301 53rd Street, SE
Dear Ms. Gillis:
In its meeting of 19 April, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the concept proposal for the renovation of C.W. Harris Elementary School at 301 53rd Street, SE. The Commission approved the concept with the following comments and delegated the review of the final design to the staff.
The Commission members commended the effort to improve the functionality and aesthetic appeal of the school while incorporating as much of the existing building as possible; they commented that the existing Modernist building adapts surprisingly well to the new design approach. While supporting the consolidation of community spaces and the clarification of security zones, they observed that the proposed configuration of the entrance, gym, and cafeteria could result in a concentration of noisy areas outside the school offices. They supported the introduction of special design features, such as the curved beams of laminated wood, that draw inspiration from a Viking ship in reference to the school’s mascot, while suggesting that the Viking motif itself may not need to be directly legible. They recommended further consideration of the proposed materials, which could relate more closely to the existing building instead of using a palette dominated by dark gray. They commented that the base of the addition appears too high and too dark in color; they suggested using masonry in a lighter color for the base, as well as more wood elsewhere on the facades. They supported the introduction of vertical solar shading devices rather than horizontal bands, but cautioned that the design should deter climbing. For the landscape design, they supported the improved use of the site’s extensive open space, and they recommended further development of the perimeter planting.
The Commission looks forward to the modernization of this school for the benefit of the students and the wider community. Please coordinate the next submission with the staff for its delegated review.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Greer Johnson Gillis, Director
D.C. Department of General Services
2000 14th Street, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20009
cc: Sean O’Donnell, Perkins Eastman DC