Herbert C. Hoover Building, Department of Commerce
14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Dear Mr. McGill:
In its meeting of 17 June, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the revised concept submission for two components of the renovation project for the Department of Commerce headquarters building in the Federal Triangle: a new addition for the National Aquarium, which will occupy the lower level of the building's south end; and an interim landscape plan to accommodate utility-related site alterations during the extended period of renovation work for the entire building.
The Commission members noted the design features of the existing building—including two first-floor entrances adjacent to the aquarium—while recognizing that the building configuration and security requirements have generated the proposal for a new below-grade entrance. They generally supported the proposed concept while recommending that the design be clarified: treating the addition as a subordinate extension of the existing building following the precedent of elevated terraces in the building yards of the Federal Triangle; and treating the low south wall more expressively to provide a public presence for the aquarium along the Constitution Avenue sidewalk and establish a strong identity for the National Aquarium. The Commission members supported the integration of artwork and windows along the entry sequence to the lower level but recommended against the proposed continuous glass panels along the full length of the retaining walls beneath the masonry terrace edge. Overall, they recommended that the entrance have a sufficiently strong identity to establish the aquarium as a significant visitor attraction, commenting that the proposed design should not appear to be an entrance to an underground transit station.
The Commission approved the concept interim landscape proposal and strongly supported the intent of reestablishing the character of the original 1935 landscape design. The Commission members look forward to the review of the final design for the interim landscape and a revised concept submission for the aquarium addition. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Michael McGill, Special Assistant for Regional Coordination
U.S. General Services Administration
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407-0001
cc: Louis Goetz, Goetz Group Architects