801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Sq. at Massachusetts and New York Aves.)
Dear Mr. O’Dell:
In its meeting of 15 March, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for alterations to the streetscape and building exterior of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, occupying the blocks to the north of Mount Vernon Square. Citing the liveliness and variety that would be brought to the building’s edges, the Commission approved the concept submission with the following comments.
The Commission members commended the intention to improve the relationship of this large, multi-block building to the surrounding streets and neighborhood. They cited the ongoing redevelopment in the vicinity and the opportunity for this building to contribute more fully to the public realm. Noting the many systems of alterations that comprise this proposal—paving, benches and planters, public art, signage and lighting, display windows, retail storefronts, and modifications to the Metro station entrance—they recommended improved curation of the many elements together as they support the overall vision for the building. They also commented that the phased implementation of this ambitious proposal will be an important consideration, particularly if not all of the features are implemented, and they therefore requested information about the phasing plan as part of the next submission.
The Commission members provided additional comments on specific components of the proposal as they contribute to the experience of being at the Convention Center. They suggested that the program for artwork and lighting could be informed by the neighborhood’s historic associations with music, and possibly extended into the major lobby spaces. They supported the intention for an artistic lighting treatment of the outdoor ceiling where the building spans above M Street; they suggested that a related treatment could be included for the pavement below. They commented that the wayfinding signage proposal needs further refinement and a sense of hierarchy, with the signs appearing to be merely applied to the building, as depicted in the presentation; they said that the signage appears under-scaled and could be more closely related to the public art program. Likewise, they suggested further consideration of the bold colors that are proposed, suggesting that the logic of the color choice be clearer and thematically connected to the overall artistic concept. They supported the effort to improve the planting conditions for street trees, suggesting further research of the design and the tree selection to ensure their viability within the difficult site conditions.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this proposal. Please continue to coordinate with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Gregory A. O'Dell, President & CEO
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
Washington, DC 20001
cc: Jason Long, Office for Metropolitan Architecture
Hallie Boyce, The Olin Studio