Dear Mr. Hanlon:
In its meeting of 20 March, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the concept design for proposed alterations and additions to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, located at 1680 35th Street, NW. Expressing appreciation for the responsiveness to the previous review, the Commission members present recommended approval of the new submission with comments for further development of the design.
While noting the difficult issues of adapting this classical building to modern needs, the Commission members concluded that the proposal is appropriate for accommodating this school's specialized curriculum. They supported the proposed simplification of the side and rear facades, intended to be more compatible with the historic building and the lower−scaled residential context; they encouraged attention to the detailing of materials to provide a sense of texture, color, variety, and scale within the simplified architectural forms. They also acknowledged the improved documentation of the theater fly loft, including the visibility studies and the coordination of the drawings with an apparent reduction in height.
For the school's east front, the Commission members acknowledged the improvements to the design including removal of the surface parking lot, reconfiguration of the entrance area, and greater emphasis on the formal landscape setting. They supported the proposed entrance scheme involving reconstruction of the historic porches flanking the central portico; they recommended careful study of the design to maximize the separation of the proposed glass enclosures from the freestanding Ionic columns, similar in spirit to the proposed glass "lantern" within the historic portico. They also suggested that this lantern be extended to the portico ceiling to avoid creating an awkward upper space that would be difficult to maintain.
As there was not a quorum during the review of the project, this recommendation will be placed on the administrative agenda for confirmation at the Commission's meeting of 17 April. The Commission looks forward to review of the final design; please coordinate the next submission with the staff, which is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Brian Hanlon, Director
D.C. Department of General Services
2000 14th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20009
cc: Chris Graae, Cox Graae + Spack Architects