Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
21 November 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. (The starting time of the meeting was published as 9:00 a.m., one hour earlier than usual, due to the anticipated length of the agenda.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 19 September meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Freelon.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 16 January, 20 February, and 20 March 2014; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December. He noted that a December 2013 meeting date may be added in response to the cancellation of the October meeting; a decision would be made within a few days. [The subsequent decision was not to hold a December 2013 meeting.]
C. Report on the cancellation of the October 2013 meeting due to the shutdown of the Federal Government and the rescheduled Old Georgetown Board meeting on 22 October 2013. Mr. Luebke reported that the government–wide shutdown from 1 to 16 October resulted in the cancellation of the scheduled October meeting of the Commission and of the Old Georgetown Board. The Old Georgetown Board meeting was rescheduled to 22 October in order to accommodate the large caseload and provide a timely response to the D.C. government. (See agenda item I.D for the resulting recommendations.)
D. Confirmation of the approval of the recommendations for the October 2013 Old Georgetown Act and Shipstead–Luce Act submissions, and the Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Menominee Nation Native American Code Talkers. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm several sets of recommendations that were circulated and endorsed after the October government–wide shutdown: the recommendations of the Old Georgetown Board from 22 October; the staff recommendations for Shipstead–Luce Act cases; and a time–sensitive submission from the U.S. Mint for the design of a medal for the Menominee Nation, part of the series of Congressional Gold Medals honoring Native American Code Talkers. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission ratified its approval of these recommendations. (See agenda item II.A, Appendix II and III, for the November 2013 submissions of Georgetown and Shipstead–Luce cases; and II.F.1 and II.F.2 for additional Shipstead–Luce cases.)
E. Report on the approval of objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported Chairman Powell's approval earlier in the week of two artworks that the Smithsonian Institution was considering for purchase at auction for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, in accordance with the requirements of Charles Freer's will. The artworks, both Japanese from the Edo period, include an ivory tea scoop with a signed container of bamboo and wood, and a glazed stoneware serving bowl. Mr. Powell confirmed his approval and noted that the Commission enjoys the opportunity to inspect such artworks when feasible.
F. Recognition of the service of Edwin Schlossberg, 2011 to 2013. Mr. Luebke reported the resignation of Edwin Schlossberg from the Commission, as briefly announced by Mr. Schlossberg during the September meeting. Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Schlossberg's wife, Caroline Kennedy, has subsequently begun service as the U.S. ambassador to Japan, necessitating Mr. Schlossberg's extended absence. Mr. Luebke cited Mr. Schlossberg's valuable service on the Commission since 2011 and said that a letter of appreciation would be prepared for the Chairman's signature. Chairman Powell noted Mr. Schlossberg's devotion to the Commission; Mr. Luebke added that Mr. Schlossberg had been closely involved with the current initiative to improve the Commission's website.
G. Report on Philip Freelon's presentation on the renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library at the National Building Museum on Tuesday, September 24th. Mr. Luebke reported several recent and upcoming presentations involving Commission members and the staff. On 24 September, Mr. Freelon discussed the potential renovation and redevelopment of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the central public library in Washington, in a presentation at the National Building Museum; the project is currently at the stage of soliciting proposals, and the resulting design would be reviewed by the Commission. Mr. Luebke also reported his participation on a panel with Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer earlier in November at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, discussing the work of the Commission. Upcoming events include a presentation at the University of Virginia in early February, part of the ongoing outreach in conjunction with the recent publication of Civic Art: A Centennial History of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. He noted that for record–keeping purposes the appendix includes the Congressional Gold Medal that was previously approved by the Commission and confirmed earlier in the meeting (agenda item I.D), part of the Native American Code Talkers series of medals. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several substantial updates to the draft appendix, in addition to minor notations of dates for receipt of supplemental information; several favorable recommendations are also listed as subject to the receipt of further information, and she requested authorization for the staff to finalize these actions. The recommendation on rooftop antennas at 901–947 6th Street, SW, was changed to be favorable subject to receipt of supplemental drawings (case number SL 14–006). Another recommendation on rooftop antennas at 6101 16th Street, NW, was changed to be favorable as a temporary installation, subject to the receipt of an acceptable design for a permanent installation (SL 14–017). The recommendation on two restaurant canopies at 740 15th Street, NW, was revised to support one of the canopies, subject to receipt of supplemental drawings, while remaining opposed to the second canopy (SL 14–022). Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.F.1 and II.F.2 for additional Shipstead–Luce Act cases, and I.D for the October 2013 submissions of Shipstead–Luce Act cases.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several changes to the draft appendix. One project was withdrawn by the applicant (case number OG 14–001) to allow time for scheduling a mockup; an action is anticipated in December. The recommendation for a storefront at 3213 M Street, NW was revised in response to a design change that resulted from discovery that existing facade arches were original; the design now includes the arches as part of the storefront, as encouraged by the Old Georgetown Board (OG 13–346). Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Chairman Powell offered congratulations on Mr. Martínez' thirty years of government service. (See agenda item I.D for the October 2013 submissions of Old Georgetown Act cases.)
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider agenda items II.E, II.F.2, II.G.1, and II.H. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these four submissions without a presentation, noting the length of the agenda. He added that these projects do not meet the criteria for inclusion on the Direct Submission Consent Calendar or the Shipstead–Luce Act appendix.
E. Department of the Navy
CFA 21/NOV/13–4, Defense Intelligence Agency Parking Garage, Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling, 200 MacDill Boulevard. New multi–level parking garage to replace existing. Concept.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs–Shipstead–Luce Act:
2. SL 14–018, The American Pharmacists Association, 2215 Constitution Avenue, NW (or 2200 C Street, NW). Perimeter security. Concept.
G. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 21/NOV/13–5, Powell Elementary School, 1350 Upshur Street, NW. Building renovation and additions. Revised Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/13–6.)
H. District of Columbia Department of Park and Recreation
CFA 21/NOV/13–7, Ridge Road Community Center, 800 Ridge Road, SE. New community and recreation facility. Concept.
Mr. Luebke summarized the scope of the projects, all submitted as concept designs. Chairman Powell suggested delegating these projects to the staff, noting that they would all require further submissions. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested including a comment on the American Pharmacists Association project to study more carefully the design of the railing between the masonry piers; she said that the gaps in the railing may be inconsistent with the typical language of a garden fence, and she suggested consideration of gates if access is needed across the fence line. She also questioned the appropriateness of the X–shaped railing pattern within the sloping fence, commenting that the resulting trapezoidal shapes may appear awkward. Mr. Luebke said that these comments would be included in the approval letter and would guide the staff in working further with the applicant. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted these actions with the additional comments.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Park Service
CFA 21/NOV/13–1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JUL/13–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the proposed revision to the concept design for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. In July 2013, the Commission approved the complete concept design, including the memorial core elements, with recommendations for further development including reconsideration of the overall scale and the flanking monumental columns and screens, and a request for a more developed landscape concept. He noted the availability of additional large models and other materials for the Commission's inspection in another room of the National Building Museum, and the presence of members of the public who may want to address the Commission. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Carl Reddel of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the current submission comprises further development of the concept of the memorial as an urban park. Mr. Reddel noted that the CFA had approved aspects of the design over the past two years and more presentations were forthcoming. He introduced the design team: architect John Bowers of Frank Gehry Partners and landscape architects Joe Brown and Roger Courtenay of EDAW. At the suggestion of Chairman Powell, the Commission recessed for ten minutes to inspect the models and returned to the meeting room to resume the presentation.
Mr. Bowers provided an overview of the project, describing the organization of the site through the placement of colonnades and tapestries around the memorial core, centered on the Department of Education headquarters building to the south. In response to the Commission's previous comments, he said that the ground plane has been redesigned to reestablish the view corridor along the Maryland Avenue alignment toward the U.S. Capitol using an allee of street trees.
Mr. Brown described the landscape character of this Southwest precinct as generally contemporary and chaotic in a good way, including both the public and private realms. He said that the memorial site itself is currently poorly defined and requires a strong design move to form a clear landscape; the design therefore uses the tapestries to define the park and strengthen the spatial frame created by existing buildings, and the park landscape itself to encircle and define the memorial core. The austere beauty of the prairie landscape would be interpreted on the tapestries to establish a dynamic relationship with the living landscape.
Mr. Courtenay described the landscape elements in more detail. The design includes 85 trees comprising urban hardy species native to the mid–Atlantic region and Kansas; most will have a rugged, informal character. Smaller trees would be planted along the promenade in front of the Department of Education building and around the memorial's information center. Informal lines of London plane trees interspersed with sunny glades would define the Maryland Avenue alignment; other trees of strong character and more glades would mark the primary entrances to the park, surround the memorial core, and define views to the tapestries. He said that the ground plane would evoke the rolling land forms, native meadows, and grasses of the Midwestern landscape. A lawn on the Maryland Avenue axis would be mown short to contrast with taller grasses lining the paved walk to the memorial core; around the margins, three swales would be planted with indigenous prairie species. New soil would be installed throughout the site, designed to improve the viability of plants and to resist compaction from foot traffic. Sidewalk paving would be the standard exposed–aggregate concrete used by the National Park Service, and the promenade in front of the Department of Education building would be surfaced with precast pavers.
Mr. Bowers described the small information center that would be located along 4th Street. It would be a single–story building containing a bookstore and a park ranger contact station to the north and restrooms to the south, along with support spaces and a basement. The retail area would be walled in glass, and the rest of the building would be clad in precast concrete panels with stainless steel trim, contrasting with the limestone of the memorial. Restrooms would have clerestory windows for ventilation but no air conditioning. South of this building would be a much smaller structure for storage of seasonal equipment.
Mr. Bowers said that the design team has restudied the project's organization and scale, and continues to conclude that the columns and tapestries are necessary to organize the larger site which encompasses 7.5 acres within the frame of surrounding buildings. The tapestries would create a secondary space, and the smaller scale of the memorial elements would form a more intimate core. Ancillary spaces would be created between the tapestries and the adjacent buildings. He described the careful study to compare Independence Avenue and the immediate urban context of Southwest D.C. with the corollary context of Constitution Avenue and its environs north of the Mall; within Southwest, the prewar buildings were constructed close to the street, while mid–century Modernist buildings form an undulating street line.
Ms. Meyer asked about any changes to the site plan since the July meeting; Mr. Bowers responded that no changes have been made to the location of the elements, and the current submission is intended to provide more information about details and materials. Ms. Meyer commented that the case presented for the memorial's organization and iconography is compelling, but the experience of walking through the memorial is not yet clear, nor how walking along the Maryland Avenue corridor would relate to the larger memorial experience. Mr. Brown responded that the experience would be modern rather than classical because it would present choices for the visitor. Mr. Courtenay said that variability would allow discovery: the main walks would be formal approaches to the memorial's core, while others would let visitors experience the openness of the park landscape and a succession of views in the manner of a landscape designed by Andrew Jackson Downing. He emphasized that the careful positioning of particular plants would define spatial relations and views of the tapestries.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why street trees are proposed in an ordered placement along 4th Street but would be irregularly located along Independence Avenue; she commented that the street trees should be considered as part of the city rather than as part of the memorial. Mr. Courtenay responded that 4th and 6th Streets have a tighter right–of–way that brings drivers and pedestrians closer to the memorial precinct, and the ordered placement of trees seems appropriate at these edges although the selected species would give a less formal character. Along Independence Avenue, the memorial's park setting would open to the city, and trees would be placed in response to views from across the street. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked the reason for bothering to propose five small trees along Independence Avenue; Mr. Courtenay responded that they would reinforce the street's linear character and provide shade. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that these trees should be located to form part of the larger regular pattern of urban street trees.
Ms. Fernández asked how the tapestries would read from the back as well as the front, and whether they had been mocked up to assess their success at full scale. Mr. Bowers responded that in September 2011 three mockups were placed in front of the Department of Education building and presented to several agencies, including the Commission; a preferred alternative was selected and is now undergoing technical development.
Chairman Powell then invited members of the public to testify on the proposal. He recognized Justin Shubow of the National Civic Art Society (NCAS). Mr. Shubow said that experts in materials from the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have expressed concerns about the durability and maintenance of the steel tapestries. He added that the National Park Service has determined that six panels of the tapestries will need to be replaced every five years, and about 750 of the tapestry support cables will need to be replaced every 25 years. He cited a statement in the applicant's submission booklet that the column at the northwest corner along Independence Avenue should not be considered as a building, comparing this to Mr. Gehry's previous comment that the columns would be so huge that they will be like buildings. Mr. Shubow said that this northwest column violates the setback line along Independence Avenue; respecting this line was a principle agreed upon during site selection and in the Environmental Assessment, and it has been respected in prior versions of the design. He quoted comments made during the July 2013 review by Mr. Krieger, Mr. Freelon, and Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioning the scale and placement of the side columns and tapestries. He recalled that Mr. Krieger had referred to President Eisenhower's humility with the observation that the first impression pedestrians will have when approaching this memorial will be the back of this column, which will not convey a sense of humility. Mr. Shubow also recalled that Mr. Krieger and Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the side panels had become unnecessary to establish the urban room, which may be sufficiently framed by the existing buildings, and had concluded the memorial would be better without the side columns. Mr. Luebke clarified that the action taken by the Commission in July 2013 was only to suggest consideration of this issue.
Mr. Krieger clarified that his criticism in July should not be construed as recommending that the Eisenhower Memorial should be a traditional, classical design. He said that the case for enclosure by the side tapestries has seemed less compelling with each iteration of the design. When the tapestries were placed along Independence Avenue in the first version of the design, they had created a sense of enclosure, and perhaps they still could if they were as long as the buildings behind them; but in their currently proposed positions they are merely panels. He reiterated his previous response that the original concept for the memorial–with each panel acting as a backdrop for a group of sculpture–was beautiful; but now, with the sculpture clustered in the center, the idea of the panels as backdrops is gone, and they no longer enclose the space. However, he emphasized that the large tapestry, if it does not have technical flaws, could provide an excellent background for the entire composition. He said that he is not concerned whether the northwest column is located beyond some imaginary setback line; the greater concern is that many people would approach the memorial with this gigantic column in view–a much less poetic experience than an abstract enclosure of space. He observed that the space actually seems well enclosed by the existing buildings. He also commented that in both classical and modern landscapes, trees can be an effective means of enclosure; but this issue is not handled well in this design, as Ms. Plater–Zyberk had observed regarding the trees along Independence Avenue.
Mr. Freelon supported Mr. Krieger's comments; he added that the site is too big, and the effort to fill it has resulted in too large a design. He said that although the models show a move toward consolidation and reduction in size, the incongruity of the elements with the large framework remains essentially unchanged.
Ms. Fernández also agreed with Mr. Krieger's comments, particularly about the side panels, but said that she has greater concerns. She emphasized that she is not arguing for a more traditional memorial and acknowledged that the tapestries would be beautiful in another context; but ultimately what will be important in this memorial is its creation of an experience that will perpetuate the memory of Eisenhower. She said that she had been disposed to support this design but after seeing the models, she finds that the entire design relies on a vocabulary of theatricality: backdrop, curtains, plinths, and actors on stages–all devices that present a phenomenon of flatness. From a sculptural point of view, she said that this design approach seems strange and confusing in that so much open space is used for an experience dealing with frontality. She found that the most robust part of the design is the trees, and without them the project would be weak and timid. She added that the same effect of a backdrop could be achieved with trees alone.
Ms. Fernández observed that the idea of creating a prairie in Washington is a conceptual stretch; calling the memorial landscape a "prairie" is very different from making this manifest in actual experience. She said that the whole reference to the prairie in the memorial is very cryptic; she expressed doubt that the intended effects–including the idea that the landscape could create a transformative experience for the visitor or provide enough of a contrast to the surrounding urban landscape–would happen with the elements proposed. She said that the idea of the memorial reducing the scale of its urban precinct is pretentious; the proposal is not just a flat backdrop with a building behind it, but rather part of a vast, encompassing experience of a real landscape beneath the sky. Compared with a constructed landscape, she said that the real landscape always wins. She gave the example of an environmental artwork created in 1982 by artist Agnes Denes, installing a wheat field on landfill near Manhattan's Battery Park; she urged the project team to look at iconic photos of this work because they illustrate a stunning juxtaposition between city and field. Similarly for the Eisenhower Memorial, she suggested that staying close to the ground and making something low could be an amazing way to encompass the space and create a contrast with what is there.
Ms. Meyer said that, like Mr. Krieger, she has no argument with a modernist memorial, adding that she would welcome the idea of an exciting spatial experience to commemorate the president responsible for so many things that affect contemporary civic life. However, she said she is not convinced that this aggregation of elements creates a satisfactory memorial experience. She expressed concern about the reliance on materials to symbolize things: for example, that using particular plant species would equal the prairie–a landscape that 19th–century American writers described as unbounded, vast, and sublime. She expressed disappointment that the design of the sculpture and tapestries seems disengaged from the design of the landscape elements. She described the design attention to views and vistas as a misplaced obsession, observing that eye–level views at a height of 3.5 to 6 feet would be open beneath the tree canopy. She commented on the apparent reluctance to plant a line of trees along Independence Avenue, and fear of creating a canopy dense enough that other elements are not the primary experience. She said that the memorial is an opportunity to use landscape elements to reinforce the vision, but simply sticking these elements in a wet swale on the perimeter of the site would not suffice.
Ms. Meyer recommended the design team use another modernist technique, juxtaposition, in addition to unconstrained movement; she added that juxtaposition has been one of Mr. Gehry's favorite devices. She advised moving people off the Maryland Avenue axis, because its weak treatment as a fifty–foot–wide swath would resemble any ordinary public park or part of the National Mall; instead, she recommended juxtaposing the prairie with the sublime immensity of the axis to the Capitol to create something very different. She recalled that the Maryland Avenue corridor was described as a "hedgerow" in the submission booklet, and she suggested planting a thick, layered hedgerow on each side of a billowing field of prairie grasses with a dramatic view of the Capitol. She said that the elements are present in the design, but they are not deployed in a way that adds up to an appropriate experience. She concluded that the presentation has merely provided more detail on materials and not a demonstration of how the architect and landscape architect could collaborate to create a memorial experience.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk focused her comments on the information center, commenting that this area of the site is complex and messy. She cited the number of elements in this area–sunken courtyard, stairs, ramps, information center, and small storage building–and recommended simplification, suggested that the design be reduced to one building attached to the courtyard wall. She also expressed regret that the bathrooms would be treated meanly, such as by using small slit windows.
Chairman Powell said that the Commission's dialogue has been valuable and should be addressed in future submissions as the design moves forward in its development. Noting that the concept has previously been approved, he said that no action is needed on the current submission. He said that the design contains wonderful moments and agreed with other Commission members that the two side panels are a concern. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. National Capital Planning Commission
CFA 21/NOV/13–2, Height Master Plan for Washington, DC–to explore the impact of strategic changes to the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910. Information presentation. Mr. Luebke introduced the information presentation from the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) on its report to Congress concerning possible changes to the 1910 federal law restricting building heights in Washington. He said that the year–long study was undertaken jointly with the D.C. Office of Planning (DC–OP) in response to a request from the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; the request followed a July 2012 hearing by the Committee on the future of Washington's height restrictions. He noted his involvement in the task force convened by NCPC for this study, and he described the issues that have been considered: changes within or outside of the L'Enfant city; impacts on neighborhoods, economic development, federal interests, and historic resources; and national security concerns. He said that NCPC finalized its report at a special meeting earlier in the week; due to the government shutdown in October, the presentation to the Commission could not be scheduled before the NCPC action. He summarized NCPC's adopted recommendations not to change the height limit within the L'Enfant city, other than to allow occupancy within penthouse structures, and to study further the potential for changing the height limits in other parts of Washington. He added that one of the purposes of the Commission of Fine Arts is to advise the executive and legislative branches of the federal government on matters significantly affecting the design of Washington; although the general issue of height restrictions is diffuse, it would have a very large impact on the city's appearance over the years, and the Commission's comments are therefore appropriate. He asked Lucy Kempf of NCPC to provide the presentation, and noted that several members of the audience may wish to address the Commission.
Ms. Kempf acknowledged the assistance of the staff for this study and many others conducted by NCPC. She summarized the major issues involving Washington's height limits: the city's iconic skyline; the special meaning of the city's form to D.C. residents and to the wider American public, as well as the worldwide perception of Washington's powerful visual image; the authenticity of this form as part of Washington; and the street–level character as people actually experience the city. She also summarized the vibrancy and growth in Washington after decades of population decline; the long–term accommodation of the city's growth is therefore another major issue related to height restrictions, and the study has considered such topics as transportation and economic development in addition to urban design.
Ms. Kempf noted that the current height law dates from 1910, but other height restrictions go much further back in the city's history. She provided an overview of the current federal height restrictions, with a maximum based on the street width and an overall limit of 90 feet on residential streets, 130 feet on commercial streets, and 160 feet along a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. She emphasized that the importance of this law was reaffirmed by Congress in the 1970s during enactment of home rule for Washington, with the federal height limits exempted from alteration by the local government. She described the details of the Congressional request for the study, including consideration of differing impacts of height changes within or beyond the L'Enfant city. She said that the request envisioned a joint study between NCPC and DC–OP, but the project has evolved to give two separate sets of recommendations from the agencies; the presentation includes graphics and recommendations developed by DC–OP as well as by NCPC. She noted the extensive public outreach that was conducted as part of the height study, acknowledging that many people care deeply about this issue.
Ms. Kempf described three core principles identified by NCPC in considering the federal interest in building height restrictions. The prominence of federal landmarks was highlighted by many people as an important principle; the study involved careful consideration of the views to and from these landmarks, as well as their significance in people's memory and experience. Maintaining the horizontality of the monumental city's skyline is also a key principle, with commercial structures kept relatively low. The third principle is to minimize negative impacts to nationally significant historic resources, including the L'Enfant plan and its open spaces as well as the city's topographic setting that was an important part of its original design. She emphasized that these principles form the design legacy of the planned capital city, an important consideration for NCPC in defining Washington's form and character.
Ms. Kempf described NCPC's more detailed articulation of height–related federal interests, as specified in the Congressional request. In addition to the general city form and the specific features of the monumental core, numerous important historic resources are located in outlying parts of the city and could be affected by changes to the height law; she cited the examples of the Civil War fort sites, Rock Creek Park, and Frederick Douglass House, as well as the numerous memorials, parks, and federal facilities throughout the city. She added that numerous federal agencies have raised security–related concerns about taller buildings that would have sightlines into federal facilities–an important consideration although not necessarily a reason to prohibit any height increases. Infrastructure capacity was also cited as a concern of federal agencies; NCPC has not addressed this topic in detail but acknowledges that it is an important issue to study further.
Ms. Kempf presented images from a visual modeling study that was prepared for DC–OP, illustrating the panoramic and street–level character of different building height limits. She said that the views selected by NCPC for this presentation are those in areas most affecting national resources. She presented several simulated views west from the Capitol, depicting building heights of 130, 160, 180, and 200 feet north and south of the Mall; she described the transition from a sense of openness to more monolithic walls along the Mall. She presented street–level images along North Capitol Street looking south toward the U.S. Capitol framed by various building heights. She noted that DC–OP is advocating a position that wider streets such as North Capitol Street could accommodate greater heights, potentially reaching 200 feet; NCPC's conclusion is that many of the wider streets should have more limited heights to emphasize the prominence of the important symbolic structures that often terminate the view corridors along these streets. She showed additional simulations from the ridge line along Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; the ridge line at Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and 16th Street, NW; and longer–distance panoramic views from the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington National Cemetery. She noted that the visual simulations do not show additional height on historic buildings, a modeling assumption made by DC–OP which would not necessarily be a provision of any future change to the height law.
Mr. Krieger expressed surprise that these simulations disseminated by DC–OP were created to support raising the height limit, commenting that they are unconvincing. Ms. Kempf said that DC–OP would acknowledge that many of the simulations are not attractive, but she emphasized that the images help in articulating the important issues. She agreed that the images showing taller buildings do not reflect the existing sense of building variety in the city.
Ms. Kempf presented additional visual simulations from DC–OP illustrating separated clusters of taller buildings, rather than uniform city–wide increases to the building height limits. The clusters could be used to concentrate additional growth near Metro stations. She described the resulting appearance as very different from the city–wide increase, replacing the current uniformity of urban form with a scattering of clusters resembling Rosslyn. She said that the various simulations looking from Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, toward the monumental core had inspired discussion at NCPC of how local neighborhood views can also have implications for national interests. She summarized the DC–OP preference to allow additional height along selected wider streets, rather than a city–wide increase; she presented a map illustrating these streets, most of the terminating at the White House or Capitol, and many of them passing through historic neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill. She described NCPC's position that this change would add height at the least appropriate locations, emphasizing that Washington's relatively low line of building heights is unlike other cities where taller buildings are an indication of prominent areas.
Ms. Kempf summarized the recommendations adopted by NCPC earlier in the week. The first is to maintain the existing formula for building height limits throughout the city, as an important part of the city's legacy and visual experience. Second, NCPC concluded that additional study is needed to consider whether some change in the height limits might be appropriate in areas outside of the L'Enfant city; she acknowledged the desirability of accommodating further growth but said that this issue does not currently appear to be an urgent consideration, and further economic and policy analysis should be conducted to support any change. Third, NCPC recommended protection and further evaluation of key viewsheds; she noted that such study would be valuable regardless of any potential changes to the height restrictions. Fourth, NCPC supported amending the 1910 law to allow human occupancy of penthouse structures that are currently limited to unoccupied uses; the recommendation includes a maximum twenty–foot height for these structures above the general limit on building heights, similar to existing D.C. government regulations. She said that this recommendation is based on the current lack of incentive for attractive treatment of these penthouse structures, which are now typically used for mechanical equipment. Fifth, NCPC suggested that some portions of the 1910 law related to outdated fire safety issues be removed, to improve the overall clarity of the law; she noted that local fire codes now address these issues.
Ms. Kempf described additional details of the DC–OP recommendations. In addition to seeking higher limits on some wider streets within the L'Enfant city, DC–OP suggested greater D.C. authority to amend the height restrictions outside the L'Enfant city. Mr. Luebke clarified that DC–OP's recommendation is to revise the federal law to allow use of the Comprehensive Plan process to initiate changes to existing height limits, without the further need for explicit Congressional action. Ms. Kempf agreed that this recommendation is procedural, shifting the height control from the city–wide federal law to the local planning process, which involves DC–OP and the District Council in long–term planning decisions. She added that many residents opposed this DC–OP recommendation in comments to NCPC earlier in the week, and in general almost all testimony advocated leaving the current height restrictions in place.
Ms. Kempf concluded by noting that NCPC representatives would likely have the opportunity to provide testimony to the House Committee in December, and the Committee would decide whether to take any further action. Mr. Luebke suggested responding to any questions from the Commission members and then accepting testimony from members of the public, followed by a general discussion by the Commission members of the presentation.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked how the federal height limits relate to local zoning. Ms. Kempf confirmed that local regulations set height limits throughout Washington, often lower than the height allowed by federal law; the local limit reaches the full federal limit only in limited areas, such as downtown Washington. She added that near–term growth capacity is therefore available within the federal height limits through zoning changes; the debate on growth capacity is more of a long–term issue. Mr. Krieger asked if the residents' testimony at NCPC had opposed even the limited changes included in the NCPC recommendations; Ms. Kempf said that the public testimony was generally consistent with the NCPC recommendations, although viewpoints vary; for instance, many residents opposed the second NCPC recommendation to support a process for considering future changes to the height limits outside of the L'Enfant city. The recommendation to allow occupancy of penthouse structures has also raised concerns, but NCPC clarified that the intention is not to allow additional penthouses on top of the allowed penthouse structures. Mr. Freelon asked if the penthouse occupancy recommendation would allow for additional penthouses or apply only to existing structures. Mr. Luebke responded that penthouses could be built to whatever size is currently permitted; the change would involve the allowable use of these structures. He added that allowing an income–generating use for penthouses would effectively create economic pressure for developers to maximize these structures, and therefore the penthouse limits should be carefully defined by the federal law rather than left to local regulation. He noted the current requirement of a 1:1 setback of penthouse structures from the building facade.
Chairman Powell recognized Leslie Kamrad, associate general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Ms. Kamrad noted the letter from the National Trust that has been distributed to the Commission members, and she summarized the National Trust's concerns. She acknowledged the extensive work of both DC–OP and NCPC but emphasized the outcome of the two agencies issuing separate reports. She expressed concern that numerous issues have not been addressed, such as the lack of adequate safeguards in the Comprehensive Plan process for handling incremental changes in the height limits. She noted that the Congressional request letter appropriately refers to the L'Enfant city and monumental core as establishing the city's iconic image as the nation's capital; she emphasized that this image is a national issue, known to visitors and the general public from throughout the nation and beyond. She said that the National Trust supports the three principles identified by NCPC–maintaining the prominence of key landmarks, keeping the iconic horizontal skyline, and avoiding negative impacts on significant historic resources–suggesting that each potential change be weighed carefully against these three principles. She said that the National Trust supports NCPC's conclusion that any change to the height limits within the L'Enfant city and topographic bowl would have a significant adverse effect on federal interests, while disagreeing with DC–OP that federal interests beyond the L'Enfant city are minimal and federal height restrictions could be eliminated in these areas. She emphasized that significant federal interests are present throughout Washington and should be addressed, which would not be adequately handled through the federal government's role in the Comprehensive Plan process. She expressed concern at the divergent reports and confusing chronology of changes to the recommendations, in part due to the October closing of the federal government; she said that the public comments have not been fully incorporated into the adopted recommendations, and she emphasized that the National Trust encourages strong public participation in the process. Mr. Luebke and Ms. Kempf clarified that NCPC's recommendations were finalized at its special meeting earlier in the week; DC–OP has continued to revise its report, including some changes through the current week. Ms. Kempf added that further coordination would have been desirable, but the different viewpoints of NCPC and DC–OP have resulted in the decision to send separate reports to Congress. Mr. Luebke also noted that the membership of NCPC includes the D.C. Mayor, represented by the director of DC–OP.
Chairman Powell recognized Fay Armstrong, a member of the D.C. Preservation League (DCPL) board of trustees. Ms. Armstrong summarized DCPL's mission to preserve and protect historic resources, based on their value both as part of our past and as significant contributors to the future. While DCPL's work often focuses on specific buildings or sites, and these are part of a broader urban fabric that sometimes merits attention and preservation; an important example is Washington's well–known form of wide streets, open spaces, and a horizontal skyline. She said that the federal height law has been a major factor in shaping Washington's built environment, and any changes to the law should be very carefully considered for their likely impact on the city's character. She noted DCPL's participation in recent public meetings related to the height issue, including testimony at NCPC and the District Council. She said that DCPL supports the statement of a broad federal interest that NCPC articulated in its September draft report, and agrees with NCPC that the federal limits should not be changed except to allow occupancy of penthouse structures. She said that DCPL objected to the subsequent DC–OP conclusions and to DC–OP's analysis, including the proposal to change the formula for height limits within the L'Enfant city and remove the federal limits for outlying areas. She cited gaps in DC–OP's analysis of economic trends and the accommodation of future growth, and said that DC–OP's recommendation for increased density and height is not supported by the analysis. She also objected to a more recently developed NCPC staff effort to balance the federal and local concerns by supporting use of the Comprehensive Plan process for determining increased heights outside the L'Enfant city; she said that DCPL joined other groups in opposing this change to the current federal law, and instead wants thorough analysis and planning to precede, rather than follow, any Congressional action. She noted that NCPC withdrew portions of this recommendation in adopting its final report earlier in the week, which DCPL supports. She acknowledged the complexity of managing development in a modern urban context, as well as the unique challenges facing Washington, and said that historic preservation does not require freezing the built environment; but she emphasized that the federal height limitation has been a key factor in establishing the city's iconic form, skyline, and human scale, and it should not be amended in any fundamental way without sound analysis and planning that serves the interests of the residents and the nation for the long term.
Chairman Powell recognized Richard Bush, speaking on behalf of the Historic Districts Coalition which includes representatives from many of Washington's historic districts. Mr. Bush supported the comments of Ms. Kempf, Ms. Kamrad, and Ms. Armstrong. He emphasized that the 1910 height law joins the L'Enfant Plan and McMillan Plan as a key determinant of Washington's modern form. He also emphasized Ms. Kempf's comment that we should act as stewards of the legacy provided by these past efforts, ensuring their continuation for the present and future. He said that the Historic Districts Coalition supports the revised recommendations adopted by NCPC earlier in the week.
Chairman Powell recognized Stephen Hansen on behalf of the Alliance to Preserve the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Mr. Hanson read a prepared statement from Loretta Neumann of the Alliance. The group is alarmed by the DC–OP proposal to allow a substantial increase in Washington's height limits; such a change would change the beautiful and historic settings of the nation's capital, both within and outside the L'Enfant city. The parks containing Civil War fort sites, as well as the park corridors linking them as recommended in the 1902 McMillan Plan, could be severely impacted by the proposed changes to height limits. Some of the park areas are visible from the central part of Washington, serving as a green setting around the capital; these views could be changed by allowing increased building heights. The forts are also primarily located at high points around the city, and in general their views would be severely impacted by taller buildings within the viewsheds. Mr. Hanson noted that the written testimony also includes photographs illustrating the impact of height increases on Washington's Civil War defenses.
Chairman Powell recognized Sally Berk, speaking on her own behalf and also affiliated with the four organizations represented by the preceding testimony. Ms. Berk cited her long experience with the city as a native Washingtonian, an architect, and a historic preservationist. Based on her decades of practice and her interest in urban development, she said that a city's greatest assets are a strong economic base and a sense of place; the sense of place attracts people and engenders community spirit, which improves the economic base. She said that Washington's sense of place is largely the result of the federal height law, which is generally appreciated by local residents and was acknowledged in NCPC's presentation. She cited the overwhelming weight of testimony to NCPC earlier in the week in support of retaining the current federal limits, and a similar preference in testimony the previous month before the District Council; as a result, twelve of the thirteen Council members have introduced a resolution to retain the current height law. She said that concern with running out of space in Washington is exaggerated, noting that the city's population was over 800,000 in 1950 and is now approximately 650,000. Additionally, as discussed earlier, most of Washington is built to a far lower height than is permitted under the existing federal law. She also commented that the D.C. government controls an inventory of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of vacant dwelling units that could be used to accommodate a significant portion of anticipated population growth. She said that Washington also contains expanses of undeveloped land, although these areas may be less well known as developers instead strive to build downtown where profits are greatest. She predicted that future development would shift to areas that have historically been overlooked, resulting in improvements to many neighborhoods. She cited a developer's recent comment that Washington contains much unbuilt density allowed under current regulation. She concluded that taller buildings are therefore unnecessary and would be inconsistent with Washington's iconography; she said that tall buildings can be wonderful in other places like New York, but the tendency to homogenize all cities to a similar appearance should not be encouraged. She encouraged placing a high value on Washington's iconography, including its key skyline features within a broad green setting. She noted her past advice, once cited by the Commission's chairman J. Carter Brown: "Preservation is not about preventing change; preservation is about managing change." She concluded by emphasizing the plentiful flexibility to remain a viable city within the current federal height limits.
Chairman Powell recognized Anne Sellin, a forty–year Washingtonian who lives on 16th Street, NW. Ms. Sellin cited the many benefits of the horizontally scaled city–vistas and viewsheds, light and air, and walkable streeets–that would be changed by eliminating the 1910 federal height limits. She cited the important view corridor along 16th Street from the edge of Meridian Hill Park toward the monumental core. She also cited Washington's character as a national treasure, emphasizing the Commission's role since 1910 in fostering this design quality and carrying out the McMillan Plan vision within and beyond the L'Enfant city. She said that the height law, along with the L'Enfant Plan and McMillan Plan, is a bedrock for Washington planning. She noted the effort in other historic cities–such as Prague, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Dublin–to maintain their low skyline and unique character. She described two important categories of viewsheds in Washington: street–level views terminated by prominent buildings, and panoramic views that are available along and beyond the topographic bowl from many neighborhoods in the city. She said that all of these views are treasured, while the DC–OP proposal for taller buildings would harm both types of views and badly damage the "entire essence of Washington." She said that allowing taller buildings would also harm the emerging trend of green buildings, such as by compromising the viability of photovoltaic roofs. She noted that some locations in Washington are protected by additional height restrictions established early in the 20th century, such as around Union Station, the Capitol and White House complexes, and the Old Patent Office building; many other historic districts also need protection. She compared the current craze for denser and taller cities to the 1950s period of urban renewal and highway construction, which resulted in the nationwide destruction of many city neighborhoods and historic buildings; she added that the harm of such ideologies is now widely acknowledged. She said that increased height and density might be needed for some cities but not for Washington. She cited the success of stopping freeway construction in Washington, due to the efforts of NCPC and concerned citizens; she compared this result to Boston, which was deformed by highways which were eventually removed at great cost and effort. She also criticized as absurd the reasoning that allowing taller buildings in Washington would result in lower housing costs, citing the ample available density that could be built out within the 1910 height limits. She concluded by urging the Commission to support retention of the 1910 law.
Chairman Powell recognized Ferrial Lanton, a resident of the Sheridan–Kalorama neighborhood. Mr. Lanton supported many of the preceding comments. He urged further consideration of the implications of encouraging additional height in outlying neighborhoods but not in the L'Enfant city, commenting that this approach would push development to disenfranchised communities and further marginalize them, while these residents would not enjoy the benefits of protecting the more central neighborhoods of the L'Enfant city. He also emphasized the importance of protecting Washington's reputation as a world–class city–a place that people want to visit for its historic character and beloved monuments. He observed a lack of consensus on a vision for the city's future, and he discouraged a piecemeal approach to addressing the height issue which he said would be contrary to the clear recognizable planning for the city that is currently apparent. He said that he and other residents do not want to live in a city that has a hodge–podge appearance.
Chairman Powell recognized Meg Maguire, a Capitol Hill resident since 1977 and formerly deputy director of the Department of the Interior's Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. Ms. Maguire urged the Commission to support maintaining the current federal height law, which she said is largely responsible for the beautiful horizontal character of the monumental city. She said that the Commission's view would be an important response to Congressional interest in encouraging future planning for the city. She also cited the consensus of public opinion, as conveyed by the preceding speakers, to oppose changes to the existing federal height limits. She described DC–OP's proposal as "an opportunistic solution in search of a compelling problem" and said that it would split Washington into protected and unprotected areas as well as encourage spot zoning. She emphasized that Washington is not nearly built out, with great need for basic economic development and affordable housing in several wards of the city. She said that DC–OP's studies of the effect of additional height do not support the claim that more affordable housing would be the result; she said that the opposite result would occur, with additional height allowance leading to construction of more luxury housing. She cited the Commission's role in achieving good design in Washington, and said that additional height would not assure better design nor solve the tendency toward boxy buildings. She cited the unattractive modeling studies that were presented, as well as the beautiful, contextual, energy–efficient buildings that have been built in recent years within the current rules. She described her own close involvement with a combined church and office building project at 10th and G Streets, NW, which was occupied in 2012; the church's development task force supported good design that honored the scale and context of neighboring buildings, without the need for additional height or zoning variances. She said that the award–winning project has enlivened the congregation while bringing profits to the office developer. She concluded that careful design within the current rules can be highly successful, while bad design results from inattention and sloppy thought about context and future needs–not from the existing height restrictions. She reiterated the request that the Commission not abandon the central provisions of the existing federal height limits that have resulted in a beautiful city.
Chairman Powell expressed appreciation for the public comments and for NCPC's work on the project. He expressed agreement with NCPC's support of the current federal height limits and suggested that the Commission adopt NCPC's report; Mr. Luebke clarified that no formal action is required for this agenda item, but the comments of the Commission members would be appropriate. Mr. Krieger acknowledged his typical stance as a contrarian, commenting that the public fear of any change to the height limits is unwarranted. He said that comparing the 1950s population to the present population is unhelpful because the use of space has changed greatly. He also said that maintaining the height limits would not necessarily enhance security, noting that other countries are also concerned about security but allow tall buildings. He said that easing the height restrictions would also not overwhelm the city's infrastructure, instigate an era of urban renewal, nor lead to spot zoning. He cautioned against a tendency to "embalm" Washington, which is contrary to the general nature of urbanization and human progress. However, he emphasized that he nonetheless supports retaining the current federal height limits. He supported NCPC's action, observing that it appropriately allows slight room for continuing a discussion of revising the limits while affirming that no change is currently warranted because the case for revising the limits has not yet been proven.
Ms. Meyer supported NCPC's analysis and its recognition that national interests extend far beyond the edge of the city's topographic bowl. She said that several of the people addressing the Commission had spoken convincingly about the range of scales that should be considered, including vistas, Civil War fortifications, and the McMillan Plan's park system. She added that the McMillan Plan and related work from that period is often mistakenly understood as focused on the center of Washington, which ignores the important effect on the city's character from such features as Rock Creek Park, the Anacostia River parks, and the parks connecting the Civil War sites. She said that the public comments have provided compelling reasons for reinforcing the city's landscape structure and horizontal urban character, and for understanding these qualities in relationship to issues of national identity. She nonetheless acknowledged that further study of the height limits toward the periphery of Washington is warranted; while there is no convincing evidence of a current need for an increase, a nuanced study would be useful to provide a more detailed assessment of the impacts of changing the limits. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that a case should be made without resorting to hyperbole, while emphasizing that the issues being discussed are nevertheless worthwhile concerns.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that she, like Mr. Krieger, has professional experience working with tall buildings in planning work for other cities; she said that her experience includes a clear understanding of real estate development in relation to varying density capacities and land values. She offered two responses to the NCPC presentation: "If it's not broken, don't fix it," and "D.C. is not an island." She cited the fray of negotiation and manipulation that would result from revising the regulatory framework to allow a wider range of heights that would vary by location. While most American cities must deal with the frustration and mischief of these issues, she questioned why Washington would want to move in this direction, emphasizing that this city should remain separate from this typical American system of urban regulation. She said that her concern is partly with the aesthetic implications, which would be significant, but also with management of the development value that would be created; she cited the difficulty cities have in recapturing the value that is created for property owners by relaxing the development limits. She described the current system as a relatively legible and equitable distribution of value that people know well. She also emphasized that growth and capacity issues do not necessarily have to be addressed within the city itself, but should be considered regionally; issues such as traffic, affordability, and environmental impacts should be addressed on a long–term regional basis. She acknowledged that American metropolitan areas are generally not good at considering the regional picture, noting the lack of strong government institutions at this level, but she suggested that the Washington area be a place to improve on this pattern.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk concluded by emphasizing that Washington does not need to be like every other city. The desire for more varied or iconic buildings may be appropriate in other places, but Washington's current form has a meaning for the rest of the country as well as for the city's residents and businesses; she observed the apparent lack of interest from the development community in altering the height limits. She noted that Washington's constancy in limiting its height and profile can serve as a continuing visual reminder of the idealism of principle upon which the nation was founded.
Chairman Powell summarized the range of viewpoints of the Commission members, with the unanimous consensus to support NCPC's position with enthusiasm. Mr. Luebke offered to incorporate the Commission members' comments in a letter that would be sent to NCPC and to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Chairman Powell reiterated his appreciation for the public comments. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
D. Events DC (Washington Convention and Sports Authority)
CFA 21/NOV/13–3, Carnegie Library, 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Square at Massachusetts and New York Avenues). Addition for the International Spy Museum. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced a concept design submitted by Events DC, the D.C. government agency formerly known as the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, for the renovation and expansion of the historic Carnegie Library building in Mount Vernon Square. She said that the project is a public–private partnership involving the D.C. government's visitor center and two private organizations, the International Spy Museum and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The project would comprise renovation of the historic building, underground expansion, a new one–story glass addition along the building's north side, and redesign of the landscape. She noted that the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She asked Gregory O'Dell of Events DC to begin the presentation.
Mr. O'Dell said that the goal of Events DC is to create wonderful experiences that will draw people to the city. He said that Events DC is excited about the public benefit of this project and wants to preserve and enhance the site's historical importance through a sympathetic design. He introduced Milton Maltz, founder of the International Spy Museum, to continue the presentation. Mr. Maltz discussed the origins of the museum: while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, he was assigned to the National Security Agency and was asked to review documents concerning Pearl Harbor. Reading these documents convinced him that the public should know more about the intelligence field. After a successful career in broadcasting, he established the International Spy Museum to address this need. He acknowledged the architectural significance of Carnegie Library, which was empty for many years; noting the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie who donated the original library building, he has decided to donate the Spy Museum to the city in this proposed new home.
Daniel Kelley of MGA Partners Architects presented the concept. He summarized the history of Mount Vernon Square, one of the original L'Enfant Plan reservations. In the 19th century it was the center of a busy residential neighborhood. After the library was built in 1903, this location became a destination for residents from throughout the city. With its location near the recently constructed D.C. convention center, he said that this site in the 21st century has the potential to become an international destination. He cited to the 2010 vision plan prepared by the D.C. Office of Planning and D.C. Department of Transportation, which included a study of growth in residential and commercial development in the Mount Vernon Square area.
Mr. Kelley described the multiple uses planned for the building, noting that the Spy Museum currently attracts 650,000 to 700,000 visitors per year at its location several blocks away. He said that these uses require more space than the existing 63,000–square–foot library building can provide; the proposed expansion would almost double the size by adding 60,000 square feet. He summarized the proposal's four major design components: reusing as much of the building as possible; creating an underground exhibit space for the Spy Museum; adding 17,000 square feet of above–ground retail and cafe space; and renovating the landscape of Mount Vernon Square. He described the 1903 library building, designed by Ackerman and Ross in the Beaux–Arts style: it has a central hall flanked by wings containing grand reading rooms, and it is in good condition following its renovation approximately ten years ago.
Mr. Kelley said that the above–ground addition would adapt the structure's Beaux–Arts principles of symmetry, primary and subsidiary axes, and a formal sequence of defined interior spaces. The addition would be in the form of a glass–walled rectangular volume across the north side of the historic building. He said that the commercial activities and public uses in this space would activate the streetscape toward the convention center to the north and enliven the site on its east and west sides. The addition is intended to suggest a sense of connected pavilions that are designed as transparent, subsidiary elements with their masses pushed back to emphasize the dominant character of the library building. He said that all four of the historic building facades would remain visible, serving to highlight the building's volumetric character; existing view corridors across the site would also be maintained. The pavilions, though attached, would be perceived as independent of the historic building and connected by loggias that provide connections between the new and old structures and between interior and exterior. He described the addition's character as quiet, ordered, light, and transparent in contrast to the solid, heavy historic masonry building. The main entrance would remain on the south, with a secondary main entrance to the visitor center provided on the north. Existing interior spaces would generally be maintained. A connection would be created from the central hall in the historic building to a new stairway at the northwest corner, connecting to the addition on the north. The addition would be defined by its roof plane rather than walls; in contrast to the historic building, it would be oriented to the exterior, and its lightness would be expressed by using thin columns instead of heavy masonry walls. He added that the addition would be more closely engaged with its site than the historic structure. Varied massing and lower–height interior elements would help provide visual relief to the addition's length. He described the intention to achieve resonance with the existing building by associating new architectural features with old, such as by relating to the cornice lines and repeating the triangles of the pediments. The folded roof plane over the addition would add height while providing a lower interior ceiling height suitable for the retail spaces. He said that the addition would use fine materials and craftsmanship as an additional way of providing unity between the old and new.
Mr. Kelley asked landscape architect Skip Graffam of OLIN to present the landscape design. Mr. Graffam emphasized that the design is influenced by the history and context of the site. In the L'Enfant Plan, Mount Vernon Square was created at the intersection of some of the city's busiest streets, and this neighborhood had become one of the city's most densely populated areas before the Civil War. The intention is therefore to maintain and encourage the idea of this square as the center of an active community. He noted that in the mid–19th century, the square was the location for a market and a fire station; it was later developed as a public park before becoming the site for the library. He summarized that the square has had a social role as a place of discourse and respite from its beginning.
Mr. Graffam described Mount Vernon Square's historic design development, beginning with the carriage roads of 1876 and their replacement in the 1880s by curving walks in a pastoral park with a fountain at its center. Following the construction of the library, the current landscape design dates from 1912; he observed that its walks act as a formal setting for the building. He noted that the site has always been designed to accommodate movement, although free passage across the square is interrupted by the library. He added that the historic landscape is compromised by social trails, emphasizing the importance of accommodating desired lines of movement. He presented a diagram of walking distances from the square to the surrounding neighborhood, noting the widely varying scale of buildings in the area. He said that the square could become a major community park, noting its proximity to multiple transit systems, the development of additional housing in the area, and the many additional visitors that will be attracted to the Spy Museum.
Mr. Graffam described the proposed organization of the site, which would be based in part on the curvilinear forms found in the historic plans. Two curving walks would connect the site's corners, allowing movement around the building and leading to its entrances; these walks would join at a southern entrance plaza located on the axis of 8th Street. He said that the landscape design attempts to balance larger–scale civic uses with community green space, placing larger open spaces for events on the west side and more intimate spaces on the east toward the more residential part of the neighborhood; the eastern area would be more heavily planted and could include a neighborhood play area and spaces for exhibits of various kinds. Elliptical forms are being considered on the east and west as a means of efficiently moving people to the entrances of the addition while defining the event areas. The southern two–thirds of the site would reflect the Beaux–Arts character of the library, creating a park–like foreground to the building and an emphasis on shade. In the northern third, the landscape would engage with the addition, with the interior pavilion spaces extended out into two garden rooms in the landscape. He said that the grades are being examined closely, and adjustments for lower grades may make the entrance more welcoming as well as more accessible.
Mr. Freelon observed that some of the early studies for the addition conveyed a lighter touch above grade than the proposed design, and that the ratio of above–ground to below–ground space seems to have changed significantly; he asked if the program has expanded. Mr. Kelley confirmed the program increase, which results in a larger above–ground addition. An additional decision was to connect all parts of the new structure with each other and the historic building so that each major space could be entered from the visitor center at the rear. Mr. Freelon commented that the result of these decisions is a challenging problem of respecting the original building. He supported the idea of keeping the addition's roof form light and transparent, but he commented that the use of angled corners and lifted corners has the result of drawing attention to the difference between the two structures; he asked for further discussion of why this roof form is proposed. Mr. Kelley responded that the cafe and shop spaces need to be fourteen to fifteen feet high, while aligning the new roof with the historic building's cornice line would result in spaces that are too high. The proposed solution is to treat the addition as pavilions connected by a lower loggia, folding the roof plane over the cafe and shop while raising it in other areas. Mr. Freelon expressed concern with the angle formed where the roof would touch the historic building, which adds a jarring element to the composition. He also asked that in the next presentation the elevations omit the trees so that the architectural design can be seen more clearly.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed overall support for the proposal, commenting that the concept had been beautifully presented; she particularly appreciated the discussion of the Spy Museum's history and the light touch in the design of the proposed addition. She advised consideration of making the design even lighter, commenting that the visitor center component seems to be an intrusion on the north facade. She said that additions to Beaux–Arts buildings are typically treated as wings; this proposal would conceptually add two wings, but the design appears to add an entire new layer. She observed that by its contrasting character, its length, and its proximity to the sidewalk, the addition would have strong presence on the street. She suggested consideration of omitting the central portion of the addition and instead accessing the two new wings directly from the historic building, allowing the library interior to become the visitor center.
Mr. Krieger observed that the north was historically the back of the building, posing difficulty in designing the addition; even getting the addition to align with the library's main floor level is difficult. He said that he understands the reasoning for the proposed design and does not have any major conceptual problems with this approach. He questioned whether making the addition's facade entirely glass would be an advantage, or whether this material might make the addition appear too brittle and light in comparison to the historic building; the addition may not need to use glass on all of its walls in order to respond to and recede from the library. He suggested looking at Renzo Piano's recent addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which by law could not be changed or have any new structure attached to it; the addition therefore had to be delicate, although it actually uses very little glass.
Mr. Kelley responded that the intention was to make the streetscape on the north lively and inviting with a commercial character. Mr. Krieger clarified that his concern is not so much the amount of glass as wanting to understand the nature of the glass wall; he asked for further illustration of the details, commenting that a badly proportioned and poorly detailed wall would not be attractive even if it is transparent. Mr. Kelley said that this was the reason for discussing the importance of craftsmanship in the addition: if the pavilions are to be simple designs, they will need to be reduced to their most important features–a folded roof, glass, and thin posts–which will have to be beautifully crafted.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that a more accurate and helpful drawing of the north elevation would include all the elements that will be visible things inside the retail spaces, such as display tables and cases. Mr. Krieger asked about the yellow elements shown within the addition in the drawings, commenting that these elements would be important in such transparent spaces. Mr. Kelley responded that these surfaces are the back walls of the proposed service cores and would function as prominent facades in the cafe and shop; he added that these spaces have not yet been designed. Mr. Krieger emphasized that these features would be prominently visible and should be considered carefully. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested detailing the glass without fritting, which she acknowledged would be a challenge. Mr. Kelley responded that providing shade for the interior is a concern, and fritted glass is the intended solution; Mr. Krieger advised a thoughtful design to the pattern rather than an ordinary frit composed of dots.
Ms. Meyer expressed thanks to Mr. Maltz and Events DC for finding a new life for the library; she encouraged a design that will ensure that people have the opportunity to enter the historic building. She said that the success of the exterior spaces would depend on very close study of the micro–topography of the ground plane, moving up or down from the perimeter sidewalk level, to make the square an inviting place for pedestrians. She observed that Mount Vernon Square is located in an extremely busy area, advising careful attention to the traffic noise and chaos of the street intersections. She also expressed doubt about the introduction of the elliptical forms into the landscape, questioning whether these two additional spatial figures are needed in a setting that would also have the strong presence of the historic building and the proposed contemporary addition. She suggested consideration of treating the landscape as a bar stretching across the full length of the site without any other form, similar to the proposed building addition on the north. She summarized that the site design seems busy relative to the elegance and power of the building, but she added that it might be successful. Mr. Graffam agreed that the additional forms are a concern because of the site's small size, and the intention is to avoid making it feel crowded.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's overall enthusiasm with the concept subject to further modification based on the recommendations provided. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept proposal.
E. Department of the Navy
CFA 21/NOV/13–4, Defense Intelligence Agency Parking Garage, Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling, 200 MacDill Boulevard. New multi–level parking garage to replace existing. Concept. The submission was approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs–Shipstead–Luce Act
1. SL 14–001, The Museum of the Bible (Passages), 300 D Street, SW. Additions, alterations, and rehabilitation of Washington Design Center Building and adjacent office building. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submissions of alterations and additions to a complex of buildings in the 300 block of D Street, SW, to house a private museum with exhibits from the Green Collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts. She said that the existing complex includes a historically significant 1922 building, the Terminal Refrigerating Warehouse, along with an addition from 1982 and a commercial office building from 1989; part of the complex has until recently housed the Washington Design Center. She asked Harry Hargrave, the owner's representative for the Museum of the Bible, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Hargrave described the three–year search for a Washington site for this museum. He described the sponsorship of the project: a non–profit, non–sectarian organization focused on the history of the Bible and presenting this history to the public. The group is named the Museum of the Bible Foundation, although the name of the proposed museum has not yet been determined. The sponsor's core holding is called the Green Collection, encompassing over 42,000 antiquities ranging from cuneiform tablets to early manuscripts and 20th–century artifacts. Additional holdings relate to the Bible in American life, such as through manuscripts from Julia Ward Howe of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The museum would collaborate with other organizations including space for exhibits from several foreign museums. The program also includes accommodation for visiting scholars, which would be coordinated with universities in the U.S. and worldwide. He emphasized the importance of authenticity and accuracy, as achieved through scholarly study, to give credibility to the museum's public mission and displays. He added that the project is fully funded, including ownership of the building, and the goal is to open in 2017. He acknowledged the assistance of the staff from the Commission and several D.C. and federal agencies in consultations on the project. He introduced Elsa Santoyo and architect David Greenbaum, both of SmithGroup JJR, and landscape architect Doug Hays of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects to present the design.
Mr. Greenbaum described the site context, indicating the Mall several blocks to the north and the railroad line along Virginia Avenue immediately south of the site. He described the 4th Street corridor extending between two notable examples of historic red brick buildings: the National Building Museum at Judiciary Square to the north, and Fort McNair with the National War College to the south. The project site is approximately in the middle of this corridor, with the historic warehouse building fronting on 4th Street; this context suggests the potential importance of the narrow 4th Street facade and the opportunity to relate the museum to the overall corridor. He emphasized the design intention to look outward urbanistically and address this new institution's place in the city. He said that the building complex was renovated in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including construction of several additions and a continuous band of terra cotta at the street level to unify the complex. The office building at the east end of the complex is occupied by federal agencies with long–term leases; the remainder of the complex has been occupied by the Washington Design Center. He noted the allowable height of 130 feet, which could accommodate an addition on the existing roof. He said that the building complex is visible from the Mall looking south on 4th Street, although largely obscured by the existing landscape; the intention is to attract visitors from the Mall, which involves design issues of the building's visibility, identity, and wayfinding. He also presented views looking north on 4th Street toward the site, indicating the warehouse building rising above the railroad embankment and noting the slight projection of the historic facade beyond the prevailing line of buildings. He presented additional views of the site from 3rd Street and D Street, indicating the existing dark facade of reflective glass.
Mr. Greenbaum described the warehouse building and site conditions in more detail. The warehouse originally encompassed a rail spur entering the 4th Street facade at the third–floor level, providing direct rail access to the building's refrigerated storage area; stored goods would then be transferred to trucks at the street level. In the modern renovation, the train portal has been filled in and the street–level wall along the building's base has been covered with terra cotta tiles. Two trees along 4th Street have also grown to obscure this facade. The primary entrance to the Washington Design Center has been placed mid–block on the north side along D Street; to the south, a loading dock has been added along the narrow remaining fragment of Virginia Avenue adjacent to the railroad embankment. On the interior, much of the historic fabric of the warehouse was removed during the modern renovation; some sense of the original structure's heavy character survives although the insertion of additional floors has diminished its appearance.
Ms. Santoyo said that the warehouse was designed in 1922 by Appleton P. Clark, a prominent Washington architect who often used a Renaissance Revival style; his buildings are usually of limestone, and the use of red brick for the warehouse is unusual in his work. She described the Renaissance Revival style of the building's details, including cartouches, belt coursing, monumental pilasters, and corner cantons. Each elevation was different in response to the interior uses: the south facade, enclosing the dry goods storage area, had extensive punched windows for daylight; the north facade was nearly windowless due to the refrigerated storage area in the upper floors, with ground–floor openings for customer pick–up from an ice–making facility. Paired windows along the north facade marked an elevator and stair core. Canopies for truck loading docks were provided along the north facade. She said that the original interior materials corresponded to the different uses on the north and south sides, with cork used for insulation of the refrigerated storage. Mr. Greenbaum noted that the warehouse was designed for expansion to fill the block upon acquisition of the remaining lots. Ms. Santoyo presented photographs of the building's later modifications: the west facade's windows and openings had been altered by 1970; more drastic alterations were introduced in 1982; and the entablature was further altered in 1992 with window openings, eliminating the sense of the Renaissance Revival style. The original interior finishes, stairs, and rail tracks were also removed, and the three–story–high space for the rail car was divided.
Ms. Santoyo described the goal of restoring the building's original appearance: the entablature openings would be removed, using brick infill to match the original; the cartouches would be restored; the windows would be restored to the original steel sash design; the monumental rail portal on the west would be restored and incorporated into the new museum entrance; the brick base would be restored after removing the terra cotta alteration; and the truck dock canopies would be reconstructed.
Mr. Greenbaum presented a diagram illustrating the evolution of the building complex, describing the adaptation of the complex to the museum's program which totals 400,000 square feet. The requirements include 120,000 square feet of exhibit area with a minimum height of twenty feet, which can be achieved by removing alternate floor slabs; additional exhibit space would be obtained in the basement by lowering the floor below the footing level, and at the top floor by reconstructing the roof. He emphasized the overall goal of restoring the historic warehouse to the extent possible based on existing documentation, and to have the warehouse building contribute to the identity of the museum. He said that a proposed addition on top of the office building would accommodate approximately 30,000 square feet including a library, conference facility, and institute for visiting scholars. Between the warehouse and the office building, the hyphen structure would be demolished and reconstructed with a total area only slightly larger than the existing hyphen. He presented a section and indicated several noteworthy spaces. The two–story addition above the warehouse would include a performance space and gathering space, each accommodating 500 people, as well as a garden, a restaurant, and the exhibit areas sponsored by other museums; a long glass gallery would provide elevated views north toward the Mall. The entry level would be organized around a tall arcade extending east from the 4th Street entrance, recalling the original train area and leading to a mid–block stair and elevator hall that would provide vertical circulation to the gallery levels. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the office building's treatment; Mr. Greenbaum confirmed that it would remain occupied by office tenants, and the proposed eleventh–floor addition to the office building would be at the same level as the fifth floor of the museum.
Mr. Greenbaum summarized some of the design goals of the project. While the previous renovation had sought to unify the complex with a continuous base of terra cotta tile, the current proposal is to suggest separate identities for the museum and the office building. Unlike the previous placement of the main entrance along D Street, the museum's main entrance is proposed on 4th Street in order to relate to the Mall. The proposed rooftop addition of curved glass and roof planes is intended to emphasize the flatiron shape of the warehouse building and give the museum a distinct identity. Mr. Krieger asked about the materials and colors for the project; Mr. Greenbaum responded that the colors shown in the presentation diagrams are not intended as the architectural colors, which will be chosen to blend in with the existing materials to suggest a consistent volume. He said that the rhythms of the historic pilasters will be an important factor in the design, and a zinc or gold color may be used to recall the historic use of the building for ice storage. Ms. Santoyo added that the new hyphen structure would serve to relate the various upper–floor additions while providing a sense of separation from the office building, which would have no functional relationship to the museum. The hyphen would have a simple orthogonal geometry that reflects the simplicity of the other buildings in the complex, allowing the expressive upper–level forms to provide a sense of contrast. Mr. Greenbaum noted that the proposal includes only a small mechanical penthouse, with most equipment contained within the building volume; a twenty–foot roof projection into 4th Street would provide a visible "beacon" to help visitors find the building.
Mr. Greenbaum provided further information on the proposed finishes for the hyphen structure, which may be clad in an ultra–high–performance concrete that is tinted to a reddish color. Ms. Santoyo said that the intention is to relate to the warm brick color while using masonry of a contrasting scale, resulting in a smooth planar facade. Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the vertical lines on the drawings. Mr. Greenbaum responded that they would be panel joints in the concrete. Ms. Santoyo added that the joints are intended to be very tight and would not be readily visible; the design intent is to suggest the larger scale of the block rather than the smaller scale of the panels. Mr. Greenbaum and Ms. Santoyo added that the existing tile base of the office building would be tinted gray to improve the continuity of the design; they clarified that the office building would not be reclad except for this alteration to the tiles at the base, as well as the glass rooftop addition. They confirmed that the exterior cladding of the office building's columns is spandrel glass, which would remain; the goal is to treat this building as a simple cohesive box. Other materials would include zinc for the curved roof form.
Ms. Santoyo provided further details of the proposed entrance treatment on 4th Street. A ramp from the corner of 4th and D Streets would rise to the entrance portal; the intent is a simple folding of the sidewalk plane, without the complication of stairs in addition to the ramp. The railing along the ramp would be sandblasted glass that is ribbed in some areas. A water wall is also proposed, washing down into a trough. Mr. Greenbaum added that the historic loading dock would become a feature element along the D Street edge; the goal is to make the walk along D Street a pleasant experience, particularly because of the Metro station entrance at the northeast corner of the block within the office building. Most of the sidewalk would be a D.C. standard concrete aggregate; a gray area along 4th Street would recall the former railroad alignment. Mr. Greenbaum added that the northernmost of the two large trees along 4th Street is proposed for removal to improve the prominence of the main entrance, although this has been a controversial decision within the design team; the southern tree would remain as a backdrop to the view of the entrance along 4th Street from the north.
Mr. Greenbaum concluded by presenting several night views of the project, which will rely primarily on street lighting with additional interior light that would emphasize some architectural features. The intention is to have a relatively quiet nighttime appearance, and he emphasized that the project is intended to be secondary to the prominence of the nearby Mall.
Mr. Hays presented the landscape design for the project, which is primarily focused on the edges of the warehouse building. He said that all of the landscape space is under the jurisdiction of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), which will review the proposal more closely at an upcoming meeting; the proposals are therefore subject to this further coordination. He said that the removal of the healthy willow oak along 4th Street is an unfortunate measure to improve access and visibility for the museum's entrance. The sixteen–foot–wide frontage along Virginia Avenue on the south would be treated with a standard streetscape design, combining the existing planters into an enlarged planting area to provide a good growing environment for the proposed trees; he said that no trees are currently present along this frontage, and the proposal would be an important improvement. The design along D Street would provide connections and continuity with the Metro station, including a sense of respite. Queuing of museum visitors is possible at the proposed entrance ramp, and seating would therefore be provided in this area. The remaining willow oak along 4th Street would provide shade to the entrance area, and some of the existing red oaks along 3rd Street would be retained. Additional plane trees would be added to fill in the frontages along D Street and 3rd Street. He said that the intention, subject to DDOT approval, is to place the planting zone near the curb and place the sidewalk along the building face in order to improve the pedestrian circulation pattern, engage with the historic loading dock areas, and make better use of the shade provided by the trees. The small roof garden would be designed as a simple area of respite; the landscape themes would be biblical plants as well as water, which would provide cooling and improve the acoustic environment. The paving of this garden would relate to the adjacent restaurant. Plantings would include reeds and rushes, horsetails, lilies, grasses, and sedges; a willow would form the focal point of the garden.
Chairman Powell invited comments from the Commission members on the concept proposal. Mr. Freelon noted the complexity of the program and design, expressing appreciation for the extensive effort to return the historic building to its original design which he described as a strength of the project. He observed that the proposed roof elements would obviously stand out as new elements, and the monumental portal on the west facade would be a strong element. He questioned whether the multiplicity of elements could be sustained as the concept is developed, and he suggested that the project might benefit from simplification; he emphasized that the elements of the composition need to work well as part of the overall context. As an example, he said that the unusual forms in the proposal would be interesting elements, particularly in relation to the museum functions inside, but more restraint and refinement would be worthwhile in improving the overall composition. He suggested that the goal of the simplification should be to stitch together the project's strong moves into a more unified whole. He acknowledged the project's challenging design problems and said that the presented concept is a good start toward resolving the difficult issues.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the remarkable amount of structural work in the proposal, such as removing alternate floors. She offered a comment on the entrance design, suggesting that the ramp design be revised to extend south as well as north; a double ramp would improve the relationship of the entrance to the streetscape. She said that the single ramp configuration is commonly seen as a concession to providing barrier–free access on buildings that have a symmetrical or centrally focused composition, while in this project the entrance is an opportunity for a better design. She said that the proposed single ramp would annoy people approaching from the south who would have to walk around it, while a double ramp might allow the second tree along 4th Street to be saved. She also commented that the building complex can accommodate new forms, particularly at the entrance, but the proposed roof forms of folded metal and shaped glass may already be a design cliché. She acknowledged the design goal of getting people's attention, but she suggested avoiding an appearance that will soon seem dated; she recommended further study of the roof shapes. She emphasized that updating old buildings is an important present–day design challenge that is becoming more prevalent than designing new buildings; she described the proposal as artful and ambitious. She described the proposed hyphen structure as clearly different from the other two buildings in the complex, resulting in the appearance of three separate buildings; she supported its vertical proportions as helping to relate to the neighboring buildings.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the project inspires amazement, commenting that the most incredible aspects are the program size of 400,000 square feet, the amount of structural work proposed, and the availability of full funding for the project. He nonetheless criticized the design as looking like three different architects worked creatively on portions of the complex at different times. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that four architects might be a better attribution; Mr. Krieger agreed, citing the proposed glass penthouse above the office building. He said that one of these apparent architects seems to be a faithful preservationist who has worked extensively to restore a building that might not merit preservation; the hyphen structure appears to be the work of an architect slightly less interested in preservation who likes to use a vertical pattern of fins; and another architect uninterested in preservation appears to have designed the "funny hat" above the warehouse. He said that the proposal involves three completely different design strategies; although each one of them may be well designed, the combination does not suggest any coherent identity for the museum. He acknowledged that this response is a personal reaction, but he emphasized that the design seems to be an odd combination of elements. He said that the portal on the west facade is not necessarily convincing as a major entrance, and the large–scale canopy restoration is meaningless because there are no truck docks, windows, or entrances at this location. He suggested that the various parts be treated less separately, such as by adding additional openings to the historic building while nonetheless being sensitive to historic preservation; the building corner might be developed as the entrance location, or the entrance could be placed beneath the restored canopy. He suggested consideration of his concerns as the design is developed, with the goal that the various elements "sing together" and suggest the totality of the Museum of the Bible. Mr. Greenbaum responded that these issues have been considered during the design process, although specific metaphorical references to the Bible have not been a design goal.
Ms. Fernández supported the comments of the other Commission members, adding that the proposed hyphen structure is difficult to understand; she said that its design detracts from the intended monumental statement of the project, which includes many design gestures to suggest a building that houses important artifacts. The hyphen would appear busy and decorative, attracting attention away from the other parts of the museum. She said that the appropriate design strategy for a hyphen is to avoid appearing more important than the other parts. However, she said that describing this component as a hyphen might not be accurate; it is an extension of part of the existing complex and is therefore even less important than a hyphen. She added that the confusion extends to the apparent treatment of the warehouse and office buildings in the complex as equally important. She also discouraged the curved glass form of the proposed upper addition, commenting that its cliché design may initially seem like a good metaphor but does not translate well into a visual form. She discouraged the apparent tendency to design the project elements like hieroglyphics, with one visual move or glyph equaling one idea with the intention that their combination will provide an overall composition through visual representation. She expressed frustration with obscure design gestures, such as the intended reference to the building's history dispensing ice; she suggested that such concepts be developed fully as poetic ideas or omitted, commenting that the thinking is somewhat sloppy in translating ideas into minor visual forms. She suggested that the design gestures be more grand, epic, and solemn.
Ms. Meyer supported the preceding comments about the proposed building massing. She emphasized that the museum's collection is remarkable, and people will make the effort to find it; she therefore questioned the apparent anxiety in the design about people being unable to see the building. She criticized the absurdity of proposing removal of the large healthy tree at the northwest corner of the site, which would provide wonderful summer shade at a key location, merely because of a fear that people won't be able to see the museum entrance. She urged the design team to trust the museum organization and collection, focusing less on the problem of visibility. She described the site as amazing, observing that it would be seen by thousands of people daily from the Amtrak and commuter trains on the adjacent rail line. She suggested extensive editing of the project, with an effort to keep more of the existing site amenities.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the tree should be saved, particularly because the proposed entrance is in the wrong place: he questioned the appropriateness of entering a 400,000–square–foot repository of Western cultural artifacts by ascending a small ramp along a narrow facade. He reiterated the suggestion to locate the entrance in conjunction with the restored canopy, with the goal of an entrance that is more elegant and less precious; the street–level facade in this area could be designed to allow glimpses of some museum artifacts that could withstand exposure to daylight. He acknowledged that people with a strong interest in the Bible would find their way to the museum, but suggested that the entrance be more inviting for casual visitors; he emphasized that the proposed design does not achieve this at the sidewalk level. He recommended consideration of an extensive storefront facade along with elimination of the west entrance and its diminutive ramp, allowing both large trees to remain along 4th Street; he expressed confidence that the grade difference between the sidewalk and first floor could be resolved.
Mr. Greenbaum responded that security screening of visitors is a difficult issue in the design, and the entrance sequence needs to be carefully controlled. He described the ongoing effort to engage with street–level activities, such as bringing food trucks and encouraging use of the plaza area. He added that the proposal to place the sidewalk along the building face, rather than along the curb, is part of the effort to emphasize the importance of the building's edge and to bring visitors under the restored canopy. He said that extensive transparency of the street–level facade is nonetheless difficult due to security concerns. He added that the proposed internal visitor route through the length of the forty–foot–high arcade would recall the historic train space within the building. Mr. Krieger acknowledged this goal but said that the result is nonetheless a narrow little entrance ramp that gives an inappropriate first impression for entering an enormous building; he reiterated that the proposed entrance is unworthy of the museum's contents. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the museum shop could be part of the activation of the street level, perhaps by allowing views from the sidewalk into the shop.
Mr. Luebke acknowledged the Commission's guidance to refine the entry experience; he also noted the desirability of celebrating the historic portal on the west facade, observing that the portal and the axial cathedral–like interior arcade may be appropriately scaled as the entrance to this institution. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of whether the arcade would be a reconstruction of the lost train space; Mr. Luebke said that the space did not exist in the same configuration as proposed, and Mr. Greenbaum confirmed that multiple existing floor slabs would be removed to create the forty–foot–high arcade. Ms. Meyer questioned the logic of basing the lengthy and problematic entrance sequence on the grandeur of a space that is being recreated in an altered version of its historic form; she suggested that the large space be placed in a more appropriate location within the building. She described the design approach as "compensatory guilt" for the drastic alteration of the building in the 1980s and 1990s, but emphasized that the historic features are lost and the current design should have a well–resolved spatial logic. She described the current proposal as reflecting a fight between the contemporary program and restoration of lost interior features, a problem that was created by the design team. Mr. Krieger observed that the building will no longer have the storage function, so the configuration of interior space no longer has to follow the historic arrangement. Mr. Greenbaum clarified that the proposed arcade is in the same location as the historic train hall, and the slabs being removed are later infill. Ms Meyer reiterated that the historic space no longer exists, and it could be recreated in another part of the building rather than focusing on regret for the earlier alterations.
Chairman Powell suggested conveying the Commission's comments without taking an action. He expressed support for further exploration of the D Street frontage as a potentially important edge of the project, commenting that the restored canopy would provide a modest sheltered area that could instead relate to the building entrance; Mr. Krieger agreed, emphasizing that an entrance in this area would be closer to the museum's vertical circulation in the proposed hyphen structure. Chairman Powell encouraged consideration of the comments and said that the Commission looks forward to further review of this exciting project as it evolves. Mr. Luebke observed that the Commission has not identified problems with the general configuration of the project in its scope and scale. Chairman Powell emphasized that the intended public display of the collection is a welcome proposal, and the Commission's concern is especially with celebrating the entrance to this museum. Mr. Krieger said that the museum will be an amazing institution, and it should be celebrated not only in the glassy upper–level addition but also at the base. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 14–018, The American Pharmacists Association, 2215 Constitution Avenue, NW (or 2200 C Street, NW). Perimeter security. Concept. The submission was approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 21/NOV/13–5, Powell Elementary School, 1350 Upshur Street, NW. Building renovation and additions. Revised Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/13–6.) The submission was approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. CFA 21/NOV/13–6, Roosevelt Senior High School, 4301 13th Street, NW. Building alterations, renovation and additions. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced architect Matthew Bell of Perkins Eastman to present the proposed alterations to Roosevelt Senior High School. Mr. Bell said that the building will encompass 330,000 square feet, providing a public high school for 1,000 to 1,100 students during the day along with additional evening classes and community uses. He listed the five goals for the project: restoring the classical character of the historic building; improving the 1970s additions; providing an exterior expression of the school's rebirth; designing the site in response to modern use and environmental considerations; and providing an asset for the community.
Mr. Bell described the site and context. The building faces 13th Street on the west and is part of an educational campus that includes the Petworth library branch and MacFarland Middle School. He noted the unified design intent of the campus, with the schools related to playing fields on the north. He characterized the hilltop site as suggesting an "educational acropolis," giving the high school a sense of grandeur while causing difficulty in providing barrier–free access to the building. Although Roosevelt's historic main entrance is on the west, he said that many of the building's users approach the site from the east, particularly due to the modern construction of a Metro station several blocks east; prior to the school's closing last year, the historic entrance had been abandoned and an eastern entrance was in use.
Mr. Bell emphasized the beautiful classical style of the original 1932 building and the less attractive 1970s additions, which he described as brick boxes that provide useful functions such as a swimming pool but detract from the character of the campus. He described the intention to restore and update the building's organizational concept of a central pavilion flanked by wings. The central pavilion contains classrooms grouped around a courtyard; the courtyard would be roofed to form an atrium, and the west entrance portico would be restored to primary daytime use along with an additional entrance from the east. The athletics wing to the south would be used by both the school and the community, requiring separate access from the main school entrance. The auditorium to the north would be supplemented by arts uses in the adjacent 1970s addition, a bunker–like structure that would be enhanced with clerestory windows and courtyards; the lower level of the addition would be converted to parking in order to reduce the amount of at–grade parking on the site. Along 13th Street, the site design would include an accessible walk on the north to ascend the bluff and reach the historic terrace and entrance; the site's grade difference is much greater to the south. A vehicular drop–off area would be provided at the north end of the walk, avoiding the problem of queuing along busy 13th Street.
Mr. Bell presented interior plans to illustrate the circulation pattern and major programmatic spaces. He emphasized that the majestic character of the long historic corridors is an important feature of the building. He indicated the access between the playing fields and the locker rooms, also providing after–hours access for evening classes and the swimming pool. Windows would be added to improve natural lighting for the swimming pool and other spaces in the 1970s additions. The flatter portions of the roof would be used for solar energy collectors; he noted that an environmental rating of LEED silver, and perhaps a gold or platinum rating, would be sought for the building. The new central atrium would serve as a special gathering place that could accommodate programmed events; a historic courtyard space to the north, currently enclosed, would be restored as an outdoor space; and a public amphitheater and outdoor classroom space would be introduced on the east side of the central pavilion, serving to allow daylight to reach the lower–level media center. The new eastern entrance would be part of a glass pavilion, resembling a typical community center entrance and providing a contrasting character to the historic western entrance. He indicated a site on the east side of the building for future outdoor public art; its character has not yet been determined, and it may be related to Theodore Roosevelt, for whom the school is named. He also described the proposed landscaping, bioretention areas, and cisterns; the stormwater treatment system would serve as a demonstration project for teaching environmental stewardship.
Mr. Bell noted that the historic west portico configuration includes a split curved stair ascending from the sidewalk along the semicircular terrace's substantial retaining wall. One option being considered is to eliminate the retaining wall and open the terrace directly toward the sidewalk, allowing students to ascend directly along the building's east–west axis. He said that this change would address the problem of the terrace and entrance being somewhat hidden from the street, but would involve removal of some of the building's historic fabric. He described additional proposed changes at the entrance: the modern security doors would be replaced by glass doors to provide a more welcoming transparency, and the historic paneled lobby would be altered slightly to provide side openings that accommodate the modern security screening process. He described the proposed renovation of the auditorium lobby as restoring its luster and grandeur; the auditorium would also be renovated to repair water damage and remove asbestos from the ceiling, while generally retaining its layout and wall treatment. The historic Wren–style cupola above the main entrance would be restored by replacing the decorative elements that have been removed; the cupola would be visible through the glass roof of the proposed atrium. He said that the condition of the slate roof will be studied further; if the original material cannot be retained, a synthetic roof material may be proposed. The historic windows do not meet modern standards for energy efficiency, and most would be replaced; some may be retained along the newly enclosed atrium, where thermal performance would be less of a concern. He emphasized the careful study of options for the new windows, including consideration of the unusual variety of window types and operational features. He concluded by summarizing the overall goal of retaining the building's historic character while modernizing it and accommodating the new program of daytime and evening school programs.
Mr. Freelon expressed support for the proposal, commenting on its impressive breadth in embracing and restoring the many components of the school. He supported the reopening of the north courtyard as well as the atrium enclosure of the central courtyard. He acknowledged the unpleasant character of the 1970s facades and said that the proposed introduction of windows would improve the composition and provide better interior spaces. He encouraged further study of a more open treatment of the steps from the 13th Street sidewalk to the main entrance terrace. Mr. Luebke noted that the treatment of the terrace involves coordination with the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, which has encouraged keeping the retaining wall and split stair; the tradeoffs between programmatic improvements and historic continuity will be considered further.
Ms. Meyer commented that the proposed site engineering along the 13th Street side of the site is not yet satisfactory: the landscape concept of earth terraces would be weakened by the introduction of curving walks that connect the various levels of outdoor spaces. She said that the proposed solution appears to have been resolved in plan but not in three dimensions, commenting that the contouring necessary to achieve this design would not be commensurate with the quality of the building. She supported the architectural proposals, including the intention to restore the historic door as the main entrance, but emphasized that the site design would result in a disappointing entry experience; she said that the orthogonal, diagonal, and curved vocabularies of the current proposal are colliding with each other and do not result in a workable design. She recommended careful three–dimensional modeling of this area, suggesting that the best solution may be to replace the semicircular terrace and stair configuration with a more elegant orthogonal geometry that is consistent with the earth terracing and walks; she acknowledged that this solution would require reconsideration of the historic preservation goals.
Mr. Krieger supported the project, expressing confidence that the outstanding issues would be resolved. He commented that a more open stair along 13th Street may have an oppressive appearance due to the substantial grade change from the sidewalk to the terrace, and the historic split stair configuration may therefore be preferable; people would manage to find their way to the terrace. He said that the pedestrian circulation from the neighborhood to the proposed east entrance seems unclear, but reiterated his overall support for the design and confidence that its further development will be satisfactory. Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed admiration for the proposal's restraint; Mr. Powell and Mr. Krieger agreed.
Mr. Luebke summarized the three major categories of work in the project: restoration or replacement of historic elements; wholly new construction such as the atrium roof and the east facade; and site alterations, which the Commission members have found to be of the greatest concern. Mr. Bell offered to study the 13th Street frontage further. Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported delegating further review to the staff; Chairman Powell agreed that the project is sufficiently advanced to be delegated. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided, and delegated further review to the staff. Mr. Luebke noted that this project is one of the last of the major renovations of D.C. high schools that the Commission has reviewed over the past six years; another upcoming submission will involve the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
H. District of Columbia Department of Park and Recreation
CFA 21/NOV/13–7, Ridge Road Community Center, 800 Ridge Road, SE. New community and recreation facility. Concept. The submission was approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
I. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present two submissions: the reverse design for the 2014 non–circulating platinum proof coin; and four additional sets of bronze medals and non–circulating gold coins in the First Spouse series. He provided images and samples of previous designs in each series.
1. CFA 21/NOV/13–8, American Eagle Platinum Coin Program for 2014. Reverse design. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/NOV/12–6, 2013 issue.) Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation and history of the American Eagle platinum coins, which are minted as proof and bullion coins. The Statue of Liberty is featured on the continuing obverse design of the proof coins, established when the series began in 1997. The reverse of the proof coin changes annually, and beginning in 2009 the reverses have featured themes from the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. In 2014, the sixth and final year, the theme will be "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." He noted the involvement of the Chief Justice in developing the narrative for these reverses. He described the required text inscriptions as well as the inclusion of a small American Eagle privy mark that establishes continuity with the earlier platinum coins that featured an eagle design.
Ms. Stafford presented twelve alternative reverses for the 2014 coin, including allegorical features of doves, a lamp of learning, a torch of liberty, fruit and grain, a granite monument, elm and oak trees, children, stars, an olive sprig, a peaceful landscape, and figures personifying liberty and the United States. Chairman Powell confirmed that the selected design would follow the other five reverses depicted on a page being circulated to the Commission members. Ms. Fernández asked about the need for design continuity and whether the coins in the series would typically be seen together; Ms. Stafford responded that the six coins are intended as a series but are not subject to any shared requirement of style or design features.
Ms. Meyer commented that alternative #8 would best provide continuity with the earlier designs in the series, but she offered support for #12–depicting a pair of hands planting an oak seedling–as a simple, powerful design that uses abstract symbolism and has a distinct appearance. Ms. Fernández and Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed a preference for #8, commenting that its background is the simplest among the presented alternatives. She observed that the thematic text is included in only a few of the presented alternatives; some of the earlier coins in the series include text stating the thematic principle, which she said is a good feature of these past designs, and she suggested including the phrase "Blessings of Liberty" to clarify the theme of this coin.
Ms. Fernández reiterated her support for alternative #12, described it as concise, straightforward, and symbolically legible in a universal way that makes a strong statement. She said that past reviews of coins and medals have included criticism of squeezing too many figurative elements into a small format, while the design of #12 has a clear symmetry and is well organized vertically and horizontally; she added that its simple, poetic idea conveys the larger idea of the coin's theme, making this a strong design. Mr. Powell reiterated his support, commenting that #12 is interesting and straightforward. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the desired text "Blessings of Liberty" could be added toward the center of the composition, observing that other text is already shown in the circumferential area. Mr. Luebke noted that the ring of stars could be reconsidered in order to accommodate the added text. Upon a motion by Ms. Fernández, the Commission recommended reverse alternative #12. Chairman Powell and Ms. Plater–Zyberk clarified that the discussion of additional text was intended as a question rather than as part of the Commission's recommendation.
2. CFA 21/NOV/13–9, 2014 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program–First Spouses. Designs for the eighth set of four ten–dollar gold coins and bronze medals: Florence Harding, Grace Coolidge, Lou Hoover, and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/13–10, 2013 issues.) Ms. Stafford summarized the legislation authorizing the series of coins and medals, which corresponds to the series of one–dollar coins depicting each of the U.S. presidents. The obverses bear a portrait of the First Spouse; the reverses have images emblematic of the spouse's life and work. She noted the similar designs for the coins and medals; the coins would bear additional inscriptions that are required for legal tender.
Ms. Stafford presented three obverse and six reverse alternatives; the reverse subjects included Mrs. Harding casting a vote and her work with newspapers and veterans. For the obverse, Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that Mrs. Harding's expression in the first two portraits appears unhappy. Mr. Powell agreed and supported obverse #3, which he said also gives a better depiction of the historical fashion. Ms. Meyer also supported obverse #3, particularly because this portrait would be most consistent with one of the reverse depictions of Mrs. Harding casting a vote, and depicting her at approximately the same age. Chairman Powell confirmed the consensus of the Commission to recommend obverse #3.
Ms. Meyer supported reverse #3 or #4, commenting that women's suffrage during Mrs. Harding's tenure as First Lady is an interesting historical event that is a worthwhile theme; she said that either of the two variations on this subject would be acceptable. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that part of Mrs. Harding's head is cut off by the edge of the design in reverse #3, while reverse #4 avoids this problem; the other Commission members agreed in supporting reverse #4.
Ms. Stafford presented six obverse and five reverse alternatives honoring Grace Coolidge; the reverse subjects included Mrs. Coolidge's participation in a newsreel, her advocacy for the handicapped, and her leadership with community service groups. Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported obverse #3, a profile pose; the other Commission members agreed. For the reverse, Mr. Krieger commented that alternative #3 would be a very recognizable theme, showing the letters "USA" in text and with hands using American Sign Language against a background view of the White House. Mr. Powell agreed that this composition is especially interesting. Ms. Fernández also supported reverse #3 but suggested omitting the letters "USA" as an unnecessary design element; Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger agreed, and Mr. Powell commented that the placement of the letters on the three wrists makes them appear like tattoos. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Meyer also commented that the White House pediment and portico do not appear to be drawn in correct perspective, and they suggested careful attention to this feature; the other Commission members agreed. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend reverse #3, with the letters "USA" removed and further study of the perspective and proportions of the White House depiction.
Ms. Stafford presented four obverse and five reverse alternatives honoring Lou Hoover, including several depictions of Mrs. Hoover delivering a radio address. The Commission members joined in supporting obverse #2 as the best portrait. For the reverse, Mr. Krieger recommended against alternative #1 depicting the Hoovers at a Virginia rural retreat. Among the other alternatives with the theme of a radio address, Ms. Fernández supported reverse #4 depicting a radio because it is more legible than the other alternatives depicting a microphone.
Among the other alternatives depicting a radio address, Ms. Fernández supported reverse #4 depicting a radio because the microphone; Mr. Krieger also supported the explanatory text included in the design. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend reverse #4.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
Ms. Stafford presented seven obverse and six reverse alternatives honoring Eleanor Roosevelt. The Commission members joined in recommending obverse #4 as the most recognizable portrait. For the reverse, Ms. Fernández supported alternative #6 depicting Mrs. Roosevelt's service representing the U.S. at the United Nations, which she said is a more important theme than depicting her assisting at a soup kitchen; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the foreground depiction of the desk is somewhat awkward in reverse #6 and suggested further refinement, while agreeing that the theme is appropriate. Ms. Fernández suggested that the design be adjusted so that the desk, a relatively minor element, takes up less space in the overall composition so that more emphasis is given to the words and figure; Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed. The Commission recommended reverse #6 with these comments.
(At this point Chairman Powell and Ms. Fernández departed the meeting; Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk presided during the remaining agenda item.)
J. National Capital Planning Commission
CFA 21/NOV/13–10, Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative (Sustainable urban development plan for a 15–block precinct south of the National Mall between 4th and 12th Streets, SW). Designs for the 10th Street, SW Streetscape and Banneker Connection. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JUN/13–7.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for two components of the Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative, an undertaking of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC): the streetscape of 10th Street, SW, south of Independence Avenue, and an interim improved pedestrian connection between the Southwest Waterfront and Banneker Park at the south end of 10th Street. She noted that the Commission had heard an information presentation on these components in June 2013. She asked Diane Sullivan of NCPC to begin the presentation.
Ms. Sullivan said that the project has involved coordination with the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Park Service, the Commission of Fine Arts, the D.C. Department of Transportation, and the D.C. Office of Planning. Among other projects that will soon be underway in the 100–acre Ecodistrict area are the redevelopment of Federal Triangle South, for which GSA will be issuing a request for proposals; a new private–sector office building in L'Enfant Plaza, to be developed by the JBG Companies; and a new master plan for the Smithsonian Institution, developed with NCPC, that will give particular attention to proposed improvements to Independence Avenue and its intersection with 10th Street. The D.C. government has also started the process to establish a business improvement district for this area of Southwest. She said that due to the GSA initiative, NCPC is now focusing on the 10th Street design in order to establish a proposed street width, identify technical constraints along this corridor, and address the challenges of a phased implementation. After these issues are addressed, the implementation would be deferred until other adjacent projects move forward. For the Banneker Park component, she said that NCPC is preparing the concept and the National Park Service will then develop the project as a final design for near–term implementation; this work will be funded by PN Hoffman & Associates, developer of the extensive Wharf development along the Southwest Waterfront. She introduced Otto Condon of ZGF Architects to present the design.
Mr. Condon said that 10th Street presents an opportunity for connecting the National Mall with the Southwest Waterfront through what he described as a unified route with episodic experiences. The intersection at Independence Avenue is intended to act as a magnet or gateway to draw people southward from the Mall. Programming for the redesigned roadway would include festival zones, which could also attract people northward from the waterfront. The corridor would provide a green connection to Maryland Avenue as well as an urban plaza at L'Enfant Plaza, and a broad vista from the elevated overlook in Banneker Park. Ms. Sullivan reiterated that the proposed Banneker Park improvements are intended as temporary; the National Park Service will eventually create a master plan for the site, which may become the location for a future museum or memorial. The timetable for this long–term development is unknown; she estimated that significant change could be seen in approximately ten years.
Mr. Luebke noted the impending loss of a quorum and suggested focusing on the Banneker Park proposal before considering the 10th Street streetscape. Mr. Condon discussed the challenges of designing both a stairway and ramped walk in Banneker Park to provide a connection with the waterfront, an elevation change of approximately 35 feet. The proposed temporary solution is a stair connection on the west side of the park connecting with Maine Avenue, and a separate ramped walk on the east side of the park connecting with 9th Street. He said that the park was designed by noted landscape architect Dan Kiley, including extensive retaining walls along the oval overlook plaza and adjacent street; the historical significance of the park has not yet been determined, and the proposal therefore avoids alterations to these existing retaining walls. He described the proposed stairway alignment, using short flights of steps and generous landing areas; the upper end would connect to the existing pedestrian and bicycle and access ramp leading over the Washington Channel to East Potomac Park. The stair would be pulled away from the existing retaining wall to the east and integrated into the landscape with a series of additional retaining walls to the west, allowing for the creation of landscape terraces. The appearance of the existing wall would be softened with plantings. He clarified that the result would include several distinct sets of retaining walls in Banneker Park: the existing wall of the overlook, the existing wall along the road descending from the overlook, and the proposed walls for the landscape terraces adjoining the new stair. He said that the lower landing of the stair would be designed to connect with two crosswalks providing access across Maine Avenue to the planned waterfront development.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the proposed location of a crosswalk along the ramped walk toward the middle of the slope, crossing one of the street segments connecting the overlook to 9th Street; she asked if topography prevents this crosswalk from being located up at the overlook as part of a more continuous pedestrian circulation around the oval. Mr. Condon responded that the proposal uses portions of an existing walk and crosswalks, an interim solution that was agreed upon with PN Hoffman.
Mr. Krieger commented that the revised proposal for the stairway seems sensible, direct, and elegant; he suggested that the treatment of the landscape and walls be developed further as the project evolves. He also questioned the proposed alignment of the ramped walk to connect to 9th Street at the far southern corner of the site; Mr. Condon responded that the existing walk already connects to that point. Mr. Krieger suggested consideration of siting the ramped walk in closer proximity to the proposed location of the stair. Mr. Freelon agreed that the design of the stair is improved from the previous presentation; he commented that the proposed alignment of the ramped walk is acceptable because its length could not easily be accommodated on the west side of the site. He recommended further work on the placement of the proposed retaining walls along with their materials and plantings.
Ms. Meyer encouraged further focus on the design of the stair and elimination of the proposed cheek walls splaying out toward the west. She recommended that the Banneker Park work should read as a discrete ten–year intervention rather than a reconfiguration of the entire site. She acknowledged that the Dan Kiley landscape presents many challenges but emphasized that he was an excellent designer, and she recommended a material contrast in the new work so that it clearly is not an extension of the Kiley design. She observed that Kiley's wall is not stepped but is based on the continuity of wrapping around the ellipse; she suggested that the new walls might be sloped instead of stepped–a simpler solution that would compete less with the Kiley design.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the location and general configuration of the Banneker Park elements with recommendations for refinement of the design. Ms. Sullivan said that the Commission's comments are sufficient without a formal action at this stage, due to the anticipated further design work that will be submitted by the National Park Service. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk emphasized the Commission's interest in further review of the project, noting that the interim design may remain in place longer than anticipated.
(At this point Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk departed the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum.)
Mr. Condon presented the streetscape improvements proposed for 10th Street. He described the complex engineering of the street: it is built on soil north of Maryland Avenue and at Banneker Park on the south end; in between, the roadway is carried on three separate bridge structures. During development of the Ecodistrict plan, NCPC staff had studied several different configurations for this corridor–a central median similar to Las Ramblas in Barcelona, the cartway on the central axis, and an asymmetrical configuration–before deciding that the center median would be the most flexible option. He said that the presentation in June 2013 included three approaches for developing this option, focusing on the amount of hardscape versus softscape as well as alternative ways to incorporate water; preliminary comments from the Commission and others had advised loosening up the design and using trees less rigidly.
Mr. Condon described the current proposal in more detail. The width of the median would be expanded from 39 to 52 feet, approximately the median width of Las Ramblas, and the one–way streets on either side would be reduced to a width of 20 feet each. At L'Enfant Plaza, the roadbeds would be built up to eliminate curbs; one street could be closed to traffic to provide an extensive area for programmed use. For the location of trees, he said that considerations include the limitations of soil depths due to existing infrastructure and the opportunities to use deeper soil pits for added depth to grow larger trees. He said that the tree canopy north of Maryland Avenue would be increased; in some areas the center portion of the median could be cut out to create deep pits, allowing maximum tree growth and also serving as cisterns for rainwater. Tubs would be inserted where the pits could not be cut, and the two different planting systems would result in selecting trees of different growth habits. In developing the stormwater management plan, different methods for collecting water are being considered so that water can be used to irrigate the street plantings and also perhaps be tied into adjacent buildings for heat exchange and gray–water reuse.
In response to the Commission's urging to define the desired experience, Mr. Condon said that the street will be treated as an urban garden promenade. A dense green canopy would attract visitors from Independence Avenue; they would progress beneath the tree canopy to L'Enfant Plaza at the crest of the slope, where they can gain a broad prospect of Banneker Park and the river before continuing south. As the corridor rises from Maryland Avenue to the plaza, the dense canopy would open up into clusters, becoming even looser and more informal along the descent to the river. At the plaza, pedestrians could freely cross and occupy the center median; most other areas would have more defined crossings.
Mr. Condon said that vertical water features would also be used attract people from Independence Avenue, and some water features along the corridor would be interactive. The corridor could include some terracing and asymmetrical layout to take advantage of varying sun and shade locations. As 10th Street crosses over D Street, pedestrians would be able to look toward the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station entrance. Other architectural and water features would be introduced in the L'Enfant Plaza area, and related design principles would be established to guide the JBG development at the plaza.
Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon agreed that the design has improved since June and could lay the foundation for an exciting street. Mr. Krieger asked whether the sketches of water pools are meant to show fountains or collected stormwater; Mr. Condon responded that they depict collection and treatment areas for approximately 100,000 gallons of stormwater, explaining that most water would be treated interactively on the plaza before seeping into the slopes.
Ms. Meyer agreed that the project has improved and now displays continuity along with differentiation between low and high, and between threshold and center. She recommended establishing performance criteria to calculate the proximity between different activities and for potable or non–potable water; instead of reducing everything to a spatial diagram, she said that more general performance guidelines using qualitative analysis could help inform the spatial arrangement. Mr. Krieger agreed.
Referring to the tree canopy, Mr. Krieger questioned the proposal to plant trees densely at the north end and then change that density midway along the corridor; he said that this design could give the appearance that the project had simply run out of trees or money, because most people would not understand the changes in subsurface conditions that are determining the tree placement. He added that the change in density may also diminish the desired sense of continuity between the Mall and the waterfront; he therefore advised gradating the disposition of trees. Mr. Condon responded that the intention is to maximize the tree canopy. He noted that the Smithsonian's alterations to the Enid A. Haupt Garden south of the Castle might inform how the canopy is handled along the 10th Street corridor because the two projects will be designed to work together at their intersection at Independence Avenue.
Ms. Meyer recommended defining the principles governing the logic of the linear progression, which would probably require gradation from one end to the other rather than the several distinct zones that are apparent in the rendering. She said that the high point at L'Enfant Plaza would divide the corridor into two sections because the ridge will appear as a horizon line. She observed that the proposal is now a linear landscape with a coherent rhythm instead of a singular line, an approach that will have greater flexibility to adapt to the changes that will inevitably occur as other development plans take shape. She concluded that the proposal establishes a good framework for an exciting concept.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the treatment of the tree canopy requires nuance; visitors should not enter a dense canopy and then abruptly find themselves back in full sun. He commented that the diagram of the tree plan might be more promising than the rendering, since the diagram illustrates a rhythm of different kinds of tree canopies in conjunction with other design gestures. He suggested consideration of a single species for each row of trees, which would give continuity along the sidewalk edge; differentiation could be introduced at the nodes through a change in species, or a change in growth pattern resulting from the infrastructure limitations below the street. He added that the design would be more clear if such changes were depicted in the rendering. Ms. Meyer also suggested alternating small and large trees, or overlapping small and large canopies, but observed that the renderings give no sense of this flexibility.
Mr. Luebke noted that NCPC has presented the corridor as a coherent linear park with some syncopation where its character changes; he asked if NCPC wants further guidance on the character that could define the corridor, such as with references to the modernism of Southwest's architecture. Elizabeth Miller of NCPC asked for the Commission's guidance on relating the corridor's character to the monumental core; she said that NCPC wants the corridor to be unique, reflecting the importance of its location. The original intention was to treat the corridor as an extension of the Mall and encourage people to walk south to Banneker Park, while the park would be treated as the southern entry gate to the Mall; however, she said that NCPC does not want to replicate the Mall. She noted that the dominant federal presence in the area would probably shrink over time, and the private–sector uses would increase.
Mr. Krieger commented that 10th Street's strong axis would make it distinctive, and it would also be defined by the treatment of water, the tree canopy, and street furniture. He said that 10th Street could become like Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, after its redesign under the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, when an entire new vocabulary of plantings and furniture made it a consistent and memorable roadway. He recommended aiming for continuity and special character, adding that much of the character would depend on whether a museum is ever built at Banneker Park. Ms. Miller responded that the streetscape improvements might be implemented before any museum project.
Ms. Meyer cautioned that 10th Street should not be allowed to become like K Street, NW, which is another roadway with medians and many trees. She asked how the two streets compared in width; Mr. Condon replied that K Street is 147 feet wide, similar to 10th Street. Ms. Meyer said that 10th Street, like Pennsylvania Avenue, could provide a model for a new kind of street. She suggested thinking about alternatives for elements such as streetlights, along with other ways of collecting and distributing water that would allow elimination of the standard curb and gutter; she emphasized that such solutions could make the street unique.
Mr. Luebke summarized the goal of creating a civic landscape that is not the Mall but is clearly related to it, with civic elements anchoring either end. He added that the streetscape could end up being anywhere along the spectrum between wholly public and wholly private. Mr. Condon said that each future phase of the proposal could be submitted for Commission review to ensure continuity. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:01 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: January 17, 2014