2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Dear Ms. Wright:
In its meeting of 16 November, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a final design for Building 54, a new addition to the west end of the historic Center Building, part of the adaptive reuse of the St. Elizabeths West Campus as the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Commission approved the submission with the following recommendations for the completion of the design in the preparation of construction drawings.
The Commission members expressed support for the revised design of the building, particularly the refinement of the entrance and the articulation of the facades. They commented positively on the addition of a brick base to the glazed stair tower near the main entrance, and they recommended that this brick base also be used at the glazed circulation spine between the historic Center Building and Building 54. In addition, they suggested that the horizontal steel spandrel channel proposed for the terra cotta screen be extended to the stair tower curtainwall to provide better continuity with the rest of the addition. They recommended more distinction in color between the proposed building’s brick base and the terra cotta fins of the upper floors in order to enhance the appearance of a lighter volume above the base.
In their discussion of the site, the Commission members expressed support for the redesigned, more direct approach to the entrance; however, noting the elimination of sidewalks on the building site, they questioned the configuration and continuity of the pedestrian connections to the entrance plaza from the rest of the campus. They suggested that the location of pedestrian walks across the site be informed by a campus-wide study of pedestrian circulation. For the landscape design, they suggested that the plantings along the western edge of the site include groundcover on the steeper slopes rather than lawn only. They suggested further study of the seating walls at the entrance plaza, commenting that these walls appear awkward where they adjoin the building wall and where they meet the curbs.
The Commission looks forward to the completion of this important project. For the resolution of the remaining design issues identified in the review, please consult with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Mina Wright, Director
Office of Planning & Design Quality
General Services Administration, National Capital Region
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407-0001
cc: Shalom Baranes, Shalom Baranes Associates
Jane Jacobs, John Milner Associates