CFA 18/APR/19-4

Location

Parcel G, bounded by New Jersey Avenue, and Quander, 1 1/2, and N Streets, SE
Washington, DC
United States

Owner
U.S. General Services Administration
Property
Southeast Federal Center (The Yards)
Description
New eleven-story office building
Review Type
Concept
Submitted Documents

Letter

Dear Ms. Wright:

In its meeting of 18 April, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for an eleven-story office building on Parcel G of The Yards, at New Jersey Avenue and N Street, SE. Expressing great concern regarding the design for this prominent new building within The Yards redevelopment area, the Commission did not approve the submission and provided the following comments for the refinement of the project.

The Commission members criticized the proposed design as awkward, with a form that appears to be generated from a primary emphasis on maximizing views outward from the building, rather than reinforcing the role of the building within the rapidly redeveloping urban context; they raised concern that this approach sets a poor precedent generally for new buildings in The Yards. They observed that the design’s collision of conflicting geometries, with a six-story “urban window” gesture projecting to the southeast, results in a clumsy composition; they commented that this odd form on a low base actually conveys a suburban character. They described it as an object-building, contrary to the spirit of the L’Enfant Plan, which envisions the city’s blocks as continuous fabric that deliberately defines the public spaces of avenues and squares. They also found that the design for the building’s main entrance is strangely unrelated to the dramatic massing gesture above. They advised that the building would be improved if the base were differentiated from the striated mass of variegated brick on the building’s main volume, and were possibly higher than two stories; they questioned the use of this highly figured brick at the base and recommended a lighter color to emphasize the retail and pedestrian experience at the street. For the upper volume of the building, they suggested lightening the color of the fins and mullions in order to create more tonal balance in the material palette.

The Commission requests the submission of a new design for review in order to create an appropriate project for this important parcel within The Yards redevelopment of former federal property along the Anacostia River. As always, the staff is available to assist you.

Sincerely,

/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Secretary

Mina Wright, Director
Office of Planning & Design Quality
General Services Administration, National Capital Region
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407

cc: Jeff Barber, Gensler
David Shirey, Brookfield Properties