Dear Mr. Hoskins:
In its meeting of 19 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed concept proposals for building design and public space components of the proposed Southwest Waterfront development, also known as The Wharf. The public space elements associated with Phase 1 of the development, submitted directly from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, included concept designs for the piers, wharf frontage, parks, and streetscapes. The individual building concept designs were reviewed as Shipstead-Luce Act submissions for Parcel 2 (SL 12-103, 900 Water Street, SW) and Parcel 3b (SL 12-105, 850 Water Street, SW). (An additional submission for the church at 600 M Street, SW, SL 12-118, is addressed in a separate letter.) The Commission reviewed and took action on the various components of the overall proposal, recommending approval of the designs according to its comments as follows.
The Commission commended the design team for developing a coherent ensemble of architectural elements and landscape features that effectively addresses many challenges for varying conditions of wharf frontage, street amenities, and landscape design across the development.
Wharfs, Piers, and Streetscapes. The Commission approved the concept for the public spaces, amenities, and landscapes associated with Phase 1 of the Southwest Waterfront development. Expressing their appreciation for the design team's responsiveness to their previous guidance, the Commission members commented that the team had created an effective kit of related parts for these elements, including the piers, the pavilion structures, the metal pylons, lighting design, and the finishes of public space elements. They supported the revisions to create a low-key, maritime-inspired appearance and expressed a preference for the all-wood alternative in the treatment of the District Pier surface. They observed that the great improvement in the design of the entrance to the District Pier, in particular, will help attract people to The Wharf.
Waterfront Park. The Commission members commented positively on the revised design, including the sequence of garden spaces and the meandering interior road leading to the paved turning and parking area for public safety vehicles at the southeast end of the site. However, noting the large size of this paved area, the Commission members requested the exploration of reducing its size and refining its design to make it amenable to recreation uses, such as with the addition of more plantings or the use of patterned paving.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the responsiveness to their previous advice to simplify the architectural language of the development, noting that the revised designs were generally much improved. They reaffirmed their past guidance to develop the architecture and scale to relate to the pedestrian experience within the context of the Washington Channel as a foreground to the nation's capital; they found that the proposed changes successfully addressed this concern.
Parcel 2. The Commission approved the concept design for the proposed residential and theater building, commenting positively on the clarity and restraint conveyed in the design of the exterior enclosure. The Commission members requested refinement of the storefront and details generally at the base of the building, such as the theater entrance and marquee, the residential entrances, and signage at the retail canopies, in consultation with the Commission staff.
Parcel 3b. The Commission approved the concept design presented as Option 2 for the proposed hotel, commenting that this option, without a clock tower, results in a superior design. The Commission members observed that the projecting masonry accent at the hotel entrance seems arbitrary and could also be used to announce the public function of the adjacent mews entrance; they recommended that the architectural treatment of the retail building's base as it faces the wharf be extended to encompass the mews entrance in order to unify the public elements of the design.
The Commission looks forward to review of the final designs for all components of the first phase of The Wharf. As always, the staff is available to assist you.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Victor L. Hoskins
Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 317
Washington, DC 20004
cc: Stanton Eckstut, Perkins Eastman / EEK
Gary Handel, Handel Architects
Warren Byrd, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
Shawn Seaman, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront
Harriet Tregoning, D.C. Office of Planning