23rd and C Streets, NW (north of the USIP Headquarters)
Dear Mr. Graham:
In its meeting of 18 June, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept submission for the renovation of and additions to Potomac Annex Buildings 6 and 7 for the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) at 23rd and C Streets, NW. The Commission approved the concept with the following comments.
The Commission members noted the elegant design of these two neoclassical buildings, until recently part of the historic occupancy of the site by the Old Naval Observatory and Naval Medical Center. They observed that the proposed new elements—including glass-enclosed passages, railings, and bridge—together constitute a modern intervention that creates a physical and conceptual link between the rehabilitated historic buildings and the contemporary aesthetic of the USIP headquarters building. Accordingly, they requested that these modern additions be detailed consistently to establish a coherent architectural identity for the institution.
Regarding the campus landscape, the Commission members commented that the design for the space between the two buildings lacks a single integrated idea, appearing to be an uncomfortable hybrid of a plaza and a garden. They acknowledged its intended use to accommodate occasional outdoor events in a large open space, but they emphasized the need for comfortable shaded areas for daily use by USIP employees and visitors. Instead, they recommended developing a stronger, simpler identity for the central space—such as a grove of trees filling an oval plaza defined by the curving walls and walks—while reducing the amount of pavement, increasing the amount of shade, and developing a more minimal planting palette. They also found the proposed oval configuration to be awkward in relation to the building entrances and walkways, suggesting that the key spatial relationships and connections could be better resolved by rotating the oval’s axis.
For the next presentation, the Commission members requested detailed site sections to better understand the relation between buildings and landscape. As always, the staff is available to assist you in the further development of this proposal.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Senior Vice President for Management
and Chief Financial Officer
U.S. Institute of Peace
2301 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
cc: Joanna Schmickel, Cox Graae + Spack Architects
Holt Jordan, Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture