801 Mount Vernon Place, NW (Mount Vernon Square at Massachusetts and New York Avenues)
Dear Mr. O’Dell:
In its meeting of 20 July, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a revised concept design submission for the rehabilitation of the historic Carnegie Library, including landscape and site improvements for its setting, Mount Vernon Square. The Commission approved the proposal and made additional suggestions for the development of the project.
The Commission members reiterated their support for the thoughtful exterior restoration and adaptive reuse of this landmark Beaux-Arts library building for an Apple store, office space for Events DC, and the home of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. However, they commented that the revised half-circle configuration of the proposed replacement stairs at the building’s north entrance is formally dominant, oddly overscaled, and would create awkward spaces in the surrounding terrace. They suggested the development of an alternative design, such as a rectangular configuration, that would shape the area between the building and curb.
The Commission members continued to strongly encourage the rehabilitation of the entire square, including the lawn, as a necessary complement to the building’s rehabilitation. They commented that more benches within Mount Vernon Square would be a welcome addition, and they suggested consideration of a contemporary bench design that supports the new use of the building. They suggested that the location of the proposed banner poles be moved closer to the corners of the square, which would minimize their visual impact on the historic building while improving wayfinding for arriving visitors. In addition, they recommended that the locations of all new site elements—such as signs, benches, and poles—be carefully coordinated with the planting plan to avoid harmful impacts to trees. They approved the proposed new tenant signs, which they characterized as subtle and elegant, with the understanding that these signs could be easily removed and their installation would have minimal impact on the building’s historic fabric.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing a final design submission that addresses these comments and includes careful study of the exterior illumination of the building. As always, the staff is available to assist you with development of the proposal.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Gregory A. O’Dell, President & CEO
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
Washington, DC 20001
cc: Hany Hassan, Beyer Blinder Belle
Mike Brown, Apple
Peter May, National Park Service