St. Elizabeths Hospital, West Campus
2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Dear Mr. McGill:
In its meeting of 20 May, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the final design submission for the adaptive reuse of Building 49 and the landscape design for Phase 1B of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the St. Elizabeths Hospital West Campus. The Commission did not take an action but provided the following comments.
The Commission members observed that the landscape design and building additions appeared inconsistent in their approach to the historic fabric: whereas the treatment of the new landscape elements adheres almost unquestioningly to the recreation of historic conditions, the architectural language of new additions contrasts sharply with the historic context. The Commission members questioned the proposed unrelieved expanses of lawn, suggesting that the landscape design approach should consider historic conditions in conjunction with anticipated contemporary needs to produce a more sustainable and usable landscape—for example, by including paths and benches to facilitate movement through and enjoyment of the campus landscape. Notwithstanding the stated intention to provide such amenities in the future, they concluded that the submitted documentation was not sufficient to take an action for final approval and requested a more detailed and complete proposal/design.
The Commission members expressed appreciation for the improved documentation of the proposed alterations and addition to Building 49. In their discussion of the design, they raised concerns about the scale and treatment and of the lower stone-clad stories of the addition, particularly in their relationship to the adjacent historic ice house and the retaining walls of the steep site. While the historic buildings and retaining walls read as objects inserted within the topography, the new additions place large program areas behind pierced retaining walls and should be modified to be less disruptive with the existing historic architecture. They suggested further study of the proportion, scale, and articulation of the stone and brick on the western and southern elevations, such as by limiting the use of stone to only the lowest story. They also commented that the ribbon windows and the folded roof plane of the upper levels of the addition impart a radically different character from the historic buildings, and that the roof form in particular may quickly appear dated.
The Commission looks forward to further review of these components of the St. Elizabeths Hospital West Campus redevelopment remaining for final approval under the scope of Phase 1B. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Special Assistant for Regional Coordination
U.S. General Services Administration
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407-0001
cc: Thomas Mozina, Perkins + Will Architects
Tom Amoroso, Andropogon Associates