925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW (site of the former Shaw Junior High School)
Dear Mr. Anderson:
In its meeting of 19 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a second concept submission for a new building and site design for Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, which is proposed to be relocated to the site of the former Shaw Junior High School at 925 Rhode Island Avenue, NW. The Commission approved the concept, providing the following comments for the development of the design.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the revisions to the site and building design, particularly the rotation of the gymnasium volume to align with Rhode Island Avenue, and the resulting clarity in the configuration of the outdoor spaces. In general, they requested further exploration of breaking down the seemingly hard edges between these outdoor spaces to create more inviting and functional places for students and the community. For example, they recommended further refinement of the edges of the west plaza, perhaps by creating a stepped seating area on its western side that would better address both the plaza and the athletic field. In addition, they suggested further study of the proposal to locate a sculpture at the northern end of the west plaza, which they identified as an important juncture in the site circulation, and they suggested giving a stronger bridge character to the design of the walkway over the bioretention area leading to the tennis court. As the concept is further developed, they suggested that the same strong, contemporary architectural language proposed for the school building also inform the design of site elements, such as the perimeter gates and fencing. Finally, they recommended refinement of the fenestration on the R Street facade to have a more compatible relationship with the residential buildings across the street.
Noting the robust school District-wide construction program now underway, the Commission members advised the development of a broader initiative to articulate a clear vision for the civic architecture of the D.C. public schools and their role in their neighborhoods and the larger city; this initiative could be seen as analogous to the one undertaken for the D.C. public libraries over the last decade to dramatically transform its existing and new facilities.
The Commission looks forward to further review of the building and landscape details of this important project. As always, the staff 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: Omar Calderon, Perkins Eastman DC
Sharon Bradley, Bradley Site Design