Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
21 June 2012
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.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 17 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. 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: 19 July, 20 September, and 18 October 2012; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during August.
C. Proposed 2013 schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for the Commission and Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke presented the proposed schedule of meetings and submission deadlines for calendar year 2013. The Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month, with no meetings in August and December. The Old Georgetown Board would meet the first Thursday of each month, with no meeting in August; a Wednesday meeting date for the Board is proposed for 3 July to avoid conflicting with the Independence Day holiday. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission adopted the 2013 schedule.
D. Appointment of Stephen Muse, FAIA to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve the appointment of Stephen Muse to the Old Georgetown Board. He noted that Mr. Muse had previously served on the Board from 1991 to 2000, including four years as the Board's chairman. He said that a biographical profile has been circulated to the Commission members, describing his fifteen–person architectural practice and his academic work. The three–year term would begin in September 2012. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the appointment of Mr. Muse to the Board; Chairman Powell noted Mr. Muse's distinguished credentials.
Mr. Luebke presented an additional administrative item: proposed rules for the Commission's responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). He said that these rules would be applicable to projects falling within the Commemorative Works Act, which gives the Commission an approval authority. The NEPA process for these projects would be coordinated with the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission. He noted that the Commission staff already participates in the NEPA process for these and other projects; the proposed rules would formalize the documentation of this process. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission adopted the proposed rules.
Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Rybczynski gave a lecture on his new book–The Biography of a Building: How Robert Sainsbury and Norman Foster Built a Great Museum–at the National Building Museum on the evening of 20 June. The book tells the story of Foster's first public commission and the museum's influence on British architecture.
II. Submissions and Reviews
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that the only changes to the draft consent calendar were minor editorial corrections. One action previously delegated to the staff has been added as an attachment: approval of renovations to the former Mary Murray Washington School for conversion to a senior citizens facility. He noted two projects on the draft consent calendar at the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant–both previously reviewed at the concept stage–with recommendations that are contingent on the exterior conforming to the facility–wide plan that is on the agenda for review later in the day (agenda item II.E.2). He clarified that the consent calendar action would approve the overall architecture of these projects, while approval of the exterior materials and color would be subject to any comments by the Commission in reviewing the facility–wide plan. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The recommendation for a house at 1718 Crestwood Drive, NW (case number SL 12–097) has been revised to call for removal of a diamond–shaped window, based on consultation with the owner and architect. Two recommendations have been changed from unfavorable to favorable (case numbers SL 12–106 at the Watergate and SL 12–112 at National Place) based on revision of the designs; the scope for National Place has also been expanded to include a sign. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda items II.F.1 through II.F.7 for additional Shipstead–Luce Act submissions.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported the changes to the draft appendix. Six projects have been added that were recently submitted for review in July but would not be visible from public space and do not require further action by the Commission. One project has been removed at the request of the applicant. One project has been recharacterized as a final design submission based on the receipt of supplemental drawings (case number OG 12–227). An erroneous case number has been corrected, resulting in a resequencing of the agenda. He requested authorization to finalize one recommendation upon confirmation of the revised window details (case number OG 12–224). Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Old Georgetown Act submission.)
B. Department of the Army / Institute of Heraldry
CFA 21/JUN/12–1, Proposed Department of Defense Distinguished Warfare Medal. Obverse, reverse, and ribbon designs. Final. Mr. Luebke introduced the design alternatives for a new Distinguished Warfare Medal from the Department of Defense, noting that the medal has not yet received final authorization. He asked Charles Mugno, director of the Institute of Heraldry, to present the proposal.
Mr. Mugno said that the creation of a new medal is a rare occurrence, and this medal would have national significance related to the current war on terrorism; he is therefore requesting the Commission's comments on the design alternatives and underlying concepts. He emphasized that a new medal has not yet been approved; the Institute of Heraldry is developing the design in advance of the medal's formal establishment to allow sufficient time to incorporate revisions based on the Commission's comments, which is sometimes not feasible due to the constraints of the typical production schedule.
Mr. Mugno described the purpose and theme of the medal. Prior to recent decades, warfare usually involved direct contact between military forces. With emerging technologies, warfare is sometimes conducted through indirect means such as cyber–warfare and remotely piloted aircraft; he noted that many of the aircraft conducting important missions in Afghanistan are being directed by pilots located in the United States. The Distinguished Warfare Medal would be established to recognize such contributions that are performed remotely while having an important effect on combat operations. He said the eligibility criteria would include the significant provision that the medal would be a non–valorous award, which affects the symbolic elements that would be appropriate for the design.
Mr. Mugno presented a composite graphic of the various medals in their order of precedence, ranging from the Medal of Honor–the most important award–to the Achievement Medal. The Distinguished Warfare Medal would be approximately at the middle of this hierarchy; it would rank immediately below the Distinguished Flying Cross which recognizes achievement in flight, and immediately above the Soldier's Medal which recognizes heroism away from the battlefield.
Mr. Mugno presented six obverse and four reverse alternatives for the Distinguished Warfare Medal. The design motifs include directional arrows and concentric circles that refer to the targeting technology of remote warfare; the eagle, used on all existing medals awarded by the Secretary of Defense; a wreath to denote honor, victory, and courage; a lightning bolt to symbolize new technology; and a shield as a symbol of the nation. To represent the global reach of the service being honored, some of the designs include a four–cornered lozenge or cross to suggest the four compass points, or lines of latitude and longitude. The alternatives include solid and pierced forms; the reverse of the solid designs would include an area for inscribing the medal recipient's name. The reverse would include the title of the medal and, in some alternatives, additional text describing its purpose. He indicated the continuity of the wreath on both the obverse and reverse of the designs, as well as the special design features of the suspension element at the top of the medal including alternatives for a ring or bar configuration. He also described six alternatives for the ribbon, emphasizing the importance of the colors; all of the alternatives include light blue which is associated with the Department of Defense, and include some combination of the red, white, and darker blue colors that are associated with combat decorations. He noted that any of the proposed ribbon color alternatives could be used with any of the designs for the medal.
Mr. Schlossberg and Mr. Freelon asked if the Institute of Heraldry has a preferred alternative; Mr. Mugno responded that any of the presented designs could be used. Ms. Fernández asked about the precedent or special significance for the pierced form of a medal. Mr. Mugno responded that the pierced form is generally used for higher–ranking medals; this medal would join five others that are awarded by the Secretary of Defense, and the two highest–ranking of these medals have the pierced form. He added that the pierced form allows the wearer's uniform to be seen through the medal, and the uniform therefore becomes part of the design.
Mr. Schlossberg questioned the combination in several alternatives of targeting imagery and a centrally located eagle, commenting that this configuration gives the inappropriate suggestion that the U.S., rather than an enemy, is the target. Mr. Freelon expressed support for the depiction of the wreath on both sides of some alternatives, commenting that the effect would be a three–dimensional form rather than merely an applied wreath design on only one side.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the inclusion of extensive text on some of the reverse alternatives; Mr. Freelon asked about the precedent for medals that include an inscription of the criteria for their award. Mr. Mugno responded that medals would typically include only a couple of words identifying their theme, such as "Merit" or "Outstanding Achievement." Some medals do include more extensive text, such as the American Defense Medal from 1939. He said that the description of the awarding criteria would be appropriate for this medal due to its unique purpose of recognizing impact on military operations from a remote location.
Ms. Fernández recommended against the pierced form due to its more usual association with valor in direct combat; Mr. Mugno confirmed that the solid form would be more appropriate for the level of this medal. She said that the alternatives with a solid form also offer the advantage of providing a location on the reverse for the recipient's name, which she said would add significance to the medal by personalizing it. She agreed with Mr. Schlossberg's concern that the eagle should not be placed at the center of the targeting motifs on the obverse, and offered support for Option 1 subject to resolving this issue. Mr. Powell also supported Option 1 and suggested combining it with the ribbon design of Option 2.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the Option 2 motif of latitude and longitude lines could be preferable to the targeting motif in Option 1, avoiding the problem of placing the eagle at the center of the target; however, she said that the global form in Option 2 is seen from a polar perspective which may be unclear, and she recommended a more conventional equatorial view. Mr. Mugno offered to develop an alternative with this modification.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the technological design references in Options 1 and 2 are familiar now but may be obsolete in fifty years, and he supported a more abstract design approach. Mr. Mugno responded that this issue is important in the design of medals; he cited the numerous medals created at the time of World War I, which have a timeless quality that gives them a continuing character of uniqueness and distinction.
Chairman Powell noted the range of comments from the Commission members without a consensus for a specific recommendation. Mr. Luebke confirmed that providing comments would be a sufficient response to the requested consultation with the Commission. Chairman Powell said that the comments would be useful in the design process, and this type of response would be particularly appropriate because the medal has not yet been formally authorized. He added that the term "non–valorous" in the awarding criteria is odd; Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed and suggested using a more positive term. Mr. Mugno emphasized that the award results from the increasing importance of direct contributions by people not actually at the scene of combat; he said that the range of military honors may expand to include an entire category of meritorious service and performance in addition to the medals for valor. Chairman Powell noted that many of the existing non–valor medals are awarded for service in a broad theater of combat, such as the Vietnam Medal; Mr. Mugno confirmed that such medals are awarded on the basis of a person's presence in a geographical area. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
C. Department of the Treasury / U.S. MintMr. Simon introduced Ron Harrigal, acting chief engraver of the U.S. Mint, to present design alternatives for a set of four Congressional gold medals–the continuation of a series honoring Native American code talkers–and a set of three commemorative coins honoring the nation's five–star generals.
1. CFA 21/JUN/12–2, Congressional Gold Medals of Honor for the Native American code talkers of World War I and World War II. Designs for four gold medals (with silver and bronze duplicates) for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Choctaw Nation, Osage Nation, and Pawnee Nation. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/12–6–Comanche Nation, Kiowa Tribe, Santee Dakota Sioux Tribe, and Tlingit Tribe.) Mr. Harrigal summarized the legislative authority to issue medals recognizing the dedication and valor of the Native American code talkers of the U.S. military during World Wars I and II. A single gold medal will be struck for each Native American tribe; a silver duplicate medal will be awarded to each individual code talker or the next of kin, and bronze duplicates will be offered for sale at two sizes. More than twenty tribes have been identified to date, and the number of tribes being honored may increase with further research. He noted that the alternative designs have been prepared in consultation with the tribes, the U.S. Army Center of Military History, and other experts. He said that the design concept for the series is an obverse image that represents the code talkers' dedication to military service, and a reverse with an iconic symbol of the tribe such as a tribal seal. The obverse and reverse text would follow a typical pattern for the series.
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe medal. The two obverse alternatives each depict soldiers from both World War I and World War II, with an inscription in the Lakota language across the bottom; the tribe's preference is for obverse #2, which separates the figures with a lightning bolt. The seven reverse designs have combinations of a buffalo, four tepees, pipes, and other elements important to the tribe; the tribe prefers reverse #7, which corresponds to the tribal flag. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the date 1868 shown on each of the reverses; Mr. Harrigal responded that the Treaty of 1868 established the Great Sioux Reservation. Mr. Schlossberg offered support for reverse #7 but observed that the phrase "Act of Congress" on #7 does not include the year 2008 that is included on the other reverse designs, resulting in potential confusion of the purpose of the phrase; he recommended using the phrase "Act of Congress 2008." Mr. Powell and Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed and also supported the tribe's preference for obverse #2. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the Choctaw Nation medal, including five obverse and four reverse alternatives. He read a statement from the tribe's liaison, Judy Allen, in support of obverse #3 and reverse #1, with emphasis on the diamond–patterned border on the reverse that is based on a traditional clothing design and symbolizes the diamondback rattlesnake. The statement also cited obverse #3 for the soldier's facial expression and the accuracy of the uniform and native–language text. Chairman Powell commended the tribe for the simplicity of its preferred designs. Mr. Harrigal noted the Commission's past request for a greater variety of design alternatives for this series but said that the tribes are often very specific about design preferences; the source material is often a tribal seal that includes color, which must be conveyed with texture or relief in the medal design. Mr. Powell and Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that the Commission has generally agreed with the preferences of the tribes for this series, with relatively few recommended changes. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended the tribe's preferred alternatives of obverse #3 and reverse #1.
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the Osage Nation medal, with two similar obverses and a single proposal for the reverse. He noted the Osage Nation's preference for obverse #1, which includes barbed wire extending across the design, as a more realistic depiction of a war situation. He emphasized the very specific guidance from the Osage Nation on the design elements and said that the Mint's artistic role is to balance the inscriptions and to convey a realistic effect through texture and relief. Mr. Powell and Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered a motion to support the Osage Nation's preferences for obverse #1 and the single reverse. Mr. Schlossberg acknowledged the preference but said that the obverse design would be improved without the barbed wire, as in alternative #2; he said that the wire is legible at the large scale of the presentation materials, but the design clarity at the actual scale would be superior without this element. Several Commission members agreed, with Mr. Powell commenting that the barbed wire may appear to be merely a ribbon at the small scale and emphasizing the Commission's preference for simplicity. Upon an amended motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission recommended obverse #2 and the single reverse design in accordance with the tribe's preference.
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the Pawnee Nation medal. The two obverse alternatives include a portrait of a soldier and a combat scene; the three reverse alternatives are derived from the tribal seal, with varying degrees of abstraction. He noted the Pawnee Nation's preference for obverse #2 and reverse #3. Ms. Fernández said that the crowded elements of reverse #3 would be difficult to distinguish and instead recommended reverse #1, commenting that it most resembles the tribal seal. She added that obverse #2 and reverse #3 have differing approaches to a realistic rendering technique, and these options would be stylistically incompatible on a single medal; using reverse #1 would avoid this problem. Mr. Schlossberg agreed. Ms. Fernández said that both obverse alternatives have problems: on #1, the equipment depicted behind the soldier is not readily identifiable as a communications device; and on #2, the soldier's hair overlaps the medal's border text. She offered support for obverse #2 as a superior composition of the soldier in profile and the equipment. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the simplicity of obverse #1 is commendable, resulting in a superior medal design, while agreeing that the equipment and antenna is confusing; he said that the scene depicted in obverse #2 appears more appropriate as an illustration than as a medal design. Ms. Fernández agreed that obverse #1 is a more elegant design but said that the soldier is not readily identifiable as a code talker. Chairman Powell agreed with the comments and said that the equipment in obverse #2 is also confusing; he confirmed the consensus of the Commission to request a revised design that emphasizes simplicity and clarity. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that this proposal is not for circulating coinage, and she suggested deferring to the Pawnee Nation's preference for obverse #2 with a revision to eliminate the overlap of hair and text, as suggested by Ms. Fernández; Mr. Schlossberg agreed. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus to support obverse #2 and reverse #1 with the comments provided, while not adopting a specific recommendation. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. CFA 21/JUN/12–3, Five–Star Generals Commemorative Coin Program. Obverse and reverse designs for a five–dollar gold coin, one–dollar silver coin, and half–dollar clad coin. Final. Mr. Harrigal summarized the legislative authorization for three commemorative coins honoring the nation's historic five–star generals: Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Henry "Hap" Arnold, and Omar Bradley. These generals all attended or taught at the United States Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; the staff of the Mint worked with the Command and General Staff College Foundation, the liaison for this program, on the development of these coin designs, and proceeds from the commemorative coin program will go to the foundation. He said that the legislation mandates combining the five portraits onto three coins: MacArthur will appear alone on the gold coin, while Marshall and Eisenhower will be paired on the silver coin and Arnold and Bradley will be paired on the clad coin. He listed the inscriptions required by the legislation to appear on each coin.
Gold five–dollar coin (Douglas MacArthur)
For the gold coin honoring General MacArthur, Mr. Harrigal presented six alternative portrait designs for the obverse and ten alternatives for the reverse. He noted the foundation's preference for reverse #2 illustrating a soldier storming a tropical beach, representing all areas in the Pacific and the Far East where American soldiers fought in World War II; he added that reverse #3 features an enlarged version of the soldier in #2. Other reverse designs included representations of MacArthur's Medal of Honor, Navy aircraft carriers, Navy fighter planes, and other scenes emblematic of the war in the Pacific Ocean. He said that the foundation also supports obverse #4.
Mr. Schlossberg supported the foundation's preference for reverse #2 but suggested spelling out the denomination "$5" as "Five Dollars" and placing this text at the circumference so that it does not appear to float in the design. He also suggested organizing the circumference text with "E Pluribus Unum" at the upper right and "Five Dollars" at the bottom of the coin; several other Commission members supported this change. For the obverse, Mr. Schlossberg recommended alternative #2 instead of the foundation's preference of obverse #4, commenting that #2 is a more balanced composition; he and Mr. Powell said that the portrait on obverse #2 is also superior. Mr. Harrigal noted that the gold coin would be relatively small, approximately the size of a nickel; Mr. Schlossberg said that this provides further reason to support obverse #2 due to the large size of the head in the composition; the other Commission members agreed. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend obverse #2 and reverse #2 for the gold coin, subject to the text changes as discussed for the reverse.
Silver one–dollar coin (George C. Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower)
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the silver coin honoring Marshall and Eisenhower, the two most celebrated American generals in the European theater of World War II. He noted the foundation's preference for obverse #6 and reverse #2. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if there is a precedent for putting two heads on a single commemorative coin. Mr. Harrigal responded that this had been done for the Wright Brothers; Mr. Luebke noted that a 1990 commemorative coin for the centennial of Eisenhower's birth included a double portrait of him as general and as president. Mr. Harrigal confirmed that the reason for featuring MacArthur alone on one coin is that he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the double portrait format would typically place one person toward the front and one toward the back, but in this coin program there is no apparent basis for selecting which person should be in which location; she observed that the obverse alternatives show a variety of configurations.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that obverse #8 is the most balanced design and also the best representation of the two men. Mr. Harrigal noted that the coin would have a diameter of 1.5 inches, providing a relatively large palette. Ms. Fernández agreed that #8 would be the best obverse design; she said that the foundation's preference, obverse #6, is too complicated due to the inclusion of background stripes in addition to the two heads and the cluster of five stars. She added that in obverse #6 the two men appear to be standing next to each other, resulting in confusion whether the two men are being honored separately or for working together. Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered support for obverse #6 if the background stripes are removed; she said that the poses in obverse #7 give the impression that Eisenhower is peering around Marshall. Ms. Fernández reiterated that obverse #8 is the most balanced of the designs, and said that the larger size of the heads in this composition would make the portraits easier to see. Mr. Schlossberg added that the mood and pose of the portraits in obverse #8 is better, compared to the more dour appearance of the generals in the other alternatives.
Mr. Rybczynski commented on the inherently flawed concept of one coin depicting two generals who had no relationship; these generals were not brothers like the Wright brothers, nor were they president and vice president. Lacking any inherent hierarchy or link between the two men, he said that the relationship of the portraits is merely circumstantial, which may be the cause of the difficulty faced by the designers of these alternatives. He supported obverse #8 as a design that has an integrity; Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed. Mr. Rybczynski asked if one portrait could be placed on each side of the coin. Mr. Harrigal responded that this is not prohibited by the legislation but would contradict the convention of a single–headed coin, and the Mint is reluctant to propose such a design.
Mr. Freelon commented that, given the parameters of this coin program, obverse #8 is the best design; Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested revising obverse #8 so that Eisenhower's head does not overlap the word "Liberty." Mr. Schlossberg agreed, suggesting a slight scale reduction of the text.
The Commission members then discussed the silver reverse alternatives. Mr. Schlossberg supported reverse #4, describing it as a simple and elegant design; due to the complexity of the double portrait on the obverse, he said that a simple design for the reverse would be preferable. Mr. Harrigal noted that reverse #4 is somewhat representative of classic American coins by Augustus Saint–Gaudens. Mr. Powell and Mr. Rybczynski also supported reverse #4. Mr. Rybczynski and Mr. Schlossberg criticized the design of reverse #2–the Victory Medal superimposed on a map of Europe–as a trite concept that suggests an optical illusion. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the overlap of the victory figure's head with the border text in reverse #4. Mr. Schlossberg said this problem could be eliminated by reducing the figure's scale. Mr. Harrigal suggested the figure could also be moved down slightly; Mr. Schlossberg agreed with this solution and confirmed the design goal of eliminating the overlap. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended reverse #4 for the silver coin, subject to the changes that were discussed. Chairman Powell noted the earlier consensus to recommend obverse #8 with a similar request to eliminate the overlap of the text.
Clad half–dollar coin (Henry "Hap" Arnold and Omar Bradley)
Mr. Harrigal presented design alternatives for the clad coin honoring Arnold and Bradley. The six obverse alternatives feature portraits of the two generals; the seven reverse alternatives incorporate emblems of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the oldest and most celebrated military staff college in the country. Mr. Harrigal said many of the reverse designs feature either the Leavenworth lamp or the college's heraldic crest; some include five stars to represent the five generals. He noted that the foundation prefers obverse #6 and reverse #3 featuring the Leavenworth lamp, a symbol of the college; reverse #4 is a simpler variation of #3.
Mr. Schlossberg supported reverse #4 and described it as a more elegant design than #3. Mr. Harrigal noted that reverse #4 has less text than #3, and said that the Mint favors elimination of text when a symbolic element can convey the meaning. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that additional text should not be necessary; Mr. Schlossberg added that excessive text detracts from the design of a commemorative coin. Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered support for reverse #4 and for #7, a design featuring the college crest; she acknowledged that the crest design is very busy and its details would not be legible, but said that its form would be familiar to people and therefore the understanding of the details may not be necessary. Mr. Powell and Mr. Schlossberg agreed that reverses #4 and #7 are best. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the five stars on several reverse designs–representing the association with the college of the five generals being honored–would be confusing in combination with the five–star motif on the obverse; he therefore supported the simpler design of reverse #7, which does not include a grouping of stars. Ms. Fernández commented that the inscriptions fit well on reverse #7, while on #4 the phrase "Half Dollar" is squeezed between the lamp and the border phrase "Fort Leavenworth."
The Commission members discussed the obverse alternatives for the clad coin. Ms. Fernández reiterated the concern of heads overlapping with the border text, giving the appearance that the letters are protruding from the heads like antennae. She emphasized that this problem affects the perception of the portraits and recommended that such overlap problems be eliminated before designs are presented to the Commission. Mr. Harrigal said artists sometimes overlap these features intentionally to give a three–dimensional effect, but the Mint can ensure that future submissions include a balance of alternatives with and without an overlap; Ms. Fernández reiterated that such designs should not be presented for the Commission's review. She supported the foundation's preference for obverse #6 as the most elegant of the alternatives; several Commission members agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission recommended obverse #6 and reverse #7 for the clad coin, subject to the comments provided.
D. District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities
CFA 21/JUN/12–4, Deanwood Community Center and Library, 1350 49th Street, NE. Public art installation by artist Cheryl Foster. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a public art installation at the Deanwood Community Center and Library. He asked Mary Beth Brown of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to begin the presentation.
Ms. Brown said that the proposal results from a partnership of the Deanwood Civic Association and several D.C. government agencies; she described the goal of creating a landmark expressing the character, strength, and vibrancy of the Deanwood neighborhood. In May 2011, a panel of community members and arts professionals selected artist Cheryl Foster, who has often worked with communities to develop art that promotes a sense of place; she illustrated other sculptures by Ms. Foster in various media and summarized her engagement with the community. She introduced Ms. Foster to present the proposal.
Ms. Foster said that that the artwork would be comprised of two sculptures, sixteen and fourteen feet tall, each a three–sided tapering form constructed of aluminum. Each side would contain a mosaic panel illuminated from behind and illustrating themes related to the community; the panels would be seen through clear glass panels set within an aluminum armature shaped like tree branches. The artwork would use bright, warm colors as requested by the Deanwood community, providing a contrast to the glass and metal of the community center building.
Ms. Foster described the six mosaics in detail. The first panel portrays an African–American family wrapped in a cloth ornamented with West African Adinkra symbols representing attributes such as love and security; juxtaposed with the figures are lotus blossoms representative of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a nearby national park that is a popular recreation place for the community. The second panel honors the educator and businesswoman Nannie Helen Burroughs, who founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Deanwood. The third, titled "Urban Griot," depicts an elder imparting the history of Deanwood to a group of children. The fourth panel, representing the area's natural history, illustrates a teenager surrounded by animals of Deanwood such as Monarch butterflies. The fifth portrays the men who built the first houses and other structures in Deanwood, including Howard D. Woodson, developer of the Suburban Gardens amusement park. The sixth panel illustrates the Strand Theater, center of Deanwood's cultural life, with portraits of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Cab Calloway.
Mr. Freelon asked about the community involvement in the project; Ms. Foster responded that the subjects of the panels had been chosen by the community, and the mosaics incorporate images and colors that the community deemed important. Mr. Freelon commended the artist and emphasized the importance of having this input and support in developing images relevant to the immediate neighborhood and the wider community. He asked how the pieces would be constructed. Ms. Foster responded that each mosaic would be built on a layer of glass; at the request of the community, the panels would be covered by an outer layer of protective glass.
Mr. Rybczynski observed that the mosaics were illustrated in a rectangular format while the sculptural forms do not have rectangular sides; he asked for clarification of their positioning. Ms. Foster responded that the two sculptures would be made of tapering aluminum frames to recall the branches of willow oak trees which line the street in front of the community center; the branches would frame irregular openings to allow viewing of the triangular mosaics inside. She acknowledged that the mosaic panels would not be rectangular.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the two sculptures would allow viewing from all sides, observing that the site plan suggests that people would view them from a paved area on one side and would not be able to walk around them. Ms. Foster confirmed that the sculptures are meant to be viewed from all sides; they will be sited on a grass area among trees in front of the community center. Mr. Rybczynski emphasized that the mosaics invite close viewing and questioned whether people would walk on the landscaped area; Ms. Foster responded that people would walk from the sidewalk onto the grass. Ms. Brown clarified that the grass area is very small, with a parking lot directly behind, and people will be able to view the sculptures easily from all sides. She noted that people generally approach the sculpture site from either of two directions–from the parking lot or from the Metro station–to reach the community center's entrance; both routes would lead past the sculptures. Mr. Rybczynski said the presentation renderings suggest that the sculptures would be situated on a slope and people would not be able to walk around them easily. Ms. Brown responded that the grass area is only a small knoll, and Ms. Foster reiterated that the siting would easily allow people to see all three sides of both sculptures.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed concern about the numerous other elements near the proposed site, such as bicycle racks, cars, and trees. She suggested consideration of placing the artwork along the more formal axial route leading to the building, which acts almost as a forecourt; this placement would allow people to interact with the sculptures without having to step out of their way to see them, and the artwork would form part of the entrance route into the building. She asked if the community would accept this change in location. Ms. Foster responded that the community wants the artwork to be placed outside the building; the area around the proposed location is a gathering place for the community's young people and was therefore chosen as a logical location, and the grassy area allows viewing of the sculptures from the entrance walk and from the parking lot. Ms. Plater–Zyberk reiterated the recommendation to place the artwork on the entrance walk.
Ms. Fernández asked Ms. Foster to explain a red object depicted in the rendering between the two sculptures. Ms. Foster responded that it illustrates a video monitor that has been eliminated from the design; the video being developed for the project will instead be available in the library and will provide information about the artwork and the neighborhood. Mr. Powell asked about the proposed treatment of the area where the monitor is shown; Ms. Foster confirmed that it would be grass.
Ms. Fernández said that the mosaics would present wonderful images of Deanwood's history and its people, and she emphasized that the Commission's suggestions are intended to highlight these images and the neighborhood's story. She commented that the potential role of the artwork as a beacon is made more difficult by the use of two sculptures; a beacon is usually singular, and the use of two forms requires that they have a balance in order to work together. She said that the proposed location is not an ideal place for the sculptures to be seen, and the site would set up an odd relationship between the two forms. She agreed with the suggestions to have a more formal approach to the artwork and suggested a different configuration of the two objects, commenting that the proposed eight–foot distance would result in confusion about how people should circulate or behave around them. She expressed concern that the site would not be used well but would become a dead patch of grass with objects that people would begin to overlook. If the two sculptures were sited in a more formal way on the entrance walk where people would have to walk around them, the artwork would create a celebratory or ritual passage to the building, marking the entrance into a special site. She reiterated that the comments are intended for this purpose rather than as criticism of the artwork: the Commission members are emphasizing the opportunity for outdoor public art to mark an entrance and to celebrate the act of entering. By placing the sculptures to the side of the entrance route near the parking lot, a great opportunity is missed to have the artwork become beacons that could anchor and symbolize the Deanwood Community Center.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to support the proposed artwork but to request further study of the location so that the paired sculptures could be more prominent. He asked if the meetings with community groups are continuing; Ms. Brown responded that the community and the D.C. government are ready to see the project completed. Mr. Schlossberg emphasized the Commission members' support for the sculptures as beautiful pieces of art, with the recommendation to position them slightly differently so that people would be looking between the sculptures as they approach the building entrance. He acknowledged Ms. Foster's intention to capture a quality similar to that of the nearby trees, a beautiful image in itself but not realizing the full potential of the artwork's role to mark the site. Ms. Fernández added that, if the outcome is to keep the structures in the proposed location, the design plan should be developed so that the site does not feel like merely a patch of grass by a parking lot. Mr. Powell supported this approach, suggesting that the site have the character of a park. Ms. Brown offered to discuss the suggested site changes with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept subject to the comments provided.
E. DC Water
1. CFA 21/JUN/12–5, Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, 5000 Overlook Avenue, SW. New combined heat and power generation facility–Phase III. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/APR/12– 3 bio–solids management facility.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the first of two presentations from DC Water: the concept design for a combined heat and power generating facility, the third phase of the bio–solids management facility being developed at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. He noted that the Commission's April 2012 review of the second phase–the main process facility–had included extensive background information on the overall bio–solids management facility. He added that the second presentation from DC Water would address an exterior treatment plan for the agency's facilities, including Blue Plains. He asked Katherine Cahill, principal counsel for DC Water, to begin the presentation of the heat and power generation facility. Ms. Cahill confirmed that the Commission does not need the background information to be presented again; she introduced architect John Ray of CDM Smith to give the design portion of the presentation.
Mr. Ray described the location of the proposed combined heat and power plant, south of the main process facility. The heat and power plant would comprise three buildings: the blower building, the gas conditioning building, and the turbine building, which would be the largest of the three. The materials for all three buildings would be the same as for the main process facilities: insulated precast concrete panels, with both smooth and ribbed surfaces; translucent fiberglass panels; and perforated metal screens for solar protection. One of the buildings would have a sloped roof to partially conceal vent stacks, recalling a feature of the metal industrial buildings on another part of the campus. This roof would be covered with standing–seam metal panels and the building walls would also have metal panels. He described two alternative palettes of muted colors for the buildings, each including a background color paired with an accent color. He concluded with several aerial perspective views of the proposal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the ground surface material that is depicted in a light color adjacent to the driveways. Steve Caldwell, director of facilities and security for DC Water, responded that members of the project team responded that these areas would generally have a gravel surface that would be permeable. Ms. Plater–Zyberk raised additional environmental issues, asking if the landscape design could provide shade between the buildings to reduce the heat island effect. Mr. Caldwell responded that some elements of the project would provide this benefit, but the intention in this area is not to add any structures that are not strictly functional. Ms. Plater–Zyberk also asked whether the roof surfaces could be designed with a high solar reflectance to minimize heat gain. Mr. Caldwell said this issue is under consideration, and standards are being developed for roof materials at Blue Plains that would include green roofs. In keeping with the concern with heat gain, Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended the lighter of the two alternative color palettes.
Mr. Rybczynski asked if the sloped roof responds to some internal functional requirement for different ceiling heights; John Fratangelo of Pepco Energy Services responded that the greater height is necessary to provide access for the tall vent stacks of the heat–recovery steam generator located in that portion of the building. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the sloped roof would be an odd element; he noted the previously stated intention of concealing vents and emphasized that this is a place that is defined by its mechanical equipment, not an environment where such elements need to be hidden. Mr. Fratangelo clarified that a sloped roof was part of the original concept for the project during the bidding process, but either a flat or sloped roof would be feasible.
Mr. Schlossberg commented that this facility, like any part of the built environment, is created by humans and should express their involvement. He suggested that the many small elements among these buildings, such as doors and other details, could be painted with the accent color as a means of indicating the presence of people, rather than merely being a composition of objects. He said that this approach might give the Blue Plains campus more life and might also highlight the work that is done there. Mr. Caldwell noted that the issue of color use would be addressed in the second presentation.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept subject to the comments provided; Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to delegate review of the final design to the staff. Mr. Schlossberg summarized the guidance to consider ways of highlighting the building features, and to increase the reflectivity of the surfaces. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the concept design for the combined heat and power generating plant with these comments, and delegated review of the final design to the staff.
2. CFA 21/JUN/12–6, Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant, 5000 Overlook Avenue, SW. Building colors, materials, and exterior treatments plan. Final. Mr. Luebke introduced the second presentation from DC Water, resulting from the Commission's request at the April 2012 meeting for an overall plan addressing exterior elements such as building colors, materials, and signage at DC Water facilities. He asked Steve Caldwell, director of facilities and security for DC Water, to present the plan.
Mr. Caldwell said the presentation would address the unifying concepts of the various building designs that have recently been presented to the Commission. He noted that DC Water treats all of the water used by two million people daily, including water from important federal installations in Washington such as the FBI Headquarters and Department of Defense facilities; security concerns have become important, and DC Water follows federal requirements regarding security such as the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 and the many presidential directives concerning infrastructure security. He said that DC Water has assessed the vulnerability of the agency's facilities and routinely conducts training exercises.
Mr. Caldwell said that DC Water has developed new design guidelines for color; the decisions are based primarily on how accessible the buildings are to the public, and guided by the idea of promoting safe and sustainable workplaces for employees, consultants, and visitors. DC Water has identified standard materials and finishes, largely based on their ease of maintenance; using standard materials will also help to control costs by allowing bulk–quantity purchases. He said the guidelines include using bright blue or green–the colors of the DC Water logo–on publicly accessible buildings, and using muted colors on buildings not open to the public such as treatment buildings. He said that the muted colors would help to blend these structures in with their surroundings and would minimize public awareness of these facilities' purpose; the intention is that someone intending a hostile action against such facilities would have difficulty determining where important functions take place and how to gain access to the buildings.
Mr. Caldwell offered examples of new and historic buildings at Blue Plains. The newly approved security and visitor center will be the place where visitors go to be admitted to the campus, and it will be the closest building to the I–295 highway adjacent to Blue Plains. This building would be brightly colored as a blue box, and the adjoining warehouse would have a bright green band; he added that this building could be identified easily by visitors from the vehicular checkpoint at the campus entrance. He also described the pump station built in 1932, an Art Deco structure with patterned brick walls; these patterns often appear on campus buildings dating from this era. He said the intention is to use such patterns on new structures along with other elements taken from the Art Deco buildings to create continuity with the site's past.
Mr. Rybczynski disagreed with the presented concept that vulnerable buildings should be ugly and hidden; he said that these are large, visible buildings, and terrorists could find them if they want to. He emphasized that, as a member of the Commission of Fine Arts, he could not accept the position that these buildings should be drab, neutral, and ugly under the premise of public safety. He said that DC Water should take as much pride in constructing beautiful new public buildings as in preserving the Art Deco buildings; he cited the distinctive and beautiful character of the water system's historic buildings, which sets them apart from other industrial buildings. He added that the proposed design approach would result in a mud–gray color for DC Water's largest buildings, which he described as a "very sad" result, and recommended reconsideration of the proposal.
Mr. Schlossberg agreed, commenting that the proposed special treatment of muted colors for the non–public buildings would itself draw attention to them by their drabness. He recommended that all parts of the built environment have a level of humanity in their design and be part of a shared visual realm that everyone can look at. He noted that terrorism is likely a long–term concern, and the design of buildings should therefore emphasize the continuing goal of providing visual pleasure in people's daily lives rather than focus on unpleasant issues or discourage awareness of buildings.
Ms. Fernández commented that the intended result of using bright colors–to make the publicly accessible facilities appear warm and inviting rather than industrial or threatening–is as misguided as the intended result for the muted colors on the non–public buildings. She said that the brightly colored visitor center resembles any big–box store seen along any American highway, and therefore looks more generic than the proposed heat and power generating plant. She suggested finding additional design gestures to make it even slightly more inviting as a visitor center–such as adding landscaping or shade trees–so that it is not just a large box building set in a huge parking lot. She acknowledged DC Water's pride in this facility and the intention to make it special, but emphasized that design gestures at a more human scale are needed to make the building appear more inviting, even when seen from the highway. She added that the visitor center design is devoid of anything that addresses the experience of walking from the parking lot to the building entrance. Mr. Caldwell acknowledged that the presented drawings do not illustrate the full landscape proposed for the visitor center; he said that the design includes planting almost thirty trees around the parking lot, as well as landscaping the area around the building. He said that the landscape is a key component of DC Water's current plan to make the Blue Plains environment greener and less industrial; new plantings are being added slowly, and the details have not yet been worked out.
Ms. Fernández emphasized that the landscape design should not be conceived as a short–term proposal, nor merely as placing trees into a parking lot; the goal should be a long–term conception of the landscape that, in forty years, would result in a canopy of mature trees spreading over the parking lot. She said that, like the Art Deco buildings, the landscape should be a design that is done well and will add something of value over future decades. Mr. Caldwell said that the landscape design for the visitor center is intended to fulfill this goal, and the parking lot would have a shady canopy in twenty to thirty years.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended taking these concerns a step further, suggesting that this facility–because of its scale, location, and function–could be a regional model of environmental design; it could promote the use of solar collectors, wind turbines, permeable pavement, and light–impact engineering. She encouraged the designers to think of each project in this way, observing that this idea apparently is not yet part of the program. Mr. Caldwell responded that DC Water takes such ideas seriously, and green roofs are being considering for several new buildings. Chairman Powell said that this response is encouraging, and he suggested that DC Water work with the comments provided by the Commission.
Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission members would prefer to take a formal action, request further documentation of a landscape design, or simply convey the comments that were offered. Ms. Plater–Zyberk requested clarification of how this presentation relates to the projects listed in the Consent Calendar; Mr. Lindstrom responded that the consent calendar includes the final design for the visitor center and for the second phase of the bio–solids management facility; in addition, the previous agenda item–the concept for the heat and power generating facility–is the third phase of the bio–solids management facility. He added that all of these recommendations relate to the overall plan for treatment of the building exteriors.
Mr. Schlossberg requested the opportunity for Commission review of a more specific proposal for landscaping. Chairman Powell said that if this design work is underway and was omitted from the submission materials, then review of this component could be delegated to the staff. Mr. Lindstrom suggested requesting the submission of an overall landscape plan for Blue Plains. Chairman Powell agreed and recommended approving the Blue Plains submissions subject to this request.
Architectural historian Andi Adams of the law firm Goulston&Storrs, representing DC Water, requested clarification of the Commission's actions. She noted that the current agenda item is the overall plan for exterior treatment of DC Water facilities, and acknowledged that an overall landscape plan is not yet available; however, she said that the final design submission for the visitor center building includes a detailed landscape plan for this project. Chairman Powell confirmed that the Commission acted favorably on the specific project submissions along with the request for development of an overall landscape plan.
F. District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory AffairsOld Georgetown Act
OG 12–146, 3240 Grace Street, NW. New residential building. Concept. Mr. Martínez introduced a proposal for a four–story residential building at 3240 Grace Street, NW, at the corner of Cecil Place. He noted that this project had been reviewed four times by the Old Georgetown Board, and a copy of the Board's recent report has been distributed to the Commission members. He said that the Board had no objection to the general concept and had recommended a few minor modifications, including a slight change in the vertical plane of the west portion of the south elevation as a gesture toward the smaller houses to the south on Cecil Place.
Architect Dale Overmyer presented the project, noting that his involvement with the project began after the first two reviews by the Board. He said he has been coordinating with D.C. officials to determine what design modifications may be needed for the building to conform to zoning regulations. He described the Board's concern with the historic context; the proposed building would occupy one of the last remaining vacant lots in this area of Georgetown that includes historic warehouses, typically unpainted brick structures. He summarized that the design responds to these context issues as well as to the zoning regulations, which essentially determine the building's footprint, height, and setbacks.
Mr. Overmyer described the context in more detail, indicating the mix of older and newer structures including a much taller building at the south end of Cecil Place. He said that the proposed design is influenced in part by the historic flour mill located one block to the west. The proposed building would be a brick structure with arched openings containing casement windows. He described it as a small building, with a frontage of 37 feet on Grace Street and 54 feet on Cecil Place, that would step down in height so that as it turns the corner from Grace Street it would descend to the height of the smaller buildings on the narrower Cecil Place. A four–inch step in the facade would also create a distinction between planes as it turns the corner. Each floor would have two units, one facing north and one facing south. The site is level but the street is sloping; an existing small fieldstone retaining wall that accommodates this slope would be incorporated within the base of the building. A gateway on Cecil Place would lead into a small parking area beneath the building. Zoning requires that the building either be set back by eight feet–which would result in an unfeasible footprint size–or placed directly along the property line, as proposed.
Mr. Overmyer discussed several issues raised by the Board and neighbors. He said that the Board's request for a slight articulation of the south facade can be implemented easily. The building would not contain any balconies, decks, or railings, in response to the concern of neighbors. The parapet height would be low; a flat roof area would contain air–conditioning equipment, not visible from the street level, and would not be suitable for use as a deck.
Mr. Overmyer said he had presented two option to the Board which differed in the treatment of the roofline: Option A with a gable roof (labeled in the Commission presentation as the Alternate design), and Option B with a stepped roof. The Board recommended Option B because it corresponds to a simple industrial aesthetic in keeping with the historic buildings in the vicinity. He noted that the neighborhood has gable–roof buildings, although most do not date from the period of historic significance; he cited a nearby 45–foot–high condominium building dating from 1986, with a busy facade that includes a series of gabled structures–a design approach that the Board has discouraged for the current project, instead requesting simplification of the design.
Chairman Powell recognized two neighborhood residents who asked to address the Commission. Michele Jacobson, a resident of 1043 Cecil Place adjacent to the proposed site, said that she has been asked to speak on behalf of her neighbors, many of whom have signed a petition; she said that the petition, along with a letter containing further written comments, has been distributed to the Commission members. As described in the letter, she said that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Georgetown Citizens Association, and the neighbors oppose construction of this five–level building because it is designed like an industrial warehouse; she asked the Commission of Fine Arts to direct the developer to prepare a design more in keeping with the scale and character of the historic community. She said the proposed building would be an imposing, austere structure that would not be compatible with the neighborhood's smaller buildings and narrow streets; it would lack the details that provide visual interest to pedestrians, such as stairs and balconies, and would therefore detract from the neighborhood's residential character. She noted that only row houses stood on the site from the 19th through the early 20th century, and since then the site has been vacant. She said that the basis of the Board's recommendation seemed to be the idea that since the second half of the 20th century, the Georgetown waterfront has been defined by large industrial buildings; however, heavy industrial activity occupied only about a quarter of the waterfront's history and was concentrated in the early 20th century, and she questioned whether industrial buildings are an appropriate model; even if they were, she questioned whether should they be the only model, since preservation of the waterfront community has also meant preservation of small buildings. She said that if the Commission members agree that an industrial–style building here conflicts with the goal of preserving a largely 19th–century community, then they should direct the applicant to revise their concept to reflect the neighboring historic buildings along Cecil Place.
Mel Bass, a resident of 3210 Grace Street adjoining the project site, addressed the Commission. He agreed with Ms. Jacobson's comments and said he would focus his remarks on the benefits of the gable–roof over the stepped–roof design, reflecting the views of the many neighbors who had signed the petition. He described three reasons for asking the Commission to recommend the gable–roof design: the gable motif would soften the building's appearance and is used on other neighboring structures; there are concerns with the stepped–roof option that people would use the flat areas as a roof deck and create a disturbance; and the gable–roof design, unlike the flat–roof option, would not entirely block the upper–level windows of adjoining buildings.
Chairman Powell thanked the speakers and noted that the Commission's role is to address aesthetics rather than zoning issues; he added that the current proposal results from four reviews by the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke offered several comments on the historic context of this area of Georgetown: it was a working waterfront, defined by commercial activity carried out in larger buildings; nearby was the Dodge Warehouse, a lime kiln, a flour mill, and various small warehouses, so the typology of the small residential building was the exception rather than the rule; although such houses are a distinctive feature of this block, they were not the predominant building type in the area.
Mr. Overmyer said that the gable form would likely preserve a small portion of the upper–level windows on the adjoining building, but added that anyone who had bought a condominium in this building had done so knowing that a new building could be constructed on the adjacent lot and would block all windows on that side. He suggested that the choice of the roof form should not be affected by the fate of three window panes, but should be made in consideration of the larger picture.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the relative height of the proposed building and the row houses on Cecil Place. Mr. Overmyer said the new building would probably be about ten feet higher; he added that throughout Georgetown there are great differences in height on the same block because the buildings are of many types from different eras. Mr. Freelon said the perspective seen in two photographic renderings is misleading, giving the appearance that the proposed and existing buildings would be similar in height, which would not be the case. Mr. Powell commented that the difference is relatively small, and the brick warehouse style is part of the neighborhood vocabulary; based on his visit to the site, he described the proposed building as a straightforward solution. He said that either roof option would be suitable, adding that he finds the gable–roof option more attractive from the street and more accommodating to the vocabulary of the neighborhood. Mr. Rybczynski expressed satisfaction with the Board's recommendation for the stepped–roof form.
Chairman Powell asked Mr. Overmyer to take the Commission's comments into consideration in developing the design further. He suggested returning the project to the Old Georgetown Board for further review, noting that the Commission typically supports the Board's recommendation. Mr. Luebke requested that the Commission take a specific action on the recommendation provided by the Board, which he read for the record.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that she often works with communities where such issues arise, and she is sympathetic to the idea that people might want to continue the earlier scale of individual building development; but often that decision is made when zoning regulations are written, establishing the capacity of a site, and it is difficult to expect someone to purchase a site based on this expectation and not build it out. She described this situation as a frequent, if regrettable, urban conundrum. She said that review boards usually object to a design because it is somehow offensive–too active, poorly proportioned, or using strange materials–but this design is one of the least offensive examples. She commented that the change she would make might be to align the proposed building with the buildings and balconies on Cecil Place, because she is always concerned about urban issues such as the street facade; but overall, with consideration of the development allowable under zoning, she said the neighborhood is fortunate to be getting a building with a calm design.
Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission adopted the recommendation of the Old Georgetown Board.
Southwest Waterfront Development
Ms. Batcheler introduced the multiple submissions for the Southwest waterfront, part of the redevelopment project named "The Wharf." The current submissions include seven buildings submitted as private–sector projects under the Shipstead–Luce Act, with the adjoining public spaces and piers submitted as D.C. government projects. She noted that many of the buildings and public space components have been reviewed by the Commission in recent months, and the entire redevelopment project was reviewed as a master plan in January 2012. She said that the order of the presentations would vary slightly from the order listed on the agenda. She introduced project director Shawn Seaman of Hoffman–Madison Waterfront, the overall developer of The Wharf and of some of the individual buildings, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Seaman summarized the components of the presentation, all submitted for concept approval. He emphasized the diversity of this large redevelopment project, as reflected in the numerous developers and organizations that are involved; the presentations include the work of eight architectural firms, three landscape architecture firms, and nearly two dozen additional design consultants. He introduced architect Stan Eckstut of Perkins Eastman / EE&K, the master planner for the project and the design firm for some components.
Chairman Powell requested that the presentations focus on changes since the previous reviews of the various proposals. He summarized the letter describing the Commission's review in May 2012, including general support for the project's planning and a request for simplification of the architecture to create a more coherent composition rather than a collage of overly articulated buildings; he noted that the letter also includes specific recommendations on the proposals for the individual parcels.
Mr. Eckstut said that the current submissions are intended to respond to comments from the Commission as well as from the D.C. government and community members. All of the submissions are part of the first phase of the development project; an additional first–phase component, the Waterfront Park, will be submitted at a later date. He noted that the presentation graphics now include all of the buildings in combination, as previously requested by the Commission. He said that the designers have focused on how the buildings meet the ground, another previous concern of the Commission. He summarized the Commission's past guidance for simplicity and for having the buildings work better together; he offered the analogy of the buildings as a family composed of individual members with their own identities while sharing common elements, as expressed in the palette of materials.
Mr. Eckstut presented a ground–level plan, emphasizing the effort to design a seamless pedestrian experience among the buildings, open spaces, and water elements. While pedestrians are the focus of the design, he acknowledged that cars would be allowed in some areas; he also noted the two levels of below–grade parking, with the goal of avoiding dominant garage elements at the ground level. He emphasized the place–making role of the buildings: they are intended to give form and character to the public spaces.
Mr. Eckstut said that the presentations will include greater detail than at previous meetings, including enlargements of the proposed elevations and further consideration of the combined elevations that form the streetscape character. He emphasized the goal of creating a development that appears to be part of Washington, with careful attention to materials and with a slightly bolder scale along Maine Avenue; the retail frontage along the avenue would have a slightly different character than the retail space within the development.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (continued)
1. SL 12–103, 900 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 2. New residential and theater building. Concept. (Previous: SL 12–081, 17 May 2012.) Mr. Eckstut introduced architect Omar Calderon of Perkins Eastman to begin the presentation of the multi–use proposal for Parcel 2. Mr. Calderon described the complexity of the site and program. The building fronts three major public spaces, each with a different character: Maine Avenue; the District Pier and its Pierhouse; and the wharf along the waterfront. The building would include a music hall at the center of the site and active retail uses at the perimeter where feasible, with residential levels above. He indicated the loading and back–of–house facilities on the northwest side of the building and the three residential entrances. The music hall entrance would face the wharf, and the adjacent corner retail space would extend several floors upward. He described the landscape design on the roof of the theater, which would serve as a courtyard for the upper floors of apartments: an elevated lawn plane and outdoor swimming pool would be available for residents.
Mr. Calderon presented the changes from the previous submission. The fenestration and articulation have been simplified overall, while the texture and vitality at the street level have been increased to support the adjacent public spaces. He presented a series of elevations and perspectives, emphasizing the vertical proportions and continuity that relate the upper floors of the building to the ground level; he added that this design idea would still allow the identity of the retail spaces to be established by the tenants. He indicated the canopies and building projections that would provide variety for the retail spaces and activate the facade at the ground level, and emphasized that retail spaces would turn the corners to enliven the building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the various colors and materials shown on the renderings. Mr. Calderon responded that metal is used for the two–story retail podium in some areas, and the upper floors would use a combination of dark and light brick. The dark brick would generally be used to provide further emphasis to the retail space, and the lighter brick would be used for the residential towers, although this configuration varies in some areas. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the changes of material appear to be somewhat arbitrary and contribute to the overactive character of the building that has been a concern of the Commission in previous reviews. Mr. Calderon responded that the changes in material and facade plane result from the building plan and the expression of the residential towers; for example, the corners are emphasized by bringing the residential towers to the ground.
Mr. Calderon offered a further description of the facade development. He described the aesthetic as having the simplicity of a warehouse, with most of the facades serving as a supporting element for the important entrance to the music hall. He indicated the adjustment to the height of the podium along Maine Avenue to provide greater design consistency. A three–bay–wide portion of the Maine Avenue facade is given emphasis for the full height of the building to mark the residential entrance at this location, and he said that this strong gesture is repeated at the other residential entrances to provide consistency. He compared the current proposal to the previous renderings and said that the overall range of facade types has been simplified; he also indicated the simplification of the corner treatment while still providing appropriate emphasis to the side of the building facing the District Pier.
Mr. Calderon described the view corridor from the nearby Banneker Overlook that has affected the configuration of the residential towers. The facades along this view corridor have glass curtainwall to provide panoramic views from the apartments. For other parts of the facades, he said that brick would be an appropriate material in combination with the machined appearance of the industrial sash windows. He emphasized the effort to develop a sympathetic palette of materials among the multiple parcels of the waterfront development.
Mr. Calderon introduced David Rockwell of Rockwell Group to present the design of the music hall facade. Mr. Rockwell described the program for the music hall, with 130,000 square feet accommodating 4,000 to 5,000 people on three levels. The entrance facade would have a width of approximately seventy feet. He noted the previously submitted design but said that the current submission is an entirely new design approach.
Mr. Rockwell described the design goal of creating a compelling and dynamic introduction to the wharf district as well as an interesting addition to federal Washington. The design is intended to be understood when approaching the site from a distance as well as by pedestrians moving along the wharf. The choice of materials is based an industrial or "raw" aesthetic that would typically be associated with a wharf or pier as well as with the alternative music that would be performed in the music hall. He noted that the music hall would be programmed for 100 or perhaps 200 days per year, and an additional challenge is to make the entrance facade appear lively even when no event is occurring inside.
Mr. Rockwell described the proposed entrance. Four ninety–foot–high piers would be made of board–formed concrete; they would be four feet wide and would taper in depth. The corners of the piers would be detailed with black metal channels. The piers would be placed twelve feet in front of the glass building wall, braced with a metal truss that would penetrate the mullionless curtainwall. The lobby behind would be prominently visible through the glass facade, contributing to the sense of activity along the wharf. Five balconies or "shards" at various levels would project from the interior, extending to a distance of twelve to fourteen feet forward of the piers; the balconies would be made of perforated metal with cast glass flooring that would provide an animated appearance. Cables attached to the piers would be used as part of the structural system for the balconies, and the interior floor slabs would be set slightly behind the curtainwall. He described the overall effect of creating a "dialogue between inside and outside." He summarized the overall material palette for the entrance as very simple: concrete, glass curtainwall, perforated metal, cast glass, ipe wood which is also used on the wharf itself, and wood on the interior. An interior staircase with wood treads and open risers would be prominently visible through the facade, and metal–coil curtains would be hung along the curtainwall; reclaimed brick would also be used in the lobby.
Mr. Schlossberg noted the Commission's previous comment that the exterior of the building was too active and expressed puzzlement that the current proposal is nearly as complex. He cited the Commission's previous objection to tall elements and large–scale signage, while the current submission includes ninety–foot–high piers and comparable signage. He acknowledged that the design has improved in some ways but said that the design team and the Commission may have diverging views of the project. He summarized the concern that the issues of surface treatment and scale have not been addressed, notwithstanding the statements of having responded to the Commission's advice.
Mr. Rockwell responded by emphasizing the simplicity of the proposed material palette for the music hall entrance. He said that the scale of the entrance is intended to be appropriate for the scale of the theater within and for the urban setting, and the piers are simple elements that would be recognizable along the length of the wharf. He noted that people would typically be moving parallel to the facade rather than directly toward it. He added that the last review had emphasized criticism of the federal or historicist design character seen in the previous design for the entrance. Mr. Schlossberg noted that the entrance faces a river, not an urban context, and the appropriate scale should be perhaps half of the proposed ninety–foot height. Mr. Rockwell acknowledged the large scale of the proposed sign but said that it would serve as an identifier for the project. He emphasized that the music hall itself is not an object building but is embedded within the residential complex, and a clear identification of the entrance is therefore appropriate. He offered to reconsider the scale but said that the proposed height is intended to convey a sense of depth and commitment in the design.
Mr. Rybczynski suggested New York's Radio City Music Hall as an example of an iconic performance venue that does not have a sign of this scale; he requested further design exploration of this issue. He described the current proposal as reminiscent of a large baseball stadium that is seen from a distance across the surrounding parking lots; but such a distant view would likely only be available to commuters on the highway bridge crossing the river, while pedestrians within the waterfront area would not have a comparable view. Mr. Rockwell reiterated that pedestrians would see the entrance pylons when walking along the length of the wharf. He acknowledged that the ninety–foot height is not necessary for this visibility, but emphasized his view that the proposed design is appropriate in its entirety.
Mr. Schlossberg said that the profusion of elements along the streetscape remains excessive, despite the Commission's previous guidance for simplification; the height of the proposed entrance pylons contributes to this problem. He observed that the large sign for the music hall would not be readily visible to people within the waterfront development and would only be seen from other locations. He emphasized the Commission's effort to make this a great project–a shared goal with the project team–and said that the review process should not be seen as adversarial.
Mr. Eckstut agreed that the process should be collaborative but noted the Commission's previous guidance for boldness at the music hall entrance. Mr. Schlossberg said that the proposed height of ninety feet is not necessary to achieve this result. Mr. Eckstut said that the proposal results from the design team's interpretation of the Commission's advice. He compared the setting to other large waterfront with distant riverbanks, and also noted the airplanes and boats that would be passing through the area. He contrasted this with the more constrained urban setting of Radio City Music Hall, which is able to dominate its busy sign–filled New York context; he said that the open setting of Washington's waterfront requires a different design approach. He also emphasized the overall effort at simplification of the design for Parcel 2.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the Parcel 2 design remains very active, despite the claim of simplification, and this excessive character may be one of the reasons that the design of the music hall entrance is too overwhelming. She said that the building facades remain overly complex, with varying materials and project bays; some of the multi–bay elements are the same scale as the theater entrance. She identified one facade rendering that illustrates five different types of building surface, and the music hall entrance is needing to compete with this design context. She indicated the use of brick to define the retail podium in some areas and to identify the residential entrance locations in other areas. She recommended a simpler overall backdrop so that the music hall entrance could stand out without such a strong design effort. She also expressed concern that the facade materials are being treated as decorative wallpaper rather than conveying a deeper sense of this complex mixed–use building; she noted that the project is the size of an entire city block. She emphasized that the facades should provide legibility for the complexity of the building, rather than present a multitude of separate languages that appear arbitrary.
Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission's jurisdiction under the Shipstead–Luce Act is based on proximity to important federal areas, and the effect of the project on East Potomac Park should be an important consideration. He said that the tall pylons and commercial lettering are the types of elements that the Commission has historically not approved under the Shipstead–Luce Act jurisdiction.
Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the development of the building's base, commenting that the addition of the retail storefronts would result in an animated and heterogeneous streetscape. He said that this provides an additional reason for simplifying the remaining parts of the design, and he questioned why the animation of the base is apparently being used as a justification for animating the upper part of the building. He criticized the apparently arbitrary changes of material, and said that the explanation of functional reasons was unconvincing. He added that the design suggests a lack of conviction: a good facade design could be used throughout the building, while the proposal instead includes repeated changes of color, material, and plane. He expressed disappointment that the problem remains from the previous month despite the Commission's criticism, citing a lack of progress in the design. Mr. Calderon asked for clarification; Mr. Rybczynski said that the current proposal merely moves around the elements of the previous proposal, offering the example of corner treatments that are sometimes abstract and sometimes solid. He reiterated that a more active character is appropriate for the base but does not need to extend up through the building's full height.
Mr. Calderon emphasized such design gestures as the expression of the residential entrance locations through the full height of the facades. Mr. Rybczynski said that facades should not be designed in this manner: a single element in one part of the building should not result in extensive changes to the materials and cornice. He described the proposed design character as scenographic and sun–architectural, treating the project as parts that can be moved around rather than as a building. He said the result is disturbing and particularly problematic because most of the proposals for the other parcels share the same issue, resulting in a very jumbled development.
Mr. Calderon noted that the Parcel 2 building is approximately 300 feet long and questioned whether the Commission is recommending a monolithic treatment, which he said would be the wrong direction for the design. Mr. Schlossberg said that the design team needs to explore such alternatives and be more responsive to the Commission's repeated advice.
Mr. Seaman noted the multiple jurisdictions and constituencies for the project and said that the local community representatives have called for breaking down the building's mass to avoid a monolithic appearance. He recalled the Commission's previous guidance to choose between giving the project the appearance of a single mass or a collection of buildings, and the current submission with varied facade elements is intended to convey the multiple–building aesthetic. He expressed frustration with the Commission's guidance as well as the need to reconcile this advice with the recommendations of the community and the D.C. government. He offered to pursue a much simpler palette for the building but emphasized that other constituencies may object to this approach.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended attempting the simpler design approach that the Commission has requested. She cited the tradition of large buildings that are articulated well but use only a single primary material. She cited the numerous design gestures in this proposal and suggested keeping some of them but eliminating or constraining some variable, such as color. She added that part of the problem is that each design team is working on a single building, but the overall development will include a row of buildings that are often seen together in perspective; the overall grouping needs to be legible to someone visiting the development. She said that a concept of treating the project as multiple buildings, if pursued, should be developed more effectively to break down the scale, rather than merely using a mixture of facade surfaces; an additional approach would be to provide a more meaningful and consistent differentiation of the surfaces. As an example, she suggested that the design gesture for the residential entrances be used only at those entrances so that people would be able to understand the building more easily.
Mr. Eckstut responded that the project team is already trying to consider the overall ensemble of buildings. He cited the studies of views from Banneker Overlook, Maine Avenue, and the wharf, which would each be experienced at different times and perhaps completely different visits. He emphasized the problem of addressing the very large scale of the Parcel 2 building and questioned whether a monolithic treatment would be acceptable or would be rejected as overwhelming and inconsistent with the character of the waterfront development. He said that the design team members have been attempting to interpret the Commission's advice based on their experience with cities and urban streets. He cited his own work at Battery Park City, which has been criticized as making places rather than buildings–a criticism that he welcomes, with the result of creating great places. He offered to continue the effort to address the Commission's guidance while also considering the programmatic needs and community involvement.
Mr. Rockwell also offered to address the Commission's concerns with the scale and the sign at the music hall entrance. He said that the signs on Radio City Music Hall may provide a better model for treating this facade. He asked for a further response to the proposed concept of an inhabitable facade with projecting balconies to animate the lobby facade. Mr. Schlossberg commented that other issues may be problematic with this feature: the wind, water, and heat could discourage people from making use of the balconies. Overall, he encouraged the animation of the facade with texture and the presence of people. He said that an additional problem with the music hall facade is that it emphasizes visual impact rather than the pedestrian–level experience, which has been the area of focus for other parts of the building. He acknowledged the importance of this entrance but reiterated the concern that the design of the piers should be considered in relation to the oblique viewing angles that are available along the waterfront. Mr. Rockwell responded that the design is intended to cause pedestrians to look upward when approaching the entrance; the balconies may be sufficient to provide this uplifting sense, regardless of the height of the piers.
Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission's remarks be carefully recorded and conveyed to the design team, with a request that the Commission have the opportunity for a further review of the proposal. Mr. Luebke provided a summary of the issues that have been raised by the Commission. He asked for clarification of the Commission's guidance on the music hall sign; Mr. Schlossberg responded that a sign at a more appropriate scale, perhaps located only thirty feet above the ground, could be a positive feature.
Mr. Rybczynski offered several concluding comments. He observed that the view corridor from Banneker Overlook results in the separation of the upper floors into two buildings, a situation that could be used advantageously in developing the design further. He said that the size of these buildings is not impossibly large; he cited the precedent of redevelopment of the Old Convention Center site in downtown Washington– a project with comparably long and tall buildings–which was approved by the Commission with support for the relative uniformity of the design. He said that the design team's fear of the scale on Parcel 2 is unwarranted, and he contrasted this project with truly large buildings such as the Pentagon. He said that the music hall entrance is difficult to evaluate because it is fighting with the over–active facades on the rest of the building; he agreed with Ms. Plater–Zyberk that simplifying the overall building design would provide more design flexibility for the music hall entrance.
Mr. Schlossberg reiterated the Commission's support for the development of the retail level of the building. Ms. Fernández questioned the comment in the presentation that the grouping of buildings has been considered with the expectation that people would see them from different vantage points, perhaps seen on different occasions. She said that this should not be used as a reason to compose the different views and facades as independent backdrops; we actually experience cities three–dimensionally, developing an understanding of buildings in their entirety as we move around them. She emphasized that we live in a three–dimensional world, not a series of set–pieces with advertising, and we understand a building as a volume.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to request revisions to the design based on the Commission's comments. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
2. SL 12–104, 800 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 3a. New office building. Concept. (Previous: SL 12– 088, 17 May 2012.) Mr. Seaman introduced architect Gary Steiner of Perkins Eastman to present the proposal for Parcel 3a. Mr. Steiner indicated the areas adjacent to the site: Maine Avenue, the District Pier, the Avenue Mews, and the Pier Mews. The proposed building would be primarily retail on the ground floor with ten stories of office space above. The office lobby would face Maine Avenue; the service area and public restrooms would face the Pier Mews. He indicated the most prominent retail space at the building's north corner facing Maine Avenue and the District Pier.
Mr. Steiner described the revisions from the previous design, emphasizing the effort to simplify, organize, and strengthen the building in response to the Commission's comments; he said that the result is more focus on the single major gesture of the glass office volume at the north corner of the building. He noted that this building and the Parcel 2 project would define the gateway to the District Pier–the major street for the overall waterfront development–and a design goal for this parcel is therefore to mark this entrance route, using the upper glass volume and the corner retail at the base.
Mr. Steiner presented detailed elevations, emphasizing the effort to simplify the fenestration. Some of the bays have been widened, allowing more space for the retail storefronts that will be customized by the tenants. A horizontal band above the ground floor would establish the pedestrian scale and could accommodate retail embellishments such as awnings. The brick piers that extend into the office facades are designed to express the visual weight of the upper volume reaching the ground, relating to the treatment of Parcel 2 and supporting the overall concept of a related family of buildings while conveying the distinct office use of this building. The brick piers and spandrels divide the office curtainwall into a large grid of two– and three–story surfaces.
Mr. Steiner indicated the proposed retail canopy at the north corner of the building; he said that the canopy has been revised to wrap the corner and would extend the length of the frontage along the District Pier. He indicated the additional canopy at the office entrance lobby and said that the lobby facade design has been simplified. The dark gray metal of the ground–floor details would relate to the adjacent parcels. He indicated the required ventilation shaft along the Maine Avenue frontage, serving the existing Metro tunnel beneath the site.
Mr. Steiner presented the facades along the mews, which he said would be primarily brick; narrower bays are now proposed to respond to the spacing of the residential bays in the facing buildings. He indicated the horizontal band above the ground floor, continued from the other facades. At the east corner, the facade would wrap around to relate the frontages along Maine Avenue and the Avenue Mews. He noted that the southern corner is being developed as part of Parcel 3b, connected to the hotel by a bridge above the mews.
Mr. Steiner summarized the key ideas of the exterior–a prominent glass volume at the north corner, bracketed by masonry grids–and compared the design to the previous submissions for this parcel. He said that the more angular form of glass at the corner projecting toward Maine Avenue has now been simplified; its glass facades would be parallel to Maine Avenue and to the District Pier. The brick grids have been extended to the full height of the building and are now proposed to abut the corner glass volume; he described the result as a simpler design with fewer angles and corners, and with a stronger form. He emphasized the intention of conveying an industrial aesthetic through the use of red brick, with accents of limestone and metal. The glass facades would include silver accents and light gray spandrels, intended to resemble the appearance of the clear glass with the office space behind.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the Metro ventilation shaft would be exhausting onto pedestrians along the sidewalk; Mr. Steiner confirmed that this area could be designed to direct the exhaust above the height of pedestrians. Mr. Rybczynski expressed support for the subtle treatment of the brick, with a uniform color and varied grid size. He asked about the projection of the glass volume above the height of the adjacent brick grids; Mr. Steiner responded that this is a glass parapet that would tie back to the building's mechanical penthouse. Mr. Rybczynski recommended terminating the glass facades at the same height as the adjacent brick cornice line, providing a continuity between the glass and brick–framed volumes that would balance the more radical shift in materials; he criticized the proposed glass parapet as a false gesture that people would realize is merely a false front. Mr. Schlossberg agreed.
Mr. Powell expressed appreciation for the design revisions and the overall simplification of the design; Mr. Rybczynski agreed that the design has improved. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the comment in the presentation that the north corner of this parcel, in conjunction with the facing corner of Parcel 2, would form a gateway to the development's major entrance at the District Pier; however, she observed that the designs of these two corners are not closely related, other than the alignemnt of the lower two floors. She asked Mr. Eckstut if he thought this result is satisfactory for the master plan. Mr. Eckstut responded that the intention is treat the buildings as "fraternal twins" rather than identical, which he said would have been an excessive design result. Mr. Schlossberg asked about the relationship of the two buildings at the retail level; Mr. Eckstut confirmed that these areas are matching, a result of the effort to focus on the ground–level environment that defines the District Pier.
Chairman Powell suggested approval of the proposed concept. Mr. Schlossberg and Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the approval should include the comments provided, including further consideration of the ventilation shaft and the glass parapet. Upon a second by Mr. Rybczynski, the Commission adopted this action.
Chairman Powell recused himself from participation in the following agenda item and departed the meeting; Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk presided for the remainder of the meeting.
3. SL 12– 105, 850 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 3b. New hotel building. Concept. (Previous: SL 12– 089, 17 May 2012.) Mr. Seaman introduced architect Bahram Kamali of BBG–BBBM to present the design of the hotel proposed for Parcel 3b. He described the hotel's distinct location facing the waterfront, the District Pier, and the development's main plaza. He described the proposed uses: retail space and the hotel lobby and restaurant on the ground floor; second–floor meeting rooms and the hotel ballroom, which he said would be the city's only ballroom overlooking the water; a third–floor hotel spa and fitness center along with support spaces; all hotel rooms on the fourth through eleventh floors; and a lounge and event spaces on the twelfth floor. The penthouse level would include mechanical space and an outdoor swimming pool. He indicated the green roof and terraces at the building's fourth–floor setback.
Mr. Kamali presented the elevations, which he said have been simplified from the first presentation of this building and are similar to the most recent submission. Refinements have been made to emphasize the building's two major features: the west corner, facing the District Pier and plaza, designed as a clock tower; and the hotel entrance on the southeast facade. Animation of the facades would be provided by the retail tenants, and he presented enlarged elevations of the lower floors to illustrate the pedestrian experience as previously requested by the Commission. He indicated the extensive retail frontage along the northwest and southwest facades and the additional corner retail space adjacent to the hotel entrance, serving to relate the lobby to the plaza on the southwest. He compared the current and previously presented elevations, indicating the simplified design of the ground–floor canopies to align the heights. Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the balconies shown on the enlarged elevations; Mr. Kamali responded that they would generally be very small, with doors opening inward; the only hotel rooms with significant outdoor spaces would be at the building setbacks.
Mr. Kamali noted the Commission's previous comments on the proposed clock tower; he said that the height has been reduced, and his tentative conclusion is that its scale is now appropriate for the building. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Commission had recommended removal of the clock tower due to its confusing emphasis on a corner of the building that is not near the hotel entrance, with the anticipated result of improving the building's massing. He also noted the proposed large–scale commercial lettering at the penthouse level, which he said would be contrary to the Commission's precedent of review under the Shipstead–Luce Act. Mr. Kamali acknowledged that the only change from the most recent submission is the refinement of the canopy design.
Mr. Seaman noted the community interest in retaining and strengthening the proposed clock tower, including a request that an additional clock face be added on the Maine Avenue side of the tower; the request included a four–sided clock tower, but the southeast side would not be sufficiently visible. He said that the tower is not intended to signify the hotel entrance but instead provides emphasis to the District Pier, which is intended as the primary civic component of the waterfront development. He introduced Austin Flajser, president of Carr Hospitality, to provide a further response on the proposed clock tower and sign.
Mr. Flajser emphasized that the height of the clock tower has been reduced from the initial proposal, and the current proposed height results from careful study in relation to the building's size. The project team's decision was therefore to keep it in the submission rather than remove it. He added that the clock tower would provide an important opportunity to announce the presence of this luxury hotel when seen from the District Pier or from the highway bridges crossing the Potomac River. He said that eliminating the tower would be a lost place–making opportunity for the overall development as well as for the hotel. He said that the waterfront is a "pioneering" location for a luxury hotel, and the presence of an iconic element is desirable in establishing the building's identity and importance. He added that the proposed scale of the tower gives it the character of an architectural embellishment.
Mr. Flajser acknowledged the Commission's previous concern with the proposed rooftop sign and emphasized that it would not be located on the tallest part of the building; the lettering would be placed in front of the raised penthouse–level swimming pool. He also acknowledged that the lettering height of approximately ten feet is not typical of Washington, but he said that the scale is appropriate due to the large expanse of water that the sign would face. The sign is therefore still included in the design, with a clearer depiction of the proposal. He also emphasized the changes at the ground floor that have been made in response to the Commission's previous comments.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the roof feature above the hotel entrance which appears prominently in the perspective rendering from the wharf; she said that this feature appears to be shown differently in the elevation drawing. Mr. Kamali responded that the same design is depicted in both drawings. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that such features are important in people's wayfinding through the proposed waterfront development, and the entrance to this hotel–as well as other hotels on the various parcels–should be readily identifiable, whether through architectural features or street addresses. The proposed clock tower appears to be such a wayfinding gesture, but she reiterated the objection that it would not actually relate to the hotel entrance. Mr. Flajser responded that people approaching the hotel in a vehicle would have to use the one–way street system that leads directly to the hotel entrance; he said that the clock tower serves the broader purpose of marking the building's location from a distance, rather than identifying the exact entrance location. Ms. Plater–Zyberk reiterated that this element would be confusing, particularly because the tower extends down to the ground level. Mr. Kamali said that buildings may often have architectural emphasis at a different location than the entrance, which is a more functional element; he reiterated that the massing and clock tower would mark the important western corner of the building.
Mr. Seaman said that the hotel entrance faces the Yacht Club Plaza, which has the additional activity of a condominium building entrance and yacht club activity; the hotel entrance would help to animate this plaza and add to the activity and visibility of this public space. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the tower could therefore be placed at the hotel's south corner, adjacent to the Yacht Club Plaza and the hotel entrance. Mr. Eckstut responded that the master plan concept has been to treat the Yacht Club Plaza as a less important space than the Civic Commons, the large public space at the District Pier that is intended to become a major town square for Washington. He also noted a tradition of towers that are on town squares but are not related to building entrances; the proposed clock tower is intended as a response to the building's civic role.
Ms. Fernández asked if other designs have been explored for the clock tower, other than a minor adjustment to its size. She said that a clock tower might be acceptable and even desirable in principle, but the proposed design seems incompatible with the building. She said that it appears merely tacked on, and the small canopy on top seems to be a half–hearted and unresolved design gesture with something missing; the result of this design is to weaken the rest of the building by giving the appearance of a cheap architectural add–on. She suggested a more imaginative exploration of the clock itself and how it relates to the building. She added that the Commission seems to be seeing the same design repeatedly, and alternative designs should be presented if the project team is interested in retaining a clock tower for the project.
Mr. Freelon agreed and said that the submitted changes are slight and superficial, particularly in comparison to the presentation for Parcel 3a. For example, he said that the building design does not actually appear to have been simplified; a lot of small design elements–changes in elevation and plane–continue to add complexity that is not benefitting the project. Mr. Kamali clarified that most of the changes occurred between the first and second presentations of this project, with only minor additional changes for the current submission. Mr. Freelon and Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested further study of the Commission's recommendations in the most recent review of May 2012. Mr. Eckstut recalled that this was the only building in the May review that was not recommended for further simplification–other than concern with the clock tower and canopy design–and he had conveyed the Commission's advice accordingly to the design team. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk quoted the Commission's letter of 25 May, including requests for a narrower range of materials and elimination of the clock tower and the upper–level sign and logo.
Mr. Rybczynski said that the Commission would never approve the proposed sign, which he characterized as an eyesore in any city and particularly in Washington. He questioned the apparent strategy of continuing to resubmit this proposal and said that the Commission members are unhappy to continue reviewing it. Mr. Flajser responded that the current submission was intended to clarify the proposed location of the sign; he agreed to consider the Commission's response.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission's comments on the parcels reviewed earlier in the meeting can also be applied to this building, including the issues of consistency and the use of materials as a response to the building design rather than merely as a surface feature. She requested a motion on the proposal. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the Commission request the submission of alternatives for further review, so that the effect of more significant changes could be seen by the Commission; he offered the example of eliminating the clock tower or having it rise from a podium rather than reach the ground. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk said that the submission of alternatives would allow the applicant to explore these options without committing to a major change. Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission may wish to review the design options in conjunction with the Parcel 2 proposal because the treatment of the music hall entrance may be strong enough to mark the District Pier and Civic Commons without any need for an additional strong design element at the western corner of Parcel 3b.
Upon a motion by Mr. Rybczynski with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission requested a revised submission for Parcel 3b, including a response to the Commission's comments from the current and prior review as well as design options for eliminating the clock tower.
4. SL 12–102, 750 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 4. New residential and retail building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JAN/12–14.) Mr. Seaman introduced Gary Handel of Handel Architects to present the proposed condominium and apartment building for Parcel 4. He said that the Commission responded favorably to the building in the previous review in January 2010 with limited comments; the current proposal has relatively few substantial changes. He indicated the parcel's location fronting Maine Avenue, the wharf and Yacht Club Plaza, the Avenue Mews, and Jazz Alley; the ground level of the site would be bisected by the Piazza Mews.
Mr. Handel indicated the ground–floor uses: almost all retail, with the condominium lobby facing the Yacht Club Plaza and the lobby for rental apartments along Maine Avenue. An entrance to the below–grade parking would be located along the Avenue Mews, and the loading area would be along the Piazza Mews. He emphasized that nearly all of the street frontage would be dedicated to pedestrian–friendly uses. The second floor would be entirely retail space, with two bridges across the Piazza Mews to connect the two parts of the building. The third through twelfth floors would contain the residential units; at the third floor, the bridge over the Piazza Mews would provide access to a pool and roof deck above a two–story retail pavilion. Most of the residential floors would be configured with condominiums to the southwest and rental apartments to the northeast; the top two floors would be entirely condominiums.
Mr. Handel presented the proposed elevations. The materials would be glass and red brick; the two–story retail base would be expressed as darker brick–frame volumes that turn the corners. The brick portions of the residential floors would be treated as pavilions with industrial sash windows; he emphasized the articulation of the corners. He presented several perspective views which include the adjacent buildings, as previously requested by the Commission. He said that the stepped bays that are proposed on the Jazz Alley facade, in conjunction with the adjacent design for Parcel 5, would open up the view corridor toward the waterfront. He compared the proposal to the January 2012 submission, indicated the further development of the roofscape and coordination with the neighboring parcels. He described the configuration of two pavilions and a courtyard along Maine Avenue and noted that one of the building's corners would be prominently visible due to the angle of the street alignments.
Mr. Rybczynski noted the glassy treatment of the top two floors along Maine Avenue and asked if special amenity spaces are located behind these windows; Mr. Handel responded that the facade expresses the condominiums in the top two floors along Maine Avenue, distinct from the rental apartments in the lower floors. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the proposed brick differs from the brick intended for the neighboring buildings. Mr. Handel responded that this has not been coordinated, and the brick proposed for this building is based on a preference for this particular variety. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the apparent variety of brick colors shown in the drawings. Mr. Handel clarified that two colors are proposed, and both are versions of the same brick type with the color difference resulting from the firing process; the lighter bricks would be used for the upper residential floors, and the darker bricks would be used for the retail base. An additional material would be used for the two–story retail pavilion that projects toward the Yacht Club Piazza. He clarified that the apparent additional variety of brick colors on the drawings is a result of showing shadows.
Mr. Freelon expressed support for the design and suggested approval. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the treatment of the apartment facades as brick that appears to be hung on glass with no visible support. Mr. Rybczynski said that the design approach of treating the condominium and apartment facades with different materials is odd and unnecessary; but, accepting this premise, he suggested that the brick facades be treated with more consistency rather than shifting to glass at the corners. He added that the glass on the condominium facades is handled better, and a similarly strong treatment of the residential brick facades would improve the building. He offered support for the design of the brick retail base, which he said works very well. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized that the brick could appear to be load–bearing, rather than to be treated like wallpaper. She acknowledged that the brick is not actually load–bearing but said that an expression of this fact would best be developed with humor or irony that is not otherwise part of the building's design approach. Mr. Rybczynski observed that the retail base resolves this issue better, giving a clear expression of a load–bearing system. Mr. Handel asked if changing to a single brick color would address the Commission's concern; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the issue is to use the proposed brick in a more rational way on the rental apartment facades. She emphasized the need for using a consistent architectural language for the building.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested that the Commission approve the concept with the comments provided, and to instruct the staff to work further with the design team in developing a design response for the next stage of review; the Commission adopted this action. She emphasized that the Commission's concerns should be addressed carefully, in the interest of consistency with the review of other parcels, but the issues seem sufficiently limited to allow for concept–level approval. She added that the waterfront development is an important project for the future of Washington, meriting the effort to make these buildings more than merely period pieces.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider item II.F.6.
6. SL 12– 101, 780 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Capital Yacht Club. New clubhouse building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JAN/12–15.) Mr. Seaman introduced Lee Quill of Cunningham Quill Architects to present the clubhouse design for the Capital Yacht Club. Mr. Quill noted the Commission's request at the January 2012 review to shift the building location to improve the view toward the water from along the Avenue Mews. He said that the building has been shifted by ten feet; other changes have been refinements to the materials, elevations, and interior layout. The shutters and screening have been developed as a tertiary level of detail for the building openings, affecting the appearance from the Yacht Club Plaza. The clerestory and the copper flashing have been adjusted. He indicated the major design feature of a balcony facing the water.
Mr. Quill said that security is an important issue, with a need to prevent the public from reaching the docked boats. The existing yacht club has ugly fences; the proposed design includes glass fences and gates to avoid the appearance of a barricade.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about signs for this building, noting the Commission's concern with this issue for the other submitted buildings. Mr. Seaman responded that the Capital Yacht Club has an existing plaque of small size that would be relocated to the front of the proposed building, along with the club's flag.
Mr. Rybczynski and Ms. Fernández offered support for the design. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the concept for the clubhouse.
At this point, the Commission returned to agenda item II.F.5.
5. SL 12–110, 700 Water Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 5. New hotel and retail building. Concept. Mr. Seaman introduced architect Andrew Rollman of SmithGroupJJR to present the project for Parcel 5. Mr. Rollman noted that this project has not been previously presented to the Commission. He described the proposal for a 300,000–square–foot building that would include two hotel towers on a shared masonry base, and indicated the location at the southeast end of the row of structures to be built in the first phase of the waterfront development. The southeast side faces the 7th Street Park; other sides of the parcel face the wharf, Maine Avenue, and Jazz Alley. At 110 feet, the building height would be approximately twenty feet lower than the buildings to the northwest, signaling the change to lower, quieter designs at a distance from the central space of the overall development.
Mr. Rollman described the program for two types of hotel from Starwood: the Aloft, which would contain numerous spaces shared by the public and hotel guests; and the Element, an extended–stay hotel with apartment–sized units and a focus on sustainability. He said that the design was inspired by the image of sailboats and sails: the glass curtainwalls would be wrapped in white metal, and one of the hotel facades would consist of a series of bays canted toward the waterfront view to the southwest. The base is designed with a basic framework of brick; retailers would be able to modify the base further, and he presented several concept images of how the base might appear after retail leasing. The slightly recessed second floor would have numerous interior and exterior public spaces. Above the second floor, the two hotel towers would form a U–shape around a courtyard opening to the southwest with views of the water; the courtyard would be accessible to the public as well as to hotel guests. The top of the towers would have green roofs. The two towers would be glass with different articulations related to neighboring buildings, and the proposal includes several different elevation treatments. The curtainwall of the southeast tower, the Element hotel, would have no intermediate horizontal mullions. The Aloft tower would have a greater extent of metal in the industrial sash windows, and darker translucent spandrel glass would conceal furnishings located along the exterior walls of the guest rooms. He clarified the different types of clear, spandrel, and fritted glass on the renderings of the facades.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked whether the potential design changes by retail tenants could extend upward on the building facades; Mr. Rollman confirmed that retail changes would be restricted to the ground floor. Mr. Luebke noted that any future changes for retail tenants would need to be brought back to the Commission for review as separate Shipstead–Luce Act submissions.
Mr. Rollman described the proposed treatment along Maine Avenue. On this facade, the north and south arms of the building would be expressed as towers extending down to the ground, connected by a recessed facade that would be treated as a bridge between the two towers. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked whether this bridge would be treated as a third surface; Mr. Rollman responded that a glazed cementitious terra cotta material is being considered, with a gray tone that would be compatible with the prevailing palette of grays and blues. The penthouse would be sheathed in metal with an iridescent finish that would change from blue to green and provide an accent to the rest of the building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked whether the courtyard facades of the two hotel towers would have the same treatment as their outer facades. Mr. Rollman responded that the Aloft tower's facade would be the same on all sides; the Element tower would have more mullions on the courtyard facade than on the side facing the park in order to make the courtyard more uniform and to differentiate the park facade from the rest of the building.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that a striking result of seeing the series of presentations for the first–phase buildings is the superiority of the sailboat image as an inspiration for the waterfront development in comparison to the image of heavy brick industrial buildings which had inspired the other proposals. He called this proposal "a breath of fresh air" because it appears to have something to do with the water and boats, resulting in a project that belongs at this location and would create a fitting atmosphere. He expressed support for the heavy base and the articulation of the towers, and observed that the design succeeds without a clock or a sign.
Mr. Freelon commented that the varying elevations of the Parcel 5 building appear to have a balance and proportion appropriate to their scale; he also expressed appreciation for the elevation rendering that includes all of the buildings in the first phase. Ms. Fernández said she had no objection to the proposal.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk encouraged a more consistent approach to the design of the facades, such as refinement of how they turn corners and terminate. She noted the ongoing concern through the multiple submissions with how facade elements begin and end. She said that a result of an improved consistency may be further coordination of the courtyard facades, treated distinctly from the outer facades of the building; she offered the example of the bridge segment which could be designed with the terra cotta cladding on only the Maine Avenue facade while its courtyard side could more closely match the other courtyard facades.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported Mr. Rybczynski's comment that the approach of using the image of sails is preferable than the image of industrial buildings. Ms. Fernández observed that this project does not appear to be trying too hard. Mr. Rybczynski added that it has an appealing lightness, like a wharf of the 21st rather than 19th century. He supported the proposed palette and cautioned against any temptation to introduce too many materials.
Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the concept proposal for Parcel 5.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider agenda items II.G.1 and II.G.2.
G. District of Columbia Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development / Hoffman–Madison Waterfront, LLC
1. CFA 21/JUN/12–7, Southwest Waterfront Development public spaces and landscapes associated with Parcels 1, 2, 3a, and 3b, District Pier, and Transit Pier. Concept. (Previous: CFA 17/MAY/12–4.)
2. CFA 21/JUN/12–8, Southwest Waterfront Development public spaces and landscapes associated with Parcel 4 (The Mews), 7th Street Park, and Yacht Club Plaza Concept. (Previous: CFA 19/JAN/12–4, master plan.)
Mr. Luebke noted the impending loss of a quorum, which would require that any further Commission comments be adopted formally at the next monthly meeting. Mr. Seaman suggested beginning with the brief presentation of the 7th Street Park for action by the Commission, followed by the presentation of the remaining public spaces and landscapes and then the church on Parcel 11a. He introduced Beata Corcoran of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects to present the 7th Street Park proposal.
Ms. Corcoran said that the previous presentation in January 2012 included both the 7th Street Park and the 7th Street Pier, which were designed in tandem with related design concepts; she recalled that most of the Commission's comments concerned the pier, which is not part of the waterfront's first phase of development and is therefore not included in the current submission. She described the park as a quiet place within the busy waterfront area, in contrast to the role of the pier as a place for people to go out onto the water itself. She indicated the buildings that would frame the park: the Parcel 5 hotel project to the northwest, and a mixed–use residential building to the southeast; the edges would be activated by ground–floor restaurant and retail uses.
Ms. Corcoran presented the proposed design of the park. A large raised oval of grass and trees would be set within a ground plane of brick pavers. An outer ring of slim bollards would separate vehicular and pedestrian zones surrounding the landscaped oval. The southwest end of the oval would be a rain garden that collects water from throughout the site. Closer to the waterfront edge would be an interactive fountain, and an overlook would be provided at the bulkhead. She noted that the overlook would be partially constructed in the first phase of development, with a wooden canopy to follow in the second phase.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the vehicular circulation. Ms. Corcoran indicated the counterclockwise traffic pattern around the landscaped oval and said that the area used by cars is a shared zone with pedestrians; no curb is proposed along the bollards. Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the interactive fountain proposal. Ms. Corcoran responded that this feature has not yet been fully developed further; she emphasized that it would be an interactive place.
Mr. Luebke reported the Commission's previous guidance from January. Ms. Corcoran confirmed that numerous elements are being deleted from the pier concept, which will be submitted as a simple and clean design. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted that the design of the park is similar to the previous submission, and the Commission could simply confirm its previous support for this component. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the concept for the 7th Street Park.
At this point, Ms. Fernández departed the meeting, resulting in the loss of a quorum.
Mr. Seaman asked Mr. Eckstut to continue with the presentation of the remaining public spaces in the submission. Mr. Eckstut said that many of the design elements have been presented to the Commission previously; questions involving the District Pier are the most notable outstanding issues. He presented the typical section along the wharf, indicating the zones for canopies, landscaping, and limited vehicular access. These zones would be expressed through variation of the paving materials. He noted that the wharf is being designed as a significant element of the stormwater management system for the waterfront, with the collected water supporting the trees in this area. He said that the stormwater system is a priority for the D.C. government and would be a model among American cities. He described the development of the wood fendering design along the water's edge, providing a bench instead of a railing. The detailing has been refined to improve the comfort for seating.
Mr. Eckstut described the lighting along the wharf, including lampposts, lighting of the trees, lights beneath the benches, and blue maritime lights toward the water that he said would be particularly noticeable from the nearby flight path. The restaurants would provide additional lighting to the area. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the proposed light pole; Mr. Eckstut responded that a variety of heights would be used with a sixty–foot spacing. He noted that the lights would no longer include branding for the development, and he characterized their appearance as a set of glowing lanterns. He confirmed that a fabric sock would be placed within the fixture; the intention, developed with the firm Pentagram, is to provide a warm and well–scaled visual element that communicates without letters and signs. He added that this feature is only proposed along the wharf; the lighting along Maine Avenue would be standard city streetlights.
Mr. Eckstut described the proposed pavilions which would support vendors who would add a special character to the wharf, particularly for seasonal activities and holidays. He said that some of the pavilions may end up as simply seating areas; not all would necessarily be occupied by vendors. The potential locations for these pavilions have been selected to avoid interrupting any view corridors. He presented renderings of the wharf and emphasized its simple design that has been achieved after much effort.
Mr. Eckstut presented the design of the Transit Pier, which would accommodate commercial boats that are used by the general public. In addition to this basic purpose, he said that the pier would itself be a major event or experience including bleacher seating and the opportunity for viewing performance barges. He clarified the multiple levels in this area and the use of fendering, rather than fencing, to separate the different grade heights. The Transit Pavilion, located on the Transit Pier, would accommodate ticketing and perhaps a cafe; the second level of the pavilion would be open to the public for viewing of the waterfront. He described the pavilion as non–monumental and as playfully interacting with the nearby entrance to the music hall on Parcel 2.
Mr. Eckstut described the area adjacent to the wharf between Parcels 1 and 2, at the foot of Theater Alley. This area would remain open as a turnaround location for trucks using the theater loading dock along the alley; however, trucks would be present only infrequently, and the design of this space has now been developed as an additional public space amenity and potential event space. He indicated the proposed water feature at the center of the circular plaza, and the potential deflection of the bulkhead in response to the plaza's shape, including a portion with a wood edge that would be cantilevered above the water. He said that the plaza and alley could be developed with their own type of charm, perhaps as a place for drinks in association with the nearby music hall.
Mr. Eckstut presented the proposal for the District Pier, which he described as the major arrival place from boats, from the below–grade garage, and for pedestrians. He indicated the sectional path from the garage to the ground level, arriving at the Pierhouse which is supported on pylons that would continue to the pier's edge. He said that the design of this element has been simplified: the cables have been removed, and the lettering has been reduced in height to 2.5 feet. He said that the purpose of the sign would be identity rather than wayfinding, marking the District Pier as an important place and relating it to the retail space on the facing parcels. He acknowledged the Commission's previous concern with the size of the lettering and emphasized that the proposal is intended as an identity element rather than a sign. He said that the concept is not based on recreating any specific past image or historic warehouse buildings, but is instead intended to evoke a memory or ghost of this working maritime wharf that historically contrasted with the federal city. He noted people's desire in modern times to find ways of remembering, and he said that the lettering would add beautiful elements that are part of the tradition of waterfronts. He added that the Pierhouse would not be designed as a building and would not block views; it is instead intended to bring people into the waterfront development and accommodate a mix of activities every day. He indicated the cafe building that would be located within the Pierhouse, whose materials would include the local Carderock stone. Mr. Freelon asked if the masts shown in the renderings are the same height and size as previously presented. Mr. Eckstut responded that the design of these pylons is unchanged, but alternate pylons have been removed along the pier; the spacing on the land remains at thirty feet.
Mr. Eckstut described the large open space of the Civic Commons, noting that its size is comparable to major public spaces in other cities. He said this space would be the focus of the development, offering the example of a Christmas tree that would be located here. He presented comparisons of the previous renderings with the updated design, along with a rendering from a new viewpoint to illustrate the full extent of the pier. He emphasized the design intention of connecting the waterfront to the city and Maine Avenue, indicating the continuous wood surface. Lighting fixtures would be decorative as well as providing safety. He said that the design of the steel on the pylons has been simplified; the pylons would provide the infrastructure for special events, a much better arrangement than bringing in scaffolding for each occasion.
Mr. Eckstut presented the proposed dock master's building at the end of the District Pier. The ground floor of the building would serve the functional purpose of supporting the dock operations; the upper level could be used for special events or as a bar or cafe. The wood surface of the pier, extending from Maine Avenue, would rise up to form bleacher seating against the building to provide views back toward the wharf or for watching performances.
Mr. Eckstut presented the proposed Capital Yacht Club Plaza between Parcels 3b and 4. The design is intended as a simple landscape feature with minor changes in the paving; its shape and character would be formed by the surrounding buildings. The nearby Avenue Mews would connect the plaza to Maine Avenue, and the several other mews would form a system that is intended to provide a smaller–scale variety of experiences. He indicated the revised spacing of the metal elements framing the Pier Mews; the arches have been changed from stone to steel in response to the Commission's previous criticism. He also presented a comparison of renderings to illustrate how the design for Jazz Alley has been simplified.
Mr. Eckstut described the proposed streetscape along Maine Avenue, which he said would generally follow the D.C. government guidelines for lights, signs, poles, and traffic signals. A bikeway is proposed within the sidewalk space, making use of a setback in the development's buildings from the Maine Avenue property line. Existing trees would be retained where possible, and new trees would be planted. He said that the goal is to design Maine Avenue to be consistent with Washington's other great avenues.
Mr. Luekbe noted that the remaining Commission members could offer comments or an action to be ratified at the next monthly meeting. Mr. Freelon suggested that even comments without an action should be ratified by the full Commission in this case.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of how the pylons on the District Pier would be used to support event programming. Mr. Eckstut responded that the primary purpose of the pier would be for ships, but it would also be used for holidays and special events. The pylons would provide water and electric power as well as a hanging location for special equipment. He noted that the repetitive pattern of the pylons would provide a visual amenity that emphasizes the importance of this pier. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the pylons are acceptable on the wharf and have been developed well, but they do not have an appropriate appearance for the pier. He said that the stone bases do not have a nautical character and their height seems excessive, and added that their inclusion may result merely from a desire to include mast–like elements in the design. He suggested simple columns to serve this purpose on the pier.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that the smaller buildings–such as the kiosks and the Transit Pavilion–are too heavy in appearance and should be designed with a lighter and more nautical character. He said that they do not feel joyful enough for this waterfront environment. He acknowledged the desire to evoke a memory of shed buildings but said that the result is heavy and not uplifting, without successfully evoking the memory of an industrial building. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the design of such structures is overly complex for their small size. Mr. Rybczynski noted that the proposed seating bulkhead is a successful element, and one can easily imagine people sitting along it. He also supported the development of the light poles, commenting that their design is unusual but feels appropriate.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested a separate presentation of these smaller elements so that their design could be evaluated more carefully. Mr. Eckstut said that the details have been developed with consideration of other precedents, such as the problem of dirt and trash where metal comes to the ground. He emphasized the importance of the local Carderock stone in the region but acknowledged that people would have differing reactions to the aesthetics of the proposal. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated that the stone does not seem appropriate on a pier. Mr. Eckstut said that he shares the Commission's goal of establishing a light and joyful character for the development. He emphasized that reproducing historic precedents would not be an appropriate solution for the smaller structures of the waterfront. He described the effort to lighten numerous elements through simplification and coordination of heights and materials; he noted that a more cost–effective solution might be to eliminate many of the proposed features. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the coordination is intermittent; for example, while the pylons and wood surface are continuous from Maine Avenue to the end of the District Pier, the design of the dock master's building is not related well to the Pierhouse. Mr. Eckstut responded that no relationship is intended; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the continuous elements create a relationship, and the design should be considered more carefully. She added that similar attention to relationships among the elements should be given to gateway conditions. She suggested that similar components be used to form the various smaller structures, including the vendor pavilions; she described these as examples of furnishings for the site. She suggested considering three scales of elements for the project: the large buildings; the intermediate scale of small buildings and pavilions, perhaps including the yacht club; and the small scale of trash cans, fire hydrants, and similar elements.
Mr. Eckstut responded that the vendor pavilions are themselves relatively simple and would intermittently be animated by the activities of the vendors. He said that the various smaller buildings would establish the character of the waterfront for many decades, and taking out too many of these elements would result in a loss of control of the area's character. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the appearance is of different designers for each of the components, and she reiterated the recommendation for a common design vocabulary. Mr. Rybczynski suggested that the unusual and successful design of the light poles could serve as a model for improving the design of other structures in the public spaces, with the goal of a leisure– and water–related environment; instead, he said that the proposed pavilions resemble bus shelters that lack poetry and could be located anywhere. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the vendor pavilions have not been designed with consideration of their role when not used by vendors. Mr. Eckstut said they would provide shade and seating; Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested including a built–in bench. Mr. Eckstut said that the emphasis would be on moveable chairs to supplement the 2,500–foot–long seating edge along the water, and the moveable chairs would give an environment that is always changing and being reinvented. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested that the fabric of the light poles be repeated as canopies on the retail pavilions to provide shade. Mr. Eckstut clarified that, while the pavilions might not always be occupied by vendors, they would only be built if there is sufficient opportunity to use them for vending.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk reiterated the overall guidance for simplification; she commented that the renderings cannot depict all of the elements that inevitably end up in the built environment, and the best strategy is therefore to err on the side of simplicity. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
The Commission returned to agenda item II.F.7, the remaining Shipstead–Luce Act submission in the Southwest Waterfront development.
F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory AffairsShipstead–Luce Act (continued)
7. SL 12–100, 600 M Street, SW. Southwest Waterfront Development, Parcel 11a. New church. Concept. (Previous: SL 12–070, 17 April 2012.) Mr. Seaman introduced architect Michael Foster of MTFA Architecture to present the concept for a new church on Parcel 11a of the Southwest Waterfront development. Mr. Foster said the current submission includes refinements in response to the Commission's previous comments as well as a physical model as requested by the Commission.
Mr. Foster said that the form of the church has been simplified: the back eastern end of the site is now treated as a plaza rather than as a secondary entrance to the building, resulting in greater emphasis on the building entrance facing the harbor and park toward the west. The base of the building would be covered in bronze shingles; the raised sanctuary would be sheathed in glass and given the form of a sail, a welcoming form that extends toward the rear of the building where the fritted glass parapet would screen the rooftop mechanical equipment.
Mr. Foster emphasized the importance of the location at the intersection of Maine Avenue and M Street, SW, a result of dividing Parcel 11 into two building sites. Because of this location, the design team had placed the focal point of the worship space on this corner. Although the church will be a relatively small building–probably only visible from a few blocks away–he said that sanctuary is intended as a focal point at this intersection, with its peak serving as a prominent visual element for people traveling along M Street and Maine Avenue. He said that the form also responds to the nearby Arena Stage building and to the scale and materials of the neighboring Tiber Island residential complex.
Mr. Foster noted the Commission's previous concern with using colored glass as liturgical elements on the sanctuary facade; this treatment is now planned as part of the interior design where it can be developed in a more limited and flexible manner. He emphasized the interior focus on the historic baptismal font that would be placed inside the building entrance; the design of the entrance has been simplified, with a glass wall providing a view of the font framed by a pair of limestone–colored cast–stone panels in the form of permanently open doors, a structural device that will also be a welcoming symbol. The font location is also at the intersection of interior circulation routes including the route from the entrance up to the sanctuary.
Mr. Foster said that the proposed materials are a simple palette of precast concrete, bronze shingles, bronze storefront, and a honed glazed block that will be used on the base; he said that the colors would be compatible with the palette of the planned residential building behind the church. The church would have both clear and light blue glass, including a semi–reflective blue glass at the sanctuary to mitigate glare.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the physical model is very helpful in clarifying some of the design proposals, such as the form of the parapet glass. She suggested that this parapet could do more than screen the air conditioning equipment: it could also screen views of the planned large, irregularly shaped building behind that would detract from views of the church, with the goal of making the church more dominant from the viewpoint of pedestrians. She asked why the two planes of glass are separated at the corner of the sanctuary; Mr. Foster responded that the form of the glass enclosure is intended to recall the image of the leading edge of a sail. He said that if this edge were closed, the sanctuary would appear to be a massive, ponderous cube of glass, like the corner of an office building; by expressing the individual planes, the volume would feel lighter and more airy.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the model makes clear that the bell tower on the west appears to be attached to the residential building rather than to the church. She emphasized that the Commission has been trying to give the church building a powerful identity–a goal that is clearly shared by the architect–but many design gestures are interfering with this effort. She summarized the guidance to conceal the residential building behind the church, at least as seen from a short distance, and to connect the tower more clearly to the church instead of to the residential building. Mr. Foster responded that the program and budget are for a two–story building in front of the planned five–story apartment building; Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the church structure is already proposed as more than four stories high. Mr. Rybczynski added that if the tower were removed, the funds would be available for the other recommended changes.
Mr. Rybczynski agreed that the model is helpful in understanding the proposed design, and the model makes clear that the focus of the building should be the glass corner of the sanctuary. He recommended placing the proposed exterior cross at this glass corner rather than on the bell tower, which he reiterated should be eliminated from the design; he said that the glass corner would serve visually as the church's tower, and he agreed that the proposed form of the tower appears to be part of the planned apartment building rather than the church. He also suggested more careful consideration of the sanctuary layout; while acknowledging that the Commission does not review the interior, he suggested that the square–shaped room be arranged as a diamond to correspond with the rising shape of the ceiling toward the glass corner where all of the design elements could come together. He emphasized that the treatment of this corner should be as strong as possible.
Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk expressed appreciation for the presentation. She noted the lack of a quorum and the possibility that the absent Commission members may have a different response to the proposal. Mr. Luebke said that the two Commission members present may prefer to offer only their comments rather than a recommended action. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested recommending the project for approval; Mr. Rybczynski agreed, with the understanding that the suggested changes would be explored. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk said that the other Commission members should have the opportunity at the next meeting to see the current version of the design which is the basis for the recommended action, as well as the subsequent revisions in response to the comments provided. Mr. Foster and Mr. Luebke offered to work on coordinating the next submission in conjunction with the recommended approval of the concept. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk supported this conclusion; she noted that the interest of the Commission members in providing extensive comments on the proposal is due to the importance of the site within the urban context.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:22 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: July 20, 2012