Dear Mr. Marootian:
In its public meeting of 16 July conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept proposal for improvements to the intersection of Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues and 14th Street, SE, which would create an oval park space along Pennsylvania Avenue’s radial approach to the U.S. Capitol. The Commission did not take an action, providing the following comments for the development of the design.
The Commission members supported the creation of the new oval for this important intersection, but they questioned the numerous proposed crosswalks, particularly those that extend the lines of Potomac Avenue to paths through the new oval space at the center; they noted the safety concern of these crosswalks’ oblique alignment and proximity to other crosswalks, as well as the design concern of the connecting paths splintering the landscape within the oval. While acknowledging the pedestrian desire lines that this layout is intended to accommodate, they recommended subordinating the crosswalks and paths to a larger goal of design clarity for this complex series of intersections. They emphasized that the landscape design will be critical in establishing the visual coherence of the overall project; they recommended studying the landscape of comparable open spaces within the L’Enfant city, such as Dupont Circle, which will make apparent the desirability of many more trees, preferably in a double row, in order to define the central space within the oval. They suggested that this central space be designed as a distinct element allowing easy connections to the crosswalks, rather than a paved area crisscrossed by multiple paths; they commented that pedestrian routes can be convenient without being constrained to a direct line. In general, they recommended restraint in the design of streetscape elements, such as bicycle lanes and stoplights, to avoid excessive visual clutter.
The Commission members expressed dismay that the project, submitted this month for the first time, may be too far along in the development process to allow for the consideration of many of their comments; conversely, their comments on the project’s landscape may be premature because this component of the project has not yet been coordinated with the National Park Service, which will administer the oval park within the intersection. The Commission looks forward to further review of this important project; as always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Jeff Marootian, Director
D.C. Department of Transportation
55 M Street, SE, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20003
cc: Redeat Lodamo, Brudis & Associates
Peter May, National Park Service–National Capital Area