Veterans Affairs Medical Center Washington, DC
50 Irving Street, NW
Dear Mr. Rivera:
In its meeting of 17 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the draft master plan for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Irving and North Capitol Streets, NW. The Commission took no action on the proposal, citing many unresolved issues and a generally diagrammatic level of development which requires further elaboration.
The Commission members acknowledged the difficulty of accommodating such a large expansion of the existing program while responding to planning requirements and contributing to the urban context of this prominent site. They recognized the importance of the North Capitol Street axis on the east side of the site and recommended careful attention to any new structure that will inevitably have a significant impact on distant views from the monumental core of the city. Noting that the blocks surrounding the site will likely become more densely developed, they suggested a more deliberately urban approach to the design of the perimeter buildings and the pedestrian experience. They cited numerous opportunities for lining the garage buildings with uses, such as retail or research program areas, which would humanize the impact of the campus on the surrounding streets, and could transform a security barrier into an amenity for the patients, visitors, and staff.
The Commission members also recommended a rethinking of the disposition of open spaces within the campus—particularly regarding the integration of green spaces within the existing building complex, in addition to those proposed between new structures—to promote an environment that is proven to enhance recuperation. Noting the lack of clarity about what spaces are used for vehicular traffic and which could be seen as green courtyards, they suggested further limiting traffic movement throughout the campus, suggesting more deliberate treatment of arrival, drop-off, and service, and possibly to introduce alternative modes of circulating through the complex in coordination with the medical institutions across First Street.
In conclusion, the Commission members requested a revised draft of the master plan that addresses their concerns and questions. As always, the staff is available to assist you with future submissions.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Fernando O. Rivera, Medical Center Director
Veterans Affairs Medical Center
50 Irving Street, NW
Washington, DC 20422
cc: Jim Curran, Ellerbe Becket