Mary E. Switzer Federal Building
330 C Street, SW
Dear Mr. McGill:
In its meeting of 15 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for landscape improvements and perimeter security barriers for the Mary E. Switzer Federal Building, located at 330 C Street, SW. The Commission members expressed their enthusiastic support for the General Services Administration's broad initiative to improve the streetscape of the 3rd and C Streets precinct and they applauded the development of sustainable landscapes, the reduction of surface parking, and the creation of welcoming settings for government office buildings. For the specific design of the Switzer Building landscape, the Commission requested that the concept be modified and resubmitted for review.
Noting the context of simple monumental forms of the Switzer Building and its neighbors, the Commission members found that the proposed landscape design presented too much variety, creating a patchwork of fragmented and unintegrated spaces. The Commission members noted the clarity of the recently approved landscape design for Federal Office Building #8 (FOB 8), encouraging the project team to explore options to simplify the proposed design and to reflect the principles established in the landscape design of FOB 8 to create more continuity within the precinct. They recommended a refinement of the overall planning of the C Street frontage to create an opportunity for diagonal access through the site from each corner, to reduce parking to a minimum, and to reduce the number of landscape elements. Overall, they recommended that the design be simplified to create a sense of an entire, unified space that focuses the pedestrian experience on the two monumental entrances.
The Commission members also recommended refinement to the proposed security barrier walls and fencing, which they characterized as heavy and fortress-like in appearance. Instead, they recommended that the security barriers surrounding the building be lighter and more transparent, similar in design to those approved for FOB 8. In addition, they expressed concern about the potential impact of signs, educational displays, and other interpretive features that could be included on the site, suggesting that these items should be kept to a minimum and carefully integrated in the overall design.
The Commission commended GSA on pursuing a coordinated approach to planning for this precinct and for its commitment to achieving goals of sustainability, enhancing the pedestrian experience, and improving the setting of the historic buildings. The Commission staff is available to assist you with the submission of a revised concept design.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Special Assistant for Regional Coordination
U.S. General Services Administration
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407-0001
cc: Mark Banks, General Services Administration
Jeffrey V. Catts, HNTB