Dear Mr. Gans:
In its meeting of 20 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a design submitted by DC Water for a new water tower, enclosing structure, and associated site work at the St. Elizabeths Hospital east campus, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Expressing significant concerns regarding the design of the enclosing structure, the Commission approved the final design of the water tower only and made the following comments for the development of the other project elements to be resubmitted as a new concept design.
In their review, the Commission members questioned the underlying design premise for the proposed enclosing structure of mesh screening, suggesting that this new landmark should have meaning for the local community it is intended to serve, rather than merely screening the view of the water tower itself. They recommended that a strong formal idea be developed to guide the design, and they noted that many of the precedents presented relied primarily on either color or simple form–rather than screening–to create meaningful icons of civic infrastructure. They observed that the proposed spiral form of the screening may appear to be unfinished and may undermine the clear reading of the water tower as a landmark; they recommended that any enclosing structure present itself consistently from all directions to create a more legible iconic form. Reiterating their advice from their previous review of the project in 2010, the Commission members encouraged DC Water to engage the services of a professional artist in determining the best approach for the design, whether it be an ancillary screening structure such as proposed currently, or a simpler treatment of the water tower itself. They again recommended the use of lighting, integrated at the conceptual level, to reinforce the perception of the tower as a landmark.
The Commission members also urged DC Water to consider the design of the site surrounding the water tower as a demonstration of the principles and techniques of green infrastructure promoted elsewhere in the city, consistent with DC Water's new approach toward sustainability and the legibility of water infrastructure. They recommended that the landscape, access roads, and the enclosing structure of the water tower be carefully studied as to their functions and relationships, and designed as a more unified concept. Finally, the Commission members commented that the presentation seemed fragmented and incomplete, with the various models, renderings, and site plans either missing information or showing obsolete designs; they requested that the next presentation include comprehensive, coordinated drawings and models.
The Commission looks forward to the review of a new concept design for the enclosing structure and landscape for the water tower. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Roger L. Gans
Manager, Planning and Design
D.C. Water and Sewer Authority
5000 Overlook Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20032
cc: Lee Quill, Cunningham Quill Architects