Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
18 July 2013
The first part of the meeting (for agenda item I.A) was convened in the auditorium of the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:07 a.m.
The remainder of the meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, Suite 312.
(Due to the absence of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman presided at the meeting.)
I. Submissions and Reviews
A. National Park Service
CFA 18/JUL/13–1, Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Intersection of Maryland and Independence Avenues, between 4th and 6th Streets, SW. Concept. (Previous: CFA 15/SEP/11–1.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission for the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. He said that due to the six large models provided for the review, the meeting has been moved from the Commission's regular public meeting room to the auditorium of the National Building Museum, and the agenda sequence has been adjusted to consider this item first; the administrative items are listed afterward on the agenda, followed by the remaining project submissions.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's previous review in September 2011, resulting in approval of the overall concept for the memorial with the exception of the core commemorative elements and site design; these are the subject of the current submission, which if approved would constitute completion of the concept design review. The project would then continue with design development toward a final design approval from the Commission. He added that review of a national memorial is often a complex process involving multiple reviews of subordinate elements–for example, inscriptions, lighting, and landscape design–as they are developed. He emphasized that the Commission's role with the current submission is to review the design of the elements presented and not other topics, such as its original authorization or the selection of designers; questions that the Commission has previously raised about the detailing and performance of the stainless steel tapestries may be considered in the future but would not be reviewed today. He said that the Commission could decide whether to hear comments from several members of the public who have asked to speak.
Mr. Luebke summarized the development of the design for the central memorial elements and the landscape since the September 2011 review. The central elements–including the stone slabs, the sculptures, and the inscriptions–were previously dispersed in separate locations below the three tapestries framing the site, but the design had not been precisely defined. In the current proposal, the memorial elements are consolidated in a loose triptych of horizontal slabs at the site's center, creating a more deliberate focus. He said that the landscape design has been developed as an urban park. The proposal also included designs for a promenade in front of the Department of Education building to the south and a small information center to the east. He introduced Doug Jacobs of the National Park Service; Mr. Jacobs asked Brig. Gen. (ret.) Carl Reddel, executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to begin the presentation.
Mr. Reddel provided background information on the project, noting that most Commission members have not reviewed it previously. He said the project is challenging because of the depth and breadth of Eisenhower's legacy: the memorial's authorizing legislation requires commemoration of Eisenhower as both the 34th president of the United States and the commander of Allied forces in World War II. The memorial commission assembled a team of Eisenhower scholars, which produced a report on his life that has formed the foundation of the project. The memorial commission considered 26 potential locations in Washington before settling on the site in front of the Department of Education building, and selected the architect through a competition held under the General Services Administration's Design Excellence Program. He asked architect Frank Gehry and project manager John Bowers of Gehry Partners, the winning firm of the competition, to present the refinements to the design.
Mr. Bowers said that the Commission, in its previous review, had expressed strong support for the concept, including the configuration, the unified central space, the overall height and scale of columns and tapestries, and the artistic quality of the woven stainless–steel cable technique. The project team has recently been concentrating on the site design and has made major changes to the core elements. Earlier, these had been placed in relation to the east and west tapestries; now, after discussion with stage designer Robert Wilson, they have been grouped in a central area dominated by a small statue of the young Eisenhower, shown sitting on a wall and gazing toward sculptural representations of his future accomplishments. At the request of the Eisenhower family, an introductory wall or sign has been added to the north. He said that the models present the current state of the artwork envisioned for the tapestries; a submission in the fall will include a more developed concept for the tapestries, art, and inscriptions. He noted the elimination of a glass canopy that had been proposed in the overlook area at the south central portion of the site, because it would have impeded views of the southern tapestry.
Mr. Gehry discussed the proposed core elements of the memorial. From the beginning, he said that the design team had been guided by Eisenhower's words and achievements in trying to present him as both general and president. The design team has also been guided by the opinions of interested parties, including the Eisenhower family, and has accommodated them where possible. The proposed sculptures, designed by Sergey Eylanbekov and Penelope Jencks, include the central figure of the young Eisenhower and sculptural groups at the sides, each composed of a massive stone block bearing a sculptural relief panel with a freestanding statue in front. He said that the family had suggested adding an image of the Normandy landing, which is included as a relief panel. A freestanding sculpture of President Eisenhower, based on the well–known photograph by Yousuf Karsh showing the president standing next to a globe, has been replaced by a simpler standing figure which the family felt would be a more accurate representation of his personality. He said that the idea to represent Eisenhower as a boy was inspired by his famous speech about coming from Abilene, Kansas. Excerpts from Eisenhower's speeches and writings would be carved in the stone blocks. Mr. Bowers provided additional details about the sculptures: the freestanding figures would be approximately 9 feet high; the reliefs would be 12 feet high; and the blocks are 9.5 feet high bearing large lintels that are slightly offset from the walls below. He said that the design team is working with the John Stevens stone–carving company of Rhode Island to develop a unique font for the inscriptions.
Mr. Bowers said that the landscape design emphasizes the site as an urban park. Since part of the memorial's mandate is to acknowledge the major vista to the Capitol along the axis of Maryland Avenue, a view corridor would be defined by an allée of street trees flanking a closely cropped lawn on the historic cartway, with taller grasses at the sides. The design team is working with the National Park Service to develop the proper soil composition. He said that the simple information center building would not compete with the memorial elements; it would encompass 2,400 square feet and include a bookstore, public restrooms, a park ranger contact station, and a basement for storage. The primary entrances to the bookstore and restrooms would be placed at the north and south ends, and they would not face 4th Street nor the memorial park.
Mr. Bowers described the plans for the "Lyndon B. Johnson Promenade" that would extend along the north facade of the Department of Education headquarters building. The design team has met with representatives of the General Services Administration and the Department of Education to consider how to enliven this side of the building, which gets less pedestrian traffic than the C Street side. Information on Department of Education programs would be offered through an outdoor exhibition area and indoor displays of children's artwork; an outdoor space for public events may also be provided. On the east, exterior seating may be added near the cafeteria, and an existing sunken courtyard adjacent to the library may be turned into a reading space, while also accommodating stairs for emergency egress from the building.
Mr. Bowers noted that the project follows the seven principles developed by the National Capital Planning Commission for the design. Over the last two years, meetings have been held with many different agencies resulting in much advice about the colonnades, the tapestries, and the site's urban fabric. After close study of the context of Independence Avenue, along with comparison of this roadway to Constitution Avenue, the geometry was established to guide the relationships among the memorial elements and within the context.
The Commission members inspected the models and offered several observations and questions. Mr. Krieger expressed surprise that the depiction of Eisenhower as a teenager would be life–size while every other statue would be larger than life. Mr. Bowers responded that a human scale was seen as more appropriate for a statue of Eisenhower in the years before his heroic accomplishments; Mr. Gehry added that this figure does seem small, and its scale may be reconsidered. Mr. Freelon observed that the plinths for the two larger sculptural groups might be low enough for people to climb; Mr. Krieger asked if this should be discouraged. Mr. Gehry responded that the proposed scale seems appropriate; having inscriptions on the bases would probably make them appear relatively formal and uninviting to climb, but he said that a small guardrail could be added.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed support for the complex compositions of the two relief panels but questioned the difference in depth: the multiple figures illustrating the Normandy landing in high relief on one panel, contrasted with the scene of President Eisenhower signing the 1960 Civil Rights Act in low relief on the other. Mr. Krieger agreed that the difference seems strange, as well as the disparity in the treatment of the free–standing figures; one presents Eisenhower as a general addressing a company of soldiers, while as president he is alone. Mr. Gehry responded that many photographs were studied in an attempt to represent Eisenhower accurately, within the limits of the available images. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested finding photos of President Eisenhower with other people; Mr. Bowers responded that many are available but none that seemed to truly represent him. Mr. Gehry noted the difficulty of deciding which people to include in the scene of Eisenhower's presidency, because if some individuals are singled out for inclusion then others will object to being left out. He cited the criticism for giving too much prominence to the 101st Airborne Division by depicting it in the other grouping, but it was relevant to the scene. Mr. Krieger commented that this military image is powerful, but the presidential figure appears lonely. Mr. Gehry said that initially only freestanding sculptural figures were planned, but a former Commission member had convinced him to add the relief panels; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that the panels are helpful in providing historical background. Mr. Gehry added that the Eisenhower family had been interested in portraying the Normandy landing, and in an earlier concept this had been proposed as the image for the largest tapestry, but the design team decided this would make the memorial a war memorial.
Ms. Meyer observed that the relief panels would face north and asked how the lack of direct light would affect their legibility; Mr. Gehry responded that this is not yet clear. He added that both stone and bronze are being studied for the reliefs; the preference is bronze, with different patinas for reliefs and free–standing sculptures, because the reliefs would not read as well in stone.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for further discussion of the design of the offset lintels above the relief panels. Mr. Gehry said that the competition design had conceived of the memorial as informal, yet monumental. When tapestries were added to the design to frame the site's open sides, the idea of informality was lost; yet the memorial would be in a park, and informality was seen as critical to Eisenhower's personality, so these enormous lintels were offset in an attempt to loosen the design.
Mr. Krieger commented that the scale of the identification sign along Independence Avenue seems too large as depicted in one of the models. He also commented that Maryland Avenue appears more strongly articulated in the plan than in the model. Mr. Freelon asked for further information about the swales in the landscape design. Mr. Bowers responded that the design includes three swales: one near Independence Avenue, and two at the sides of the site near 4th and 6th Streets. He added that swales are typical of the Midwestern landscape. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the trees along the promenade in front of the Department of Education building would be placed asymmetrically because of the light well. She commented that in some places trees would be seen through the largest tapestry and in some places they would not, affecting what is depicted on the tapestry.
Mr. Luebke suggested hearing public comments before continuing with the Commission's discussion. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted that three people wish to address the Commission; she first recognized Justin Shubow, representing the National Civic Art Society.
Mr. Shubow called the depiction of Eisenhower as a teenager a "generic figurine" that lacks originality because there is already a statue of the teenage Eisenhower in Abilene, Kansas. He noted that while Eisenhower often referred to his roots for political ends, he also complained about his public portrayal as a country boy. Mr. Shubow said that the memorial design lacks a focal point, and the trees along the Maryland Avenue right–of–way would block the view of the Capitol. He also objected to a plan to electronically transmit images of war to visitors at the site. He noted that the proposed columns supporting the tapestries would be larger than those inside this building, the National Building Museum, and he said that they display as much artistry as a highway under construction; he cited former Commission member Diana Balmori's criticism of their size. He said that the landscape of bare winter trees depicted on the tapestries would be an "allegory for hopelessness and death" and that the design inverts standard memorial symbolism–portraying a destroyed temple being reclaimed by nature; he cited former Commission member Michael McKinnell's comment that eventually the tapestries will disintegrate and only the columns will be left, like the ancient Greek temple ruins at Paestum, Italy. Mr. Shubow concluded that the proposed imagery mocks the idea of a national memorial, and he asked the Commission not to approve the design.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk next recognized Sam Roche of Right by Ike, an organization advocating a public design competition for the Eisenhower Memorial. Mr. Roche discussed the failed 1966 project by Marcel Breuer for a memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, comprising tall stone slabs surrounding a stone block bearing an etching based on a photograph of the president, and with speakers broadcasting Roosevelt's speeches. He said that the Commission then, composed mostly of modernists, had rejected Breuer's design as grandiose and too dependent on modern technology. He noted that the Eisenhower Memorial design has been the focus of an even larger public controversy, with Congress suspending construction money and investigating the circumstances of Mr. Gehry's selection as architect. Mr. Roche said that the Commission's approval of the design would undermine a national consensus, and an Eisenhower memorial needs consensus to be a unifying national memorial. He asked the Commission to refrain from action until the controversy is resolved.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk recognized architect Milton Grenfell, chairman of the National Civic Art Society. Mr. Grenfell said that Thomas Aquinas had answered the fundamental question of "What is art?" by calling it reason in action. Under this definition, Mr. Grenfell said, the memorial design is a chaotic composition of randomly placed trees, columns that look as if they were extruded by machine, and a visitor center in the form of a 1950s gas station. He said that the memorial as proposed is about nothing, and it is thus typical of Mr. Gehry's work. He reiterated the request that the Commission think about the nature of art.
Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the issues before the Commission. Mr. Luebke said the Commission had approved this design as a concept in September 2011 without the specifics of the memorial core elements; the current submission includes these elements and the landscape, support building, promenade, and a few other secondary elements. He noted that the Commission had specifically requested to review the items presented today; the Commission members can decide what else they wish to review. Ms. Meyer asked if the review includes the landscape plan or only the core elements; Mr. Luebke said that the concept for the landscape plan is submitted, and its development would follow. He added that the Commission could take an action not to approve components of the submission.
Mr. Krieger commented that he was reluctant to start the discussion because he had not seen this project in 2011. First, he said, he believed Mr. Grenfell's definition of art as "reason in action" was exceedingly narrow, and he said that the proposed design is art of the highest order–although, like all art, subject to criticism. He emphasized that the design has many fine aspects. He said that there is no better way to represent Eisenhower than through a classic American landscape, and that recreating Maryland Avenue as a country lane is a brilliant idea. He added that uniting the three aspects of Eisenhower's life, as youth, general, and president, is a wonderful concept, and it is done better in this version than before. However, he said that representing President Eisenhower as a solitary human being would be odd when his depiction as a general shows him as part of a company of soldiers. He also said that the statue of the young Eisenhower would be perhaps too small in relation to the other, heroically scaled figures and elements. Nevertheless, he emphasized that a very important part of this memorial is the representation of the fact that everyone comes from childhood and has a life beyond their heroic events, and this design makes great contributions to the art of memorialization.
Mr. Krieger recited one of the quotations proposed for the memorial: "Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives a claim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends." He observed that this idea of humility is somewhat incongruous with the enormous size of the columns supporting the beautiful tapestries, particularly when the first image many people would see on approaching the site would be the huge column at the northwest corner; this would give an incorrect first impression, and only upon entering the space would a person understand the more modest aspects of Eisenhower's life. He said that in the earlier version, the use of tapestries to define the site had seemed more emphatic; the representation of one aspect of Eisenhower's life on the background tapestry still seems appropriate, but as the design has coalesced around its center the site has become more of a park, and now the side tapestries may be too large and unnecessary. He therefore suggested reconsidering the scale of the columns at the sides and the inclusion of the two side panels.
Mr. Krieger commented that the largest model presents the landscape in multiple layers: the pieces in the center would be set against a background of actual trees, growing in front of a depiction of trees on the tapestry, which in turn would stand in front of real trees, and he said that this layering could be quite beautiful. Mr. Gehry responded that the side panels are meant to relate to the two large buildings on either side of the site, and he was concerned that without them the space could lose its power. Mr. Krieger said that a tenet of great urban classicism is that spaces are defined by buildings, and these two buildings frame the space well; however, he added that the rear tapestry may be more of an allegorical than a framing device and this is why he finds it beautiful. Mr. Freelon agreed about the complications of scale, and added that the scale of this 4.5–acre site is itself a challenge. He acknowledged that the size of the tapestries and columns has been reduced slightly, perhaps not enough make a difference, and he emphasized his support for focusing on the elements in the center of the memorial.
Ms. Meyer commented that the experience of what is beautiful changes over time, and in our culture notions of aesthetics are in flux. She observed that the site may be excessively large for a memorial, and she expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of refinement in the landscape design. She said that the reliefs and sculptures should not be separate from a more detailed development of the landscape plan or tapestries–they are all equivalent. She stressed the importance of the park that will contain the memorial because the project's success will depend on the quality of its public space, and will require a more robust architecture of trees than proposed. She expressed concern that the models depict fifty–year–old trees. She suggested planting more trees than needed and harvesting some after ten years when the canopy has grown; she added that the definition of the allée may be helped if the trees are spaced more tightly. She said that the arrangement of the trees in relation to the memorial elements is unconvincing, and she encouraged the design team to think about the importance of geometry and the play between formality and informality. She suggested that the swales could be placed within the margins of the allée instead of its center, where people will want to walk and sit beneath the trees. She added that this site needs to have a great microclimate, and developing the architecture of the trees will help that.
Mr. Gehry asked landscape architect Joe Brown of AECOM to respond. Mr. Brown said that the fundamental architecture of the trees is a dynamic relationship between the allée and the screen. He described the search for large specimen trees and the intention to provide sufficient shade and an improved microclimate; he agreed that greater detail is needed in the landscape design. Mr. Krieger also agreed and asked about development of the ground plane; Mr. Brown responded that the allée would have close–cropped grass.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission understands the controversy over the memorial; Civic Art, the recently published history of the Commission, makes clear how important architectural contributions to Washington have often generated controversy. She said she sympathizes with the speakers but this project has been underway a long time; she commented that the debate may contain a good lesson on the difficulty of dealing with large sites. She recalled that in previous reviews, the Commission had admired how Mr. Gehry was attempting to deal with the large amount of space, especially with the diffusion of space across Independence Avenue. She said that Mr. Krieger has proposed a good suggestion for what is now a three–sided space–thinking of it as a park with objects set in front of the southern tapestry. She reiterated the recommendation for more balance between the two sculpture groups. Mr. Krieger suggested redressing the imbalance by reducing the depth of the wartime landing scene and increasing the depth of the presidential cabinet scene.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk expressed reservations about the lintel blocks: while moving the quotations above the figures would improve their visibility, the blocks may be formed from small pieces of stone with visible seams and therefore may not seem monumental in scale; she also questioned what the offset of the lintels would add to the meaning of the ensemble. She questioned the dimensions of the sign at the Independence Avenue edge of the site, suggesting that it not be larger than a person; to address the need to inform people that they are approaching the memorial, she suggested designing the pavement at the site's corners to indicate the change from public sidewalk to memorial.
Mr. Luebke summarized the apparent consensus to support the overall concentrated triptych composition, with its emphasis on the center and use of the freestanding sculptures backed by reliefs; to support the placement of the quotations above and on the backs of the relief blocks; to request further refinement of the position of the lintels; and to request further consideration of the scale for the bases and for the figure of the young Eisenhower. While the Commission members have commented that the landscape is not as developed as the other elements, they support the articulation of the Maryland Avenue axis with trees and would like additional trees to improve the microclimate. Ms. Meyer added that the design team needs to consider scale and the horizontal plane.
Mr. Luebke asked whether the Commission members support the overall plan and geometrical organization, which he described as two diagonal paths crossing toward a central rectangular area containing the memorial core elements, with the rest of the site planted and the Maryland Avenue axis lined by trees. Ms. Meyer said that the design is about more than enclosures by screens or buildings; she emphasized that the proposal cannot be reviewed as a coherent whole because, while the ground plane is defined, the ceiling or canopy–which would be formed by the trees–is not. She said that she could not review the ground plane without understanding the spatial enclosure at the canopy level. Mr. Luebke said that the issues before the Commission are scale, configuration, and location; the design team would return with more detail about other elements, such as the treatment of the colonnade in front of the Department of Education building and the service building. Mr. Krieger said that these should not upstage any aspect of the memorial and are being handled reasonably well. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Krieger agreed that the simplification of the paving and the moving of elements to the center have improved the design.
Mr. Krieger offered a motion, seconded by Mr. Freelon, to approve the concept of the memorial and the general disposition of the landscape elements pending further development, and subject to the comments provided. Ms. Meyer said that she does not support the motion because the landscape plan has not been developed sufficiently, and she emphasized that a project should be brought forward with everything developed to the same level–not with the landscape plan treated as a minor detail. She declined to offer an amendment to the motion, reiterating that as a matter of principle she would not support the proposal. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted the vote as three to one in favor of the motion.
(Following a recess, the Commission reconvened in Suite 312 for the remainder of the meeting.)
A. Approval of the minutes of the 20 June meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the June meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Ms. Meyer, subject to the correction of the meeting date.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 19 September, 17 October, and 21 November 2013. He noted that no meeting is scheduled during August, and the September meeting date of the Old Georgetown Board has been changed from 5 September to 4 September.
C. Proposed 2014 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 2014. The Commission meeting dates would be the third Thursday of each month except August and November; the Old Georgetown Board meetings would be on the first Thursday. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted the consensus of the Commission to adopt the 2014 schedule. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could adopt changes to the schedule if the need arises.
D. Appointment of H. Alan Brangman, AIA, and the re–appointment of David Cox, FAIA to the Old Georgetown Board. Mr. Luebke asked the Commission to approve two appointments to the Old Georgetown Board, whose members serve staggered three–year terms. He noted the recent resignation of Anne Lewis from the Board; he presented the nomination of David Cox, a current Board member whose second term is expiring, to fill the remaining year of Ms. Lewis' term. He said that Mr. Cox has been the Board's chairman since 2012 and would likely continue in that role. He also proposed the appointment of H. Alan Brangman for a full three–year term to begin in September 2013. He summarized Mr. Brangman's background as an architect, including sixteen years working for Georgetown University; he has recently taken a position with the University of Delaware. He also noted Mr. Brangman's service as a peer reviewer for the U.S. General Services Administration. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk noted the biographical summaries that were circulated to the Commission members. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the two appointments.
E. Confirmation of recommendation from the June 2013 meeting after the loss of a quorum: SL 13–085, Watergate Hotel, 2650 Virginia Avenue, NW. Building modifications and additions. Final. (Previous: SL 11–118, July 2011.) Mr. Luebke said that a formal action by the Commission is needed for this review from the previous month without a quorum. He said that the members present had recommended approval with comments; the staff has been working to address the remaining issues. He noted that comments from members of the public have been distributed to the Commission members, supplementing the public comments that were circulated in June. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission confirmed the June recommendation for this project.
Mr. Luebke reported that some Commission members made a site inspection the previous evening of Broad Branch Road, NW, in conjunction with agenda item III.G and potentially additional cases in the vicinity anticipated for the September agenda. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk suggested discussing the site inspection later in the day in conjunction with the related agenda item.
III. Submissions and Reviews (continued)
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. Luebke noted that the Consent Calendar includes recommendations for the designs of six Congressional gold medals honoring Native American code talkers, part of an ongoing series being developed by the U.S. Mint; a set of submissions for this series in June was similarly administered through the Consent Calendar. Mr. Lindstrom said that there were no changes to the draft appendix. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported that the changes to the draft appendix were mostly limited to minor notations of dates for receipt of supplemental information. She noted two pending recommendations for projects at the Watergate complex (unrelated to the Watergate Hotel recommendation from June 2013 that was confirmed as agenda item II.E above): case number SL 13–104 has been updated in response to supplemental information, and further information is still anticipated to confirm the partially favorable recommendation; and SL 13–107 has been changed from a concept to a final submission, subject to the receipt of additional submission materials. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez reported several changes to the draft appendix. Several recommendations have been updated to note the receipt of supplemental drawings. Two projects have been removed at the request of the applicants. One project has been added that was recently submitted for review in July, involving excavation work that does not require further review. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
C. Smithsonian Institution
CFA 18/JUL/13–2, National Museum of African American History and Culture, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Revised landscape design. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/APR/13– 2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission for modifications to the approved landscape design of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He said that at the previous review of the modifications in April, the Commission had expressed concerns about the changes to the landscape design, particularly about the proposal to eliminate the water feature on the north part of the site and to replace it with a retaining wall planted with shrubs; the Commission had commented that this change would compromise the design's symbolic narrative. The Commission had also questioned the proposed change to generic benches in the site's three reading groves, suggesting instead that at least one of the groves be fully developed as intended in the approved design. He said that the current submission responds to these two issues, offering a new design for a security wall and proposing a revised development of one reading grove; the presentation also includes an update on site signage.
Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Freelon has recused himself from this review because of his professional involvement in this project, resulting in the loss of a quorum. He said that the Commission members present can review the project and report a recommended action for the Commission to adopt at its September meeting; staff will also transmit the comments to the Smithsonian. He asked Ann Trowbridge, associate director for planning at the Smithsonian, to begin the presentation. Ms. Trowbridge thanked the Commission staff for meeting several times since the previous review with the Smithsonian and the National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office. She introduced landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol to present the project.
Ms. Gustafson summarized the previously approved landscape concept, which focused on the idea of crossing water that was expressed on the north side of the site as a channel crossed by two bridges. Because of budget limitations, this feature has been removed and a less expensive design was developed, with the result that much of the narrative import was lost; however, the ideas have been retained of crossing a threshold into a different realm and of using landscape to express celebration. She emphasized that the site forms part of the Washington Monument Grounds, and the walks have therefore been redesigned to coordinate with the curved walks elsewhere on the grounds. Another complication is the nine–foot grade change across the site; the museum building is being placed toward the center of the grade change, slightly closer to the level of Madison Drive on the south, and the slope would be controlled to ensure that every visitor will have easy access to the museum.
Ms. Gustafson said that the original design had included a rain garden along the site's north boundary. However, the Commission found this element was too informal for its location, and the design team has therefore reconsidered the context of being situated between the picturesque Washington Monument Grounds and the more formal site of the National Museum of American History to the east. She discussed the alignments of elms, sidewalks, and curbs along the four sides of the site, each having a different condition. She described the planting in detail, including several different varieties of elm to be planted along the bordering streets, with varying growth characteristics selected to complement the width of the street.
Ms. Gustafson emphasized that the symbolism of rising up and reaching forward has played an important role in the design since the beginning; she described the concept of this site as a meeting place of past, present, and future. Constitution Avenue follows the route of the historic Tiber Creek, later reconfigured as the Washington City Canal, which transported materials used for buildings on the Mall. Crossing the oceans is an experience common to the history of almost all Americans, and the effort of crossing water, crossing a threshold, or climbing a hill can evoke this journey. The glowing oculus represents the lantern or moon that historically guided the northward migration of African Americans within the United States.
Ms. Gustafson said that the revised landscape concept proposal includes a large curved wall pulled back nearly three meters from the north boundary line; this wall would serve as the security barrier. She said that the wall is treated as a special object: its honed dark granite face would be canted, and the leading edge would be polished so that as people approach they will see a line of light before cutting through the massive barrier. The mirror polish would reflect the landscaped slope, dramatizing the ascent from Constitution Avenue to the museum. The wall would be a dark granite, related to the granite security walls of the Washington Monument Grounds. The polished stone would extend down at the openings for the walks so that the wall would appear to be cut. The angles of the wall would vary so that the top appears to flow over and the sides appear to hold back the earth. She added that the alignment of the bollards in the two openings was changed by moving them from a straight to a diagonal line between opposite corners, which has reduced their number.
Ms. Gustafson indicated where the two walks on the north side of the site would intersect–a point where people meet and then spread out into the landscape, representing the future. On the south side of the site, the remaining water feature would be a reflecting pool, intended to suggest light and movement through the future. She described the effort to unify the complex landscape surrounding the museum using several different means: extending a variety of tree species from one side to another; the colors of leaves and flowers; and the materials and angles of landscape structures.
Ms. Gustafson said that the north side of the site symbolizes the history of African Americans. She searched for a type of tree with a strong, muscular form to reflect the idea that knowledge is built on history, and chose the American beech as the primary tree, augmented by the live oak. A purple beech would mark the entry; the intense color of its bark and foliage would contrast with the gold of the museum's corona. The understory on the north would comprise a series of flowering trees. Lighter–colored trees representing the future would be planted on the south side, where the security wall encircling the site would be integrated with a "marbled" hedge composed of shrubs in different colors. Blue would be the major spring color of the landscape, referring to the historic use of the blue beads that were buried as protection at the thresholds of African American homes. Lawns would be covered with blue crocuses, and blue azaleas intermixed with white azaleas would be planted around the reading grove on the east side of the site.
Ms. Gustafson said that the three reading groves of the original design had been based on the themes of spirituality, hope and optimism, and resiliency; the design had included intricate stone seating in all three groves. The proposed modification had been to replace the seating with standard park benches, but the Commission had strongly recommended retaining one grove as originally designed. In response, further development is proposed for the grove representing hope and optimism, which was chosen as the most important because it would be the largest grove and relates closely to the oculus. The design team worked with the firm Landscape Forms Furniture to reinterpret the stone benches in metal, combining molded aluminum seats with flat panels of rolled steel. Both metals would receive an anti–corrosion treatment before being powder–coated, and the benches would be designed to minimize heat retention. She said that the color for the benches and other metals has not yet been chosen and will depend on the color selected for the corona.
Ms. Gustafson concluded by discussing signage on the site. The Smithsonian's standard signage program includes three types: metal information signs at street corners; museum program signs at entrances to sites; and museum identification signs. Two types would be used for this museum–the information sign and an identification sign specifically designed for this site and integrated with the stone security wall on the south.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the landscape overview, which had helped her as a new member of the Commission to understand the proposed changes; Mr. Krieger agreed. Ms. Meyer said that her greatest concern had been with the wall and threshold, but she concluded that it is generally a strong concept; she commented that the wall would have enough weight for people to feel as though they are passing through a significant barrier. However, she questioned the appearance of the bollards. Ms. Gustafson described the intention that people will be drawn to the bright line of the wall's polished edge and then will suddenly find themselves in front of a formidable wall; she does not want the bollards to detract from that experience. Ms. Meyer acknowledged the difficulties of security requirements and emphasized that dignity has been restored to the design.
Ms. Meyer asked if the metal proposed for the reading grove benches would be a suitable replacement for the stone, maintaining the intended aesthetic character of the space. Ms. Gustafson said that the benches would need to be detailed so that they appear massive. Ms. Meyer noted that the Commission has previously advised the Smithsonian on the importance of material and finish choices for the corona, and such choices are also important for the benches; people will touch these surfaces, so their weathering and durability need to be understood.
Mr. Krieger expressed appreciation for the work which has gone into the design but said that the originally proposed water feature would have been a better solution. He observed that a low wall with openings containing bollards is too typical of Washington to convey the special act of crossing a threshold; even though this wall would be shaped differently, he said that it may lack the power of the water feature. He suggested exploring other options for shaping the bollards, such as fins. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the openings for pedestrians are cuts in the wall, and bollards shaped as fins might likewise appear as cuts. Mr. Krieger and Ms. Meyer agreed that fins could be a stronger solution than the typical cylindrical bollard.
Mr. Luebke commented that the Commission has previously dealt with many technical issues regarding the width and capacity of bollards; fins would still have to be as wide as bollards but much deeper, with the potential result that they could resemble a gate for managing livestock. He asked the Commission members what other alternatives they would consider. Mr. Krieger emphasized his concern that walls with bollards are found everywhere in Washington, while the original water feature was a distinctive symbolic passage between realms; he said that he was reacting to the conventional treatment rather than mandating something else.
Ms. Gustafson responded that she and architect David Adjaye had concluded that the proposed solution for the wall would have a crafted quality which would make it an extraordinary object. She offered to consider fins if they could be made thin enough, although she cautioned that from certain viewing angles the fins would prevent people from seeing the openings in the wall. Ms. Plater–Zyberk reiterated Mr. Krieger's comment that the bollards are problematic while not suggesting fins as the only solution; she suggested consideration of changing the pavement of the walk to emphasize the threshold. Ms. Gustafson said that one option considered was to make the pavement black as if the wall had been truly cut through; Ms. Meyer said that this would help. Ms. Gustafson noted the symbolism in the threshold but also symbolism in the act of ascending, which is helped by treating the pavement as a continuous surface. Mr. Krieger commented that some thresholds are easy to step over and some are difficult; crossing the ocean was difficult, while this passage through the wall seems too easy. He suggested consideration of something that takes more effort to cross, such as a field of bollards. Ms. Meyer added that thresholds are transitional spaces and suggested emphasizing the contrast between the two realms. Mr. Luebke asked if a collapsible walk could be used as a security solution; members of the design team responded that the expected number of visitors would be too large.
Discussing the signage plan, Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that the Commission has reviewed proposals in recent years for a comprehensive Mall signage plan from the National Park Service as well as signs for individual buildings from the General Services Administration; she asked how the proposed signs for this museum would relate to those other programs. Mr. Luebke responded that multiple constituencies have jurisdiction over properties on or near the Mall, and the Commission had hoped that a more unified approach to signage could be found. He confirmed that the proposed signs are standard Smithsonian signs at standard locations. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if other nearby signs should be considered in conjunction with this proposal; Mr. Luebke responded that the museum site has been transferred from the National Park Service to the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian, which is submitting its proposed signs; additional pylons from the National Park Service would be located in nearby parkland but not on the museum site.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the proposed locations of signs, observing that the building identification signs would be at only two of the site's corners and the museum program signs would be at mid–block locations; she added that the identification sign at the southeast corner may require trimming of the landscaping to maintain visibility. Jud McIntire of the Smithsonian Institution responded that most visitors would arrive from the northeast, coming from the Federal Triangle Metro Station, and a building identification sign is therefore proposed at that corner. He said that the Smithsonian information signs are typically placed at the corners of museum properties, and program signs are typically at various locations along a sidewalk depending on the formality of the site design. For this site, the mid–block placement of program signs is proposed as being consistent with the other museums along Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive. Ms. Plater–Zyberk concluded that the submitted signage program is satisfactory.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the thoughtfulness of the planting design; after the presentation of the Eisenhower Memorial, she said she was pleased to see a site plan that has well–developed ideas about using the character of plants to support a design. Mr. Krieger agreed. The Commission members summarized the consensus to approve the proposal with the exception of the bollards, and to request further submission of material and finish samples. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission members present recommended this action, subject to adoption by a quorum at the next meeting,
D. General Services Administration
CFA 18/JUL/13–3, Old Post Office Building and Annex, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Building renovations, rehabilitation, modernization, and alterations for redevelopment into hotel and conference center. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 18/APR/13–5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the revised concept for changes to the Old Post Office Building and annex on Pennsylvania Avenue for conversion to a hotel and conference center. He noted the Commission's previous review in April and asked Mina Wright of the General Services Administration to begin the presentation.
Ms. Wright said the submission is a further development of the design that responds to the Commission's previous comments. She noted that the signage is still being studied and is not included in the presentation; she emphasized that the signage must serve multiple purposes, such as building identification and wayfinding, and requires close coordination with the architectural language of the building. Part of the complexity is that visitors to the building will include people ascending the tower for the view, as well as people making use of the hotel and conference center. She emphasized that the General Services Administration has been working on other signage programs in the Federal Triangle, including a heritage trail, and the potential for graphic chaos in the area–particularly along Pennsylvania Avenue–must be avoided. She said that the signage would therefore be submitted after further design development. She introduced architect Hany Hassan of Beyer Blinder Belle to present the design for the building.
Mr. Hassan said that the presentation would focus on recent development of the design and on issues raised by the Commission at the previous review, particularly at the proposed entrance area on the alignment of 11th Street, NW. He summarized the existing conditions and context, noting that the entrance into the existing hyphen between the annex and historic building is not aligned with the centerline of 11th Street; the proposed hyphen would correct this problem and would include a larger entrance portal. He said that the hyphen would have a simple and inviting design, and its proportions have been refined. He presented samples of the potential materials for this area, including glass and laminated stone. He said that the visual effect of these materials would be similar; he offered a preference for the laminated stone, which he said would be more subtle and would contrast better with other materials of the annex. Mr. Krieger asked about a diagonal grid pattern in the rendering of this area. Mr. Hassan clarified that this pattern is for an interior wall screen that would be visible through the glass entrance; the screen would be located along the interior escalators, and it has not yet been fully designed. He described the refined transition to the northeast between the annex and the adjacent Internal Revenue Service building; he emphasized the simplicity of the design and the alignment with the IRS building's decorative belt course. The annex facade in this area would be buff–colored to relate to the existing context.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if a structural support system or other elements would be visible behind the proposed glass entrance facade in the hyphen. Mr. Hassan responded that the mullion system would be simple, perhaps made of glass, but this detail has not yet been designed; he also indicated the relatively flat roof as part of the intended simplicity of the design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the importance of considering the framing system as part of the glass wall's appearance, including the pattern and thickness of structural members. Mr. Luebke asked for clarification of the intended design approach. Mr. Hassan confirmed that the mullions would not be expressed on the exterior; the outside surface of the glass wall, as well as the adjacent stone wall, would be butt–jointed. Mr. Luebke noted that this design intent may be sufficient for the concept submission stage.
Mr. Hassan presented the proposed canopy design for the west side of the entrance area. He said that the canopy would be supported on two columns with cantilevers in two directions, and it would not touch the historic building. He provided a sample of the steel proposed for the columns and beams; the roof of the canopy would be clear glass. Mr. Freelon asked if the lighting depicted on the canopy would come from the building or from additional canopy lighting; Mr. Hassan responded that the goal is to rely on light from the building. Mr. Freelon questioned the proposed parapet configuration, which he said may interfere with the intended lighting effect of a uniform glow. Mr. Hassan agreed that the detailing of the canopy will be important in achieving the desired lighting. Mr. Krieger questioned the depiction of materials for the canopy, commenting that columns and horizontal surfaces would need to be treated differently; Mr. Hassan clarified that the steel is proposed for the columns and fascia, with glass used horizontally, and he confirmed that the design would be developed in further detail for the next submission.
Mr. Hassan presented the proposed revisions to the C Street plaza on the south side of the historic building, acknowledging the Commission's previous comments to reconsider how the space would be used. He said that the design would be much simpler than the existing rows of flags, light poles, and other elements. Due to the numerous below–grade utilities, new elements would be minimal along the former C Street alignment; the trees, entrance canopy, and cafe seating would be close to the building facade. The poles would remain to provide nighttime lighting and to separate the pedestrian plaza from the service driveway for truck access. Many of the previously proposed planters have been eliminated; the inclined plaza surface and ramp would provide access to the building's south entrance. He indicated the proposed location for a sign, which is not yet designed but would be smaller than previously proposed; he said that its details and materials would be part of the subsequent signage submission. Mr. Freelon asked for clarification of the canopy design. Mr. Hassan responded that it would be the open framework of the historic shed structure; the proposal is to remove the solid roof, which would improve the daylight for the guestroom windows behind the canopy. Mr. Freelon asked if this entrance is a primary access point for the hotel; Mr. Hassan responded that it would be a public entrance to the historic tower, operated by the National Park Service, and would provide access to the cafe and retail space within the hotel. Mr. Freelon questioned the lack of weather protection in the proposed treatment, particularly with rain draining along the building facade; Mr. Krieger agreed. Mr. Hassan offered to study this issue further, perhaps using glass instead of the existing solid roof; Mr. Freelon encouraged this alternative.
Ms. Meyer noted that drawings may not fully simulate the actual appearance of materials; she asked if the sample of laminated stone has been placed alongside the historic building's rusticated base in an on–site mockup, which she said would be helpful in evaluating the proposal. Mr. Hassan added that several alternatives for the stone are being considered. Mr. Freelon suggested developing eye–level perspective renderings for the C Street plaza in addition to the aerial perspective, commenting that the lower perspective points are helpful in the renderings of the 11th Street entrance area. Mr. Krieger commented that the tree at the southwest corner of the building is an important design feature and should be protected during construction.
Mr. Luebke summarized the issues of the materials and proportions of new construction at the 11th Street entrance area and the simplified design of the C Street plaza; he also asked for clarification of the signage related to the submitted canopy design. Mr. Hassan responded that all of the signs should be considered in a subsequent submission; the intention is to include a sign on the canopy, but it can be reviewed at this point without signage. Mr. Krieger expressed support for the concept proposal and said that it is an improvement on the previous submission. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk confirmed the consensus of the Commission to support the proposals for both the 11th Street and C Street areas. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission approved the concept submission and noted the expectation to review a mockup and more detailed development of the design.E. District of Columbia Public Library
CFA 18/JUL/13–4, Woodridge Neighborhood Library, 1801 Hamlin Street, NE (at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 18th Street). New replacement building. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 16/MAY/13– 2.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced a revised concept design for the Woodridge Neighborhood Library at 1801 Hamlin Street, NE; the concept was previously presented in May. He asked Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the D.C. Public Library, to introduce the project. Ms. Cooper said that this concept incorporates many of the Commission's previous recommendations, and she asked Bing Thom of Bing Thom Architects to present the design.
Mr. Luebke noted that Mr. Freelon has recused himself from this review because of his work for the D.C. Public Library. With this recusal, the Commission does not have a quorum; he said that the Commission members present can offer comments and an action to be considered for formal adoption at the September meeting.
Mr. Thom summarized the design's guiding ideas. While libraries in the past had been repositories of knowledge, today they function as sanctuaries serving many different purposes; the idea of gathering is a central concept for this project. The design is also influenced by the dynamism suggested by the site's location at the convergence of different street grids. Another influence is the large park adjoining the site; he said that the design emphasizes the approach to the library from the park and the view of the park from the library.
Mr. Thom said that the typical way of organizing a library is to create a glass box with stacks in the center, such as the central D.C. library designed by Mies van der Rohe, a solution which makes the center of the building dark. Instead of following this model, the proposed building is organized as a series of layers, with a light, open central space that will convey a sense of mystery when seen from the entrance and will draw people into the space beyond.
Mr. Thom described the changes made following the previous Commission review: the main entrance was enlarged; the meeting room entrance was moved from the east side to the north elevation along Hamlin Street; a large vertical window was provided in the west elevation; the roof trellis was extended; and the roof parapet was lowered so that it will be easier to understand the building from the street. The Commission had commented on the excessive amount of daylight entering through the main window, so blinds are proposed to soften the light.
Discussing the landscape, Mr. Thom said that four existing trees would remain and new trees would be added. The garden to the east, where the entrance to the meeting room had been located, would now be simply a planting buffer between the library and the adjacent house. Water from the roof would drain onto swales, then flow to the bottom of the hill where it would enter the D.C. stormwater system.
Mr. Thom presented samples of the precast concrete panels for the exterior. The panels would be arranged according to a pattern based on musical notation to avoid predictability and to play on the texture created by the vertical slots. A small amount of pink would be added to the color of the panels for warmth. The precast would return twelve inches into the vertical recesses; in larger recesses, a yellow accent color would introduced, similar to the color of a standard pencil. Colors in the planting would complement those of the elevation, creating what Mr. Thom described as a dialogue between the planting and the building. The paving in front would resemble the building's precast concrete. He added that standard library signage would be used.
Ms. Meyer commended the design team for the persuasive response to the issues raised at the previous review, particularly concerning the intense light that would enter through the large south window. She said that moving the meeting room entrance to the north facade results in a much better relationship with the neighbors. She said that one of the case studies for a bioretention garden illustrated in the project materials–Campbell Hall, the architecture school building at the University of Virginia–is failing and needs to be redone, and it therefore does not provide a good example. She commented that bioretention on a steep site, such as for the Woodridge Library, must be done carefully and may need more steps or terraces.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the design has been substantially improved. He recalled that the initial image of the fortress had contradicted the creation of an inviting building; while the design still has some of this fortress–like quality, it has been improved by the addition of more glazing and refinement of the vertical slots. He asked if windows are provided near the desks in staff office spaces; Mr. Thom responded that a clerestory window is proposed because the library staff said that natural light from windows might be too harsh. He noted the saying that "you can't tell a book by its cover" and emphasized his design intent for a building that would be unveiled in layers–unlike the central D.C. library, where "what you see is what you get." The design of the Woodbridge Library is meant to bring an element of surprise to daily experience; he said that large windows and color are used to create a transparent, welcoming entrance while maintaining the suggestion of mystery and discovery in a building that will make a poetic statement about books. Mr. Krieger noted the wide–ranging continuum between an all–glass building and a windowless building.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that all the changes are improvements, especially the windows and the use of color, but she had two minor reservations. First, she observed that the entrance would be hidden from 18th Street, which runs uphill to the library's entrance on Hamlin Street, and she suggested making an opening in the building skin to indicate the presence of the door from this approach. Mr. Thom responded that the large window on the east facade is intended to serve this purpose; it would be prominently visible to people ascending the hill. Mr. Luebke noted that the library entrance also faces Rhode Island Avenue, the major street for approaching the site. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that because the site is on a corner, the entrance should be apparent from all sides. Her second comment concerned the mechanical equipment that is proposed next to the neighboring house on the east; she suggested moving the equipment to the parking lot on the south or further downhill along the east. Mr. Thom responded that the project would have only a small amount of parking, but it may be feasible to move the equipment further downhill.
Mr. Krieger asked about the vertical slots on the elevations; he observed that some are only reveals in the surface and others were windows, but in the model some slots appear to have a translucent material. Mr. Thom replied that this appearance is merely a result of using acrylic for the model, and the windowless reveals would be precast concrete. Mr. Krieger said that the model nevertheless suggests the possibility of the material in the reveals being something other than precast concrete–a more reflective material, such as metal, or frosted or fritted glass; such a textural change, he said, would help the building seem even less like a fortress. Mr. Thom offered to study this further.
Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission members present recommended approval of the revised concept, subject to adoption by a quorum at the next meeting, with comments concerning further expression along 18th Street of the main entrance to the north; reconsideration of the location of the exterior mechanical equipment on the east; and use of a contrasting material such as frosted glass in some of the slots on the concrete facade. They also recommended delegating review of the final design to the staff.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
CFA 18/JUL/13–5, Brookland Middle School, 1150 Michigan Avenue, NE. Replacement school building. Concept. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the concept proposal for a new middle school building to replace an existing elementary school dating from the 1970s, an uninviting brutalist–style building that is not currently in use and would be demolished. He asked architect Gail Douglass of Hartman Cox Architects to present the design. Ms. Douglass introduced Michael Quadrino of Brailsford & Dunlavey, part of a contractor team providing project management services to the D.C. Department of General Services, to discuss the process for the project.
Mr. Quadrino described the site and context along Michigan Avenue near Catholic University and the Brookland Metro station. The existing elementary school was closed in 2008. The proposal results from several years of coordination between a community group and the D.C. Public Schools, resulting in a neighborhood program to establish freestanding middle schools rather than combined elementary and middle schools. This site was selected due to its central location within the neighborhood, the overall distribution of middle schools in this part of the city, and the adjacency to the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center that provides playing fields and athletic facilities for school use. He noted that the school and recreation center are on separately administered sites, but a study was done of where the school might be placed if the properties were considered as a single overall site. Although advantageous adjacencies and open space relationships could be achieved, the community expressed concern due to such issues as security and planned upgrades to the park. The proposed site is therefore limited to the property occupied by the existing school building, which he said has resulted in a strong design.
Ms. Douglass provided further images of the site and context. She noted that Michigan Avenue on the southeast is an attractive but busy street that is heavily used by commuters; the volume of traffic and bend in the alignment can cause safety problems. She indicated several houses to the northwest and northeast of the site, which have influenced the proposed design. She also indicated the long exposure to the open space of Turkey Thicket to the west and southwest, but noted that the sense of open space from the school site is impeded by adjacent tennis courts surrounded by a fourteen–foot–high fence. She described the grade change across the site and the existing retaining wall along the Turkey Thicket property. She said that the existing recreation center building is heavily used, and part of the proposed school's program involves maximizing the connection between the school and recreation center so that they can share facilities; the school would use the park's playing fields, and the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation may make use of the school for meeting rooms and the cafeteria. She noted that the middle school will emphasize performing arts and would contain a theater.
Ms. Douglass presented the proposed site plan. Due to safety concerns with a student entrance along busy Michigan Avenue, the main entrance would be located on the west along a limited–access drop–off lane between the school and Turkey Thicket. She said that this road would have a park–like character with one–way traffic; access to this road would be from the existing entrance driveway for Turkey Thicket along Michigan Avenue, helping to strengthen the campus relationship between the school and park. The school's more public areas, such as the theater and other performing arts spaces, would be placed along Michigan Avenue; quieter spaces such as classrooms would be located toward the north. The northernmost portion of the site would be a faculty parking area, with access from an existing segment of 11th Place, NE; the intention is to maintain some of the existing open space character near the adjacent houses. An existing alley behind several of the houses would be used for service access to the school's loading dock.
Ms. Douglass presented interior plans for the school, emphasizing the placement of the theater, upper–level library, lower–level gymnasium with an outdoor classroom above, and three–story academic wing. She presented the elevations, describing the intention for a continuous facade appearance facing Turkey Thicket, using repeated piers and a large overhang to unify the facade. She indicated the window grills along the west facade to control sunlight. The single–story entrance pergola would provide an appropriate scale for the students; it would face a portion of the park that is being redeveloped for rain gardens and picnic areas. The school name would be placed near the entrance; large windows on the performance spaces to the south and east would establish the school's presence toward Michigan Avenue, with modulated glass to provide limited views. She described the building's scale changes that respond to the adjacent houses, and the different facade treatments along the park and street. She presented drawings to illustrate the possible display of banners along Michigan Avenue to announce the school's activities and performances. She concluded with aerial perspective views of the proposed design.
Mr. Krieger observed that some of the design features in the presentation do not appear in the project booklets that were distributed. Ms. Douglass acknowledged that some features have been added to the drawings subsequent to preparation of the booklets, including the entrance pergola.
Mr. Freelon commented that the proposed school would be a significant improvement from the existing building, and he supported the elevation studies as moving in the right direction. He observed that some of the exterior renderings do not show the details consistently and lack some of the intended design features, such as a careful balance of vertical and horizontal elements; he said that these perspective views suggest the need for further study. Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that coordination of the presentation materials is incomplete, noting that a sidewalk along the building is shown on the site plan but not in the renderings; she asked for clarification of the design intention for the drop–off lane. Ms. Douglass responded that the paving is currently designed as primarily asphalt, with some transitional paving zones that would indicate that this lane is not intended as a public street. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission would be interested in seeing further development of such details. Mr. Luebke asked if the Commission is generally satisfied with the project concept; he acknowledged the inadequacy of the renderings but noted the tight project schedule, subject to the Commission's approval of the design. Ms. Douglass confirmed the intention to complete construction for the 2014–15 academic year.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk offered support for the layout of the program, resulting in a variety of places and elevations for the building. She also supported the proposal for a continuous cornice across the west facade, encompassing the open space above the gymnasium. She said that the design suggests great coherence for this complex building, and the overall approach is acceptable, but the Commission will want to review the design carefully as it is developed. Mr. Freelon added that a physical model would be helpful, particularly to aid in developing the relationship among the facades.
Mr. Krieger commented on the difficulty of assessing the exterior design; although some parts appear satisfactory, the shifting design in different areas of the facade is not conveyed well. He said that it is unclear whether the variety of facade treatments and materials is too many or too few, as well as how the facades turn the corners. He agreed in supporting the proposed site planning and interior layout; he also commented that the new building is much larger than the existing school but does not seem harmful to the context, reflecting skillful design. He said that the continuous cornice on the west elevation, facing the park, appears promising but may result in an overly busy facade; further refinement is needed. He commented that the theater–described as a "black box"–would clearly be a windowless volume, yet it is featured at a prominent corner of the building as a "robust" design element; he questioned whether the robustness would be achieved in the detailing or whether this volume is wrongly placed. He described its appearance in the renderings as imposing. He expressed confidence that the design is promising and would improve with further development and finesse. Ms. Meyer added that design finesse is also needed for the entrance area, requiring further attention from both the client and architect. She observed that the program is being squeezed onto a relatively small parcel, resulting in very little public open space on the site. The quality of the entrance area is important in establishing the daily experience of students arriving at school, but the proposed design has the potential appearance of a utilitarian alley. She said that the issues requiring study include not just the material, but also the design of the entrance drive beginning at the Turkey Thicket driveway, which she said is a compact but complicated intersection that needs careful design attention that goes beyond engineering. She added that the issues include both a welcoming character and safety of the intersection design.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that a portion of the building appears to extend beyond the property line at the south corner. Ms. Douglass confirmed this configuration, which is intended to provide an improved appearance along Michigan Avenue; she said that the boundary adjustment has recently been approved by the National Park Service, which had granted use of the Turkey Thicket land to the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation. A landscape architect is now working on a design for this corner of the building alongside the theater, providing a pedestrian route from Michigan Avenue to the school entrance and with the potential for a student gathering space that overlooks the park. She said that this forthcoming landscape design may address some of the Commission's concerns; Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Krieger agreed.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the main entrance would be used for after–hours public access to the theater, providing further importance for the entrance design even when access is not provided to the rest of the building. Ms. Douglass responded that public visitors using the main entrance would need to go through the security screening process; a student common area, located immediately after the screening, would serve as a gathering area adjacent to the theater. She clarified that the security requirements prevent using the generous lobby vestibule space as the theater entrance. Mr. Krieger suggested further study of the site plan, perhaps with an additional boundary adjustment, to provide a more generous layout at the intersection of the Turkey Thicket entrance drive and the school's access lane. Ms. Douglass responded that the proposed one–way traffic pattern and central island are intended to help make this intersection successful. She added that the park space across from the proposed school entrance has great potential as a rain garden or amphitheater space, improving on the existing concrete wall with graffiti and enhancing the character of the entrance.
Ms. Meyer commented that the parking lot should have additional shade, emphasizing that it is an urban space along a residential street rather than a suburban parking lot; she added that this area could serve as a shaded plaza when not used for parking. She encouraged stretching the budget further to improve the site design where possible.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked if the Commission would have the opportunity for further review beyond this concept submission; Mr. Krieger agreed that further review would be appropriate. Mr. Luebke said that the Commission could approve the concept with the request for an additional presentation of the final design; or the Commission could request a further concept submission, perhaps followed by delegating review of the final design to the staff. He suggested that, if the Commission approves the concept, the staff could work further with the project team to determine the best stage for the next submission. Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the concept with the comments provided, and with the understanding that a subsequent presentation would respond to these comments.
(At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider items III.H.1 through III.H.4.)
H. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Simon introduced the four submissions from the U.S. Mint, noting that an additional submission from the Mint for a set of Congressional Gold Medals was considered earlier in the meeting as part of the Direct Submission Consent Calendar (agenda item III.B, Appendix I). He added that one of the submissions being presented–for the reverse of the one–dollar coin (agenda item III.H.3)–would be in public circulation. He asked April Stafford of the U.S. Mint to present the design alternatives.
1. CFA 18/JUL/13–6, Congressional Gold Medal to honor the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing Victims. Designs for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the legislation from May 2013 for a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the four girls who died in the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama; the incident became a catalyst for action within the civil rights movement. She said that the design alternatives have been prepared in coordination with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which will display the medal, and with the families of the four victims.
Ms. Stafford presented eighteen alternatives for the obverse–numbered 1 through 17 plus 1–A–and noted that obverse #1–A is preferred by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Mr. Krieger supported #1–A as the simplest and most powerful design, commenting that the text–"Pivotal in the Struggle for Equality"–strongly conveys the importance of the event. Ms. Meyer supported obverse #2, comparing it to the work of Carol Walker, an African American artist who uses silhouettes. She cited the powerful prominence in this alternative of the girls' names and silhouette portraits, while questioning the overly sentimental character of design elements in other alternatives such as the flowers in #1–A. She said that obverse #4 would be a second choice, combining the silhouettes and names with the steps of the church to associate the event with the place. Mr. Freelon acknowledged the preference of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for obverse #1–A, but said that this alternative and many others do not adequately convey the appearance of the four girls as African Americans; he supported alternative #2, which he said is more successful in the portrayal of the girls.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk recommended continuing with consideration of the reverse before determining the Commission's preference; Ms. Meyer agreed that evaluating the two sides of the medal as a combined design would be advantageous. Ms. Stafford presented twelve alternatives for the reverse, numbered 1 through 11 plus 6–A. She noted the preference of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for reverse #6–A, particularly due to the text on this design. She concluded by presenting eight pairings of obverse and reverse designs as recommended by the artists involved in developing the alternatives.
Ms. Meyer supported the pairing of obverse #2 and reverse #6–A; she cited the powerful factual text of reverse #6–A, which does not rely on abstraction and analogy. Mr. Krieger agreed and withdrew his preference for obverse #1–A, noting that the informative text in this design would be sufficiently conveyed in reverse #6–A. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission recommended obverse #2 and reverse #6–A.
2. CFA 18/JUL/13–7, Civil Rights Act of 1964 Commemorative Coin program. Designs for one–dollar silver coin. Final. Ms. Stafford summarized the authorizing legislation for a commemorative silver coin to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Proceeds from the coin sales would support the United Negro College Fund (UNCF); she noted the presence of this organization's representatives in the audience. She presented fifteen alternatives for the obverse design, each including the required text for coinage: "Liberty," "In God We Trust," and the minting year of 2014. She clarified that additional text is permitted but the required text must be included. She noted the preference of the UNCF for obverse #15 due to its theme of young people driving social change, with the suggestion to add the year 1964 and to diversify the appearance of the people depicted. Mr. Freelon supported obverse #15, including the changes suggested by the UNCF; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Plater–Zyberk also supported the additional diversity. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the protest sign is awkwardly cropped at the rim of the coin; Ms. Meyer agreed that the partial cropping of "We" in "We the People" is problematic. Mr. Freelon suggested a smaller font for the circumferential text "Liberty" to allow more room for the protest sign and to be more consistent with other text on the obverse. Mr. Krieger said that reducing the size of "Liberty" may not be sufficient to address the cropping of the sign; further adjustment to the size of the people may be necessary. Mr. Freelon agreed that additional work on the composition may be necessary; Ms. Fernández said that reducing "Liberty" would be helpful for further adjustment of the design. Ms. Stafford noted that the UNCF had similarly suggested reducing the size of "Liberty."
Ms. Stafford presented ten alternatives for the reverse design, with the required text "United States of America," "E Pluribus Unum," and the one–dollar denomination of the coin. She noted the UNCF's preference for reverse #8, depicting a graduation cap and additional text. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented on the clarity of the concept and image in reverse #8, but she said that the boxes and horizontal lines around the text are unnecessary and could be removed. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon agreed that the design is busier than necessary due to these graphic elements. Ms. Meyer said that she had rejected reverse #8 due to its busy design, and instead had intended to support alternative #3; but she agreed to support alternative #8 with simplification of the graphic elements. She suggested that the design place more emphasis on the graduation cap, which is currently shown as partially obscured by one of the text boxes and intersected by the horizontal lines. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted that the resulting design would have the word "Justice" slightly overlapping the cap; Ms. Meyer agreed.
Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission recommended obverse #15 and reverse #8 with the adjustments that were discussed.
3. CFA 18/JUL/13–8, 2014 Native American One Dollar Coin. Designs for reverse. Final. (Previous: CFA 20/SEP/12–8.) Ms. Stafford summarized the program of annual reverse designs for the circulating one–dollar coin to honor Native American contributions to the history of the United States; the obverse would continue to depict Sacagawea. The theme for the 2014 reverse will be the Native American hospitality that contributed to the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition, particularly as the expedition extended beyond the headwaters of the Missouri River toward the Pacific Ocean. She described the required standard text for the coin, and the coordination with the National Museum of the American Indian in developing the theme and the design alternatives.
Ms. Stafford presented seven alternatives for the reverse design, numbered 1 through 6 and 8. She noted the preferences of the groups involved in the design selection process: the National Congress of the American Indian supports alternative #1 or #2, with several corrections; and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs prefers alternative #5.
Ms. Meyer offered support for alternative #6 due to its subject of assistance with a map; she said that this sharing of knowledge about the terrain is a more appropriate representation of hospitality than the other designs that depict sharing of food, and she described this alternative as a beautiful and powerful image. She added that the theme of hospitality in alternative #2 would be conveyed only by a hand gesture, which may be difficult for people to understand. She said that reverse #8 could also be viable, but its depiction of Sacagawea would be repetitive with the continuing obverse portrait. Mr. Krieger and Mr. Freelon joined in supporting alternative #6. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the curved edge line of the ground in alternative #6, suggesting that it be replaced by a straight horizon line; Mr. Freelon and Ms. Meyer agreed that this revision would avoid confusion in the design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the she had hoped to support a design with horses, but the drawings were not of sufficient quality. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission recommended reverse #6 with the modification for a straight horizon line.
4. CFA 18/JUL/13–9, National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin program. Obverse designs for five–dollar gold, one–dollar silver, and half–dollar clad coins. Final. (Previous: CFA 21/MAR/13– 9, reverse design.) Ms. Stafford summarized the legislation authorizing the program of three coins to commemorate the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum; the coins would have similar designs and would vary in denomination, size, and metal. The program includes a public competition for the obverse design; the competition recently concluded and 178 designs were received. She described the required obverse text and said that the competition entries could include additional text. She noted that the reverse design was previously reviewed by the Commission and has now been finalized; it depicts a baseball, as specified in the legislation. She also noted the unusual curved surface of the coin, with a concave obverse and convex reverse.
Ms. Stafford presented sixteen alternatives for the obverse design, numbered 1 through 14, plus 16 and 17. She also presented a three–dimensional digital simulation of alternative #7, depicting a baseball glove from the 1930s to 1940s, that was prepared by the competition entrant. She noted that alternative #1 is preferred by the National Baseball Hall of Fame because its design takes advantage of the concave shape.
Mr. Krieger commented that a baseball glove is an appropriate subject for the concave obverse and would work well in combination with the baseball depicted on the convex reverse; he said that the baseball glove depicted in alternative #1 is better than the glove in alternative #7. Mr. Freelon agreed that the more modern glove in alternative #1 is preferable. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the two wheat sheaves that are depicted with the laces of the glove in alternative #1, symbolizing national unity and bounty. Ms. Stafford noted that the Hall of Fame has suggested changing the wheat sheaves to laurels as a symbol of victory; this change would avoid the potential for misconstruing the wheat kernels as stitching. Ken Meifert, director of development for the Hall of Fame, added that another option would be to eliminate this motif entirely; Mr. Krieger and Ms. Plater–Zyberk agreed that no additional motif is needed.
Ms. Meyer questioned the craftsmanship of the lettering across the palm of the glove, while acknowledging the potentially uneven quality of the public competition entries. She asked if the Commission's recommendation of this design would necessarily include the exact form of the depicted lettering or could allow for further refinement. Don Everhart, lead sculptor–engraver for the U.S. Mint, responded that the engraving staff could refine the lettering. Mr. Freelon said that the designer's intent may have been to suggest the glove's flexible material through the use of uneven lettering across the palm; Mr. Everhart said that the lettering quality could nonetheless be improved in the sculpting process. Upon a motion by Mr. Krieger with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission recommended obverse #1 with the elimination of the wheat and refinement of the lettering on the palm of the glove.
(At this point, the Commission returned to consider agenda item III.G.)
G. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs – Shipstead–Luce Act
SL 13–088, 4664 Broad Branch Road, NW. New single–family house. Concept. Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for a three–story house at 4664 Broad Branch Road, NW, on an undeveloped lot facing Rock Creek Park. She noted the site inspection by several Commission members in preparation for the review. She described the site between two existing houses that face the park with driveway access directly from Broad Branch Road, an unusual condition; the terrain along the road is generally steeply sloped, and virtually all other houses front on the higher nearby streets with rear yards descending toward Broad Branch Road and the park. The context is generally forested, with little development visible from the road. She said that the Commission's review under the Shisptead–Luce Act authority should include consideration of the proposed house's impact on the public value of Rock Creek Park; an additional consideration is the potential development of several other similar lots in the vicinity that could result in additional houses fronting Broad Branch Road. She noted the comment letters from the National Park Service and the Rock Creek Conservancy that have been distributed to the Commission members. She asked architect Robert Bell of Robert Bell Architects to present the proposal.
Mr. Bell introduced the co–owners of the site, Bill Caldwell and Susan McQueen, who live in one of the existing houses on an adjacent lot; he said that further development of their property with additional houses has been under consideration for 22 years. He noted that the zoning for the site includes special provisions for the Forest Hills overlay district, which greatly limits the removal of trees and the disturbance of steep slopes. The proposed house would occupy only ten percent of the lot, and the remainder of the site would be largely untouched including all of the trees on the higher elevation of the site. The shape of the house also responds to additional zoning setback requirements; he said that the D.C. zoning administrator has confirmed that the proposed location would be permissible under the zoning limitations.
Mr. Bell said that the design responds to the owners' request for a very energy–efficient house. The footprint would be approximately one–third the size of the adjacent house; this compact form would reduce the environmental impact and improve the energy performance. The house would be set into the hillside, appearing as two stories on the north and three stories on the south; he indicated the proposed berm and planting along the south edge of the lot that would screen the lower floor and reduce the visual impact of the development on Broad Branch Road, as suggested by the Commission staff.
Mr. Bell presented an analysis of the road and edge conditions of Rock Creek Park. He noted that Beach Drive, the road along the creek toward the center of the park and valley, is visually protected from urban development. Several roads, including Broad Branch Road, split off from Beach Drive and extend to the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the park. He said that the siting of houses to face the park is already prevalent at other edges of the park, and is similar to other urban parks around the world. He also noted that the park boundary was established in the valley along Broad Branch Road rather than at the crest of the adjacent ridge; protection of the forested slope was clearly not pursued in the government's acquisition of the parkland. He said that he has recently discovered a report by the Olmsted firm that noted the issue of future development and suggested extending the park boundary to the crest of the ridge; this suggestion was not implemented.
Mr. Freelon asked about the size of the house. Mr. Bell responded that it would be slightly larger than 3,000 square feet; he was unsure of the total area of the adjacent house but reiterated that its footprint is much larger than the proposed design. He presented additional views of the context, indicating the sharp bend in Broad Branch Road along the site edge and the views to the adjacent houses. He emphasized that park visitors would not generally be in the vicinity of this site due to the steep slopes and dense forest along Broad Branch Road. Based on consultation with the Commission staff, he said that the site design does not introduce a curb cut along Broad Branch Road; vehicular access would be provided through an easement across the owners' adjacent property, leading to a parking space on the site. The existing driveway would be changed to a pervious surface, which would also be used for the new driveway area. He added that the owners intend to give their existing adjacent house to their children. He provided further details of the existing and proposed trees as well as the proposed berm configuration, along with plans and sections of the house design and details of the energy–efficient features including a rooftop photovoltaic system. He indicated the proposed lighting, primarily limited to wall sconces that would minimize any light reaching Rock Creek Park. He estimated that the energy cost would be approximately ten percent of a typical house design. Mr. Bell said that some of the facade detailing of horizontal stripes was simplified in response to staff suggestions. Mr. Luebke clarified that the staff expressed concern that the house's form and pattern would be too prominent, but did not propose a specific revision; the design response was developed by Mr. Bell.
Mr. Bell said that the project was presented to the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which did not have any concerns with the proposal–particularly because no new curb cut is involved. Mr. Luebke clarified his understanding that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to review the project, rather than deciding that there were no concerns. Mr. Bell added that the site is designed to accommodate a future bicycle path; the berm paralleling Broad Branch Road is set back twelve feet to allow for this amenity.
Ms. Meyer commented that the Commission's role is to protect the resource of the public space, which belongs to the nation rather than to the neighborhood or a private owner. She observed that the design decisions appear to have been made in response to setbacks and zoning overlays rather than by considering how the large public park would be affected by development of this house at its edge. She emphasized the importance of Rock Creek and its tributaries in the McMillan Plan, and noted its topography as a defining characteristic–unlike Central Park and Hyde Park, which are not appropriate as comparisons. She expressed concern with approving an additional house on the floor of the valley and fronting on Broad Branch Road, commenting that this proposal contradicts the overall character of Washington's public space network that has been established for a century. She acknowledged the careful attention to design details but said that the siting of the house is inappropriate in relation to the topography and the road. She added that the proposed berm would be insufficient mitigation for the impact of the project.
Mr. Krieger agreed with these concerns. He acknowledged the effort of the owners–long–time residents of the neighborhood–to build an environmentally sensitive house and to live next to their children. But he said that the permissibility of this development within the zoning regulations is surprising, and seems inconsistent with the historical intentions for Rock Creek Park and its relation to the city; in other cities, development restrictions along the edges of important public spaces would likely be more stringent. He said that the proposed house is well designed, but this project–and others that would likely follow this precedent–would degrade the edge of Rock Creek Park. He observed that the design as presented seems defensive, with features that are intended to mitigate its unwanted presence. He emphasized that the proposal should be characterized as a four–story house, regardless of setbacks. He expressed reluctance to approve the proposal.
Mr. Luebke noted several concerns conveyed by the National Park Service: the proposed house would be readily visible from Rock Creek Park, notwithstanding the proposed berm; trees would be removed; and stormwater runoff would be exacerbated due to an increase in paved surface. He said that the National Park Service is also concerned with the potential widening of Broad Branch Road by the D.C. Department of Transportation, possibly adding gutters, sidewalks, and bicycle lanes, and perhaps adding ten feet to the road's width. He noted the letter from the Rock Creek Conservancy expressing concern that new buildings along Broad Branch Road would change the area's natural character as a boundary for Rock Creek Park; the impact on wildlife is also an issue. Mr. Krieger said that widening the road would be objectionable, even moreso than construction of the proposed house. Mr. Luebke said that the D.C. government is continuing to study alternatives for improvements to Broad Branch Road, including a no–action alternative. Ms. Meyer said that the possible changes to the road do not affect her concerns with the proposed house.
Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk recognized Mr. Caldwell, the co–owner of the property. He emphasized his commitment to preserving the neighborhood's existing character and avoiding an adverse impact. He noted that the site is a legal building lot; it fronts on Broad Branch Road, which is not a part of Rock Creek Park. He acknowledged the Commission's interest in protecting the park, and noted that no access to the park is available in this vicinity; the opposite side of Broad Branch Road is obstructed by a stream and dense foliage. He said that people using the park would not be able to see the proposed house, and cannot see his family's existing house on the adjacent lot. He noted that the proposed house would be sited between two existing houses, and therefore would not introduce a new character to the area. He also cited his past efforts to improve the compatibility of his current house with the natural setting, such as repainting it with a less obtrusive color and planting more than thirty trees to screen it from the road and park. He offered to consider any additional mitigation measures recommended by the Commission for the proposed house. He presented photographs illustrating the site and context; Mr. Luebke noted that the photographs were taken in summer foliage conditions, and the visual impact of structures may be more substantial in other seasons.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the park boundaries; Mr. Luebke confirmed that Broad Branch Road is a D.C. street, not part of Rock Creek Park. He added that the Shipstead–Luce Act provides for the Commission's review of private development along the park, regardless of any D.C. government regulations; this authority dates from 1930 and is intended to protect the character of the Rock Creek valley. He noted the Commission's numerous efforts in subsequent decades to protect the park's character through the design review process. He said that the Commission has authority to determine whether the proposal would have an impact on the park, and could consider the cumulative impacts of potential additional houses and curb cuts along Broad Branch Road in the future.
Mr. Caldwell reiterated that his proposal does not include a curb cut along the road, and its impact on the federal park would be limited to visual impacts which are minimal for this project. He added that the visual impact for people driving along Broad Branch Road, a non–park road, is not relevant to the federal–interest evaluation. He questioned whether the Commission could broadly prohibit new buildings on lots such as this, while emphasizing that the proposed house is relatively small and is sited between two existing houses.
Mr. Bell reiterated that the Olmsted report had long ago presented the benefit of further land acquisition by the federal government to protect the appearance of this hillside facing Rock Creek Park; he cited the report's detailed description of the likely consequences of not acquiring this land. He said that due to cost, the federal government deliberately chose not to acquire further land; given this past decision, he objected that disallowing development of the site now would be improper. Vice Chair Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission must address the current conditions and context, regardless of the historical background. Ms. Meyer added that private interests do not necessarily prevail in such conflicts; she cited a situation twenty years ago when the National Park Service successfully opposed a private development affecting the George Washington Memorial Parkway. She said that unfulfilled proposals for easements or land acquisition can be a normal part of master planning, and can result in controversy decades later that essentially involves a conflict between public and private interests. She concluded that the issue of the historic land acquisition recommendation is not helpful in the current review. Mr. Luebke reiterated that the Commission's authority for this proposal is pursuant to a 1930 federal law providing for design review of property along the edge of Rock Creek Park, which clearly establishes federal control; the purpose of the review includes avoiding impairment of the public values of the park.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged the owners' desire for additional development to allow their extended family to live at this location. She asked whether consideration was given to achieving this goal by designing an addition to the existing house, or siting a new house less obtrusively. Mr. Krieger agreed, offering a willingness to consider supporting a substantial addition. He said that the proposed design would instead create a separate home that will inevitably have ownership unrelated to the existing house; the likely result would be a future request for a separate curb cut or other alterations. He reiterated his reluctance to support this precedent–setting proposal that could lead to further long–term degradation of the area's visual character.
Mr. Freelon supported the comments of the other Commission members. Vice Chairman Plater–Zyberk summarized the consensus of the Commission not to approve the project as presented. Upon a motion by Ms. Meyer with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission adopted this action.
(Agenda items III.H.1 through III.H.4 were considered previously in the meeting; at this point, the Commission continued to agenda item III.I.)
I. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
CFA 18/JUL/13–10, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 2700 F Street, NW. Expansion project. Information presentation. Mr. Lindstrom introduced the final submission, an information presentation on an expansion plan for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He asked Claudette Donlon, the Kennedy Center's senior vice president for administration, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Donlon said that the Kennedy Center intends to expand into the south end of the site, adding approximately 60,000 square feet for rehearsals, classrooms, and social events. She noted that programs at the Kennedy Center have greatly increased since it opened in 1972; it now offers approximately 2,000 performances annually and is home to three performing arts organizations and a resident orchestra, and the rehearsal space for these activities is inadequate. The Kennedy Center also has the largest performing arts education program in the country but has no dedicated classroom space; instead, the atrium, foyer, halls, and other spaces are used for conferences, lectures, and dinners, often with one space fulfilling several roles in a single day.
Ms. Donlon said that the Kennedy Center board has sought a design that would complement the iconic image of the existing building designed by Edward Durrell Stone. The board members selected Steven Holl Architects because this firm's proposal exhibited a sensibility appropriate to the environment and to the Kennedy Center's mission, and the firm has experience in adding to historic structures. The expansion would add three freestanding pavilions and a garden landscape, with parking moved underground. She introduced architect Steven Holl to present the design.
Mr. Holl said that his firm has completed several similar projects, including an extensive addition to the Nelson–Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, that retained the historic building while providing new glass pavilions and underground connections. He said that the basic concept for the Kennedy Center is the addition of three pavilions on a poorly used piece of land. His competition entry had explored five concepts: moving some functional needs underground, with pavilions emerging through the landscape; fusing the landscape and the river; bringing natural light into all areas; relating new materials to the original building; and employing ecological innovation. These ideas have continued to govern the development of the concept, along with provision of public access from the site to the edge of the Potomac River.
Mr. Holl said that the three pavilions would include an entry and rehearsal pavilion; an events pavilion; and a Potomac River pavilion. They would be approximately 34 feet high, similar to the height of local residential construction; for comparison, the height of the Kennedy Center's main cornice is 105 feet. The pavilions would relate to the fabric of the city and provide views of landmarks. He presented a diagram of the viewsheds and noted that the redesigned landscape would allow people to walk easily between the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial. On entering the rehearsal pavilion through pivoting doors, people would see views of the river; this pavilion would provide rehearsal space on the ground level, offices on the lower level, and a lecture hall. The events pavilion–nicknamed by Mr. Holl the "glissando" pavilion for its shape, which recalls the notation for a glissando played on a violin–would provide a venue for fundraising events, and would integrate the underground level with those above ground; in the future, it may provide a location for a bridge connection across the multiple freeways east of the Kennedy Center. The river pavilion would probably be an additional performance place, similar to a Brooklyn museum that has an outdoor stage slightly above the water level on a barge.
Mr. Holl said that early in his career he worked as a landscape architect under Lawrence Halprin, helping to design four public fountains in San Francisco; landscape remains important to him, and he wants to create a great public landscape at the Kennedy Center that will be a living memorial to Kennedy because of its symbolism, and also because it will be dedicated to performance and public participation. Number symbolism would guide development of landscape features: a grove of 46 ginkgo trees to represent the 46 years of Kennedy's life; 35 rows of lavender to mark his 35th presidency; and a pool at the entrance with a mahogany deck of the same dimensions as the deck of PT 109, Kennedy's ship during World War II–80 feet long by 20 feet 8 inches wide and 2.5 inches thick.
Mr. Holl said that he wants to introduce the idea of sequence into the landscape. The deep red foliage of sugar maples would be followed by the deep yellow of the ginkgoes in late autumn; ginkgoes abruptly drop their leaves in November, recalling Kennedy's assassination on November 22. Deciduous magnolias, which bloom in early April, may be planted around the mahogany deck and the reflecting pools. Wild grasses would also be planted, along with sedums in red, yellow, and green. The landscape would provide views to the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.
Mr. Holl said that all of the new offices would have ample natural light and ventilation. The exterior material for the pavilions may be Carrara marble, the material used on the existing building. The panels would have a similar thickness but would be cut with a new technology that would allow the stone to be formed in varied shapes and textures. The other primary material will be Okalux, a light–diffusing glass with insulating properties, which would let the pavilions glow intensely at night with only a small amount of light inside. Outdoor simulcasts of performances would be projected on a screen made of sand–blasted Okalux; during the day this would have a matte finish, like a shoji screen. To win the highest environmental LEED rating, the project team will include Matthias Schuler, founder of a German environmental engineering company which handles the environmental work for all of Mr. Holl's projects. The project will incorporate gray–water recycling, geothermal heating and cooling, and possibly photovoltaic solar panels.
Noting that the existing building has quotations from Kennedy about the arts carved on its walls, Mr. Holl said that he would like the new landscape to include quotations from Kennedy about the sea, including the following:
Anyone who can solve the problems of water may be worthy of two Nobel prizes, one for peace and one for science.
I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea except I think it is because, in addition to the fact that the sea changes, ships change, it is because we all came from the sea and it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins, the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean. And, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean and when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from where we came.
Mr. Holl concluded by presenting a video animation of the project.
Mr. Krieger asked when completion of the project is expected. Ms. Donlon estimated approximately five years, noting that the project's $100 million cost will be privately funded; half of this cost has already been contributed by the Kennedy Center board's chairman, David Rubenstein.
Mr. Krieger asked where the buses would go; Mr. Holl responded that bus circulation and parking would be underground. Mr. Krieger noted that a previous plan for the Kennedy Center had tried to improve connections across the highway to the rest of the city, commenting that Mr. Holl's proposal does more to achieve this. He asked about the status of the previous plan; Mr. Holl confirmed that some aspects of it may be revived, although not at its original scale or volume. He emphasized that the new proposal includes a pedestrian bridge from the entrance pavilion over the highways, and a pedestrian connection linking the Kennedy Center to the river. Ms. Plater–Zyberk recalled that this idea of connecting the Kennedy Center with the city is part of the recent Framework Plan; Ms. Meyer commented that this area has far more highways than the city needs, and this situation will inevitably change. Mr. Luebke noted the large number of plans for the Kennedy Center over the years, by both the federal and local government; he said that this project would accomplish some of the goals laid out in these other plans, though it would only partially achieve the primary goal of establishing a connection to the east.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked that future presentations show the larger picture of how this project fits into other plans and long–term visions for this area. Mr. Krieger expressed support for the idea of gardens and pavilions. He asked about the long pedestrian walkway leading down to the river pavilion; Mr. Holl said that it has been eliminated to save money and because the design could not be developed successfully. Mr. Krieger supported this change, commenting that the bridge was so large that it had dominated the design; Mr. Freelon agreed that its removal was an improvement.
Mr. Freelon commented that the design seems very strong. He expressed appreciation for the hand–drawn concept sketches, which he said demonstrate how the design ideas have been conceived and developed; he noted that the Commission sees many computer–generated design presentations without any such background.
Ms. Meyer recalled the many plans to revitalize the river, and commented that this design is both inventive and poetic. She suggested that the project could serve a role in the long–term plans for water taxis on the Potomac by providing a portal into this part of the city, and it could also be a catalyst for future plans such as development of the Old Naval Observatory site to the east. She commented that the project would provide a strong center, but focus is also needed on the edges and connections, anticipating where links to other sites and areas should be made. She commended Mr. Holl and the design team for producing an exciting proposal that may initiate changes to the rest of the area around the Kennedy Center. Mr. Krieger added that the Commission looks forward to the project's return. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:00 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: September 20, 2013