Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
15 September 2011
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 10:08 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 21 July meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 20 October 2011, 17 November 2011, and 19 January 2012; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December.
C. Report on site inspections. Mr. Luebke reported on the Commission's three site inspections earlier in the morning, all associated with projects on the agenda: an on–site mockup of the tapestries being developed for the planned Eisenhower Memorial at Independence Avenue and 4th Street, SW; the proposed playground location adjacent to the Main Treasury Building at Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street, NW; and the proposed site of a retail entrance on the central plaza of the L'Enfant Plaza complex along 10th Street, SW. Chairman Powell suggested discussing the inspections in conjunction with the review of the submissions. (See agenda items II.B, II.G, and II.H.)
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I — Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported one change to the draft appendix: a small project at the Army band's building, with a favorable recommendation, was accidentally omitted due to a database error, and has now been included as case number CFA 15/SEPT/2011–p. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II — Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. A submission for a private residential fence (case number SL 11–133) has been withdrawn and will likely be resubmitted in the near future. The recommendation for an awning at 2401 E Street, NW (case number SL 11–143) was changed to favorable based on revisions to the proposal. Minor changes were also made to the dates for several proposals. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Ms. Balmori, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.H for an additional Shipstead–Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III — Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported the changes to the draft appendix. Several recommendations have been updated in response to supplemental materials. Two projects with unfavorable recommendations have been withdrawn by the applicants and will be resubmitted for review by the Old Georgetown Board. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. National Park Service
CFA 15/SEP/11–1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JAN/11–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the revised concept submission for the Eisenhower Memorial, noting that Mr. Schlossberg is recusing himself from this agenda item. Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's previous review of the project in January 2011, including approval of the project team's preferred concept alternative and suggestions for further study–particularly of the tapestries and their support system. The Commission had also recommended treating the site as an urban space with a focused memorial precinct set within a grid of trees as shown in two of the alternatives.
Mr. Luebke described the major design revisions since the previous review. The two smaller tapestries on the north have been rotated to be perpendicular to Independence Avenue and face the memorial plaza, suggesting the definition of an urban room rather than a proscenium; the position of these tapestries is slightly offset to frame the diagonal alignment of Maryland Avenue, SW. The large tapestry on the south has been reduced in length to improve visibility for the corners of the adjacent Department of Education headquarters building, and otions will be presented for the diameter of the support columns. The fabrication technique for the tapestries has been developed further, resulting in the on–site mockups which the Commission inspected prior to the meeting; the various techniques have different sculptural qualities and legibility.
Mr. Luebke noted that the memorial's design was presented the previous day to the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC); the comments were generally supportive, and will be formalized in a letter from the National Park Service in several weeks. NCMAC members supported the reconfiguration of the proposed site plan and preferred the stainless–steel fabrication technique for the tapestries. They expressed concern about the height of the columns, their impact on views of surrounding structures and along Maryland Avenue, and the pedestrian circulation pattern through the site. He also noted the written comments on the memorial that have been distributed to the Commission members and the presence of audience members who may wish to address the Commission. He introduced Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation.
Mr. May conveyed the continuing support of the National Park Service for the development of the memorial's design. He said that the refinements, although small, have improved the design, and the mockup of the tapestry samples has dramatically demonstrated the progress in developing their fabrication technique. He introduced Brig. Gen. (ret.) Carl Reddel, executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to continue the presentation.
Mr. Reddel summarized the review process to date for the memorial: authorization, site selection, a competitive selection process for the designer, development of alternative designs, and selection of a preferred design. He noted the advanced age of those who served under Eisenhower in World War II and during his presidency, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the project schedule so that they would be able to join in celebrating and honoring Eisenhower. He introduced the members of the design team—architect Frank Gehry of Gehry Partners and landscape architect Joe Brown of AECOM—and emphasized their collaboration with the General Services Administration and the National Park Service in developing the design and adhering to the rigorous maintenance requirements for the memorial.
Mr. Gehry discussed the design team's effort to find the "essence" of Eisenhower, focusing on Eisenhower's inspirational combination of modesty and powerful leadership. The proposal is therefore intended not to overwhelm the large site with large design gestures or pictures of Eisenhower but to provide a "very modest memorial" with a modest garden screen as a backdrop. He described the proposed memorial as a park; the screen would be a tapestry depicting the landscape of Abilene, Kansas, where Eisenhower lived as a child. He described a speech by Eisenhower, as well as remarks by family members, concerning the importance of Abilene in shaping his character. He noted the location of Abilene near the geographic center of the nation and the unusual depiction of a Midwestern landscape in Washington. In keeping with the theme of this image, the centerpiece of the memorial would be a sculpture of Eisenhower as a boy.
Mr. Gehry described the design goal of achieving the simplicity of the Lincoln and Vietnam memorials while not being larger than life nor having too many elements. An additional design goal is to represent Eisenhower as a military leader and as President. The intention is to fit these stories into the memorial design in a simple three–dimensional way. He said that the solution has not yet been developed, with a number of options being studied; earlier presentations included stone blocks with inscribed text from Eisenhower's speeches, or relief sculptures. He described the challenge of avoiding the perception of three separate memorials, instead focusing on a single compact memorial experience within a park that people could enjoy. Additional information on Eisenhower could be made available to visitors through electronic means such as mobile telephones.
Mr. Gehry presented the modifications to the design made in response to the many comments that have been received since the previous submission. The position of the two smaller tapestries had originally been intended to suggest a proscenium form facing the terrace of the National Air and Space Museum to the north; after further study, the tapestries have been rotated to parallel the east and west ends of the site, framing the central space and defining two smaller park areas along Fourth and Sixth Streets. He said that the two parks were considered as locations for addressing Eisenhower's military and presidential contributions, but this approach was rejected because it would fragment the overall story. The revised configuration of the tapestries also has the desirable result of exposing the east and west ends of the Department of Education headquarters building's north facade.
Mr. Gehry said that the Jacquard weaving method for the proposed tapestry was initially preferred but now seems unsatisfactory; achieving the desired transparency with this method requires a significant loss of artistic quality, and Jacquard–type tapestries seeem to be better suited for placement against walls. He said that a hand–woven method will be more successful. He also acknowledged the Commission's previous concern that a photographic image on the tapestry would have the appearance of a billboard, with a more artistic treatment of the image being preferable; however, an artist would typically not want to be limited to a prescribed image that would be necessary for the story being conveyed by the memorial. He said that a young artist in Los Angeles who has worked previously with his firm may be able to execute this work. This artist has prepared a beautiful sample of a hand–woven image with a transparent character, based on the hatching technique in engravings by Albrecht Dürer, as displayed at the on–site mockup. He emphasized that several artists remain under consideration and the fabrication technique is not yet satisfactory, but he expressed confidence that the remaining problems would be resolved. He anticipated that fabrication of the tapestry would require two years and would be partially automated. Maintenance tests would be performed to demonstrate that the tapestry would meet the 200–year durability requirement. He added that coordination with Department of Education officials is continuing, and said that they support the design.
Mr. Gehry said that the on–site mockups have also been examined with night lighting conditions: the tapestry has a sufficiently strong appearance against the interior lighting of the Department of Education headquarters building to the south; it looks even better with the building's lights off, but he acknowledged that the interior lights may be on in the evening. He added that the lighting of the memorial would require further study with consideration of the area's ambient light.
Mr. Brown presented the landscape design concept. He reiterated the intended character of the site as a park but described the unusual combination of features that results from the spatial definition provided by the tapestries: rather than placing a temple in a garden, this project places a garden within a temple. He described the goal of a landscape that people can use as part of everyday work and leisure, rather than emphasizing hardscape surfaces. He cited an allee of lawn and trees at Princeton University as a precedent for the proposed treatment of the Maryland Avenue's diagonal alignment through the site: sycamore trees—native to Abilene as well as the Washington area—would frame a ninety–foot–wide lawn, a dimension that has been widened in response to many comments on the initial design. Other areas of the site would have a less formal and more romantic character, including swales that are reminiscent of the Abilene landscape; plantings would include oaks and informal grasses.
Craig Webb of Gehry Partners provided further details of the revisions to the project. As a result of the rotation of the two smaller tapestries to face the central space, two of the supporting columns for these tapestries would now serve to define the Maryland Avenue vista. The width of the diagonal space between these columns would be 92 feet, an increase from the previous vista width; and the vista would be centered on the view toward the U.S. Capitol to the northeast, rather than asymmetrically configured as previously proposed. In addition to being framed by the trees described by Mr. Gehry, the vista would also be reinforced by benches which would define the fifty–foot width of the historic Maryland Avenue cartway. The trees along the allee would be spaced with openings to allow views into the site, suggesting an inviting character. The side gardens behind the two smaller tapestries would improve the relationship of the memorial to the adjacent federal office buildings across 4th and 6th Streets, and the streets themselves would be approximately centered within open–space settings. The memorial's support building—containing a gift shop and restrooms—would be sited in the side garden on the east, appropriately removed from the central core area of the memorial.
Mr. Gehry concluded by summarizing the improvements to the design in response to comments that have been provided—such as reducing the width of the main tapestry—and the areas requiring further study, such as the treatment of the memorial's central space to convey a more detailed story of Eisenhower. He added that one suggestion has been to lower the height of the tapestries, which he said would weaken their relationship to the context of adjacent building heights. He emphasized the overall goal of simplicity as the design is refined.
Chairman Powell offered support for the project, commenting that it is becoming more sophisticated as the design is developed. He recognized a member of the audience, Lindsley Williams, who asked to address the Commission. Mr. Williams, an urban planner and long–time resident of Washington, said that the project is "spectacular" and agreed that it is improving with further development. He supported the proposed height of the tapestries which would be sufficient to screen the tops of the adjacent buildings from distant views; he said that the integrity of the memorial design would be diminished if the buildings were visible rising above shorter tapestries. He added that memorials are long–term features of the civic environment, while the buildings might be replaced; he described the Department of Education headquarters as aged, undistinguished, and inefficient. He said that the sites of the adjacent buildings could be redeveloped with significantly taller buildings, based on the allowable height along the wide right–of–way of Maryland Avenue, and subject to the normal review process for federal land. While the concept is based on the permanence of the context, he said that the urban setting of the memorial could therefore become quite different. He suggested that the Commission and its staff work with the federal agencies that control the adjacent sites—particularly the General Services Administration—to discourage any future effort to redevelop the context at a greater height which would harm the memorial's setting.
Mr. Williams observed that the large support columns for the tapestries have been included throughout the design process; a slight reduction in their width was discussed at another public meeting although not presented to the Commission. He commented that their round form is unusual in Washington, aside from smaller features such as flagpoles and streetlights. He suggested that their profile be studied further, perhaps using a symbolic form such as a five–sided shape. He also noted Eisenhower's well–known recreational interest in golfing and suggested that the memorial's tapestry might include a reference to this pastime. Mr. Gehry responded that the diameter of the columns has been reduced by one foot in response to further study of their structural requirements. He said that the overall profile of the columns is a matter of taste; Mr. Powell noted the prevalence of round bollards in Washington.
Ms. Balmori asked if the image currently presented is the final selection for the tapestries. Mr. Gehry responded that the current computer–generated landscape view gives the essence of the intended appearance, but the image will be re–photographed in Abilene. Ms. Balmori commented that the horizon line is a particularly powerful feature of the landscape image—much stronger than the trees—and will continue across all three tapestries, serving to unify the design elements. She said that the mockups of the tapestry fabrication have demonstrated the superiority of the hand–woven stainless steel, which has the best transparency and a complex and "amazing" appearance when seen at a close distance. However, she said that the image has the realistic appearance of photography when seen from a distance; she recommended that the appearance be closer to a drawn artwork rather than a photograph.
Ms. Balmori asked for further information about the treatment of the memorial's central space, which apparently will have a series of elements along a wall. Mr. Gehry emphasized that this depiction is only a placeholder, and the design of this area is still being studied in relation to the other elements of the memorial. He indicated the podium area that is now proposed in front of the Department of Education building, possibly for use by speakers; he added that this feature is more formal than the previous treatment, and he is still considering a return to a more informal approach. He said that a sculpture of Eisenhower would also be a feature, perhaps with the assistance of the artist Charles Ray. Ms. Nelson commented that sculptures can have an excessively photographic appearance; Mr. Gehry responded that a more spiritual interpretation is intended. Ms. Balmori supported this general direction for the design but emphasized the importance of this central area in the overall coherence of the memorial, which could be addressed in a future submission.
Ms. Nelson supported the overall effort to focus the memorial but suggested that its scale may still be too large; she asked if the size of the central space could be reduced. Mr. Gehry responded that studies were made in model form of having fewer or smaller columns, but the design appeared to lose its power. He emphasized the overall park–like character of the site with trees being the dominant elements, even in winter months. He added that the scale would be less imposing than suggested in the presentation materials due to the transparency of the tapestries, particularly toward the top with the depiction of the sky. Ms. Nelson said that the hand–woven technique is impressive but may not be feasible for such a large area of tapestry, requiring the use of machinery for some stages of the process. Mr. Gehry responded that the artist's intention is that the entire area of the tapestries would be executed with this technique, requiring approximately two years of work. Ms. Nelson reiterated Ms. Balmori's suggestion that the artist's role could involve drawing rather than the depiction of a photograph; Mr. Gehry said that this would introduce many new issues that would be difficult to address. Ms. Nelson said that this effort would be worthwhile to create a permanent work of art; Mr. Gehry responded that the tapestries as planned will have the appearance of a work of art.
Mr. McKinnell described the proposal as "absolutely magical," emphasizing the improvement of the design since the previous presentation; he commented that the space now appears to have an autonomy that was not present before. He said that the main tapestry, as demonstrated in the mockup, would have the effect of transforming the Department of Education headquarters and making it "beautiful;" as a result, he predicted that the building would not be demolished. He added that the memorial would not feel overly monumental but would be a very gentle intervention into the city.
Mr. Rybczynski joined in supporting the revisions to the design concept. He noted that the reduced size of the main tapestry has resulted in the removal of one column, and the design now has an even rather than odd number of columns; this conveys the sense of a Greek temple–which always has an even number of columns with an open space at the center–rather than the previous appearance of simply a long row of columns. He agreed that the tapestries would be more transparent when constructed than is apparent from the model, particularly toward the upper portion.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the design. Ms. Nelson added that the proposed height is acceptable; several Commission members supported this conclusion. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised concept with the comments provided.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
CFA 15/SEP/11–2, 2013 Presidential One Dollar Coin Program. Obverse designs for seventh set of four coins: William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Final. (Previous: CFA 15/JUL/10–4, 2012 issues.) Mr. Simon introduced the design alternatives for the seventh set of circulating one–dollar coins depicting the U.S. Presidents. He noted that the submissions include only the obverse portraits; the reverse depiction of the Statue of Liberty will continue without change. He asked Kaarina Budow of the U.S. Mint to present the alternatives. Ms. Budow provided the Commission members with a set of the 2011 one–dollar coins including the obverse depictions of four Presidents and the common reverse design.
Ms. Budow summarized the legislation authorizing the coin series and described the source materials that have been used in developing the designs: the official White House portraits; intaglio prints of each President; and the Mint's historic Presidential medals. She noted that the presentation now includes each of these source images alongside each of the alternative designs, in response to the Commission's past request for comparison; the alternatives for each President also include profile poses at the Commission's request.
Ms. Budow presented ten design alternatives for the William McKinley coin. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the proposals appear to be accurate interpretations of the historic painting but do not rely on the precedent of the medal. Ms. Budow responded that the Mint encouraged the artists to make use of all three precedents to develop an original design; the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee has also asked to see designs based on a variety of precedents. Ms. Nelson said that alternative #3 has the strongest appearance; Mr. Schlossberg said that #3 and #5 have the most clarity. Several other Commission members joined in supporting #3 and, upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended alternative #3 for William McKinley.
Ms. Budow presented eleven alternatives for the coin honoring Theodore Roosevelt. Ms. Balmori supported alternative #4 as the best design, adding that it is closely related to the medal which is the best of the three historic precedents. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the medal captures Roosevelt's strong character while the submitted drawings do not; he described the alternatives as "awful" and said that they have the surprising effect of making Roosevelt appear to be weak. He concluded that none of the submitted alternatives captures the essence of this extraordinary person; he suggested that the new coin should reproduce the portrait from the historic medal. Ms. Nelson said that the pose in #2 has the potential to give Roosevelt a more forceful appearance, but this is not achieved; Ms. Balmori agreed and supported the historic medal as the best portrait. Ms. Nelson said that alternative #4 similarly conveys Roosevelt's sense of determination; Mr. Powell agreed that #4 is most similar to the portrait of the medal. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended alternative #4 for Theodore Roosevelt.
William Howard Taft
Ms. Budow presented eleven alternatives for the William Howard Taft coin; she added that #2 is similar to the historic medal. Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson commented that the White House painting is particularly good; Mr. Luebke noted that the artist is Anders Zorn, who painted the Commission's portrait of Daniel Burnham with a similar treatment. Ms. Balmori commented that all of the alternatives are unsatisfactory. Mr. Powell added that the inclusion of the precedents in the presentation is helpful in the Commission's review; several Commission members agreed. Ms. Nelson added that the precedents allow the proposed portraits to be evaluated in the context of historical representations of the President rather than by comparison to the other alternatives; she commented that alternative #10 is the best likeness of Taft. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended alternative #10 for William Howard Taft. Mr. Luebke noted Taft's role in supporting the legislation that created the Commission in 1910, and more generally his importance in the development of Washington.
Ms. Budow presented nine alternatives for the coin honoring Woodrow Wilson. Mr. Powell suggested a preference for alternative #1. Ms. Balmori said that #2 and #8 are the strongest portraits; Ms. Nelson offered support for #2, commenting that it gives Wilson a professorial appearance. Mr. Rybczynski observed that the artist of the historic medal had appropriately used a strict profile pose, with the simple result that only one side of the eyeglasses is visible; however, the artists of the current proposals have included a near–profile pose that turns the head slightly, resulting in the distracting inclusion of the second side of the glasses. Ms. Balmori agreed; she considered alternative #8 further but concluded that this portrait is not successful. Mr. Powell suggested #2 or #6. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended alternative #2 for Woodrow Wilson. Chairman Powell reiterated the Commission's appreciation for the inclusion of the historic precedents in the presentation.
D. Department of the Army
CFA 15/SEP/11–3, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Improvements to the Edward Moore Kennedy Gravesite. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAY/11–1.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposed final design for improvements to the Edward Moore Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery which the Commission had reviewed as a concept proposal in May. He asked landscape architect Joseph Hibbard of Sasaki Associates to present the project.
Mr. Hibbard discussed the site in relation to the adjacent gravesites of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the setting on the hillside below Arlington House, along the axis of Arlington Memorial Bridge leading to the Lincoln Memorial. He said that a defining characteristic of the hillside is that it is not covered with grave markers but has an uninterrupted expanse of lawn, giving it an unusual spaciousness within the cemetery. He added that visitors arrive at the site either by Tourmobile bus or by walking up the hill from the cemetery's visitor center. Ms. Nelson asked how many visitors come to the Kennedy gravesites. Mr. Hibbard responded that the cemetery receives approximately a million visitors per year; the number coming to the Kennedy gravesites is not recorded, but this site and the Tomb of the Unknowns are probably the most visited sites within the cemetery.
Mr. Hibbard discussed several issues concerning access to the Kennedy gravesites. The John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy sites were designed before barrier–free access was required; the primary access route includes stairs, and a small additional path provides a route that is accessible but requires awkward backtracking to exit the area. Visitors currently reach the Edward M. Kennedy gravesite by ascending the steep hillside on a temporary path leading up from the cemetery road, with no direct connection to the adjacent Kennedy gravesites. He said that a goal of the Edward M. Kennedy gravesite design is to improve the overall circulation through all three gravesites. He described other features of the context: the eighteen–percent slope of the hillside; two large willow oak trees on the south; two red maples, of which one will be retained and one in poor condition will be removed; and a planting of clipped evergreens that surround an underground mechanical and transformer room which serves the older Kennedy gravesites. He summarized the design constraints resulting from the context features, including underground utilities, the roadway and paths, and vegetation.
Mr. Hibbard said the proposal is to build a gently sloped path from the Robert F. Kennedy grave to the Edward M. Kennedy grave—which would be relocated slightly—and continuing to the cemetery road, providing visitors with an alternate exit route from the entire grouping of graves. The new granite path would be designed to match the path at the John F. Kennedy grave; a seat wall on the downhill side and a curb on the uphill side would each extend the full length of the path. He described the existing formal planting around the utility area as an incongruous feature within the naturalistic landscape, and the proposal therefore includes replacing it with unclipped evergreen plantings, flowering trees, and naturalistic beds of daffodils.
Mr. Hibbard discussed the Commission's concern in the previous review that the design did not include a place for contemplation away from the circulation path. He said that the steep slope of the hillside is a severe constraint in creating such a place within the requirements for accessibility, particularly in the context of an expansive and continuous landscape character; he noted that the slope of the existing plaza areas at the earlier Kennedy gravesites exceeds current standards. The proposed response to the Commission's concern is therefore to widen a portion of the new path to create a stronger sense of place at the Edward M. Kennedy grave marker; the adjustment is achieved by using a different radius for the western edge of the path. This change requires a steeper grade for the hillside above so that the path can be fitted into the landscape; he provided details of the proposed grading changes in the area, which would be comparable to the existing slope of the hillside. He said that this revised design is inspired by features of the John F. Kennedy gravesite, which in some areas has curving lines that are harmonious but have different radial geometries. He also indicated a location on the site plan for a future marker honoring Joseph Kennedy, Jr., which has been requested by the Kennedy family but is not part of the current submission.
Mr. Hibbard discussed the proposed details of the design. He noted the Commission's concern at the May review about the design of the proposed seat wall in comparison to the existing seat wall at the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite, and said that these features would be related; the goal is to establish a sense of unity between the sites through the horizontality of the new wall. The wall would be made of eleven ten–foot–long solid granite blocks with a slight bevel at the end; it would match the design, material, and finish of existing walls. Other proposed details would also relate to the design of the existing gravesites, including the paving pattern and joints, the eight–inch–high curb with a slight batter, the stair that would replace an existing combination of steps and ramp; and the bronze handrail along with other metal features.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the steps could be eliminated, particularly as a result of the proposed new path that would be ramped. Mr. Hibbard responded that this change had been considered, but the conclusion was to keep a modified version of the stepped path leading from the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite to the road, both because of the large number of visitors and to respect the original design of this gravesite. Mr. Rybczynski acknowledged the practical issue of accommodating visitors but questioned the appropriateness of adding more paving in a cemetery, where the goal should be to have as little paving as possible; the stepped route would become redundant when the new path is introduced. Mr. Hibbard agreed that the path would be redundant but emphasized the intention to minimize alterations to the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite design and especially, for functional reasons, to offer pedestrians an alternative route.
Ms. Balmori commented that the shape of the proposed path is very awkward, especially in comparison to the designs of the other two gravesites which follow a strict geometry; she said that using a similar geometric rigor would improve the proposed path. She said the proposed informal planting around the utility area also appears to be unrelated to the gravesite and should instead be more carefully related to the geometry of the path; she suggested that planting be used to strengthen the design of the path, such as by providing emphasis at each end. Mr. McKinnell agreed with Ms. Balmori and said that the addition, due to its geometry, has the regrettable appearance of being an appendage rather than forming a coherent whole. Mr. Luebke noted that the revised geometry responds to the Commission's concern that the previous design for the path was too narrow and did not provide sufficient room at the gravesite. Ms. Balmori suggested returning to the previous design. Ms. Nelson suggested that the proposed tapering shape be used for the south end of the path, but the constriction at the north end should be eliminated where the path connects to the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite. Several Commission members agreed that the proposed shape is problematic; Ms. Nelson emphasized that the problem is the squeezed configuration at the north end of the path. Mr. Hibbard responded that the revised shape has the advantage of subtly creating a greater sense of place; a full–scale mockup of the layout was installed and it appeared to be a satisfying solution, with the variation in the geometry being barely noticeable. He added that another response was studied that would create a protruding plaza, similar to the treatment of the Robert F. Kennedy gravesite, but the conclusion was that this solution would be unsatisfactory. The immediate family has requested a simple, understated design for the Edward M. Kennedy gravesite that emphasizes the landscape and the expanse of lawn; he said that the single subtle gesture to vary the shape the path, based on the design vocabulary of the John F. Kennedy gravesite, elegantly achieves the family's goal, and he emphasized that the design would be perceived differently when built than is apparent from the site plan.
Mr. Luebke noted Ms. Nelson's recommendation to eliminate the proposed curve at the northern end of the path as well as the Commission's past request to create a wider contemplative area in front of the grave; he suggested further study of a geometry solution that would reduce the constricting curvature at the north while still providing some variation in the path's width. Mr. Hibbard said that a range of geometries was considered, and reiterated that the proposed variation in curvature would not be significantly discernible when experienced at full scale with the proposed hedge adjacent to one side. Ms. Balmori emphasized that the geometries of the other two gravesites have a "nearly classical" appearance, in contrast to the proposed addition.
Ms. Nelson noted that the proposal is submitted as a final design. Mr. Luebke suggested that further review of a small modification in the geometry could be delegated to the staff. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the design subject to further adjustment of the path angle, and he supported delegation of this remaining issue to the staff. Ms. Nelson asked if the widow of Edward M. Kennedy has considered the proposal; Mr. Hibbard responded that she strongly favors the revised design as currently submitted, and he agreed to work with the staff in resolving the issue of the path's geometry. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the final design subject to further coordination with the staff to refine the geometry at the north end of the path; Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Schlossberg abstained from the vote. Col. Victoria Bruzese, the engineer for Arlington National Cemetery, confirmed the Army's support for the project and willingness to study further the plantings around the mechanical area and the curvature of the path. Chairman Powell expressed satisfaction that the project would have a beautiful appearance.
E. United States Department of State
CFA 15/SEP/11–4, U.S. Department of State, Entrance at 21st Street and Virginia Avenue, NW. Addition and building alterations for the United States Diplomacy Center. Final. (Previous: CFA 19/MAY/11–5.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposed final design for the U.S. Diplomacy Center to be located in an addition to the Department of State headquarters building and partially within the existing building. She said that the submission responds to the Commission's comments from the concept review in May 2011. She asked Stephen Estrada, the director of the Diplomacy Center, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Estrada said that the project began in 2000 when the Secretary of State sought to address the lack of public awareness of American diplomats and diplomatic history that have shaped the nation's history; the construction of the Diplomacy Center would help the Department of State to inform the public. The project continues to be supported by the current Secretary of State, who is particularly interested in informing younger people—the most likely group to take advantage of the Diplomacy Center's educational opportunities. He said that a design competition was organized by the General Services Administration in 2005, and Beyer Blinder Belle was selected as the architect. He emphasized the lightness and transparency of the proposal which he said conveys the intention to make the work of diplomacy more transparent to the public. He introduced architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design.
Mr. Hassan described the proposed location adjacent to the older part of the State Department headquarters at the intersection of 21st Street and Virginia Avenue, NW. The Diplomacy Center would be partially within the existing north wing and partially in a new pavilion that is proposed for the building's forecourt. The project supersedes an earlier plan to place a detached security screening pavilion at this location, which would have reduced the width of the 21st Street sidewalk. The current proposal incorporates screening as part of the Diplomacy Center pavilion which contains exhibit space; this results in a much wider sidewalk space and avoids constricting the view corridor along 21st Street. The project would also improve the existing unattractive appearance of scattered security equipment.
Mr. Hassan described the proposed pavilion, a simple glass box set within the forecourt of the historic building. State Department employees as well as public visitors would enter through the pavilion. Visitors would see exhibits within the pavilion, then continue through the historic lobby to the additional exhibit areas within the existing building. The connection of the pavilion to the existing building is carefully designed to provide views of the existing facade as visitors approach the historic lobby; clear and opaque glass would be used to focus the views. He described the circulation pattern, with two screening areas flanking the entrance to address the differing security needs for visitors and employees. The public would also have access to the below–grade level of the pavilion containing a gift shop, bookstore, and cafe. He indicated the mechanical equipment and shafts which would be out of public view.
Mr. Hassan presented the proposed details of the pavilion. The facade would be composed of glass panels with thin metal mullions; the roof would also be glazed, and the stormwater runoff in the gutters would be channeled into the columns. A catwalk is provided for maintenance of the roof, which has been a successful feature at similar projects designed by his firm. The previous proposal for two flagpoles has been modified to retain the existing single flagpole, which would be used for both the U.S. and Department of State flags; he said that this modification helps to simplify the overall design while retaining the historic feature. He presented several perspective views of the project, including a night view which would allow people outside the building to see into the exhibits and the historic facade doors. He also presented samples of the proposed materials, including the various glass textures, stone finishes, and acoustic–absorbing materials.
Mr. Powell and Ms. Nelson asked whether access to the Diplomacy Center would be limited to school groups rather than the general public. Mr. Hassan clarified that any tourist could enter the Diplomacy Center after passing through the security screening; employees entering the building at this location would pass through a second layer of security at the historic lobby to reach the office areas, and employees could also use many other entrances to the building. He said that the entry experience for tourists would be comparable to entering a major Smithsonian museum on the Mall; Mr. Powell supported this approach to public access.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the detailing for the opaque glass areas of the facade, which appear as thick walls on the plan. Mr. Hassan responded that the opaque walls are configured with inner and outer panels; between the panels would be horizontal structural bracing which is necessary because the pavilion will not be structurally connected to the existing building. Air ducts would also be incorporated into these walls, with return–air intakes at the top of the wall and the building's mechanical room at the below–grade level.
Mr. McKinnell asked about the treatment of the plaza spaces to each side of the pavilion. Mr. Hassan confirmed that these spaces would be accessible from the sidewalk, indicating the emergency egress route from the building through the plazas. Mr. McKinnell expressed concern that the plazas might be fenced off at the sidewalk in the future, noting that the egress requirements could be accommodated with gates if necessary. Mr. Hassan responded that the security plan includes a vehicular barrier near the curb, but there is no fencing proposed for the courtyards. Mr. McKinnell reiterated his skepticism that these areas would remain accessible. Robert Sanders of the Department of State's Office of Real Property Management responded that the project has been coordinated with the security staff. He noted that the egress through these plazas is not only for the occupants of the pavilion but also for the employees of the entire building, and fencing would therefore be an especially undesirable feature along this egress route. He added that the Department of State has guards patrolling the headquarters at all times, in addition to the guards who would be stationed at the security screening locations inside the pavilion. He also noted that the headquarters site currently does not have any fencing other than temporary construction fences. Mr. Estrada indicated the additional security checkpoint within the historic lobby, which he said is the location for the security perimeter for access to the headquarters.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission approved the final design submission. Mr. Powell added that the recently completed glass pavilion designed by Beyer Blinder Belle for the D.C. Courthouse is very attractive and a good solution for the building. Ms. Nelson acknowledged the strength of the submitted design but questioned the underlying premise of attempting to teach people through separate museums at numerous government agencies; she added that the exhibits would need to be changed frequently to remain current, which would be difficult for each agency to address.
F. Smithsonian Institution
1. CFA 15/SEP/11–5, National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Relocate Calder sculpture and restore reflecting pool. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal from the Smithsonian Institution to relocate the stabile sculpture titled Gwenfritz by Alexander Calder. The sculpture was originally installed at the center of a reflecting pool on the west side of the National Museum of American History; it was later relocated to a nearby wooded area at the northwest corner of the museum grounds. The proposal would restore the reflecting pool and return the sculpture to its original location. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge noted that this project was anticipated in the Smithsonian's previous presentation to the Commission in September 2010 for modifications to the museum's west facade and terrace. She acknowledged the assistance of the Commission staff in discussing options for lighting, accessibility, and maintenance of the reflecting pool that would respect the original intent of its design as a setting for Gwenfritz. She introduced architect Don Jones of EwingCole to present the design.
Mr. Jones described the characteristics of the site, part of the 1964 design for the museum by Steinman, Cain & White, the successor firm to McKim, Mead & White. The reflecting pool has been filled in and contains a sequence of platforms which supported a bandstand exhibit that has subsequently been removed. Visitors at the museum's cafe terrace can reach the area by stairs; one goal of the current project is to provide barrier–free access from the cafe. The Victory Garden exhibit between the cafe terrace and the reflecting pool will be replaced by a more contemplative landscape.
Mr. Jones said the Calder sculpture had originally stood on a circular 30–foot–diameter granite–edged pedestal in the center of the reflecting pool's east side. The sculpture was lit by floodlights located under nearby benches; he said that this lighting was insufficient and had a harsh appearance, and a new lighting design is now proposed. He noted several other changes from the original lighting conditions: the facade lights are no longer functioning and will not be restored; light will come from the new windows that are being added to the museum's west facade, as previously reviewed by the Commission; and guidelines for lighting on the Mall have reduced the amount of spill light from some windows. He added that the sculpture is black and is generally seen as a silhouette.
Ms. Balmori and Mr. Rybczynski asked about Calder's involvement in the siting of his artwork. Mr. Jones confirmed that Calder was commissioned to create the sculpture for this site and was likely involved in the sculpture's installation in the reflecting pool; the installation was completed within Calder's lifetime. He noted that conservation and relocation of the sculpture itself is being handled under a separate contract.
Mr. Jones emphasized the intention to respect the original setting and replicate it as closely as possible, while meeting current standards for safety and accessibility in addition to using current technology for lighting and for operating the reflecting pool. He presented several of the original architect's design drawings; he noted that the intended planter boxes were not installed, and the original curb would be modified in the new design to improve accessibility. The stone cladding for the proposed wall along the cafe terrace would match as closely as possible the original Tennessee marble used on the building. The proposed walkway along this wall would ascend five feet with a shallow slope that would not require handrails or landings; it would have guardrails which are proposed in glass to minimize the visual intrusion.
Mr. Jones described several issues with the restoration of the pool. The original depth of the pool would now require the installation of a safety barrier to prevent people from falling into it; the proposal is therefore to reduce the depth of the pool so that a barrier will not be needed. As a result, the lighting within the pool—illuminating both the pool and the sculpture—would be higher, requiring a modified lighting design. The original design for the flow of water through the pool had resulted in maintenance problems and excessive cleaning requirements; the proposal includes a new configuration that will be easier to maintain. The paving of the pool was originally composed of loose quartzite rocks and pea gravel, which also presented maintenance problems. The proposal is for a relatively flat surface for the pool's paving; a texture that would replicate the original materials is not recommended for this outdoor setting, and a smaller–textured surface material called Pebble Tec is therefore proposed. He added that the smaller texture would have a more appropriate appearance with the proposed shallower depth of the pool.
Ms. Nelson asked about the color of the proposed paving material in the pool; Mr. Jones confirmed that the lighter color shown in the sample is proposed. Ms. Balmori suggested consideration of a darker color that would result in a stronger reflection of the sculpture in the water, which she said is considered a more important issue now than in the period of the sculpture's original installation. Mr. Jones responded that a darker color could be chosen but emphasized that the water would be moving rather than still, possibly affecting its reflectivity. Mr. Luebke added that a darker paving color would give the illusion of greater depth for the pool, which would be closer to the effect of the original design; he noted that this project serves as mitigation for the insertion of new windows into the facade of the historic building, and restoring the intent of the original design is therefore a significant concern. Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed finish would have a very different character from the original.
Mr. Luebke asked whether the pool paving would include a grid of expansion joints. Mr. Jones responded that the finish material is sprayed onto the structure and then hand–troweled, resulting in a higher–quality appearance than would be found in a typical backyard swimming pool; he offered to research whether the finish material is continuous across the expansion joints. He added that the bed of the pool would be configured as four trapezoidal planes that slope up toward the sculpture's pedestal, and the expansion joints could be located at the intersections of these planes.
Mr. Jones discussed the proposed use of LED lights and submersible fixtures to light the sculpture from within the pool, based on consultation with a Smithsonian lighting expert. Ms. Nelson emphasized the importance of considering the appearance of the lit sculpture against the windows of the facade; Mr. Jones responded that this issue has been studied and modeled. He described the ability to aim and adjust the submersible fixtures, adding that lamps with a warmer color would likely be selected to compensate for the tendency of water to give the light a blue appearance. He emphasized the goal of avoiding the appearance of a typical swimming pool and to use lighting to give the sculpture a dramatic appearance from all angles. He added that ground–mounted lights could be added at the base of the sculpture; the walkways would also be lit because they are part of the emergency egress route, using recessed wall lights and handrail lights.
Mr. Jones described the proposed landscape, which is intended to provide year–round interest and to act as a neutral field with some color provided in the growing seasons. The existing large tulip beds would be removed, and a low horizontal garden would be placed in front of the reflecting pool. A backdrop of evergreens would be trimmed to grow no higher than the sculpture's pedestal; at the sides would be more naturalistic gardens planted with groundcovers and a seasonal variety of flowering bulbs. The area around the pool edge had originally been a gravel path, and was later changed to grass; the proposal is to continue the use of grass in order to focus emphasis on the pool and avoid the introduction of a paving system. He said the proposed landscape would not compete with the sculpture and would allow views to the Washington Monument and the Mall to remain open.
Ms. Balmori reiterated the recommendation to use a darker surface in the reflecting pool, which she said would be a better setting for the black sculpture regardless of whether the water is moving. Mr. Powell agreed, commenting that the original installation was characteristic of the 1960s while the new design should follow modern practices. Mr. McKinnell emphasized the need to avoid giving the reflecting pool the appearance of a backyard swimming pool, which he said would be "disastrous," and said that lighting would be a key factor. Mr. Schlossberg recommended consideration of a continuous strip of lighting, commenting that point sources may suggest a swimming pool rather than the setting for a work of art. He suggested hiring a lighting designer who could provide more advanced guidance on integrating the lighting of the sculpture with the background; Mr. Powell agreed, noting his own experience with lighting a relocated Calder sculpture and the need to use diffuse lighting that avoids hot spots. Mr. Jones responded that EwingCole has a good lighting designer on the staff, and the use of a continuous LED fixture around the pool's perimeter has already been considered. He added that the 1960s lighting installation was characterized by point–source lighting, and one of the project goals is to replicate that original setting as closely as possible. Mr. Schlossberg said that viewers would not be aware of the original appearance; Mr. Powell added that the project provides an opportunity to make the installation look better than it originally did. Ms. Nelson commented that most people would see the sculpture from 14th Street and recommended that the emphasis be on the sculpture, not the water.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the return of the sculpture to its original setting. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the Commission's response to the proposed texture of the pool paving material. Mr. Powell said that the different texture would have little visual significance when seen below the moving water; Mr. Schlossberg agreed and supported the selection of Pebble Tec based on his experience with this material. Mr. Powell noted that in his past research with returning another Calder sculpture to its original setting in a pool, Calder did not seem interested in the color of the water; he suggested that records of correspondence with Calder may clarify this issue, and he recommended further research with the Smithsonian or the Cafritz Foundation.
Ms. Trowbridge agreed to consider the use of LED lighting strips; Mr. Powell said that many options are available for diffuse lighting of the sculpture. Mr. Jones added that another lighting factor being studied is different beam spreads: the lights at the edge may have a wide spread, which he said would diminish the effect of scallops of light; other lights could have a narrower spread to highlight parts of the sculpture.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission approve the proposal and request a revised concept submission to address the issues that were discussed. Ms. Nelson commented that the current siting of the sculpture in a grove of trees makes it difficult to see, and she welcomed its relocation; Mr. Powell agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Nelson with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the concept.
2. CFA 15/SEP/11–6, National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Avenue, NW – Lower zoo precinct adjacent to the Great Cats Exhibit. New Conservation Carousel and pavilion. Concept. Mr. Martinez introduced the proposal to install a carousel at the National Zoological Park; it would be located in the lower zoo precinct between the Great Cats and the Lemur Island exhibits. He asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the carousel would depict endangered species and would be located in an area that was identified in the zoo's master plan as a place for children's activities; the site is adjacent to Olmsted Walk (the primary pedestrian circulation route through the Zoo). She introduced Jennifer Daniels, a landscape architect on the staff of the National Zoo, to present the proposal.
Ms. Daniels said the carousel project provides the opportunity to create an attraction with no animals that would be purely for the visitor and would enliven this area. She presented photographs of carousels at several other parks across the nation that, like the Zoo, were designed by the Olmsted firm; a carousel is located on Washington's National Mall. She also noted that 80 percent of the top 50 accredited zoos in the nation have carousels, with designs ranging from permanent structures to carousels with canvas tops or no shelter at all; the proposal at the National Zoo is for a carousel with a permanent pavilion shelter. She discussed the context for the project: the Zoo is organized according to topography into three precincts—upper, middle, and lower—and the proposed carousel site lies in an area of the lower precinct that is adjacent to a variety of exhibits and visitor amenities.
Ms. Nelson asked if the noise of the carousel would disturb the Zoo's animals. Ms. Daniels responded that the nearest animal area is approximately 250 feet from the carousel site; the aerial orangutan climbing line is also nearby. She that the noise issue has been discussed with a Zoo curator, who responded that the animals in the Zoo have become desensitized to sound. She added that the carousel noise would be mitigated by its pavilion, nearby vegetation, and the topography as well as having a volume control on its sound system. She said that, while the site is already a very active area of the Zoo, a major concern overall is to preserve the Zoo's open–space character.
Ms. Daniels said that the Smithsonian routinely considers using modern and sustainable materials at the Zoo. The proposed materials for this project include a permeable concrete pad, and an adjacent retaining wall and amphitheater seating built of the local mica schist stone used throughout the park. She described the landscape of the site as a grassy slope with a range of young and mature trees; to preserve as many as possible, she anticipated working with a tree preservation specialist to develop a preservation plan. The proposal includes planting native species where possible, as appropriate for Olmsted Walk and the Rock Creek valley. She noted that the submission also includes proposed non–native zelkova trees which respond to the Smithsonian's desire to use trees that will become established quickly and provide shade, but this specification may be replaced with an American elm. She also indicated the proposed retention swales that will collect stormwater runoff from the site.
Ms. Daniels described the proposed pavilion in more detail. It would be a pre–engineered structure with custom modifications to relate it more closely to its context within the National Zoo. The roof would be slate shingles–not the simulated slate indicated in the presentation package—and would be supported on stone–clad piers; these materials are similar to those used in the Mane Restaurant and other Zoo structures.
Ms. Balmori noted the illustration depicting solar panels on the roof of the carousel pavilion, commenting that their appearance seems inconsistent with the traditional design. She offered overall support for solar power generation but suggested that the panels be installed elsewhere; Ms. Nelson agreed that they would be intrusive as depicted. Ms. Daniels responded that while the concept of a solar–powered carousel at the Zoo is exciting, the challenge is to treat the panels attractively; she added that the panels would be installed only if a sponsor comes forward. Ms. Balmori commented that even with a sponsor, an appropriate design is needed. Mr. Schlossberg noted that generating the power necessary to operate the carousel would require considerably more panels than appear in the illustration; Ms. Daniels acknowledged that the rendering is a conceptual placeholder.
Mr. Rybczynski questioned the proposed use of stone around the columns, commenting that these columns are too small for such a treatment. Ms. Daniels confirmed that the material would be a real stone veneer rather than textured concrete. Mr. Rybczynski suggested reconsideration of the material; Ms. Balmori and Ms. Nelson agreed, recommending that the steel columns simply be exposed which Ms. Balmori said would have a more elegant appearance. Mr. McKinnell commented that the actual materials and structure of the pavilion should be expressed rather than concealed, and he supported the use of authentic rather than simulated slate on the roof.
Ms. Nelson commented that interpretation of the carousel will be important in realizing the project's goals, noting her familiarity with a similar carousel—also representing endangered species—at the Dallas Zoo. She said that children would not understand the issue of endangered species simply from riding the carousel or from a lecture or signage; she suggested that commissioning a children's song might be an effective way to further the educational purpose of the carousel. Ms. Daniels agreed and said that the interpretation of the carousel's theme is already being studied.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided. Ms. Nelson noted the free admission to the Zoo and the cost of the project; Ms. Daniels confirmed that the carousel would generate revenue. Mr. Powell asked where carousels are purchased. Ms. Daniels responded that two American companies manufacture carousels, including hand–carved wood, and the procurement would likely be pursued through a request for qualifications; the more detailed design would be shown to the Commission in a future submission.
G. Department of the Treasury
CFA 15/SEP/11–7, Main Treasury Building, 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Install playground on south lawn. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept proposal to install a playground on the southwest terrace of the Main Treasury Building, a National Historic Landmark located immediately east of the White House. She noted the visit of the Commission members to the area earlier in the day. The playground would serve the children from several nearby daycare centers and would be located within the secure perimeter of the White House precinct. He asked Richard Cote, the curator of the Department of the Treasury, to present the proposal.
Mr. Cote described the broad context of the Main Treasury Building as having extensive green space, although the open space in the immediate vicinity of the building is very limited and the building's two courtyards have been filled in with other uses. The proposed playground would occupy the western portion of the building's south lawn, adjacent to the White House grounds and visitor entrance. The playground site is an open lawn; other parts of the south lawn are planted with a rose garden that dates from the 1920s. The playground would be in place for a period of three years which has been coordinated with scheduled construction work on E Street to the south. The layout of the playground is only conceptual at this stage; a more detailed design would be submitted for subsequent review.
Mr. Cote presented several views of the area, indicating the presence of trees that obscure views of the playground site as well as the increasing concentration of security barriers in the vicinity. He said that the limit of public access has been pushed repeatedly southward in recent years, away from the playground site, and this trend would continue with the planned redesign of the Ellipse. He described other areas at the Treasury that were considered as playground sites at the recommendation of the Commission staff. An areaway surrounding the building was studied but it is currently being used for deliveries and parking.
Mr. Cote described the design concept for the playground, which would be funded by a private donor and sponsored by the Treasury's recreation association. The playground would be placed on a pad that includes footings for the play equipment. A mat of artificial turf would be placed over the site due to the presence of a high level of arsenic in the ground.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that the playground would be oddly juxtaposed with the dignified Treasury building, the high–security context, and the arsenic–contaminated soil; noting that a playground would not typically be seen in such an elegant and highly urban setting, he concluded that the proposal is puzzling and difficult to discuss. Ms. Nelson and Ms. Balmori agreed, observing that the presentation renderings demonstrate the incongruity of the proposal with the historic building. Ms. Balmori emphasized the importance of Washington's carefully tended yards that support its elegant buildings and said that the playground would be inappropriate at the proposed location. Mr. McKinnell noted the Commission's general interest in supporting playgrounds for children but agreed that this would be the wrong location for such an amenity.
Ms. Nelson said that an alternative location such as the areaway could be viable with a well–designed playground that could include good lighting and possibly a climbing wall; she also noted the presence of the Mall nearby which provides extensive open space. Mr. Rybczynski said that while a playground associated with the White House might be appropriate for a U.S. president with a family of young children, the proposed location adjacent to the Treasury is out of place and he could not support it.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the presence of playgrounds but oppose the proposed location. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
H. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead–Luce Act
SL 11–150, 435 L'Enfant Plaza, SW. Replacement retail pavilion and alterations in courtyard. Concept. (Previous: SL 99–40, February 1999—new central skylight and courtyard alterations.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept for a new pavilion providing public access between the central plaza of the L'Enfant Plaza complex and the retail concourse beneath it. She noted the visit of the Commission members to the site earlier in the day and said that the pavilion would be centered in the plaza and would not have grade–level inhabitable space. She added that the pavilion is designed to allow for future encapsulation within a larger building. She asked Britt Snider of The JBG Companies, the owner of this portion of L'Enfant Plaza, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Snider said that this pavilion would be part of the second phase of retail renovation at L'Enfant Plaza; the first phase, already completed, has been very successful and tenants are continuing to move into the renovated retail space. He added that the second phase would support the proposals for this area in the Monumental Core Framework Plan which was prepared by the Commission and the National Capital Planning Commission. He introduced architect Andrew Rollman of SmithGroup to present the design; Mr. Rollman had previously presented to the Commission a nearby hotel proposal for L'Enfant Plaza.
Mr. Rollman described the general context of the site: L'Enfant Plaza is within the Southwest Rectangle situated between downtown Washington, the National Mall, and the Southwest waterfront, and is halfway along the 10th Street Promenade which connects the Mall and waterfront. He said that this pavilion could serve to draw people to the waterfront. He described the specific characteristics of the L'Enfant Plaza buildings: the north and south office buildings were designed in the late 1960s by Araldo Cossutta of I.M. Pei's office, and the east and west buildings—the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel and office building and the U.S. Postal Service headquarters—were designed by the prolific Washington architect Vlastimil Koubek. He described the language of the Cossutta buildings as typical of the period and characteristic of Pei's work, expressing structure with heavy columns, beams, and re–entrant corners; he said Koubek's buildings are similar, having thin structural grids within a heavy overall frame.
Mr. Rollman noted that the goals of the Framework Plan include improving connections between downtown, the Mall, and the waterfront, and enlivening districts that have high concentrations of federal office buildings with new streetscapes and mixed–use development. The more specific proposals of the Framework Plan include greater density and a wider mix of uses at L'Enfant Plaza, as well as an infill building at this location. He added that the National Capital Planning Commission is currently working with the D.C. Office of Planning to develop the Southwest Ecodistrict plan, which has similar goals. He presented views of the site and its surroundings, indicating the existing hardscape and planted areas on the plaza. The center of the plaza is occupied by a pyramidal skylight installed in the late 1990s, which brings only a small amount of daylight into the retail concourse; he said that the proposed pavilion would provide much more daylight. He indicated that the two stairways descending from the front edge of the plaza to the retail concourse, noting that they are difficult to find and seldom used.
Mr. Rollman described the features of the proposal. The pavilion would be approximately 60 by 150 feet; entrances at the east and west ends would open into an atrium, with stairways and an elevator leading down to the concourse and its 200,000 square feet of retail space. He said that, following consultation with the Commission staff, a green roof was added above the eastern portion of the pavilion in combination with the skylight to the west. The proposal also includes a new landscape treatment of the plaza around the pavilion: a grid of low planters would be based on the column grid of the existing buildings, and diagonal walks would connect the office buildings with the new pavilion and recall the diagonal avenues of the L'Enfant Plan. The plantings would include groundcover and trees, possibly ornamental cherry trees and locust trees similar to the trees currently on the plaza.
Mr. Rollman described the design of the pavilion in more detail. Similar to the existing buildings, it would have a concrete frame and would be defined by a structural grid. The end walls would be glass, and the roof would be supported by large trusses designed to accommodate a future building. Although such a building is not currently planned, he said that the pavilion would work well in the plaza both as an interim feature and as a structure that could support a larger building in the future. He noted the presence below the retail space of an auditorium, used by the National Transportation Safety Board; the pavilion is slightly wider than the auditorium to accommodate a simple placement of the pavilion's structural columns. He also indicated the location of the planned hotel to the northeast, as previously reviewed by the Commission, and a planned office building to the southeast which will be submitted to the Commission in the next month.
Mr. Rollman discussed several details of the design. The end walls would be built as simple concrete frames to resemble the existing buildings and infilled with a system of glass panels which would continue over the pavilion's top. Both entrances are proposed as vestibules of red glass, designed to be prominent features that would draw people in; he noted that the logo of a red square has been developed for L'Enfant Plaza based on the building facade grids, and this logo has generated the idea for the red portals of the pavilion. He said the pavilion and vestibules would be lit from within at night; the glass of the pavilion's atrium space would have a white frit pattern to make it translucent and reduce the amount of light transmission. He noted that two other alternatives were considered for the portals: one used the white fritted glass of the pavilion, limiting red to the edge of the portal, and a second was predominantly concrete with some red color on the inside. He said that the presented design is preferred as the best way to attract people, particularly family groups walking from the National Mall.
Ms. Nelson asked if an escalator would be included in the pavilion; Mr. Rollman responded that only the stairs and elevator would be provided because the depth required to accommodate the mechanical and structural support for an escalator would conflict with the existing auditorium directly below the atrium.
Mr. McKinnell asked for clarification of the purpose of the heavy pavilion structure; Mr. Rollman confirmed that the truss and concrete frame are sized to carry the load of a future building, and the walls are aligned with the structural columns below. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the Commission might respond to a future proposal for an infill building by recommending that it be located further west, directly along 10th Street, which would not make use of this investment in structural capacity for the pavilion; he emphasized that the client is taking a substantial risk in creating the structural support now for a future building that has not been proposed nor even approved in concept. Mr. Rollman responded that the intent for the future building is that it could actually extend from the street edge to encompass the pavilion as an atrium space. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the future Commission advice could be that a new office building should not come so close to the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel building but should instead be smaller, leaving an open central plaza that is occupied only by the currently proposed pavilion; he noted that such a configuration appears to be suggested in the Framework Plan. Mr. Rollman responded that the future designers could work with such requirements.
Mr. McKinnell disagreed with Mr. Rollman's approach to designing the pavilion, commenting that it is not really being designed as a pavilion but rather as the lower two stories of a future building. He added that such a building would eliminate the entire reason for the plaza's existence, which is to serve as a public space within the neighborhood—an amenity that will become even more valuable as the density of the area is increased with additional development. He said that that a pavilion with a lighter character would be acceptable as a way to bring people down to the retail concourse and provide a contrast with the surrounding monumental buildings, but reiterated his opposition to the idea of the pavilion as a support for a future structure which would occupy the open space.
Ms. Balmori supported Mr. McKinnell's comments and described the proposed design not as a "light pavilion" but as a building with a colossal truss on both sides. She said that a modest glass pavilion would seem appropriate for this project, but the walls of the proposed design suggest a very different concept. She observed that the project has two agendas, and the only one that she supports is to introduce a light pavilion in the center of L'Enfant Plaza.
Mr. Rollman responded that the elevations may have suggested a deceptively large scale, and asked the Commission to consider the design further. He said that the pavilion would be 25 feet tall, with columns three feet wide and a beam depth of thirty inches, which he said does not result in a massive wall. Mr. Rybczynski noted the light character that is possible with glass construction, such as the Apple store that occupies a glass cube without columns; he said that the pavilion does not have to be designed this way but the example demonstrates what can be done. He agreed with the other Commission members that a lightly articulated pavilion could enliven the space, but this would be very different from the substantial structure needed to support ten floors as proposed. Ms. Nelson agreed, describing the proposal as constructing the base of an entire building.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend a lighter design and request the submission of alternative designs. He suggested consideration of enlarging the existing small pyramidal skylight in the plaza to create a special object; this would allow ample natural light into the retail concourse and provide a contrasting form instead of a miniature version of the large buildings. Ms. Nelson commented that a larger pyramid could have an interesting scale relationship with the plaza. Chairman Powell said that the pavilion as proposed would appear to be a placeholder rather than a finished structure, and the project would seem pointless if the future office building were not built. Mr. McKinnell added that approving the proposed pavilion design would be tantamount to approving the future office building, and he opposed this action. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission if they could provide direction about the design; Chairman Powell, Mr. Schlossberg, and Ms. Balmori agreed it should be a light pavilion.
Mr. Snider of The JBG Companies responded that the Commission's approval of the pavilion would not include approval of the future building; he acknowledged that a building proposal would have to be submitted separately in the future. He said the pavilion is merely designed so that its structure would align with the existing columns below to provide flexibility if an office building proposal is developed in the future for this location; he said that his firm is willing to take the risk of spending money now on the extra structure for the pavilion. Chairman Powell commented that the Commission is trying to help the developer avoid incurring that risk. Mr. Schlossberg said that the Commission would be excited and interested in a well–designed pavilion that does not look like a placeholder, but this has not been achieved in the current submission. Chairman Powell suggested the team return with other options, perhaps in conjunction with the planned October review of an office building proposal for the southeast corner of L'Enfant Plaza. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:48 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: October 28, 2011