2435 Alabama Avenue, SE
Dear Mr. Anderson:
In its public meeting of 19 January conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a final design submission for the renovation of and additions to the James A. Garfield Elementary School and its site, located at 2435 Alabama Avenue, SE. The Commission approved the submission, conditional upon the staff’s review and approval of the final documentation that addresses the following comments.
In their continued support for the proposal to construct a new addition and landscape, to reclad the existing 1956 building, and to rehabilitate the original 1910 school building by Black architect William S. Pittman, the Commission members identified several elements of the design that would benefit from refinement. While they acknowledged the programmatic need for fencing throughout the site, they found that the extent, height, and color of the numerous types of fences would give the campus an unwelcoming appearance. For example, at the Alabama Avenue entrance walk, they identified an unconsidered relationship between the fence and school building, and they advised further study of where the fence should terminate at the building facade; they also supported moving this fence line eastward to improve the visibility and experience of this public entrance. They also advised reconfiguration of the perimeter fence along Jasper Street, whose complex layout—intended to accommodate intermittent access for loading and parking—results in a profusion of fences and gates within the constrained site and would fragment the landscape. In general, to lessen the harsh character of the multiple layers of fencing, they recommended simplifying the configuration and types of fencing, lowering them generally, and adjusting their color to be less visually intrusive. They strongly encouraged using hedges to enclose specific program areas wherever feasible.
Reiterating their previous support for honoring Pittman and his legacy in the design of this project, the Commission members recommended installing exterior, public-facing artwork as well as interior interpretive displays; they suggested that the exterior artwork could be located at the building entrances to enhance the entry sequence from the street. They also endorsed the option to include a canopy at the entrance facing Jasper Street, citing the benefit of signaling entry to the school at this deeply setback area as well as providing cover from the weather.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing the program of artwork that will be developed as part of this important project. Please coordinate the delegated review of the final design revisions that respond to the Commission’s comments with the staff which, as always, is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Keith A. Anderson, Director
D.C. Department of General Services
2000 14th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20009
cc: Hiroshi Jacobs, Studios Architecture
Bel St. John Day, Bradley Site Design
Renee Pean, D.C. Public Schools