Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 June 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 10:07 a.m.
Mr. Luebke said that President Obama has recently announced his intention to appoint Mia Lehrer, a landscape architect in Los Angeles, as a member of the Commission. He said that further information would be provided after the appointment has been made.
Mr. Luebke said that the update of the Commission's website remains under development; the launch of the redesigned site is anticipated for fall of 2014.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 15 May meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the May meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 17 July, 18 September, and 16 October 2014. He noted that no meeting is scheduled during August. He added that the publicized draft agenda included an administrative item to adopt the calendar of 2015 meeting dates and submission deadlines; this item has been removed from the final agenda to allow for further staff consideration of the 2015 schedule. He anticipated that this adoption would be placed on the agenda of the July meeting.
C. Appointment of Richard Williams, FAIA, to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve the appointment of Richard Williams to the Old Georgetown Board for a three–year term from September 2014 through July 2017. Mr. Williams would replace David Cox, who has served on the Board since 2007. Mr. Luebke summarized Mr. Williams' background as founder of a design practice with institutional and residential projects. He cited several of Mr. Williams' past clients, including Dumbarton Oaks, the Center for Hellenic Studies, St. Albans School, and the Washington National Cathedral. He noted that the work has been widely published and has won professional awards in architecture and landscape architecture. Chairman Powell supported the appointment, citing his admiration for Mr. Williams' work and commenting that he is well qualified for the Board. Upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the appointment.
D. Report on the position announcements for hiring new staff (posted on www.USAJOBS.gov). Mr. Luebke reported that a staff position is currently available for either an architect or architectural historian to assist with Old Georgetown cases. The announcement for the position can be obtained through the federal government's USAJOBS website, and the application deadline is 23 June. He noted the 35 percent increase in the Old Georgetown caseload since the previous addition of a staff position in 2006 to work on these projects.
E. Confirmation of the recommendations for a Congressional Gold Medal to honor Shimon Peres, President of Israel. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to take a formal vote to confirm the design recommendation for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring Shimon Peres. To accommodate the Mint's production schedule for awarding the medal in a July ceremony, the design alternatives were circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting for an expedited review. He summarized the recommendation that was provided by the Commission members for obverse #1 and reverse #1. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission confirmed this recommendation.
F. Report on the approval of one object proposed for acquisition by the Freer Gallery of Art. Mr. Luebke reported the Chairman's approval in late May of the Smithsonian Institution's purchase of a bowl for the permanent collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. The glazed tea bowl from the early 18th century includes incised graphic motifs and a patterned overlay; he circulated a photograph of the bowl. He said that an expedited approval was necessary, and the purchase was successfully completed; the bowl will serve an important role in the Freer's collection. Chairman Powell said that he inspected the bowl, and he emphasized the beauty of the piece. He said that the Commission members may be able to inspect it when next visiting the Freer Gallery; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer requested the opportunity to see it.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Lindstrom 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 change to the draft appendix is the addition of a report that the staff has approved one project by delegated authority: the final design for the D.C. KIPP College Prep High School. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler noted that two appendix listings (case numbers SL 14–126 and 14–127) concern the concept design for the Museum of the Bible, which was previously presented to the Commission for review; she said that the staff finds the current submissions to be responsive to the Commission's previous comments, and they are therefore placed on the appendix. She reported several changes to the draft appendix. Three cases are now listed with favorable recommendations based on the receipt of supplemental information (SL 14–113, SL 14–118, and SL 14–122). One case has been removed from the appendix and will be considered in July (SL 14–117). The favorable recommendation for one project (SL 14–129) is contingent on receipt of supplemental materials, and she requested authorization for the staff to finalize this recommendation upon receipt of the information.
Mr. Krieger commented that the Museum of the Bible design responds well to the Commission's previous advice; Mr. Powell agreed in supporting this project. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez said that the review of Old Georgetown cases will benefit from the appointment of Richard Williams to the Old Georgetown Board and from the hiring of a third staff person to focus on Georgetown; he emphasized the contributions of Ms. Barsoum, who joined the staff in 2006. He confirmed that the availability of the new position has been publicized but the process to select a candidate has only just begun.
Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Two projects were removed at the request of the applicants for preparation of revised designs (case numbers OG 14–185 and 14–188). Further information from the applicants is anticipated for two projects (OG 14–124 and 14–194), and he requested authorization for the staff to finalize these recommendations after receipt of the information. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
CFA 19/JUN/14–1, Murrow and Monroe Parks, Pennsylvania Avenue at 18th and 20th Streets, NW. Public art project—illuminated fountain and modifications to existing light fixtures. Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the public art proposal for the installation of aesthetic illumination in two small triangular parks located a block apart on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. The park between 18th and 19th Streets is named for journalist Edward R. Murrow, and the park between 20th and 21st Streets is named for the fourth president, James Monroe. The project was initiated by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District in cooperation with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Park Service, which administers both parks. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to introduce the project; Mr. May introduced Elizabeth Carriger of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
Ms. Carriger said that the intent of the project is to add artistic illumination to encourage increased use of the parks and to create a visual relationship between them. Both parks have minimal lighting and are not heavily used, though many pedestrians pass by them. She said that the project is in accordance with National Park Service guidelines for the development of cultural landscapes. She summarized the proposal: in Murrow Park, programmable color–changing LED lighting will be added to eight existing light fixtures; in Monroe Park, the existing fountain will be animated with recirculating water and changing LED lighting. She introduced the selected artist, Duilio Passariello, to present the proposal; she noted his decades of work on artistic lighting projects and his contributions to technological advances in the field.
Mr. Passariello described his interest in the interaction between light and sound. Since the two parks have little visual connection, he is creating a conceptual relationship by using recordings of Edward R, Murrow's voice, taken from his speeches and television and radio programs, to modulate and synchronize the lighting in both parks. The project would use a synthesis of red, green and blue light. In Murrow Park, color would be used on the existing light fixtures to produce a sense of the passage of time. Three elements would be illuminated—the caps, the lanterns, and the ground beneath. A single projector would light the caps; four linear projectors would illuminate the cylindrical lanterns; and LED downlights, in combination with the lighting of the lanterns, would light the ground beneath each lightpost to create a continuous ground–level illumination. He said the intent is to combine luminous elements seeming to float above the park with illumination of the pavement and surroundings. Mr. Krieger asked about the effect of nighttime lighting in the surrounding office buildings on the installations; Mr. Passariello responded that these cast a yellow tint that will be taken into consideration.
For the Monroe Park fountain, Mr. Passariello said that his goal is to create a work that would permanently refer to Monroe's historical legacy; the intention is that it would not need to be shut down in winter. The fountain would include stainless steel mesh, a material hand–made from steel threads and links that is frequently used to create waterfalls in retail stores and malls. This mesh would be used to make a three–dimensional sculpture, triangular in plan, with light fixtures installed within that project upward at the mesh sides. Typically, the mesh is used to create a waterfall, with water flowing down along the metal; differing water pressures result in different patterns. In Monroe Park, a trickle of water coursing down the screen would allow for more transparency, resembling a waterfall because the light would move in a softly undulating manner. Fixtures would be arranged to project lights in different colors on different planes. The underlying lighting pattern would be based on the transitions of the seasons, with colder colors used in summer and warmer colors in winter; for example, on summer nights, over a period of 12 hours the colors would move slowly from violet to red. To enliven this slow transition, Murrow's voice would be used to alter the progression. He said that LEDs in red, green, and blue can produce 16 million colors, and the fountain lighting would cycle through all of them. He concluded by summarizing the project schedule and providing technical information about the lighting fixtures and their planned arrangement.
Mr. Powell commended Mr. Passariello on the presentation. Mr. Freelon asked whether Murrow's voice would be audible; Mr. Passariello said it would only be used to modulate the lighting program. Mr. Krieger asked if the lights in Murrow Park would change at the same slow rate as the lights in Monroe Park. Mr. Passariello responded that they would change at the same rate, but in each park the light would be visible through a different medium; specifically, in Murrow Park, the light would pass through a solid, whitish plastic whereas in Monroe Park, the light would strike the reflecting mesh covered with moving drops of water. Mr. Krieger commented that the light on the mesh screen will resemble a pattern or a wave, while on the Murrow Park lamps it will be a color; Mr. Passariello added that the light could also appear as a wave on the lamp. He said that an appropriate rhythm or saturation can be established for lighting projects through careful adjustment. He added that each project would have a different mood: the waterfall in Monroe Park will be slow and romantic, and will give the sense of something turning around, while the lighting of the fixtures in Murrow Park will be vibrant, creating the sense of light moving down. He said that various options for Murrow Park might include lighting the cap and the cylindrical lantern in the same color, or lighting them as a transition between two colors, or in complementary colors. He confirmed that the LED lighting of the sidewalks in Murrow Park would be constant.
Mr. Freelon noted that the parks are 700 feet apart and have no visual connection; he asked how pedestrians would be expected to perceive the conceptual connection between them. Mr. Passariello anticipated that people will discover the connection slowly, and it could also be directly explained through some means.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk congratulated Mr. Passariello on the restraint of the designs for both parks and said that she particularly supports the decision to transform the existing light fixtures in Murrow Park. She said the project overall could have an enormous effect, and it is the sort of calm, elegant project needed in the city that the Commission does not often see. She added that she is not worried about the unpredictable aspects of the interaction of water and light because the restrained designs are not likely to be jarring, though they will contrast with their surroundings. She provided two suggestions for further development of the project. She said that the story or concept is likely to disappear unless it is interpreted, because people will not understand that Murrow's voice is generating the light; she suggested that a webpage could provide this information, and the internet address might be provided in the park. She also suggested that the two lighting programs do not need to be coordinated, since they would be in different locations; the Monroe Park lighting could just rely on seasonal changes, and the two designs would still function similarly in the way they influence the perception of moving through space. Mr. Passariello responded that the idea of the journalist talking to the president is important; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that this needs to be explained somewhere. Mr. Passariello added that the triangular form of the mesh sculpture is a reference to North, South, and Central America; he is considering adding large letters spelling the word "America" to wrap around the sculpture so that it would be perceived as a person moves through the park. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized her support for the concept; Mr. Powell added that the project is more elegant and focused than many seen by the Commission.
Ms. Meyer said that she supports the project and finds the two parks to be sufficiently close together to sustain the intended relationship. She commented that the Monroe Park design seems somewhat mute, even with the triangular fountain installation, and she encouraged Mr. Passariello to think more about the relationship between speech, the Constitution, and James Monroe. She emphasized that the overall project is a welcome collaboration between the National Park Service and local agencies in seeking to animate these two triangle parks, which are a common presence in Washington and are usually treated as insignificant spaces. However, she expressed concern about the contextual relationship between the subtle lighting proposed for Murrow Park and the existing light of the surrounding office buildings because their interaction could not be anticipated fully; she encouraged testing to ensure that the lighting projects are not inconsequential. She questioned how the fountain would look in winter when the water is turned off, and whether the joints between the planes of the metal mesh would be solid or open. Mr. Passariello responded that the joints would be closed with steel wire stitching, and he anticipated that the project's luminosity would dominate the surrounding lighting because of its greater attractiveness; he added that eventually arrangements could be made to have the lighting in surrounding buildings shut down. He said that in winter, the National Park Service would shut off the water and drain the system, but the lighting effect would still occur; the illuminated mesh would be visible at all times, on both overcast and sunny days.
Mr. Luebke clarified for the Commission that this project had been submitted as a final design. He said that the Commission could request construction of a mockup to address questions about brightness and programming, and could delegate review of the mockup to the staff; he added that further construction documentation is needed, and there is also a question of the need for signage or another minimal interpretive element. He asked about historic preservation review; Mr. May of the National Park Service responded that the project is still going through this process but he did not expect it to result in any significant change.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the submission subject to consideration of the issues identified, and to delegate further review to the staff. Upon a second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 19/JUN/14–2, National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Relocate Calder sculpture and restore reflecting pool. Revised design for reflecting pool. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/11–a.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed revision to the approved design for reconstruction of the reflecting pool adjacent to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History; the project includes the relocation of an Alexander Calder sculpture, Gwenfritz, to its original setting on a platform in the pool. The proposed revision is a change of the approved material for the pool liner. She asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the approved finish, "Pebble Tec," had been included in the submission to the Commission in 2011 following extensive discussion with advisory groups, but its disadvantages became evident during the pool's reconstruction. She said that the Smithsonian's proposed alternative—accepted by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and the National Capital Planning Commission—meets the original criteria for an acceptable finish because it closely resembles the original finish of light–colored river rock set on a bed of mortar lining the pool bottom. She added that the proposed change only affects the pool bottom finish, although the presentation will include an overview of the project for the benefit of newer Commission members. She introduced architect Don Jones of EwingCole to present the design.
Mr. Jones said that the project is designed to last for fifty years, and all of its elements are intended to be permanent and easy to maintain. He described the site as a sunken terrace situated below the grade of 14th Street, with access only from the museum's lower level. The west side of the museum is now under renovation, and a new window has been added to the west elevation overlooking the terrace. He said that the building code allows for making the pool shallower than the original pool to obviate the need for handrails, which would detract from the sculpture's appearance; a shallower pool would also help to avoid the continual accumulation of algae and moss that had led to the removal of Gwenfritz and the filling in of the previous pool. The rebuilt pool will be 18 inches deep at the sculpture's pedestal with a maximum depth of 24 inches. Original project renderings from 1968, along with photos of the sculpture's original installation from 1969, illustrate how the artwork was lit and indicate that a pebble path was a later installation. The current project adds an accessible ramp with a five–percent grade, which does not require handrails but does require guardrails. A new wall of Tennessee marble to match the original material has been built along the ramp, and the lawn is being reinstalled. He emphasized that original material has been reused whenever possible.
Mr. Jones said that the sculpture, pool, and landscape need to be lit more effectively. The original lighting was provided by fixtures placed beneath the benches. The new lighting system will primarily consist of linear LED fixtures placed in a cove around the pool's perimeter; in addition, the lighting includes uplights in the pool and on the pedestal, walkway lights for the ramp, landscape lights, and lights in the railing.
Mr. Jones said the landscape design is intended to replicate the simplicity of the original, which supported the sculpture as the primary landscape element. Plantings include a background of hedges, including varieties of holly, groundcovers such as vinca, and flowering plants in flanking gardens to provide seasonal color.
Mr. Jones said that the original pool finish has been difficult to determine, but it appears to have been a concrete slab with tumbled stones loosely set on top. At some point after 1969, this finish was apparently changed to stone and gravel set in a mortar bed, which remained the condition at the time the pool was demolished. The sides of the original pool were lined with pink Stony Creek granite and white Deer Isle granite, which will be re–milled and reused.
Mr. Jones emphasized that any new material needs to be easy to maintain and highly reflective. The previously approved Pebble Tec finish is a pool plaster containing small exposed aggregate, but development of the design with this material led to the need for unacceptable details, such as tile borders and coved corners. Faced with these problems, the project team has considered several alternative products. A cementitious acrylic with a stone aggregate was evaluated; however, the aggregate would not adhere. A fluid–applied urethane waterproofing finish with stone aggregate was considered, but the colors of the stone were not satisfactory. The third and preferred option is an acrylic elastomeric waterproofing finish, a product similar in color and appearance to Pebble Tec. A mix of river rock can be placed on the finish that will complement the two different colors of stone extant at the pool.
Mr. Jones said that the intention is to invoke the spirit of the original installation while improving on it technically. The original design of the pool—a reflecting pool with still water—caused debris to accumulate on the bottom. For the new pool to remain clean, water must be kept circulating; jets will push the water across the bottom while the surface remains mostly still, and the water will be skimmed at the edges and screened for debris. He presented samples of rock alternatives, indicating the preferred selection which includes smaller stones than the original 1968 selection but in a similar color range of white, gray, black, and buff. He noted that this choice is expensive and the preference may therefore be to use larger stones from a different supplier.
Mr. Powell commented that the loose river rock would be easy to move out of the way for cleaning. He asked what the sides of the pool would look like, and Mr. Krieger asked how much of the waterproofing finish would be visible on the sides. Mr. Jones responded that the pool edge will be trimmed with the original granite slabs, and little of the membrane would be visible along the sides. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the vertical slabs of stone could be longer; Mr. Jones responded that the illustrated piece of original stone had been longer but was trimmed because of damage at the bottom.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the careful attention to the scale considerations of the surface. Based on a comparison with the original drawings, she commented that the proposal for loose rocks on top of the pool surface would create an effect closer to the original than the other solutions that were considered. She said that the larger size of river rock would be preferable and asked whether more of the existing stone could be reused. Mr. Jones responded that this would be difficult and would not look good; he clarified that the existing stone is being used on the sculpture's pedestal. He said that the pedestal was originally a smooth surface with drains; now, trying to keep to the spirit of the original design, the pedestal is being reconstructed with a sloped white concrete surface that sheds water into the pool without requiring drains. Ms. Meyer reiterated that the design approach of reusing existing materials should be extended to reusing the river rock, mixed with new rock as needed; she acknowledged that the amount of existing rock may be insufficient for the entire surface of the pool, but said that the issue is worth pursuing. She also questioned the inclusion of benches in the site design, commenting that they would attract pedestrian traffic and may eventually require paved walks.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposed finish seems like a good solution; he recommended using larger stones, and said he does not think reuse of the original stones is very important. Ms. Plater–Zyberk requested comments from the staff on this issue. Mr. Luebke asked what proportion of the pool bottom could be covered with the available stone; Mr. Jones responded that it would cover only the pedestal, approximately five to ten percent of the total area. Mr. Luebke said that the staff would have preferred the original treatment but, because of the maintenance issues, had accepted Pebble Tec since it was similar in color and material if not in scale, and the Commission had subsequently approved it. He said that when problems with this material became evident, the staff did not support the alternative of a resin–based finish alone, which would be a substitution for a substitution. He said the staff agrees that the proposed finish treatment using river rock would result in a better appearance than any of the other options.
Mr. Krieger supported the proposal as an improvement on the previously approved design. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the proposal for the acrylic elastomeric finish with river rock.
D. D.C. Department of Transportation
CFA 19/JUN/14–3, Klingle Valley Multi–use Trail, Closed segment of Klingle Road from Cortland Place to Porter Street, NW. Construct a multi–use trail and stream restoration. Final. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a trail along a segment of Klingle Road that was closed following a flood in 1991; the project also includes related infrastructure and extensive repair of the adjacent stream. She asked Zahra Dorriz of the D.C. Department of Transportation to begin the presentation.
Ms. Dorriz said that the project has been studied since 2000, and the current design has been received favorably by the public and stakeholders. She noted that the project includes work such as lighting and the repair of retaining walls. She introduced engineer John Malinowski of the consulting firm Stantec to present the design.
Mr. Malinowski provided an overview of the narrow 0.7–mile–long site. The proposed trail, following the former road alignment, is on property controlled by the D.C. Department of Transportation; the adjacent stream is on National Park Service property. He indicated the west end of the trail near Cortland Place, where the former road is currently barricaded; the design would provide a formal transition between the trail and the existing street system. He presented a series of vignettes illustrating the proposed design features, including signage, benches, lighting, retaining walls, trash cans, and the ten–foot–wide trail with pervious pavement. He emphasized the steepness of the terrain, with a 185–foot drop from the west to the east end of the trail. The trail would be on the north side of the stream, and a swale would extend along the north side of the trail serving as part of the water retention system; water runoff from the trail would drain into the swale rather than into the stream. Fencing would be placed along portions of the trail with a steep drop–off to the stream.
Mr. Malinowski described the proposed stream restoration, which he said is designed to accommodate a 25–year storm and would improve the natural habitat conditions. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the stream is sometimes dry; Mr. Malinowski said that it is largely fed by stormwater runoff and could be dry, but it typically has some additional water from aquifers. He indicated the sequence of step pools and stones that would slow the water flow, reducing the energy of the stream. For less steep portions of the stream, the water would be slowed with a grade control structure using rip–rap stone; additional stone stabilization would be used where the stream is narrow or the banks need protection. He said that stone from the site would be used to the extent feasible; any additional stone brought to the site would be selected to be similar to the existing stone.
Mr. Malinowski presented the proposed landscaping, which is intended to establish the groundcover, address the nutrient condition of the soil, extend the surrounding forest, and repair the riparian buffer following the construction work. He described the proposed species of plantings. He indicated the locations for retaining walls—one new and one existing that would be repaired using some of the existing stones. Other fallen retaining walls from the road would no longer be needed and would not be replaced; the topography would be adjusted through grading. Mr. Krieger asked about the height of the retaining walls; Mr. Malinowski indicated the maximum height of eight feet near an apartment building, along a 120–foot length of wall. He noted that a gas utility line passes under the stream at this location, resulting in the proposal to use a retaining wall and bank stabilization.
Mr. Malinowski said that lighting of the trail is required by the D.C. government; he presented the proposed fixture which was selected with consideration of the context. He added that the selection has been approved by the National Park Service. The fixture would include an LED lamp and the light would be directed downward to the trail. He presented images of the typical benches, trash cans, and signs; the signs would be procured through a National Park Service contract. He indicated the 300–foot length of proposed metal fence near the west end of the trail, which would replace the existing fence along the adjacent Tregaron estate; a wood post–and–rail fence would be used along other portions of the trail. Mr. Krieger asked about the extent of the wood fence. Engineer Steve Zeender of Stantec responded that it would be in intermittent locations totaling approximately 400 feet along the 0.7–mile trail.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that the project is being executed by the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) but noted its relationship to the context of Rock Creek Park; she asked if the details such as light fixtures, benches, and fences would match those of Rock Creek Park. Landscape architect Kathleen Dahill of Stantec responded that the fixtures conform to DDOT standards; the bench design was chosen through public meetings, resulting in the selection of a metal bench with three armrests. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked how these selections relate to the rest of Rock Creek Park; Mr. Malinowski responded that the park trails are generally not lit. Mr. Zeender responded that he has worked previously on Rock Creek Park projects, and the park does not have a consistent standard; lighting is generally provided at some intersections but not along trails. He said that the proposed light fixtures were reviewed by the National Park Service, which agreed with the community concern to contain the light within the DDOT right–of–way.
Ms. Meyer expressed overall support for the conversion of the former roadway to a trail. She acknowledged the public process that has resulted in the proposed details but said that she, like Ms. Plater–Zyberk, has some concerns about the character of the design; the proposal has the refined character of street furniture rather than having the character of Rock Creek Park. She said that the painted metal bench seems more appropriate to a downtown park; Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Krieger said that it might be found along the street or sidewalk. Ms. Meyer added that the aggregated effect of the design is difficult to understand because it is presented as a series of vignettes; she said that the Commission is apparently being asked to approve a set of materials and design elements rather than an overall landscape design. She offered the example of the 700–foot total length of fence, which could have different spatial rhythms and different effects on the design character depending on the length and spacing of its segments. She concluded that the submitted drawings are insufficient for an evaluation of the project's effect, notwithstanding the support that has emerged through the public process. She emphasized that the designer needs to create a coherent project with an understanding of the effects of the small parts, moving beyond the citizen opinions. She said that the drawings suggest an urban sidewalk character that is being inserted into the edge of a large woodland park; this perception is especially suggested by the drawing of the trail's west end, depicting small plantings which seem entirely out of scale with the forest. She summarized her concern that the design is discordant and insufficiently described, and the current proposal should therefore not be approved.
Mr. Krieger said that one example of the discordant design is the potential juxtaposition of a wood fence and metal benches, depending on whether they would be located near each other; Ms. Meyer agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the placement and end conditions of the wood fence should be clarified, and the west end of the trail appears to be simply a leftover piece of street rather than an intentional design. She added that the proposed step pools look promising in the photograph of another stream, but less promising in the drawing for this project. She suggested selecting a drawing scale that would allow a better understanding of the entirety of this project. Ms. Meyer said that at least large–scale elevations would be helpful. She added that the stream restoration techniques look convincing and appropriate; the problem is with the trail and site furnishings. Mr. Freelon agreed with these concerns, emphasizing that the quality of the drawings is not refined enough to give an understanding of how the parts would work together; he expressed disappointment with the cartoon–like drawing character at this stage of the design process. Mr. Krieger agreed that the renderings should be more persuasive.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk summarized the apparent consensus to support the creation of the trail, along with many of the ideas and project components in the proposal, but to question the appropriateness of the site furnishings and to request a more thorough presentation of the design with more carefully considered details that have the character of the park setting. She commented that the Commission sometimes gives lengthy consideration to stone patterns or wall details in projects, and simply presenting a stated intention—such as matching a certain character or using local stone—can be insufficient assurance of the resulting design quality. Ms. Meyer agreed. Mr. Krieger added that adequately rendering a project of such great length is difficult, but some sort of diagrammatic or graphic technique is needed to convey the location of the design elements, such as benches, trash cans, walls, and fences.
Ms. Dorriz of DDOT asked for advice on where in Rock Creek Park to look for appropriate design precedents for the site furnishings. Mr. Luebke responded that even if precedents are not present within Rock Creek Park, the general design character of the proposal should be more suited to the woodland setting than to an urban context; he offered to work further with the project team and to assist in consultation with the National Park Service. Chairman Powell confirmed that the Commission is not requesting that the details match any specific precedent. He encouraged consultation with the staff on details such as the bench; Ms. Meyer said that the character of the bench could be related to the character of the wood fence, perhaps resulting in a bench without a back. She encouraged the designers to have a better understanding of these relationships among elements rather than simply choose off–the–shelf furnishings that have been endorsed by others. She said that the design goal is to use these elements to create a place, not just to specify the different furnishings. Mr. Krieger said that the troublesome character of the project is most apparent on pages 46 and 47 of the submission booklet; Ms. Meyer agreed that the design furnishings illustrated on these pages do not appear to be in the same family.
Chairman Powell suggested that the project team respond to these comments with a new submission; no vote would be taken on the current proposal. He summarized the Commission's enthusiasm for the project and the desire to see a more fully developed presentation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Old Georgetown Act
OG 14–170, 3700 O Street, NW, Georgetown University. Northeast Triangle Residence Hall—New eight–story residence hall. Concept. (Previous: OG 14–055, 20 March 2014.) Ms. Barsoum introduced the proposal for a residence hall at Georgetown University, which was previously presented to and approved by the Commission as a concept design in March 2014. She asked architect Regina Bleck of Georgetown University to begin the presentation of the revisions to the design which have been referred by the Old Georgetown Board. Ms. Bleck introduced landscape architect Gautam Sundaram and architect Katia Lucic, both of Sasaki Associates, to present the design response to the Commission's previous comments.
Mr. Sundaram provided an overview of the context and the triangular site; he indicated the Reiss Science Building to the southwest, a university residential complex to the north, academic buildings to the south, and the university's property line to the east with a private school beyond. He presented the proposed site design and ground–floor plan, indicating the campus walk that would extend through the site and along the southwest facade of the residence hall. He indicated the topographic change across the site, with stairs and a ramp at the south end of the walk. Much of the residence hall's ground floor would be common spaces for students, connecting to the outdoor areas to the southwest and south.
Mr. Sundaram described several revisions since the previous presentation to the Commission. The standard campus light fixture would be used for the outdoor areas of the project, rather than the fixture that was previously presented; a shield would be incorporated to reduce upward lighting, and additional lighting would also be provided below the benches. More of the site paving would use a pervious material, rather than just at the plaza, and the design of the exterior paving would extend the character of the interior space. Additional bicycle racks are now proposed at both the north and south entrances of the building. The proposed second–floor patio at the northeast corner of the building would no longer be enclosed with a fence; students would be able to walk on the slope between the patio and the south entrance plaza. He noted the replacement of the chain–link fence along the property line with a black metal picket fence, which remains part of the proposal. He indicated the extensive planting that would screen the vents of the Reiss Science Building and frame its northeast entrance.
Mr. Sundaram described additional details of the proposed paving materials, which would work with the stormwater management system and sustainability goals and would also accommodate emergency vehicles. Mr. Krieger asked about the existing fences on the site; Mr. Sundaram confirmed that they would be removed. He presented a rendering of the site from the south, as pedestrians approach on the campus walk. Mr. Krieger noted the handrails in the landscape and asked about the slope of the proposed ramp. Mr. Sundaram responded that it is approximately eight percent, exceeding the five–percent maximum for a walk without handrails; he said that it would replace an existing ramp that does not comply with codes. Mr. Krieger asked if the ramp layout could be adjusted to a five–percent grade, allowing for the handrails to be eliminated. Mr. Sundaram emphasized the site constraints in this area, including an existing wall, a memorial garden, and large oak trees. Mr. Krieger nonetheless suggested further study of the bends in the layout to reduce the slope. Mr. Sundaram agreed to reexamine the configuration, while noting that grade changes and cheek walls may disturb the existing tree roots.
Ms. Lucic presented the architectural revisions to the project, noting the Commission's previous comments concerning the use of materials, detailing of the lintel above the first floor, and window proportions. The design now limits the use of stone to the entrance tower at the south corner and along the ground floor; the stone is intended to relate the building to the historic Georgetown campus. The height of the steel lintel has been reduced from 24 to 16 inches, and its continuity is now more consistent around the building. The repeated pairs of narrow windows have been grouped together with a single stone mullion between them; she said that this design relates more closely to the older buildings on the campus, and the facades would still have a sufficient variety of window sizes. Mr. Luebke clarified that the proposal now includes a pair of windows within a single opening of the brick wall, rather than the previous proposal for two narrow openings separated by brick. The Commission members asked about the dimensions of the windows; Ms. Lucic said that the sizes have changed slightly but are constrained by the layout of rooms and furniture. She said that the design goal is for each bedroom to have the same area of window glass.
Ms. Lucic presented several renderings of the revised design, emphasizing that the reduced extent of stone gives the building a lighter character. She indicated the revised relationship of the stone and lintel to the northwest entrance tower and the limestone window details, and the revised treatment of the lintel on the north facade. She described the detailed studies of the two building entrances, indicating the use of materials including wood. She presented the proposed signage lettering at the two entrances, consistent with other building signage on the campus. She said that a cross would be placed on the facade, in keeping with the university's tradition; she presented two options for its placement. Locations on the two entrance towers were considered, but the design team prefers to place the limestone cross on an area of brick facade for visual clarity.
Mr. Krieger commented that the revisions appear to be an improvement, although the previous design is not illustrated in the presentation. Ms. Meyer noted that some of the presented renderings differ from those in the submission booklet. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the exterior material of the penthouse; Ms. Lucic said that it would have metal cladding and would not be visible from the ground. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the gap in the parapet treatment above the top–floor windows; Ms. Lucic said that the parapet would be interrupted, and the lintel area above would be recessed.
Mr. Krieger expressed support for the revision to separate the second–floor window sills from the metal lintel below, as well as for the landscape improvements and the reduction in the use of stone; he encouraged continued improvement in the design as it is developed further. He questioned the inconsistent treatment of the lintel above the first floor, suggesting that its dimension could be expressed more continuously around the building even as the material changes in response to different facade conditions. He said that the lintel should continue consistently across the rear of the building, serving to separate the stone base from the brick facades above. Ms. Lucic said that the intention is to maintain the lintel dimension across the facade, although this may not be clear in the renderings. Mr. Luebke said that the Old Georgetown Board discussed the lintel treatment; the intended design logic, perhaps not acceptable to the Commission, is to use the lintel where larger first–floor openings are located—along the southwest facade and around the entrance towers. The lintel becomes problematic at the rear because the topography rises above the lintel height. Mr. Krieger said that the issue is a consistent dimension rather than giving the appearance of supporting the facade's weight on the lintel; he supported the narrower dimension in the current proposal, while encouraging a consistent lintel alignment to be expressed across changes in the facade. He emphasized his overall support for the project. Ms. Lucic said that the details would be explored further in the next several months of the design process, which is now at the end of the design development phase.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk encouraged reconsideration of the detail above top–floor windows to convey a sense of completing the building composition rather than having glass appear to meet the sky. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that the project has generally improved. Mr. Freelon supported the proposed proportions and said that the building is handsome and well designed. He welcomed the further exploration of details in the final months of the design process.
Ms. Meyer expressed support for the thoughtful site plan. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that the ramp railing is a jarring element compared to the overall restraint of the project. She acknowledged the site constraints and the effort involved in laying out the ramp, but she encouraged further effort to reduce the slope. She also supported the careful consideration that has been given to managing drainage on the site. She said that the plant palette seems less thoroughly considered, with some attention to color and texture but less care in selecting the specific species; for example, she questioned the apparent intention to combine Russian sage and scilla. She said that the design logic may be to use native plants or to use whatever works for this project—and either approach could be acceptable—but the logic is not yet clear. She suggested considering these issues in the final design phase, and she emphasized her overall support for the project.
Mr. Luebke noted that the project is at an advanced stage of design, and it will be reviewed further by the Old Georgetown Board; he asked if the Commission would need to see a subsequent presentation of the project. Chairman Powell noted that the consensus to support the project with the assurance that the details will be considered further. He added that he supports the design team's preference for the location of the cross; Mr. Krieger agreed. Upon a motion by Chairman Powell with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the concept submission and delegated further review to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Krieger expressed interest in seeing the resolution of the issue involving expression of the lintel line around the building; Ms. Lucic offered to keep him informed.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12:54 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: July 18, 2014