Veterans Affairs Medical Center
50 Irving Street, NW
Dear Mr. Rivera:
In its meeting of 20 May, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed the design submission for the four-story administration addition to the main building of the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) along North Capitol Street. The Commission did not approve the proposal and instead requested a revised concept submission.
In their final review of the VAMC master plan in October 2009, the Commission members emphasized that the key purpose of the plan is to establish an intended design character for the campus, including open spaces as well as buildings, rather than simply to identify the location and massing of planned new facilities. They also urged that each future project at the VAMC be designed to improve, not merely continue, the existing facility's character. These recommendations were reflected in revisions to the master plan subsequent to the Commission's review in October 2009; however, the current proposal as submitted is incompatible with these principles for treating courts in the revised master plan, and the Commission members expressed regret at the emphasis on expediency over design quality.
In their comments on the addition, the Commission members were particularly concerned about the proposal to constrict the existing exterior exposure into a ten-foot-wide light well; they described this configuration as unpleasant when seen from the new addition as well as from the existing building, and as a lost opportunity to create an attractive and usable garden space. They requested submission of a revised design that would contribute to improved conditions for the benefit of the VAMC's patients and employees. In conclusion, the Commission encouraged the project team to continue the exploration of options for resolving the massing and site planning for the new addition to reflect the principles articulated in the final revised VAMC master plan from October 2009.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing a revised concept design. As always, the staff is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, AIA
Fernando O. Rivera, Director
Veteran Affairs Medical Center
50 Irving Street, NW
Washington, DC 20422
cc: William Kline, SmithGroup