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 10:18 a.m.
Hon. Earl A. Powell, Chairman
Hon. Pamela Nelson, Vice-Chairman
Hon. Diana Balmori
Hon. John Belle
Hon. Michael McKinnell
Hon. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
Hon. Witold Rybczynski
Thomas E. Luebke, Secretary
Frederick J. Lindstrom, Assistant Secretary
A. Approval of the minutes of the 17 September meeting. Mr. Luebke reported that the minutes of the September meeting were circulated to the Commission members in advance. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the minutes. Mr. Luebke said that the minutes will be made available on the Commission's website.
B. Dates of next meetings. Mr. Luebke presented the regularly scheduled dates for upcoming Commission meetings: 19 November, 21 January, and 18 February; no meeting is scheduled in December.
C. Report on acquisition by the Freer Gallery. Mr. Luebke reported that the Freer Gallery had acquired a new work at auction in September: a stoneware storage jar for tea leaves, created in China in the 13th or 14th century and imported to Japan. He said the ceremonial container is layered with inscriptions describing the rank of its Japanese owners; few such pieces exist outside of Japan. Chairman Powell said that he approved the acquisition on behalf of the Commission because of the impending auction date, based on a meeting with the museum's curator. Mr. Luebke clarified that only the Chairman's approval is needed pursuant to the stipulation of Charles Freer, the museum's original donor.
II. Submissions and Reviews
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 that there were no changes to the draft consent calendar nor the report of delegated items. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the Direct Submission Consent Calendar.
Appendix II – Shipstead-Luce Act submissions: Ms. Batcheler reported two changes to the draft appendix. The recommendation for case number SL 09-110, the enlargement of a canopy at the Woodward Building, was changed to be favorable based on modifications to the design. The recommendation for case number SL 09-112, concerning 2400 Tilden Street, NW, has been refined based on supplemental information and remains favorable. She also noted three cases that were initially submitted by the D.C. government as Shipstead-Luce Act cases, but are instead being treated as direct submissions for D.C. government projects; two were listed on Appendix I, while the New York Avenue public art submission was withdrawn and will be resubmitted. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the revised appendix. (See item II.E for an additional Shipstead-Luce Act submission.)
Appendix III – Old Georgetown Act Submissions: Mr. Martinez reported several changes to the draft appendix. The negative recommendations for three cases have been changed to be favorable based on the receipt of supplemental information; additional minor updates were made to other listings in response to supplemental information. He said that the recommendation for the project at 3314 Reservoir Road, NW, would be finalized when the full permit application package is received that conforms to the initial supplemental drawings that were provided. [This project was subsequently postponed at the request of the applicant.] Upon a motion by Mr. Belle with second by Ms. Plater-Zyberk, the Commission approved the revised appendix.
B. Department of the Treasury / U.S. Mint
Mr. Luebke said that the two submissions from the U.S. Mint would be presented in the reverse of the order listed on the agenda, beginning with the medal honoring Constantino Brumidi and then the medal honoring Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). He noted the presence of audience members wishing to address the Commission concerning the Brumidi medal. Mr. Simon described the papers being distributed to the Commission members: several letters from members of the public concerning the Brumidi medal, with most letters supporting alternative #2 for the obverse and #2 for the reverse; and a revised alternative for one of the WASP designs. He introduced Kaarina Budow from the U.S. Mint to present the medal designs.
2. CFA 15/OCT/09-2, Congressional Gold Medal for Constantino Brumidi. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow provided reproductions of two renowned frescoes by Brumidi—Liberty and The Apotheosis of George Washington—that were used as models for the design alternatives. She described the legislation authorizing the medal and summarized Brumidi's biography. He was born in Rome in 1805 to Italian and Greek parents and later became a U.S. citizen; he painted many frescoes and murals in the U.S. Capitol beginning in 1855, including committee rooms, major offices, corridors, and the rotunda interior. She described his artistic inspirations in Classical and Renaissance art and his devotion to the United States. Ms. Budow presented three alternatives for the obverse design, each with a portrait of Brumidi, as well as four alternatives for the reverse containing details of his artwork and inscriptions of varying length.
Mr. Luebke summarized the approximately eight letters from the public that were recently received and distributed to the Commission members, with most letters supporting CB-O-02 and CB-R-02, with some support for CB-O-03 due to the inclusion of brushes beside the portrait to indicate Brumidi's work as an artist. Chairman Powell recognized Joe Grano, chair of the Constantino Brumidi Society. Mr. Grano said that this society has worked for ten years to promote Brumidi to the Congress and the public. He said that the portrait in CB-O-02 is best because Brumidi is looking at the viewer, appears happy, and gives an "emotional feeling." He added that CB-O-03 would also be a satisfactory alternative, noting the inclusion of the artist's brushes.
The Chairman recognized Ann Martinez, who has painted several portraits of Brumidi. She agreed with Mr. Grano's support of the portrait in CB-O-02, commenting on the "virile" and happy expression as well as the shorter beard. Mr. Powell commented that the beard in CB-O-03 gives Brumidi the appearance of Robert E. Lee; Ms. Budow said that another review committee had made the same comment.
Ms. Balmori emphasized that the Commission's role is to comment on the aesthetic merits of the alternatives. She commented that the composition of CB-O-01 is best, due to the wide circular border and its relation to the top of Brumidi's head; she added that CB-O-02 has the appearance of a photograph inserted into the design.
Mr. Rybczynski supported alternative CB-O-03, expressing opposition to the wide decorative border in the other two obverse designs. He said that CB-O-03 has an admirable simplicity, the appropriate inclusion of brushes, and a pose that is closer to a profile which is more successful than head-on views in coins and medals. Ms. Balmori expressed regret that CB-O-03 is not more fully in profile; Mr. Rybczynski agreed that a true profile would be preferable. Mr. Belle and Mr. McKinnell also supported CB-O-03.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the comments from the Commission members as well as the public suggest the desirability of recommending a new obverse design. She supported the overall composition of CB-O-01 and the facial expression of CB-O-02, while objecting to this design's placement of Brumidi's name across his chest. She added that the overall design of both sides of the medal is also a consideration, and CB-O-03 is most compatible with a reverse design. Chairman Powell confirmed that the Commission does not need to support one of the submitted alternatives; Mr. Luebke said that it may be useful for the Mint if Commission could provide comments on a first and second choice among the designs.
Ms. Nelson commented that the portrait in CB-O-01 is the more familiar and recognizable image of Brumidi, agreeing that the portrait in CB-O-03 could easily be mistaken for Robert E. Lee. Mr. Powell supported the portrait in CB-O-02 but the composition in CB-O-01, which avoids the problem of placing lettering across Brumidi's chest. He added that the bow tie in CB-O-01 appears to be placed inappropriately low. He therefore proposed a recommendation of the composition of CB-O-01 and the portrait of CB-O-02; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed. Mr. Powell clarified that this recommendation would include placing Brumidi's name along the circular border as in CB-O-01; Ms. Budow noted that the rightward position of the portrait in CB-O-02 might necessitate reconfiguring all of the text toward the left side. Mr. Powell said that the portrait position could be adjusted from CB-O-02 as long as the text is removed from the chest; he acknowledged that placing the text along the lower rim could also be feasible. Ms. Plater-Zyberk supported this recommendation, commenting that the comparative continuity of the decorative border in CB-O-01 is preferable to its complete interruption by the top of Brumidi's head in CB-O-02. Mr. Rybczynski reiterated his dissatisfaction with the decorative border and declined to support Mr. Powell's recommendation.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's partial consensus to support a composite of the first two obverse designs, acknowledging that the Commission's letter could also include reference to Mr. Rybczynski's dissenting opinion. Ms. Balmori emphasized that the decorative border is based on Brumidi's own artwork; the design of CB-O-01 is therefore representative of Brumidi's decorative style as well as being well composed. Chairman Powell suggested that the Commission's comments be conveyed to the Mint without a formal action to approve or disapprove any particular alternatives.
The Commission then discussed the four reverse alternatives. Ms. Balmori commented that CB-R-01 is the most balanced design, while CB-R-02 has the appearance of cutting or deforming the circular artwork. She said that the artwork used in the remaining two reverse alternatives is unsatisfactory. Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that, as with the obverse, the Commission could recommend a combination of the first two alternatives: the composition of CB-R-01, including the curved lettering at the bottom, combined with the central phrase "Artist of the Capitol" from CB-R-02. Ms. Nelson agreed that this proposal would combine the superior design of CB-R-01 with the simple text of CB-R-02.
Ms. Budow noted that the three-inch-diameter format for this medal would provide the opportunity for extensive relief and detail. Mr. Grano offered support for the Commission's consensus, emphasizing the iconic national importance of the artwork, The Apotheosis of George Washington, in alternatives CB-R-01 and CB-R-02, as well as the appropriateness of the phrase "Artist of the Capitol" which was used to describe Brumidi during his lifetime. He agreed with the Commission that a lengthy quotation, as in CB-R-01 and CB-R-03, would be objectionable on a medal.
Upon a motion by Ms. Balmori with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission recommended the composite design described by Chairman Powell, with the central text of CB-R-02 placed within the overall design of CB-R-01.
1. CFA 15/OCT/09-1, Congressional Gold Medal for Women Airforce Service Pilots. Design for a gold medal and bronze duplicates. Final. Ms. Budow described the legislation authorizing a medal to issue a single gold medal that commemorates the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who served in World War II. She said that these women were the first to fly U.S. military aircraft, overcoming biases and injustices to serve their country; their service became a catalyst for later revolutionary reforms in the U.S. armed forces, including the permanent acceptance of women for military pilot training beginning in the 1970s.
Ms. Budow presented three alternative designs for the obverse, depicting various compositions of women pilots and airplanes with the dates "1942-1944." She then presented the two alternatives for the reverse, noting the corrected version of design WP-R-01 that adds the airplane number to the nose as well as body of the AT-6 airplane. She said that both designs include the WASP wings insignia.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if the lettering of "W.A.S.P." on design WP-R-02 is a logo of that period; Ms. Budow confirmed that the lettering is based on a pin that WASP members wore on their uniforms, and the wings insignia is based on another pin. Ms. Nelson noted that this text on the reverse would be redundant with the "WASP" text on obverse design WP-O-03; Ms. Budow responded that one of these elements could be eliminated.
Ms. Budow said that the many living WASP members have been polled and have expressed overwhelming support for obverse WP-O-02 and reverse WP-R-01, noting the preference for the group of airplanes in this reverse design. Ms. Balmori said that WP-R-01 is the better composition of the two reverse alternatives but commented that the wings insignia is awkwardly placed, with the bottom of the image cut off. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that WP-R-01 conveys more information; Mr. Powell and Ms. Balmori agreed. Mr. Belle also supported WP-R-01 but described it as only "marginally acceptable," commenting that all three of the airplanes are tied to the rim even though the theme should be free movement in space.
Ms. Budow noted that the large format of the medal—with a three-inch diameter—would allow for detailed sculpting of the airplane wings, with the background planes modeled in low relief. Mr. Powell acknowledged the sculptural potential and reiterated his support for WP-R-01. Mr. Belle suggested redesigning the wings insignia; Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that this insignia is the historic symbol of the group but suggested that the horizontal edge separating this insignia from the sky scene could be eliminated. Mr. Belle agreed that the insignia could float within the sky area. Ms. Plater-Zyberk added that elimination of this horizontal edge would avoid the intersection of the lower airplane's wing with the lower border.
Mr. Luebke said that members of the audience have requested the opportunity to address the Commission. Chairman Powell recognized Angie Knappenberger from the staff of Senator Barbara Mikulski, who co-sponsored the legislation for the medal. Ms. Knappenberger introduced Roxi Dolphin from the staff of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, another co-sponsor. Ms. Knappenberger said they had spoken with former WASP members who perceived the symbolism in WP-R-01 of the airplane wings extending into the border as "breaking through the barriers" and "pushing the boundary" rather than being tied back. She added that the WASP members are proud of having earned their wings and supported the inclusion of the wing pin insignia in the medal design.
Ms. Dolphin said that the WASP members support WP-O-02 because the composition of several women makes it easier for the WASP members to envision themselves in the setting; the goggles are a well-liked feature; the design is well composed in a classic manner; and the foreground woman's gaze is reminiscent of their own flying experience. She indicated the airplane crossing the border circle in this design, again symbolizing the women "breaking the glass ceiling." She said that one of the WASP members commented that the goggles and hat would actually not have been used by pilots flying the depicted AT-6 plane, which had a canopy enclosing the cockpit.
Ms. Balmori supported WP-O-02, commenting that it is the best composition among the obverse alternatives. Mr. Powell agreed, commenting that the design has a character reminiscent of the 1940s. Mr. Rybczynski commented that the combination of WP-O-02 and WP-R-01 would result in excessive repetition of airplanes breaking barriers. He supported the first obverse design, depicting a small portion of an airplane, which would relate well to the complete airplanes depicted on the reverse in WP-R-01. Mr. McKinnell opposed alternative WP-O-01, commenting that the drawing of the figure is "very confused."
Mr. Powell reiterated his support for WP-O-02, commenting that technical skill will be required to sculpt the expression in the portrait as depicted in the drawing. Ms. Nelson said that the clouds behind the foreground woman's head would also require skillful sculpting as a distinct low-relief layer. Ms. Balmori recommended that the cloud be eliminated from the design; Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the cloud shape could instead be refined.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's consensus to support alternatives WP-O-02 for the obverse, subject to revision of the cloud; and WP-R-01 for the reverse, subject to revision at the lower part of the coin to continue the circular border and set the wings insignia onto the field of the sky. Ms. Budow said that the Mint could work with the artist in responding to this recommendation. Chairman Powell clarified that the recommendation does not involve removal of the entire border, but includes adjusting the position of the lower airplane to avoid the placement of the nose tip directly adjacent to the border. Mr. McKinnell commented that placing the entire wings insignia within the adjusted border would require further shifting of the lower airplane's position; Mr. Belle suggested shrinking this airplane, while Ms. Balmori suggested shrinking the wings insignia. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the circular border could pass behind the wings insignia in an overlapping format. Chairman Powell included these comments as part of the Commission's support for WP-R-01 with adjustments to the design. Upon a second by Mr. Belle, the Commission adopted this recommendation.
At this point the Commission returned to the order of the agenda with item II.C.
C. Department of Veterans Affairs
CFA 15/OCT/09-3, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 50 Irving Street, NW. Master Plan. Final. (Previous: CFA 17/SEP/09-5.) Ms. Batcheler said that the submission attempts to address the Commission's comments on the draft master plan that was reviewed the previous month. She introduced Mike Dunfee, associate director of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), to begin the presentation. Mr. Dunfee said that the introductory part of the presentation would be similar to the previous month's, while the remaining images would focus on the changes to the proposed master plan. He introduced architect Jim Curran of Ellerbe Becket to present the proposal.
Mr. Curran summarized the VAMC site and its context, including the views from the site and its relationship to the North Capitol Street axis. He emphasized the many potential changes to the context in the next 10 to 15 years, including redevelopment of the adjacent portion of the Armed Forces Retirement Home and new development around a reconfigured intersection at the cloverleaf interchange of North Capitol and Irving Streets. He described the existing main hospital building, varying from two to four above-ground levels plus a mechanical penthouse. He indicated the existing surface parking areas which generally surround the main building, as well as the research building, community living center, daycare center, and three-story parking garage.
Mr. Curran said that the master plan is intended to address the VAMC needs over the next ten years. The existing 900,000 square feet of facilities would nearly be doubled through a combination of large and small projects. Due to desired functional relationships with existing facilities, the main clinical expansion would be on the west side of the main building, the research expansion would be adjacent to the existing research building, and the community living center expansion would extend from that existing facility in a location currently occupied by the parking structure. Two new parking structures are proposed to meet current needs more adequately as well as to accommodate the increased need generated by the planned additional facilities; these parking structures would allow for the existing surface parking areas to be used as building sites. He emphasized that public transportation is encouraged and the amount of proposed parking is therefore less than recommended by health-care industry standards.
Mr. Curran described the responses to the Commission's previous comments. He said that the project team discussed extensively the recommendation to line the parking structures with additional uses; however, the conclusion was that the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot lease space to an outside entity unless the space is not needed by the federal government, which he called "an impossible task to prove" on this constrained site with extensive planned expansions. In order to address the Commission's concern about the pedestrian experience along First Street, the proposed parking structures have been shortened from nearly 500 to 300 feet in length; this will result in additional parking levels, some of which could potentially be located below grade. As an additional improvement to the urban context, he indicated the elimination of the previously proposed entrance drive paralleling First Street, leading to a new main entrance; instead, the main entrance to the hospital would remain in its existing location to the northwest and a simpler driveway configuration would lead to it, allowing the expansion on the west side of the main building to move closer to First Street. The result would be an even building alignment along First Street—maintaining the security requirement of a fifty-foot setback—as well as the opportunity to create lightwells or courtyards in other parts of the hospital building.
Mr. Curran presented the revised proposal for roadways throughout the campus, indicating the vehicle-free areas of the courtyards, the relationship of the main entrance drop-off area to the north parking structure, drop-off access to the proposed Fisher House, and the ambulance drop-off area which would be shielded by a screen wall. He indicated the transportation center along First Street near the main entrance. It would be served by Metro buses, simplifying the current complex bus route through the multiple hospitals in the area, and would provide a covered waiting area for passengers as well as accommodating the turning movements of buses. Mr. Rybczynski asked about the additional traffic connections indicated on the circulation diagram; Mr. Curran responded that the dashed lines indicate routes that would be available for emergency vehicles or the VAMC's internal operations, but these routes would be designed primarily as pedestrian areas and would not be available for public vehicular traffic.
Ms. Balmori asked about vehicular access to the daycare center, located near the proposed south parking structure which is intended for staff use. Mr. Curran responded that much, although not all, of the daycare center's users are the children of staff members, making this location convenient for drop-off; he indicated the driveway within the courtyard to serve the daycare center. Ms. Balmori asked about other driveways in the courtyard; Mr. Curran responded that the only other vehicular route would be the continuation of this drop-off loop.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the proposed consolidation of parking. Mr. Curran responded that the two proposed parking structures would each have eight levels of which two or three could be below grade; he emphasized that the parking structures would be lower than the nearby hospital building due to the shorter height of each floor. Mr. Belle questioned the placement of the parking at the periphery of the site, which creates additional circulation problems. Mr. Curran said that alternative locations were considered for the parking structures, and the current proposal was chosen due to the desirable relationships to building entrances and to First Street, minimizing the need for vehicular circulation within the campus. Mr. Belle commented that some people coming to the campus would have limited mobility, suggesting the desirability of locating the parking closer to the hospital facilities; Mr. Curran responded that the proposed locations are relatively close, and he emphasized the drop-off areas directly adjacent to the main entrance. He also indicated the potential location of a pedestrian bridge that would connect the north parking structure to the upper portion of the two-story atrium at the main entrance. Mr. Dunfee added that the VAMC already provides valet parking and anticipates continuing this program; a person with very limited mobility could therefore drive up to the main entrance and leave the vehicle with the valet staff. Mr. Belle commented that the actual destination for patients would likely be deep within the large hospital building, adding to the travel distances. Mr. Curran confirmed that all patients would arrive at the main entrance area regardless of their destination within the building, and the design goal is therefore to relate the parking configuration to the main entrance area. Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if visitors to facilities at the south end of the campus, such as the community living center, could park in the south parking structure and walk to that facility; Mr. Curran confirmed that this would be permissible, with some complexity in the likely actual use of the parking facilities.
Mr. Belle reiterated his dissatisfaction with the distant siting of the parking structures; Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the problem may result from the large area occupied by the hospital building. Ms. Nelson said that patients could arrive at the main entrance and then use a wheelchair if necessary to reach a distant destination in the hospital building. Mr. Dunfee confirmed that this is the current arrangement for people arriving at the main hospital; he added that greeters are available at the entrance or in the parking lot to assist people in reaching their destinations. Mr. Curran added that the current configuration of extensive surface parking lots results in many people having longer walking distances than would result from the proposed parking structures.
Mr. Curran described the circulation spine of the main hospital and the proposal to terminate it at the proposed southern courtyard area; the result would be a clear connection between the main entrance and the courtyard. He indicated the grade change which would allow this courtyard to have elevated views toward the U.S. Capitol and a potential connection downward 10 to 15 feet to the Michigan Avenue sidewalk, which would offer the opportunity to connect to planned development of retail and park space at the McMillan Reservoir filtration site to the south; this opening could be designed as a gap between building wings of the community living center.
Ms. Balmori commented that the south courtyard is awkwardly shaped as a public open space, having the character of a series of corridors. She indicated the proposed research facility expansion that cuts into the courtyard and asked if any of this new program could be constructed above the existing building rather than spreading outward from it. Mr. Curran responded that an option was considered to relocate the entire research function to another part of the campus, but the investment in the existing building has been substantial and relocation would be too costly. Vertical expansion of the existing building was also considered but would not be structurally feasible. He said that the resulting proposal is therefore the best functional location for the research expansion, and he noted that the courtyard would be 120 feet wide at its narrowest location. Ms. Balmori said that the proposed northern open space area on the campus appears to be more successfully configured but commented that the sequence of partially separated larger spaces to the south results in an awkward configuration that lacks a sense of continuity.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the southern courtyard be treated instead as a series of smaller places. Ms. Balmori agreed, suggesting that each space be shaped, and emphasized the value of including the open spaces, even if relatively small, in order to provide a sense of orientation for people within the hospital. She noted that the southern courtyard would be particularly valuable as an amenity for the community living center and asked about access from the hospital to the courtyard; Mr. Curran indicated the proposed connection from the main corridor. Several Commission members supported this connection, commenting that it would result in a successful courtyard.
Mr. Curran presented perspective views of the south courtyard area. Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the proposed massing for the community living center; Mr. Curran responded that the opening for the southward connection could be spanned by a high sunscreen, and would potentially have corridors to connect the upper-level floors. He explained that the evolving model for such facilities may allow for a set of separate buildings that could have plazas and courtyards between them. Ms. Balmori asked if the sunscreen could be designed as an accessible green roof, perhaps extending across the entire community living center; Mr. Curran responded that this would be possible and Mr. Belle commented that such a gesture would justify the creation of this large open roof feature.
Mr. Curran presented additional views of the proposed building massings at the prominent corner of North Capitol Street and Michigan Avenue and along the curve of North Capitol Street at the termination of the Capitol's north axis; he indicated the architectural emphasis that the master plan recommends for these locations. He said that the proposed one-floor addition to the existing two-story community living center would provide an opportunity to re-clad the entire facade, allowing for the revised treatment of the North Capitol Street features as well as improved massing and a more open character. He added that the dramatic view southward to the Capitol is an asset of the VAMC site and "should be taken advantage of"; he suggested that the community living center's day room, conference room, educational center, or library could occupy the location that enjoys this view, and a roof terrace is proposed above.
Mr. Curran presented a view of the massing along First Street, indicating the security fence that is required around the site; he noted that the existing fence is of poor quality, and the proposal would be an improvement. He described the proposed emphasis on glass in the facades of the hospital's expanded patient room wings, which he said is feasible and desirable in modern hospital design. Ms. Balmori reiterated the Commission's preference for retail space rather than a fence along this edge. Mr. Curran responded that this would be desirable but is not possible due to the rules of the Department of Veterans Affairs: the required fifty-foot standoff distance must be separate from buildings and must keep people as well as cars away from the VAMC buildings. He said that treating a retail building itself as the fence was considered but would be infeasible. He emphasized that these conclusions were reached after extensive but unsuccessful discussions with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Powell offered thanks for the design team's efforts to address this concern.
Mr. Curran presented four diagrams of the proposed phasing for implementation of the master plan, beginning with a series of relatively small projects. Mr. McKinnell asked if the remnants of the surface parking areas that appear in the illustrations of the later phases are an indication that landscaping will not occur until after the building construction phases. Mr. Curran clarified that landscaping would occur in conjunction with the appropriate phases, although the presentation diagrams illustrate only the massing of the buildings in each phase; he acknowledged that some existing site features and buildings to be demolished are inadvertently shown in later phasing diagrams.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked for a further description of the design character of the building along the center of the VAMC's First Street frontage, particularly the lower floors beneath the extensive glass facade areas that were described for the patient rooms on the upper floors. Mr. Curran responded that this new wing is designated as clinical expansion; the lower two floors would be an extension of functions such as examination rooms, imaging departments, and operating rooms, while the upper two floors would serve in-patients. He acknowledged the concern about whether these lower floors could have windows, and said that the design team is recommending that the areas immediately behind the facades on these floors be used for public circulation and secondary waiting areas for the clinical rooms, which would allow for including windows to provide natural light to these areas. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized the importance of windows as a means of enlivening the facade along the street.
Mr. Curran presented a view of the proposed transportation center, indicating a possible pedestrian bridge spanning First Street and connecting the VAMC hospital with the Washington Hospital Center. He said that some staff need to move between these campuses, and collisions between cars and pedestrians occur at this location. Ms. Nelson asked about the extent of interaction between the two hospital campuses, such as shared laboratories. Mr. Dunfee responded that staff crossover is limited, less than is typical at major medical centers; most VAMC physicians work entirely at the VAMC, while some residents and other trainees make use of both campuses.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk suggested that the intersection designated as a transportation center could be configured with a circle, which would serve as a turnaround for buses as well as facilitate the distribution of traffic, including emergency vehicles. Billy Farella of Ellerbe Becket responded that the project team has discussed this solution with the D.C. Department of Transportation, which will respond further. Ms. Plater-Zyberk commented that the introduction of a traffic circle could affect the shape of the parking garage, and she recommended that the master plan proposals not preclude a later decision to treat the intersection as a circle.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk asked if it would be possible to accommodate parking beneath the community living center, which was presented as having a main level that would be elevated substantially above the Michigan Avenue sidewalk. Mr. Curran acknowledged that the space beneath the main level could be put to some use, but that parking would not be permitted beneath the building due to security requirements. He confirmed that the security setback requirement also precludes siting the wellness center to abut the north parking garage. Mr. Luebke noted that the master plan allows for future development sites at the north edge of the campus, facing Irving Street; Mr. Curran said that there is a development zone along that edge which could potentially include retail space, but this would be subject to security and access requirements as well as the regulations concerning the leasing of facilities to outside uses. Chairman Powell commented that the submission is a master plan, and such adjustments may be accommodated later in a final design.
Mr. McKinnell commented that a master plan should include a statement of the intended character of the site's buildings and open spaces; he regretted that this issue is not addressed in this submission. He offered the example of providing a recommended character for the open spaces, such as ground-floor colonnades under which patients could sit, or for mitigating the appearance of the parking garages through techniques such as screens. He said that the only design guidance in the presentation was that the upper-floor facades of the clinical expansion would be primarily glass—a questionable proposal for this west-facing facade; he asked if the master plan provides any overall strategy for energy conservation. He emphasized that his recommendation concerns the need for the master plan to provide guidance on basic strategies rather than specific architectural design. He offered further examples of whether buildings would have green roofs—particularly for roofs that are visible from other buildings—and whether the top level of each parking garage would have features such as pergolas. He acknowledged the master plan's attention to resolving the hospital's internal issues, which he said is apparently accomplished, and supported the master plan's next step of proposing the creation of open spaces, but reiterated that the master plan stops short of proposing the character of these spaces. He noted that the treatment of these issues in the master plan can serve as a useful reminder to the client of the necessary costs in implementing these concepts.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk offered further comments on the treatment of proposed structures along First Street. She acknowledged the usefulness of pedestrian bridges but said that they are often unattractive and appear tacked on to the buildings. Parking garages, in the absence of design guidance in the master plan, are often constructed expeditiously with a typical pre-cast concrete system that does not readily accommodate connections to other structures. The new facade of the expanded hospital building would have its own design character, as would the small structure at the bus waiting area. She contrasted the utilitarian emphasis of this approach with the emerging trend to treat hospitals as an integral part of the wider community and its daily life. She emphasized that the hospital's image and experience of arrival are important to the well-being of its users—staff as well as patients and families—some of whom interact with the hospital for many years under potentially unpleasant circumstances. She acknowledged the project team's responsiveness to the Commission's comments in a short time, as well as the value of creating the proposed courtyards, but said that the overall perception of the campus remains a concern. She recommended a more holistic treatment of the entire First Street frontage of the campus, with an emphasis on a character that is more welcoming and even elevating. She noted that old hospitals successfully integrated connecting bridges, open spaces, and sun rooms using traditional styles such as Gothic or Georgian; she suggested that the master plan provide at least a brief statement in support of such a unified and welcoming character, which could be implemented in whatever style would be appropriate.
Mr. Curran responded that the design team has encouraged the Department of Veterans Affairs to take such an approach in the realization of the master plan. He reiterated that the master plan establishes the needed amount of parking, the advantages of consolidating it into structures, and the reasons for the proposed locations of the two garages. He agreed that utilitarian pre-cast concrete garages would not be a desirable result. He added that the master plan does generally establish a more open design character for the main building, which currently has an internal focus that is relieved only by a double-height glass atrium. The massing of new construction illustrated in the master plan provides many opportunities for a more pedestrian-friendly character, natural light, and a new image for the campus. He acknowledged the desirability of a unified architectural concept for the entire west face of the campus, including consideration of sustainability issues in the design of the hospital building's new west facade.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the additional design statement in the master plan should include these principles and should further state that the VAMC's First Street frontage should be a visually enjoyable backdrop for a future retail area that will likely be developed eventually on the west side of the street—retail space whose customers will include the VAMC community. She contrasted these principles with the currently submitted master plan's simple designation of parking garages.
Chairman Powell complimented the design team's efforts to accommodate the Commission's recommendations from the previous month and said that the master plan has improved. He suggested that the Commission's comments be incorporated into the next phase of the VAMC's development, a request that could be included in a motion to approve the final master plan; the comments would also become part of the record of the Commission's approval. Mr. Belle suggested that the Commission's action include a request that a response be included in the next submission; Chairman Powell agreed. Upon a motion by Ms. Plater-Zyberk with second by Mr. Belle, the Commission approved the master plan subject to the comments provided and their treatment in a revised final document.
D. Department of Agriculture
CFA 15/OCT/09-4, U.S. National Arboretum, New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, NE. National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. Sign Master Plan. Concept/Final. Mr. Lindstrom introduced Nancy Luria, director of education and visitor services at the National Arboretum, and Faye Harwell of the landscape architecture firm Rhodeside & Harwell to present the proposed master plan for signs. Ms. Luria described the Arboretum's National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, a collection of living plants in an array of interior and exterior galleries. The collections include galleries for Japanese, Chinese, North American, and other international plants, as well as a lecture-demonstration center and staff offices. She said that the sign master plan will help to unify the museum's facilities and is the second phase of a landscape design prepared by Rhodeside & Harwell; the first phase, providing accessibility improvements, has already been completed. The scope includes wayfinding, building identification, and interpretive signage.
Ms. Harwell described the components of the proposed sign system. The entry area would include a fence-mounted sign at the entry gate. A series of panels, including an informational map, would be located near the first pavilion along with a moveable brochure rack. Smaller wall-mounted panels would provide changeable information about special events and temporary exhibits; small changeable signs would describe the individual plants being exhibited. Donor recognition signage would be consolidated to a single interior location. Each pavilion would be labeled with wall-mounted lettering to improve on the current unclear identification.
Ms. Harwell described the materials and design of the signs, which would typically be mounted by a cable system. Materials would include simple banners, porcelain enamel signs, stainless steel frames, and pin-mounted lettering. The colors would primarily be pale gray tones, intended to provide a recessive character within the stone and wood of the museum setting; an insignia would be in red to denote the Asian influence. The lower portion of many signs would include a gray curve that is part of the Arboretum's logo. The building lettering would include the appropriate Asian characters as well as each building's English name. Ms. Balmori asked about the material of these letters; Ms. Harwell said they would be anodized bronze, with a height of 3 5/8 inches, and would be mounted one inch in front of the wall to generate a shadow.
Ms. Harwell presented photographic simulations of the signs in the existing museum setting. She indicated the pattern of wall staining at the Japanese pavilion; in accordance with the Japanese aesthetic tradition of "wabi-sabi," this patina of aging would be left undisturbed but may be affected by a future renovation of the Japanese pavilion that is currently under consideration. Ms. Nelson expressed support for retaining the stain pattern; Ms. Harwell said that issues of long-term maintenance and structural stability may affect the decision.
Ms. Harwell described the proposed signs at the entrance to the lecture-demonstration center. Vinyl paste-on panels would be placed on the glass door to indicate "Welcome" during public events or "Staff Only" at other times; an adjacent wall-mounted frame would hold changeable banner signs to describe events. Changeable free-standing signs on heavy steel-plate bases could be moved to additional locations as needed. She presented the interior donor panel signs, which would use the same system—stainless steel, cable rails, and porcelain panels—as the exterior signs. She confirmed that these signs could be replaced as needed to recognize additional donors.
Ms. Harwell presented the proposed labeling of the specimens. The existing system of clip-on signs along the wood display racks would be retained for the new signs. Different color bands would be used to distinguish between the Japanese, Chinese, North American, and special collections. She noted the proposed "Do Not Touch" sign that is regrettably needed at each specimen. For the exterior specimens mounted on stone plinths, the labeling would be clipped onto small steel pins drilled into the stone. She indicated the potential to include extensive background information in the labeling, such as the story of the person who crafted the specimen, in addition to the standard labels indicating the species, country of origin, year, creator, and donor, as well as the telephone number for a cell-phone tour. She described the interior exhibit of stones in the international pavilion, noting that the base of each specimen is an important part of the display; the proposed labeling would be placed on the wood display shelves, away from the bases, and would again use a clip-on system that would be angled slightly to improve legibility.
Ms. Nelson commented that the proposed gray background color, while appropriate for the other settings, appears too cool when placed against these interior wood shelves; she recommended a warmer gray tone that would be more complimentary. Ms. Harwell responded that a variety of tones was considered but the goal was to choose a consistent color so that exhibits and labels could be moved between indoor and outdoor display areas, adding that the tree displays are normally moved seasonally between indoor and outdoor locations. She offered to give further consideration to the selection of a single tone that addresses all of these situations, agreeing that the goal is to make the labels as inconspicuous as possible with emphasis being on the exhibits themselves. She said that an interior interactive computer system would provide more extensive information to visitors, reducing the need to place extensive information on the labels.
Ms. Balmori expressed support for the proposal, commenting that it is well coordinated. However, she questioned the proposal for the vinyl paste-on signs, characterizing them as "excessively utilitarian" compared to the refinement of the other proposed signs. Ms. Harwell offered to give further consideration to these vinyl signs.
Chairman Powell noted that the project is listed as both a concept and final submission. Mr. Lindstrom clarified that this is the Commission's first review of the proposal, but the design is sufficiently developed that final approval could be appropriate. Mr. Luebke noted that the staff had previously met with the project team, and the submission is responsive to the staff concerns—particularly the treatment of donor recognition. Ms. Harwell added that the donor recognition issue is being coordinated with the National Capital Planning Commission, which is currently restudying its guidelines on this topic; the result may be an opportunity to propose additional donor information signs in the future.
Mr. Rybczynski observed that some of the photographic simulations of building entrances include wall-mounted building names adjacent to signs that repeat the name; he commented that this arrangement seems redundant, and recommended a reduction in the graphics. Ms. Harwell confirmed that this situation occurs at several locations and offered to reconsider the wording on the signs.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk questioned the proposed mounting of signs within the columns of the arbor building, describing it as a "disturbing" configuration; she said that the wall-mounted or free-standing locations for this bracket and cable system are not problematic. She added that the grouping of three sign panels at this location creates a display that is inappropriately comparable in size to the adjacent building entrance; she suggested consolidating these signs into a single panel in order to relate better to the modest scale of the building.
Ms. Harwell offered to adjust the design in response to all of the Commission's comments as the project moves from 75 to 100 percent of the design process. Chairman Powell observed that the current status of the project is between the concept and final stages. Upon a motion by Mr. Powell with second by Ms. Nelson, the Commission approved the sign master plan subject to the comments provided, which will be incorporated into the final proposal.
E. D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs—Shipstead-Luce Act
SL 09- 115, United Unions Building, 1750 New York Avenue, NW. Additions and alterations. Revised concept. (Previous: SL 09-106, 17 Sept. 09.) Ms. Batcheler said that the revised concept is submitted in response to the Commission's comments the previous month. She introduced Walter Wise, representing the United Unions, Inc., to begin the presentation. Mr. Wise said that the building houses the headquarters of three unions, including ironworkers, sheet metal workers, and firefighters. He said that, as an ironworker, his work involves turning the visions of the design community into a reality. He described the goals of the project as modernizing the building and portraying recent trends in the trades of the occupants. He acknowledged the Commission's previous comments which he said have been considered in preparing the revised submission. He introduced Anik Jhaveri of Mancini Duffy Architects to present the design.
Mr. Jhaveri summarized the concept of introducing "a series of programmatic follies" on the exterior of the existing building at 18th and E Streets and New York Avenue. He described the Commission's previous comments as falling into three categories: to reduce the number of new elements; to strengthen the remaining elements in order to intensify their boldness; and to reconsider the articulation of the canopy in comparison to the other proposed elements. He said that the current submission includes three options that address various combinations of these comments—Option A providing simplification, Option B for simplification and intensification, and Option C that also revises the canopy. He presented images from the previous submission, indicating the building entrance, the entrance to a proposed restaurant with a canopied exterior seating area, a vertical sculptural element, and landscape forms, benches, and ramps. The purpose of the new elements is to enliven the street, engage pedestrians, and identify the building and its entrance.
Mr. Jhaveri described the modifications to the previous submission. The benches previously proposed for the plaza have been deleted; the proposed ramp has been simplified to a straight configuration; the proposed larger trees are now shown as smaller plantings; and the proposed landscape form on the south side of the building has been eliminated. A plaza area remains designated for a sculpture, which could be the loan of a significant artwork. He said that Option A consists only of these changes, emphasizing the goal of simplification.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for clarification of the proposed entrance addition. Mr. Jhaveri responded that the proposal is to create a vestibule that would provide an appropriate sense of entry to the building, as well as a weather buffer. The proposed design includes a gallery space as part of the vestibule, where a smaller sculpture could be displayed; he said that the trades whose unions occupy the building have generated numerous sculptures that could be featured at this location overlooking the adjacent Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Mr. Jhaveri then presented Option B, which includes additional revisions to intensify the design of the entry forms. He described the constraints on the proposed restaurant entrance vestibule—the property line immediately adjacent and the office windows above—and the resulting moderate enlargement to the vestibule design. He indicated the three-foot increase in height and the additional undulations of the metal form to provide more dynamism. Similar revisions are included for the building entrance vestibule in Option B, reaching a total height of eighteen feet; the plate metal would be thicker and would taper toward the edges. He noted that the restaurant vestibule would be lower than the building vestibule in order to provide the appropriate hierarchy.
Mr. Belle indicated the rendering of the restaurant entrance in Option B and asked why the lettering of the restaurant name would be partially on and partially off the metal vestibule. Mr. Jhaveri responded that this depiction was not intended as an important design feature, with the lettering only serving as a placeholder for the future restaurant's name. He confirmed that the letters are depicted as hanging down rather than mounted against the metal, and their appearance against the folded metal plate would shift as the viewer approaches the vestibule.
Mr. Jhaveri presented Option C which incorporates revisions to the canopy structure at the restaurant's outdoor seating area. He indicated the original concept of glass umbrella forms, which the Commission had suggested treating in a more architectural manner that reinforces the other proposed structures. He said that the initial response was to intensify the faceting, but this resulted in an overly heavy appearance. The revised design instead uses a pre-oxidized metal mesh with two layers of glass above, one of which would be frosted, providing diffuse daylight for the restaurant tables.
Mr. Jhaveri concluded with a view across the plaza from the corner of the site. Ms. Nelson asked if views have been drawn from across the street or further along the block. Mr. Rybczynski emphasized the lack of such context in the presentation, with all of the nearby buildings indicated merely as gray boxes, resulting in difficulty evaluating the effect of the proposal on the surroundings. Chairman Powell agreed that additional images could be provided. Mr. Jhaveri provided additional explanation of the adjacent streets and buildings as well as Rawlins Park. Mr. Belle commented that these surroundings are apparently not a major influence on the design, which is more concerned with defining its own location by attaching new objects to a large building. Mr. Jhaveri said that the program of the new construction is small—totaling 1,200 square feet—and the design approach is to provide a landscape solution rather than a major architectural intervention to the strong form of the existing building. The proposal intentionally contrasts with the existing setting through the introduction of sculptures and follies.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that the plaza provides the opportunity to tie together the many disjointed elements of the wider context, while the proposed design addresses only the context of the existing United Unions building. She offered the example of the selection and placement of trees, which she said could be determined in relation to the larger context—rather than the proposed reduction in the size of plantings in order to improve their relationship to this project's new structures.
Mr. Rybczynski commented that follies are typically associated with large landscapes without visible neighboring buildings. He questioned the concept of introducing follies into an urban context, particularly in central Washington, and emphasized that the existing United Unions building is attractive and should be respected.
Ms. Balmori commented that the proposed structures appear to have little relation to the landscape. She acknowledged the design intent to create forms that contrast with the building but said that the resulting structures are not comfortable as entrances nor as landscape elements. She also expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed canopy at the restaurant, commenting that the dropping glass forms do not contribute to shaping the space nor have any apparent rational basis. She suggested a single large planting area that would make more sense of the space and would provide shade to a portion of the plaza. She said that such design gestures in the landscape would be more sympathetic to the character of the existing building. Mr. Jhaveri acknowledged that the smaller planted areas could be combined with the larger one; Ms. Balmori emphasized the need for this revision. Mr. Jhaveri said that the intention is to create a landscape buffer between the restaurant area and the more public portion of the plaza. He said that the smaller plantings were a response to the Commission's advice to simplify the plantings; Ms. Balmori said that the simplification is desirable.
Mr. Powell said that the landscape would be critical to the success of the project but isn't depicted well; he encouraged further development of the landscape features. He agreed that the concept of introducing follies is problematic, commenting that this is perhaps the wrong terminology for the proposed additions to the building. He noted the difficulty of the project due to the building's entrance being in an unexpected location; Mr. Belle and Ms. Balmori agreed.
Mr. McKinnell commented on the bold scale of the surrounding landscape, contrasting it to the "very fussy" scale of the proposal; he encouraged a more direct design response to the boldness of the context. Mr. Jhaveri offered to return to some of the previous submission's bolder concepts for the landscape, which had been simplified in response to the Commission's comments.
Ms. Nelson acknowledged the bolder forms and increased height of the proposed vestibules but questioned the continued emphasis on twisted forms to contrast with the rigid geometry of the existing building. She said that such contrast is difficult to achieve successfully and commented that the additional height is not helpful, with the vestibules lacking the welcoming feeling of entrances. She said that the twisting form of the proposed restaurant canopy is more successful but still appears merely attached to the building rather than being well connected.
Mr. Rybczynski asked for further clarification of the vista toward the west. Mr. Jhaveri indicated Rawlins Park and the sequence of open spaces leading to the Kennedy Center in the distance. Mr. Luebke clarified that the Kennedy Center, while approximately on the east-west axis of the park, is not visible from the site due to the rise in the land; the highway ramps of I-66 also intervene with the vista. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted that the United Unions entrance more directly faces the entrance to the American Institute of Architects headquarters across New York Avenue. She suggested that the plaza landscaping be designed to relate to the AIA entrance and screen some of the rear exposure of the Corcoran Gallery; Mr. Jhaveri indicated the existing large trees that would remain. Ms. Plater-Zyberk emphasized that the United Unions plaza is part of these larger spaces and should have a unified relationship with the AIA headquarters and Rawlins Park; she recommended that this intention be supported with a presentation that depicts this larger context.
Mr. Luebke summarized the Commission's consensus that the landscape should be considered further in relation to the larger context; he asked if there is a consensus about the concept of introducing folded-metal elements. Mr. Rybczynski requested that a much simpler option be developed; Ms. Balmori agreed. Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's concern that the proposed forms are not compatible with the existing building.
Ms. Balmori acknowledged that drawing attention to the entrance is a valid design goal, but commented that the new vestibules should not "play at being sculpture" or be treated as follies. Mr. Jhaveri said that an earlier design study was more consistent with the building's form, but the unexpected locations of the entrances resulted in difficulty creating simple additions in the character of the building. He said that the resulting choice was between a fully symmetrical axial addition or a sharply contrasting design; the resulting decision was a proposal that would provide a contrast in form, mass, and scale, and would not compete with the building. Mr. Belle questioned the claim that the proposed design does not compete with the building; Mr. Jhaveri emphasized the intended contrast of forms. Ms. Balmori said that the design of the structures is an architectural problem that requires an architectural solution and not a sculptural one, which she said would be inappropriate for this building.
Ms. Plater-Zyberk said that the discussion would be influenced by the decision whether to include a separate major sculpture on the plaza; if so, the design goal would be to avoid competing with this artwork. She noted the three sculptures that were presented as examples, commenting on the difficult of envisioning any of them within the context of the proposed plaza design. She suggested the goal that either the sculpture or the other design elements should contrast with the building, becoming a prominent element in the larger context, and the other landscape components should contribute to the background support of the overall surroundings. Ms. Nelson added that a prominent steel sculpture might suggest that steel not be used in the restaurant canopy, in order to avoid diluting or competing with the sculpture's strength. Mr. Powell agreed with this concern but noted that the permanent installation of a major sculpture would be unlikely due to budget constraints. He acknowledged the difficulty of choosing a design strategy when the long-term presence of a sculpture is uncertain; Ms. Plater-Zyberk agreed.
Mr. Powell suggested that the design could be improved regardless of these uncertainties; he agreed with Ms. Nelson that the proposed canopy looks like an unrelated attachment to the building and urged better resolution of this design, adding that the proposed use of weathered steel as part of the canopy is acceptable. Mr. Luebke summarized the consensus that the proposal for the additional elements is acceptable but their articulation needs further study to determine whether they should be in opposition to the architecture or more sympathetic to it.
Mr. Rybczynski recalled the previous discussion of the building's problems, including its lack of identity, but said that the building's site is a remarkable benefit—a rare long-distance vista toward the west and a context of distinguished architecture. He recommended that the proposal address this interesting and challenging site rather than add odd elements to the front of the building. He described the proposed design as more appropriate to a dull suburban context and criticized the gray depiction of all surrounding buildings in the presentation drawings; he recommended that the facades of nearby buildings be shown so that the design could be evaluated in relation to them. He acknowledged the awkward entrance location of the building but said that this is an architectural problem that could be solved. He expressed enthusiasm for the concept of introducing a restaurant on the terrace that would enjoy the westward vista across Rawlins Park. Mr. Jhaveri agreed that the site has many advantages but is underutilized.
Mr. McKinnell emphasized the need for plans that address the wider site context rather than only the design of the plaza. He said he is more accepting than other Commission members of the concept of introducing folded metal plates but commented that he does not prefer the rusted surface of the proposed steel. He suggested a white or aluminum finish that would have a lighter appearance, suggesting an analogy to the artwork of Alexander Calder rather than Richard Serra. He said that this delicate appearance would contrast with the heaviness of the building.
Chairman Powell acknowledged the lack of a clear consensus on the design direction. Ms. Plater-Zyberk noted the consensus to develop the design in relation to its larger context—both influenced by it and influencing it. She noted that the context is not currently activated along its edges, providing an opportunity for this project to improve the setting by creating such activation. Mr. Belle commented that the design process has generated numerous alternatives of varying character, but these design alternatives have not yet been applied to the site conditions; he recommended this as the next step in the process, which would help to refine the design of the entry pavilions.
Chairman Powell summarized the Commission's interest in developing other options, such as considering a lighter type of metal than the proposed weathered steel while still relating to the union trades. Ms. Balmori emphasized the desirability of treating the metal structures as architecture rather than sculpture, designed to solve the problem of working as entrances. Chairman Powell emphasized the Commission's acceptance of the overall concept for the proposal but its discomfort with the realization of the concept.
Mr. Belle asked for clarification of the private plaza spaces and public sidewalk areas. Mr. Jhaveri indicated the property line and confirmed that the restaurant seating area is within the private property; Ms. Balmori noted that this arrangement provides a good opportunity. Mr. Luebke noted that the design can include proposed changes within the public right-of-way, such as the benches in the previous proposal; he noted that further consideration of the context, as recommended by the Commission, might result in such design features.
Ms. Nelson noted the Commission's traditional reluctance to allow attention-getting signage on buildings with a strongly resolved design character; she suggested that the new feature for the restaurant be designed to emphasize its role as an entrance rather than as a display of signage. She commented on the importance of maintaining the city's dignity by de-emphasizing commercial elements, while acknowledging that the result should not be dull. She said that the difficult review process for this project reflects the Commission's great concern for the design; Mr. Powell emphasized the importance of the building and its location.
The discussion concluded without an action. Chairman Powell requested that the staff summarize the Commission's comments in the letter and work further with the project team.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:17 p.m.
Thomas E. Luebke, AIA