Dear Ms. Wright:
In its meeting of 20 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for a new mixed–use building on Parcel N of the Southeast Federal Center (The Yards) at 4th and Tingey Streets, SE. The Commission did not approve the concept and made several recommendations for the design.
The Commission members supported the basic massing of the proposed building—a five–story base, a long upper volume fronting 4th Street, and a series of three pavilions along the west side—but found the relationship between the individual volumes problematic. They observed that the upper glass bar element, differentiated from the rest of the building in character, material, proportions, and detailing, appears to be merely placed upon the masonry base without resulting in an integrated design. They commented that this effect is exacerbated by cantilevering the bar at both ends; they questioned the intention to contrast the architectural form and expression of this element so sharply with the rest of the building. Above all, the Commission members recommended that the design would benefit from reconsideration of the entire building as a unified composition of volumes. They recommended more consistency in the treatment of the parapet walls on all the masonry volumes, observing that that this detail is critical in clarifying the relationship of the five–story masonry base to the glass volume above. They also recommended that the base of the building be treated more consistently to appear either as a load–bearing masonry structure carrying the lines of the upper floors to grade, or as a patterned masonry skin with offset openings, rather than a combination of these two approaches as presented.
The Commission looks forward to further review of the concept design. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Mina Wright, Director
Office of Planning and Design Quality
U.S. General Services Administration
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407–0001
cc: Sarge Gardiner, Robert A.M. Stern Architects
Jason Bonnet, Forest City Washington
David Maloney, D.C. Historic Preservation Office