Sycamore Drive (formally Dogwood Street) and Oak Street, SE
Dear Mr. Kenner:
In its meeting of 20 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept design for the adaptive reuse of the former Continuing Treatment complex on the St. Elizabeths East Campus. The Commission approved the general concept of using the seven historic hospital buildings as housing, and provided recommendations for the development of a revised concept design.
The Commission members expressed strong support for the undertaking, commending the D.C. Government and its private partners for investing in the St. Elizabeths East Campus and the Congress Heights neighborhood. While noting the suitability of converting the complex to a residential community, they raised concerns that the existing institutional character must be mitigated. They commented that the long circulation corridors that connect the buildings reinforce this institutional character; if regulatory constraints require retaining the corridors, they suggested consideration of creating openings through the corridors to allow pedestrian circulation between the four internal courtyards. They also expressed support for the intention to use the corridors as more than linear circulation passages; for the proposed small, airlock-like entrance pavilions, they recommended that the project team to reimagine them as occupiable spaces with generous porches to encourage social interaction.
For the courtyards, the Commission members advised further exploration of how programmatic uses could inform their planning, suggesting that each courtyard could provide a different amenity for the community, creating a unique identity for each public space rather than the undifferentiated character of these courtyards as presented. To facilitate this effort, they strongly recommended shifting the majority of the parking spaces to the radial entry drives, with the remainder located in just one or two courtyards. For the landscape design, they recommended that the trees be massed in bosques or groves to create a better sense of place, allowing for pockets of activity below a dense and shady canopy. While they expressed appreciation for the large green spaces and gardens proposed near the historic outward-facing entrances to the buildings, they suggested that the landscape design should better accommodate pedestrian movement; this would help distinguish the fronts and backs of the buildings and aid in the planning of the courtyards.
The Commission looks forward to reviewing a revised concept submission that addresses these recommendations. As always, the staff is available to assist you with development of the proposal.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Brian T. Kenner
Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 317
Washington, DC 20004
cc: Maria Casarella, Cunningham Quill Architects
Sheila Brady, Oehme, van Sweden & Associates
Laura Hughes, EHT Traceries