Tenley Circle at Wisconsin and Nebraska Avenues and Yuma Street, NW
Dear Ms. Mendelson-Ielmini:
In its meeting of 20 September, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a concept proposal for new landscape and pedestrian amenities in National Park Service Reservations 398 and 399, located at Tenley Circle at the intersection of Wisconsin and Nebraska Avenues and Yuma Street, NW. The Commission did not take an action on the submission, instead providing the following comments for further development of the proposal.
The Commission members expressed support for this public-private initiative involving the National Park Service, the Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church, and the Sunrise Living Center to improve these public spaces, part of the Fort Circle Parks system, but they expressed concern about the proposed design character of these reservations. For Reservation 399, which abuts the church property where redevelopment is planned to accommodate both the church and the Sunrise Living Center, they raised strong concerns that the design may appear to privatize public space. They observed that the proposed plantings along the western facade of the future building would have the appearance of traditional foundation plantings, giving the impression that Reservation 399 is the side yard to a private building. In order to temper this perception, they recommended emphasizing the public paths and plaza more strongly, defining them spatially with plantings or trees, with a simple lawn adjacent to the building. They also recommended that the special paving proposed for the park’s small plaza should extend across the entirety of a deliberately designed space at the intersection of the two paths. They supported the inclusion of benches and suggested that they be longer, preferably more than six feet in length.
For Reservation 398, the two parcels flanking Wisconsin Avenue within Tenley Circle, the Commission members suggested that the landscape treatment can be different from that of Reservation 399; here, they recommended reinforcing the identity and geometry of the circle with a simpler landscape by augmenting the existing outer ring of trees, or by creating a grove of shade trees within both parcels. They commented that the extensive use of understory flowering trees, shrubs, and other plantings would detract from the clarity of the circle and would create visual obstructions for both motorists and pedestrians. In addition, the Commission recommended conducting a study of the existing trees throughout the project area to ascertain their health and to help determine the placement of new trees in order to provide shade.
The Commission looks forward to further review of this project and recommends that the design team work with the staff, which is available to assist you with the next submission.
/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA
Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, Acting Regional Director
National Park Service, National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
cc: Connie Fan, LSG Landscape Architecture