Meeting of the Commission of Fine Arts
19 September 2013
The meeting was convened in the Commission of Fine Arts offices in the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, at 9:01 a.m.
A. Approval of the minutes of the 18 July meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the July meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. The Commission approved the minutes upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater–Zyberk.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 17 October 2013, 21 November 2013, and 16 January 2014; he noted that no meeting is scheduled during December. [The October meeting was subsequently cancelled due to a government–wide shutdown from 1 to 16 October.]
C. Confirmation of recommendations from the July 2013 meeting due to the loss of a quorum. Mr. Luebke said that a formal action by the Commission is needed concerning two submissions reviewed at the July meeting without a quorum. He noted that the members present had made recommendations on the designs. He listed the projects requiring action:
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.)
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.)
Upon a motion by Mr. Freelon with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission confirmed the July recommendations for these projects.
D. Report on the Secretary's site inspection of the exterior materials for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Luebke reported his inspection of a mockup for the exterior of the planned National Museum of African American History and Culture; he joined members of the design team and Smithsonian staff at a curtainwall testing facility in York, Pennsylvania, on 5 August. He said that his resulting report to the Smithsonian has been circulated to the Commission members. He noted that this component of the design is part of the submission scheduled later on the agenda (item II.C.1); Chairman Powell suggested deferring further discussion until consideration of this agenda item.
E. Report on Teresita Fernández's presentation of her work, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery. Mr. Luebke reported that Ms. Fernández gave a public presentation of her work the previous evening, September 18th, titled "Bamboo Cinema, Blind Landscape, and Stacked Waters," as part of the Clarice Smith Distinguished Lectures in American Art. He also noted that an artwork by Ms. Fernández, Nocturnal Navigation, has recently been installed in the lobby of the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters on the St. Elizabeths campus; although the location is not accessible to the public, he said that an appointment to view the work may be feasible.
Mr. Schlossberg was present for the afternoon portion of the meeting (beginning with agenda item II.D.1). He noted during the meeting (before agenda item II.D.2) that his morning absence was due to a Senate confirmation hearing for his wife's appointment as U.S. ambassador to Japan, and this appointment necessitates his resignation from the Commission.
II. Submissions and Review
Mr. Luebke introduced the three appendices for Commission action. Drafts of the appendices had been circulated to the Commission members in advance of the meeting.
Appendix I – Direct Submission Consent Calendar: Mr. Lindstrom reported the addition of one project—for the first–phase renovation of Shepherd Elementary School, with a favorable recommendation—that was inadvertently omitted from the draft appendix due to a database problem. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Powell, the Commission approved the revised Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead–Luce Act Submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported several substantial updates to the draft appendix, in addition to minor notations of dates for receipt of supplemental information. The proposed areaway awning at the Hay–Adams Hotel (case number SL 13–110) has been revised to use fabric rather than aluminum and glass, and a favorable recommendation is therefore anticipated subject to the receipt of revised drawings. The favorable recommendation for small signs at the Willard Hotel (SL 13–128) has been updated to note the receipt of supplemental materials and to add a requirement for removal of nearby existing signs. The favorable recommendations for two additional projects (SL 13–111 and 13–133) are subject to the receipt of supplemental materials. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater–Zyberk with second by Mr. Freelon, the Commission approved the revised appendix. Mr. Luebke noted that an additional Shipstead–Luce Act submission is on the agenda for presentation later in the day (agenda item II.G.2).
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martínez noted the unprecedentedly large caseload for the month, totaling 74 new and continuing projects; 44 of these are included in the appendix. He reported the changes to the draft appendix: two projects have been removed at the request of the applicants; another project has been added with a favorable recommendation due to the successful resolution of the design issues (case number OG 12–292); and several recommendations have been updated to note the receipt of supplemental information. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
Mr. Luebke noted that the large Old Georgetown appendix is indicative of the large number of submissions to the Commission, numbering around 700 annually in the past three years. The review procedures for the Old Georgetown Board have been adjusted to accommodate the increased caseload; further adjustments may be brought to the Commission for future consideration as proposed rule changes.
At this point, the Commission departed from the order of the agenda to consider agenda items II.F.1, II.F.2, and II.G.1:
CFA 19/SEP/13–7, D.C. Preparatory Academy Public Charter School (former Benning Elementary School), 100 41st Street, NE. Building rehabilitation and addition. Final.
CFA 19/SEP/13–8, Brookland Middle School, 1150 Michigan Avenue, NE. Replacement school building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JUL/13–5.)
OG 13–307, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street, NW. New athletic training facility. Concept. (Previous: OG 12–291, October 2012.)
Mr. Luebke said that the Commission may wish to act on these three submissions without a presentation, noting the length of the agenda. He added that these projects do not meet the criteria for inclusion on the Direct Submission Consent Calendar or the Old Georgetown Act appendix. He summarized the scope of the projects, the previous reviews, and the remaining stages of review. The D.C. Preparatory Academy Public Charter School involves primarily interior renovations; the proposed exterior work appears satisfactory and could be approved as a final design. The other two proposals are concept submissions for projects that the Commission has previously reviewed. For the Brookland Middle School, he said that the Commission may prefer to delegate review of the final design to the staff. For the Georgetown University athletic training facility, the Commission could refer permit review to the Old Georgetown Board and adopt the resulting recommendation through the appendix; he noted the Board's report to the Commission on the current concept proposal. Chairman Powell supported these approvals and delegations, emphasizing the Commission's review of two prior submissions of the Georgetown University project; upon a second by Ms. Meyer, the Commission adopted these actions.
The Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.B.
B. National Park Service
CFA 19/SEP/13–1, Jefferson Memorial, East Basin Drive, SW. Perimeter vehicular security barrier. Revised concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JUN/13–2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the concept alternatives for the Jefferson Memorial perimeter security barrier, noting that many versions of this proposal have been presented over the last 15–20 years. When this concept was last reviewed in June, the Commission found the proposed post–and–rail designs complicated and unattractive, recommending development of a simpler design, such as a wall or a line of bollards, that would follow an alignment along the perimeter of the memorial grounds. He said that the design team has returned with four options for a less complicated barrier. Three follow the same perimeter alignment while the fourth option presents a low wall moved to the outer curb, associating the barrier more with the roadway and placing pedestrian walks to the inside of the wall. He asked Peter May of the National Park Service to begin the presentation. Mr. May introduced landscape architect Ignacio Bunster of Wallace Roberts & Todd to present the alternatives.
Mr. Bunster said that the submission includes several options, with the request for the Commission's guidance on which option merits further development. A future submission would address details of end walls, seating elements, the bus drop–off area, and the passage of walks through the barrier. He said that each option would be presented with two perspective views: one from the east looking toward the Jefferson Memorial, because this includes a long extent of the wall; and another from the south lawn, a key viewpoint featuring a different landscape from the rest of the site. He noted that the barrier would extend approximately a half–mile between the inlet and outlet bridges of the Tidal Basin.
Mr. Bunster presented Option 1, with a 12–inch–high wall and a horizontal rail above supported by posts at eight–foot intervals. Option 2 uses a continuous line of bollards that would be spaced at approximately 4.5 feet. Option 3 is a solid three–foot high wall with a coping placed between the memorial grounds and a twelve–foot–wide sidewalk. Option 4 would move the three–foot wall to the other side of the sidewalk, at the edge of the roadway; the wall could be six inches lower in this option because it would replace the road curb, allowing a more open view into the landscape from vehicles. He added that each option would use turntable bollards across the driveways framing the south lawn.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to the Commission's previous suggestions. She commented that Option 4 is surprisingly successful because pulling the wall outside of the sidewalk would remove the barrier from the experience of a pedestrian or cyclist while allowing it to be lower; she added that the height would appear even lower because perceptually it would seem further away. She said that the bollard scheme might be successful if it has an elegantly designed bollard, although it is difficult to picture this with the schematic bollard design used as a placeholder in the rendering. She concluded that Option 4 is the most promising, and the solid wall on the street edge is a smart idea that would remove the multiple layers of constructed elements; she suggested this was the direction to pursuing this option or the bollards.
Mr. Krieger disagreed with Ms. Meyer, commenting that a wall along the road would treat people in cars as second–class citizens and would cause traffic accidents. While people are tired of bollards, he said that if they are designed well they could form a line that would appear like an attractive fence, and this would be the least obtrusive of the four options presented. He said that walking next to a solid wall would not be pleasant for pedestrians, particularly a wall with which cars could frequently collide.
Ms. Fernández said that, like Ms. Meyer, her initial preference was for Option 4. She said she would not choose bollards because, no matter how elegantly they are designed, the rhythm would be distracting—especially around the Jefferson Memorial with its regular colonnade, where the bollards would repeat the motif of the memorial itself. She emphasized that a line of bollards is not invisible, and every federal building is now seen through this repetitive pattern. She said that a wall placed next to the street and six inches lower than any alternative would significantly improve the visibility of the landscape; she suggested studying the effect of such a wall on traffic.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that Option 1, the rod system, would allow the widest spacing between vertical elements and might be preferable, but the roadside wall proposed in Option 4 would protect pedestrians from traffic. She asked if a more flexible system could be considered: a more open barrier design in some areas; a barrier that is away from the curb where necessary such as at bus loading locations; a wall along the street where traffic is moving quickly, to protect pedestrians; and perhaps a green verge between a wall and the roadway. She added that the design of Option 1, although foreign to this site, is also the most open and perhaps the least obtrusive alternative.
Mr. Freelon agreed that Option 1 has merit, commenting that the widely spaced verticals of the rod system would be less obtrusive to a view of the landscape; in contrast, bollards would be more closely spaced, and when seen from an angle would appear as even more of a visual barrier. He said the rod system of Option 1 appears light enough to almost disappear in the landscape. He added that the walls in Options 3 and 4 would seem too much like a barrier because the site will be seen by drivers as well as pedestrians, and he emphasized his preference for a more open design.
Mr. Krieger commented that walls are meant to keep people out, a concept that is contrary to the idea of creating an open American landscape at this memorial; he added that the rod looks inelegant and ugly in comparison with the traditional fencing components used in Washington. While security is the primary objective here, he emphasized that elegance and generosity need to be prominent also, and even low walls are not generous. He said that people may be tired of bollards but ultimately they would seem less obtrusive than the other options.
Ms. Meyer observed that the U.S. Capitol Grounds offer an excellent example of a well–designed site wall that has no negative or exclusionary connotations. She added that landscape architect Laurie Olin had referenced this design in his barrier walls for the Washington Monument Grounds. She emphasized that walls are part of the city's vernacular, and was not convinced that a wall of the proposed height would be inappropriate for the Monumental Core. She said that she does not accept Mr. Krieger's argument that the mere presence of a wall would cause cars to crash—but if crashes do occur, then a wall between the cars and pedestrians would actually be preferable to no wall. She added that a wall would be more likely to slow traffic down, much as a line of parked cars along a roadway does, and slower traffic itself would improve the experience of the Jefferson Memorial which is hemmed in by numerous highway ramps and other roadways. She agreed with Mr. Krieger that the rod system would convey on unwelcome emphasis on security rather than a sense of dignity for the memorial. She concluded that both the wall and bollard options have potential, provided that the bollard is not a standard type but well designed.
Ms. Fernández asked if the design of a wall could be modulated to incorporate seating in places; Mr. Bunster responded that the wall could be modulated easily in several ways, including texture, profile, and position relative to the curb as well as the provision of seating. Mr. Powell asked whether car collisions are currently a significant problem on this roadway. Steve Lorenzetti, deputy superintendent of National Mall & Memorial Parks, responded that people often exceed the road's low speed limit, but there are not many accidents nor problems of cars jumping the curb. He added that the National Park Service has found that walls along a highway can sometimes make drivers nervous and lead to more accidents, although pedestrians behind a wall would be protected. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that she would therefore prefer bollards to a wall. Mr. Krieger also reiterated his preference for bollards. He added that a wall, if necessary, should be better designed than the proposed option, which seems harsh and would appear dangerous to drivers; he observed that the landscape extends hundreds of feet from the road and suggested consideration of moving the sidewalk ten feet to allow for a landscaped zone between the wall and road.
Mr. Powell offered support for either a wall or the bollards, while commenting that a wall along the road edge would accumulate a lot of trash and detritus. Mr. Lorenzetti added that many cyclists ride through the area, and the design calls for both a cycling path and a pedestrian walk; cyclists coming into the city would use the path and would be protected by the wall, but many leaving the city now use the road's right lane. He agreed that trash along the wall could be a concern for the road, particularly because the trash would gather in the lane used by cyclists and would therefore push them further out into traffic. Mr. Luebke said that a dedicated bike lane without a curb could be incorporated into the design.
Mr. Freelon asked for any further response from the National Park Service on the relative merits of the presented options. Mr. Lorenzetti said that the National Park Service supports any of these barrier options at the site's perimeter; he noted that most visitors enter the site as pedestrians from either of the two Tidal Basin bridges and would have only minimal views of the barrier, while others arrive by bus and therefore have elevated views that would be far above the barrier. He added that Option 4 would be the most difficult for the National Park Service because of its effect on bicycle commuters and traffic; the issues could be somewhat addressed by aligning the wall further from the road or widening the right lane, but the inherent issues would remain.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that selecting a continuous line of bollards would avoid the problem of designing a graceful transition between a wall or other system and the bollards across the driveways framing the south lawn. Mr. Powell supported the earlier comments that bollards would be acceptable if they are elegantly designed; he also noted the advantage of the six–inch lower wall height in Option 4 but acknowledged that the wall in this alignment could be problematic. Mr. Freelon joined in supporting the use of bollards.
Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission recommended further exploration of the bollards as presented in Option 2, while also encouraging development of a more modulated wall design as an alternative.
C. Smithsonian Institution
1. CFA 19/SEP/13–2, National Museum of African American History and Culture, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. Exterior material selections and south water feature. Final. (Previous: CFA 18/JUL/13–2.) Mr. Luebke introduced the submission from the Smithsonian Institution requesting final approval of several components for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, including site elements and the finishes and lighting of the corona panels. He noted that Mr. Freelon has recused himself from the two Smithsonian projects.
Mr. Luebke summarized the previous review in July. The Commission had asked for an alternative to the bollard proposed for the north perimeter barrier wall that would not detract from the dignity of the approach and would contribute to the symbolism of passing over a threshold. He said that a mockup of the water feature intended for the south side of the museum has been tested at a consultant's facility in Florida during the summer, and the presentation includes a videotape of this mockup. He said that the intent of lighting the museum at night is to reverse the effects of daylight, illuminating the curtain wall behind the corona panels with a uniform wash of light; in August, he had traveled to a Pennsylvania testing facility to view a mockup of the corona panels for evaluation of the lighting and finishes, and had reported his impressions to the Commission. He introduced Ann Trowbridge, associate director for planning at the Smithsonian Institution, to begin the presentation.
Ms. Trowbridge said that the project team has carefully considered the Commission's previous comments in support of the LuminOre finish for the corona panels. She explained that although LuminOre has good aesthetic qualities, it presents too great a risk for the Smithsonian, as explained in her letter of 13 September to Mr. Luebke. She introduced landscape architect Rodrigo Abela of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol to discuss the landscape elements and architect Hal Davis of SmithGroup to present the lighting and the changes to the architecture.
Mr. Abela noted that the Commission had previously approved the proposal for the north wall while requesting reconsideration of the proposed bollards. He said that the design team has studied several options for security barriers for the pedestrian walks passing through openings in the north wall, with the aim of creating a more welcoming presence for visitors; the conclusion is that a modified bollard design would still be the best choice. Because these north bollards would form part of the larger perimeter security system surrounding the building, the proposal is that all bollards should be of the same design. Other bollards on the site would include a pair at the southwest corner where a walk meets the 15th Street sidewalk, and operable bollards at the south entrance and at the sidewalk in front of the loading dock. Mr. Krieger observed that the bollards at the north barrier would be particularly important as part of a special site wall.
Mr. Abela presented the proposed design for the north portion of the site in greater detail. The two diagonal walks would be of different widths, and both walks would pass through the wall at an angle to provide a continuous route. The bollards would be set perpendicular to the walks and would therefore be aligned diagonally within the wall opening. He described the many options that had been considered for barriers in these openings. Collapsible sidewalks were rejected because engineers concluded that the expected large number of visitors might cause the sidewalks to collapse. The width of the openings could be narrowed to approximately 4.5 feet, but the change from a 12–foot–wide walk would be too abrupt. Other alternatives included replacing a single walk with two 4.5–foot–wide walks on each side of a central block, or breaking a central block into two barriers that would constrict the entrance but allow it to appear welcoming. He described the studies to shape these blocks according to the wall's geometries so that the blocks would appear almost as rocks in a stream, but the conclusion was that such blocks would still look unwelcoming and would overly constrict the walks.
Following Ms. Fernández's comment in July about the repetitive quality of bollards, the design team had attempted to shape them as individual, staggered pieces of the wall, but found that this configuration would present many wide, flat planes, and would create difficulties for snow removal. Incorporating bollards within a field of tall, reinforced standard lightpoles was also explored, but this solution presented too many other complications. Another considered option was to use curves derived from the corona panels to create a bollard with an elegant form, perhaps cruciform or square in plan rather than circular; these bollards would have some faces that were wider from certain angles than others, similar to the already rejected designs previously described. The conclusion was therefore to seek consistency, using the same bollard everywhere on the site; choosing one of the special designs developed for the north wall was considered as the design for all the bollards, but this would pose a problem for the operable bollards which need to be cylindrical. Therefore the proposal is for a cylindrical bollard at the north wall; a bronze metal coating would be used. He also indicated a change in the barrier design that would extend a band of paving across both openings in the north wall to create thresholds and provide a ground plane for the bollards.
Mr. Abela presented samples of the proposed materials, including a palette of stone, the metal proposed for the mullions of the museum's first floor, and bronze for minor landscape elements. He noted that all three stone samples are the same granite; paving stones would be darker on the north side and lighter on the south, and the north perimeter wall would be polished on its faces and honed on the sides and thresholds. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the metal elements; Mr. Abela responded that bronze elements would include bollards, handrails, and other railings near the building, while the black metal would be used for the ground–floor mullions and the reading grove benches. Ms. Plater–Zyberk noted the irony of proposing bronze for the smaller elements and not for the corona, commenting that using the black metal for the landscape elements would be preferable if the corona itself is not bronze. Ms. Fernández emphasized that these elements should not be considered separately; she expressed astonishment that the design team would propose bronze bollards but insist on a painted corona. She commented that the bronze bollards would age and weather, developing a beautiful patina that would get richer over time, while the building itself would only resemble bronze; she described the decision not to use bronze for the corona as a major problem.
Ms. Meyer said that she was not yet convinced by the proposed bollards at the north wall; she suggested considering this threshold further in relation to the overall museum project. She recalled the intention that the shape and configuration of the wall would be a translation of the original idea of a moat, reflecting the difficulty of passage in the African American experience—but that effect is lost when the only values being considered are creating security and a sense of welcome. She questioned the emphasis on maintaining twelve–foot–wide entrance walks, observing that people will have to stop at the doors to the museum itself to traverse a portal that would not be twelve feet wide; she asked why something similar could not happen in the landscape. She questioned why the barriers could not be very simple, such as cuts in the wall. She also emphasized that the north wall is radically different from the other three sides of the site, and the decision for the north side should not be tied to the performance criteria for the others. She added that if the only maintenance issue is snow removal, then snow shovels could be used. Rather than opining on whether the bollards should be bronze, she emphasized her view that the bollards themselves are the wrong solution.
Mr. Krieger agreed with Ms. Meyer, commenting that the bollards on the other sides of the building would perform a prosaic function, but those on the north should be poetic. He said that if the north threshold is meant to be special, then the design team may need to recognize that making this passage slightly inconvenient would be consistent with the original idea for the wall. He requested more alternatives to the standard bollard, suggesting that the threshold experience could be analogous to passing through city gates. He said that using the light standards might work if they are placed in a staggered row or group, with a bollard in between; they would simultaneously light the threshold and present a group of elements to walk through.
Mr. Powell said that he agreed with Ms. Meyer's comments although not necessarily with Mr. Krieger's suggestion, emphasizing that a simple, elegant solution would be better than an ordinary bollard. Ms. Plater–Zyberk questioned the proposed pavement treatment at the openings in the north wall, suggesting that the wall and walks could be articulated in a more meaningful way. Ms. Fernández noted that the original design intent was specifically about crossing water, and she suggested further consideration of surfaces and reflectivity in relation to this idea. She encouraged treating the barriers as pieces of wall rather than as bollards—pieces presenting wide polished surfaces with matte surfaces behind, creating a play of tones and the sense of shimmering water at the point where a person navigates through. Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the security elements in the north wall should be explored further in a revised submission, and he said that Ms. Fernández's idea could be very attractive.
Mr. Abela presented the development of the south water feature, noting the Commission's previous request for further details of this fountain and especially of the inscriptions. He presented the short video showing water moving over the mockup, explaining that the stone–clad fountain would be composed of two distinct sections of water—reflective water in a deep triangular basin to the north and moving water in a thin sheet to the south, animated by the texture and embellishment of the stone beneath. The two pools would meet in a distinct line formed by a narrow drain. Two inscriptions in bronze lettering would be placed on the upper edge of the active water, and a third inscription would be located in a corner beneath the reflective water.
Ms. Fernández asked what specific quotations would be used. Mr. Luebke said that the concept includes the general idea of using quotations on certain themes at a particular scale and at approximate locations; the Smithsonian would need to return with a fully documented proposal for the quotations, which often occurs toward the end of the review process. Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that she is no longer skeptical about the legibility of inscriptions under the water, commenting that the design is potentially very beautiful. She asked for clarification of the embellishment proposed for the surface beneath the active water; Mr. Abela responded that the pattern of bars is adapted from the music for the song "What a Wonderful World." Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that this concept seems farfetched. Ms. Fernández agreed and recommended simplifying the busy design, emphasizing the strangeness of seeing two quotations placed next to each other and then another on the opposite side. She suggested removing the musical pattern, commenting that the simple movement of the water would create its own quiet patterns and does not need to be more dynamic.
Mr. Krieger supported the design as presented, commenting that it is powerful and poetic. Ms. Meyer said that the fountain could be a strong addition to the experience of the museum, but agreed that the technique for adding sound to the moving water is unnecessary: the proposed bars would detract from the quotations, and the design already includes a tilted surface with textural differences on the two sides that would create enough animation. Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Krieger clarified that he is not supporting the abstraction of this song specifically, but supports the idea of water moving across a rough surface which is different from water flowing. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested some sort of different treatment of this surface but said that it should not be an element that raises more questions.
Mr. Luebke suggested continuing with the review of issues concerning the material, finish, and lighting of the corona. Mr. Davis noted that lighting designer Hank Forrest of Fisher Marantz Stone was present to answer technical questions. Mr. Davis presented a video narrated by Mr. Forrest that illustrates the mockup of the different appearance at night of the lighting for the museum's corona. He noted that the mockup was installed facing south, approximately 18 feet above grade and angled at 17 degrees; the corona panels ranged from a density of 65 to 90 percent. He clarified that these densities relate to the corona itself, forming an outer facade for the building; several feet behind the corona would be an inner facade, serving as the building's weather barrier, that would have a combination of opaque, transparent, and fritted panels. He said that this inner facade on the south and east elevations would be composed mostly of opaque panels; the lowest tier would have fritted glass panels, and metal spandrel panels would be used in the upper tiers. The most transparent inner facade panels would be placed behind the densest corona panels, although this may not be conveyed clearly in the mockup; in general, the density of the corona panels would be proportional to the transparency of the inner panels, with a gradation between densities to avoid abrupt changes in brightness across the elevations. At each level of the building, a fritted skylight would allow light to penetrate from above. Mr. Krieger asked about a bright spot visible on one image from the mockup. Mr. Davis responded that this occurred where a glossy metal panel was located behind one of the most transparent corona panels; on the actual building, the densest corona panels would be placed in front of these solid panels to avoid this effect.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that the appearance of the building and its silhouetted corona at night could be wonderful. She offered two suggestions: to make every effort possible to avoid having a light fixture—especially a fluorescent bulb—visible from any angle because it would break the magic of the design; and to make a model representing the solid and glass panels of the entire inner facade so that the large figures of darker and lighter areas could be studied and controlled. She emphasized that the overall appearance at night needs to be intentional, while these patterns are now generally the result of the building plan. Mr. Davis responded that the pattern is partly determined by consideration of energy conservation, influencing the use of insulated panels on the inner facade; in the mockup these appeared in the first tier, but in the actual building they would used only on the second and third tiers of the corona. Ms. Plater–Zyberk reiterated that the pattern needs to be visually controlled throughout.
Ms. Fernández asked if all corona panels in the mockup were made of the same material; Mr. Davis responded that all were painted aluminum except for one coated in LuminOre. Ms. Fernández observed that this panel happened to be the brightest part of the mockup, suggesting that light could behave differently with the different finishes at night. Ms. Plater–Zyberk emphasized the need to prepare a model of the entire building, commenting that in some images the corona appears to be enclosing a parking garage.
Mr. Krieger asked for clarification of the use of glass or metal surfaces on the panels of the inner facade. Mr. Davis responded that insulated spandrel panels would be aligned with the glass panels in the vertical portion of the wall. Mr. Luebke clarified that the insulated metal panel would be thicker than the glass panels, and their surfaces are therefore not in the same plane. Mr. Krieger asked if all of the surfaces could be glass, commenting that the distinction between the brightest and darkest areas seems random and disturbing, as if lights had been turned on in some offices. He supported Ms. Plater–Zyberk's suggestion to create a model showing the location and reflectivity of the different surfaces. Mr. Luebke said that his concern is not only the different planes of the panels but also the different material with a different reflective quality; the projecting non–glass panels will become more evident the further away a person gets from the building. Ms. Plater–Zyberk supported Mr. Krieger's suggestion to consider a glass surface for all panels of the inner facade. Mr. Davis responded that the metal panel was chosen because of energy conservation requirements, and the glass face would be in the same line. Mr. Luebke clarified that the panel surfaces would be aligned along the interior of the building, not the exterior, and the discrepancy is an issue. Ms. Meyer asked about the relative importance of the building's visual effect and the energy–efficiency standards; Mr. Davis responded that both are important, and the intention is to achieve the best appearance with the most appropriate materials.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the supporting grid for the corona panels is offset, expressing surprise that the mockup revealed the horizontal lines formed by the panel frames, even though the structural pattern behind the corona is vertical. She said that the corona has always been presented schematically as a single large overall pattern that is not striated, and she asked whether it would still be feasible to break the striations in both directions of the grid; Mr. Davis responded that altering this is no longer feasible, while confirming that some of the striation's visibility is due only to the assembly details of the mockup. Mr. Krieger suggested not worrying about the apparent striation, emphasizing that the Commission is trying to evaluate the entire building and not just the portion of a single bay shown in the mockup. He asked if most of the inner facade behind the corona would be metal. Mr. Davis responded that metal would be used only on the south and east sides because that is where the narrower interstitial spaces will be located; the north and east sides will have wider spaces, and fritted glass would be used more on those elevations. Mr. Krieger asked if generally the panels on the skin would be composed of large contiguous areas of similar density and not arrayed in a checkerboard pattern; Mr. Davis confirmed that the panels would be grouped in large areas related to the enclosure of the museum galleries. Mr. Krieger asked if glass panels could provide energy efficiency comparable to the metal panels; Mr. Davis responded that this could not be achieved, and confirmed that this is the primary reason for using metal panels with the goal of achieving the best visual and thermal performance.
Ms. Meyer asked why the building's east side would have more of the insulated panels while the most intense summer heat in Washington is facing the southwest and west. Mr. Davis responded that the energy performance model for the building took into account the difference between the width of the interstitial spaces on the west and north sides compared to those on the east and south. Mr. Luebke added that because the panels behind the corona would be painted rather than specular, the building skin would not reflect the sky—an effect he had indicated in his report on the mockup. He said that the difference between the two surfaces would nonetheless be visible, and the question for the Commission is whether to accept this.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested considering further study of the energy model to determine whether some additional metal panels could be changed to glass to break up the large areas of metal. She acknowledged that the Commission had accepted the presence of two different surfaces on the inner facade, but expressed concern that the appearance of large portions of the elevations would be determined by something that will not be understood by an observer. Mr. Davis offered to study this further but emphasized the design team's opinion that the difference between the materials of the inner facade panels would be barely noticeable.
Mr. Krieger observed that in the lighting mockup the brightest light came through where the metal panels were located behind the corona, which means that on the finished building the expanses of metal would create large bright areas. He added that more metal than glass surface might even be preferable on the inner facade; Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that a better solution might be to have more of a mixture. Mr. Krieger said that the brightness resulting from more light reflecting off the metal panels may improve the silhouette effect. Ms. Plater–Zyberk added that the issue is control of the overall pattern rather than the specific material.
Ms. Meyer said that the presentation made reference to random patterns, but the images show a big block of solid panels and an "L" shape formed by the fritted glass behind, a pattern that does not seem random. She emphasized that the Commission is asking for assurance that all four sides have been studied, noting the opportunity for experimentation with panel densities to avoid creating a monolith of solid or glass surfaces; instead, the goal should be to create an overall appearance that will have a syncopation and rhythm that is lacking in the mockup.
Mr. Krieger suggested discussing the finish of the corona panels, a major issue for the Commission. He supported the LuminOre finish because, notwithstanding its expense, it seems like the best solution both visually and for long–term maintainability. Ms. Fernández emphasized that she was totally unconvinced that a painted building would look good. She said that she has used both LuminOre and painted metal in sculptural projects and understands how they behave, including in outdoor settings; she reiterated that a painted finish would compromise the building's appearance. She noted that the Commission has said this repeatedly from the beginning of the project, and she was shocked to read a recent letter from Ms. Trowbridge stating that the Smithsonian has decided to use painted metal, without any real explanation and despite the Commission's continued support of the LuminOre. She said that the finishes clearly behave and age differently, and she expressed concern that the paint was chosen because of cost; she suggested that the Smithsonian also needs to examine long–term maintenance needs and costs, due to numerous questions about how well the painted panels would age. She noted that repainting the corona panels could require removing them from the building, and the process would be very expensive. She said that an even larger issue is that the painted finish would not shine—it looks good photographed in bright sun, but on an overcast day it looks like putty. She emphasized that the painted surface does not have the richness or depth of the LuminOre panel's real bronze, qualities that are worth fighting for. Even if the painted surface were easy to fix or patch, she said that it would simply never look or act like bronze. She concluded that with LuminOre panels this museum could be a great building, but using a synthetic surface would make it only good. She expressed regret at this potential outcome, commenting that not many projects are of such importance and on sites of such prominence.
Mr. Krieger agreed with Ms. Fernández. Chairman Powell confirmed that the Commission has supported the bronze finish from the beginning of the project, and summarized the consensus to support bronze if it could be used. Mr. Davis said that LuminOre had been studied, and the risk factors caused the Smithsonian to decide on using a painted finish.
Ms. Fernández asked for further explanation of the apparent risks associated with LuminOre. Jud McIntire, project manager for the Smithsonian Institution, responded that the project team has been trying to design the best museum building possible; but after examining the visual, technical, and constructability factors that will go into its complex exterior enclosure system, they had determined they could only use the painted finish on the cast aluminum panels. Ms. Fernández asked what makes LuminOre finish more risky than the painted surface. Mr. McIntire said that a twenty–year warranty for performance could not be obtained for LuminOre, nor bonding for the LuminOre company, which does not have a facility large enough for applying the finish. While LuminOre has successfully produced small applications such as medallions, he said that finish these panels would require the manufacturer to lease and set up a new facility; the company wants the Smithsonian to pay half of this cost in advance, and under federal procurement procedures this would be practically impossible and would also constitute an enormous risk for the Smithsonian. He said that this procurement would also add approximately a year to the construction schedule for the building, in part because the framework holding the panels to the building would have to be redesigned due to the greater weight of the LuminOre finish.
Ms. Meyer asked whether the discussion has been moot from the beginning due to the weight and structural load issues; Mr. McIntire responded that the LuminOre alternative has remained under consideration. Ms. Fernández asked why the LuminOre alternative was being presented to the Commission five months ago if the structural calculations were already based on a painted finish; Mr. McIntire said that the architects would have to address this question. He added that the painted surface also offers necessary flexibility because the deflection in the corona panels will require movement in the corona skin, the curtain wall, and the individual panels. Ms. Fernández emphasized that LuminOre has been used for major architectural structures, not just medallions. Mr. McIntire asked for examples of architectural applications; Ms. Fernández said that she had seen large interior staircases coated in LuminOre. Mr. McIntire responded that these would not compare to the scale of this project. Ms. Fernández asked about the warranties on the synthetic painted finishes, noting that those also have limitations. Mr. McIntire said that a twenty–year warranty is available on the painted finish because it is a proven, durable product that has been used on countless buildings; while it might need to be refinished, he said that it would not involve a complete failure of the system. Ms. Plater–Zyberk commented that this argument might be irrelevant because even a twenty–year warranty is not significant for a project of this importance; she emphasized that the Commission should not support the proposed finish material.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk said that the Commission has considered the submitted components individually, but the decisions should be made with an understanding of how all are interrelated. She reiterated that using bronze for the small elements around the site would be very disturbing when something as major as the corona is finished with a material that only appears to be bronze; Mr. Krieger emphasized the irony of hearing the proposals for bronze bollards and lettering. Ms. Plater–Zyberk recommended using the black metal for all other metal elements on the site to avoid highlighting the shortfall of not using bronze for the corona panels. She noted that when construction of the performing arts center in Miami was almost complete, cost problems threatened to require replacement of the intended stone cladding with stucco; but late in the process, a donor stepped in to pay for the better material. Ms. Fernández assured the project team that the Commission is pushing for LuminOre due to the belief that the museum could be one of the great buildings of Washington.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus that the Commission is at an impasse due to the strong belief that the corona surfaces would be better with LuminOre or a bronze–like finish. Mr. Luebke suggested that no action is necessary due to the comments identifying several items for further consideration: resolution of the design of the bollards and fountain; the effect of nightlighting on the appearance of the corona; and the Commission's emphatic direction to use bronze or the best substitute for the corona finish. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
(Mr. Freelon remained in recusal for the following agenda item.)
2. CFA 19/SEP/13–3, National Museum of the American Indian, 3rd Street and Maryland Avenue, SW. Sign program. Concept. (Previous: CFA 21/FEB/13–1, new access ramp and stair.) Ms. Batcheler introduced the proposal for wayfinding improvements at the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall, noting that in February 2013 the Commission had reviewed an initial concept design for a ramp and stair at this location to improve access to the museum's entrance. She asked Ann Trowbridge of the Smithsonian Institution to present the design.
Ms. Trowbridge said that at the previous review the Commission had expressed concern about the proposal's impact on the existing landscape and had encouraged exploration of other wayfinding methods. Consequently, the concept of adding a stair or ramp from the sidewalk on the Mall side of the building has been eliminated, and the project is now focused on changes to the site's northeast and northwest corners. Three areas have been identified where interventions could be made. She added that the wayfinding improvements are based on visitor surveys, staff observations, and a wayfinding study completed several years ago by Hunt Design.
Ms. Trowbridge presented the proposed interventions. At the northwest corner of the site, two of the existing copper bollards—part of the building's perimeter security barrier—would receive new caps with sloped tops that include the name of the museum and a directional arrow toward the path leading to the building entrance, which is not visible from this major site entrance. Also at the northwest corner, the museum name would be placed on the building's facade above the waterfall, using 13–inch–high bronze letters set on a metal track installed in the joint of a curved ledge. She said that this detailing is designed to have minimal impact on the existing building fabric, acknowledging that the names of Smithsonian museums are sometimes changed. The museum name would also be added near the northeast corner of the site, on 3rd Street near Jefferson Drive, where it is difficult to understand the location of the building entrance. The coping stone on the extant site wall along 3rd Street would be replaced with a slightly higher coping that is inscribed with the museum's name, using letters of the same size and font as in the proposed facade lettering at the northwest corner. In addition, she said that the proposal includes placing a concrete footing for a sculpture within the landscape behind the nearby northeast corner of the site wall. The sculpture itself has not yet been chosen; once it is in place, it will likely be necessary to cut back the surrounding vegetation. She said that the remaining component of the proposal is installation of a standard Smithsonian programming sign on the 3rd Street sidewalk to direct people toward the building's main entrance on Maryland Avenue.
Ms. Meyer expressed appreciation for the redirection of the project to explore alternative ways to improve orientation around the site without significantly redesigning the entrance garden. She supported the design approach of treating each situation differently and working within the existing vocabulary of site elements. She encouraged the Smithsonian to develop a management plan for the garden to avoid random pruning when opening views or clearing areas around sculpture installations. Ms. Trowbridge responded that the Smithsonian Gardens division oversees the landscapes of all Smithsonian properties and employs a horticultural team for each site.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked why the design for the site wall lettering near the northeast corner is placed along 3rd Street rather than extending around the corner to Jefferson Drive. Ms. Trowbridge responded that this was studied and was discussed with the Commission's staff; the conclusion was that the proposed location along 3rd Street would guide visitors more effectively. She emphasized the challenge posed by this museum's design of having an entrance that does not face the Mall mid–block, as typically seen in the other Mall museums.
Mr. Krieger said he was pleased that the project has moved away from the previous proposal; he expressed confidence that this design would be better for the museum and the landscape. Mr. Powell joined in supporting the new proposal as an improvement. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Mr. Krieger, the Commission approved the proposed wayfinding concept.
(Mr. Schlossberg arrived during the following case and participated in the remainder of the meeting. Mr. Freelon also joined the remainder of the meeting following his recusal from the previous two agenda items.)
D. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
1. CFA 19/SEP/13–4, Union Station Metro Station, 1st Street, NE. Enlarged entranceway with new ramp, stair, and canopy. Concept. (Previous: CFA 16/MAY/13–1.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced the proposal for improvements to the Union Station Metro entrance on 1st Street, NE, noting that the concept had previously been reviewed by the Commission in May. He asked Ivo Karadimov, manager of architecture at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), to begin the presentation. Mr. Karadimov said that the project team has explored options in response to the Commission's previous comments, and the revised design better integrates the proposed elements with the context while emphasizing the image and identity of the Metro entrance. He introduced architect Bill Gallagher of KGP Design Studio to present the concept.
Mr. Gallagher summarized the site and context. He noted that this Metro station has two entrances: a primary entrance at the west portico of Union Station's main concourse level along Massachusetts Avenue, through which most passengers approach the subway; and the second entrance to the west on 1st Street, one level below the Union Station concourse. He indicated the narrow sidewalk on the east side of 1st Street, extending along a monumentally scaled rusticated brownstone wall that is referred to as the "Burnham Wall" after the building's architect, Daniel Burnham; access to the 1st Street entrance is along this sidewalk and through a portal in the Burnham Wall. He noted the extensive recent development occurring west and north of Union Station, and the project is intended to accommodate increased use of this entrance.
Mr. Gallagher described the proposed reconfiguration of the Metro entrance, including interior and exterior changes: a new entrance portal would be created further north along the Burnham Wall; the existing portal and two additional proposed openings would be partially glazed to provide light and ventilation to the interior space; the turnstiles would be reconfigured to improve passenger circulation, with the interior ramp removed; and an exterior ramp, stairway, and canopy would be added along the 1st Street sidewalk to connect the sloping sidewalk to the slightly elevated level of the Metro station's interior.
Mr. Gallagher described the proposed dimensioning and finishes of the proposal. He said that all elements have been designed on the standard Metro grid of eight feet four inches, resulting in a longer canopy than previously proposed. The stairs and ramp would be paved with granite. In response to the Commission's previous comments, additional options were explored for the stone surface of the low wall along the sidewalk on the west side of the proposed ramp and stair: the previous proposal was to replicate the masonry of the Burnham Wall, but the D.C. Historic Preservation Office objected to this feature, and the current proposal is Mount Airy granite with a honed finish and a stone cap as in other Metro walls. Other options include a brownstone similar to the historic wall material, with a honed finish; granite laid in running bond with a horizontal reveal, resembling the masonry of the station's loading dock to the south along 1s Street; or granite with joints spaced at four feet two inches, as with other new Metro walls.
Mr. Gallagher said that the proposed canopy design is based on the standard Metro canopy, using stainless–steel supports and a glass roof. The form was developed after consideration of additional newer Metro canopies, such as the flat–plate steel canopy at the nearby Noma station, and also the historic design of the Union Station platform canopies. He said that the proposed canopy would slope away from the sidewalk to prevent shedding of snow and ice onto pedestrians. Among the various shapes considered for the canopy were an arch, a shed, and a concave bow; the current proposal is a straight roof extending to the end of the stairs on the north and the ramp on the south. The structural steel frame would support a slightly frosted glass roof. A metal flashing would be set into the horizontal joint of the Burnham Wall above the canopy to direct water into the canopy's gutter, allowing for no direct abutment of the canopy with the rough stone wall; a drainpipe from the gutter would run through the wall and into the storm drain system. A louvered LED light fixture would be located beneath the canopy. He added that the D.C. government intends to shift the 1st Street curb to provide a wider sidewalk at this location, which will allow sufficient width for pedestrian circulation in addition to the proposed Metro station stair and ramp.
Mr. Freelon asked about the proximity of the proposed canopy to the existing bridge above 1st Street to the north that connects Union Station with a Government Printing Office building. Mr. Gallagher responded that the distance would be approximately two to three feet; Mr. Freelon supported this design. Ms. Plater–Zyberk observed that the proposal is a full flight of stairs; broader and shallower steps might make the climb easier. Mr. Gallagher responded that the proposed dimensions for the steps—six inches high and twelve inches deep—are typical of a monumental stairway. Ms. Meyer objected that these are more typical of dimensions for an interior stairway. Mr. Krieger supported the design, commenting that these dimensions are more generous than would be used on an interior stairway, but he questioned the accuracy of the dimensions on the drawings. Ms. Plater–Zyberk suggested using a four or five inch riser; Mr. Gallagher said this could be done but the result would be awkward if the canopy could not extend as far as the lengthened stairway due to the existing bridge. Mr. Krieger commented that six and twelve inches would be comfortable dimensions, and anything shallower begins to be awkwardly slow for pedestrians except in special cases such as ascending the Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Luebke suggested asking the project team to study the stair proportions further.
Mr. Krieger commented that the proposal is responsive to the Commission's previous comments, and the canopy design has been much improved; Ms. Plater–Zyberk and Mr. Powell agreed. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked about a preferred option for the side wall of the stairway and ramp; Mr. Gallagher confirmed the preference for Mount Airy granite treated similarly to other Metro stairways, adding that it would have a slightly textured finish. Mr. Schlossberg observed that this might be an inviting surface for graffiti; Mr. Gallagher responded that graffiti is rare in the Metro system and when it appears is immediately removed. Mr. Schlossberg gave his support for Mr. Gallagher's preferred option. Mr. Krieger asked for development of the detail of the bottom of the stone wall at the sidewalk, suggesting that a reveal might be preferable to dropping the wall straight to the sidewalk.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission to approve the concept proposal with several suggestions for further study and development; he also recommended delegating further review of the project to the staff. Upon a second by Mr. Schlossberg, the Commission adopted this action.
Before the next presentation, Mr. Luebke announced that Mr. Schlossberg had just joined the meeting after attending the Senate hearing on the appointment of his wife, Caroline Kennedy, as U.S. ambassador to Japan. Mr. Schlossberg said he would need to resign from the Commission after this meeting because he will be traveling regularly to Japan; he said he had enjoyed his tenure on the Commission. Chairman Powell and Mr. Luebke thanked him for his service.
2. CFA 19/SEP/13–5, Flood protection project, various locations in Federal Triangle and the National Mall. Modifications to vent shafts for flood protection. Concept. (Previous: CFA 20/JUN/13–5.) Mr. Lindstrom introduced Jim Ashe of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to begin the presentation of a revised proposal for flood protection at the Metro subway system's service shafts on the National Mall and in Federal Triangle. Mr. Ashe said that the proposal addresses the Commission's comments from June, particularly the reluctance to support the placement of vertical protective barriers in the historic open spaces. The proposed strategy is for barriers that are "hiding in plain sight," and they could be removed in the future in response to a larger multi–agency effort to reduce flooding risks in central Washington. He said that the near–term proposal is also being coordinated with other agencies, including the National Park Service. He presented a map illustrating the two types of flooding risks that are being addressed: a rising water level in the Potomac River, and localized drainage problems that would result in ponding within the downtown area. He introduced project engineer Suzanna Sterling–Dyer of WMATA to continue the presentation.
Ms. Sterling–Dyer identified the existing shaft locations—three along 12th Street in Federal Triangle, three along the central portion of the National Mall, and one shaft near the Mall at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW. She described the varying purposes of the shafts, including ventilation and emergency egress; the desired elevation for flood protection barriers also varies among the shafts. She presented the proposals in Federal Triangle, with heights ranging from eighteen to forty inches; the forty–inch height was previously discussed and may be the maximum that is aesthetically acceptable. She added that a height of nearly six feet to protect against the 100–year flood, or over ten feet for the 500–year–flood, would likely not be supported by the Commission. She indicated the emergency egress hatch that would be located at one of the shafts; the proposed water–tight door includes vertical and horizontal panels to provide an opening big enough for egress. She described several alternatives for the materials and finish of the flood protection walls to provide compatibility with the context or a more temporary character: masonry to match the historic building facade or the sidewalk paving, or a more modern metal construction. A pair of small shafts would be protected by concrete walls configured to resemble the adjacent existing security–barrier planters. She noted the coordination with the National Park Service for the finish of the flood barrier near the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, and the study of comparable examples from other cities in response to the Commission's previous request.
Mr. Freelon observed that the proposed construction appears to have a permanent character and asked what features of the design would suggest the intended temporary character. Ms. Sterling–Dyer responded that the proposal would simply place wall panels and a new flush grating on top of the existing shaft structure and grating, rather than entirely reconstruct the shaft walls. She noted that the previous proposal included stronger walls that could serve as part of the perimeter vehicular security barrier system for the adjacent federal building, allowing for removal of some temporary concrete planters; this heavier construction concept has been eliminated. If future area–wide flood control measures are successful in reducing the flooding risk for these shafts, she said that the proposed flood barriers could be removed easily.
Ms. Sterling–Dyer presented the new proposal for protecting the Mall shafts, reflecting further coordination with the National Park Service as previously requested by the Commission. At the group of shafts above the 12th Street tunnel, the existing adjacent gravel walks are problematic because gravel often obstructs the grates or falls into the shafts and clogs the drains below; the proposal is to pave the adjacent portion of the walk following the example of several other Mall walks that have been paved. She presented two alternatives—maintaining the existing surface grade, or elevating the height of the shafts by four inches which would be accommodated by a gradual slope of the paved area. She emphasized that the National Park Service has commented extensively on the proposal, resulting in coordination of the proposed grades with existing drains in the vicinity and with the planned reconstruction of the Mall's center lawn panel; a temporary paved apron may be used for the shafts until this phase of the Mall reconstruction is built. She noted that a more complex barrier system, such as the FloodBreak product, was considered but would not be feasible because air flow at the shafts must be maintained. Ms. Meyer asked for clarification of the proposed grade; Ms. Sterling–Dyer responded that it would not exceed two percent, the standard limit for an accessible route, and would also be consistent with the grades being used by the National Park Service.
Ms. Sterling–Dyer presented the proposal for the two shafts flanking 7th Street near the centerline of the Mall, where the shafts are vulnerable to flooding and to rainwater splashed from passing cars. The shaft openings would be raised by one foot. She presented two alternatives for designing the adjacent area: the curbs could remain exposed within the existing flat lawn, or they could be partially concealed by a slight berm as previously suggested by the Commission. The grade would reach twelve percent, a slope that is acceptable to the National Park Service; due to the constrained lawn area on the east side of the street, only the lower portion of the curb would be concealed by a berm. In either alternative, the exposed portion of the curb would be clad in granite to match the granite details being used in the Mall rehabilitation project. She presented a longitudinal section along the Mall, as previously requested by the Commission, to demonstrate that the shafts would not intrude on the primary sightline of the Mall and would be consistent with the grading of the National Park Service project for the area.
Ms. Sterling–Dyer presented the proposal for the shaft at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, adjacent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The shaft opening would be raised by one foot to protect it from localized flooding; the sides of the extension would be granite, and the perimeter area would be improved with an aggregate finish matching the adjacent sidewalk. She concluded by presenting images of other shaft protection walls in central Washington, including examples of granite cladding with various heights.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the project's relationship to the flood control system currently being installed by the National Park Service at 17th Street south of Constitution Avenue, NW. Mr. Ashe responded that the federal flood maps would be revised after completion of the 17th Street project; the anticipated range of results for Federal Triangle was shown on a map included in the presentation. Several Commission members asked about the completion date for the 17th Street project. Mr. Luebke responded that the structure is largely complete but issues have arisen with the cladding, and the project is currently stalled due to contractual concerns; completion may be likely within two to three years. Ms. Meyer asked why the WMATA project is being put forward now as an urgent need, rather than awaiting the completion of the 17th Street project in the near future. Ms. Sterling–Dyer responded that flooding will still likely occur in the area of the WMATA proposals; Ms. Meyer said that the desired height of protection may nonetheless change after revision of the flood maps, potentially allowing for significantly lower walls. Mr. Ashe emphasized the importance of addressing the current flood risks. Ms. Meyer asked about the duration of construction for the WMATA proposals, perhaps resulting in their completion after the reduced need resulting from the 17th Street project. Ms. Sterling–Dyer responded that construction could occur relatively quickly, perhaps commencing in January 2014; she added that the most urgent protection—for the shaft along 12th Street near Constitution Avenue—would be constructed first.
Ms. Plater–Zyberk acknowledged that the interim value of the project has already been considered carefully by WMATA; she suggested addressing concerns with the design. She questioned the intention to design the shaft walls within Federal Triangle to match the character of the adjacent building's upper facade; she suggested instead that the shaft walls match the building's simpler base, or else treat the walls as an infrastructure element. Ms. Sterling–Dyer noted that the previous submission had proposed treating the walls with a simple granite cladding, as used elsewhere in the Metro system; she indicated the images included as an appendix in the presentation booklet. Mr. Luebke noted that the issues raised by the Commission have included whether the walls should have a temporary or permanent character, as well as whether they should resemble architectural or infrastructure elements; the previous proposal, while designed as uniform infrastructure, was seen by the Commission as appearing too permanent.
Ms. Meyer recalled the Commission's previous response as questioning the intrusiveness and permanency of the high walls, rather than focusing on the veneer finish. Ms. Sterling–Dyer emphasized that the current proposal takes a more temporary approach of leaving the existing flush shaft walls and grates in place, and simply placing precast panels on top to extend the walls; the previous proposals for adding higher–strength walls and grates have been eliminated. Mr. Krieger supported the design approach of temporary–looking barriers that address the flooding problem. He added that the temporary character may be overly optimistic due to the likely worsening of stormwater flooding in the future, notwithstanding the improvement provided by the 17th Street flood control project. Mr. Ashe acknowledged that climate–change predictions include a rising sea level and more intense storms, but scientists have not yet modeled the quantitative effects; the anticipated floodplain lines shown in the presentation are WMATA's projection of current hazards into the next ten to twenty years. Ms. Plater–Zyberk asked for clarification of the flood risks being considered. Mr. Ashe responded that the major threats include Potomac flooding from upstream water, such as from heavy snow melt as seen in 1996; from downstream water that is pushed up by a hurricane in Chesapeake Bay; and localized drainage problems from heavy rainfall within Washington that overwhelms the stormwater system, as seen in 2006. He emphasized that the Metro system is designed to accommodate normal water conditions; the proposed barriers would provide protection against unusual conditions.
Mr. Schlossberg supported the design approach of a temporary appearance, clarifying that the barriers should look different from the permanent elements of the context but should not appear flimsy. He said that stone could be an appropriate material; noting that the current use of grade–level sandbags demonstrates the inaccuracy of the original design standards, he recommended that the new walls be thick enough to support sandbags in case the current flood projections are similarly inaccurate. Ms. Sterling–Dyer responded that a more extreme flood would result in a temporary shutdown of the Metro and a likely evacuation of the area; she added that WMATA is working closely with D.C. and federal agencies to plan for such extreme situations.
Chairman Powell offered support for the proposed concept, commenting that it appears to be responsive to the Commission's previous guidance for a more temporary character. Mr. Luebke noted that the proposal encompasses a variety of design interventions including shafts enclosed to resemble planters, replacement of gravel walks on the Mall with concrete paving; and the introduction of walls or curbs around some shafts. Ms. Meyer suggested differing responses for different parts of the proposal. Along 12th Street in Federal Triangle, she supported the construction of thin walls that appear as necessary infrastructure and do not attempt to replicate the architecture of the adjacent historic building. Along 7th Street on the Mall, she opposed the proposed alternative of a berm sloping at twelve percent; notwithstanding the support of the National Park Service, she said that this steepness would be excessive at these locations. She noted that the Commission's recent reluctant approval of widening the sidewalk on the west side of 7th Street, and she recommended that protection of the shaft in this area be further coordinated with the National Park Service planning. She requested an integrated design proposal that includes the WMATA improvements in the context of the overall appearance of the walks along the Mall. Mr. Luebke asked about an interim barrier that is clearly temporary, perhaps constructed of metal plates; Ms. Meyer said that this could be acceptable pending development of a more integrated proposal with the National Park Service. She emphasized the continuing concern that the Mall rehabilitation may result in numerous anomalous conditions rather than a larger design strategy that guides issues such as the placement of paved and gravel walks; the WMATA proposals for the Mall shafts at 12th Street may be an example of an unsightly problematic situation. She also noted that supposedly temporary solutions can linger for many decades in Washington, such as the temporary World War I buildings that were eventually removed for the construction of Constitution Gardens. She acknowledged that WMATA has done its part in the design process using the criteria provided by the National Park Service, which needs to address the bigger issues of design and flood protection for the Mall.
Chairman Powell summarized the suggestion not to support the Mall proposals while approving the concept for the other locations. Mr. Luebke noted the Commission's general recognition of the near–term need for Metro flood protection regardless of the potential change in need resulting from the 17th Street flood–control project that is under construction; the preference for a temporary design character at Federal Triangle and perhaps at 7th Street; and the dissatisfaction with the Mall proposal at 12th Street, requesting further engagement with the National Park Service's planning for the area. Chairman Powell supported this consensus for a partial approval of the concept, clarifying that the project would return to the Commission for further review rather than be delegated to the staff. Mr. Luebke noted that the concept approval is somewhat general at this stage because the materials have not yet been determined; he offered to work with WMATA in determining the scope of the next submission. Upon a second by Ms. Fernández, the Commission adopted this action. Chairman Powell emphasized the Commission's overall support for the direction of the project and the desire for implementation as soon as possible.
E. District of Columbia Department of Transportation
CFA 19/SEP/13–6, Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and South Capitol Street Corridor from I–295/Suitland Parkway Interchange to P Street. South Capitol Street at the Anacostia River. Replacement bridge and reconstruction of the approaches (Segments 1 and 2). Concept. Mr. Simon introduced the proposed replacement of the Frederick Douglass Bridge and its approaches, encompassing a reconstruction of the South Capitol Street corridor. He emphasized the importance of the project, noting its great scale, numerous approach roads, prominently visible location at a bend of the Anacostia River, and visual relationship to the U.S. Capitol and the recently constructed baseball stadium. He noted that the bridge may be operable or fixed, depending on the outcome of a separate study, but the resulting design alternatives are relatively similar in appearance. He said that the proposal for the approaches involves significant urban design, including a portion within the L'Enfant city. The current bridge, built in 1949, would be demolished. He distributed copies of the Commission's past publication on Washington bridges for reference during the discussion. He asked engineer Sanjay Kumar of the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to begin the presentation.
Mr. Kumar said that the project is a key component of DDOT's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative that began ten years ago; this thirty–year program includes numerous projects at a cost of approximately $10 billion. He said that the presentation will include overall orientation, the bridge design, and the streetscape and landscape proposal. He noted that the project will be undertaken in multiple phases due to funding and constructability issues. He indicated the context on the Anacostia River, including the nearby Washington Navy Yard and National Park Service land; the proposed bridge would be aligned parallel to the existing bridge.
Mr. Kumar summarized the project goals: increased multi–modal transportation; a stronger sense of connection between the two sides of the Anacostia River; an appropriate entrance route into central Washington, particularly important because this project is part of the route from Andrews Air Force Base used by the president and visiting world leaders; a context–sensitive design that balances engineering, landscape design, and the streetscape; and promotion of economic growth which is already underway in the vicinity. He said that the proposed design includes improved sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as improved stormwater management facilities. He noted that the project procurement includes a design–build process, emphasizing that DDOT would ensure that the selected contractor maintains a high quality of design. He presented photographs of the existing conditions, indicated the views toward the U.S. Capitol. He introduced architect and engineer Frederick Gottemoeller of Bridgescape to present the bridge concept in greater detail.
Mr. Gottemoeller described the problems with the existing bridge: it is too narrow, particularly at the sidewalks; its structural design with a two–girder system is no longer considered safe; and the bridge materials are deteriorating. The challenge for the new design is to achieve the "classical repose" of Washington's historic bridges while using a contemporary idiom that is compatible with the new construction in the vicinity, such as the baseball stadium. He presented views of nearby bridges, citing Arlington Memorial Bridge as the most familiar image of a Washington bridge; its arched profile is comprised of eighty percent openings and twenty percent piers, which is attractive in elevation but appears more solid when seen obliquely. He also noted the subtlety of Key Bridge's design, with a longer central span that responds to the slightly crested profile by maintaining a consistent span–to–height ratio. He also cited his own work on the recent reconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, using modern high–strength concrete to achieve a relatively open design for the piers. The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge uses a haunched girder system, resulting in a thicker structure at the piers that suggests an arched configuration; he said that the haunches are not sufficiently deep on this bridge to convey the arched effect convincingly, while the Sousa Bridge at Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, has a better–proportioned haunched girder system. He summarized the need for the new Douglass Bridge to serve as a welcoming civic amenity, including when seen from diagonal views which will be more commonly seen than direct elevation views.
Mr. Gottemoeller said that the selection of a deep haunched girder system has been established from the environmental review process. An operable span was contemplated at that stage with a navigation clearance of 30 feet above the river; the U.S. Coast Guard has now determined that a 45–foot clearance is needed, regardless of whether an operable or fixed span is built. The recent design process has included adjusting the proportions and details of the preferred alternative to improve its appearance, achieve the clearance, and ensure constructability. He presented numerous studies and the preferred option, emphasizing the balance between an arched appearance and a light structure that will allow ample views along the river. A trapezoidal structural section is proposed to reduce the overall mass and to add visual interest from reflections of the river surface. He noted that that the navigation channel is approximately at the center of the river, allowing for a nearly symmetrical profile for the bridge; the long curved profile would have a more gradual rise than the existing bridge, improving the sightlines and aesthetics. A constant height–to–width ratio would be maintained for all three spans of the bridge. He presented a scale comparison of the proposed spans to other Washington bridges. He also indicated the four belvederes that would be provided along both sidewalks above the structural piers; numerous design studies were generated for the brackets that connect the belvedere platforms to the piers. He summarized the wider dimensions of the proposed bridge: 122 feet in width including eighteen–foot–wide sidewalks and six traffic lanes, compared to the existing 75–foot–wide bridge with five–foot sidewalks and five traffic lanes. The wider sidewalks would accommodate separated bikeways; he anticipated greatly increased pedestrian and bicycle travel as development increases in the area.
Mr. Gottemoeller noted that the presented images would be part of the visual quality requirements for the design–build contractor; the drawings therefore establish a minimum standard for the project's quality. He presented the proposed materials, which are somewhat provisional; the contractor could request permission for substitution of alternative materials that meet DDOT standards. Stone from the existing bridge abutments would be reused on the proposed abutments and retaining walls; sidewalk and bikeway paving would be differentiated through color, scoring, materials, or some other technique; benches and streetlights would be of a contemporary character based on the illustrated examples. He said that the requirements or suggestions for the contractor include coordination of spacing for streetlights, railing, and pavement scoring, and a curved shape for light poles that relates to the bridge structure and echoes the form of the Capitol dome. Additional lighting would be provided along the sidewalks, placed below eye level to avoid interfering with the views from the bridge. The railings would emphasize horizontal lines rather than vertical pickets, allowing for more open views for people moving across the bridge. He said that further development of these design concepts would be provided in the contractor proposals during the procurement process.
Mr. Gottemoeller concluded by presenting a view of the alternative for an operable span, noting that its design would follow the same principles as those presented for the fixed span. Mr. Freelon asked how the choice will be made between an operable or fixed span. Mr. Kumar responded that DDOT is currently conducting a navigational study, and the answer should be finalized in coming months; the likely result will be that the operable span is not necessary.
The Commission members offered comments on the bridge design before proceeding to the presentation of the approaches. Mr. Schlossberg supported the aesthetics and engineering of the proposed bridge as seen from viewpoints off the bridge; however, he said that bridges are often disappointing for those traversing them due to the lack of visual awareness of being on the bridge and above the water. He contrasted that with some traditional bridges that include a portal arch at each end; he suggested consideration of such vertical features that announce the bridge crossing. Mr. Gottemoeller said that the intended design of some bridge elements, such as railings that allow expansive views, may address this concern. He added that portals might be characterized as a form of civic art; the bridge project would include artwork, which has not yet been developed but is indicated through placeholders. As an example, the proposed engineering of the belvederes would support the future installation of vertical artwork. Mr. Schlossberg reiterated the importance of a design that allows people crossing the bridge to be aware of the special experience; Mr. Gottemoeller agreed with this programmatic goal and acknowledged that it is not yet fully incorporated into the design.
Mr. Krieger noted his previous involvement in early planning studies for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and offered support for its ongoing implementation. He commented that the proposal does not meet the goal of a 21st–century bridge design, but instead appears to be a fairly conventional highway bridge. He suggested substantial vertical elements to mark the bridge, perhaps located at each end or as part of the support structure such as using a cable–stayed system. He emphasized that the proposal is merely a slightly improved version of the non–descript existing bridge, expressing surprise at the timidity of the design. He suggested a bolder, more striking proposal for this bridge that will likely endure to the end of this century. He offered the example of an 1897 bridge proposal over Rock Creek, illustrated in the Commission's publication on bridges, as a more modern–looking design than the current proposal.
Ms. Meyer agreed with Mr. Krieger; she expressed general discomfort with the proposed process of establishing design principles and then relying on the low–bidding contractor to finalize the design and character of this public space. She emphasized the importance of details in shaping the experience of pedestrians and bicyclists, urging a more careful and responsible design process. Mr. Kumar responded that DDOT's request for proposals would include specifications and a visual–quality manual that incorporate the design features being presented to the Commission. He also noted that the selection process includes technical qualifications as well as price, and the winner would not necessarily be the lowest bidder. He agreed that stringent specifications will be important for the project. Ms. Meyer asked if the drawings of sidewalk scoring, with a differentiated pattern at the belvederes, would constitute the documentation of design principles; Mr. Kumar responded that the visual–quality manual would be more detailed. Mr. Gottemoeller clarified that the drawings serve to convey the issues that the contractor will need to address; the details of the design response will be the responsibility of the contractor and will be judged as part of the selection process, including assessment of the aesthetic quality. He expressed optimism that the combined scoring of the technical proposal and price would lead to a good result.
Mr. Krieger observed that the selection process does not appear to allow for a highly innovative proposal, commenting that a team with Santiago Calatrava as designer could probably not be selected. Konjit Eskender of DDOT responded that other types of bridge design, such as a cable–stayed structure, had been considered during the environmental review process; the proposed arched haunched–girder structure was selected as the preferred alternative. She added that the intention is to construct the illustrated elements of the proposal, such as the railings; if the contractor wishes to change design elements, the revised proposal would go through the review process.
Ms. Fernández supported Mr. Krieger's comments, emphasizing that the proposal misses a rare opportunity to create a bold and iconic bridge. She observed that the traditional sense of Washington's center and outlying neighborhoods is evolving, with the Anacostia neighborhood becoming more central; a similar shift has occurred in New York as Brooklyn has become a center for many people's lives and activities while Manhattan remains the city's iconographic center. She suggested that this future evolution should be considered as part of the bridge design process. She also suggested that the important goal is to have a design concept that is drawn from bigger ideas about the present and future. She acknowledged the successful attention to engineering and design details, but criticized the proposal as lacking a strong concept—about the city, the place, Frederick Douglass, or any other theme—resulting in a bridge that could be anywhere. She recommended that the design process start with a stronger sense of where the bridge is located, and use this initial idea to develop a design that is less arbitrarily futuristic. Mr. Powell added that these questions raise the issue of giving the bridge a stronger character.
Mr. Krieger emphasized the issue of whether the selected contractor would have the opportunity to develop a more creative design or would be required to conform to the presented images, which he described as disappointing. Ms. Fernández said that artists are often brought in only at the end of the process through a separate budget, which is less successful than integrating the artwork throughout the design process. Mr. Luebke noted that the environmental review process included numerous alternative design concepts, although the selection process that resulted in the preferred option is unclear. He also said that the remaining portion of the presentation, addressing the bridge's approaches, would better convey how the proposal relates to the urban fabric. He added that the recently completed 11th Street Bridge, upstream from the Douglass Bridge, resulted from a similar design–build process and has the appearance of an uninspired highway overpass. Mr. Krieger confirmed the Commission's guidance to aim higher for the Douglass Bridge.
Mr. Gottemoeller responded that the selection process will include an "art alternative technical concept process" that allows a bidder to propose a substantially different design; extensive consultation between DDOT and the bidder would be encouraged. He said that the presented design is intended to establish a minimum standard for the design quality, with the possibility of obtaining a better result. Ms. Meyer observed that the presentation booklet includes very specific design requirements, such as dimensions and materials for the benches; she suggested consideration of using performance criteria, such as benches that encourage (or discourage) people gathering, or with a height that results in the eye level not being in conflict with the railing height. She described the submitted design criteria as banal and overly reliant on off–the–shelf solutions. Mr. Gottemoeller responded that this portion of the documentation is still being developed, and he offered to incorporate her suggestion.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission that the bridge design requires further study, suggesting consideration of the comments provided and further consultation with the staff. He noted that the project is at an early concept stage and expressed hope that the bridge would become a distinguished icon for Washington.
Landscape architect Dina Klavon of Klavon Design Associates continued the presentation with the design of the bridge approaches and streetscape. She summarized the past visions for South Capitol Street, from the L'Enfant Plan to the recent studies by the National Capital Planning Commission and D.C. Department of Transportation. These recent studies introduced the idea of a circle or oval at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue, at the northwest end of the Douglass Bridge, as well as at Poplar Point at the southeast end; the open spaces were also envisioned as potential memorial sites. These open spaces were included in the environmental study for the current proposal, serving as roundabouts for distributing traffic at each end of the bridge. She indicated the boundaries of the abutting military and park land in the Poplar Point area, creating a challenge for the layout of this approach to the bridge. The recent refinement of the site design has resulted in an oval space at each end of the bridge, similar in size and north–south orientation but in different urban contexts. At Poplar Point, the oval shape allows a configuration that does not require taking land beyond the DDOT boundary, resulting in significant cost savings. The oval at the northwest reinforces the importance of South Capitol Street in the L'Enfant Plan, providing a strong relationship between the U.S. Capitol south axis and the Anacostia River; the site south of the oval could accommodate an iconic building in the future. She indicated the geometry of the two ovals that relates to the street system and bridge, suggesting locations for memorials within the open spaces; she noted the potential appropriateness of a memorial to Frederick Douglass, who resided nearby. She presented drawings of potential building sites adjacent to the ovals, beyond the scope of this project but contemplated for future development.
Ms. Klavon said that sustainable design is an important consideration for the project, and water runoff from the bridge and approach areas would be filtered on the site; she indicated locations at the ovals for bioretention areas. The ovals are proposed with simple near–term landscape designs; she illustrated several more complex landscapes that could be constructed in the future, perhaps as part of a memorial design.
Ms. Klavon described each of the approaches in greater detail. At the northwest, she indicated the relationship of the oval to Potomac Avenue, Q and R Streets, and South Capitol Street; the cartways would be interrupted by the oval but the visual continuity would be maintained or improved with careful landscape design. At the southeast, the landscape of the oval would become less formal near Anacostia Park, with connections to the park trail system. An existing pump house would be preserved as part of the site composition. She illustrated potential development scenarios for adjacent Poplar Point property, indicating how a significant entrance to the future neighborhood could be provided from the oval. The project would extend to the interchange of the Suitland Parkway and Interstate 295, which would be designed to be compatible with the parkway's historic design features. The center of the southeast oval would be a broad, shallow bioretention area; other areas of the project would include smaller streetscape bioretention areas as well as pervious concrete. She concluded by presenting the bicycle and pedestrian circulation routes through the bridge's approach areas, including a combination of separate and shared–use paths.
Mr. Krieger reiterated Mr. Schlossberg's suggestion for vertical features to establish the bridge's importance, commenting that the site presentation suggests powerful locations for such features. He suggested that the site design be part of the effort suggested by the Commission to envision a bolder idea for the bridge's role in the urban fabric. Ms. Klavon responded that the site plan includes locations for grand entrance features, including appropriate grading; Mr. Powell supported this planning. Ms. Meyer emphasized that none of the more advanced landscape designs is actually part of the proposal. Ms. Klavon responded that the intention is to allow for creative design to emerge through the design–build process; she said that the nationally prominent landscape architecture and design firms were represented at an earlier meeting for potential bidders on the project, although the composition of teams in the bidding process is not yet known. She emphasized that the design documents are deliberately open–ended in many details—as the Commission members have called for—while some requirements are specified such as using exposed–aggregate concrete and stainless steel light poles. Mr. Schlossberg expressed uncertainty whether the actual design is being seen by the Commission; he suggested that the bidding process be clarified to state the intention for the bidders develop a more imaginative solution in response to the engineering solution that is shown in the presentation. Ms. Klavon supported this clarification. Mr. Kumar said that the bidding solicitation is in a draft stage, and the relevant portions could be submitted to the staff for comments; Mr. Schlossberg supported this offer.
Ms. Meyer observed that the project is apparently divided into separate scopes for the design of the bridge and the ovals. She suggested instead that the bidding documents address the project design holistically, with performance criteria such as marking the bridge to the Anacostia neighborhood within the viewshed south from the U.S. Capitol. She emphasized the value of imaginative thinking about how all parts of the project can work together, which may be precluded by providing bidders with separate drawings for different components.
Ms. Meyer also questioned the assumption that bioretention areas should be located within the ovals, which she said may not result in the best design for the public spaces nor suitable sites for major memorials. She suggested that bioretention be accommodated in the extensive nearby parkland along the Anacostia River, which the National Park Service is beginning to replan for a riverfront trail system. Ms. Klavon clarified that the current proposal includes bioretention in the northwest oval, but not necessarily in the southeast oval. She acknowledged the concern about the design of the public spaces but noted that various techniques could be used for water filtration; water runoff from the bridge could also be stored—perhaps within the abutments—for use in a fountain. Ms. Meyer urged expanding the water management area to include the nearby parkland; Ms. Klavon said that the calculations have included streetscape areas as well as the ovals. She added that the project's grading requires a low point at the foot of the bridge on the northwest end, presenting problems in draining water to other areas. She noted that the triangular parks to the west, included in the project area, could serve a greater role in the water filtration, although they are distant from the bridge runoff. An additional problem is contamination of nearby soil, which would require extensive mitigation if these areas are used for water filtration. Ms. Meyer emphasized that the extensive riverfront could be used to address this issue, and she reiterated that the future memorial sites in the ovals could be compromised by designing them for bioretention. Ms. Klavon responded that both uses could be accommodated. Ms. Meyer noted that the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative is a broad effort to fulfill the McMillan Plan's vision a century ago for extensive parks along the Anacostia River, continuing far beyond the relatively small area of this bridge project. She said that improved collaboration with the National Park Service or other agencies may be necessary to address the larger issues of urban water management.
Mr. Freelon asked for further information on who makes the selection of the design–build team. Mr. Kumar described the several stages of the process, beginning with a request for qualifications from interested teams. A panel evaluates the qualifications using established guidelines, and chooses which teams can proceed; this process is underway and nearly complete. The second stage involves the request for proposals: short–listed teams are offered the opportunity to comment on a draft of the bidding documents, in order to draw on their field knowledge of construction, and then bids are accepted on a final version of the documents. The bids are judged with a formula combining price and technical quality, and additional criteria. The formula has not been finalized; he offered the example of seventy percent price and thirty percent technical factors. Mr. Freelon asked if design quality would be a high priority in the selection process. Mr. Kumar noted his own role as chairman of the qualifications panel and said that his initial stance was to emphasize price, but he is now considering advice from others to increase the importance of technical factors—including design quality—to perhaps a 50–50 ratio in the evaluation formula.
Mr. Freelon commented that the construction firm would inevitably be the leader in a design–build bidding team, and he suggested including designers on the selection panel to ensure that design is given sufficient consideration in the process. Mr. Kumar agreed and said that design experience within the bidding team is already required in the published request for qualifications, including a bridge architect and landscape architect; the objective rating criteria have been established. Ms. Meyer asked if the review panel includes engineers and landscape architects with experience designing extraordinary bridges. Mr. Kumar responded that the panel evaluating proposals will include architects and engineers, such as the consultants who have made the presentation to the Commission. Mr. Luebke noted his own past experience in evaluating proposals for the 11th Street Bridge replacement; he expressed frustration that the resulting project does not reflect his input on design, and questioned DDOT's assurance that design quality would be important in the process. He emphasized the importance of creating a beautiful bridge. Mr. Kumar agreed and said that DDOT has learned lessons from the 11th Street project that will improve the Douglass Bridge project.
Mr. Krieger suggested further consideration of the scoring formula: rather than considering a maximum of fifty percent for technical factors, perhaps the formula could be one–third price, one–third technical, and one–third the strength of the idea for the project. He also suggested that the Commission provide a firm statement that a mundane highway–like bridge will not be accepted when the project returns for design approval. Mr. Luebke noted the current request for concept approval; Mr. Krieger clarified his view that the general concept of a bridge and two ovals is acceptable, but approval of the more detailed concept would be premature. Mr. Luebke said that approval of the general configuration, including the similar ovals in the alignments shown, would be helpful as a basis for further consultation on the project.
Mr. Schlossberg expressed disappointment that the design seems "antiseptic" and does not express the actual use by the public. He offered examples of topics that were not addressed well in the presentation: continuity of pedestrian walkways, places for play, and opportunities for shade. He said that the project's criteria seem to emphasize engineering and symmetry rather than human experience in using this place. He noted his own work on the evaluation panel for Boston's Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, which was initially conceived as a highway with medians; the review panel rejected that idea and—through close involvement of architects, landscape architects, and other designers—pushed for a better project that has resulted in a great social place for Boston. He expressed concern that the design–build process for the Douglass Bridge replacement will not result in sufficient priority for the aesthetic, experiential, and social aspects of the project, notwithstanding the good intentions. He concluded that the project as presented does not sufficiently address the issues that are of greatest concern to the Commission. Ms. Fernández added that the problem includes finding an efficient process for achieving these goals; she said that the Commission members have seen similar problems with other projects, with design concerns being separated from the project which results in an inefficient process. She expressed frustration with being asked to fix projects repeatedly, and instead she urged that the project be conceived well from the start. She emphasized that good design is not an afterthought but must be considered throughout the process and for all of its pieces; the result can be both a beautiful bridge and a beautiful civic project that is embraced by the public.
Mr. Luebke noted that a member of the public wishes to address the Commission. Chairman Powell recognized Jay Corbalis, manager of planning and communications for the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID). Mr. Corbalis said that his BID encompasses the bridge and its northwest approach, and he confirmed the Commission member comments that the area has been undergoing rapid change. He noted that the northwest oval would be situated between the baseball stadium and a planned soccer stadium, making it a likely focal point for the neighborhood; its design will therefore be important in shaping people's activities and movement patterns for future generations. He said that the BID has experience with other nearby parks and encourages the recommendation from the Commission to support active use of the open space along with well–designed pedestrian and bicycle circulation. He requested that the Commission assist in ensuring that these concerns receive strong consideration in the procurement process for the project.
Chairman Powell summarized the consensus of the Commission that the project is not yet ready for concept approval; he suggested consolidating the comments of the Commission members to send to the project team, with further assistance from the Commission staff in the project's development. Mr. Luebke noted that much of the Commission's guidance involves DDOT's process for the project; Chairman Powell confirmed the Commission's interest in a clearer understanding of how the design–build process will affect the design. He emphasized the Commission's interest in assisting DDOT in achieving the best possible project. The discussion concluded without a formal action.
F. District of Columbia Department of General Services
1. CFA 19/SEP/13–7, D.C. Preparatory Academy Public Charter School (former Benning Elementary School), 100 41st Street, NE. Building rehabilitation and addition. Final.
2. CFA 19/SEP/13–8, Brookland Middle School, 1150 Michigan Avenue, NE. Replacement school building. Concept. (Previous: CFA 18/JUL/13– 5.)
These submissions were approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
G. District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1. Old Georgetown Act
OG 13–307, Georgetown University, 3700 O Street, NW. New athletic training facility. Concept. (Previous: OG 12–291, October 2012.) The submission was approved earlier in the meeting without a presentation, following agenda item II.A.
2. Shipstead–Luce Act
SL 13–126, Watergate, 600 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. New outdoor dining and bar areas and bocce court. Concept. (Previous: SL 13–106, July 2013–SL Appendix.)
Ms. Batcheler introduced the concept submission for alterations and additions to the outdoor terrace of the Ancora restaurant, located at the southernmost building of the Watergate complex. The proposal includes a partially enclosed outdoor bar, a dining area, a bocce court, a fire pit, and a trellis. She said that in July 2013, through the Shipstead–Luce Act appendix, the Commission had provided recommendations on the concept, requesting that the ground plane be simplified and the proposed trellis and bar on the north be eliminated. The current proposal is a modified version of the July submission: one trellis has been eliminated, but the bar has been enlarged and curved in plan, and the site plan otherwise remains unchanged. She introduced architect Francisco Beltran of Design Republica to present the proposal.
Mr. Beltran described the site as an underused outdoor area of the Watergate complex facing the Kennedy Center, the Potomac River, and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway; the terrace is approximately fourteen feet above the adjacent grade of the parkway. He indicated the features of the terrace and adjacent areas: the existing wooden deck; a concrete walkway along the outside edge of the lawn; a terrace–level swimming pool used by residents of the adjacent eleven–story residential building; and a planting trough along the property line between the pool and the project area, containing a tall hedge and a row of trees.
Mr. Beltran described the proposal for a 38–foot–long bar at the north of the site and a steel trellis on the east; the trellis would have a retractable fabric canopy above seating areas and a linear divider containing gas flames. The proposal also includes a small fire pit and a regulation–size 12–by–60–foot bocce court would extend along the west side. He said that the previous design included a linear bar and an open trellis with small sofas, but both the Commission and the D.C. Historic Preservation Office objected to this grouping. The revised proposal is a curved bar structure made of laminated cedar set on concrete posts. The bar would have a green roof; during colder weather, fold–down doors would enclose the bar. The trellis canopy would be bright orange. Two large planters would contain Japanese maple trees. The bocce court, also of laminated wood, would be recessed into the terrace, and the existing wooden deck would be retained with some alterations. He presented several perspective renderings, commenting that he had sought to create structures that are both elegant and subtle; the bar's curved profile was inspired by the curving lines of the Watergate buildings. Mr. Luebke noted that the staff has been generally supportive of the proposal's planning, but believes the bar's geometric logic is uncharacteristic of the complex, and therefore the staff has asked that the design be presented to the Commission.
Mr. Freelon commented that the scheme as depicted in the renderings is neither elegant nor subtle. He said that the heavy laminated wood structures seem inappropriate in juxtaposition to the lighter trellis, and none of the structures—including the trellis with its orange fabric and the large planters—work well individually or together. He asked for clarification of the guiding idea; Mr. Beltran responded that he had considered different ways of covering the bar, such as a flat roof. Ms. Meyer asked for a specific discussion of the conceptual idea for the ensemble of elements; Mr. Beltran responded that it is based on a synergy of entertainment for adults. Ms. Meyer asked why he these three forms are being used together, commenting that they look as if they were created by three different designers. Mr. Beltran responded that the group makes sense in plan, and he could develop them further in elevation and materials.
Mr. Krieger agreed that the plan seems reasonable, but commented that the renderings appeared to have been drawn by children: they are not in scale and do not represent the same proportions. He said that the bar resembles a "Chia Pet" and the laminated wood structure is too heavy; Mr. Beltran responded that the drawback with perspective renderings is that people might see them as realistic. Mr. Powell said he also agrees that the plan and use are fine, but commented that the bar looks like something from Hansel and Gretel. Mr. Freelon said that the problems include the basic idea and how the forms work together. Mr. Beltran said that the problem may be the viewpoint of the renderings; Ms. Meyer and Mr. Krieger disagreed, and Mr. Krieger said that the proposal simply does not look good. Mr. Beltran asked for clarification, noting that he had chosen to use the curving green roof to avoid a hard appearance. Mr. Schlossberg said that the bar in the perspective views does not look like a curved structure, and its height, depth, and length do not resemble its plan depiction. He added that the materials do not work together: the Watergate is a sophisticated environment, while the bar looks like it belongs at a beach. Mr. Freelon agreed that the proposed bar seems too rustic for the Watergate, while the trellis structure is more appropriate; he also noted the difficulty of discerning the scale of the renderings because no people are shown.
Mr. Krieger described the submission as amateurish and expressed reluctance to comment further; he said that the problem is partly the proposed materials, but mostly in the rendering that is completely out of proportion to the plan, and he recommended another submission with a different drawing. Mr. Freelon suggested widening the view to show more of the other elements and their relation to the whole. Mr. Beltran responded that he had hesitated moving forward without an approval of the proposed use, and now he would give the rendering more attention.
Ms. Meyer noted that the project will be seen in relation to the Kennedy Center, the Potomac River, and Roosevelt Island; she questioned the appropriateness of its juxtaposition with the Kennedy Center in particular. She advised looking at the project's effect in all directions since it will be part of a dramatic river landscape. She recommended simplifying the vocabulary, perhaps retaining the elegant trabeated system of the trellis in steel or wood and using a single exciting color instead of several. She emphasized that a bar seemingly from a children's cartoon should not be placed next to the Kennedy Center.
Mr. Beltran said that he would simplify the bar and make it more elegant; he asked if the Commission members also objected to the design of the trellis. Ms. Meyer said that the orange color of the canopy might be too much; Mr. Beltran suggested using a brown to blend in with the steel and aluminum. Mr. Schlossberg emphasized that this is an elegant location and the trellis is a somewhat elegant structure. He advised using that form for the other elements, as well as simplifying the materials and colors; Mr. Powell agreed. Mr. Luebke said that if the design is resolved satisfactorily, it could be reported to the Commission as a Shipstead–Luce appendix item.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Last Modified: November 22, 2013