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Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts

15 November 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 10:10 a.m.

Members present:
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Plater–Zyberk, Vice–Chairman
Hon. Elizabeth Meyer
Hon. Edwin Schlossberg

Staff present:
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
Eve Barsoum
Sarah Batcheler
Kay Fanning
Jose Martinez
Susan Raposa
Tony Simon

I. Administration

A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 October meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the October meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.

D. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 17 January 2013, 21 February 2013, and 21 March 2013; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December.

Mr. Luebke noted that the Commission did not have any site inspections prior to the meeting.

II. Submissions and Reviews

A. Appendices

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. Chairman Powell noted the relatively short length of the appendices.

Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.

Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several changes to the draft appendix. The recommendations for two cases (SL 13–007 and SL 13–009) have been finalized as favorable based on the receipt of supplemental materials; the scope of work for these projects has also been updated. Two cases (SL 12–144 and SL 13–017) have been added that were originally submitted as permit applications but needed further design revisions; the issues are being resolved and these projects have been placed on the revised appendix as concept designs with favorable recommendations. She requested authorization for the staff to act on the anticipated new permit applications for these two projects as their designs are finalized during the December break in the Commission's schedule. Mr. Luebke noted that one of the cases involves a landmarked building (SL 13–017 at 2323 Porter Street, NW), and the recommendation is being coordinated with the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board action on the project. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix including delegation of additional staff actions for two cases. (See agenda item II.F for an additional Shipstead–Luce Act submission.)

Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported the changes to the draft appendix. Several recommendations have been updated to note the receipt of supplemental information. The anticipated information was not provided for a storefront project (OG 12–203), and the recommendation has therefore been changed to unfavorable. Chairman Powell noted that the storefront has already been installed without the required review; he asked about the procedure for addressing such situations. Mr. Martinez confirmed that the D.C. government could require the installation of a different design that receives the appropriate approvals; the applicant could also request a waiver from the Mayor's Agent by demonstrating that the storefront does not affect the historic district's character or that reinstallation would be a financial hardship. Mr. Luebke confirmed that these recourses should not affect the Commission's action. [This case was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the applicant.] Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.

B. General Services Administration

CFA 15/NOV/12–1, St. Elizabeths Hospital, West Campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Public art installation by artist Mark di Suvero for the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters. Final. Mr. Luebke introduced the proposal for a sculpture to be located at the entrance plaza of the new U.S. Coast Guard headquarters building, currently under construction on the West Campus of St. Elizabeths which is being developed as the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security. The sculpture is a large abstract piece by Mark di Suvero, titled Thanks from the Saved Ones, with numerous nautical and Coast Guard references. He said that the project was developed through the Art in Architecture program of the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages a public art program for many federal buildings. He noted that Commission member Teresita Fernández—not present at today's meeting—has been commissioned under this program to create artwork for the Coast Guard building's lobby; as an interior project, this work does not require Commission review. He introduced Tony Alonso, design director for GSA's regional Office of Planning and Design Quality, to present the proposal.

Mr. Alonso presented drawings of the sculpture and photographs of a working model. He read a statement from the artist, noting that Mr. di Suvero was unable to travel to the Commission meeting due to health reasons. In the statement, Mr. di Suvero expressed his admiration for the humanitarian mission of the Coast Guard's ocean rescue work, which is referenced in the sculpture's title, and said that the purpose of the work is to "convey the energy and excitement of being at sea." The proposed materials of welded steel and titanium allude to the Coast Guard's ships and equipment, while the sculpture's free form would serve as a foil to the clean angles of the new building.

Mr. Alonso said that Thanks from the Saved Ones would be 11 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide; it would stand on a six–foot–square granite pedestal set within a shallow two–tiered reflecting pool. The sculpture would be mounted on a hinge and pin, allowing it to rotate fully with the wind; he confirmed that the sculpture would not be mechanically rotated. He concluded by presenting photographs of other works by the artist around the U.S., including local outdoor sculptures at the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about the relationship of the sculpture's height to the building wall behind it; Mr. Alonso confirmed that they would be at the same height. He noted that photographs of the setting are not yet available because the headquarters building is still under construction, and further design refinements may result from the GSA review panel. Mr. Luebke suggested further explanation of GSA's artist selection process for the Art in Architecture program. Mr. Alonso responded that when an architecture firm—in this case, Perkins + Will— is chosen to design a building, it selects an artist from a list compiled by a panel that includes representatives of the Art in Architecture program and the client, as well as artists from the private sector. This panel reviews the work of perhaps fifty artists and creates a short list for further review.

Several Commission members expressed support for the sculpture and for GSA's selection of Mr. di Suvero, commenting on his national prominence as an artist. Ms. Meyer questioned the appearance of the sculpture when the basin is empty of water; Mr. Alonso responded that the basin would have a recirculating water system and should always be full. Chairman Powell commended Mr. di Suvero's choice to create this piece in stainless steel, commenting that this material would engage light. He added that a wind study would be helpful in assessing the intended movement of the piece. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission approved the project.

C. District of Columbia Department of General Services

CFA 15/NOV/12–2, St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion, East Campus of St. Elizabeths, 1100 Alabama Avenue, SE. Temporary pavilion for food vendors, farmers market, and community uses. Concept. Ms. Fanning introduced the concept design for a gateway pavilion on the East Campus of St. Elizabeths, the first project to result from the master plan for mixed–use development that was presented to the Commission by the D.C. Office of Planning in July 2012. The pavilion would provide space for a farmers market, food vendors, and performances; in particular, it would serve the needs of the Coast Guard employees who will soon move to the nearby headquarters building. The pavilion is intended as a temporary facility that would open in May 2013 and operate until at least 2015. The design/build team, including Davis Brody Bond and Kadcon, was selected through a limited competition. To begin the presentation, she introduced Ethan Warsh from the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Mr. Warsh said that his office is managing the overall redevelopment initiative for the St. Elizabeths East Campus and is working with the D.C. Department of General Services. He said that the temporary pavilion would begin to achieve the goals of the larger East Campus project, which will require several years of work for the completion of permanent improvements. During the interim period, the pavilion would draw people to the campus and establish a market for the subsequent development. He noted the lengthy planning process and the community's desire for near–term activities; he added that grocery stores are relatively scarce in this part of the city, and the food sales at the pavilion would be a welcome amenity for the neighborhood. He asked architect Peter Cook of Davis Brody Bond to present the design.

Mr. Cook read excerpts from a vision statement for the pavilion, prepared by the D.C. government: the pavilion should be an "innovative and aesthetically unique structure . . . to house food amenities, to provide a flexible space to host other activities, . . . and to activate the East Campus and brand it as an iconic, unique, and active asset and destination" for the neighborhood and city; the vision statement further calls for the pavilion to be a unique structure, distinct from other comparable D.C. facilities such as Eastern Market. He added that the design team carefully studied the functionality of Eastern Market—such as vendor logistics and customer use patterns—as a model for this pavilion, while not trying to reproduce its architecture.

Mr. Cook said that the proposal is also based on careful study of the site. He indicated the slope of approximately eight feet, the setting on the western edge of the historic East Campus, the nearby low–scale development of the Congress Heights community to the southwest, the Coast Guard headquarters building under construction to the northwest across Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, and the Congress Heights Metro station to the southeast. He described the visual axes and pedestrian circulation routes that cross the site; major generators of pedestrian activity include the neighborhood, the Metro station, and the Coast Guard headquarters which will house 4,000 employees. He noted the planned reconfiguration of adjacent roads as depicted in the master plan for the East Campus. He said that the low curving form of the proposed pavilion would align with a major circulation pattern and would frame views of the East Campus.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of access points for Coast Guard employees on the West Campus, noting that the West Campus would be a gated and heavily secured site. Mr. Cook responded that employees could be commuting on foot, by bicycle, or by shuttle bus; an access gate is assumed to be available across Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue from the pavilion. Mr. Warsh said that coordination is continuing with the U.S. General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security; he indicated the planned gate that could be opened, where an existing road tunnel leads between the campuses. He acknowledged the security requirements of the West Campus but said that the D.C. government is planning for pedestrian crossings of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue in this area. He added that the Coast Guard building is a ten–minute walk from the pavilion site; the internal shuttle bus for the West Campus may bring employees to the gate directly across from the pavilion.

Mr. Cook described the competition design in more detail. The pavilion structure would be supported at the northwest and southeast corners, defining a covered area of approximately 20,000 square feet. The enclosure walls beneath the structure would range in height from 10 to 25 feet; some support facilities, such as restrooms, would be located beyond this enclosure. He anticipated that activities would spread outward into a flexible–use area around the pavilion. He indicated an area of open green space; its use has not been defined, and a portion would be constructed with a durable substrate to accommodate food trucks. A beautiful existing tree would be the focal element of the front plaza. People would be encouraged to walk up and over the structure as well as to traverse the area at grade level, where most of the activity would occur; the roof may include an amphitheater, oriented to give audiences a view of the East Campus. He added that the pedestrian routes would have a shallow slope that meets accessibility requirements. Materials under consideration include a steel superstructure spanned by precast concrete planks, a ductile fabric to cover the underside of the structure, and concrete pavers; the goal is to keep the design as simple as possible. Utilities at the site would be limited, which Mr. Cook said would call for the creative use of environmentally friendly local resources, such as biodiesel–fueled cogeneration plants using spent vegetable oil.

Mr. Powell asked about the planned periods of operation for the vending. Mr. Cook responded that the hours and the days of the week would be flexible; he confirmed that the pavilion is not intended to have the frequent opening hours of a grocery store. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked how the pavilion would be managed; Mr. Warsh responded that the D.C. government would enter into an agreement with a "master operator" who would be responsible for finding vendors and programming the space.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the renderings give the impression of a structure with the smooth finish of poured concrete, but the precast concrete planks described in the presentation would have a different appearance; she also asked for clarification of the treatment beneath the structure, which is depicted as having a smooth surface that reflects light. Mr. Cook said that burlap is being considered for the soffit; the goal is a warm, textured material that might be found on a farm. He added that exposing some portion of the steel structure had been considered but will likely not be pursued.

Mr. Schlossberg commented that the pavilion design is visually interesting, but he expressed concern that sustainability features seem to be an afterthought rather than being incorporated into the project from its inception. For example, other contemporary markets include greenhouses to provide opportunities for people to learn more about growing food; he suggested a similar approach for this market, providing a model for the city. He said that bringing produce grown elsewhere to sell in the city is a model under reconsideration, and people are now being encouraged to grow food locally. He suggested the pavilion's large roof structure as a place for a greenhouse or displays on topics such as energy generation and recycling, presenting a story that is integrated with the architectural intent. He emphasized that treating sustainability as merely a supplemental goal might result in these features being removed from the budget.

Mr. Warsh responded that a goal of the East Campus master plan is to build something that will be a symbol of progressive urbanism in Washington. He said that the proposed pavilion achieves a desired level of high–quality public architecture, while the broader programming of the campus would address the Commission's concern. For example, as an outcome of the historic preservation process, an area in the northern part of the East Campus has been reserved specifically for urban agriculture, not just a community garden. In addition, the D.C. government has proposed $1 million to start a "culinary incubator" for local residents. A farmers market has already been brought to the site, and a permanent location for this market is envisioned as part of the campus development.

Mr. Schlossberg commended the project team for considering these issues; he noted that construction of such a complex structure will involve a considerable expenditure of resources and reiterated that sustainability concepts should be integrated into its design rather than be treated as supplemental features. He commented that the use of the word "temporary" is confusing because the design appears to be for a permanent structure, and he predicted that it would not be demolished soon; Mr. Warsh confirmed that it is intended as temporary.

Ms. Meyer agreed that the description of the pavilion as temporary is confusing. She said that a temporary structure might best be conceived as forming a framework for the eventual development of this space within ten or fifteen years, instead of being a structure that will be discarded. She cited the contradiction of describing the pavilion as a sustainable project while planning for its demolition after a relatively short time; she reiterated that the substantial investment should instead be considered as part of the future development. She also cited the contradiction of the exuberant and unique character of the design with the description of the pavilion as a background building that arises from its context; she expressed overall appreciation for the proposal but suggested more consistency and clarity in the presentation materials. She said the Commission members could assess the nature of the project without public relations language that pretends the project is not as strong and acontextual as it is.

Ms. Meyer cited her experience working with a city market and commented that the success of this project would depend on the functional logistics of daily and permanent vendors. She said that an important characteristic of a market is that it is continually changing, but the proposed design does not exploit this temporal quality; she suggested clearly diagramming the logistics on the site over time to understand the complexity of its operation.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered several additional comments. She agreed with the other Commission members that the pavilion looks like a permanent structure; this would be an appropriate long–run solution, but the near–term goal is a temporary structure that will draw people to the site. She also discouraged the design's effect of splitting the pedestrian circulation paths, offering people a choice to enter the market at ground level or to walk over the roof and bypass the market beneath. She said that retailers would oppose giving people a way to avoid their vending areas and would prefer to maximize pedestrian activity in the retail area. She added that the covered space should feel safe and inviting for people who need to pass through the area at night, emphasizing the need for adequate lighting and good sightlines. She also recommended engaging a market manager soon as part of the design process because of the many functional retailing issues that would be understood by someone experienced in markets, in order to avoid constructing something that does not work well; Mr. Cook responded that this expertise has already been included on the project team.

Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission members to support the general concept of a market at this location while raising numerous issues that should be considered for the project design. Mr. Schlossberg requested that the next presentation include multiple scenarios showing how the space would be used over the course of a day, including food deliveries and customer arrival patterns. He supported an elegant and progressive formal expression for the pavilion that would attract attention, while cautioning that this is a different design approach than the excitement generated by a truly temporary structure. He encouraged careful further consideration of the structure's temporary nature, commenting that the use of a material like burlap to cover a massive, expensive structure may not be an appropriate solution. He offered support for the decision not merely to put up a tent, and he encouraged a design that is integrated with natural forms, behavioral and operational issues, and sustainability—particularly for a building whose purpose involves eating and regeneration. Chairman Powell reiterated the overall support for the project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

D. District of Columbia Public Library

CFA 15/NOV/12–3, Woodridge Neighborhood Library, 1801 Hamlin Street, NE (at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 18th Street). New replacement building. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for a new building to replace the existing Woodridge Neighborhood Library, located at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 18th and Hamlin Streets, NE. He asked Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the D.C. Public Library, to begin the presentation. Ms. Cooper said that she has spent over six years spearheading the initiative to replace Washington's outdated library buildings; 14 of the 25 neighborhood libraries have now been finished and three others are under development, with a future goal of replacing the central library. She introduced Bing Thom of Bing Thom Architects to present the design.

Mr. Thom commented on the community benefit of Washington's ambitious library replacement program, which he said may be unique in North America. He described the project team's study of libraries throughout history, observing that libraries represent the value and power of knowledge. Libraries historically had chained their books and limited access to them, while the contemporary library has become a very different institution. He also noted that people now have unprecedented access to information from books and other sources. He said that libraries are further defined by their furniture and people's use of the space; for people living in small homes, libraries have become places to gather for reasons other than reading books. He emphasized the importance of the library as a social space; libraries also serve as a sanctuary for older people and teenagers, providing a place where people can study or read alone while surrounded by others.

Mr. Thom described the context of the Woodridge library in a neighborhood undergoing rapid transition. The area includes many unrelated buildings, including houses, former industrial buildings, and strip malls. The site faces the major arterial of Rhode Island Avenue to the northwest, although none of the site's orthogonal edges is aligned with the diagonal avenue. The west and north sides of the site are formed by 18th and Hamlin Streets; single–family homes extend to the east along Hamlin Street; and a large park is to the south, with dramatic views southeast from the site across the park's valley to an elementary school. He indicated the alley on the south side of the site, continuing behind the adjacent houses and providing access for parking and trash collection; a direct connection between the site and the park is therefore difficult, and he observed that the existing library building turns its back to the park. He described the street configuration as challenging; the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue with Hamlin and 18th Streets creates an awkward condition in front of the site's main frontage, and Hamlin Street effectively severs the site from Rhode Island Avenue. He therefore attempted through the design process to treat the library project as an opportunity to tie together the various context conditions. One proposal being pursued is to realign Hamlin Street to turn toward Rhode Island Avenue to the northeast of the site, which would allow for closing Hamlin Street in front of the library and creating a small plaza between the library and the avenue; this proposal would be subject to the difficult legal process for closing a street. The plaza could also accommodate a bus stop serving the area. He said he had hoped that the street closure could offer an additional design opportunity to orient the library facade to Rhode Island Avenue, but this is not feasible due to jurisdictional issues.

Mr. Thom described the design goals and the architectural concept. The library is intended to be clearly different from other buildings in the community; he wants the building to appear slightly mysterious from the outside, and people should have the sense that they are entering a building of light. The program requires a two–level structure with a green roof. He said that he experimented with different shapes—circles, squares, rectangles, and even a "lump" or a rock emerging from the hill. He chose a square building with a diagonal orientation extending from the corner of 18th and Rhode Island, which allows for book stacks at the edges and the creation of a central element to pull the building together. As people enter from the northeast corner, the building would open up to an expansive view of the park; he presented sketches of a series of platforms that would descend through the building. He also developed the green roof to include a third–level reading lounge to tie in with the roof and encourage people to ascend; the design includes visual connections between all of the levels. He said that the design also draws on the image of a Japanese castle, with battered walls supporting a raised, lighted roof to give the impression of a building rising out of the earth; treating the roof as a glowing lantern would suggest a lamp of knowledge.

Mr. Thom provided further details of the planned interior configuration. The children's area would have a clear view of the park and access to an outdoor terrace. The checkout desk and staff area would be adjacent to the entrance; the lobby would include areas of special visual appeal to encourage people to take out books. The community meeting room would be adjacent to the lobby and would also have a separate entrance on the east facade for use during hours when the library is closed. The partial second floor would have areas for teenagers and adults; the open stair to the second floor might act as an amphitheater, and a counter around the opening would have computer stations providing views across the open space that would extend vertically through the library. A large angled window on the south facade would provide a diagonal view across the park. Interior finishes would be mostly white; the furniture would be wood, probably a light maple. Lighting would be set within furniture, and the ceiling would be a clean surface with no light fixtures. On the exterior, the battered walls would be concrete; the green roof would be shaded by a trellis. A partial basement would be provided for mechanical systems, taking advantage of the site's 12– to 14–foot slope down to the park.

Chairman Powell commented that the project is highly developed for a concept presentation. Mr. Schlossberg said the design looks beautiful; he noted that glare from natural light might interfere with computer screens, and he encouraged diffusing the light as much as possible. He asked about the glass floor of the third–level reading lounge above the library's central space; Mr. Thom clarified that it would be frosted glass.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that she is impressed by the architectural response to the site, and by the possibility of creating the plaza in front of the building; she commended the intention of making the building a focus for its community. She said that the intended openness may be contradicted by the solidity of the entrance facade, as seen on the model; while acknowledging the desire to place numerous programmatic elements into this area, some of them requiring solid walls, she recommended that the entrance be more open to support the desired emphasis on the inviting interior and long views.

Ms. Meyer also expressed enthusiasm for the project and for the program of rebuilding D.C. public libraries; Mr. Powell agreed, commenting that he has welcomed the continuing design excellence that the D.C. library proposals bring to the community. Ms. Meyer supported the emphasis on the library as a social space, and said that this commitment also requires consideration of the social relationship of the library to its neighbors: she encouraged careful study of the building's east side, particularly the walkway and community room entrance alongside the neighboring housing. She also noted the intensity of Washington's summer sunlight, commenting that the building should not become an enormous heat sink.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why the community room wouldn't be placed in a more obvious location along the west side of the building, with an entrance from 18th Street. Mr. Thom acknowledged the logic of placing this room along 18th Street, but he said that this large element would conflict with the desire to locate the library's main entrance at the northwest corner of the building. He said that locating the meeting room at the roof level was also considered, but it needs to be accessible for frequent use. He emphasized the generous proposed setback on the east side of the site between the meeting room entrance and the existing housing; he added that a more developed garden would be desirable in this area but may not be feasible within the budget. He also noted that the community questioned the safety of the walkway, with the concern that night use of the entrance would be infeasible; the project team is continuing to discuss the design of this area.

Chairman Powell summarized the enthusiasm of the Commission members for the design concept and said that the Commission looks forward to seeing how the remaining issues are resolved. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission approved the concept submission.

E. District of Columbia Department of Transportation

CFA 15/NOV/12–4, H Street and Benning Road streetcar line, Car Barn and Training Center, 26th Street and Benning Road, NE. New streetcar maintenance and training facility. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Ali Shakeri of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) for the presentation of a proposed training center and maintenance facility to serve the planned streetcar line along H Street and Benning Road, NE.

Mr. Shakeri described the status of the streetcar line in this area. Tracks and pole foundations for the future system were installed four years ago during the reconstruction of H Street and Benning Road. The route has been selected as the first phase of the new streetcar system planned for Washington, and DDOT is therefore moving forward with other components of this route including a power substation and the maintenance facility. The proposed design for the facility is being coordinated with the National Capital Planning Commission, the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, and the community; the current submission reflects their input. He introduced Otto Condon of ZGF Architects to present an overview of the design.

Mr. Condon provided a summary of the planned 37–mile streetcar system. The proposed facility would support the streetcar line extending eventually from Georgetown to east of the Anacostia River; the goal is to have this line operating by late 2013 or early 2014, with the initial segment between Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue, NE. He described the history of streetcar barns in Washington from a century earlier: one was nearby at Benning Road and 15th Street; another facility on East Capitol Street is now condominiums; a facility on upper 14th Street, NW, is now used for buses; and a streetcar building remains in Georgetown. He also showed examples of modern streetcar barns in other cities, include a Seattle example that is successfully located adjacent to housing, and an example in Tampa that is sited in a historic district and has an appropriately historic character. He said that a modern streetcar barn is used to provide light maintenance; the proposed facility would also include a training center, which provides the opportunity for coordination with the D.C. public schools curriculum. He noted the potential streetcar–related job opportunities in Washington and in the 70 other cities that are operating or considering streetcar and light–rail systems.

Mr. Condon described the site selection process, with consideration of nine locations along the corridor of the line's initial segment. The criteria include D.C. government ownership of the site and easy access from the streetcar route. The program includes a 15,000–square–foot building with three streetcar bays, staff offices and lockers, an operations center, meeting space, and the training facility. The selected site at the northwest corner of Benning Road and 26th Street is immediately adjacent to the streetcar route and has the additional advantage of being adjacent to Spingarn High School, increasing the opportunity for a collaborative training program. He indicated the additional schools clustered adjacent to Spingarn. The site currently contains an abandoned branch library—a kiosk–style building from the 1970s—that will be demolished.

Mr. Condon said that this facility would be the first of seven or eight streetcar barns that will support the planned city–wide system, and several local and federal agencies have developed design guidance for the series of buildings. DDOT's guidance was that the facilities should not have the character of industrial buildings; they should be of high quality and sensitive to the context, with a civic presence. The buildings should promote the vision for "progressive, sustainable transportation" and serve to educate the public about the streetcar system as well as provide more specialized training. Sustainability is an important component of the design, along with safety and security considerations that include adequate lighting and fencing. Public art is envisioned as integral to the facilities, and infrastructure such as overhead power supports should be carefully designed.

In applying these guidelines to this site, the relationship of the building to the Spingarn campus became an important factor; he noted that the high school is under consideration for local historic landmark status. He described the site planning options that were considered in consultation with the review agency staffs. One option was to place the building toward the northwest corner of the site, away from the street edges; this would place the training facility close to the high school but would result in the parking and the track infrastructure being in front toward the streets, and the building would block some views of Spingarn High School. The proposed option is to place the building toward the southeast, providing more active street edges and a corner identity for the building, with the track infrastructure toward the rear of the site. He described how the proposed siting, with careful orientation of the building, would serve to complete the framing of Spingarn within the overall grouping of school buildings which faces Langston Golf Course to the east. The proposed building would also serve as a gateway to 26th Street and would improve the golf course's setting. He indicated the proposed placement at the street corner for the more public entrance into the training center and meeting rooms, and the placement of offices along the Benning Road edge of the site.

Mr. Condon introduced architect Jim Brochard of Systra, a transportation consulting firm that is part of the design–build team for the project, to describe the proposed design in more detail. Mr. Brochard said that the functional diagram was developed into the organizational concept for the building: a bar in front that would be two–thirds mechanical and locker spaces, and one–third occupiable spaces such as offices and conference rooms; the rear building for streetcar maintenance would be taller with a single large open room, typically referred to as a car barn. The front bar would have two stories of rooms; due to the topography of the site edges, the corner entrance would be one story lower and is designed with an atrium–like connection up to the offices and car barn. The entrance area would include a street–level meeting room; he presented two options for the layout of the entrance, with different configurations of curved walls to address the street edges. The bar building above would also be curved toward the street corner. He indicated the corner plaza that would be defined by Option B for the entrance area. He summarized the massing as seen from this corner: the entrance in the foreground, the bar of support spaces in the middle, and the car barn in the background. He added that the car barn is designed as a large brick box with transoms, in contrast to the modern image of the bar and the jewel–like character of the entrance area. He said that the interior program within the bar has been organized to place windowed spaces above the corner entrance; other spaces with limited lighting needs, such as the locker rooms, would be placed behind a translucent gridded facade toward the middle of the bar.

Mr. Brochard described additional details of the site plan. The car barn would be rotated slightly from Benning Road in order to align with the orientation of Spingarn High School and complete its architectural framing within the campus of schools. The rotation results in locations along the street edges for landscaping and bioretention areas as well as an entrance plaza. He presented images of site details and materials, including pervious paving. Facade materials would include light gray metal panels and curtainwall for the bar building; brick with limestone trim for the car barn, matching the Spingarn materials; and a base of limestone or darker stone along the Benning Road frontage. He acknowledged the need for further study to reduce the degree of contrast between the building components. He concluded by presenting a video animation of the proposal.

Mr. Schlossberg commented that the bar's curved form, while having an underlying logic in relation to the corner, has a peculiar appearance in the overall design; he said that the design may be more coherent if the bar is simply parallel to the car barn. Mr. Brochard responded that the design was originally developed in that way, resulting in a powerful and simple design, but the curve was introduced to make the building more dynamic and to create an open area between the bar and car barn for the interior open staircase. He added that the staircase provides a desired connection between the street–level meeting room and the elevated car barn—convenient for providing tours of the facility, for example—although these spaces would need to be separated to allow for general community use of the meeting room. Mr. Schlossberg emphasized that the building's massing should be derived from the functional needs, rather than create a gestural form; he added that the sawtooth roof form of the car barn is a welcome and coherent design feature. He also suggested consideration of extending the use of brick to other parts of the exterior. Mr. Brochard responded that the intention was to highlight the training center and the corner of the site, while acknowledging that the curving design gesture may be "fussy."

Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered support for the initial phases of the design process as presented, including the choice of siting the building near the street corner and the response to the school campus. However, she expressed dissatisfaction with the development of the design along the street edges, particularly as seen in the video animation; she described the sidewalk experience as potentially unpleasant and said that the design focus has been on the building rather than the street. She described the strong tradition of urban buildings that have an inhabited portion along the street as part of the urban fabric, with an industrial–type structure behind; examples would include the great train stations of Europe. She suggested using the street edge for the support spaces, rather than placing drainage areas and retaining walls along a narrow sidewalk. She noted that part of the retaining wall along Benning Road appears to be taller than a pedestrian; the retaining wall is merely retaining dirt, and could instead be the wall of programmatic spaces. She also suggested that the triple–height volume of the car barn be extended to the street edges to form a stronger building wall, rather than breaking down the scale near the corner with a series of lower volumes; she supported a simpler overall composition of two contrasting building types that are attached. She added that the building should establish a scale for future development in the vicinity. She emphasized that the project should be sympathetic to the experience of pedestrians—particularly because transit is inherently related to walking, regardless of whether the building itself is likely to generate pedestrian activity. Mr. Brochard questioned whether a three–story wall with few windows would be a desirable street edge; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that program spaces with windows should be included as much as possible, and careful facade design can provide a good street edge even without habitable spaces behind. She said that the design has a somewhat suburban character and emphasized that it should be an urban building. Mr. Brochard offered to study the program disposition further.

Ms. Meyer supported Ms. Plater–Zyberk's comments, expressing concern about the area between the building and the street. She supported reducing the organization of the building from three to two elements—the car barn and the bar of support spaces—and encouraged the clear distinction of these functionally different volumes, rather than trying to reduce the distinction as discussed in the presentation. She said that the juxtaposition of these volumes is a strength of the design, which would be weakened by using brick throughout the project. She acknowledged the need to address stormwater runoff, but she said that the solution must respect the principle of the project having a civic presence rather than providing only an ecologically functional response. The civic presence here is the sidewalk and street, which need much more careful attention in the design; for example, she observed that the drawings and video animation show different numbers of street trees. She suggested consideration of the solar orientation, including street trees to take advantage of the south exposure as well as consideration of summer sunlight on the south–facing entrance plaza. Mr. Brochard responded that some of the planned trees were omitted from the animation due to the computer file size; he agreed to study the landscape further as a front yard space for the building.

Chairman Powell agreed with the comments of the other Commission members and said that the project offers the opportunity for good design. He said that the Commission looks forward to seeing a refined proposal. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

(Chairman Powell recused himself from the following agenda item and was not present during its discussion; in his absence, Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk presided.)

F. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead–Luce Act

SL 13–014, L'Enfant Plaza, 10th Street Promenade, SW. New eleven–story office building in center of plaza. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a new eleven–story office building, developed by The JBG Companies, to occupy the central space of the L'Enfant Plaza complex. She noted that several different buildings have been proposed for this site over the years, most recently in 2006. In May 2012, the Commission approved the final design for a new pavilion in the middle of the plaza to serve as an entrance to the retail space below; the Commission also recently reviewed two adjacent buildings at L'Enfant Plaza submitted by JBG as part of its effort to increase the density of the complex. She described the current proposal as two linked parallel volumes, each approximately 130 feet tall. She asked Britt Snider of The JBG Companies to begin the presentation. Mr. Luebke noted that Chairman Powell had recused himself from this case.

Mr. Snider said that the recently approved entrance pavilion and its landscaping was an interim solution, while the office building is a long–term proposal. He introduced architect Ivan Harbour of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to present the new proposal, noting that the same firm designed another recent JBG project in Washington at 300 New Jersey Avenue, NW, which was reviewed by the Commission.

Mr. Harbour provided an analysis of the site, observing that the plaza has an automobile–oriented character with a large open space, extensive pavement, and little street activity. Retail space at the plaza level in the North and South Buildings has been unsuccessful and is now being converted to office use. Some activity is generated by the small lobbies and the hotel use on the upper floors of one building, but the prevailing use is office space. The plaza is located two stories above some the natural ground level and nearby streets, and is often empty; but he said that JBG sees the plaza level as an opportunity for a vibrant area, as evidenced by the popularity of the retail promenade below. He noted the site's proximity to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station and the planning for redevelopment of the 10th Street corridor that could emphasize connections to the Mall and the Southwest Waterfront.

Mr. Harbour said that the existing buildings of L'Enfant Plaza are not fashionable but were well designed for their time; the central plaza, however, lacks the same quality. The site is located at the crest of a slope along the 10th Street Promenade; the approach from north and south is currently forbidding but provides the opportunity for a dramatic destination that visitors see before they reach it. The elevation also allows for good views, and he said that the site could become a key element along 10th Street.

Mr. Harbour described the existing structures of L'Enfant Plaza as strongly modeled buildings of exposed concrete with recessed glazing. He said that the facades of the new building would be glass with lightweight solar shading as a contrasting element. The design is focused on the movement of people; the ground plane would remain publicly accessible with retail use spread across the entire site. A series of varied spaces of differing scale would be created, all more intimate than the existing plaza while echoing the existing sequence of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Mr. Harbour described the proposed composition of the building as two volumes, staggered to create small plazas and linked by a dynamic transparent central atrium with the office elevators rising from the second floor. The northern volume would project toward 10th Street to address the Mall; the southern volume would be set back, allowing the western plaza space to be open toward the waterfront. The building would be constructed using the modern office standard of a 30–foot column grid, although the existing structural grid below is 27 feet 9 inches; the disparity would be resolved through canted columns rising from the plaza to reconcile the two grids, providing a visually dynamic base. A strong color such as red would be used to highlight these supporting columns as the principal structural element. The building line would be recessed at the plaza level; the retail space would be occupied primarily by restaurants, sometimes extending to the second floor. The office lobby would be in the middle of the building instead of along the plaza frontage. He said that the pedestrian circulation would remain open and transparent, and the ground floor would be treated as an extension of the concourse level connecting to the Metro station. The upper part of the building would include nine floors of flexible office space, with the potential to create small gathering spaces. He added that green areas on the roof would replace the lost portions of the plaza landscape, serving to avoid a heat island effect from the project. He also discussed the treatment of 10th Street in front of the building; he presented an option for eliminating traffic from the two lanes closest to the plaza in order to enlarge the pedestrian space, comparing this concept to Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

For comparison with the proposed design, Mr. Harbour illustrated several completed buildings by Rogers Stirk Harbour in Europe and Washington that use similar design gestures to engage the public realm, to integrate small–scale landscaped spaces, and to humanize space through activity. A current project in Australia includes a similar configuration of applying lightweight solar shading over a glass building.

Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the building's vertical circulation. Mr. Harbour indicated the escalators, grand stairway, and elevators that would connect the plaza level to the retail concourse below and the office lobby above. The banks of office elevators would be suspended within the central atrium, which would bring daylight into the center of the building and the concourse.

Mr. Schlossberg asked about the relationship between the proposed building and the three existing buildings surrounding the plaza. Mr. Harbour described the proposed four–foot projection of the northern office volume beyond the property line along 10th Street which, in combination with the recessed southern volume, results in a dynamic of spatial expansion and compression. He said that if the building were instead aligned with the property line, it would continue the building wall along this street without providing any relief to its formidable monumental character. Mr. Schlossberg clarified that his question concerns the location of proposed plaza–level entrances in comparison to the entrances of the adjacent existing buildings. Mr. Harbour responded that entrances would be located all along the plaza level because it would be lined by retail. He noted that the perimeter access drive around the building must remain to accommodate drop–off; it would be resurfaced to make it more attractive for pedestrians.

Ms. Meyer expressed concern that the project is being driven by the shift in the structural system between the existing columns below and the office floors above, with the result that the public space is being treated as residual. She also commented on the difficulty of understanding the proposal's effect on the 10th Street corridor. She acknowledged that most of the buildings along the street are already grouped asymmetrically, and the option for a wider pedestrian space on the east side of the street, similar to Las Ramblas, makes sense; but she observed that the presentation did not address the effect of splitting the existing street into traffic and pedestrianized sides compared to maintaining the axial configuration. She asked for further discussion of the affect of shifting the street's center and of moving the proposed northern volume back by four feet to avoid intruding into the street space.

Secretary Luebke clarified that the historic centerline of 10th Street is aligned with the Smithsonian Castle to the north. The original right–of–way was 85 feet wide; during modern redevelopment, this was expanded to a width of approximately 150 feet. The existing buildings have varying setbacks, approximately symmetrical, that give an effective width of 170 feet. He said that recent planning studies—including the Monumental Core Framework Plan and the Southwest Ecodistrict Plan—have included discussion of changing the character of 10th Street following a Las Ramblas type of design, perhaps including a continuous grid of trees. He emphasized the importance of the street's axiality and symmetry; some intrusion into the existing alignment of street space may be acceptable, but he expressed concern about starting with a 70–foot intrusion as proposed. He added that the street section has not yet been studied in detail, but this proposal would fundamentally change the street's character.

Ms. Meyer asked how the 10th Street width would be affected if the U.S. Postal Service headquarters building—located immediately west across 10th Street from the proposed building—were to receive an addition that projects as far into the street's west side as the proposed building would project on the east. Mr. Harbour responded that that the distance from the project's 10th Street property line to the primary face of the Postal Service building is approximately 170 feet; however, the definition of the current street edges is complicated because the existing buildings have various significant corner setbacks and projecting cornice floors. He estimated that the proposed building would project approximately 30 feet beyond the primary plane of the neighboring 10th Street facades, subject to the complexity of their massing. Mr. Snider added that JBG is not proposing to build within the public space [aside from the four–foot projection beyond the west property line]. He requested that the Commission treat the initially presented site plan, without the extended pedestrian area shown in the option, as JBG's intended design. Ms. Meyer reiterated that the proposal implies a shift of the street's centerline, and it would therefore change the street's character and raise questions about future development in the area. Mr. Harbour emphasized that the forward projection was deliberately chosen so that the proposed building would announce itself when viewed from the northern end of 10th Street, SW, and said that the projection is not large. Mr. Luebke said that the effect of projecting perhaps 35 feet from the prevailing building walls is not clear, but the staff is not necessarily opposed to some sort of projection.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk said the issue of the centerline is part of a broader concern about how large the proposed building's design gestures would be relative to the present and future streetscape. She raised additional concerns with the site plan, observing the narrow width of the sidewalk shown between the proposed building edges and the existing access drive that rings the site; she added that the sidewalks would be further compromised by the intrusion of the structural columns for the office building, and she questioned whether retail entrances would be viable along these edges. She observed that the position of the retail facades near the external columns would prevent a usable arcade configuration along these sidewalks. She concluded that the problematic relationship of retail and pedestrian space may preclude retail uses other than restaurants. She expressed support for the emphatic treatment of the structural supports, and for the way that light would be brought into the center of the structure, describing these as clever ideas that are appropriate for a concept–level review; however, she noted the common difficulty among architects in avoiding functional problems when developing such broad concepts.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended giving first priority to the overall character of 10th Street because the purpose of this project should not be to create a building that will stand out most prominently on the street; she said that such a goal would be unnecessary because this will not be a civic building. She noted the current planning vision for 10th Street to become something different, and said that the architect's starting point should be an awareness of this planned new urban design. She anticipated that projecting one– or two–story additions could be added along the 10th Street frontages of existing buildings to create pedestrian life along the street. For the near term, she discouraged an intrusion into the existing building line and recommended aligning the buildings, with the spaces between them becoming the features that draw people into the site. She acknowledged the impact on the project but emphasized her belief that this is the right approach.

Mr. Harbour responded that he does envision the proposed building as having a civic role because it would be the principal entrance to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the open space is clearly special and is located at a central point along 10th Street, but she questioned whether an office tower facade is the appropriate marker of this location. She emphasized that urban spaces are more important, adding that the proposal to create a special vertical atrium in the center of the site would make it unique to this area; she noted that the major elevator circulation is located in this atrium, and the design could give more emphasis to this space than to the volume of the tower.

Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for some aspects of the project but said that she is not convinced about the proposal to extend approximately 30 feet beyond the neighboring buildings. She said that the underground retail area of L'Enfant Plaza has always seemed strange, and this project's section would allow its eccentricities to become part of a more interesting overall composition; she supported the concept of lifting the building up and creating an amazing space beneath it that is shaded and cool. She agreed with Ms. Plater–Zyberk that the project would be a strong draw for people and does not need the 30–foot projection toward 10th Street to attract attention. She noted that people approach the area and its subway station from many different directions, and she said that focusing on all sides of the site should be considered in addition to 10th Street. She agreed that the proposed asymmetrical treatment of the perimeter spaces might be interesting and did not object to the staggered building volumes. However, she expressed doubt about using red as the color of the major structural supports because it might be an odd juxtaposition with the pink tone of the concrete used in the L'Enfant Plaza buildings, and she suggested considering the issue of color more broadly.

Mr. Schlossberg said that Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Ms. Meyer had effectively expressed his concerns about the quality of the streetscape. He commented that in the future it will be necessary to ensure that people on the street level feel invited to enter this space—especially if 10th Street is improved—and the streetscape, rather than the building, should achieve this. He also recommended achieving an appealing character for the experience of coming into the center of the space from the subway station, and said that the outer edge of the building also should create a respectful environment that allows adequate light and space for the people working in the existing buildings. He summarized his primary concerns as the streetscape and ensuring that the building would not project into the area of 10th Street as defined by the existing building edge.

Mr. Luebke suggested additional comments on such issues as the building's architectural character, materials, and height. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the regulatory restrictions on height and the proposal's relationship to the height of existing structures. Mr. Luebke responded that the federal Height of Buildings Act measures a building from the fronting street—in this case 10th Street, which is elevated approximately 35 feet above the natural grade. He said that the existing office and hotel building on the east side of the plaza is approximately 130 feet above 10th Street, and the office buildings framing the north and south sides of the plaza are at approximately 110 feet. Two recent projects presented to the Commission—the proposed extended–stay hotel to the northeast, and the proposed office building to the southeast—would be allowed to rise to 130 feet measured from the same point. He noted that the Shipstead–Luce Act specifically authorizes the Commission to consider building heights, and the Commission could question whether this building to be added in the middle of L'Enfant Plaza should rise to the full Height Act limit. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the bulk of the proposed building is at the height limit of 130 feet, and she asked about the additional height above the central glass volume. Mr. Luebke and Mr. Snider responded that mechanical penthouses can rise an additional 18.5 feet, and architectural embellishments can rise further. Mr. Luebke added that such design features would also be subject to review in the Commission's geographic areas of jurisdiction. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about limitations on the penthouse area; Mr. Snider responded that a 1:1 setback is required from a parapet. Mr. Luebke clarified that volumes above 130 feet cannot contain occupiable space but are limited to mechanical or utilitarian purposes, or to amenities such as a roof garden, as well as architectural embellishments.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the proposed building, as the central feature of the L'Enfant Plaza complex, could appropriately have the 130–foot height—reaching but not exceeding the regulatory restriction. She asked if the cartway of the access drive around the plaza is fixed by any structure, such as curbs; Mr. Snider responded that it is fixed by specific easements and could theoretically be moved if all parties agree. Mr. Schlossberg commented that the asymmetrical position of this cartway between the proposed and existing buildings would obviously be improved by centering the drive; Mr. Snider offered to pursue this change. Mr. Luebke observed that the office building would be cantilevered above the access drive, which is likely acceptable from a technical and legal viewpoint but may relate to the Commission's concerns with the streetscape design.

Mr. Luebke noted that in 2006 the Commission had approved a building with office and institutional uses for this site, and its design had probably projected slightly beyond the alignment of neighboring buildings. He added that this earlier building proposal was smaller with a much more figural shape and a plaza–level institutional use, and Mr. Snider confirmed that its overall floor area was approximately half of the current proposal's 600,000 square feet. Mr. Luebke emphasized that this is therefore a very different project from the previous proposal. He summarized the Commission's overall response to accept the placement of a building in the plaza and the concern with potentially excessive visual emphasis on a private rather than institutional building at this prominent location.

Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk observed that the proposed surface treatment of the building is still too schematic for much comment; she said that the contrast of a glazed building with the masonry of the adjacent existing buildings could be appropriate. She added that the innovative detailing proposed for the solar shading devices should be presented further, along with information about how new materials will be maintained and how they will age. She also asked the design team to consider how reflected sunlight from the proposed building might affect the occupants of nearby existing buildings.

Mr. Luebke noted the complexity of the proposal and the range of comments provided, coalescing around several themes. He said that the project is still at an early stage, and the Commission is responding that the design can proceed subject to resolving the outstanding issues of scale, setback, and effect on the streetscape. Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk asked whether additional direction from planning agencies is anticipated on the redesign of 10th Street. Mr. Luebke responded that JBG would be a critical partner as the owner of this property and potentially others in the vicinity; guidance will be needed on the building line limitations and the potential for exceptions. He noted that ZGF Architects has been working as a consultant to the National Capital Planning Commission on these planning questions; he said that further coordination is needed with NCPC, the D.C. government, and the U.S. General Services Administration to answer these questions.

Vice–Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested a planning approach of treating the entire L'Enfant Plaza complex as a coordinated design effort in relation to 10th Street, and to consider the proposed building in combination with the 10th Street frontage of existing buildings. She said that the result would be not merely a single new building but a complex of four building volumes that line the street. She expressed hope that the larger–scale design guidance for the 10th Street corridor would be developed quickly in order to provide a vision for this grouping of four facades. Mr. Snider commented that JBG does not own nor control the building on the south side of the plaza, while confirming his interest in receiving the planning guidance. The discussion concluded without a formal action.

(At this point Chairman Powell returned to the meeting and presided for the remaining agenda items.)

G. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint

Mr. Simon introduced Ron Harrigal of the U.S. Mint to present three submissions: reverse designs for five circulating state quarters; the reverse for a non–circulating platinum coin; and a Congressional Gold Medal. Mr. Simon provided recent examples of the state quarters. Mr. Harrigal also provided two bronze duplicates of the recent Congressional Gold Medal honoring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, indicating the degree of relief and detail that appears on the 1.5–inch and 3–inch diameter for the medals. He noted that this medal's obverse and reverse were designed by Don Everhart, the Mint's lead sculptor–engraver, who was present in the audience. Chairman Powell expressed the Commission's appreciation for the opportunity to inspect the samples.

1. CFA 15/NOV/12–5, 2014 America's Beautiful National Parks Quarter Dollar Program. Reverse designs for five coins: Tennessee, Virginia, Utah, Colorado, and Florida. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/OCT/11–5.) Mr. Harrigal summarized the authorizing legislation for the series of 56 reverses for the circulating quarter–dollar coins and related medals, corresponding to national sites in each of the U.S. states and territories. He presented the continuing obverse design with a restored version of the George Washington portrait sculpted by John Flanagan in the early 1930s. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the restoration. Mr. Harrigal responded that the design had changed slightly from continued resculpting over the decades, resulting in lower relief; the current series uses new dies that were developed from a digital model of the artist's original plaster sculpture for the coin. He noted that the improvement is particularly visible in the sculpting of the hair, and he confirmed that the restored portrait has already been used on the earlier coins in this series as seen in the samples provided to the Commission members. He added that the obverse portrait of Abraham Lincoln was similarly restored for the recent commemorative versions of the one–cent coin.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee)

Mr. Harrigal presented four alternative reverses depicting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, notable for its wide range of elevation that accommodates a variety of wildlife habitats. The alternatives depict the mountain landscape and various plants and animals; two alternatives include a historic log cabin.

Mr. Schlossberg supported alternative #3 as an attractive design; he asked if the log cabin is an appropriate choice as a representation of this park. Mr. Harrigal responded that log cabins are a prominent feature that is included at the request of the park staff, which has reviewed the design alternatives and endorsed the four that are submitted. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Powell joined in supporting alternative #3. Mr. Powell commented that a log cabin is also an appropriate design element for coins honoring other states, such as in association with Abraham Lincoln; Mr. Harrigal noted this concern for future submissions. Ms. Meyer commented that alternatives #3 and #4 give a good sense of being in a mountain landscape, superior to #1 and #2; she added that #4 may be preferable because it depicts species that are specific to the park, while the landscape in #3 is more generic to the region. Mr. Harrigal responded that the uniqueness of the design elements is a difficult issue, and the Mint relies on the park superintendents for guidance on important features to include; he added that the Mint would welcome a response from the Commission giving first and second choices. He also emphasized the difficulty of sculpting elements such as animals against a landscape background, as seen in the new Alaska quarter; the clarity is better in the versions minted for collectors than in the circulating coins. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to recommend alternative #3 while noting additional support for #4. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission recommended alternative #3.

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Mr. Harrigal presented five alternative reverses depicting Shenandoah National Park, encompassing the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and notable for Skyline Drive, a 105–mile–long scenic road that was designed in the 1930s. The designs include mountain scenes with Skyline Drive visible in the background; one alternative includes a black bear, and the others include a hiker that was added at the request of the National Park Service.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the need for simplicity in the design of coins, commenting that the multiple design features are difficult to comprehend at the small size. She supported alternative #4 due to the strong silhouette of the foreground mountain terrain against the background landscape as well as the clear depiction of Skyline Drive. She added that the artistic treatment of the mountain surfaces in alternative #5 is handled well but may not translate successfully from the drawing to the metal coin; Mr. Harrigal responded that #4 and #5 would have a very similar sculptural quality on the coin. Mr. Powell commented that the inclusion of the hiker is "trite" and suggested removing this element; Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed. Mr. Schlossberg supported #4 and #5, observing that the hiker is less prominently positioned in #5; Mr. Powell said that the hiker in #5 could be mistaken for some other natural object. Ms. Meyer commented that parkways such as Skyline Drive have a complex and beautiful geometry of sequential curves, and would typically not have a long straight segment as depicted in the proposed designs; she recommended more careful study of the parkway alignment for the coin. Mr. Harrigal offered to correct the perspective. Ms. Meyer clarified that the additional issue is the layout of the parkway being depicted; Skyline Drive epitomizes the tradition of American parkway design, which uses an alignment of a series of arcs and only short segments of straight road. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended alternative #5 with the comments provided.

Arches National Park (Utah)

Mr. Harrigal presented seven alternative reverses depicting Arches National Park, which has over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. The designs include several of the park's best–known arches and show varying amounts of vegetation; alternative #4 includes a lizard that lives in this high desert ecosystem, and two alternatives include small background figures of hikers which would be only barely noticeable on the coin but would be more legible at the larger scale of the three–inch–diameter medal.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented on the difficulty of choosing among the different arches. Ms. Meyer supported alternatives #1 and #7 as the best compositions that successfully convey the sublime quality of the arches; she added that #3, #5, and #6 may be too undifferentiated in their design texture. Mr. Schlossberg supported #1, commenting that the background vista seen through the arch's opening would be a successful composition at the coin's small scale, while the perspective in #7 is more difficult to understand because the background seen through the arch is almost entirely mountainous. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that alternative #1 was presented as depicting a double–arch configuration but this feature is not legible in the design; she said that the second arch could be ignored or clarified. Mr. Powell supported #1 for its composition and its conveyance of the experience of visiting the park; upon a second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission recommended alternative #1.

Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

Mr. Harrigal presented seven alternative reverses depicting Great Sand Dunes National Park, which was initially established as a national monument in 1932 and then as a national park in 2004. The park is known for its diversity of natural features, including sand dunes, grasslands, wetlands, forest, lakes, and tundra. The design alternatives include various combinations of these features, with several designs including visitors.

Mr. Schlossberg supported alternative #6 as the most successful in conveying the park's variety within a single coherent composition; he said that the other alternatives demonstrate the difficulty of conveying such diversity at a small size. Mr. Harrigal responded that the sculpting technique for this coin would be critical for conveying the distinct appearance of mountains and sand dunes.

Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that alternative #1 was presented as a stylized design approach, which has historically been used for coins and medals such as in the Art Deco period; she said that stylization may be helpful in addressing the Commission's ongoing concern with conveying large–scale park scenes on small coins. She asked for a comparison of how the drawings in #1 and #6 would be translated into metal sculpting. Mr. Everhart, the Mint's sculptor–engraver, responded that different textures would be used for the mountains, sand dunes, and water, giving the potential for an effective sculptural design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that the dunes are drawn differently in #1 and #6, reiterating the question of whether these would be conveyed differently in the sculpting process. Mr. Everhart responded that the contrast of texture and shadow would differentiate the design elements in any of the alternatives; Ms. Plater–Zyberk concluded that the difference in drawing techniques would not necessarily translate into a difference in the finished coin.

Mr. Schlossberg commented that the three contrasting elements of mountains, dunes, and water would likely be understood more clearly in alternative #6 than in #1, observing that the depiction of the foreground water in alternative #1 may not be legible. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission recommended alternative #6.

Everglades National Park (Florida)

Mr. Harrigal presented six alternative reverses depicting Everglades National Park, with design features including an American Indian, birds, an alligator and crocodile, and the landscape of grass, water, and trees. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the design challenge is to distinguish the foreground and background elements, as with other coins in this series. She said that alternative #3, depicting an alligator and crocodile without a landscape background, achieves this objective but may not be a good representation of the park; she therefore supported #4 and suggested removing the large cloud from the background. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission adopted this recommendation.

2. CFA 15/NOV/12–6, American Eagle Platinum Coin Program for 2013. Reverse design. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/NOV/11–1.) Mr. Harrigal summarized the authorizing legislation and history of the American Eagle platinum coins, which are minted as proof and bullion coins. He presented the continuing obverse design featuring the Statue of Liberty; the reverse of the proof coin changes annually. Beginning in 2009, the proof reverses have been based on six principles from the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The theme for 2013, the fifth in this series, will be "To Promote the General Welfare." He noted the involvement of the Chief Justice in developing the narratives for these reverses. He said that the reverse would also include a small American Eagle privy mark to relate the design to the overall program of American Eagle coins. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of this feature; Mr. Harrigal responded that the privy mark is approximately the size of the engraver's small initials that typically appear in a coin design, and would establish the Mint's brand identity for the American Eagle platinum coins.

Mr. Harrigal presented images of the reverses of the American Eagle platinum series from 2009 through 2012. Mr. Luebke noted that the executed reverses are not necessarily those that were recommended by the Commission; he said that statistically, the Commission's recommendation is followed in approximately half of the coin designs. Mr. Harrigal added that the Mint considers the Commission's comments along with those of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, as required by law.

Mr. Harrigal presented nine alternative reverses for the 2013 coin; the features include eagles, allegorical figures representing the nation, interlocking gears representing the relationship of the states and the national government, a cornucopia, fruit, wheat, and a dove. He noted the coin diameter of approximately 1.25 inches and the required text inscriptions.

Mr. Schlossberg supported alternative #2; he commented that the horizon line on the right side of the background is difficult to understand because it does not extend to the left, and he suggested eliminating this design element. Ms. Meyer said that the distant land at the horizon line may be intended as a symbolic element, perhaps representing the states or the nation; Mr. Harrigal responded that this interpretation is possible. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested eliminating the ring of thirteen stars at the upper right, leaving the allegorical figure as the emphasis of the design. Mr. Schlossberg supported this deletion; he noted that several alternatives include a similar feature of stars and it may therefore be an important element to the designers, but he said that it is an unnecessary element in the context of the overall series of reverses. He emphasized that the allegorical figure and overall design of alternative #2 is the best among the presented alternatives. Mr. Powell supported this recommendation. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk, the Commission recommended alternative #2 with the elimination of the horizon line and ring of stars.

3. CFA 15/NOV/12–7, Congressional Gold Medals honoring the Native American code talkers of World War I and World War II. Designs for a gold medal (with silver and bronze duplicates) for the Lakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/12–7.) Mr. Harrigal summarized the authorizing legislation for a series of Congressional Gold Medals honoring Native American code talkers from World War I and World War II. The current submission is for a single design honoring code talkers of the Lakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. One gold medal and additional silver and bronze duplicates will be produced, with diameters of 1.5 and 3 inches. He noted that the list of tribes to be honored has been growing due to recent research, and 25 groups have now been identified for medals. The design for each medal is developed in consultation with the tribe and the U.S. Department of Defense; the overall pattern for the series includes both an obverse design representing the code talkers' military service and a reverse design representing the tribe such as the tribal seal. He also described the typical text to be included on the medals.

Mr. Harrigal presented three obverse and two reverse alternatives for the Lakota Standing Rock Sioux medal. The obverse alternatives depict a soldier communicating by radio during World War II, with various compositions to include other soldiers; the reverse alternatives include varying treatments of the tribe's seal. He noted the tribe's preference for obverse #2 and reverse #1.

Mr. Schlossberg supported obverse #2, as preferred by the tribe; Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed. Mr. Schlossberg suggested adjusting the composition to remove the soldier's foot from the circumferential band of text, such as by reducing the size of the figure. He emphasized a general preference for reserving this outer band for text in the design of coins and medals. He also supported reverse #1, as preferred by the tribe; Mr. Powell agreed. Upon a motion by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission adopted these recommendations.

Mr. Luebke asked about the status of the one–dollar Presidential coin series. Mr. Harrigal responded that the series is continuing as required by law, and the Mint anticipates a submission in January 2013 for the 2014 Presidential series and the 2013 First Spouse series. He clarified that the Mint has recently decided to suspend production of circulating one–dollar coins in the Presidential series, but new designs would continue to be produced for the numismatic market.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:55 p.m.

Signed,

Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Secretary

Last Modified: January 18, 2013