CFA 15/SEP/05-7


Bureau of Engraving and Printing, main building
14h Street and Raoul Wallenburg Place (15th Street), SW
United States

U.S. Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing, main building
New building lighting
Review Type


Dear Mr. Sirinakis:

In the evening of 14 September, several members of the Commission of Fine Arts and its staff viewed a mockup of proposed lighting for the main building of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on Raoul Wallenburg Place, SW; the full Commission reviewed the submitted plans for the lighting scheme and did not approve the submission at their meeting the following day. The Commission members expressed several concerns that should be taken into consideration as the proposal to illuminate the main building is revised.

The Commissioners who attended the mockup reported that the level of illumination on the building was generally too bright and not well-balanced with the adjoining structures and landmarks. The level of illumination should be reduced so as not to overemphasize the building in the foreground of the city’s skyline, especially when viewed from a distance. The members also expressed concern about the quality, color, and consistency of the light which should enhance the sculptural nature of the building’s long colonnade and rich classical detailing. Instead, the large amount of light projected onto the face of the building from the pole-mounted fixtures had the effect of flattening the facade and de-emphasizing architectural details, which should instead be highlighted with raking light to produce a more dramatic and complimentary effect.

The color of the light should be carefully specified so that it is of a warmer quality more harmonious with the building’s limestone facades and columns. While the accent lighting on the monumental columns created a good effect, the members suggested that the lighting at the top story of the building should be eliminated or greatly softened and reduced.

The Commission members commented that numerous elements of the proposal intended to provide security detracted from the building itself. Specifically, they said that mounting the lighting fixtures on freestanding poles of any height in front of the building was inappropriate and unsightly. They suggested the applicant pursue alternative locations for the light fixtures to provide security, such as placing low-level fixtures on the piers or behind the shrubs of the terraced garden areas. At the center of the building where consistent illumination is difficult, the Commission members suggested using illuminated handrails, similar to the ones on the south stair of the National Gallery of Art, as well as special highlighting of the doorways from the soffits above to differentiate this portion of the facade.

Also included in the submission was a proposal to install standard Washington Globe streetlights curbside around the block in which the Printing Annex building is located. The members thought this was an appropriate strategy to provide sufficient illumination for security lighting, and recommended that the spacing between the streetlights and their brightness should meet the accepted standards of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation.

The Commission encourages you and the design team to coordinate with our staff to help develop an acceptable plan. The members delegated the final approval of the project to the staff, provided a harmonious and appropriate lighting scheme can be developed for the main building.


/s/Thomas Luebke, AIA

James G. Sirinakis, Chief
Office of Facilities Support
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Washington, DC 20228

cc: John Roth, BEP Leland Gammon, Wiley & Wilson