coin and medal.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:55 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: May 20, 2013