Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
17 April 2014
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 9:13 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 20 March meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the March meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 15 May, and 19 June, and 17 July 2014.
C. Confirmation of the recommendations from the 20 March 2014 meeting due to the lack of a quorum. Mr. Luebke reported that the lack of a quorum at the March meeting—attended by three of the six Commission members serving at that time—requires a new vote to confirm the March actions and recommendations. The confirmation would encompass the three appendices as well as the presented cases. He noted that Ms. Plater–Zyberk is the only member present who was also at the March meeting. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission confirmed the March actions. Mr. Luebke added that the March adoption of the February meeting minutes would also require confirmation; upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission confirmed the adoption of the February minutes.
Mr. Luebke reported that five members are now serving on the Commission due to the resignation of Ms. Fernández, and the presence of three or more members therefore constitutes a quorum for the April meeting. He noted that four members are present, and the anticipated departure of Chairman Powell during the meeting would still leave a quorum of the Commission's current membership.
D. Report on the approval of two objects proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the Chairman's approval earlier in April of two artworks being considered by the Smithsonian Institution for acquisition as part of the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. The Smithsonian was subsequently unsuccessful in auction bidding for the first piece, a Turkish ceramic footed bowl from the late 15th to early 16th century. The second piece was acquired through a gallery sale: a late 18th–century painting of Krishna hunting. He noted that the Chairman's approval was the only required action, and no confirming vote is required.
E. Recognition of the service of Teresita Fernández, 2011 to 2014. Mr. Luebke reported that the previously announced resignation of Ms. Fernández became effective on 30 March; she had cited numerous responsibilities and planned travel that would prevent her from attending many of the upcoming Commission meetings. He said that a letter of appreciation is being sent, and the Commission now awaits the appointment of two new members by the President. Chairman Powell expressed hope that these appointments would be made soon.
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 the only changes to the draft appendix were minor typographical corrections. A report has also been added to the appendix to note the staff's approval earlier in the week, under the Commission's delegated authority, of the final design submission for the Moultrie Courthouse addition. Chairman Powell noted the consensus of the Commission to approve the revised 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. A recommendation has been changed to be favorable on the basis of supplemental information that has been received (case number SL 14–079). Revised wording for four projects includes conditions on the favorable recommendations; for one of these projects (SL 14–083), support is also contingent on receipt of further supplemental information, and she requested authorization for the staff to finalize this recommendation upon receipt of the information. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several substantial updates to the draft appendix, in addition to minor notations of dates for receipt of supplemental information. The wording of one recommendation has been strengthened to note that no work is included at the front of the house (case number OG 14–118). Supplemental information from a window manufacturer is still anticipated for one project (OG 14–139), and he requested authorization for the staff to finalize this recommendation upon receipt of the information. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Mr. Luebke noted the large number of Old Georgetown Act cases on the appendix; the current rate is approximately 400 Georgetown cases per year, of which only a small number are presented to the Commission.
B. National Park Service
CFA 17/APR/2014–1, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, West Potomac Park. New underground visitor education center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/FEB/12–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept submission for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center—now named the Education Center at the Wall—submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The site is a Mall panel in a radial relationship to the Lincoln Memorial between Constitution Avenue, 23rd Street, and Henry Bacon Drive, NW. He noted that the design by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership) has been underway for nine years, and he listed a few key dates in its Commission review. In October 2007, the Commission approved the concept design while expressing concern about the relation of the center to the existing Vietnam Veterans Memorial; he said that this approval expired in 2011. In April 2009, the Commission reviewed a revised concept design, expressing continued concern about its impact and requesting further simplification of building elements within the landscape. In February 2012, the project team returned with another revised design, and the Commission asked for more simplification and a calmer treatment of the entrance and landscape features. He said that the significant changes in the current submission include elimination of the skylights and modification of the entrance plaza, and the request is for a new concept approval before submitting a final design. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May said that the design has been changed to address the Commission's concerns and to improve emergency egress from the building; the design team has worked closely with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service on these changes. He introduced Thomas Wong of Ennead Architects to present the revised concept design.
Mr. Wong said that the project has been going through the regulatory process, with reviews by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, and review under historic preservation and environmental regulations; the construction documents are now approximately 90% complete. He summarized the stipulations of the 2003 authorizing legislation: the purpose of the visitor center is to educate the public about the Vietnam War and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; the building should be located underground and designed to be harmonious with the site, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Mall; it should protect open space and sightlines; and it should not interfere with the memorial. The site was approved after a lengthy analysis, and joint design guidelines to mitigate the center's visual impact on the Mall were approved by the Commission of Fine Arts and NCPC.
Mr. Wong provided an overview of the design and its evolution. Most of the structure would be below grade; visitors would descend one story from the sidewalk to the entrance. A courtyard would allow natural light into some areas of the building and would also solve some technical issues of the underground construction, such as separation of air intake and exhaust. Exhibits would be organized in a series of layers, and mechanical spaces would be located below the entrance level. When the concept design was first brought to the Commission in 2007, the linear approach walks descended to the entrance at an angle, and skylights set in the landscape over exhibit walls were intended to indicate the building's organization. For the revised design in 2009, the walks were shortened and made less steep, and were curved to resemble the walks of Constitution Gardens; a second walk from Constitution Avenue was eliminated so that the only entrance approach would be from Henry Bacon Drive. A portion of the courtyard was covered with a roof planted with grass to reduce the size of the opening in the landscape. However, even with these changes, he recalled that the Commission still had concerns about the design's visual impact. In the 2012 revision, the building footprint and plan were shifted; the exhibit walls would no longer be parallel with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but would instead be radials of the Lincoln Memorial. He said that the Commission had expressed concern in 2012 about the seemingly random placement of the skylights and their triangular shape, which appeared inconsistent with other geometries. The Commission had also suggested reconsidering the length of the horizontal canopy and rail, and reducing the visual impact from retaining walls, seating, and lighting
Mr. Wong described the current proposal and the continuing effort to minimize the project's visual impact, with particular focus on the treatment of the edge of the courtyard opening and the roof. The triangular skylights have been eliminated; a single rectangular skylight would be located above the vestibule. The landscaping and grading have been further manipulated to integrate the structure into the landscape, which is primarily a lawn on a gently raised grade. He indicated the perimeter elevation of 20 feet above sea level that has been maintained to prevent flooding of the building. Existing trees would be protected, and elms would be replanted where they are missing from the perimeter trees. Groundcover plantings of cotoneaster would prevent people from approaching edges and openings, including the edge of the retaining wall at the entrance facade. Lights would be incorporated into the benches around the curved approach walk, which serves as an emergency egress path; the benches have been oriented so that the lighting would shine toward the building facade rather than the sidewalk. A series of bollards at the entrance would include removable bollards to accommodate maintenance vehicles. To provide adequate access and egress, a second entrance walk has been added that leads from the sidewalk to the descending walk at some distance from the approach to the steps; this results in a second elliptical island in the landscape, and no handrails would be necessary. The exterior materials include a light–colored granite for the benches, stairs, and pavers on the walk. He said that the building should be almost invisible from key vantage points, as demonstrated by photo simulations.
Mr. Wong discussed security measures developed in consultation with the National Park Service. Issues include preventing vehicles from driving down the ramp into the plaza and providing a remote access point to allow police to enter the building if its main entrance is blocked; this access will be hidden within a horizontal rail. The lobby is designed to accommodate the addition of visitor screening equipment if required in the future.
Mr. Freelon began the Commission's discussion by commenting that a concept design is usually seen earlier in the process, while this submission occurs when construction drawings are 90 percent complete; any revisions at this stage would therefore affect the production of drawings. Mr. Wong acknowledged this situation, adding that the project had proceeded through the design phases based on the Commission's earlier concept approval. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the approval's expiration. Mr. Luebke said that the 2007 approval, valid for four years, had expired in 2011; at a subsequent review in February 2012, the Commission provided comments but no action was taken. He said that the Commission's letter from 2012 did not address the status of the approval; he then referred to the minutes of that meeting, which described an interpretation that the four–year validity of the concept approval was effectively renewed by the subsequent review in April 2009, without requiring an additional approval action. Ms. Meyer commented that this background suggests a different status than is presented on the current agenda; if the project still has an approved concept, the current submission could be treated as a final design proposal; Mr. Luebke agreed. Mr. May said that the current submission procedure was coordinated with the Commission staff; the preference is to obtain a final approval, or else a renewed concept approval with delegation of the final design review to the staff.
Ms. Meyer asked why two years had elapsed for a response to the Commission's request for additional design revisions, and why the project is now submitted when 90 percent of its construction documents package is complete. Mr. May responded that some issues, particularly egress, had taken a long time to resolve, and the design team has continued refining the concept. He said that the problematic issues have been apparent from the first presentations; the shift from a linear to curved walk had helped to resolve some concerns which allowed the design to proceed.
Ms. Meyer described the ambiguity of the proposal's status as perplexing, but she offered to provide comments on the design. She acknowledged the extensive work that has gone into the project. She said that all of the design variations are problematic for this site, with visual impacts beyond what was shown in the photo simulations taken from five vantage points. She said the difficulty has to do with the effect of cutting and filling on the site: the proposed fill may be a subtle addition, but the plant material covering the green roof will never look like the grass on the site's perimeter; it will always read as a filled area with a courtyard and entrance cut into it. She said that topography as well as building walls create places and figures within the Mall, and underground buildings always affect the appearance of the ground. She emphasized the numerous instances—from the ha–ha to the horizontal rail to the cotoneaster groundcover—that give the appearance of "band–aids" being applied to make the project safe or appear invisible. She expressed sympathy with the design team, commenting that they have the wrong site; she emphasized that underground buildings are not invisible and have many impacts.
Mr. Freelon recalled the previous review and said that the Commission's comments have been fairly well addressed, such as by eliminating the triangular skylights. He noted that the designers had not picked the site, and they have done what they can to create an underground building that would provide a pleasant experience with limited impacts on the surrounding memorials. He questioned the need for the elliptical mound near the entrance; Mr. Wong responded that the mound creates a positive form that minimizes the amount of facade visible from the sidewalk. He added that the goal has been a facility that strikes a balance between being quiet and harmonious with its setting while remaining visible to the public.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the design team has made a heroic effort to get the project to this point, but in the end has demonstrated the impossibility of fully protecting the open space of the Mall and remaining harmonious with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; she said that this is a problem that cannot be solved, and she characterized the project as a big hole in the ground whose form would compete with the memorial. She said that the problem may have more to do with the entrance than with the underground portion, but almost any other location for the entrance would be extremely difficult to resolve. She expressed reluctance to approve something that would effectively set a precedent for using the Mall as real estate. She said she did not personally think this project should proceed but acknowledged that it must, and so her comments are primarily about the size and prominence of the entrance.
Mr. May responded that the project team has done all it can to meet the stipulations of the authorizing legislation and the design guidelines. He agreed that the Mall would probably be better off without this project, but added that this is not a question for the National Park Service to address; Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the Commission's responsibility to comment on the problematic location.
Mr. Freelon said that he agrees with most of the comments of the other Commission members; given the site and the underground location, he said that he finds the solution thoughtful and the process satisfactory. Ms. Meyer expressed concern about the mounded form of the larger landscape resulting from the decision to raise the elevation of the entrance floor; she emphasized the inevitable difference in color and texture between the lawn that will be growing on the building roof and the lawn on the surrounding soil. Mr. May responded that the intention is not to have a discernible difference. Mr. Wong added that the existing grade has a slight concave profile, and the proposed increase in elevation would be so gradual as to be imperceptible. He said that after the building is constructed, the entire area can be covered with enough topsoil to ensure that all of the grass is healthy.
Mr. Powell acknowledged the complexity of the site, noting that many people would prefer another location. He said that the challenges have been daunting but the architects have risen to the occasion, and he commended them for their solutions to the functional needs of the project. However, he said he agrees with Ms. Plater–Zyberk that the entrance will have a strong presence along the street, resulting in a structure that is not really perceived as an underground building. He requested further exploration of ways to diminish the impact of the entrance and the mound above the building. He added that the National Park Service has done well in rehabilitating the lawn panels at the east end of the Mall; he expressed confidence that the same care would be taken with this project, although the current proposal looks awkward and inelegant. Mr. May responded that this proposal is meant to preserve as much open lawn as possible; the impact of the building has been minimized but it needs to have an identity on the street. Mr. Powell said that he is comfortable with the design except for the entrance, and suggested bringing the building closer to the sidewalk to reduce its prominence.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that she continues to be disturbed by two resemblances of the proposal to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: the underground building's facade is the same length as a wall of the memorial, and the excavated space at the building's entrance mimics the sloping land in front of the memorial. She asked if consideration was given to placing the building closer to the street with a much narrower entrance area. Mr. Wong responded that many ideas were considered before deciding that the best approach would be to make the entrance a landscape feature to the extent possible; he added that one reason for curving the entrance walk and mounding the large oval space was to distinguish the visitor center from the memorial by making its landscape similar to the curving walks and gently rolling terrain of Constitution Gardens. Ms. Meyer commented that the biomorphic forms in Constitution Gardens are not enclosed figures like the proposed ellipse in front of the visitor center. She said that this would be a beautiful solution on another site, but here it takes up too much room and is too prominent a spatial figure, when it should instead be an earthwork supporting a minimal entrance route into the building. She suggested removing the stair and finding a way to compress and extend the ellipse instead of closing it, in order to simplify the entrance area and reduce its extent. She said that the building could be moved to the east and have a more compressed entrance walk that is closer to the sidewalk. Mr. Wong said that the design team has looked at every option; if the ramp gets more compressed then more retaining walls would be needed, as well as more structure to maintain the rise of the lawn. Mr. May added that more retaining walls might result in handrails above grade, and Ms. Meyer agreed that the need for handrails should be avoided.
Chairman Powell commended the project team for its long and heroic effort. He offered a motion, seconded by Mr. Freelon, to approve the revised concept with the request to address the landscape issues that were discussed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Meyer did not support the motion, which therefore failed on a 2–2 vote. Mr. Luebke said that the comments would be provided for the record, including the consensus on concerns about the entrance, while not providing an action. Chairman Powell said that the project should return for final design approval.
C. Department of Defense
CFA 17/APR/14–2, Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. New visitor screening facility at main building entrance adjacent to the Metro station. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/FEB/14–3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a visitor screening facility at the Pentagon; the Commission previously reviewed the project in February, providing comments and requesting a revised submission. He asked project manager William Battle of the Department of Defense to begin the presentation.
Mr. Battle said that the new submission responds to the Commission's comments within the constraints of the project's budget and scope. The submission includes further analysis of the pedestrian flow, planned removal of a Metro glass screen wall adjacent to the project, and improved daylight for the proposed facility. He said that the massing of the proposal has not changed, but the master plan for the larger entrance area will be studied further to develop alternatives for a symmetrical placement of the future employee entrance; the updated master plan will be presented to the Commission later in 2014.
Mr. Battle summarized the data on people passing through this area: approximately 19,000 people daily use the adjacent bus station, of whom half are entering the Pentagon itself; approximately 13,500 people use the Pentagon Metrorail station daily, of whom half are entering the Pentagon; and a resulting total of approximately 15,000 employees daily enter the Pentagon at this location. He presented a plan of existing pedestrian flow patterns for visitors and employees, with visitor screening conducted in a small temporary facility. After being screened, visitors currently enter the Pentagon at the same location as employees, which is a problematic configuration; he said that the proposed facility would allow for increased separation of visitors and employees. He indicated the location of the proposed facility to the south of the current temporary facility, adjacent to the south exterior escalators leading to the Metro station; the future expansion of the employee entrance would be to the north. He said that the flow of pedestrians would be improved as a result of these projects. He added that removal of the existing glass screen wall at the Metro escalators would improve access to all three doors of the proposed screening facility, eliminating a chokepoint that was in the previous design; he noted that the Metro canopy above the escalators would continue to provide weather protection. Ms. Meyer asked where visitors would go after passing through the screening facility; Mr. Battle responded that visitors would proceed into a lobby waiting area, and would then be escorted into the Pentagon.
Mr. Battle introduced architect Jean O'Toole of Dewberry Architects to present the design. Ms. O'Toole described the changes to the exterior in response to the Commission's previous comments. The facade around the three entry doors has been articulated more clearly as a corner volume in order to make the entrance more prominent and inviting for visitors; the articulation includes limestone veneer surrounding a recessed storefront wall system. The infill panels of the storefront would include several materials—vision glass, spandrel glass, and limestone—located in response to security requirements. A small canopy would extend above the entrance doors, in addition to the large existing curved canopy above the Metro escalators. Additional facade details have been refined to improve the visual relationship with the historic Pentagon: a cornice and parapet would be articulated, the limestone facade panels would have a running bond pattern, and the windows have been changed from a square to a vertical proportion with a triple grouping. She presented perspective views of the proposal from the bus loading area and the Metro escalators. She indicated the existing glass screen wall that is now proposed for removal, subject to coordination with Metro officials; Mr. Freelon commented positively on this removal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the proposed location of the visitor screening facility, suggesting that it be sited in combination with the future employee entrance expansion to provide a symmetrical composition across the front of the Pentagon facade. She said that this would be more consistent with the current symmetrical configuration of building elements and Metro station entrances. Mr. Battle responded that studies prepared in 2008 and 2011 had considered a more symmetrical configuration, but the obstacles included pinch points, emergency egress issues during and after construction, and existing facilities that could not be blocked. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that an extensive area is available for siting a symmetrically organized entrance configuration. Mr. Battle said that a more centralized configuration would retain the problem of mixing visitors and employees; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that separate entrance buildings, or separate entrances within a single entrance building, would be possible solutions within a symmetrical configuration.
Mr. Luebke said that the staff has raised these concerns at consultation meetings; Department of Defense officials have cited concerns of phasing, funding, and conflicts with existing equipment that could not be disclosed in detail. He emphasized the staff position that the proposal lacks the dignity that should be provided for the visitor entrance to a departmental headquarters building. The visitor and employee entrance additions would be approximately the same size and could be designed in a symmetrical configuration; he said that operational issues such as emergency egress could be addressed in the design process. The extensive frontage available along the Metro plaza would allow for ample separation of the visitor and employee entrances; he added that these groups are already mixed in the adjacent Metrorail system. He said that another stated reason for the proposed siting was to avoid the structural issues of placing the visitor screening facility above the below–grade Metro station; however, the planned siting of the employee entrance would be above the Metro station. He summarized the staff view that a symmetrical configuration would be feasible, and the cited issues could be resolved.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the architect has responded to design issues with the visitor screening facility itself, but has not addressed the wider scope of the vicinity; Mr. Battle confirmed that the scope of the project is constrained. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the Commission's role in evaluating the proposal within the larger context; she noted the existing symmetrical configuration of entrance buildings, as well as the somewhat rare symmetry of the Metro station entrances, all of which demonstrate an ongoing effort to give this area a sense of dignity that is appropriate for the setting and the intense use. She acknowledged that some constraints cannot be discussed, but concluded that the Commission should not support the proposed siting as an appropriate solution.
Mr. Battle reiterated that this siting results from the 2005 master plan, and the visitor screening facility is the first part of the master plan that is moving to implementation, but the siting of the remaining components would be evaluated further in an effort to develop a symmetrical composition. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the larger sense of orientation in this area involves a focus on the central axis, and this proposal does not appear to support the overall organization; she described the proposal as inadequate and inappropriate. Mr. Battle emphasized the problem of mixing visitors and employees at a central entrance area; Ms. Plater–Zyberk clarified that her suggestion is not for a single set of doors at the center, but instead for separate entrances organized around a single central space. Mr. Battle responded that crowd control has been identified as an issue, resulting in the proposal for a wide separation between visitor and employee entrances. He clarified that the mixing of visitors and employees is particularly problematic at the exterior in the vicinity of the building entrances; inside the building, the visitors will already have been screened. A standoff distance is desired for visitors who have not yet passed through screening. Mr. Freelon and Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested separating or partitioning the two entrance areas. Mr. Luebke reiterated that ample distance appears to be available, and the stated constraints are based on a 2005 study that is not available to the Commission. Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that the Commission is trying to improve the design of an important entrance without having all of the background information available.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that an additional concern is the quality of the proposed design, which she said is not conveyed clearly in the submitted drawings. She supported the design refinements as described in the presentation, and she requested more careful documentation. Ms. Meyer agreed that the revised submission has focused on improving the quality of the visitor screening facility through further attention to facade alternatives and materials, and she supported the improved use of glass on the facade and the removal of the existing screen wall at the Metro escalators. But she reiterated that the project team has resisted addressing the Commission's concern with the proposed siting and potential for symmetry, despite the straightforward master plan program of two similarly sized volumes performing similar functions of accommodating entry screening—one for visitors and one for employees. She continued to question the planned asymmetrical configuration of the entry sequences. Mr. Battle responded that a more compact configuration was studied extensively, but it would result in a more complex process for visitor entry. Ms. Meyer said that this study has not been presented, and the resulting proposal therefore seems illogical to the Commission. She expressed frustration that many decisions have already been made and alternatives have been rejected, for reasons not being shown, and the Commission is limited to addressing a few narrow aesthetic issues rather than being able to address the overall quality of the visitor experience and circulation. She said that the issues for Commission review should include the overall dignity and spatial sequence of entering the Pentagon, rather than simply the choice of materials.
Mr. Freelon agreed, commenting that the design has improved slightly but the lack of process information is disappointing; he suggested including more of this background information in the next presentation. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the design has moved forward while many questions remain, and he suggested providing the comments and requesting further coordination with the staff. Mr. Luebke said that a request for more background information would likely not lead to a change in the proposed design; he suggested that the Commission explicitly request a different design if this is the intention. Chairman Powell expressed reluctance to request a different design when the Commission has not yet seen the studies that led to the current proposal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested a more positive response: that the Commission hopes to see a proposal providing a more dignified entry experience for both visitors and employees. She recommended a goal of more harmony and coordination among the various structures in the vicinity—the historic Pentagon, the existing and future entrance structures to the building, and the Metro entrance structures. She observed that the visitor and employee entrance additions are being treated as aggregations to the complex, and instead should be part of a coordinated composition. She summarized that architecture has historically been able to accommodate functional needs while not making apparent the difficulty in achieving this result; this should be an additional goal for the project. She clarified that the current proposal does not meet these goals. Mr. Luebke suggested an explicit request for a different design and siting; Ms. Plater–Zyberk confirmed this request, reiterating that the solution should respect the symmetry of the overall context. Ms. Meyer clarified that the design options would includes a centralized volume or symmetrical placement of separate entrances. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the adequacy of weather protection throughout the pedestrian entrance sequences should be considered; adjustments to the existing extent of paving should also be considered as part of the design process, as part of the larger site planning for the entrance process. Mr. Freelon reiterated that the previous studies should be included in the next submission; Mr. Battle responded that these were likely provided to the Commission in 2008 and 2011 but could be resubmitted. Ms. Plater–Zyberk clarified that the goal is not simply to use these studies as a justification for the current design, but to develop a better solution for the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
D. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
CFA 17/APR/14–3, Metro canopy project. Gallery Place west and Dupont Circle north Metro station entrances. New canopies to cover exposed escalator entrances. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/OCT/03–3.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for protective canopies above two Metro station entrances. These entrances were among eight that were omitted from the initial system–wide program of canopies due to special design conditions. He asked Ivo Karadimov, the manager of architecture for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), to begin the presentation.
Mr. Karadimov summarized the history of the canopies in the Metro system, which began in 1999 as a response to a new code requirement for covering exterior escalators. The first canopy was built by a private–sector developer at the Courthouse station; although intended as a prototype for the system, its design was not supported by the architectural community and the general public. WMATA therefore held an open design competition, and in July 2001 the entry from Lourie & Chenoweth was selected. This design was approved by the Commission and other review agencies, and it has been implemented gradually throughout the Metro system as funding is allocated. Several dozen canopies have been installed, and fourteen remain to be installed as part of the previously approved program. Eight additional locations require further design review, including the two currently submitted; the other six locations involve further coordination with the National Park Service, and these will be submitted in the future for Commission review.
Mr. Karadimov described the objectives of the canopy program. First is compliance with the building code provision that mandates a cover above new escalators; other objectives include improving reliability of the escalators and protecting customers from the weather. The canopies have become a familiar design feature that is associated with Metro station entrances, and he said that they reflect the dignity and elegance of Washington's subway system; he noted that the canopies relate to the vaulted ceilings that architect Harry Weese designed for the underground stations. He described several other design features: the curved shape of the canopies provides for uniform shedding of rainwater; the structural system can be accommodated on top of existing parapet walls around entrances; the modular design provides flexibility for accommodating entrance openings of varying sizes; and the construction details allow for relatively simple and quick installation with minimal disruption of access to stations. He introduced architects Jon Lourie and Richard Chenoweth of Lourie & Chenoweth to present the two proposed canopies.
Mr. Lourie presented the proposal for the west entrance to the Gallery Place station, located at 9th and G Streets, NW. The station entrance is adjacent to the historic Old Patent Office Building, which houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery; the design challenge has been to limit the size of the canopy to avoid impacts on the historic building. He presented a diagram of the adjustments in height and width in response to the context conditions, and he emphasized that the canopy would not overhang the building yard and site fence. He said that the Smithsonian Institution has been concerned about avoiding drainage from the canopy into the building yard, and a rain baffle of stainless steel is proposed on the canopy edge to provide additional protection by directing drainage down to the existing pavement that abuts the Metro entrance parapet wall. He provided a perspective rendering and indicated the overall similarity of the proposal to the standard canopy design, including the support system of diagonal struts mounted on the entrance parapet. He said that the size and detailing of the rain baffle would result in only minimal visibility of this element from the sidewalk. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the required height of a canopy; Mr. Lourie responded that a minimum height of eight feet is required by D.C. regulations.
Mr. Chenoweth presented the proposal for the north entrance to the Dupont Circle station, located at Q and 20th Streets and Connecticut Avenue, NW. He said that the design responds to the circular shape and large size of the entrance opening; the multiple curvatures of the canopy prototype have been adapted to provide a dome–like structure with a strong directionality. The typical system of struts has been adapted to the circular parapet wall, and the standard proportions have been adjusted slightly. He noted the design goals of an inviting and iconic structure, comparable to an outdoor sculpture or the structural expressiveness of Dulles Airport. He presented the plan view of the canopy, indicating the slightly elliptical shape that would provide directionality. A ring beam, circular in plan, would follow the upward projection of the existing parapet wall; seven pairs of struts would support the ring beam, which would support the curved canopy above.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the proposed geometry. Mr. Chenoweth said that the canopy would extend sufficiently beyond the parapet wall to provide additional protection for pedestrians and machinery, including a maximum projection of thirteen feet beyond the top of the escalators. He confirmed that the unusual shape of the proposed ring beam results from the intersection of the circular plan with the curved canopy. He also clarified that the struts would have a slight inward tilt from the parapet wall due to the geometry of the circle, a feature that is not seen at the typical rectangular entrance openings.
Mr. Freelon commented that the proposal is an elegant interpretation of the standard design, and it responds well to the special conditions. Ms. Meyer agreed and asked if the effect of the Dupont Circle canopy on the adjacent public plaza has been studied; she cited potential issues of air flow and lighting conditions. Mr. Chenoweth responded that the specific conditions at this location have not been tested, but other Metro canopies have proven successful in recent years during hurricanes and major snowfalls. He noted that the Dupont Circle entrance includes planting areas alongside the escalators within the parapet wall, and the proposal is intended to allow for air flow and some amount of misting in this area. Mr. Lourie emphasized the generally open intended character of the covered entrance space, while acknowledging that some changes to the microclimate would occur. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the elegant geometric solution is not the only design issue: in addition to the effect on air flow, the canopy will also provide the opportunity to collect and channel the rain runoff, and she therefore recommended further consideration of the plaza design, by WMATA or other agencies, to improve the existing conditions and respond to the addition of the canopy. She observed that the plaza has existing tree pits without trees, perhaps due to poor maintenance of the landscape.
Mr. Karadimov responded that WMATA would replace all of the sidewalks and tree beds around the canopy in accordance with the existing design, and an additional design proposal is being developed for the planting beds within the parapet wall. Ms. Meyer suggested that the ring of tree pits be interconnected with gravel or soil to improve the health of the trees; she added that the available technology for the landscaping and pavement has improved in the decades since the plaza was initially constructed, with a greater emphasis on sustainability. Mr. Lourie said that the canopy would shed water rather than collect it, which simplifies the complicated issues of gutters and downspouts that could clutter the design; an additional problem with collecting the water would be deciding where to direct it. Ms. Meyer said that this issue could be addressed without cluttering the design; the drip line around the edge of the canopy could be designed as a continuous planting bed rather than as pavement, and pedestrian movement could be accommodated with design details such as cantilevered pavement or structural soil. She said that such a site design would not even require a cistern, but would improve the performance of the space.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed in supporting the proposed design of the canopies and requested further study of the water runoff at the Dupont Circle plaza. She observed that the tree locations at this plaza might result in conflicts with the canopy, and the overall landscape design of the plaza therefore requires further study. She added that the runoff conditions could be dangerous due to the large size of the canopy, and she recommended consideration of snow and ice as well as water flow.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the proposal for the two canopies while requesting a landscape design for the plaza around the Dupont Circle entrance. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted this action.
E. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 17/APR/2014–4, River Terrace Special Education Center (former River Terrace Elementary School), 34th and Dix Streets and Anacostia Avenue, NE. Building renovation and additions. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JAN/14–7.) Mr. Simon introduced the proposed alterations to an unused existing elementary school near the Anacostia River south of Benning Road, NE, to create a special education school. He summarized the Commission's review of the project in January, with the request for further study of the site planning and simplification of the expressive architectural forms of the proposed lobby and circulation spaces; no action was taken on the January concept submission. He asked Eupert Braithwaite of the D.C. Department of General Services to begin the presentation. Mr. Braithwaite said that the presentation would respond to the Commission's previous comments; he introduced architect Melvin Mitchell of Bryant Mitchell and education facilities planner Robin O'Hara of Fanning Howey to present the design.
Ms. O'Hara presented the revised site plan, indicating the adjustment to the parking layout at the northwest corner and the public park area at the southwest corner; she emphasized that the small park would relate to the adjacent larger open space of the Anacostia Park riverfront. She said that the path alignment, plantings, and semicircular retaining walls in this small park were developed in response to consultation with the Commission staff. She also indicated the simplification of the curved roof form above the entrance lobby and primary interior corridor; she said that this revised design would better relate to the building's courtyard. Adjacent to the entrance, the canopy above the bus drop–off area has been integrated with the building mass, giving the effect of a cloister rather than a separate design element. She concluded with renderings of the courtyard and proposed landscaping, the existing smokestack which would be adapted into a wind turbine, and the distribution of spaces on the floorplan.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the extensive work in developing the design. She suggested improving the institutional character and dignity of the school through such landscape features as fencing and an allee of trees; she observed that the location of the parking area along the school's river frontage appears unavoidable, and these landscape improvements would be particularly important along the parking lot at the site's western edge. She said that the site edges facing residential neighbors may need to be designed in response to the concerns of the neighbors, while the edge facing Anacostia Park has an important public presence that should express the identity of the school as a public institution; she emphasized that this expression should encompass the site as part of the institution's territory, rather than begin only at the building facade. Ms. O'Hara clarified that the site has some existing fencing at the street edge; Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested extending it. Ms. O'Hara said that the design goal for the southwest corner is a more open character for public use, and the extent of fence would therefore be reduced; she offered to reconsider this proposal, adding that school officials would likely support more fencing to improve security. Mr. Braithwaite confirmed this preference, and he emphasized the overall issue of how the building and site would relate to the surrounding community. He said that fencing along the school's play areas is desired for the protection of students, while fencing and landscaping in other areas of the site is part of the effort to design soft transitions within the landscape. Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that additional fencing may not be the solution, but some sort of stronger edge would be desirable along the parking lot, possibly a hedge, rather than simply having the pavement reach the edge of the site. Mr. Braithwaite offered to study improvements to the spatial definition in this area; Mr. Freelon supported this intention.
Ms. Meyer summarized her previous concern that the design for the southwest corner of the site had been a missed opportunity for a special link between the school and Anacostia Park. She said that the current proposal makes some effort to address this, but a more straightforward solution may be preferable. She suggested that the west side of the site be conceived as a landscape facade along Anacostia Park, including regularly spaced trees that would provide shade along the sidewalk; the trees might grow enough to provide shade for the parking lot as well. She cited her earlier suggestion for a rain garden in the southwest garden, not an artificial pond; the purpose should be to hold actual rain runoff from the site—including the parking lot and building roof—and she emphasized that this purpose is particularly important in a floodplain adjacent to a river. She said that a good design for this area could be achieved through simple topographic manipulation rather than the costly proposed retaining walls; the result could be a good teaching space that contains plants of the river valley, and the one or two rows of street trees could provide shade. She encouraged consolidation of the design elements in the landscape proposal, with emphasis on functional rather than ornamental features.
Ms. Meyer summarized her overall appreciation for the improvements to the design of the parking lot and building entrance. She suggested that the trees in the parking lot could be organized to define and shade the sidewalk rather than serving merely as filler at the medians; she added that protection from the afternoon heat, as people are leaving the school, is particularly important. Ms. O'Hara offered to study these issues further, noting that some improvements may be beyond the property line and would therefore require coordination with the D.C. Department of Transportation; Mr. Braithwaite said that additional street trees and other landscape improvements in the street right–of–way would likely be supported.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the concept submission with the comments provided, noting the willingness of the project team to consider further revisions. Mr. Luebke noted the productive consultation meetings with the Commission staff, particularly the simplification of the architectural forms, and he asked if the Commission wishes to delegate review of the final design to the staff; Chairman Powell supported this delegation. Upon a second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted this action.
(Chairman Powell departed during the lunch break, and Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk presided for the remainder of the meeting.)
2. CFA 17/APR/2014–5, Chuck Brown Memorial Park (Langdon Park), 20th and Franklin Streets, NE. New memorial to musician Chuck Brown. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/JAN/14–8.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for the Chuck Brown Memorial Park, previously reviewed in January 2014. In response to the Commission's request, the D.C. Department of General Services has coordinated the current submission with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which is sponsoring the sculpture that will be part of the park design. He introduced architect Michael Marshall of Marshall/Moya Design to present the revisions to the park design.
Mr. Marshall summarized Chuck Brown's significance in musical history from the 1970s through the 1990s; the memorial has evolved from a proposal at his funeral two years ago. He described the site within Langdon Park, which is bisected by 20th Street and extends to the Woodridge branch library that was recently reviewed by the Commission. The project site is on the west side of 20th Street, encompassing a small existing amphitheater that would be replaced by the larger memorial project. Adjacent park uses include a tot lot and tennis courts; across 20th Street are a recreation center and aquatics center. He said that the initial idea was a music pavilion or amphitheater that would feature local musical talent; due to concerns from neighbors and the wider community, the program has shifted to emphasize an informal park setting with less emphasis on musical performances. The design of the memorial park is intended to convey a sense of place and to provide information on Chuck Brown's life and career.
In response to the Commission's previous comments, Mr. Marshall said that the park design has been revised to be more "syncopated" and less symmetrical than previously presented. The rotation of the central space has provided a more direct connection to the existing tot lot. He indicated the triangular space along 20th Street that would be defined by the system of walks; a sculpture would be placed within this triangle. He noted the grade change of eight feet across the site and described the proposed grading that would provide a flat central area that could be used for performances and events. Low walls would provide seating along some edges of the park, and a canted wall would display photographic images on ceramic tiles to depict the history of Chuck Brown. Text panels would be aluminum with embossed black lettering. Low rails in front of the canted wall would display additional information and would deter climbing. A nearby area would have percussion instruments for children to use, reflecting an important component of Chuck Brown's go–go music. He presented several perspective renderings, including an evening view to illustrate the proposed uplighting of the sculpture, trees, and ceramic tiles; bollard lights would be placed along the walks. He described the plantings as having \iconic trees, including a ring of cherry trees around the central space, and he indicated the rain gardens that would be located on the site. The central space would have an artificial grass surface; concrete pavers and pervious paving would be used elsewhere for the project. He provided samples of the artificial turf material, the ceramic tiles, and the aluminum panels.
Mr. Freelon asked about the durability of the ceramic tiles and the potential fading of the photographic images from exposure to sunlight. Mr. Marshall responded that the consultant for this component of the project has experience using it for exterior installations; he said that he has also tested various products himself for susceptibility to damage, and this product was selected after rejecting several others. He indicated the sequence of images that is proposed for the ceramic tiles, including reproductions of photographs and concert posters. He presented three alternatives for using color on the tiles: primarily black and white, with color used only for the concert posters which used color as a means of advertising go–go music; primarily sepia–tone images, with color for the concert posters; and a mixture of color and black–and–white images. He said that greater use of color would take better advantage of the technology of the ceramic tile images.
Mr. Marshall provided additional details of the musical instrument area, which would be adjacent to the tot lot. The ground plane would have a compressed mulch material. A range of instruments, all percussive, would be provided, and signs would display the musical chords and rhythm of the go–go style. He noted that additional trees would be planted in the wider area of Langdon Park.
Mr. Marshall introduced landscape architect Sharon Bradley of Bradley Site Design to present the landscape design in greater detail. Ms. Bradley said that the landscape design responds to the iconography and land forms of the memorial park design. The planting palette is primarily native species that will not require extensive maintenance; additional issues include safety and security, with sightlines maintained across the site, and framed views. Bioretention areas are planned in several locations, and versatile plantings are proposed that can thrive in continuous massings that encompass the bioretention areas. She indicated the use of river birch, magnolia, and various dogwood trees, as well as the cherry trees that are closely associated with Washington to signify Chuck Brown's connection with this area. She said that the landscape plan has now been revised with a more undulating line of cherry trees rather than the more symmetrical configuration that was previously reviewed. She added that the placement of the magnolia trees around the edge would frame the memorial park and define views toward the center. Mr. Marshall added that existing benches, tables, and trash cans would be replaced; he illustrated the D.C. government's standard design for these fixtures.
Mr. Marshall introduced artist Jackie Braitman to present the proposed sculpture. Ms. Braitman described the challenge of conveying a musical subject while not using sound, responding to the request of the community. The sculpture is intended to convey Chuck Brown's work and character to a changing community audience that may not already know him; she described this goal as part of ensuring Chuck Brown's immortality. She described the components of the steel sculpture: two abstract dancers at a height of ten and twelve feet on a dance floor raised from the sidewalk, and an abstract sixteen–foot–tall depiction of Chuck Brown on a stage that is raised from the dance floor. The figure of Chuck Brown is reaching out to the dancers with an iconic gesture of the call–and–response format of go–go music. The metal slats forming the Chuck Brown figure would have a vinyl surface that would allow his image to be legible when viewed from a certain angle. She presented a maquette of the proposed sculpture, which she said was prepared for an earlier site configuration to the south; at the currently proposed location to the north, the installation would be the mirror–image of the maquette depiction. She indicated the steel canopy above the sculpture's stage, which would accommodate spotlights; paperbark maple trees around the sculpture would grow to provide a further sense of enclosure for the stage.
Ms. Braitman described the interactive features of the sculpture, as demonstrated in the maquette. As a person approaches on the adjacent walk, a sign would be backlit to read "Chuck Brown Memorial Park." The stainless steel sign would have laser–cut letters with LED lights behind, and it would serve as the primary identification sign for the park. As the viewer approaches closer to the sculpture, color LED fixtures would flash from the seating wall; these would be activated by a motion detector, serving to encourage people to move to the inner area of the sculpture. The dance floor would have a pressure–sensitive plate activating a further LED lighting effect, providing a visual analog of call–and–response; the tentative wording of the text is "Join the dance party." She said that all of the color LED lights are aimed to bounce off the surfaces of concrete and powder–coated steel; the complex programming of the light sensors would result in varying effects including an increasing rhythm, shifting volume, and differing combinations of lights. She noted that the sculpture would primarily be experienced in daylight because the park is closed at night, and the lighting effects are designed to be strong enough for legibility in daylight; she provided a working sample of the LED light for the Commission's inspection. She indicated a sign giving the title of the sculpture, "Wind Me Up, Chuck," which is the name of one of his well–known musical compositions; the lighting would be programmed to use the rhythm of this musical piece. She said that an additional sign would provide further explanatory text of the sculpture's subject.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the revised siting of the sculpture. Ms. Braitman confirmed that it would be a mirror–image of the maquette, and said that the setting would be slightly rotated; the currently proposed triangular setting is also twice the size of the original triangular location that is shown on the maquette. She indicated the currently proposed location on the site plan for the park. Mr. Marshall added that the new location for the sculpture would combine the signage for the sculpture and for the overall park. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that signage is included in several other areas—at the ceramic tile wall, on panels listing Chuck Brown's discography, and on posts at the grouping of percussion instruments.
Mr. Luebke noted that the presentation consolidates the work of two D.C. government agencies—the Department of General Services and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities—and the multiple artist and design disciplines involved in the project, as well as reflecting the community's comments. Mr. Freelon asked about the community response to the current design; Mr. Marshall said that the initial community concern was that a performance pavilion would be too intrusive, resulting in the reduced scope of the current proposal. An additional concern was that the memorial's display of images should face toward the park rather than toward 20th Street, resulting in the proposed placement on the canted wall facing away from the street.
Mr. Freelon commented that the proposal includes many ideas within a small space; he suggested refining the concept to a few ideas rather than the six to eight features that are proposed. He asked if the concept for the sculpture is still being developed; Ms. Braitman responded that it is finalized, and she acknowledged that a remaining issue will be to ensure that the lighting does not produce an overwhelming effect. She noted that the maquette includes only simple lighting controls, and the actual installation will allow for further control of the balance between sufficiently conveying the rhythm while not being overly distracting. She added that the landscape around the sculpture has been selected to be slightly different from other plantings in the park, such as by using paperbark maple trees, and the color palette at the sculpture would include more orange tones than elsewhere in the park.
Ms. Meyer asked about the relationship of the sculpture to the adjacent house along 20th Street. Ms. Braitman responded that the top of the sculpture's canopy would be approximately 24 feet above ground, which is slightly lower than the adjacent house. Mr. Marshall provided a superimposed view of the sculpture within the context of 20th Street; he indicated the existing trees between the house and the sculpture site. Mr. Freelon said that this rendering confirms his concern that the design has too many elements; he suggested eliminating the canopy, which he said seems large and out of character with the flowing nature of the sculpture. Ms. Meyer agreed, commenting that the canopy is depicting literally while the other sculptural elements are more abstract. Ms. Braitman responded that the canopy was originally included to contain a solar power array due to the lack of an electric power source on the site; an electrical connection to the park infrastructure has now been designed, and the solar array is no longer included, but the canopy has remained in the sculpture because the community considers it an important feature. Keona Pearson of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities added that the canopy would support the lighting that is typical of a stage setting, and the community prefers this feature as part of the sculpture's effect of a go–go concert setting. Ms. Braitman said that the sculpture started out being much more abstract than the current proposal, based on the community preference for more understandable elements.
Ms. Meyer offered comments on the evolution of the design from the previous presentation. She supported the revised alignment of the central space, which she said is now more connected to the street and park in comparison to the cordoned–off effect of the previous design; she described the resulting organization of the site as much more fluid and believable as a network of spaces. However, she said that the proposed sculpture, which was not previously presented, raises a new concern that the park's central space lacks is not sufficiently memorable and energetic in comparison to the sculpture. She acknowledged the difficulty of coordinating between the two separate agencies responsible for these portions of the proposal, but suggested that the energy of the sculpture could somehow be used to animate the central space. She expressed regret that the dynamic interaction of pedestrians with the sculpture's visual effects would be limited only to the triangular site of the sculpture rather than being more distributed through the park, describing the result as a lost opportunity.
Ms. Meyer provided several specific suggestions for more limited refinements of the proposal. She said that the Japanese cherry trees, which have been described as a symbol of Chuck Brown's local heritage, may not be the best choice for this site: the trees will bloom in March or April, while the park will likely be used most heavily during the summer when school is not in session. She suggested that the goal of designing a memorable space could better be achieved by selecting trees that will be most memorable during the summer months. An additional concern is the use of standard benches and other site furniture, as well as the scarcity of seating in the vicinity of the central space. She suggested a long bench along the edge of this space, perhaps formed from the concrete used for the adjacent canted wall. She also discouraged the use of artificial grass, which might suggest an unwillingness of the local park system to provide adequate maintenance; she said that the long bench, rather than the artificial lawn, could serve as the invitation for people to gather in this area. Mr. Marshall asked if the suggestion is to pave the entire central space; Ms. Meyer clarified that her suggestion is to use real grass. Mr. Marshall also responded that the standard benches shown in the presentation would be used elsewhere in Langdon Park as part of a general program of improvements, but would not be used within the memorial area; they were shown only to illustrate the wider renovation. Ms. Meyer agreed that the standard design should not be used for the memorial but reiterated that seating is necessary for an area planned as a gathering space; she said that the central space appears to be only a symbol of gathering, while the sculpture area would be more comfortable as an actual gathering space.
Mr. Freelon asked how temporary facilities, such as a band shell, would be sited for performances; he suggested that this use of the central space be illustrated, including additional elements such as stanchions and speakers. Mr. Marshall responded that the D.C. government would typically bring in a truck that opens into a performance stage; a curb cut is provided to provide access from 20th Street to the central space, and permanent infrastructure would not be required. Mr. Freelon said that the temporary presence of the truck would nonetheless affect the aesthetics of the space and should be considered.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered several suggestions for editing the proposal, which she said can be a useful role for the Commission in improving projects. She agreed with the comments concerning too many design features, as well as the maintenance issues involving moveable parts, electrical connections, and the treatment of water. She said that the embossed lettering proposed for the aluminum panels may eventually peel off, and she suggested that all of the lettering be engraved or raised. She observed that the proposed signs depicting musical chords adjacent to the percussion instruments might be easily bent or damaged, and may be overly fussy as an element of the design; she said that the information they convey seems not to be of great significance, and she suggested eliminating these signs to allow greater emphasis on the important elements such as the sculpture and images. She expressed concern that the colors on the ceramic tiles would fade unevenly, causing them to look aged, notwithstanding the typical claims of long–term durability. She noted the architect's role in considering how a project can age gracefully, and she suggested that using a sepia or black–and–white palette would be preferable to full color.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the proposed landscape material beneath the percussion instruments, commenting that it may not be sufficiently durable; Ms. Meyer agreed that it is an unfamiliar material. Ms. Bradley described the proposal as a carpet of bonded wood; she noted that the area of instruments would be flattened out within a steep slope, and grass would likely not be successful in this setting. She added that the artificial turf proposed for the central space, which has a coconut fiber that is pleasant for seating in the summer, may not be feasible on the steep slope. The result is the proposal for bonded wood, which she acknowledged does not have a long history of use; she said that she has used it successfully on other sloped sites that require a stabilized surface as a play area.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested a consensus of the Commission to support the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept submission with the comments provided. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission members want to see the project again or prefer to delegate review of the final design to the staff; Ms. Meyer requested that the final design submission be presented to the Commission.
F. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
1. CFA 17/APR/2014–6, Metro Memorial Park. A portion of Fort Circle Park, Reservation 497, between Fort Slocum Park and Fort Totten Park, 5720 New Hampshire Avenue, NE (corner of New Hampshire and South Dakota Avenues). New memorial to honor the victims of the 2009 Metrorail Red Line accident. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal for a new memorial park honoring the victims of the 2009 Metrorail Red Line accident. The park would be located at the corner of New Hampshire and South Dakota Avenues, NE, near the site of the accident; the site is currently under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and is being transferred to the D.C. government for this use. She asked architects Julian Hunt, Lucrecia Laudi, and Monling Lee of Hunt Laudi Studio and sculptor Barbara Liotta to present the proposal.
Mr. Hunt said that the site is part of the Fort Drive Park system proposed by the 1901 Senate Park Commission Plan to connect former Civil War fort sites in a ring around central Washington. Although land was acquired, the intended road connecting the sites was never completed. He said that the park has two audiences: the adjacent neighborhood and the families of the accident victims. The original site across New Hampshire Avenue, preferred by the families, is adjacent to the scene of the accident; however, community members expressed concern about this location and the currently proposed site was chosen because it is closer to the neighborhood institutions of Greater St. Paul's Baptist Church and the Blair Road Community Garden. He described several influences on the design: the image of a railroad running through a landscape depicted in the 1844 painting Rain, Steam, and Speed—The Great Western Railway by Joseph M.W. Turner, and the concept of a sacred grove marking the site of a forgotten event, discussed by James Frazer in The Golden Bough.
Ms. Lee said that the park would be a commemorative space for the victims' families and a public place where the neighborhood could gather for events. The entrance would be at a plaza along South Dakota Avenue. A mosaic of pavers in various patterns and degrees of permeability would differentiate spaces and guide visitors' movements through the park. The landscape elements would include three earthen mounds supporting nine individual sculptures, corresponding to the nine victims, and groves of trees to provide a sense of enclosure and shelter from the sun. Stone benches would be dispersed around the park. A wall bordering the site would mitigate traffic noise from New Hampshire Avenue; the wall's inside face would carry inscriptions selected by the families. Mr. Hunt said that the park would have a semi–permeable edge with the community garden, allowing gardeners to enter the park for rest and shade. The edge of the site would have hornbeam trees, and the groves of sycamores would include some trees grafted together, through a technique known as inosculation, to create a dense canopy. At night, subdued uplighting would illuminate the sculptures and trees.
Mr. Freelon asked about the logic of how the sculptures would be placed on the mounds. Ms. Lee responded that the four sculptures on the largest mound, near the park entrance, commemorate four women who had young children; the two on the smallest mound commemorate a married couple; and the three on the third mound, midway in size between the other two, would represent the other three victims.
Ms. Liotta presented the proposal for the sculptures, which she said are intended to be simple, clean shapes that are inspired by classical caryatids. Each sculpture would be made from three stacked blocks of Jet Mist granite, square in plan with varying heights. To avoid appearing as if they are growing out of the ground, the sculptures would stand on small stone bases partly covered by earth. She said that she would work with the quarry to choose heavily veined stones in a variety of shades. She described the request from the families that each sculpture be different to represent one of the accident victims, and that the names of the victims be carved on the sculptures. She expressed reluctance to follow this guidance because she wants the site to become a community park rather than a graveyard; she supported a suggestion from Mr. Lindstrom to use initials instead of names.
Mr. Freelon observed that early studies and other works by Ms. Liotta appear to have a rustic and organic character, while her recent drawings show these sculptures as very orthogonal; he asked which approach is intended. Ms. Liotta responded that she prefers straight lines and clean forms, adding that she wants the stability of the sculptures is a concern. Mr. Freelon commented that he finds the rougher surfaces and irregular alignments of the earlier studies more interesting, corresponding to the observation that human beings are not perfect but have their quirks; he added that the irregular alignment could be designed to be stable. Ms. Liotta offered to continue studying the design before the stones are cut.
Ms. Meyer expressed overall support for the design and encouraged consideration of several issues, adding that Ms. Liotta's early figural studies have a powerful character that should be explored further. She emphasized the importance of making the mounds sufficiently large and well–defined to have presence as mounds instead of being ordinary lawns; she observed that a three–percent grade would look almost flat, while shaping the mounds in plan and section may solve additional design problems. She suggested a stronger edge to define base of the mounds, which could be used as the location for the victims' names rather than placing them on the sculptures. For the groves, she recommended planting two or three trees together to create the mass and impact of a grove quickly, and she suggested collaborating with the nursery in advance for the selection of trees. She concluded by commending the project team for their initial instincts in conceiving the design.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Freelon confirmed their support for the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk confirmed that the Commission would like to see a presentation of the final design submission when ready.
2. CFA 17/APR/2014–7, St. Elizabeths East Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE and 1100 Alabama Avenue, SE. Installation of temporary public art by artist Sheila Crider. Final. Ms. Fanning introduced the proposal for temporary sculptures by artist Sheila Crider along two edges of the St. Elizabeths East Campus, fronting on Martin Luther King Jr. and Alabama Avenues, SE. The proposal is part of the wayfinding public arts program for the East Campus. She asked Elizabeth Carriger of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to begin the presentation.
Ms. Carriger said that the wayfinding program is intended to lead visitors and community residents to the campus, which is located between the Metro stations at Anacostia and Congress Heights. The project is being developed in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, which is leading the redevelopment of the East Campus as a mixed–use neighborhood of retail and office space, housing, open space, and cultural amenities. She introduced Darnetta Tyus and Andre Beyers of the Deputy Mayor's staff to continue the presentation.
Ms. Tyus described her role in community outreach and engagement for the East Campus project. She described the community support for the selection process, including extensive local outreach, that has resulted in choosing a neighborhood resident as the artist for this proposal. Mr. Beyers summarized the status of the overall East Campus project, which will encompass five million square feet of development. The solicitation for the first phase, including 1.6 million square feet, is currently being publicized. The emphasis of the project will be innovation and technology, comparable to a research park; intended anchor occupants of the East Campus include a university and major technology firms, including Microsoft. He indicated the area of the first phase within the overall campus plan.
Ms. Carriger said that the proposed sculpture would serve as a visual buffer during construction within the East Campus and would emphasis a connection to the recently constructed gateway pavilion, which provides temporary community with activities and events; Ms. Meyer acknowledged the Commission's familiarity with the pavilion project from recent reviews. Ms. Carriger indicated the nearby former chapel that will soon be redeveloped as an innovation marketplace and technology–focused research center; the proposed artwork is intended to lead visitors to this part of the campus. She presented several photographs of the existing context, which she characterized as a "massive expanse." She described the ambitious timeline of installing the sculptures during the summer for dedication by early fall. She introduced Sheila Crider, the selected artist, who grew up in the Anacostia area and now lives near St. Elizabeths; she showed a mobile by Ms. Crider at a nearby clinic and said that Ms. Crider's work has been featured in exhibits at Washington's Kreeger Museum and Katzen Gallery.
Ms. Crider described her familiarity with St. Elizabeths as a nearby resident and through her studio space on the campus. The sculpture is intended to assist in wayfinding, and the concept includes multiple pieces that are derived from arrow shapes. She noted that her background is in painting rather than three–dimensional work, although she has worked with a metal fabricator for her recent project creating a mobile. The proposal is a series of triangular aluminum pieces that relate to the roof forms of the St. Elizabeths buildings and serve as directional arrows to identify a meandering path along the edges of the campus. Each piece would be underlit so that the path is clearly defined at night. She provided samples of the proposed material, indicating the rounded corners that would be safe for people playing around the sculptures.
Ms. Meyer asked about the length of the proposed site. Ms. Crider indicated the extent on the campus site plan, estimating the distance as approximately 1,100 feet with an additional area near the former chapel. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the number of sculptures to be placed along this length. Ms. Crider said that 24 pieces are planned, ranging from three to nine feet in height and nine feet wide; she indicated the dispersed groupings, with the intended effect of aesthetic balance and directionality.
Mr. Freelon questioned the goal of wayfinding; he commented that the purpose seems more to define the boundary of the campus and establish its identity. Ms. Crider said that these are additional purposes, and the sculpture works in fulfilling all of these goals. Another purpose is to obscure views into the campus, and the varied groupings could provide more or less transparency at different locations.
Mr. Freelon supported the concern for safety and the avoidance of sharp edges. He commented that the right–angle connections at the height of a person's waist might nonetheless be hazardous, even with the rounded edges; he suggested further consideration of the potential hazard for people walking or playing near the sculptures. Ms. Crider said that the pieces could be grouped so that these angled joints would not be in a straight path of people's approach; Mr. Freelon supported this solution. Ms. Crider added that the lighting equipment beneath the sculptures would further discourage people from crawling around them.
Ms. Meyer supported the character conveyed by the presentation rendering but questioned whether it could be successfully applied to the large scale of the site. She observed that the rendering depicts approximately twenty pieces in a relatively small area, which gives an extraordinary effect; but the proposal would actually disperse 24 pieces across a much larger area, and the effect would therefore be dissipated. She asked whether the project's budget could be used for a more consolidated grouping to achieve the best effect, rather than the wide dispersal that is proposed. Ms. Crider responded that the linear site is marked by varied terrain and interruptions by sidewalks, trees, benches, and a road; the intention is to group the pieces within this context to achieve a strong effect. She said that the detailed site plan is still being developed, with the additional goals of minimizing the installation time for the concrete footings. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the importance of considering all of the existing site elements, and she encouraged developing a drawing or model that illustrates these details of the context. She added that maintenance is an additional issue that should be considered; if the lawn extends directly to the concrete footings, then maintenance of the lawn may be difficult and could result in damage to the sculptural pieces. She suggested consideration of a gravel area around the footings.
Ms. Meyer summarized the guidance that the proposed concept is promising but not sufficiently site–specific. She acknowledged the short schedule for installation but asked if a follow–up submission could include a specific rather than hypothetical proposal for the siting; with this information, the Commission could more effectively discuss the effect of the project. Ms. Carriger responded that a site visit is scheduled next week, and the siting details would soon be worked out; she offered to return to the Commission with additional information. She suggested that the metal fabrication could begin while the siting issues are being resolved. Ms. Meyer suggested bring simple props, such as cardboard mockups, to provide a sense of scale within the context; photographs of this display could be provided to the Commission. She summarized her support for the promising concept but concern that the number of pieces will be insufficient for the lengthy site. Ms. Crider noted that her proposal originally included 35 pieces but was reduced to 24 due to cost; she also emphasized the photographic montage that illustrates numerous site elements and the proposed colors of the pieces.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission's concern might result in reducing the extent of the site. Ms. Carriger offered to study the potential for more compact groupings of the pieces in locations where they would have the greatest impact, such as near the entrance to the pavilion and research center. Mr. Freelon said that the resulting proposal might not resemble the submitted rendering, and he supported suggestion for an on–site mockup.
Ms. Crider provided more details of the proposed lighting, which would be solar–powered lights in a circular configuration; their estimated lifespan is ten years, which would be sufficient for this temporary project. She said that three lights would be used for the larger sculptural elements, or two lights for the smaller pieces. She provided a sample of the proposed fixtures.
Ms. Meyer offered a motion to approve the concept contingent on an additional submission to address the siting in more detail; Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that installation details should be provided. Upon a second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission adopted this action.
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead–Luce Act:
SL 14–078, Southwest Waterfront Development. Parcel 11b, Maine Avenue and 6th Street, SW. New residential building. Final. (Previous: SL 12–070, April 2012.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for a new five–story residential building on Parcel 11b of the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment, named The Wharf, at the intersection of Maine Avenue and 6th and M Streets, SW. She said that the Commission approved the concept design in April 2012 and also approved a concept design for the new St. Augustine's Episcopal Church building on the adjacent Parcel 11a in June 2012. She asked Gabriela Lega Riegler of the development company Hoffman–Madison Waterfront to begin the presentation.
Ms. Riegler said that zoning approvals have been received, and the completed design was recently submitted for a D.C. building permit. She said that Parcel 11b is part of the first phase of the waterfront redevelopment; the public spaces for the first phase were most recently reviewed by the Commission in March 2014, including the Waterfront Park located south of Parcel 11b across M Place. She indicated the streets on three sides of Parcel 11b and the location of second–phase development parcels to the west across Water Street. The Tiber Island residential complex lies to the east across 6th Street, and parcel 11a—future site of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church—is abutting on the north; further north across Maine Avenue is the Arena Stage theater complex. The entrance to the proposed residential building, called the Residences at Waterfront Park, will be at the corner of Water Street and M Place at the southwest corner of the site. She introduced Federico Olivera–Sala from SK&I Architectural Design Group and landscape architect Bang Shon of Lee and Associates to present the design.
Mr. Olivera–Sala provided an overview of the building's organization. The first floor would include a parking garage, surrounded by a single–loaded corridor with residential units facing the three perimeter streets; the apartments would have small outdoor areas along with access from the interior corridor. The second through fourth floors would have double–loaded corridors, with some apartments facing a courtyard and others facing the street edges; the second–floor units on the east would have additional entrances from steps connecting to the rising grade of the 6th Street sidewalk. The penthouse level would be set back twelve feet from the main facades. The exterior design is based on the visual theme of a floating frame surrounding panels of brick, inset with glass bays and balconies. The north elevation would be treated as a backdrop for the abutting church. Ms. Riegler added that construction of the church would begin approximately six months after the apartment building; the intention is to finish both at the same time, and the church has a shorter construction schedule. The building's north wall of concrete masonry units would not be clad in brick until the church is built.
Mr. Olivera–Sala said that at the previous review the Commission had questioned the relationship of the English basement–style first–floor units to the rising grade of the 6th Street sidewalk. In response, the building has been moved back from the sidewalk to leave more room for small front yards; the exterior stairs to second–floor units have been rotated to be perpendicular to the sidewalk and designed with open metal construction to allow more light into the first–floor apartments. He noted that the grade change across the site is four feet.
Mr. Olivera–Sala presented the simplified materials palette. The brick would be an iron–spot type, similar in color to the brick of the Tiber Island buildings. Cast stone would be used for copings and other masonry features. Metals in three different colors would include textured metal shingles for the back plane of the elevations, dark metal panels for the building's base, and light silver panels for the partial frames floating in front of the facades. Metal parapets would surmount the bays; other parapets would be low concrete barriers with railings to allow views from the penthouse units. The entrance corner would be treated as a tower with an upward–slanting cantilevered roof.
Mr. Olivera–Sala presented the landscape design, which includes standard D.C. streetscape furnishings and materials. Planting beds along the street curb would connect beneath the sidewalk to provide continuous soil for the health of street trees, proposed as willow oaks to match the existing trees along Maine Avenue. Between the 6th Street sidewalk and the apartment patios, a sloped planting area would recede into a low retaining wall as the grade rises. On M Place and Water Street, the first floor would be flush with the sidewalk, with a planting bed or curb between the sidewalk and building. Ms. Meyer asked about the width of the sidewalks; Ms. Riegler responded that they would be six feet wide. Ms. Shon added that the six–foot sidewalk would be in addition to a four–foot–wide continuous tree trench along the street curb and three feet or more of continuous foundation planting along the face of the building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked whether the floorplans are accurate in depicting windowless rooms, presumably bedrooms, next to the building's interior corridors. Mr. Olivera–Sala responded that these would be dens, which are permitted as windowless rooms under D.C. regulations if daylight can reach them through glass doors and transoms.
Mr. Freelon commended the project team for simplifying a complex design. He asked for clarification of the frame concept for the facades; Mr. Olivera–Sala confirmed that this refers to the two–sided, L–shaped structures on the elevations. Mr. Luebke noted that the design has been much simplified since its concept approval in April 2012, when it had full rectangular frames and a greater variety of materials. Ms. Riegler said that wood has replaced brick on the vertical elements, and the back plane would use the darker iron–spot brick as well as the dark metal panels, with the result that a single color has replaced two strongly contrasting colors.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the landscaping and apartment frontage along 6th Street. Mr. Olivera–Sala responded that a hedge would be located along the sidewalk edge, and the earth would slope downward either to an apartment's windows or to a small terrace with a retaining wall. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if consideration was given to creating more substantial private yards by pushing the retaining wall out to the sidewalk. Ms. Riegler responded that these walls could not be moved closer to the sidewalk because the terraces are actually in public space, which has a four–foot regulatory limit for projections. She confirmed that the proposed exterior stairs for some apartments would also encroach on the public right–of–way, which would be addressed through D.C. public space permits for this use. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that these private uses contribute to the narrowness of the sidewalk within the public space.
Commenting on the entry tower at the southwest corner, Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the building has become more dignified through simplification but the tower design is clichéd and dated; she said that it does not improve the building design. She recommended making the tower orthogonal instead of an angled, cantilevered volume, and suggested that it should also be slightly taller; Mr. Freelon agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that throughout the Waterfront project the Commission has recommended calming the design because so much visual activity is proposed in every building and element; she similarly recommended calming the tower. She observed that the corner of the planned future building across Water Street is depicted with an orthogonal tower, and the two together could form a pair.
Ms. Meyer asked about the public realm of the sidewalk and its depiction in the first–floor plan on page 8 of the submission booklet, which does not seem coordinated with the section drawings. She observed that the trees along M Street are depicted within a small planting strip, but along 6th Street the trees appear to be growing in the sidewalk. Ms. Riegler responded that the 6th Street depiction is probably a graphic mistake; this drawing depicts the floor plan accurately, and the landscape is illustrated correctly on page 20. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the plan on page 8 shows pieces of the building extended beyond the property line, which appears to run through the living rooms of some apartments. Ms. Riegler replied that both Water Street and M Place are privately owned streets that will be managed by Hoffman–Madison Waterfront as part of the waterfront development, while 6th Street is public; the change occurs at the southeast corner where a jog is shown in the property line. Mr. Luebke noted that this project's site is a parcel within the larger development of The Wharf. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the misaligned printing on page 8 results in a lack of clarity in how the building changes around the site, what exactly happens with the landscaped yards, and what a pedestrian would see.
Ms. Meyer questioned the proposal to plant willow oaks on 6th Street: willow oaks grow well in Washington and can have a canopy diameter of forty or fifty feet, while only eleven feet would be available from the tree trunk to the edge of the building along 6th Street. She asked if this species was chosen simply because it is used on the wide thoroughfare of Maine Avenue, and if other species were considered. Ms. Riegler responded that four existing trees would be retained, and the intention is to keep an unbroken line of willow oaks. Ms. Meyer commended the decision to provide continuous soil to ensure healthy growing conditions, but reiterated that willow oaks would be too large in this setting, in comparison to the large willow oaks with ample space on the east side of 6th Street as shown in one of the presented photographs. She anticipated that willow oaks within the narrower space along the proposed building would be severely pruned toward the building and very full toward the street. Ms. Riegler asked for a recommendation of another species; Ms. Meyer said that the D.C. government probably has a palette of recommended trees, and suggested specifying a columnar version of one of these trees. Ms. Riegler said the project team would explore alternative species.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked how the Commission's comments would be addressed if final approval is given; Mr. Luebke said they could be stated as conditions of the approval. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk cited the graphic problems in the presentation materials and emphasized that any drawing submitted to the Commission should be correct. Ms. Meyer added that if one drawing illustrates the building correctly but the landscape incorrectly while another drawing shows the reverse, the Commission cannot have confidence that there is coordination between a design's interior and exterior. She said that a series of section drawings would be helpful, instead of just a single section of an atypical condition. Mr. Luebke noted that the streetscape plan on page 20 shows the building and landscape together; Ms. Meyer said that it does not show the relationship of the landscape to the English basements. Ms. Shon responded that the planter wall along 6th Street would diminish as the grade changes, becoming a curb upon reaching the corner. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Meyer emphasized that the proposal needed to be drawn more clearly and in section. Ms. Meyer said that a variety of strange conditions could exist where the sidewalk and the entrances to the sunken apartments would seem too close to allow a planter strip between them, and each of those conditions is a site–specific grading issue. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the sizes and locations of planting areas varies between the drawings; Ms. Meyer noted that on the drawing on page 8, at the center line of the radius between 6th Street and M Place, the planting strip appears to widen to fifteen feet, while the drawing on page 20 does not show this widening.
Mr. Luebke summarized that the design of the terraces of the first–floor units would need to be documented more clearly in plan and probably section; documentation of revisions to the corner tower and roof would also be needed. He noted that the tower had been presented as rotated at the previous review when the concept was approved; Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested reducing the projecting overhang and pitch of the roof. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission conditionally approved the final design subject to further documentation of the terraces and landscape, as well as reduction of the pitch and overhang of the corner tower roof; review of these issues was delegated to the staff. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted that the Commission is not acting on the interior plans, which appear to include windowless bedrooms.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:07 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: May 16, 2014